Your Name (and the true human bonding)

Just another of my very late film ‘review’.

Warning: while I won’t give details about the plot, this essay may still be a spoiler for you.

I don’t know how I ended up watching one of Makoto Shinkai’s works. I am not an avid fan of Japanese animation; most of the ones I have watched, like Doraemon and Ninja Hattori, were unavoidable in the first place as they were staples of Indonesia’s Sunday morning broadcast.

In fact, I don’t remember how I first heard about Your Name. Maybe it was the film poster in a cinema near my house and I was intrigued by its simplistic title and visually-conveyed ethereality. Maybe I was introduced to it by The Anime Man, whom I watch solely for his sarcasm and his ways of breaking down storytelling. Either way, it lingered in my mind for some time before I decided to watch it… and I am glad I did!

Visually, it is a very pretty animation! The animators made sure that even the backdrops are being held to a high aesthetic standard. But then, this is my first Makoto Shinkai’s work; I don’t know if this is a trademark of his. The beauty, while deeply appreciated, is not unforeseeable. The poster easily gave it away.

The story’s complexity, on the other hand, was surprising to me. The fairly intricate metaphysicas is not something one expects from one of the most highest-grossing traditionally-animated films, Japanese animated films and non-Anglophone films of all time. Maybe it’s like Life of Pi all over again, where the audience was too fixated on the visuals and ignoring the subject matters altogether.

Or maybe, they are smitten by how the film conveys emotions to the point where they become personally affected themselves. At least, that’s the case with me.

Because of it, I became an emotional wreck for days; one of the other times I fell into such bad shape was the first time I watched Jacksepticeye’s A Beginner’s Guide playthrough. I have had my share of emotional arts and entertainment works and yet not even the masterly creations of the likes of Bergman and Tarkovsky trigger a surge of neurochemicals in me.

One may go to a conclusion that Makoto Shinkai is an EQ genius who experience feelings like no other! Bergman, Tarkovsky and the rest of mankind should learn from him if they want to become more emotionally-intelligent human beings!

Obviously, what I just said was stupid. He may possess a high EQ. But, I doubt his is the highest ever. One thing I am certain about is his masterfully immersive storytelling, seamlessly taking us the characters’ extramundane world. But still, that explanation feels unsatisfactory for me.

For me (and presumably some people), the answer is a lot simpler. While immersiveness is indeed a factor for the sense of intimacy, it is not the be-all and end-all. Ultimately, the characters must be relatable to you.

Your Name chronicles the lives of two teenagers living in two different places and time who switch bodies. While the relationship was initially hostile, they end up seeing each other as their other halves whom they cannot imagine live without. Their bond is so strong, they still possess a sense of inexplicable longing after losing any pertinent memories. Years later, when they finally meet face-to-face, they quickly form a bond without remembering each other’s names. That facet of the characters’ life is very relatable to me.

Unless you – a nasty person that only exist in my head – are dumb enough to take the story literally and are accusing me of living a fantasy life or you are unaware of the age we are living in, there is a (small) chance you will understand why the film is personal to me: the internet.

Since I became active on Facebook, I started to have lots deep interactions with my fellow human beings. In fact, I met my first real best friends on the site! I can interact with them for hours and hours and I will never get bored by the wonderfully genuine human connections!

To make it even more delightful, almost all of my interactions involve internet users whose homelands are distinct from mine. I can form bonds with human beings in spite of their distinct environments, in spite of the terrestrially great distances, in spite of them living in very different time zones!

Of course, the reactionaries will fiercely disagree with me. They believe social interactions inherently require corporeal presence. For them, the lack of corporeal presence instantly invalidates every single reciprocity that has occured, no matter how genuine they are. Any person who possesses an open-mind will easily recognise how retarded such mentality is.

Let’s dissect the term ‘social interaction’. ‘Social’ means anything related to ‘society’, it is derived from the Latin word ‘socius’ which means ‘allied’ (I think). ‘Interaction’ is derived from ‘inter’ and ‘action’; basically, it is an action that directly influences every party involved.

If one lives in a mostly analogue world, one could be forgiven for still retaining such mentality. Of course, that world has become the past! Our lives have been heavily influenced by digitalisation. The gravity of social media today is comparable to the gravity of sexual repression in Indonesia.

Surely, after witnessing one of the great alteration of human foundations, the long-established meanings of ‘social’, society’, ‘interaction’ and ‘friends’ have inevitably become obsolete. So, sooner or later, we have to rethink the way we decipher them. For me, it sounds more reasonable than acting like grumpy, soon-to-die dinosaurs who hate how prejudice is no longer cool.

No, I am not dismissing the importance of offline relationships. Humans (still) live in an earthly realm. I (grudgingly) acknowledge that humanity cannot exist without physical contacts. Even if we don’t care about having friends and partners, we still need to buy groceries, to study, to work. Internet hermits like me need to go offline from time to time if we want to sustain ourselves.

But, traditionalists also have to acknowledge the strengths of online interaction. The cyber space gives us the freedom to be free from intrusiveness and toxicity, eases our efforts to search for like-minded individuals and, in spite of our current circumstances, still provides us the platform to meet anyone, no matter what their upbringings are and no matter where they live! Like it or not, ‘traditional’ interactions lack any of those advantages!

Now, about the quality of relationships: how does one determine it? Well, I believe emotional mutualism (I don’t know if it’s a real term) and sincerity are crucial determinants (people-pleasers will disapprove of the latter). While they are obviously my personal touchstones, I am confident some will agree with mine. And yes, I can say my Facebook friendships fulfill the requirements!

My interaction with fellow homo sapiens is frequently laced with deceit, vanity and unyielding distaste of liberty. But, thanks to the benefits I mentioned two paragraphs ago, they occur significantly far less in my internet social circle. Based on my anecdotes (as that’s the only thing I can provide), not only online relationships can be as good as the offline ones, they have the prospect to be even better!

I believe that’s the reason why I find Your Name very personal. No, I don’t think the story is a deliberate allegory of our digitalised world. But, the tale of a human bonding that transcends space and time will surely have an impact on someone whose personal relationships are almost entirely established in the cyber world.

I can’t say anything about other people who have watched it. How many of them were emotionally affected by the watching experience? For those who were, why? If the reason had nothing to do with human bonding, I genuinely would like to know what that reason is.

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The Crimes of Grindewald… a crime against Harry Potter

I hope you can survive my cringeworthy title, dear readers.

I am sure some of you immediately disagree with me. How about the Cursed Child, some of you may ask. Well, I haven’t read the script nor have I watched the live stage performance. My thoughts about it are purely formed out of other people’s synopses. So, apart from it being an official fan fiction, I cannot say much about it.

Besides, just like its predecessor, The Crimes of Grindewald was written by Rowling herself and deserves a space in the Harry Potter canon more than the other motion pictures in the franchise… and its high status is also the reason why it is one of the most disappointing among them. Before going to that, let me tell you one of the many reasons why I love the series: its revelations.

Obviously, I am not the only one who do for that reason. But, the mysteries and foreshadowing are often overlooked by anyone outside the fandom. I love how masterly Rowling places subtle clues all over; they make really good answers to the mysteries and good tip-offs to incoming events. Every revelation feels natural; they feel both surprising and foreseeable the same time, if that makes sense.

Devoted readers will definitely re-read the books and they will notice how the clues were sneakily implanted chapters or even books prior; devoted and observant ones will easily recall the clues without the need to turn the previous pages again. The fact that we, the readers, are allowed to play detectives even after encountering the revelations gives us an intense sense of joy! Despite the series’ many flaws, it still makes a compelling reading!

And The Crimes of Grindewald does the exact opposite.

Instead of dropping hints for future episodes, it prefers to dump a fuckload of information in a relatively short time slot! The audience is being denied the excitement and has to endure something comparable to a university lecture… if a university lecture is more than two hours long and the lecturer condenses most of the important bits near the end. Basically, it is worse than a university lecture! There is no captivating mystery and foreshadowing that makes Harry Potter fun in the first place!

I don’t know why this happens. Maybe she is forced to speed up the plot, maybe she no longer has the passion to write and she now sees her job as a mere job…

Or maybe, if we bring Occam’s Razor into this, she is an inexperienced screenwriter.

Prior to the first Fantastic Beasts film, she had never written a single script for a motion picture; her resume was all prose-writing. She does not know how to audiovisually convey the Harry Potter-esque detective role-playing. So, she ends up making an avalanche of information.

Of course, she could have hired an experienced professional as a co-screenwriter. She could also have delegated the job altogether. But nooooo! Despite having let screenwriters adapting her novels into films, despite having a fan fiction included in the Harry Potter canon, she now thinks it is her turn as an inexperienced person to write the scripts solo! It just does not make any sense!

Actually, after I think about it, that flaw is the least of the film’s problems (and, because I am already too emotionally invested in the flaw I just talked about, I need to write about it). In the end, we should be concerned about its focus.

When I first heard about the series, I actually expected it to be all about Newt Scamander’s (mis)adventures. After watching the first instalment, I really didn’t mind how it involves Grindewald. There is no doubt Newt will encounter humans who impede his quests. Not to mention Grindewald is a character that Dumbledore used to associate himself with and is often mentioned in The Deathly Hallows; his appearance signals to devoted potheads that this is indeed a Harry Potter story.

And the sequel happens. Its title needs no explanation. Even before watching it, it is obvious how he’ll be the lead protagonist whom our lead protagonist must defeat.

WHY???

The series is called Fantastic Beasts, for fuck’s sake! It should be about Newt Scamander’s journey as a magizoologist, NOT a fucking action hero! If they want the main character to have such cliche characterisation, why can’t they be honest from the very beginning? Why do they have to double-cross us with that deceptive title? That’s like naming a series as Harry Potter and it turns out to be mainly about the fucking Dursleys!

I should also point out that the betrayal exposes how repetitive the franchise has become. The seven novels are already about ‘good versus evil’, which itself was already a cliche even before Philosopher’s Stone was first published! Why do they have to repeat the already-conventional theme?

The first film has been hailed by reasonable people for its main male protagonist who refuses to be stereotypically aggressive, insensitive and cocky. Such defiance of a tradition is a novelty in pop culture!

Just imagine: an entire series that tells the story of an unassuming young man discovering, protecting and learning about magical beasts, where combating fellow human beings is a mere part of the arbitrary subplots! Not only the series would be a pleasing anomaly in Hollywood, it would also be a trend-setter, altering the cultural norms for the better in which tenderness are not perceived as incompatible with masculinity and heroism.

But, nope. For whatever the reasons (to play safe, perhaps), someone decides they should continue upholding the status quo because progress is something that everyone should thrive to avoid.

If you think I am being judgmental cynic… well, can you blame me? Even if you hate or are unfamiliar with Harry Potter, you still can easily determine how Fantastic Beasts deliberately fracture its own backbone by chapter two. The flaw is just too great to ignore and, more importantly too sinful to turn a blind eye to. I deeply hate the adaptation of Order of the Phoenix and yet it is still far less insufferable than The Crimes of Grindewald.

If you pay attention, you would notice how the film perfectly symbolises this act of treachery:

In the beginning, our (supposed) hero Newt is being offered to have his international travel permit reinstated in exchange for assisting the ministry in fighting the dark side. Being a relative pacifist who seems uninterested in joining the establishment, he refuses the offer. His brother Theseus is disappointed with him, wishing he was the kind of person who is willing to take a bold moral stance. Near the end of the story, after experiencing a massive emotional toll of what he and others have just experienced, Newt decides to take the offer and finally taking a side.

In the eyes of his brother, Newt has decided to grow up and take a strong stance against evil. If you take the character development for granted, you would easily share Theseus’ perspective. But, this is Harry Potter franchise we are talking about here.

Anyone familiar with it knows how corrupt the Ministry of Magic is! I cannot talk for other potheads. But, in my eyes, Newt sells himself out to the brother he does not always get along with and the sleazy political establishment he works for, sacrificing his own ideals he had been holding on since the very beginning.

Symbolically, it exposes how a male lead character that defies long-held conventions regarding masculinity is being transformed into another stock character that pleases the cultural establishment who seems allergic to any signs of slight changes.

I am trying to be optimistic, forcing myself to believe that Rowling may have a delightful surprise for all of us. But, The Crimes of Crindewald has clearly revealed the true purpose of the series and I cannot ignore that! In the end, unless someone has a sudden change of heart, my optimism is and will always be a wishful thinking.

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How to report Youtube culture as a ‘journalist’?

*puts on a mask*

The first thing you do is to embrace a reactionary mindset. Youtube culture is very young and new; therefore, anything that possess at least one of those adjectives must be dealt with utmost disrespect and dishonesty. Obviously, those two sentences should be enough to be your starting points. But, I need to be more detailed with this.

If you are being entirely truthful, you would make Youtubers in a very good light. Why? Because, unlike most traditional media people, they have to work harder. When they started doing Youtube, their careers didn’t immediately take off; on average, it takes five years for them to finally make a living out of the website. Not to mention they also had to learn how to be the host, director, cinematographer, editor, scriptwriter and graphic designer all at the same time and they can delegate those roles only after they can afford to do so!

So, you have to ignore all of those aspects and focus entirely on their supposedly ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘nonsensical’ popularity. That way, those Youtubers will appear like kids who achieve easy fame and fortune by simply making pointless videos from their bedrooms.

When talking about their videos, emphasise on the ones that showcase nothing but simple and escapist fun. Never mention the more heartfelt videos that even many mainstream Youtubers have made. Never mention that some Youtubers solely make educational videos! In the end, ‘traditional’ entertainment will look like the one with high quality when everyone knows it is far from the truth.

Oh, and don’t forget to take everything out of context. You have to portray every joke, including the dark ones (especially the dark ones) as expressions of seriousness. When they make serious statements that are laced with reason and morality, you should chop some of their words to make them sound like the villains and their actually villainous opponents look like the victims!

But, you are a journalist. In the end, you should be objective. What should you do if you don’t want to appear entirely antagonistic? Well, you have to remember what your parents told you: money is everything!

Focus on how much money they make. Even if you don’t know the exact number as Youtubers aren’t allowed to disclose their earnings, act like you know the exact number! Every time you don’t have anything good to say about them, just be obsessive about their wealth to the point where you act like you deserve the money more than those Youtubers do!

Oh, and never ever talk about the amount of money they have raised for charity. Your audience is mostly a bunch of selfish, money-obsessed individuals. They will never be interested in wealthy and charitable public figures. They are only interested in the ones who wear greed and selfishness as their badges of pride!

I hope you understand the basics of Youtube culture journalism. If you want to see great examples of it, you can watch and read media outlets’ reportage of Pewdiepie.

I know people have said this before: I believe Wall Street Journal is the best when it comes to reporting the biggest name on Youtube.

*takes off the mask*

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Exploring cultures, Anthony Bourdain style

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I will only discuss three of his TV shows and none of the books as I haven’t read a single one. So, it takes a lot of cockiness to write about a person without full immersion in his works. Anyway…

I have been loving him since his A Cook’s Tour years. When I was younger, I watched him simply because of the food. A show was good enough if it involved lots of food, I believed.

Then, many years later, after watching his subsequent shows, this one seems juvenile and sterile in comparison. For me, it feels like it is less about the cultural experience and more about Tony being a cynical and cocky douche. It certainly did not and does not make me feel intrigued by other cultures. But, younger me said, ‘hey, food!’.

No Reservations is not an immediate stylistic departure. The earlier episodes are not that different from ones from A Cook’s Tour. But, they are indeed less rushed, more mature and more compelling. As the show progresses, it has become more profound.

He becomes more keen to point out the darker side of reality. Politics, discrimination, natural disasters, you name it. The Hokkaido episode, which mentions discrimination of the Ainus, is the first time I pay attention to the show’s depth. Before No Reservations, I had never encountered a single travelling show like this (that I know of)!

Not only it increases its thematic profundity, it also amplifies the visual artistry which, again, is a novelty to a show of such genre (again, that I know of). Watching the later seasons feels like watching a beautifully crafted yet underappreciated TV show. It also helps some episodes are tributes to certain films which Tony and/or the crew was/were (a) big fan(s) of. And then, came The Layover

…Which I skipped over and, to this day, I haven’t watched a single episode. I wasn’t aware of its existence until his fourth and unfortunately last show was announced. To this day, I am still uninterested about the premise. But, I will probably change my mind. Probably.

Parts Unknown exceeded my expectation. It seems unsatisfied with its predecessor’s artistry and believes radical enhancement is needed for itself. And radical it is.

In No Reservations, the audio and visuals are utilised to emphasise and accompany what is being portrayed on the screen. Some episodes of Parts Unknown were also crafted in a similar manner. Some.

In other episodes, they are utilised to encourage the audience to start seeing the world through a philosophical lens instead of just focusing on its physicality; combined with the lyrical narration, the show’s audiovisual ethereality really reminds me of magical realism, something that I never expected from unscripted motion picture works!

I know, I know. I sound like a pretentious prick who reads too much into things. But, I am a sucker for magical realism and any similar styles of arts. Considering how metaphysical some episodes feel, you cannot blame me for having such feeling. They do feel magical.

Oh, yeah. The cultures…

I used to depend on media personalities for cultural knowledge. I still do, but not entirely. Nowadays, I try to accept the possibility of them unintentionally spewing stereotypes and misinformation. Even Anthony Bourdain could not escape such criticisms.

I seriously cannot blame him and his peers for making that mistake. They cannot fully escape the cultural outlooks they grew up with and they are dependent on their local contacts who probably possess very narrow frames of mind regarding their homelands. This is what I still can tolerate to some extent.

What I cannot tolerate is phoniness. I hate it when TV hosts pretend to be curious about the ‘exotic’. Sometimes, you can see their oily faces sticking to the masks, revealing their true appearances. As flawed as he could be, Anthony Bourdain was still very honest with what he liked and disliked. Oh, and the way he approached cultural exploration also made him stand out from his contemporaries.

Besides local cultures experts, who may or may not have academic backgrounds, he also had chefs, sailors, farmers and hunters as guests. Of course, having guests of relevant expertise is not unusual. Andrew Zimmern also has people of similar occupations as guests. Rick Steves often has fellow travel guides as guests. But, Tony wanted more than just interacting with ‘food’ and ‘culture’ people.

He also had fellow media personalities, writers (especially crime fiction ones), musicians (especially Rock ones), politicians and members of (relatively) fringe groups in his shows. I don’t think I need to explain why it made sense to invite media personalities, considering he was one.

I am not surprised about him inviting writers as he was a one who also had published both non-fiction and crime fiction books; he would not have a hard time bonding with them and scooping their perspectives on the local cultures.

I am also not surprised he invited politicians. Like it or not, politics can affect every single aspect of our lives, whether directly or not, and that includes foods. Of course, this is purely my thought. Tony invited politicians probably because he was interested in politics in general (he really, really hated Henry Kissinger, by the way).

I am not sure about the musicians, though. While he did have high appreciation of music, particularly Rock, I am still unsure of why he invited them. He probably wanted to know more about the local cultures. Or he probably just wanted to hang out with them. Even though I can’t say for sure, the former is something that I would do if I were him.

I am also not sure about the culturally fringe individuals (again, relatively fringe), like the residents of Christiania in Copenhagen and Molokai in Hawaii state. Maybe, as a former dweller of Provincetown, he felt he would not have much trouble bonding with them. Maybe he believed understanding a mainstream society would feel inadequate and too sugary without the alternative perspectives, a sentiment that I happen to possess.

Whatever the reasons, whether he did it on purpose or not, I have to give Anthony Bourdain credit for giving me new perspectives on how to explore cultures, whether they are ‘foreign’ or my own. Our understanding of a society will be more well-rounded once we utilise different and distinct paradigms.

Of course, as an Indonesian, I have to talk about his Indonesian episodes.

I hate the one from No Reservations. It uses the same ‘Indonesia-is-all-about-Jakarta-and-Bali’ cliche. It does cover West Java, a territory that many foreigners haven’t heard and don’t care about. But, it has to compete for attention with the more internationally-known ones. That’s like making a US episode in which lesser known places like Savannah or Austin have to compete for attention with New York City and Los Angeles.

The only thing I love about the episode is the scene where cameraman Todd Liebler accidentally crashed the piling plates of foods in a Padang restaurant (there is a reason why those areas are off-limit to customers, for God’s sake). The farce is the only reason why I still keep re-watching it.

Even though I think Andrew Zimmern is an inferior host in comparison with his sometimes cringeworthy behaviours and conventional style of communication, his short-lived and little-known show Bizarre World does a better job in portraying Indonesia.

It dedicates two episodes on my country, each focusing on one specific region: Bali and Sulawesi. While No Reservations gives the impression that Jakarta, West Java and Bali are all the country about, Bizarre World sternly communicates the audience how everything depicted on the screen, including the elaborate Torajan funeral ceremony (which I always want to attend once in my life), is confined to certain localities and does not fully represent the entire country! For me, that’s how one should do a foreign travelling piece!

The Indonesian episode of Parts Unknown exceeds my expectation… in spite of the Jakarta-Bali cliche!

The beginning of the episode features having a sumptuous Minangkabau lunch with Desi Anwar, a CNN Indonesia host, and a Dalang (wayang puppeteer). Desi asserted that tasting every Indonesian dish will take us forty years to achieve!

Obviously, such claim is conjectural. But, I cannot blame every individual who knows Indonesia really well for believing that. The country is indeed really diverse and it is often something I bring up when discussing multiculturalism and Indonesian stereotypes with foreigners. The acknowledgement of its diversity really kicks the No Reservations episode in the nut!

Desi also claimed that Indonesians enjoy dishes from other ethnicities, even ones they have grudges against. I am so fucking happy she said that! For years, I have been noticing how we love eating foods of the people we constantly demonise! In the US, it is mostly the Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and African-Americans. In Indonesia, it is mostly the Chinese-Indonesians.

Not only it exposes more about the insufferableness of humanity, it also exposes human prejudice’s inability to dictate what our taste buds should like or dislike. It sheds light on the deep-rooted universality of food! It probably has something to do with food being one of our basic human needs and our survival instinct compels us to have a taste palate as wide-ranging as possible. But, that’s just my conjecture as someone who never attended a single proper science in his lifetime. Anyway, back to the show.

I am also happy the episode features a historian with whom Anthony briefly talks the 1960’s anti-communist massacre. It is treated by nationalistic Indonesians just like how the crusades being treated by Christian fundamentalists: glorifyingly!

I am not a communist and the idea of living under the rule of communism is as terrifying as living under fascism. But, even if the Indonesian communist party (or PKI as popularly known) was indeed involved in the September 30 movement (or G30S as popularly known), I still cannot find any moral justification for the mass killings!

For one, how do you know every single human casualty involves actual communists? How do you know they were not targeted simply for their Chinese ancestry, their religious beliefs or lack thereof? How do you know the murderers were not purely motivated by bloodlust or the desire to play fucking ‘superheroes’?

Even if every single victim was indeed a commie, how do you know the entire PKI was involved in G30S? In 1965, the party had over three million members. :iterally millions of them! You cannot expect reasonable minds to believe every single one was directly responsible for the violence! But, most importantly, what makes you think you are the ones with higher moral grounds? What makes you believe you, the apologists of the murders, are the good guys here?

Why do I act like I can reason with those people? Years after the fall of the Order Baru regime, Indonesians are still willingly getting deep-throated by its propaganda and we love wearing intellectual dishonesty as a fucking badge of honour! Okay, I need to stop with the historical revisionism tangent.

This is the second reason why I am so happy with the episode. Even though the historical ‘event’ was only being alluded to, the sense of inhumanity is strongly conveyed. I hope this has an effect on the viewers.

A handful of foreigners among them will probably be intrigued by and start researching about it; they will probably realise how supportive western governments and how apathetic most of the eastern bloc ones about the massacre. The Indonesian viewers, the ones with bloodlust at least, will realise how their beloved foreign idol viewed the historical ‘event’ as an example of humanity at one of its worst , NOT one of its best.

I never expected that I would discuss such topic in an article about a TV chef. The fact that I can do so emphasises what I said earlier about his political consciousness. But still, I haven’t got to the best part of the episode: the conversations about death.

Since I was young, I have been told by some fellow Indonesians that ‘death is just the beginning’, which is also how the narrator (who speaks with a ‘sophisticated’ Indonesian accent) puts it. I really doubt it is an exclusively Indonesian belief. But, I like the off-centre approach to cultural exploration.

Instead of focusing on earthly entities, this episode prefer to zoom in on a metaphysical realm which existence is not believed by every earthly being (this goes back to what I said earlier). The theme is fitting as there are scenes depicting Ngaben, the elaborate Balinese funeral ceremony (which I also have the desire to attend). Typically, documentaries include the thematic conversation to compliment the rituals being depicted. But, in this episode, the roles are reversed!

The death conversations take around half of the episode’s duration and the Ngaben scenes appear later on. The thematics is the main dish and its tangible representation is the optional condiment. This role reversal strongly argues how cultural heritage goes beyond its tangibility. We strive to protect it for the sake of its souls, NOT merely for its physicality.

In the light of Anthony’s death, which happened before the post-production process was finalised, this episode may feel eerie for some people. For others like me, it feels deeply poignant. This makes me wonder if he had been thinking about his own death for some times and the conversations was meant to help him contemplating about it.

Okay, I know I am crossing the boundary here. But, I have to be frank about it: that’s what I am feeling and I am confident some people are feeling the same! The fact that the last season of Parts Unknown is considered ‘unfinished’ intensifies the poignancy.

After his death, the Indonesian episode is the only ‘unfinished’ one that I have currently watched. As an Indonesian who has been interacting with foreigners regularly for years, I felt obligated to watch and critique every piece about Indonesia that foreigners assemble. Emotionally, I don’t have the gut to watch the other episodes.

The Indonesian episode is already hard to watch. Never mind the emotionally-fitting theme. The absence of his witty and poetic voice-over asserts there will be no more Anthony Bourdain to tell us stories.

Watching the other ‘unfinished’ pieces means I will have to listen to the harrowing truth over and over again.

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My thoughts about Shane Dawson’s concluded Jake Paul series

Well, I will go straight to one of the most glaring problems: the therapist.

Unlike some people, I actually don’t have a problem with her having an ‘irrelevant’ specialisation; when you are specialised in a subdiscipline, you HAVE to know the basics of the overall discipline! Whether she accurately described sociopathy or not, that is an entirely different problem and I am not confident enough to comment on.

What I do have a problem with is the possibly unethical practice as seen on episode five and six where she became an ‘undercover therapist’. I would feel violated and betrayed if a therapist does that same thing to me! If I am having my psyche evaluated, whether it is for my sake or science’s, I want to know about it! For me, those particular episodes are the most exploitative, not episode two as some people argue. But, I do think it is also problematic.

Its portrayal of sociopathy is too exploitative. Shane was condemned for his manipulative editing which utilises visually metaphorical stock footage and ‘scary’ sound effects, making the personality disorder sounds scarier than it is. With the existence of socially reckless entertainment like Criminal Minds, this will exacerbate the already-severe stigmatisation of sufferers of mentally illnesses!

But, I am also a fan of Shane. So, let me make an unsolicited apologetics, defending him on his behalf.

Even though Shane was being irresponsible on his part, we should remember that he is an entertainer first! His main duty is and will always be to entertain! It is obvious how his so-called documentaries look less like quest to obtain objective truths and more like the fulfillment of his own curiosity! Even though his cameraman Andrew was a also contributor of opinions, Shane’s personal outlooks defines the series’ angle.

Every scene that mentions sociopathy was made to feel ‘scary’ because Shane, an emotionally sensitive person, was genuinely terrified by its existence! Heck, even I am deeply unnerved by the existence of a personality disorder that can impair one’s empathy; I still cannot comprehend the existence of such condition on any human beings and the fact it is more common than I would like to believe!

Well, that’s why I call it an apologetics. As it is purely motivated by my fanboyism, my defence of Shane’s exploitative inclination is built on a feeble foundation which can crumble by the slightest gush of comebacks. But, I do have stronger defences for the humanisation and the so-called ‘stalling’.

I refuse to call it ‘stalling’. Whether Shane was a good researcher or not, it is up to a debate. But, he did try to be a thorough one. While others think the series dilly-dallies, I think Shane didn’t want to keep his viewers in the dark about many crucial information and about how he obtained them! If he went straight to interview Jake Paul, he would not know how to make his prime interviewee to open up.

When the series was announced, many people were angry because they deemed it as an effort to humanise Jake. Why was that controversial in the first place? Besides the obvious thing that he is indeed biologically a human being, it will also be easier to criticise him.

If you keep portraying a public figure you hate as a monster from another realm, how are you going to convince people who are either supportive of or apathetic about him/her that he/she is an earthly being we must condemn for moral reasons? In the end, you look like a paranoid person… or worse, the monstrous one who loves to dehumanises others!

As I mentioned in my previous Shane Dawson article, one of his strengths is his desire to connect with fellow human beings on an emotional level. Admittedly, it can be a weakness if one is not careful. But, in this series, it pays off.

During the humanisation process, which peaks in the last episode as shown by Jake’s increasing vulnerability, Shane confronts him regarding his horrible Youtube content, simultaneously reminding us of its existence. While he may be a genuinely pleasant person to hang out with, he is still a socially irresponsible content creator!

Instead of watching an unearthly creature as people believe him to be, the viewers watch a seemingly amiable yet deeply-flawed and insecure human being who still has lots of things to learn in life. For me, that’s a relatively perceptive and realistic judgment of an individual!

Again, as I also mentioned in the previous article, humanising our enemies is easier said than done. If I were a Youtuber, I would create mean-spirited commentaries. If I try harder, I can be just like Youtubers like Nerd City, who is praised for his excellent research and sound arguments. But, following Shane’s footsteps will require me painstaking self-reflection which, while essential for my growth, is not something I can do effortlessly… or willing to do at all!

The humanisation aspect makes me wish the series also enquire into the minds of Logan and Greg Paul as well. From the limited information we get, it seems they are among the reasons why Jake’s personal and professional lives are a big mess. They are also entangled in the spider web. Some viewers (me included) start to believe they are the sociopaths; interviewing them would probably refute or confirm the accusations.

Actually, I believe it is a good idea to interview individuals who have been professionally and personally involved with him.
As imagined, the interviewees give contradicting statements regarding certain controversies. While Shane seems cautious enough to not take sides, some of his viewers may not be hesitant to do so. Personally, I refuse to take sides because I need to do my own research as well… which I am unwilling to do. But, I am confident to say this: the interviewees, including Jake himself, have very believable claims about each other.

Let’s use the Team 10 kinship/membership as an example. Ex-members claim Jake was being abusive and greedy. Jake, current Team 10 members and Nick Crompton claim those individuals took advantage of Jake’s familial affection and were on it only for the fame and fortune. I find both sides believable.

Jake is an immature young man whose fame commenced rapidly, who is strongly implied to have been raised with toxic masculinity by his allegedly sociopathic father and have a purely physical, one-sided relationship with his dominant and also allegedly sociopathic big brother. Even if he lacks any ill intentions, he may unintentionally abuse his friends with his transgressive fun; regardless, he still needs to sincerely apologise and changes his behaviours for the better.

But, Jake is also a celebrity. Inevitably, having such status means one would be attractive to bloodsucking leeches who yearn for quick fame and fortune; if Jake really does regard the team members as his family just like some people claim, they betray him on a deeply personal level and, in spite of what I said on the previous paragraph, I can’t help but feeling sorry for him and feeling hateful of them.

I think this topic is more interesting than the horrible content of Youtube videos (which I still find compelling nonetheless). I am always intrigued by the (in)sincerity of human relationships, particularly when one lives in a society where human bonding is judged by its quantity, not quality. In fact, such discussion is a major reason why I love the series. But, when judging it in its entirety, my feelings are very mixed.

As mentioned earlier, I am still uncomfortable about its unethical production with the ‘undercover psychiatric analysis’ on episode five and six and the exploitative editing on episode two. Even a big fanboy like me can do nothing but being an apologist for him. Citing my previous Shane Dawson article again, he may unintentionally indoctrinate his viewers with falsehood.

That fact alone convinces me how entertainers need a sense of social responsibility. No matter how good the intentions are, every content creator, especially ones with large followings, needs to be more considerate with their endeavours. While social responsibility is not an objective occupational duty of theirs, it sure can elevates their moral standing as artists and entertainers.

Outlook wise, it feels patchy considering how he did not interview Logan and Greg. But, overall, it is still very well-rounded! The interviews of individuals associated with Jake not only dispel the accusation of giving him full and compliant platform, it also convinces me (and hopefully other viewers) about the intricacy of the problems. Even though one cannot help from making one’s own so-called ‘theories’, it is more righteous to assume ignorance.

Oh, and I cannot stress this enough and I will repeat this till the end of time: humanisation is key! It will ease your efforts to discredit your target on the eyes of doubters and it will keep you on a moral ground higher than your target’s, whom you claim to be immoral. Shane is sublime regarding this and it is a shame he is ethically-challenged in other aspects; otherwise, the series would be much more wholesome.

I don’t know how this will affect anyone involved. But, regarding Jake and Shane, I hope they listen more attentively to the criticisms against them and thrive to become better content creators. It will be good for their fans, the overall Youtube community and, most importantly, for themselves.

I do realise many of the criticisms I directed to Shane are also relevant to Jake. But, we should learn that commentaries reveal nothing about their subjects. Instead, they reveal the true nature of the commentators.

This series reveals more about Shane than it does about Jake.

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An artsy and inspiring dullness: my take on an event that I forgot existed

I am talking about the opening ceremony of the 2018 Asian Para Games. If you think I was being cold-hearted for temporarily forgetting about its existence, what do you think of the people who did know or remember about it and yet still think it is a waste of time and space?

Anyway, first thing first…

It was bloody boring! Starting from the parade of nations, which began not long after the countdown, the pacing entered a lethargic snail mode. Of course, one could easily blame it on the wheelchair-using athletes who inevitably made the marches slower. But, look closer and you would see they were not at fault here (and blaming them straight away is a bit ableist, isn’t it? You prick…)

The atmosphere of the parade of nations was… well… non-existent. The lighting was lackluster. The background music consisted mostly of foreign-language pops which, while I appreciate for their internationalism, contributed nothing but being background noises. The set for that particular segment was sparsely designed. The spectatorship itself suffered from low attendance which resulting in muted cheers. After the parade ended, the snail mode lingered till the end.

The transitions between segments were not smooth at all. Sometimes, they consisted of silent moments that lasted more than five seconds! I was already turned bored by the parades and the poor continuations surely increased the boredom!

Even how the segments were executed also felt sluggish. The one where the Indonesian president was entrusted to be an archer ended feel anti-climatic; the unhurried emotional build-up quickly turned into stalling. Waiting for the leader to prepare himself was unbearable. I am not sure if it was the lack of rehearsal or, again, the lack of immersive atmosphere.

I usually don’t mind the heavy use of pre-recorded footage just like what they did in the 2012 London Olympics, as long as they perfectly compliment the live presentation. But here, it felt like it was produced to compensate the lifelessness of the live presentation. As a result, its presence became a sign of laziness and I became annoyed as well.

The ceremony’s conclusion was also not satisfactory. I do love the concept of gathering all of the previous performers for one last act to sing a song together. But, after the song ended, why did they just stand there like confused ducks? Why did they have to wait for the Indonesian president to (slowly) exit the venue?

Okay, I have to admit it something: I did not watch it to the actual last seconds of the broadcast which means I don’t know how the ceremony actually ended; I had to stop watching due to the second-hand embarrassment. But, even after a brief viewing, one could tell the organisers did not think things through.

Actually, the entire event clearly showed unpreparedness on their behalf! It was either they were not given enough time to design and rehearse the performances and not given enough funding or they didn’t take their duty seriously because it was just an event for disabled people. Personally, I believe it is the former and I will get into that later. While the flaws were a bit too overwhelming, the strengths were also too exceptional to ignore.

Literally the first thing I noticed about the show was its artistry. I dare to say that, excluding the parade of nations, every segment was quite artistic. The show preferred to utilised restrained yet thematically-appropriate colour palettes for each segment instead of the rainbow-like yet unrefined and uninspiring ones. Even though I don’t find the background music that impressive, it still complimented the visual presentation, bringing a pleasing aesthetic into being. It is a contrast to the more entertaining yet tackier opening ceremony of the Asian Games.

Obviously, it is all about the creative directors. The Asian Games committee assigned Wishnutama, a corporate media executive, as the creative director. His specialty is producing entertainment for entertainment’s sake, artistry was not a concern of his. Unsurprisingly, the end result was a presentation which only strength was adoration from the masses.

The Asian Para Games committee, on the other hand, assigned Jay Subiyakto. Apart from having a degree in architecture, he also has experiences designing stages and directing music videos for pop musicians (he created the first Indonesian music video accepted by MTV Asia), organising photography exhibitions, creating concepts for commercials and being the artistic directors of three theatrical productions. While he seems to prioritise beauty over amusement, he is still concerned about the latter. The end result is an artistic yet relatively accessible presentation.

Earlier on, I blamed the show’s unbearable pacing on the inadequate rehearsals and/or funding, not on the organisers not taking their duty seriously. I am inclined to believe that because the ceremony’s message has actual thematic depth, not whitewashed sentimentality of the Asian Games one. Let me start with the officials.

I never thought the lot of them would be genuinely charming. But, that’s the case with the ones who appeared the ceremony. For one, they were not hesitant to sway their hips to the upbeat music when the Indonesian delegates entered the stadium. They refused to be stuck-up. And I haven’t talked about their speeches yet.

Raja Sapta Oktohari, the organising committee chairman, and Majid Rashed, the Asian Paralympic Committee president, made genuinely uplifting speeches. While there was pandering, it was more inhibited compared to the one at Asian Games ceremony (I still cannot forgive Erick Thohir for his whitewashing of Indonesia’s social issues). But, between the two figures, I have to give Rashed a bigger praise.

His speech pointed out one ugly fact: Asia is still far from perfect when it comes to empowerment of disabled people. The splash of reality is something that we must commend. But, I never expected that to make the entirety feels heartwarming. Maybe, just maybe, the combination of positivity and harsh realism culminates in a sense of hope; contrary to popular belief, absolute positivity would give the complete opposite effect, for the less gullible people at least. And Rashed’s speech was not even the best part of the show.

At one segment, they erected giant 3D letters that formed the word ‘DISABILITY’. My initial reaction was ‘WTF?’; that seemed like giving a giant middle finger to every disabled person by reminding them of their unwanted physical limitation. But, the subsequent so-called ‘archery’ by the president showed how I was angered too soon.

When he went down from his VIP seat, he was greeted by a wheelchair-using girl who bestowed him a wooden box which, when opened, uncovered illuminated 3D letters that formed the word ‘ABILITY’, omitting the ‘DIS’ altogether.

The thematic depth climaxed after the president (supposedly) shot his arrow to the giant screen. Immediately, the giant ‘DIS’ letters crumbled while the ‘ABILITY’ ones stood strong and turned illuminated as well, reiterating the wooden box’s message, accentuating it as the spirit of the event.

I don’t know about how disabled people feel about this. But, as a person whose so-called ‘disabilities’ only extend to two speech impediments (stuttering and cluttering), I find that sincerely inspirational! It reminds us how not letting our minds to be utterly controlled by our bodily imperfection would give us accomplishment comparable to or even higher than other people’s.

Of course, some of you may perceive it as an example of idealism triumphing over realism… and I have to disagree. For me, believing that disabled people cannot be as masterly as their so-called more physically ‘abled’ counterparts is not grounded in reality.

For one, when a person has a ‘disability’, it does not afflict his/her entire corporeal being! He/she still have other functioning body parts! A defect does make life harder. But, to say that it is enough to make a person entirely incapable is surely an exaggeration on your part, isn’t it?
Either that or, despite your lack of physical handicap, you still feel insecure about yourself and, just like many insecure individuals out there, you lash out at the socially more marginalised groups like the ‘disabled’ people by propagandising ableist make-believe.

I know, I know. It sounds like I am arguing with non-existent people. But, judging by the comments I have read online and the fact that most places in the world are still not catered to disabled people, you can’t argue that ableism is not a thing. This is why I have to salute the organisers for their seemingly sincere concern of humans who are different from them. At least, such empathy can still exist in Indonesia.

I use the word ‘seemingly’ because I am making an assumption here. Realistically, I don’t know if the organisers had their hearts in the right place. But, they sure have won my heart.

Also, I may change my mind about the message. I may end up finding it flatulent or sentimental. Of course, this possibility does not change the fact it is still better than the one of Asian Games opening ceremony… with its shameless whitewashing of reality.

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The easiest way to achieve a peaceful world…

*puts on a mask*

… is to only talk about the good and act like the bad don’t exist. Pretend that the world we live in has already possessed a flawless state of humanity.

Some of you may say, while (probably) beneficial in the short-term, this practice would definitely be harmful in the long run and we would probably worse off than we were before. Well, yeah. I already knew that.

Contrary to popular belief, ‘peace’ has nothing to do with sincerity. In fact, it is simply all about maintaining sugarcoated semblance that masks the truthfulness of our shared life. ‘Peace’ literally means free from the discomfort of confronting worldly harshness. Regrettably, some people denounce those definitions.

Instead of focusing on the present by thoroughly dousing it in sickly sweet syrup, they prefer to be engrossed in retardedly future-oriented goals which shrug off others’ desire to live restfully free from any disturbances of open and honest conversations about how we treat our fellow human beings and deny others’ right to experience feel-goodism concerning their non-existent ‘goodness’.

Basically, they are selfish assholes who are willing to sacrifice others’ feelings for the sake of fulfilling their childish make-believe!

Yes, make-believe! We live in the now. Therefore, our lives inherently revolve around it! The future, on the other hand, is something that only exists in our heads. Therefore, every person who spends even a sliver of their time on thinking about the future is delusional and the more time they spend doing so means the more hopelessly detached they are from the reality and even the best psychiatrists in history won’t be able to relieve them from their pitiful mental state!

Don’t do future-thinking, kids! If you really care about a bright future, whether for yourself or everyone else, you should avoid thinking about the future at all cost!

*takes off the mask*

 

 

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2018 Asian Games opening ceremony… a big pile of meh and WTF

Yup, among the bedazzled Indonesians, I am of the ones who is not entirely impressed by it. Let’s be real here: it still has glaring problems here and there. Now, where should I start?

Ah yes, the mediocre artistic merit.

The fake mountains that almost subjugated the rest of the stage obviously copied the turfed hills of the London Olympics ceremony.

The Ratoh Jaroe dancing (often mistaken as Saman) obviously copied the Beijing Olympics drummers. The dancers were in a rectangular formation, just like drummers were. They wore colour-changing costumes which allowed them to create coloured patterns without moving places, just like the drummers with their illuminated individual drums, which allowed them to form giant Chinese numerals and perform the countdown.

The anthology of folk songs and traditional dances, while successfully depicted Indonesian diversity, is something that has been done many times before! It has become a go-to method of introducing the country’s cultural richness to the world.

While the cauldron looked nothing like the one in London, the general atmosphere when it was set on fire was similar. The fireworks, the lighting, the song. Even though it may be coincidental, I cannot help thinking this was also a copy.

I am not sure what is wrong with most of the dancing. They felt lackluster. Maybe it was the choreography. Maybe it was the dancers who didn’t spend much time practicing. Either way, the dancing failed to emanate the intended moods.

The event’s original songs are not impressive. Unlike many old-school Indonesian pop songs, they do not have an impact on my soul (pardon my pretentiousness). Heck, even the one composed and written by Guruh Soekarno Putra, one of my most favourite songwriters ever, felt like just another of those mawkishly-written ‘inspirational’ pop songs that will bring nausea to every single Indonesian who are not brainless enough to easily fall for immodest sentimentality.

Because of the ordinariness, the ceremony does not have the thought-provoking disposition of the Athen Olympics nor does it possess the emotional climaxes of the London and Rio ones. It does not have a lasting impact on me.

Okay, okay! I know how unfair it is to compare an opening ceremony of a continental multi-sporting event to ones of global calibre. It would be fair to compare it with the other Asian Games ceremonies. But, I am too lazy to watch them. So, I am resorting to an uneven comparison which is a lot easier. But, I do have more easily vindicated criticisms about the event’s ideological substance, which I find detrimental for our own good.

It openly promoted patriotism through the pretentious voice-over narration, which no one bothered to translate to English, despite its original purpose is to promote cosmopolitanism and the opening ceremony is meant to be an introduction to the host country and making guests feel at home! But, believing in one’s country’s non-existing perfection is more important, it seems.

Speaking about that…

I hate the speeches of Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah (or 4As for short), the president of Olympic Council of Asia, and Erick Thohir, the organising committee chairman. Al-Sabah pandered to the Indonesian audience by praising about their so-called suaveness and saying how much he loved them… repeatedly… in Indonesian. It was cringeworthy to hear. But, it was relatively harmless. Thohir’s, on the other hand, was quite dangerous.

He prided himself as a citizen of a country with the largest Muslim population that still manages to retain its interreligious peace. Yes, religiously, Indonesia fares way better than countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bangladesh and Maldives. But, only toads living under coconut shells believe our interreligious life is in pristine condition.

Literally days after the ceremony, a Buddhist woman was sentenced to one and a half years in prison for complaining about loud calls to prayer (which, believe it or not, many Indonesian Muslims also complain about) while Buddhist temple vandalisers were sentenced for three months! We let Aceh implement its own provincial Sharia! We only officially recognise six religions, none of them indigenous! Ahmadi Muslims are treated worst than adherents of indigenous beliefs! Oh, and Ahok is still in jail for non-existing blasphemy!

Peace, my ass! The ceremony’s poor aesthetics may be tolerable. But, his speech really ruins the event’s moral integrity for me.

Of course, I should not be surprised by this. Preceding the traditional cultures anthology was a so-called re-enactment of Indonesia’s early history. Accompanied by that tastelessly nationalistic narration, it showcased how Indonesia is a peaceful and pluralistic nation and has always been since the dawn of time. It is pretty much historical negationism.

Now, going back to how unfair I am for comparing it with ones of bigger calibres. If I can completely ignore the denialism, I would see the show as a big pile of guilty pleasure!

Those cheesy pop songs have appropriately upbeat arrangement and cheerful lyrics. Even the introverted and cynical creature in me was invigorated by their sounds and I actually wished I was there!

As much as I find the anthology a major cliche, I also can’t help myself from loving it! There is something about the parade of my country’s diversity that makes the Indonesian in me warm and fuzzy inside. Besides, it is indeed the easiest way to showcase our cultures; I can’t think of any other effective approaches.

I also love how they booked Joey Alexander! It was a short performance. But, his sublimity as a Jazz pianist bestows the spectacle with a dash of elegance! I believe Jazz can be as exquisite as classical music… or even more so. The Jazzy rendition of Angin Mamiri and Gending Sriwijaya, two folk songs from two culturally distinct provinces, is a refreshing deviation from the usual utilisation of classical-sounding, pop-ish and/or ethnic music.

Actually, it was not the only display of elegance. I almost forgot to mention the moonlight dance (I name it myself, don’t remember its actual name), which preceded Joey’s appearance. While a foreign friend of mine rightly said it looked picturesque, I would love to add another adjective: ethereal.

The fake full moon made the segment feels unworldly. It was supposed to symbolise worldliness, but it didn’t. It made the overall show slightly more extramundane. If they substitute the conventional orchestral soundtrack with something more ambient like New Age music or something more daringly postmodern like Minimal music, I can guarantee the immersion would intensify. Of course, it would be too creative for the viewers; we Indonesians hate anything too creative.

In spite of my criticism, I also have to commend the Ratoh Jaroe dancing. Not only it was the only dance number that I enjoyed, it also fired up the audience’s spirit just like those pop songs did. The colour-changing costumes, which impressively did not involve any electronics, also contributed to the liveliness.

Right from the beginning, the show made great and triumphant efforts to protect itself from the lethargic virus, unlike those shitty ceremonies of the 2012 National Sports Week and the 2013 Islamic Solidarity Games. While not as dull as the two, the 2011 Southeast Asian games one also failed to stir up my spirit.

While I can be pretentious, I am not pretentious enough to completely hate escapist fun. Sometimes, entertainment is just all about entertainment. Sometimes, the absence of artistry is tolerable.

But, again, the immorality of Thohir’s speech still bugs me. I don’t think there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying anything that comes from a human rights-violating nation. But, if that something tries to legitimise the violation or, in this case, denies its existence, every well-informed person with a functioning moral compass would have a hard time enjoying it.

I am disappointed how I haven’t found a single article or video that condemns Thohir’s speech. Maybe, I just haven’t found one yet. Maybe, as a nation, we are seriously in denial about our past and our current state of being.

Knowing my people, it is probably the latter.

Correction: I stated that Joey Alexander performed his rendition of Angin Mamiri and Gending Sriwijaya. It is incorrect. He only performed Gending Sriwijaya. Angin Mamiri was, in fact, the soundtrack for the preceding moonlight dance.

I don’t know why I bothered making this correction, considering my lack of significant readership.

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How to review entertainment (and the arts)

*puts on a mask*

First thing first, be a simpleton! A good reviewer must be able to remove intricacy out of their ways of thinking. Embrace the glory of black-and-whiteness!

There are two ways to implement this superficiality: either become a snob or an uncultured swine.

In general, a snob hates entertainment. He/she thinks a good creation must be entirely artistic and meaningful. An uncultured swine is more or less the same, just replace ‘artistic’ and ‘meaningful’ with ‘entertaining’.

Let’s start how to be a snob first.

If you want to be a snob, you have to be watchful of any leisurely elements. I am speaking about traces of lightheartedness and escapism. Of course, some creators successfully meld low brow ingredients with high brow and that makes them a menace to your profound sensibility.

Visualise yourself immersing in an ostensibly artistic work. Suddenly, the thing you are profoundly appreciating makes you feel… amused… pleasured… entertained. Entertained? ENTERTAINED?!

HOLY SHIT #$@$#@$@@^@!! Drop everything you are doing and stay fucking calm!!!

Whew, you nearly cascaded into the escapist trap. After you have fully recuperated from such harrowing occurence, you have to immediately lambaste the work! Lambaste it for having the audacity to be whimisical, lambaste it for shrouding superficiality with wisdom! Flush its entire merit which it is worthy of anymore down the lavatory!

Just be heedful to not clog the pipes. You will do a lot of flushing in your lifespan.

Oh, and don’t forget to be a complacent prick. You must devote a large fragment of your time to disparage every single mortal who still can revel in entertainment! You may as well declare them guilty of egocentric detachment from the world we live in!

Whether your social awareness is whole-hearted or not, it does not matter. What matters is you seem to possess it in your heart. It is all about boasting a so-called higher moral ground!

How about being an uncultured swine? It is the opposite of a snob. Therefore, all we have to do is the complete opposite, right? Well, yes and no.

When it comes to dealing with purely artistic works, a swine must react the exact same a snob reacts to entertainment. If a creation seems boring or incomprehensible from the start, then it is artsy! Stop enjoying it immediately! Believe me, one near-depth experience is unpleasant enough, let alone hundreds of them!

After you recover from the shock, you should proceed to berate the creators and their admirers for being self-righteous, pretentious pricks! You don’t care about depth. Therefore, caring about it is a sign of deviance. Treat your personal interests as if they are the ideal criteria for ‘sanity’!

Now, what happen if the works blur the line between art and entertainment? Well, there is nothing to worry about. As the pleasure elements exist, you can only focus on them and disregard the profundity entirely. What you should be cautious of is the entertainment reviewers.

When you find ones who use their intellect, call them out! Employ the same method you use to put artists and art lovers to their places: by calling them self-righteous, pretentious pricks!

How dare they exploring the deepness that our favourite entertainment provides? How dare they resist against pure escapism? How dare they encourage us to contemplate about the world we live in? Fuck those bullshits!

Uncultured simpletons define what it means to be humans. Like it or not, they are humanity’s greatest assets! Sophistication literally kills humanity!

So, there you go! Those are the two ways to be entertainment reviewers! They all boil down to this:

Be a simpleton! Life is all about proselytising your absolute, black-and-white mentality! Life is all about establishing divisiveness among mankind!

And entertainment is the easiest way to achieve such state of being!

*takes off the mask*

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How to be inspirational: the Indonesian way

*puts on a mask*

Well, it is a lot easier than it sounds.

The easiest way to be inspirational is to express how much you treasure old school values. Act like they are already forgotten, even though they are not. You don’t even have to practice what you preach. Just preach and people will listen to you fervently. Everybody can do this.

What if you want to elevate it to a higher level?

You don’t have to think anything new! All you have to do is to repackage those obsolete wisdom with a new lexicon and metaphors. Nobody will even bother to read between the lines. The surface is everything for them.

To intensify your messages, exploit your audience’s religiosity. If you involve their Gods and use a more scriptural language, they would feel more compelled to take you seriously as it has become a matter of heaven and hell!

Oh, and keep nuances out of your messages. Humans prefer to believe everything in life can be easily put into boxes. They hate to think life as an intricate and vague entity. Be a simpleton and treat your audience as simpletons as well!

Once you have a decently-sized devotees, you will have enough apprentices in your grasp. This is the time when you organise seminars…. and set the prices.

Making your devotees and potential-devotees pay for your services is good for you; it gives them the impression you are a teacher who is willing to teach! Offering free services insinuates you don’t care about quality. Keep that in mind: money equals quality!

In your paid services, there are two things you must include: anecdotes and emotional manipulations.

I initially wanted to say you must treat your anecdotes as absolute truths, more reliable than scientific data. But, subsequently, I was aware of its redundancy. Anyone who cares enough to listen the first place will devour anything you say. They will revere your words as ones of truth, more truthful than the ones of actual scientists and intellectuals.

Make them emotional. Play soppy music, show soppy imagery on the projection screen, dim the lighting, anything to enhance the manipulation. But, the most important thing is to make them see themselves as pieces of shit!

You can do so by making them recall their own past ‘sins’. What counts as sins? Disobedience against conceited authority figures, refusal to do religious rituals which you never found rewarding, having the humane desire of touching another human’s tinky-winky with your own. You know, outdated moral problems. Once the tears start gushing like water out of the poorly-maintained Situ Gintung dam, you have conquered your audience.

Does it matter if they have sincerely changed for the better after leaving your seminars? No, it doesn’t. What matters is they act like they have changed for the better. How much boasting they have made determines the level of your success. The higher, the better.

Obviously, you will get your own haters. But, worry not. Launching scathing attacks against them is unnecessary. Your followers will do the job for you.

They will condemn your haters for being too unenlightened to cherish the transcedental heart of your sermons. Too hedonistic, too materialistic, too atheistic, too selfish, any empty insults imaginable.

Oh, and even though I doubt you can use them to create your own cult, I am sure they can make great stepping stones.

*takes off the mask*

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