How to have political integrity?

*puts on a mask*

First thing first: never ever take the words of politicians seriously, not even when they threaten to destroy the nature, destroy our education, destroy our collective intellect and discriminate the minorities even further! In the end, literally every single one of them won’t take their own words seriously!

Don’t worry about their supporters taking their words seriously either! A racist will never feel empowered by the racist rhetoric of an influential public figure. If you don’t take politicians’ words seriously, others won’t as well! That’s literally how life works: you are the centre of the universe!

Oh, and having integrity does not mean you cannot have fun.

You can just vote for the sake of participating! If you have firm stances on certain issues, you can vote as if your stances are entirely the opposite! Then, when the stances you oppose win the most votes, why not whine about how disappointed you are with the results? British EU remainers who voted for Brexit are the best examples of this.

You also can vote for the sake of angering the other side! You hate them so much that you can vote for a politician you probably disagree with almost entirely just for the sake of taking piss at your political opponents! Experiencing schadenfreude is worth making light of the election of people who rule us. The people who voted for Trump just to own the libtards are great examples of this.

You also don’t have to own up to the politicians you voted for! You can vote for one who was famous in the first place for his/her sexism, racism, homophobia and incitement of violence. Then, you deny he/she was ever sexist, racist, homophobic and violent and you also accuse people who pay attention to his/her rhetoric of slander! Americans who voted for Trump and Brazilians who voted for Bolsonaro are great examples of this.

If I make it sound like politics is not something to be taken seriously, that’s because it is! Politics is literally just a game where one participates for the sake of winning and messing around! Taking it seriously as if one’s life depends on it, as if it is an urgent matter of humanity, means one has a weak grasp of reality.

I don’t know about you. But, that does not sound like a person with integrity to me!

*takes off the mask*

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How to empower victims

*puts on a mask*

I am going to categorise them into two: rape victims and hate crime victims. Empowering them requires hatred from us, the people who care about them. But, the hatred itself is implemented differently to each group.

When it comes to ‘rape victims’, you have to be hateful AGAINST them. You have to slut-shame them, call out their slutty dresses and their slutty habits! Accuse them of inciting the rape! Who do they think they are? Actual victims? No! They are forced to have sex! Big deal! They are just playing victims! In fact, they have to realise that by pressing charges, they become the tormentors! They are tormenting their rapists who just want to have sex and got unfairly rejected, they are tormenting innocent bystanders who just want to live a life free from the inconvenience of hearing people who complained about experiencing involuntary orgasms! Stop them from subjugating themselves with non-existing victimhood!

When it comes to hate crime victims, you have to plant seeds of hatred INSIDE them. You have to coerce them to hate every single individual who shares mere identities with the people who dehumanise them, you have to make them believe that sharing identities is essentially a complicity! If they refuse to hate, if they insist on fighting hate with love and humanity, shame them! Shame them for humanising their tormentors and their accomplices! Shame them for being compliant to bigotry and violence! Shame them for believing that hate should not be fought with hate! Shame them for not stooping to their tormentors’ level!

Love and a sense of humanity are signs of weaknesses. Hatred is a sign of strength. Be hateful. Empower others… and yourself.

*takes off the mask*

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Support this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

Primer: when a film feels close to home

The first time I knew about Primer, it was around the year 2010. It attracted my attention because it is a highly-acclaimed, low-budget sci-fi film, directed and written by Shane Carruth, a software engineer who has a degree in Mathematics and who hadn’t made a feature film before, with the help of a small crew of five. At that time, I did not have the desire to watch it.

Seven years later, I encountered the title again and, this time, I was livid to watch it. I finally watched it on December 9. I had heard many good words about Primer. But, even after reading countless positive endorsements, I was still emotionally unprepared.

I am not ready to dissect its unconventional and deeply complex narrative; it will probably take me years and many buckets of tears to untangle the devilishly-intricate chronology. Heck, I will never start on dissecting the science and evaluating its soundness; kudos to Carruth for not dumbing down the jargon-laced dialogues. But, I am ready to talk about its ‘realism’.

Of all the films I have watched, this has to be among the most realistic. I am deeply immersed in the story to the point of almost feeling at home. When I thought other films were bona fide, Primer brings it to the next level. The fact that it is sci-fi can be surprising to some people. For me, it is partially surprising. Let me elaborate.

Believe it or not, speculative genres like sci-fi are able to embody realism. Not literally, of course. Instead, they make use of allegories and ideas to illustrate the real world. In fact, the so-called more ‘realistic’ genres often fail to explore real life issues. So, I am not surprised by the sense of realism.

What surprises me is how near-perfect the immersion is. Despite dealing with real life issues, the audience is still emotionally detached from the characters and stories in most fantastical films. Thematically, Primer is not special as it deals with unethical use of technology, a cliche of the sci-fi genre. But, I have my own ‘theories’ about how the immersion came into being (I use the ‘t word’ very loosely here).

The directing and editing were so neatly-done, they look like the works of an experienced professional. The cinematography, however, is grainy at times; it still reminds me about the film’s micro budget. But, that seems superficial. I am sure there are other elements, more abstract ones that contribute to the immersion. (Oh, and condescending tone in this paragraph is unintentional. My apologies).

The special effects are almost non-existent in Primer, unusual for a film of such genre. Apart from how impressive it is to convince the audience that this special effects-deprived film is sci-fi, I also believe it’s a contributing factor to its realism; the audience knows how special effects are just visual ‘fabrication’. I am not saying that special effects ruin the immersion. I just think that, more of than not, they are only used to emphasise escapism.

Previously, I mentioned about how Carruth refused to dumb down the scientific jargons. Besides its praiseworthiness, it also entices me to believe in the authenticity of the science. In many sci-fi films, the lack of technical language make them look disproportionately more ‘fi’ than the ‘sci’. The rest of the dialogues, however, are very down-to-earth.

When the main characters are not speaking jargons, they are speaking in an everyday language. No floweriness, just mundanity we are familiar with. Don’t get wrong. I do love poetic language; it can make great narrations and monologues. But, admittedly, it can be uncomfortably artificial in dialogues.

Oh, and the acting. For me, the lead actors’ performance radiated sincerity. They effortlessly performed dialogues that were cut off mid-sentences and overlapped each other, which parallel real-life casual conversations; I wouldn’t be surprised if they improvised their lines. Also, despite not being overly-animated, they were still able to convey emotions; not every normal living person is loud and extroverted.

I believe those elements contribute to my wonderfully sublime experience. Their audibility and visuality make them relatively tangible. But, I should not forget one abstract element which can be easily missed: the depth.

In this case, it is less about the depth itself and more about its presentation. Some films, both commercial and arthouse, try too hard to look profound, they end up bearing an image of pompousness and superficiality. Primer is the complete opposite.

Instead of a film with deep and hidden meanings, it merely presents itself as a story of two men who accidentally invented a time machine, which they use for their selfish gains. Basically, humans who become corrupt when the opportunity arises. Even when you are not one of them, I am sure you are mindful of how irresistible the dark side can be. Quite mundane if you think about it.

As I said before, with its theme of technological abuse, Primer is not thematically groundbreaking. But, instead of dwelling on it, the film treats the overused subject matter as nothing more than an accessory; it prefers to accentuate the genuine human story.

I really wish more films (and TV shows as well) follow Primer‘s footsteps. More mundane languages, more natural acting, more sincere human quality. Obviously, such motion pictures exist. But, I just wish they were more bountiful and more widely-accepted. One can dream.

Oh, and as I am typing this, I have only watched the film twice. In the future, after watching it for the umpteenth time, I will certainly change my opinions. It would be disappointing if I fail to refine my reasoning and knowledge.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: distasteful, menacing and poignant (a late film review)

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A note for those who haven’t watched and want to: I am not going to spoil the plot. But, I am going to describe the film’s general atmospheres which may or may not be detailed. If that’s enough of a spoiler for you, please click away.

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I was conflicted about watching GOTG 2 because, you know, it’s a sequel. Disappointment was what I expected and disappointment was what I got.

First of all, the off-colour humour. Personally, I CAN enjoy it. I’ve even have told far more obscene (and frankly abusive) jokes to my friends. They are also a very useful outlet to vent my anger and frustration. But, unlike the screenwriter (or the producer who probably pressured him), I know the time and place to express them.

The first volume was as comedic as this one. But, the difference is its humour was very clean; violence is the most blatantly adult aspect of the film. Not to mention that Guardians of the Galaxy is marketed solely as action, adventure and sci-fi franchise, NOT risque comedies. As a result, the lewdness is a very unpleasant, in-your-face surprise. The disappointment doesn’t stop there.

Sentimentality. I love it when entertainment works include emotions that humanise the characters. But, I hate it when their portrayals are too skin-deep and sugary, pandering to shallow individuals who can’t see pass the pretence. For me, this practice encourage insincerity and actually invalidates genuine human emotions. Depth and intricacy are needed to add realism and soundness to the emotions. But, despite the distastefulness, it’s not all disappointment with this film.

Apart from the crude ones, there are also cleaner and more refined jokes we encountered in the previous one. Their wholesome nature gives them a much more universal appeal and relatively uncontroversial in any genres of films. The inclusion of the lewd one, however, is both unnecessary and detrimental, both in aesthetic and practical sense. Without the franchise’s trademark humour, I would hate this installment a lot more. But, admittedly, it can also be more superior in other aspects.

Menace. In pop culture, this film included, it usually starts with the introduction of something too good to be true. If something seems that way, it must be perceived as a red flag. There are also a few hints of the alleged ominousness, noticeable to both the audience and the characters. We know something’s off and yet, we don’t know what that is. In the story’s culmination, the truth is revealed…and boy, menacing it is.

The revelation is deeply unnerving for me. Admittedly, not everyone shares my idea of threat to the psyche; what disturbs me in the arts and entertainment may be nothing for you. But, whether you agree with me or not, it is undeniably an unforeseen dimension that conveys darkly ethereal spirit. This element makes a pop film like this more appealing to me.

An infatuation with the sinister force seems odd or even grotesque. But, personally, I find the attraction justifiable. In the arts and entertainment, its is meant to remind us of its existence in our life. When it comes to the notoriously-vivid arthouse films, the audience is ‘forced’ to experience the vile ‘face to face’. Savour the foul taste, no sugar allowed. A bit different case with pop films.

In many cases, they are nothing but sugar overloads. Every inch of the film reel is caramelised by corporate demands. But, once in a while, hints of pungency sip through the sweetness. Overall, the taste is still sweet. But, the subtle foulness cannot be ignored entirely. In the end, you have to admit there are other layers to the taste.

Depth, created by the stack of layers. Without any ‘undesirable’ ones, pop films would be only surface-deep. There’s nothing to offer other than what can be seen with the naked eyes. The pungency gives us a reason to explore beyond what they can see. In light-hearted comedies, it can be a surprise.

The abundance of humour prevent us from expecting the polar opposite. So, its presence (when noticed) juxtaposes with the merry atmosphere we have immersed ourselves into. It is a deep, hidden well of nasty-flavoured yet drinkable fluid, surrounded by vast sugary fields. If you haven’t discovered it, you really don’t know anything about your surrounding environment. In some films, including GOTG 2, the well is not that hard to find.

In this film, the sinister force is visually expressed, making it physically visible to the audience. Admittedly, the imagery is really not that scary. But, for me, it is more than enough to represent darkness. Just looking at it, we know that we are dealing with a malicious being. Not only the well is present, its content overflow to the surface, forcing everyone to face it. The film’s depth does not stop at the ‘taste’. It also extends to the human psyche.

Yes, I did complain about the gooey sentimentality. But, actual psychological depth is still abundant here and it comes in several forms. The soundtrack, for example. Like the previous installment, this one features pop oldies.

I do prefer them over the newer ones. But, having them as soundtracks in contemporary films activates my warm inner self. It makes me nostalgic of the colourful past that I didn’t experience myself; I haven’t figured out how and why this oddity comes into being. Anyway, this is not all about me.

The featured songs also happen to be the main character’s personal favourites. Along with his walkman, they are the only entities that emotionally link him with his childhood on earth. There’s more to this infamously rebellious man-child. But, his past is neither surprising nor mysterious. Overall, not a complex individual. The other characters, however, are relatively so when compared to him.

Crude, lawless, evil. You may think those traits are innate to the characters, that they absolutely define them. When you think you know them well, they unfold previously-unknown facets of themselves; we become surprised and start seeing them in different (albeit slightly) lights. In the end, we find it hard to synopsise them as individuals, knowing how deceptive their facades are. Again, not that different from the previous installment. But, again, there is one aspect of both films in which the successor aces out its predecessors: death.

The first film has a somewhat mature treatment of death. But, being a pop film it is, the portrayal is almost completely trivial. In the second film, the trivialisation also occur…to some minor characters. When it comes to the other ones, their death is glaringly horrifying and inhumane; they are murdered simply because their murderers think, ‘why not?’. In that short yet graphic moment, the film had its joy wiped out.

Those murdered characters aren’t really characters. Their names aren’t mentioned and they’ve got nothing to offer for the plot’s development. We are not emotionally attached to them. But, they are human enough to make ourselves affected by their death. If the attachment is there, we would be made teary-eyed…and that happens when one of the important characters die.

It’s incredible how a film with bouts of mawkishness can also possess emotional profundity. That one character’s death is not laced with sappy dialogues and background music. In fact, the subsequent funeral scene is not that reliant on dialogues. The atmosphere is expressed more through the characters’ body languages, camera angles and, unsurprisingly, an oldie pop song as the background music.

Neither the melody nor the lyrics manifest any embodiment of heartache. But, the latter wonderfully allude to the bonding between one of the main characters and the departed one. The song exudes familial warmth. For some, its inclusion can seem odd for this particular moment. But, I think this works really well.

A simple yet deep song about family, unassuming bodily languages, not a single flowery word being uttered. This moment conveys heartfelt grief…along with tinges of nostalgic joy and hope for the incoming future. There is no self-conceited emotionality, there is only wholesome and warm tenderness.

Tenderness. The film’s best feature and one reason why it still manages to win me over.

Rogue One: (un)appreciation of heroism (a very late review)

*spoiler alert*

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This is literally my first Star Wars film. I wasn’t interested in the franchise. If I want to try new art and entertainment, I focus on the premise rather than its celebrity or cult status. Honestly, Star Wars’ premise doesn’t interest me.

Basically, it’s another case of good vs. evil. The marginalised vs. the powerful ones. Battle scenes. I know I sound ignorant. But, that’s the impression I get from the film. Correct me if I am wrong. Of course, I still have other reasons to try the franchise.

First of all, Harry Potter’s not a completely original franchise either. It has traits shared by many other stories. But, I’ve been a pothead for years and I can see myself as one in the future. If I can love derivative HP, why not Star Wars?

Also, Star Wars is sci-fi. I have a soft spot for speculative genres. From my lenses, they can get deep easily and unpretentiously. I like that. I can’t stand self-righteous entertainment. Another reason to try Star Wars.

So, when I had the chance to watch it, I took it. Not disappointed at all.

Quality wise, it’s unexceptional. K-2SO is the only character that I like. The human ones don’t attract me. I’m neither annoyed nor compelled by them. That hinders the immersion. But, the most important aspect of the film is its ending….which makes me conflicted.

It is supposed to be sad. But, the emotions existed briefly before immediately swept under the rug. Like, why? Our heroes are dead. They die before they reach the happy ending. I should not have feelings about that? Seriously? What are they? Chopped liver? Why don’t the filmmakers celebrate the deaths as well? Oh, look! Dead heroes! Woohoooo!! Pop the champagne!!

*takes a deep breath*
As much as frustrating it is, the film’s a good reminder that every revolution demands sacrifice. The living heroes have it nicer. They live to enjoy seeing their causes becoming reality, unlike their dead predecessors.

Okay, I know how it sounds like. In reality, I am genuinely grateful of their heroic efforts. I really do. But, I also credit their predecessors for starting the movements. Without them, our living heroes probably wouldn’t have a colossal cause to fight for.

I believe franchises like Star Wars need prequels. They unveil the origin stories, show how everything started. If not prequels, at least insert fictional history lessons in the original stories. Don’t dwell too much on the present. Explore the past well.

If I dare to say this to some people, they would roll their eyes (and I hope they got stuck) and say profoundly pragmatic things like “why does it matter?”, “it’s just entertainment!” and “why can’t you just be dumbed down like us?” My respond would be this:

Why doesn’t it matter?

I have said this countless times before and I will said it again: I love lowbrow entertainment. I really do. I believe it’s morally and intellectually acceptable to unwind with pure escapism. But, indulging in escapism in your every waking second is self-destructive.

Sooner or later, you have to dwell on the inescapable reality. You are in it, whether you like it or not. This can be encouraged by inserting depth to popular entertainment, no matter how subtle it is.

In the case of Rogue One, it’s about knowing the Jedis’ earliest efforts (God, I hope I got the info right). You will never fully appreciate their movement (is that the right word?) unless you learn about the history.

You would learn how and why it started, about everything the movement went through and its evolution from then to now. The movement in its present form doesn’t tell you the full story and that can lead to ignorance.

The people. Don’t forget about them. You would also learn about the sacrifices they made. Be grateful that you don’t have to endure what they went through, that you can enjoy the privilege which weren’t available then.

I know, I know. Star Wars isn’t real. But, one has to acknowledge that it resembles real life phenomenons. Notice the parallel, immerse in it and we’ll be more insightful about our reality. Try harder and we can make our world a better place.

It seems my teenage idealism still lingers…

Oh and one more thing. My statement about esteeming heroes sounds patriotic. It can be applied to the context of fighting for national independence. But, that was not what I had in mind.

I was thinking about something more internal. The fight for more rights for the marginalised ones, honourable governance and even better living conditions. They may seem trivial. But, they also involve heroic individuals. In some cases, they do suffer from violence. Not all heroes are soldiers.

Admittedly, those internal issues can intertwine with patriotism as well.

Those peculiar, fantastical and thoughtful genres

I am referring to three in particular: magical realism, surrealism and absurdism.

If you tell people to describe them, they would say ‘confusing’, ‘weird’ and ‘pointless’. Of course, they are wrong about them. But, the ignorance is understandable. The three genres are of acquired taste. Even not all of the lovers grasped them at first.

All three have one similarity: they encourage contemplation. They want us to reflect on our own life. They make us contemplate about what is true and what isn’t. They encourage us to reconsider our outlook concerning our own existence. Either that or they make you die of boredom or confusion.

Contemplation is not exclusive to strong realism. Even unworldliness has the ability to foster its growth. Realism reminds us about real life entities we are already aware of. Those three genres prefer us show us we failed to notice by ourselves: life’s ‘abnormalities’.

Their portrayal are always deadpan. No explanation to their existence and mechanics. They are just another life banalities we deal with every single day. What kind of ‘abnormalities’ they are depends on the genres. I’ll start with magical realism.

As the name says, its oddity is the magical elements. It encourages us to acknowledge the ‘magic’ in our real life. The stories feel both very real and fantastical at the same time. Those are more than enough to disaffiliate the genre from fantasy.

Unlike magical realism, fantasy is escapist. Magic is explicitly depicted as a non-existing entity. It abducts us from the real world temporarily (or permanently…). Viewing the two genres interchangeably is ignorance; unacceptable if it comes from actual fantasy writers and fans. Okay, I should go on to surrealism before I end up ranting.

The peculiarity of surrealism comes from its liberal blend of the conscious and the subconscious. It illustrates how both are inseparable from each other. All of our actions are, on some level, affected by something intangible deep inside us. Oh and it’s not to be confused with absurdism.

On the surface, it may looks similar to surrealism. But, instead of depicting the subconscious, it depicts the absurdity of life (the name’s obvious). It reminds us that even our conscious world can be senseless at times. Sometimes, we have to accept it.

Not only they want us take heed of the life abnormalities, the trio also inspire us to embrace them. They are benign and even enriching to our life. Forsaking them seem unwise; doing so, we are defiling our own very being. Those three genres can utilised as our guidance. Well, that’s my personal outlook, anyway.

I may also add a fourth ‘peculiar genre’: science fiction. I find it a unique genre because it has a place in the world of entertainment and the arts. I never thought sci-fi could be artsy until I found Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris.

From there, I managed to find other artsy sci-fi films like Tarkovsky’s Stalker, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (artistry highly debatable, though). Each one has something in common: contemplation about our relations with science and technology. Yes, that C word again.

They dwell on how our life are tremendously shaped by the existence of science and technology. They supply us with greater practicality and alter how we regard our fellow human beings and even ourselves. That’s what artsy sci-fi films have to say. I never thought they could have such capacity until I found Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris.

From there, I managed to find similar films like Stalker (also by Tarkovsky), Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. I am excited to watch Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville, Andrzej Zulawski’s On the Silver Globe (I’m sure I butchered his name) and read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

I am even excited to explore new genres as well.

Inhabitants Of My Urban Realms 4

(short fiction #8)

That foreign city

Compared to most cities I’ve visited, this one feels calm…and oddly sleepy. Most of the creatures are apathetic to humans. One day, I said “Hi!” to a robot and a talking cat on a park. Their only respond was blank stare. Maybe I disturbed their chat and annoyed them. Maybe they were feeling sorry for me, a painfully awkward bugger.

Their apathy contributes to the city’s relative calmness. For foreigners, it’s a boring atmosphere. For me, it’s relaxing. Many cities cannot be described that way. It’s a highly-cultured city, also thanks to the non-humans.

Apart from the awkward encounter, I’d never interacted with them. Always saw them in galleries, museums, the downtown and even my university. They interacted with the humans, talking about arts and cultures, possibly planning their own projects. I’m always intrigued by the ones in my uni.

I don’t know why. Maybe because the youthful energy. Maybe they still have their idealism. Maybe I was just an asshole; I thought I was the only cultured youth out there. But, whatever the reasons, surrounded by artistic youths gives me colourful emotions.

It’s inspiring. I appreciate earthly creatures’ boundless sense of beauty. I heard students discussing films passionately. I witnessed students thrive in creative classes. Outside the classrooms, they thrived. Human-robot choirs. Sludges dance troupes. Ghostly slam poetry. Seen them all. To think that my uni didn’t (and still doesn’t) specialise in the arts. The Indonesian uni I dropped out from was similar minus the humility. If only I am more social.

The atmosphere also keeps slapping me (my face hasn’t adjusted to the pain). It reminds me of my own sloth. Sometimes, I dream about getting slaps by fellow students. I hope it stays as a dream. You don’t want non-humans to slap you. I’ve seen photos online.

Conclusions

Do I need one? Sighs. Can I let the sloth write it for me? No? Fine!

It can be concluded that different cities have different humans and non-humans. Yadda yadda yadda! Happy?

Inhabitants Of My Urban Realms 3

(short fiction #7)

My second city

It’s not my “home”, even though I was born there. A city where the creatures are both aloof and cultured. Very typical for a big ass city. This one in particular is notorious for the volatile relationship between humans and non-humans.

The humans are too eager to demolish old buildings. You know, the places where non-humans live! They love old buildings because of the aura and their good taste. It’s worsen that they are legally second-class citizens. Obviously, they rebel. Their bad deeds are similar to the ones in my hometown. Except, theirs are notoriously worse. A few times in the past, the city literally shut down for days. But, it’s not all sectarian.

Many are also model citizens. But, they are more visible. More recognition (it could have been higher, though). In fact, they belong to the elites, mingling with equally-snooty Homo Sapiens. Hate interacting with them, humans or not.

They are borderline narcissistic. They build sky-high monoliths in their backyards. Once a day, they climb to the top using the lift. They want to emphasise how others are beneath them. Worse, their arrogance is seen as confidence. I vomit every time I think about them. Even my vomit vomits; it shares my revulsion. But, I’m glad the old lady also shares it.

She, wearing Betawi kabaya this time, will levitate to the monoliths’ tops and slap those snooters. If only they install guard rails (safety regulations exist for a reason!).

Every fall is physically damaging. “Peasant” workshops repair the robots. The sludges need medicinal turds. The sorcerers are treated by their ghetto counterparts. The ghosts need resurrection. The recover may take weeks, months or even years. But, nothing is more painful the humiliation.

It’s rarely reported by the elites-owned media. The elites try really hard to protect each other…for selfish reasons obviously. But, everyone knows about their comeuppances. The elites may either ignore the public shaming or dismiss it as social jealousy. But, the shaming’s still exists and will always be.

Aaah, my schadenfreude.

Inhabitants Of My Urban Realms 2

(short fiction #6)

My first encounter with a non-human was life-changing. I was sitting on the grass, just having my morning walk at my favourite park when a sorcerer said, “good morning!”. Took me a while to properly reply. Apart from his purple eyes, he looked completely human. But, I still feared that he would transform me to a canine or worse, himself to one just to annoy me. Instead, he continued to a small talk:

“Do you always walk here?” He had a slight Eastern Javanese accent.

“Yes, I do. But, not everyday.” I was surprised by my lack of stuttering. I usually stutter when talking to strangers or anyone I’m uncomfortable with.

“It’s so quiet, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.”

I don’t remember most of the conversation. Or maybe the writer (my creator) is just lazy. But, there are some that I always do:

“What do you do as a living?”, I asked.

“I teach applied magic.”

“Applied magic?”

Ya. I teach it at the polytechnic.”

“Magic can be taught?”

“Yes, it can. Everyone can learn it. You don’t have to be born with it.”

“Applied. What do you mean by applied?”

“It means it has practicality. Magic can be used to track criminals, protect our homes, control the unruly ghosts and even to make our foods tastier!”

“Wow!”, I replied profoundly.

“I’m more interested in teaching pure magic, actually.”

“Why?”

“It helps us in understanding the philsophical, social and cultural aspects of magic. Don’t get me wrong. I do think practicality is important. But, we should also thrive to understand everything, whether they grow money or not. If we don’t, we are proudly ignorant about our own world. Besides, pure and applied magic overlap with each other. Some branches of pure magic can have their practical use.”

“Where did you learn magic?”

“I attended a magical boarding school called C_S_ in Surabaya. Then, I got a bachelor’s degree from G_ university in Bandung and a Ph.D from F_P_ university in Boston.”

I tried to whistle. I forgot I couldn’t.

“Anyway, I have to go now.”

When I was already comfortable with him. We even hadn’t introduced our names!

He got up and said “bye” before he ran towards a pregnant hijabi lady, who was sitting at a nearby rusty bench. She got up and they off together.

I just sat there, contemplating my first encounter with a non-human. I muttered, “wow, not all of them are bad.”

Unexpectedly, an old lady in Malay kebaya appeared out of nowhere. “You think?”, she scorned before she slapped me hard. Then, she stormed off angrily, swearing in multiple languages under her breath.

I was 15. Old enough to reject stereotypes. I deserved the pain.

Inhabitants Of My Urban Realms 1

(short fiction #5)

Like most people, I spend my life living in the urban areas. I always deal inhabitants like mischievous sewer sludges, noisy scrap metal robots and sorcerers disguised as stray cats. Pollution, urban decay and deception. I wish I was a rural boy. I would’ve dealt with dragons, singing floras and magical sages. Strength, serenity and wisdom. I envy village dwellers.

Actually, that is a lie. I barely deal with those urban creatures. I am an indoor person. When I go out, I use the safe routes. The robots are attracting attention with their clanking; they remind me of attention-deprived teenagers. The sorcerers metamorphose themselves to felines and canines simply because they don’t find a reason why they shouldn’t. Those sewer sludges offer innocent passers-by feculent experiences. Those urban nuisances can be deadly at times. Despite that, I’ve become doubtful about the rural beauty.

Some of the dragons are blood-thirsty (western imports!). Sometimes, the floral singing cause aural addiction so potent, not even rehabs help (this is why genetic engineering exists). Some magical sages are degenerates themselves: laundering money, accepting bribes and getting involved in illegal prostitution rings. Really ruin it for me.

So far, I have lived in three cities. Two of them are in Indonesia and one in Australia. Ideally, I would love to live in my hometown forever. But, most of professional jobs offered here are limited to business, hospitality, manufacturing, black magic and immorality. I am not interested in any of those (even though I was slightly intrigued by the last one). Here, my success is just a make-believe. Okay, I got sidetracked.

Anyway, these are their brief descriptions. I’ll focus mostly on the non-humans (it’s disputed whether the sorcerers are humans or not. Some are mythical creatures descendants. I believe some are partially humans while others are completely so. Most refuse to believe that. Thanks, supremacists) They’re way more interesting.

Home bittersweet home

My hometown is like a grown-up with strong potentials who are more childish than children themselves. But then, you can find such grown-ups on any Indonesian streets…in dirty diapers, screaming and whining about how their degrees and ages make them superior. Such role models, aren’t they?

The non-humans are mostly useless. They do nothing but making the city a horrible place to live. The robots contribute to the noise and air pollution. The sludges block the sewers, causing annual flooding and infect humans with diseases. The sorcerers prank humans with their magic. Local ghosts haunt houses and, in some occasions, murder the occupiers. They are also peeping Toms. When I got older, I realised I was pigeonholing them.

Many are model citizens. The robots work as engineers and in workshops. The sludges work as government’s health and environmental officers. The sages teach applied magic to any non-magical creatures. The ghosts work as historians. Many work alongside with humans. Just like their human counterparts, they run this godawful city. Without them, it would just be a crowded settlement of no importance.