The Land of Holes

A new bell to ring, a new song to sing

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You are free to express your opinion on whatever post I made here (well, as long as the comments are enabled, but I seldom disable comments).

Don't worry if your opinion is different from me - I'd love to hear from you! I'll not go ballistic just because you dislike what I like or vice versa, for instance.

Just keep it all civil and appreciate other people's thoughts. Remember, there's always "I beg to differ"!

And if you have any bone to pick with me, just bring it on. I'd rather you blurt out at me than talking behind my back - or in front of me, but pretending that your words are not directed at me.

Thank you!

PS Personal entries will be locked.
If you're not my friend, you can still read my reviews, essays and similar non-personal posts that won't be locked.

In a coconutshell: TERONG: THE LEGACY
TRON was boring, boring, boring that I lost all purposes watching the film except for collecting materials to write the following In a Coconutshell: TERONG THE LEGACY. This was originally written in plurk, hence the 140-character limit. Warning: Contains spoilers of TRON: THE LEGACY.

Watch TRON if you are 1) insomniac (it'll help you fall asleep) or 2) hungry for some droolable tightly-wrapped arses.

Some updates...
Working on a cover for imaginarybeasts and a report of LUNA SEA gig in Hong Kong.

Some translation work offered.

Tutorial tomorrow, some discussion about a biology-related debate, then the next day off to Tanjung Lesung (again).

Women and Minorities in G.I. Joe
Well, well. The Last Failbender is coming to Indonesia on August 4th, and under my breath I’m cursing it to fail even more. It’s bewildering how some people could not see what a fail the film is – whitewashing the characters. And yes, I like using the word ‘fail’ in the same paragraph with ‘The Last Failbender’ again and again.

It reminded me to Judd Winick’s preface to Brother’s Keeper: it doesn’t seem too unreasonable that, in comics where there are heroes with various superpowers and aliens of every colour and shape, there are also more women, Latinos, Africans, Asians, Middle Easterners, immigrants, and other minorities – not merely white, male, heterosexual Americans.

That’s why in this post I’m turning to a series I’ve loved so much since my childhood - G.I. Joe - to take a glimpse at how ‘minority’ groups are presented in a comic series that seems so American. After all, G.I. Joe is claimed as ‘a real American hero’, and most of the members are those ‘white, male, heterosexual Americans’ (but then again, ‘don’t ask don’t tell’… who knows – actually it’ll be interesting if a writer would explore this idea of a gay trooper in the team…).

The movie adaptation, which I enjoyed although it had substantial differences with the original series, still put blond hunk Duke as the main character, like the latter comics and animations did. But the other blond trooper, Ripcord, was magicked to become an African-American (who won Scarlet’s heart, isn’t that awesome!) while originally ‘white’ Breaker was also turned into an Arab.

But since the beginning of the original series, there were already members from minority background: Stalker, the African-American who continued to be one of the most important members throughout the series, and Zap, of Hispanic background. Later on, there were also other popular African-American characters like Doc, General Hollingsworth, Iceberg, Roadblock and Heavy Duty (who also appeared in the movie, as an African-British).

Asians. Women. Africans. And more.Collapse )

To finish this off, I want to show you what was perhaps one of the awesomest moment in G.I. Joe: in Declassified we finally find out who the member who went with the name Shooter was. Ever since the first volume of Classic G.I. Joe, we were shown a list of Joes, including one named Shooter, whose photograph was always covered by somebody’s hand.

We, and indeed the other members of G.I. Joe, never knew who this secret member was, until it was revealed in Declassified:

Yes. Shooter was a woman, and an African-American.


Bonus: If G.I. Joe and Cobra members tweet...

When changes are necessary
I am of the belief that there are many ways in which a film can be good; in the case of an adaptation of a book, a film can be good because it conforms totally with the original text (and thus perhaps cheers diehard fans of the book, thinking that the film manages to bring to wide-screen reality what they have been fantasizing all along), or it can be good exactly because the makers have been brave enough to introduce substantial changes unseen in the book.

But of course we’re holding a double-edged dagger here: a film, then, may only be as captivating or as boring as the book is, or in the case of The Dark Is Rising, the changes brought complete humiliation to the text.

Continue, demigodsCollapse )

Here comes the logic
So, after the 7.5 Richter Tasikmalaya earthquake, I decided that my 11th graders and I could talk a little about our dynamic Earth. It was a coincident that they had just spent a trip in Peucang Island, not far from Anak Krakatau - 'The Child of Krakatoa', the volcanic island (yes, complete with a volcano) that started to emerge after Krakatoa exploded in a very, VERY loud bang in the 19th century.

I began by explaining how Anak Krakatau came into being.
Me: "And so, if Anak Krakatau is to explode violently like Krakatau did..."
Students (in unison): "There will be Cucu Krakatau (The Grandchild of Krakatoa)..."
Me: ", I was going to say, a tsunami can happen that washes away all the rhinos in Ujung Kulon..."

So hi guys, happy holidays, but I still have work to finish. Nice to see you again.

Things I learnt from G.I. Joe
I read classic (Marvel) GI Joe and watched the animation when I was a kid, and I've been completely hooked. And although I think the latest film is OK, nothing could compare with the classic comic, with Larry Hama's superb storytelling and entertaining characters. And yes, call me a freak, but I want to visit North Carolina just because it's the state where Cross-Country was born (according to his filecard that is).

I've been trying to collect the old comics again, and thanks to a friend, now I'm only about 17 editions short, out of 155. I've re-read some of them, and these are some of the moral lessons repeatedly appearing in the series:

Smoking kills
OK, Rip-cord said Blowtorch was angry to people who smoke in a mall more because he was worried about the fire exits. But when Dusty went out in a desert night and finished some adversaries, noticing the faint glow of their cigarettes? "Nasty habit, smoking. Can kill fast."
And as far as I remember, none of the Joes was ever seen puffing cloudy rings through their mouths.

The hands that build are better than the hands that destroy.
Yeah, before Obama, Duke said this to Grunt, who left the team for Georgia Tech: "It's better to build things than tear them down."
And although the comic is full with fightings, shootings, punches, kicks, destruction, and all, Storm Shadow underlined it several times to William 'Billy' Kessler that,

The best swords are kept in their sheaths.

And yeah, we know this already from our daily experience, but--

Never underestimate a nerd.
Because they grow to be cool people - probably half of the G.I. Joe members had been known as freaks, nerds, geeks, involuntarily functioning as punching bag for their friends when they were children or teens, but they ended up in an elite team, donning impressive uniform, kicking up the bad guys. Although, well, being classified doesn't really help with their social lives. Ask Rip-cord. He knows.

Trailers and oddities
Iron Man anime trailer by MAD House. Well, G.I. Joe anime-styled Sigma 6 wasn't exactly a success, although Resolute was a blast... so now it's Marvel's time to try their luck?

That, after this. Do I hear fanboys screaming in agony?

And because this is EPIC.

Donny Alamsyah week – for me.
Since the near-death experience of Indonesian films in the 1990s, now people began to sigh a great relief, seeing more and more quality national films breathing in cinemas again (despite still alongside ridiculous horror flicks which bring more horror to us to see how badly they were made than the ghosts in them). Last week, I watched two Indonesian films, both featuring Donny Alamsyah who curiously played characters of very different ethnic backgrounds. One is a nationalist drama called Merah Putih (‘Red and White’, the colours of the Indonesian flag) and Merantau.

Merah Putih was set in 1947, the producer’s homage to especially his relatives, a 21-year old lieutenant and a 16-year old cadet, who died defending the republic during the time. This film boasts of a crew that also comprises of experts who have been involved in blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Blackhawk Down.

Amir (played by perhaps the greatest Indonesian actor of the new generation, Lukman Sardi) was a teacher who at first refused to join the battles. But after one of his student died in the hands of the Japanese, now he decided to be up in arms against the returning Dutch forces. He joined Sekolah Perwira – a school for officers – and met an array of characters there.

Frictions and battlesCollapse )

The second film I watched was Merantau, a long-waited fighting film, featuring Indonesian traditional martial art, silat. We haven’t had any film of this genre since… since years ago, and our fighting hero Barry Prima has abandoned the ship and taken a magnificent role as a transgender father in a family drama. So when British director and writer Gary Evans said he has found a potential young hero in a true silat ‘fighter’, Iko Uwais, we were all excited.

Now a word or so about ‘merantau’. The Minangkabau people, famous for their silat and their business instinct, are matrilineal, unlike the strictly patrilineal Bataks, the loosely patrilineal the Manadonese, or the Javanese that don’t give a shit about any of that. This means money and properties are inherited by the girls, and men won’t get any; they must first show their worth by ‘merantau’ – leaving their family behind, finding their fortune and building themselves a name in other lands. Before returning and marrying an heiress, of course.

And so the main character, Yuda, decided to leave his family’s peaceful tomato farm and try his luck in Jakarta as a silat teacher – and ended up proving to us once again that ‘rural is good, urban is bad, but evil is foreign’. In short, Yuda got himself involved with two Caucasian human traffickers, when he tried to help a badmouthed erotic dancer from a pimp wanting to sell her to the foreigners. (Why, exactly, Yuda wanted to help her when she’s so fucking vile towards him for interfering with her life?) Ha.

Is that homoeroticism part of the plot??Collapse )

PS: In Merantau, Donny Alamsyah played Yayan, Yuda’s older brother, who’s done his own merantau and for reasons unclear were scolded by his parents – perhaps because he failed? A small role, but still a nicely done.

Nights to remember
To write about a past event requires more concious effort to recall things from the shelves of your mind where you have put them to keep for years to come, when a slight breeze or a particular smell can wake the memories up again from their slumber.

But the distance that stands between now and then enables us to recognize which details are the most memorable, most important to us.

And I remember the sands that shifted with my weight and slipped through my fingers when I tried to claw in on them. I remember the afternoon winds that blew my hair into a wonderful mess. I remember the awe I felt when I saw Tyson Ritter climb up scaffoldings about 5 metres high.

But let’s get back to the beginning, and let’s make it clear that the memories came from two different events: Java Rockin’ Land and All American Rejects gig in Jakarta.

The festival by the seaCollapse )

The next weekend – it was a long weekend for us because August 17th is our Independence Day – I found myself lining up for the All American Rejects gig in Senayan. My sister and I bought tickets for Tribune class (that means sitting, because my sister oftentimes cannot stand physical strain too much), and we saw how the boys and girls queueing for Festival class (i.e. watching standing) shouting ‘Open, open!’ when the doors were still closed when it’s already 7pm.

Independence Day with AARCollapse )

When the show’s over, my sister and I walked to nearby fX, bought a cup of hot chocolate before getting into a taxi that would bring us home, cruising through Jakarta at night, a city peaceful and beautiful. This city, hundreds years old now, has survived the revolution, the rebellion, the reform – terrorists wouldn’t be able to bring her down. This city is tougher than them all. And we, as we try to live resolutely, won’t just give this nation up. Not when the blood and bones of our ancestors have unified her, have regained her independence, have guarded her.

Here’s for centuries of independence ahead!


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