Earthbound is for Sissies

December 19, 2009

In the midst of my attempt to catch up on writing, I took a trip down the memory lane last night: listening to Gigi’s Terbang. This was the song in my head during those 22 hours flight, 14 years ago. Ah … those nights of secret cigar party at this secluded hotel in L.A. When we still didn’t know who we are. We were anything but drunk. We’re just intoxicated by the thoughts that we got the world on our feet and people worshipped the ground we walked on. Well, whaddayaknow? I wish we still approach life the way we did back then. Earthbound, after all, is for sissies.

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An Early Birthday Wish

November 12, 2009

If only I can write as passionate and as honest as John Mayer writes songs. Listen to ‘Edge of Desire’ from his recently released album ‘Battle Studies’ and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The Cendol Analogy

October 16, 2009

The four of us were having lunch at Ah Tuan Ee’s at Pacific Place the other day when we ordered es cendol as desert that didn’t taste as good as we thought it would be from the look of it.

Then out of nowhere, my best friend said: “You know, relationship was a lot like ordering that cendol. You’ll never know how it feels to commit to a particular someone until you try it.”  All the while she was grinning and glancing at me and the guy.  “Just like that cendol, it looks so good, but you know how disappointed we were once we put in in our mouth.  But you won’t know that until you taste it.”

I glanced back at her, smiling with the smile of death.  She laughed: “Okay, I’m gonna shut my mouth now.”

Because really, darl, you don’t know how it feels when the person that made me come up with the tattoo analogy is the same person that you just threw that cendol analogy at.

Okay, I’ll shut my mouth now.

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People often ask me how I suddenly take up photography after a long history of interest in writing (which I still do). I don’t even remember how I got into photography in the first place. I vaguely recall being particularly interested in this photography exhibition about the Aborigines culture in Canberra once. And then there’s hours of being awed by Annie Liebovitz’s work on Vanity Fair. But I do remember the moment when I thought I should get a serious camera. Both my best friend rina and I were in Jakarta for business – this was way back when I was still working in Medan – and we decided to grab a quick bite at Pacific Place (it was within walking distance from the head office). And there happened to be a WorldPress Photography Exhibiton all around the ground floor, showing the best works from the best photographers from all around the world in many themes: humanitarian, environment, culture, sports, to war. We spent probably a good 45 minutes staring at those pictures, but I particularly remember a couple of photos that caught my attention right away. One was in black and white, by a Hungarian photographer Zsolt Szigetváry, of a man looking ghastly and scared, whilst holding another man with a bullet hole on his forehead. The caption said that this was taken during a gay parade in Budapest in 2007, and the couple was a one of the targets in anti-gay violence after the Gay Pride parade. Another one was in color, this one was taken by a British photographer Tim Hetherington in Afghanistan. It was photograph of a soldier, out of breath and strained, sinking onto an embankment bunker after a hard day of combat.

To me, it was amazing how a photograph – it doesn’t speak, it doesn’t have music as the soundtrack, it doesn’t move – just a silent photograph, could speak a thousand words. It can leave you wondering for days, provoking your thoughts in ways you never thought possible before. It is still amazing how a moment captured on photograph has the power to awaken me, open my eyes to other parts of life outside my little egocentric self. The second one, for example, raised a lot of questions on my part. Did the guy survive the war? What was on his mind during that very moment? Did the photographer risk his life by being in the middle of combat to take this shot?

I just love how a simple picture could tell a long, complicated story. It’s very different from, say, seeing a movie: the sequences of scenes, dialogues, and settings all provide you with almost everything you need to get in touch with the story. Or reading a book, for that matter. But getting, not just seeing, a picture is a whole different experience.

Coming back from that business trip, I had one thing in mind: getting a serious camera – and by serious I mean the DSLR one – and learn photography. For somebody who’s grown accustomed to delivering my thoughts, ideas, emotions through words, changing the media into photographs was not that easy. Writers have this godlike power of telling the story through their carefully picked words, leading the readers towards the perception that they want to build, supporting or killing a character whenever they want to. If I want to describe that somebody is sad, I just have to write as blatantly as “he’s sad.” Taking pictures is a whole different story. I can not easily lead the ones who see them to get my message as saying as writing “he’s sad.” I have to capture the essence of that feeling through the object’s facial expression, movements, body language, or even better, his eyes. I forgot where I saw this, but I saw this remarkable picture of a sad clown once. His face was all painted in color, even his frown lines are invisible, all we saw was a big grin, but his eyes said it all. They were not glowing despite the smile. It was at that moment that I truly believe that eyes are the windows to someone’s soul.

So, now, if you ask me why I love photography so much lately even more than writing, the answer is easy. It’s because through this lens that I’m most honest. I can deceive you with my words when I write. I can say that something is truly fictional when it’s not. I can bend the truth with my ten fingers striking the keyboard. But eventhough I choose which parts of life I want to capture with my lens, it’s you who decide how you want to see it. I can always take pictures of smiling people, trying to deliver a message that they’re living a picture-perfect life, but you can always see through their eyes.

With this lens, I finally feel that I’m not such a hypocrite anymore.

Should You Miss Me

October 10, 2009

Lately, I’ve been finding it hard to concentrate more than 5 minutes to write. Now I think I even tweet better than I write! Maybe it’s the instant gratification of delivering my thoughts in 160 characters or less at a time. So, there you go, if you miss me, I’ve been tweeting religiously here.

Why So Serious?

September 10, 2009

You might find this strange, but the only time I can hear myself think is when I let myself into this isolated bubble which keeps me in a great distance from the world around me. That isolated bubble is the iPod (which has become one of my most prized possessions since three years ago). It’s probably quite accurate to say that 90 percent of what I wrote were written in my head, recorded there for a while until I find the time to jot them down on paper. Many of what I considered as great scenes in my two previous books were born in my head as I was listening to some particular songs (Alanis Morissette’s Flinch and Annie Lennox’s Why were two of my favorite songs when I wrote Divortiare). I survived one of my most complex business financing analysis at work by listening to Jamie Cullum’s Twentysomething album.
But then again, it’s funny how our mind adjusts itself to the changes around us. I’ve been enjoying my new job for almost 5 months now, and everything changes a lot, at work and in life. My numbers : people ratio (both at and off work) was previously 50 : 50, now it’s 10 : 90 (if this were a mathematical equation, the numbers would represent the amount of time I’m isolating my thoughts by plugging my ears with the iPod). This probably explains why my iPod could survive two weeks without charging and why I kept losing my voice.
Anyway, from time to time, I just love to take a cab when the traffic is the busiest, and let my mind wonder as random music were echoing in between my ears. There’s something liberating about letting hundreds of frame of your life being played back in your head whilst watching the traffic. I love it even more when it rains. It’s like every drop of water touching the windshield represent a nick of my life that deserves to be looked back at.
Lately, thought, I secretly hope that someone would just draw the Joker’s grin on that windshield. Or the word “why so serious.” I haven’t been able to induce temporary amnesia to let go of something that some friends of mine said a couple of weeks ago: “Please go back to the way you used to be. You are now way too serious.”
I don’t think I am. Really. But then again, here I am writing about this.

And to quote John Mayer: “I find it hard to write lyrics like I used to. This is not because people know so much about me, but because of what they think they know. So I find myself trying to guess what they think they know and then steer clear of it and find another way to explain myself. The whole thing gets very tiresome and has led me to say “fuck it” and write exactly like I used to.”