Sunday, 18 March 2018

Current Obsessions

I can't tell you how long I've gone without having a smidgen of thought on personal style, blogging or, well, social media in general. Lately, my mind has been overflowing with the thoughts of piling assignments, work stuff and, delightfully, books. It's probably one of simplest joy at the moment—quite possibly the only one I can completely indulge in nowadays. According to Goodreads, I am at the moment 5 books ahead of schedule—with my goal of reading 45 books this year, fingers crossed!—with currently 14 books in total. So far so good, don't you think? Aside from literature, I've also been trying to take care of myself better—starting with setting out a workout routine. It's nothing groundbreaking—just an aerobics class once a week—but it's good to keep my muscles moving. That and my conscious take on consuming food have helped me lose weight and feel better about my body. Something else I've been rather obsessed with is Netflix. I recently finished The End of the F***ing World—and completely fell in love!—and now am still following Violet Evergarden and The Crown. Can't wait to raid everything Netflix has to offer!

Old dress // hand-me-down skirt + purse // thrifted loafers // photos by my sis

Yesterday my sister and I went on a little hangout time to an imported book sale at a local store. It was quite a last-minute decision. A free time I honestly can't afford—and, yet, I went anyway. I probably will regret that decision greatly today. Oh well, I'll just have to make it up somehow, right? Says someone who hasn't made progress on her work and class assignments. Well, anyway, I had a rather grand old time at that book sale, rummaging through mountains of books before deciding what I would actually pay for. Luckily, at the very last minute, I found this wonderful book I've been lusting over for a year or so. Have you read this one? I'm very intrigued to find out all about it. As per my 25 Before 26 goals, I try my best to just purchase books from my to-read list. This one definitely fits the bill! Okay, yes, there are still technically 10 or so books I have yet to explore on my own shelf, so this one might have to wait. But it's still so exciting to finally own a copy. What have you been reading/watching lately? Do share along!

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Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Meet Me at Lantern Waste

「さよならから一番遠い場所で待ち合わせよ」- RADWIMPS, "Sparkle"

Life after Firu left technically has only been a few days, but it definitely seems like several years already. It feels strange to go back to my routine, as though I'm betraying the limbo we both indulged in for the last 30 days. To be honest, I expected to cry myself to sleep more nights than I did. It surprised me a little bit to see that I found no urge to shed my tears by the third night. Maybe I just have a lot of other things on my mind, enough to distract me from the need to bawl. Maybe it's true what they say: you are stronger than you think you are. But still, every morning when I wake up, I'm just reminded by all the memories we share. It's hard to remind myself to keep breathing—I tend to forget when I freeze, willing the world to stop spinning. Also, reunion brings new memories, which adds to the list of things I can't see without wanting to break into a million pieces by the sheer nostalgia of our brief time together. It was clever, if not thoughtful, for Firu to spare the last full day here for me. We had the best date of our lives and I can't stop recalling pieces of it. Oh, the woe of the romantics!

Thrifted dress + jacket + loafers // hand-me-down purse // Sejauh Mata Memandang scarf // photos by my sis

One of the things I've been doing to keep myself busy and well distracted is reading The Chronicles of Narnia (review coming soon!). Okay, technically, that's what I've been doing since February too, but I'm completely hooked. Now that I'm done with the series, I'm reading the Pocket Companion. It's just so interesting to dive deeper into the story and symbolism, etc. When my siblings and I went out on a bit of quality time and I asked for these pictures to be taken, I saw the lamp posts in the area and was quickly reminded of the Narnia reference. By the way, the spot in which Lucy Pevensie comes into Narnia for the first time—and meets Mr. Tumnus the faun—is called Lantern Waste. It's not mentioned until The Magician's Nephew came out, where Lantern Waste becomes the point where the world of Narnia begins. I guess you can sort of say the title of this post has a double meaning: "Meet me at the beginning." Beginning of what, who knows?

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Thursday, 1 March 2018

Too Much Is Never Enough

Towards the end of January, Firu came back home to Indonesia and stayed for the entirety of February. As something for which I've been waiting for the last 3 years or so, this instilled all sorts of reactions on my part. I expected the happiness so intense, my mouth would rip in two from all the grinning and beaming I wouldn't be able to help. Yet I didn't expect all the tears and emotional turmoil from not being able to see him every second of every hour of every day. Insane, I know, but the life I left with him was one where we could literally wake next to each other. I guess I expected everything to revert back to how it used to be, if we just see each other again. Maybe we could go back to being young and carefree, completely oblivious to adulthood and all the anxiety that comes with it. But nothing ever happens the same way twice and I am left disappointed by reality.

Don't get me wrong, I am still extremely ecstatic that he's come home, even for just a brief moment. We got to experience all the new and old things together again. This felt both like a déjà vu and something completely unfamiliar. Those eyes still warm my heart, those hands still guide me through and those shoulders still offer protection and comfort. But this is uncharted territory, we've never been here before—him coming to visit me in a place we were both born and raised, from a place we slowly morphed into adults a thousand years ago. It felt both nostalgic and uncomfortable, as if we don't really know if we fit right in anymore.

Here's the thing: he didn't tell me he was coming until he was already there. He caught me completely unawares. I'd already given up on the idea of seeing him again for maybe the next five years—but now here he was, ready to take me in with all the cellulites and hairy limbs and flaws invisible to the internet. And what if I never recover? It took me three years to make peace with the thought of touching him, breathing the same air as his and feeling the heat of his body next to mine again. It felt surreal and exhilarating, but also scary, because it's as if he reset the clock all over again. Will it take me three more years to be okay to be without him again?

While we are still a loving couple, I can't help but to notice that our relationship has grown a whole lot more complicated than it used to be when we were much younger. Adulthood brought with it new flavours of anxiety and burdens that we weren't entirely prepared for: finances, societal pressure and career. Whatever happened to the people who believed that love conquers all? Was it naïve to think that we could overcome hell and high water, if we only have love for one another? Mind you, ours is still a perfectly functional and happy relationship—one that I'd fight tooth and nail to preserve—but I guess I just miss the simple inner workings of my mind from way back when. The mind that hasn't yet learnt that distance is the tower of babel made of steel and concrete, that some worlds are not for you to save and that feelings are individual languages often lost in translation. 

The past 30 days have been a bonding experience like never before. I felt like I kept saying the wrong words, driving him further away from me in a way that geography alone can't do. But, somehow, he kept coming back to me, like a wave at the beach. He opened up to me the way a morning glory does right before dawn. For what felt like the first time throughout the whole of our relationship, I saw him vulnerable with some of his cracks and craters exposed to me. All these concerns and pressures I've never seen before. How could that possibly be when all this time I thought he was perfectly smooth and beautifully untouched? Wasn't I supposed to be the one with all the scorch marks and carved out parts? I lay my hands on his wounds, hoping that my touch would heal them, if only a little bit. Then, just on the second-to-last day, he showed me the best day of the past few years. Without realising, he's reminded me of all the ways he could cherish me, of all his gestures I always see when my eyes are closed tight, and of why we believe we fit like two puzzle pieces. It'll take me years to live it down, I'm sure.

Now we are once again oceans apart. My tears still flow down the stream, but I'm forced to get up to another day of pretending I know what I'm doing. It may seem like everything goes back down to earth, after spending so much time in the clouds, but I already know that it's not going to be the same again. I guess I thought if I could touch him, I'd be able to capture him forever. But it's not time yet. Someone once asked me whether I wanted to keep this going until then, but it's not a question I can answer. If I'd had the choice, do you think I would choose this constant pain in my chest, this endless stream of tears, these days of feeling like a zombie? Of course not. Who'd choose the in-between, if they can have everything? But we can't, and so we endure. That is the best we can do right now. Let's face it—it'll never be enough, but it'd have to do for now.

'Til we meet again!

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Monday, 26 February 2018

Rooftop Secret Garden

Two weeks ago I went on the first trip—and most likely the only one I'll be on—of the year to Bandung. If you live in Jakarta, you would know that this is Jakartans' top holiday destination since it's quite close by with various cultural options to offer. That being said, I can count with one hand how many times I've been in this city in my entire life—counting the one time I only cruised by to look for lunch and had a quick stop at a local exhibition. Although I was there during Valentine's Day, honestly, the trip wasn't a V-Day celebration in any way. It just so happens to be the only spare time I had before class started again, so I made the trip to see a friend. He's a local, so he took me to some spots I've never been to before, like the Alun-Alun and Jalan Braga, but also this new-and-improved Paris van Java mall. Yes, it's a mall, now fully equipped with a huge rooftop garden, complete with aviary zone, petting zoo, skating rink and trampoline park—which is where I had these photos taken.

Hand-me-down shirt + purse // swapped dress // old tights + boots // photos by my friend

Afterwards, we went to Alun-Alun, where we saw a vast plain in front this massive mosque where people can just chill with their family and friends. It would probably have been really wonderful and pleasant, if the weather wasn't so horrid. The clouds were so thick and dark. Then we took a walk down to Jalan Braga, which, I believe, is the oldest part of town. It is lined with restaurants, cafés and bars on the left and right and still allows cars, which made the street feel quite crowded. As the night wears on, the street just grows more and more dense. We didn't stay there for too long, though, except to enjoy a cup of boba tea. To be honest, there are a lot of places I'd like to have visited on the trip—like the City Hall or Asian African Conference Museum—but, unfortunately, we only had one day to explore and, well, my friend just doesn't share the same interest. Well, that's okay, that just means I'd have to come back again, right?

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Saturday, 24 February 2018

Reading Harry Potter for the First Time in My 20s

If you saw my 25 Before 26 List, you would know that reading the whole Harry Potter series was one of my goals. Although I've watched all the films—most of them multiple times—I've never finished any of the books before. I don't know why now I'd like to experience that, but I just feel like I ought to. Since there are seven books in total and most of them are rather thick, I thought I'd start straight away, but I really didn't expect to finish so quickly. The experience was like nothing I've ever gone through before, because—as I've mentioned above—I've gone through the story before in an entirely different form. However, just like most book-based films, the story can be quite different in the books, so I'm intrigued to follow it. I think, though, that time is a major factor on how you feel about a certain experience, so I feel like me being in my 20s is a major part on how I feel about the books. And I want to talk about that a little bit.

First Impression

Being someone who has devoured the movies over and over again, it was very difficult for me to take in first impression from the books apart from what I already knew. It got really easy to get carried away comparing the two—mostly siding with the film, unusually, because that's my first experience of the story. What I decided to do, instead, is compare the series to other novels—specifically YA series. Apart from that, I also vowed not to become a Potterhead later on—but that's just my aversion towards anything popular, really. Honestly, at first upon reading the book, I don't feel like it's anything special. Of course, it's probably because I already knew the whole story before and I'm most likely not part of the target market anymore. However, if I were to compare it with, say, Narnia or Percy Jackson, it lacks a lot of qualities, in my opinion. For starters, the writing relies more on "telling" instead of "showing," which is such a shame because I find the storyline rather interesting. A lot of the time, one of the characters would go on a long-winded monologue that can get quite dull. Also, I realise it is meant for kids around 11-17 years of age, but there is barely any metaphors or any form of figurative languages, making the story feel quite bland. The lack of humour is also something worth noting, in my opinion.

Through this experience, however, I realise what makes the series tick. How could it have blown up the way it did? Why do people still declare their undying love towards the series even now? I think it's a beautiful mix between escapism—in the form of offering a magical, unreal world that is so close to our own—and relatibility—by showing the daily life of students not unlike the readers themselves with their teenage struggles and drama. I think J.K. Rowling did very well, in not using outside references and completely reeling the readers in by making her own. One can argue that the world she created is laden with plot holes and not made from scratch, but in inventing her own facts and trivia, she lets her readers experience it for the first time through her books. The self-reference within the books are, to this day, still talked about amongst Potterheads worldwide.

Books vs. Films

One of the first things I've noticed, in terms of deviation from the books, is that the films add in a lot more humour and comedy, that can really bring out the colour in the story. It is often little things that bare no significant effect to the big picture, but create quite a major difference to your experience of it, in my opinion. Films being films, they also create a more action-packed environment, which may as well have left out a great deal of detail that might contribute to a deeper understanding of the whole story in general. Potterheads alike have been exasperated by the omission of characters or events from the film, resulting to changes in the story and roles of certain figures, that may or may not have a bigger part to play in the books. Ginny, for instance, is a commonly known character everyone regrets not having more of in the films—which I think is heard by the filmmakers as they add more of her screen time since the fifth instalment.

Not only omitting, the films also go so far as to change some of the characters' personalities as well as the creatures' form and/or behaviour. The most prominent one I find in the form of Hermione, who in the books are stricter, less devil-may-care and seem quite incapable of much physical activity. In the films, however, she is a lot looser in regards to rules, a lot more capable of humour and isn't so hopeless in terms of body exercise. Harry, too, is slightly different. In the films, he seems to know that his friends are his strength and he should count on them. Snape, to me, is leagues apart in the books and the films. For starters, there's more of a comedic quality to his mannerisms in the films—especially his tendency to smack Ron across the head—and he doesn't seem to favour any of the Slytherins over any student of the other houses'. And, well, several others I could mention, but then we'll be here all day.

The major flaw of the book, to me anyway, is its tendency to drag things on for days and days and days, which could really come off rather boring. There are books that I feel would end a whole lot quicker if certain scenes are cut short several pages—i.e. the Goblet of Fire and the Deathly Hallows. The films, in turn, offer an entirely different outcome—or a fast-paced one—that saves a whole lot of time and still makes sense. Ironically, the Order of the Phoenix—which is obviously the largest book of the lot—doesn't have any lulls or scenes that feels really dragged on. There are too many things going on in that book, sure, but they're all greatly essential to the story—or at least most of them—and will lose meaning or effect if omitted. Strangely, the film managed to fit almost all of them into the limited time it has.

On the other hand, the books also have some great qualities that are not to be forgotten. First of all, the books include a lot more characters, which shows how big Harry's world at Hogwarts actually is. From the films, you would think that Hogwarts is concerned with only Gryffindor and Slytherin—save for Cho Chang + Luna (Ravenclaw) and Cedric (Hufflepuff), I guess. But, it turns out, that Harry knows a lot of people from the other two houses, who may or may not be his comrades later on. Also, it shows a bit more of the history of the characters—with the existence of Fenrir Greyback, for instance. This, however, also becomes a little difficult and kind of unnecessary when the Death Eaters start appearing—because naming each of them when they appear contributes nothing to the story.

The books also reveal a whole lot more about each character's history and background than the films are able to do. It tells the story of Harry's father (and his friends) during their school years, for instance. Also, there's the story of Voldemort's origin, Snape's past, Lupin's background, and even Dumbledore's young romance. Although most of these stories—except for Snape—are not entirely essential to the main plot, they really give the characters a well-rounded personality. It gives depth to the story that offer that relatability to the young readers and it feels almost like sharing secret between friends. While I see why the readers adore this aspect of the story so much, I also understand why the filmmakers choose not to include them in the films.

Concluding Statement

As I've said over and over and over again throughout this post—and book reviews—I know that I am most likely biased towards the films, as I've seen them multiple times first before even trying to read through the books, but in the end I stick by them. I just find my humour and heart fit more with the films than the books. I do feel that the films can be quite unfair on certain parts—specifically Ginny's part in the story—but I would still choose them over the books. That being said, I feel like if we really want to do the story justice, we should consume both versions of the tale. The films allow us to really see what the wizarding world looks like, while the book gives sense and background of it. Also, some adjustments and changes made by the films—i.e. the Ravenclaw symbol and scarf—make more sense to me than the original version of J.K. Rowling's.

Apart from that, though, I don't feel for Harry Potter characters as much as I do for other YA series that I have read in the past. Usually, after a long series like that—and Harry Potter is longer than most series I read—I would feel slightly empty, like I've just lost a friend and I don't know how to move on from it. But, strangely enough, my reading experience felt almost anti-climactic. I didn't like the last book almost at all, although I don't find the ending disappointing or unpleasant—it's a well-deserved ending—but I feel like the delivery isn't packed with the punch it should be. Also, the tendency to "tell" instead of "show" decreases the weight the entire storyline can give the reader, by the end. Of course, all this can also be due to the fact that I am not within its target market anymore. Had I read this, say, 10-15 years earlier I might have an entirely different opinion on these books.

At the time, obviously, Harry Potter opened up a whole new genre and perspective in the world of fiction—or more specifically, YA fiction—not unlike that of Sailor Moon or Astro Boy. It offers entertainment and education in the form of a 7-part series of wizards and witches. It goes way deeper, beyond fantasy and imagination, bringing us back to reality through each character, showing that though they may have magical powers, they are still human with flaws, insecurities and histories, not unlike you and me. I think, before Harry Potter, YA fiction has always skirted off certain topics—death, racism, politics—and J.K. Rowling shook that world by bringing The Boy Who Lived. She also shows that there is no one truly good or truly evil, there is always a reason for everything. Her series manages to bring various serious topics to the surface, teaching children about the real world without them realising it. I think that is magnificent and I admire her for it. At the same time, I feel like a series's success also comes from knowing where to let it end and Harry Potter hasn't managed to do that.

Lastly, I'd like to leave you with a couple of my favourite interviews J.K. Rowling has done—this one and this one—which shape a whole impression I have on the films and influence my view on the books. They might also give you a behind-the-scene insights to the wizarding world as you know it.

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