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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Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Barrels of Fun

This month has been all about hanging out with Firu and our friends. Honestly, I feel so much more alive now; there just seems to be so many fun things going on that I'm left wishing they will never, ever end. One of the highlights we had was when we were reunited with our core circle of friends in Germany—consisting of Edwin and Wilson, as you probably have seen. This is huge, since it's been around 5 years since the last time we all hung out like this. Technically Edwin, Wilson and I just saw each other around 2 months ago, but even so, a lot has happened in our individual lives that we could all fill each other in on the new updates. We just walked around aimlessly, looking for a place to chat as much as humanly possible. Wish Iva were here too. But I'm a fool if I thought our being together would transport us back to the carefree days of our youth. Nothing will ever happen the same way twice and change is part of being alive. It's time to acknowledge that.

Firu's old shirt // old dress + tights // MKS shoes // hand-me-down purse // photos by Edwin

One of the things I really like about hanging out with Edwin is the fact that he likes photography enough to tolerate my blogging needs. As usual, he took these shots of me—thank you very much!  Wilson was also patient enough to let me get on with things—plus, helping me laugh with his jokes. Firu, on the other hand, sauntered off to the bakery to kill some time. These were actually taken inside a mall, at a far corner I never even looked at before. Incredible how there's the perfect backdrop on some random corner of this food court place. These were taken only a few minutes before we left the building, off to karaoke that we haven't done together in years. I always love karaoke-ing with this lot. I feel so free to do whatever, that I actually broke into a dance in the middle of it. It prompted Edwin to say, "You wouldn't know the difference between her being drunk and sober." Well, what can I say? My whole life is drunk.

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Saturday, 10 February 2018

The First Date in Three Years

Hi, guys! It's been a month since I decided to blog less regularly and, man, it feels like it's been forever since we last had a sort of chat/life update on this blog. How are you? January wasn't wonderful for me—it felt like it went on and on and on—but something quite life-changing and tremendous happened towards the end of it. If you follow me on instagram, you might already know: Firu has finally come home! Not for good, mind you, but long enough for us to enjoy each other's company multiple times. And yesterday we finally went out on a date! This is huge for me, as we haven't gone on one in over 3 years—and I thought we wouldn't see each other for at least another couple years. It was a much needed time alone together, talking about stuff we weren't able to on video calls—of a serious nature that makes me feel like we're even closer with each other now. And it wouldn't be our date without me pestering Firu to help me take photos for the blog, but now I'm better at being less neurotic about it. So yaay! We tried out this King Mango dessert from Thailand—which is massive—and it's really delicious. We got two loopy straws and did the cliché couple sip. Cringe, I know :')

Ask by Asky dress (old) // gifted batik bolero // thrifted loafers // photos by Firu

Let me talk a little bit about how big a difference my decision last month has on my life—well, my online life, anyway. First of all, the one huge thing that triggered that verdict is actually Firu's aversion towards, well, putting his face on social media. This isn't news to me, to be honest, as he has expressed his take on it various times since I started blogging, but I wanted to believe that he was just being sheepish about it or will change his mind eventually. That obviously didn't happen. So, deciding to finally respect his wishes, I will only ever post Firu's face (or any parts of his body and belongings) with his full consent—which is why you don't see his face on this post, which may seem out of the ordinary. And on instagram only very, very rarely. That in itself, I feel, has improved my relationship with Firu by leagues. We may have been going out for such a long time, but we can still learn things about each other and being together. Trust is very important and I'm determined to show that he can leave his with me.

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Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Mix It Up a Notch: Book of Deer Shirt

For the longest time, I've been a huge admirer and fangirl of Book of Deer. When they released the Country Kitchen collection in 2015, I was instantly smitten. Unfortunately, at the time, the price was way more than what I could afford, so I was content with admiring from afar. Around a year afterwards, though, some leftovers from the collection were reduced more than half the original price and I found myself checking out of their online store. This is the piece that I picked—which was perfect because I've been eyeing it from the start anyway. For the longest part, I believe that it would be the only piece from them that I'd buy...except when it arrived, it came with a great surprise in the shape of a quirky maroon skirt—also pictured above. To be honest, I absolutely love this top! It's so adorable, so whimsical and incredibly comfortable. It unfortunately doesn't fit me well at the moment, but for the most part it's been rather a great piece of clothing. The collar, in particular, is my favourite. I'd love to wear it with more pants in the future.

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Wednesday, 24 January 2018

5 Documentaries to Start Your Year Well

I don't know about you, but January is usually the month when I'm very determined to change my life. Let's just say motivation runs high. It's the perfect time to take in as many inspirational sources as possible—and I do tend to do that. This is the month I get the most job done and finish the most research. So it is crucial—heck, even critical—that I make the most of it. If you're like me too—or want to be so, I have a few recommendations of light but profound documentaries you can watch to widen your horizon and get you going for the rest of the year. Or, well, at least all through to July. These are not necessarily my absolute favourite documentaries on each topic, but they are a great introductions for newbies and a good way to kickstart your knowledge on the subject matter. Also, don't worry, they're all in English.

Where to Invade Next

Let's start with something profound, yet quite hilarious. This documentary by Michael Moore is really eye-opening. It teaches me a lot of things about other countries and, I think, if you're a US citizen, you could benefit a lot from this. It follows Michael Moore's journey himself, going from one country to another to find values and practices that he can "steal" to take back to the US. It opens his eyes to a lot of things his country is lacking—and, funnily enough, so is mine. Although it really brushes on a lot of profound and, possibly, sensitive topics, Moore manages to edit and narrate through everything to make them a bit more comedic and lighter to watch. My favourite part is when he and the crew went to Germany and Tunisia—both national values should really be applied to Indonesia, I believe. Very inspiring and entertaining!

The Next Black

As far as ethical fashion goes, I really cannot recommend anything better than The True Cost, but I do find that is incredibly jarring and overwhelming—I myself had to watch it twice to be able to take everything in. It's probably a bit intimidating to kickstart your knowledge. Alternatively, I would suggest you watch The Next Black, which is a documentary by AEG on the future of (ethical) fashion—and it's available for free! It is presented in such a lighthearted way, that it becomes a great way to learn about fashion and the environment, without having to suffer through the horrifying—albeit inescapable—parts of it. This documentary really opens up to so many possibilities, from the dry-dyeing—which sounds insane but highly innovative—to microfarming. It would leave you in awe to know that the alternative isn't actually that far away from us.

The Red Pill

Okay, I'll admit, this one is very heavy. But I just have to put this here, because I can't find any other documentaries discussing the same subject matter. You might know this from a post I wrote about it several months ago. It is the story of Cassie Jaye's journey in digging into the Mens' Rights Movement from the activists themselves. Cassie, who started the journey as a feminist, is willing to open her mind to ideas from both MRAs and feminists on the same topic. Truth be told, I find that the Mens' Rights Activists have a lot of valid points that I've never even thought of before. Their stories and experiences actually brought me close to tears. This documentary is also very controversial—having been banned in several countries, including Australia—so a lot of people have prejudices against it. I would suggest you watch it; you don't have to like it or agree with it, but you need to understand it.

Girl's Life

On the flipside, let me offer a truce through this six-part documentary series from Wall Street Journal—each of only less than 5 minutes—following a young girl's life from various countries and cultures. I know, there are probably far greater feminism documentaries out there, but I feel like this one is a very light yet profound—notice a running theme here?—piece on the subject. The girls are all around 15-16 years of age, with various economical and cultural backgrounds. I find it fascinating to see their insights on what it means to be a girl-turning-woman today to each of them, with their various aspirations and dreams. It also lets you take a peek into the life of people from different countries—and continents. It's a good introductory piece, in my opinion, into the world of feminism—especially in terms of education. Hopefully it will lead you to find more reading and watching materials on the topic.

Before the Flood

You've probably heard of this one already, since it's Leonardo Dicaprio's collaboration with National Geographic. Before the Flood is probably the second heaviest documentary mentioned on this list. It follows Leo's journey on finding out how far climate change has affected the world—including Indonesia. It made quite a headline when he came to Sumatra to see the forest fire and orangutans and got deported by our government, without so much as an excuse to why he was kicked out. Personally, I don't think this is one of those films, where the star sits on his high horse, telling everyone else to change. Politics is mentioned as playing a huge role in fighting climate change—and also why people refuse to believe in their existence. It's a good conversation starter, like peeling off the covers of oblivion you might not know existed before, to reveal the scary melted ice caps underneath. If only just a little bit.

If you have any other documentary recommendations, let me know!

Also, another great way to start your year is by reading books. Check out the video down below to see the five books I'd recommend you start with!

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