Handbags, glad rags and helping hands


Sara Veal

To assist Indonesia’s disadvantaged children, Jakarta’s most fashion-savvy women are urging fellow trendsetters to empty their closets of sartorial treasures, as well as donate any other quality goods, from Harry Potter to homewares.

Under the direction of Svida Alisjahbana, president director of Femina Group, the Young Presidents’ Organization-World Presidents’ Organization (YPO-WPO), a global leadership organization, have teamed with CLEO, Grazia and Jakarta International School (JIS) students to host a vintage charity sale at the fourth edition of Brightspot, a temporary market of all things cool, from March 11 to 14, at Pacific Place Mall.

All proceeds from the sale will be donated to Yayasan Emmanuel (YE), a foundation initiated by a former JIS student that provides support, nurture, education and healthcare access to less fortunate communities in Indonesia.

“YPO is an organization that helps young leaders – under 50 – to become better leaders. We exchange information, we bring in professors from Harvard Business School, sometimes we invite ministers to stimulate business dialogue. But we also have kids, and we thought it would be fun for our kids to be exposed to entrepreneurship,” Svida explains.

“Brightspot has a very entrepreneurial, indie spirit, so I’d love the YPO youth to participate and see the shape of how things are at Brightspot. So I came up with the idea, how about we all get together and put things together? Let’s have a vintage sale where we select all the best things.”

Chris Kerrigan, one of Brightspot’s co-founders, felt the venture would fit in well at the unique retail event, which aims to gather local designers, artists and retailers to showcase their products along side major international brands, and expects to attract at least 15,000 visitors.

“Vintage shopping isn’t that popular here, but we think it’s a great way to find cool clothing, accessories, and whatever else.”

Svida called on Katya Kamdani, a JIS student and YPO-Youth activist, to curate the sale and decide how to channel the funds.

“I was in the Emmanuel’s club [at JIS] for a while and they were really about helping children, so I thought it would be a cool idea to give his yayasan [charity] the money,” Katya says.

YE chairwoman Esther Witjaksana was “honored and excited to be receiving the generous support from the YPO Vintage Sale fundraiser at Brightspot”.

“The funds will be used to set up and further develop our Learning Center for disadvantaged children. Hundreds of children will have access to the center and with a better education will obtain a brighter future,” she said.

In the past two weeks, JIS students have helped gather donations through emails to the YPO network and Blackberry broadcasts. Katya has also arranged for classmates to man the stands at Brightspot market.

Hundreds of donations have so far poured in, mainly fashion items like bags, coats, suits and shoes, from brands including Burberry, Chanel, Prada, Armani, Gucci, Ferragamo, Dior, Luella, Miu Miu, Fiorucci, and DKNY. Other donations include a range of art, books, furnishings and toys.

“We even got a trampoline!” Katya laughs.

The vintage clothes have been priced at a fraction of their value by Herlina “Ein” Halid, deputy chief editor at CLEO, Margeretha Untoro, CLEO’s fashion & beauty Editor and Varinnia Wibowo, Grazia’s fashion & beauty Editor, all sophisticated women who turned into kids on Christmas Day as they peered into boxes of donations at Katya’s house last Saturday, pulling out unexpected delights.

“When you open a box, you don’t know who the person is. But as you see their collection, as you see two or three things of theirs, you will learn what their personal style is,” says Ein, as she showed off a pearly white Chanel bag, followed by a red Gucci bag, both with clean lines and a geometric shape.

“[This person] loves minimal design… One box was full of bohemian style. Long dresses, her bags had stones on them and so many colors,” she says, adding the white Chanel would probably be priced at Rp 3 million, higher than the other items due to its classic style, rarity and condition.

Ein recommends vintage as a smart way of keeping stylish, as you can buy “the classics that people wouldn’t be able to find otherwise”.

“[Buying vintage] extends the life cycle of the products… you can reuse it time after time without buying new things.”

Katya admits she is still getting used to the concept of vintage, but has been coming around, especially through her curation of the sale.

“Some of the stuff is really pretty! I really want to keep it… this is torture,” she says, adding it might even top the difficulties she has encountered in organizing the sale and drumming up donations.

The team has creative plans for their Brightspot stall.

“Every day, people at Brightspot market can expect to see something new, something surprising. Every day we’ll have a special offer, like there’ll be a Burberry pink bag at only Rp 1 million and the next day we’ll have another classic bag on offer,” Ein says.

The editors will be on hand to dispense free fashion advice.

“We’ll be there from day to night!” Margaretha says.

To achieve Rp 100 million the team hopes to raise for YE, however, more donations are needed. A drop has been installed at Pacific Place and items can also be sent to the Femina office or delivered directly throughout Brightspot market.

“All of the donations will be sorted, and the items of value will be put out. All of the other items will be donated directly to the charity,” Kerrigan says.

As well as donations and a shopaholic attitude, Svida invites further youth to get involved by working on the stall, which she promises would be fun and rewarding.

“Fun, because the kids are selling in Brightspot. Rewarding, because the sales go towards a good cause.”

Brightspot Market

Opening Party: March 11, 2010
(invitation only), 5.30 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Open for public: March 12-14, 2010,
11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Pacific Place Mall
Ground Floor, South Lobby
Contact: info@brightspotmarket.com
If you’re interested in getting involved in the sale, please contact Svida Alisjahbana’s assistant Vesalina at 021 527 5555. Donations can be sent to Femina Group, PT Gaya Favorit Press, Jl. H. R. Rasuna Said Kav. B 32-33, dropped off at Pacific Place or throughout the Brightspot event.


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Karmela Kartodirdjo: Keeping it real


Sara Veal

“I love singing, I love it when I sing with a crowd, and I see them enjoying my music,” says Karmela Kartodirdjo over a cup of coffee in a cozy Kemang cafe.

“It gets me high when they sing the songs I have written.”

You might not have heard of Karmela, better known as Lala, but if you’re a fan of Indonesian pop music, you’re bound to fall for this little lady in a huge way.

With a laidback style, genuine demeanour and a crystal clear set of pipes, this Indonesian-Pinoy girl next door is well on her way to becoming the next big thing.

After spending two years making her name in the Philippines on the Warner Music label, the singer-songwriter returned to Jakarta last year to break into the Indonesian music industry, under the management of Sony.

“Both places are like my home, but I got to have a music career in the Philippines, and I also want to have one in here — I want the best of both worlds,” Karmela says.

In recent months, she has performed regular acoustic sets at Poste Kitchen Bar; toured around Asia with fellow Southeast Asian artists; served as a musical ambassador for Coca Cola’s “Open Happiness” project; wrapped up a musical comedy film; and is now working on her own album, with the first single due out in a few weeks.

Karmela writes songs about “personal experiences, people who are close to me, who inspire me”. Her new single, “Hasrat Cinta” (Passion), is a cover of a hit song from 10 years ago by male singer Yana Yulio.

“Because I’m a new artist here in Indonesia, we want people to know me first, so we gave them something they might be familiar with,” Karmela says, adding that while the song is “very pop” her musical roots are country, blues and alternative.

“But I’m very comfortable with pop. After that I’m working on my album, and will get to do more of my own songs… I want a lot of people to be able to sing my songs. That’s my goal.”

Indonesian artists she particularly looks up to are Rieka Roslan (“she has an amazing voice”) and Glenn Fredly (“I love him”).

At 24, Karmela has considerable entertainment experience under her belt. She began writing songs at 15, acted in sinetron when she was 17, co-starring with Bunga Citra Lestari, Raffi Ahmad, Arifin Putra and Laudya Cynthia Bella in SMP (Senandung Masa Puber).

Despite her acting forays — SKJ (Seleb Kota Jogja), her film with Cinta Laura and new Sony band SKJ, out next month — Karmela is focused on her music.

“I hope I do more albums than I do movies. I want people to know me as a musician, and then acting will be an extension of what I can do … Music is in my bones,” she says, adding that her main source of inspiration is her father, Eko Muhatma Kartodirdjo, famous in Malaysia during the 1960s as one of The Grim Preachers.

“He’s actually the reason why I play music. Since I was a young girl I would listen to him play the guitar and the music he listens to, like the Beatles, and all of that old stuff.”

Karmela is surrounded by songbirds and strummers. Her elder brother Marco is in the acoustic band Mike’s Apartment and is married to singer Imel, while she has been dating J. Mono, pop rock group Alexa’s bass player, for nine months, after meeting him at a television performance.

“We hang out with a lot of musicians. [J. Mono is] also in the industry, so we do a lot of things together. We relate to one another … He’s actually more experienced than me in the music industry, so he gives me a lot of advice.”

Getting to grips with the Indonesian music industry is a top priority for the singer.

“In the Philippines, the music industry there and the culture are different … It’s a challenge, but I’m having fun, because I’m learning a lot,” she says.

“[In Indonesia] a musician can also be seen as a celebrity, an artist … [but] in the Philippines, most of the musicians there are true musicians by heart.”

Karmela notes that “local music is really booming” and has observed a “gap” between the Indonesian audience and the output of local musicians, especially due to the archipelago’s diversity, hence she says “artists have to make more of the music audiences want to hear”.

“People are still listening to dangdut, people listen to Madonna, to Bon Jovi … it depends on what you give them … the more you give, the more they eat. People follow trends. That’s a characteristic of this country,” she says, adding the sale of RBTs (Ringback Tones) have become an important way of measuring an artist’s success.

“For my local album, we’re going to make it Indonesian, the aim is to localize myself again here as an Indonesian, because there is a difference if they see you as international or local, in terms of business too.”

In October, she and Imel, both representing Indonesia, hosted and performed at the Sing Out Asia concert in Usmar Ismail film building in Kuningan, Jakarta.

Sing Out Asia, which Karmela has been associated with since 2008, brings together top young talent from several ASEAN countries, and seeks to inspire fellow youths across the region, musically and through community work. After the Jakarta performance, the Sing Out Asia performers travelled to Japan.

“We got to perform at a bar and that night they were having female singers from Asia, so Imel and myself, and my friend Julianne, she performed with a guitar — she also performed [at the Sing Out Asia concert in Jakarta] — we did a production number, it was really fun.”

Upon her return, Karmela focused on her musical collaboration with three other Sony stars, Ello, Ipang and Beery from St. Loco, as part of Coca-Cola’s global “Open Happiness” campaign.

The only female in the quartet, Karmela represents the “pop female” of the quartet, to the others’ “pop male”, “rock male” and “hip-hop head”. The single, Buka Semangat Baru, was recently released, with an accompanying cheerful music video that regularly screens on TV.

“Every country has its own version … basically we’re trying to make people feel a new spirit again, because there’s a lot going on in this country,” she says.

“The concept was that we were at a circus, at a carnival … It was a really fun shoot, we did that in Bogor … there was a lot of green screens so we had to use our imagination.”

The Coca-Cola tour enabled Karmela to see more of Indonesia, which opened her eyes further to the range of ways people across the archipelago express their love of music.

“The characters of people are really different. In Yogyakarta, people are really calm. They’re so Javanese. In Makassar it’s different. They’re so excited and they always want to take close-up pictures. In Medan or Surabaya, people there are really into music. If we just sing a few songs, they get really hyped up.”

One month ago, on location in Yogyakarta, she completed filming SKJ, which is in the vein of Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do.

“It’s about a band called SKJ that just got signed by Sony, and their journey, because they’re originally from Yogyakarta, so their journey from Yogyakarta to Jakarta, being a band, and there’s a contest…” she trails off, smiling, realizing she didn’t want to ruin the ending.

In the film, Karmela and Cinta Laura were the band’s fans and supporters, and her character has a romance with the SKJ bass player. She enjoyed working on the film, and was full of praise for her co-star.

“[Cinta Laura] is wonderful, I had a really great time working with her, she’s a pro.”

Besides her music work, Karmela makes time for other activities, such as teaching herself the piano and fitness.

“I’m into sports. I enrolled myself in a gym and I’m joining Muay Thai. You need a lot of energy to do this, for example, Alexa have gigs almost every day, and if they don’t keep their bodies fit they can drop.”

Karmela also enjoys going to gigs and is looking forward to the upcoming concerts of Kings of Convenience, Paramore (in Singapore) and Imogen Heap. She hopes one day she can open for a foreign act, and perform at rock festivals.

In the meantime, Karmela is dedicated to making her dreams come true, one day at a time.

“I hope I get to be a part of the music industry here, and be accepted, and people get to enjoy the music I deliver to them, and get to know me through my music.”

“Hasrat Cinta”, the first single of Karmela’s upcoming album, will be released soon. Follow the singer on Twitter (http://twitter.com/LalaKarmela) for more information. SKJ will be released in cinemas in April.


2005 – Bersama – Album, vocalist for band Inersia
2007 – Stars – Debut solo album under Warner Music Philippines.
2009 –”Buka Semangat Baru” – Coca-Cola single with Ello,
Ipang, and Beery of St. Loco.

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Julian Juwadi: Chasing away boredom


Sara Veal

Julian Juwadi can’t bear boredom, which is why he founded his own company. Association of Division (AOD) allows him to constantly explore new territory.

“What is AOD? Sometimes it’s clothes, sometimes it’s exhibitions… it’s only a space, and a creative studio,” the 25-year-old says.

Julian has avoided boredom all his life. After growing up in Bogor, he changed schools several times, whenever possible.

“Like in kindergarten, three times. In elementary school, it was twice… every time my parents offered me a chance to change, I accepted… I made a lot of friends!”

In 2003, Julian moved to Sydney to study business at university, on the advice of his mother, a successful and independent businesswoman. Although he “needs to know everything”, he found the degree tedious, but completed it anyway, playing guitar in a hardcore band in his spare time.

After university, he decided to apply his business skills to selling T-shirts a friend designed, which he funded with his “lunch money”.

“I didn’t know anything about fashion. I wanted to keep learning, explore something I didn’t know.”

The “rock-and-roll”, youth-orientated T-shirts, which he branded “Notorious”, were well received.

“I made A$1,400 a day. I went to each house with a bag and offered them products,” he says.

Although Julian loved Sydney, he returned to Indonesia in 2008, as “your home country is always a better fit” and he prefers communicating in Indonesian.

Building on his budding fashion empire, he added two more youth brands, Proud Parents for women, and Bizarre, which is unisex.

Opening a traditional retail store crossed his mind, but the restless entrepreneur felt that would be “monotonous”, so he came up with AOD, which would be a “pop-up” clothes store several times a year and a creative space the rest of the time, freeing him to implement whatever ideas struck his fancy.

Since AOD’s soft launch in 2008, the space has seen five fashion collections, and hosted several art and music events to support the local community, all of which have been met with enthusiasm.

These events included last year’s “We’re All Millionaires” exhibition, curated by C&C Projects in 2009 – offering contemporary artworks for Rp 1 million each while poking fun at the term “millionaire” and the elitism of art ownership.

In November 2009, again with C&C Projects, AOD hosted a playful exhibition for legendary Indonesian artist Teguh Ostenrik.

Most recently, throughout February, the space was transformed into AOD Records, a temporary record store that gave music fans the chance to sample 40 up-and-coming artists across genres, and buy associated merchandise. Free gigs were scheduled every Saturday from popular bands like Naif, SORE and Funny Little Dream.

“People came everyday. It was very tiring. I was kind of glad when it was over. But it was worth it. People said *wow’, it was really great for the bands,” Julian says.

“The customers tried other music, out of their comfort zones. We see that as a success.”

Julian supports the local community because it puts pressure on him to deliver and builds the AOD brand.

“We made a loss of AOD records, but that’s OK, because it’s good for the brand, it brought new people to AOD.”

Currently, AOD are working on a fashion-music collaboration, in which Naif and SORE will respectively act as brand ambassadors for the new collections of Bizarre and Notorious, with a small album launch at the AOD space.

Julian admits he roped Naif in through unorthodox methods.

“We sneaked backstage *at their concert* and gave them our clothes and they liked it!”

To further promote the new fashion collections, including Proud Parents, AOD is making short videos in with visual artists Joey Christian and Heru W. Atmaja, who have produced videos for Dewi Sandra. The two-to-four-minute films will be posted on YouTube and displayed at the upcoming Brightspot Market, between March 11-14 at Pacific Place.

After this project, another “We’re All Millionaires” exhibition is the works, as is an art-fashion collaboration with an artist he met at December’s Brightspot.

With all these plans bubbling away, one wonders if Julian ever gets a chance to relax.

“To save money, I bought all the console games, and play them in my room… if I have a holiday I’d spend a lot of money going everywhere,” he says.

Still even playing games is a form of work.

“I never work in a studio. If I’m in the office, that means I’m browsing, not working. If I’m in my room playing games, I’m working. I play a football game that I don’t really need to concentrate on, my mind is on other things, and if I come up with an idea, I just run to the studio.”

Julian says his fear of boredom and “hard-to-please” attitude has helped AOD, even if it often proves time-consuming, describing how he spent three weeks searching for the right fabric for a jacket in the new collection.

“I’m not good at making something, but I’m good at making things more interesting, because I’m easily bored,” he says, explaining how he works with his designers on concepts.

“Like clothes, if I don’t wear it I’m not going to sell it. If I come to an art show, what kind of art do I want to see?”

Friends, four of whom work at AOD, have also been invaluable.

“They’re the most creative people, so they help me to improve the concepts,” he says.

Julian notes he hasn’t always gotten it right, as in the case of a jacket priced at Rp 1.9 million, which didn’t sell.

“It’s probably because of buying power. *Jakartans* cannot experiment because if they spend money on something they don’t know, they might regret it.”

The company learned from its mistakes, these days items cost between Rp 150,000 and Rp 500,000. But Julian would prefer to make mistakes than play it safe.

“We’re still young, we make mistakes. I don’t want regrets when I’m 60 that I didn’t do something.”

AOD is set for expansion, with the upcoming collection being sold in Bandung and Bali, as well as overseas on-demand.

“We are accepting orders for this collection until June, only from the overseas market,” he says, adding to help generate international interest, he sent clothes to a London-based fashion blogger.

Julian will continue exploring the unknown, maybe dabbling with technology by holding a robot competition, and venturing into food and jewelry.

“AOD is like a platform for me. I can always do something different, so I can probably do it for the rest of my life.”


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Love is a battlefield


Sara Veal

Nicholas Sparks has perfected the formula for the 21st century weepie, with The Notebook, A Walk to Remember and Nights in Rodanthe reducing hopeless romantics of all ages to tears.

Lasse Hallestrom’s Dear John, the latest cinematic adaptation of Spark’s work, gives you everything you’d expect – heart-wrenching romance, photogenic leads, dazzling vistas – and then some.

One beautiful spring day by a beach in Charleston, young Americans Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) and John (Channing Tatum) meet-cute, spurring an intense two weeks of romance, enough time to fall madly in love.

So in love that they are willing to withstand a year apart, while John completes his military tour of duty. To combat the distance, they faithfully exchange letters, a passionate correspondence that helps them endure their lives without each other.

Naturally, the obstacles pile up, the least of them being 9/11. While John helps fight the war on terror, Savannah has her own battles to contend with back home. But what seems at first to be a predictable tale on whether Savannah and John’s love is true and can conquer all, proves much more complex, resulting in a moving exploration of different kinds of love – love for one’s country, the love between a father and son – and the difficult decisions people must make in navigating their hearts and lives.

Tatum (She’s the Man, Step Up) and Seyfried (Mean Girls, Mamma Mia) are well cast, and given a decent opportunity to extend their range, while generating tangible chemistry, the linchpin to any good romance.

The chisel-jawed Tatum, who resembles a younger, harder version of Josh Hartnett, is brooding and laconic, convincingly expressing the inner struggle of a lonely young man. Decent yet dangerous, he is capable of steadfast love, but also prone to self-destruction. This story is more his than Savannah’s, you’ll feel strongly for him as his defences melt and when his heart breaks.

Savannah is almost good to be true, which, ultimately, is one of her biggest flaws. She’s beautiful, caring and wants to dedicate her live to helping those who need her. She’s a little unrealistic in her idealization, and the film at one point suggests she is defined by her relationship with a man – but Seyfried, an actress to watch out for, does just about succeed in bringing Little Miss Perfect down to earth. Both Seyfried and Tatum demonstrate perceptible maturity as their characters age, no mean feat.

Also worth mentioning are Academy Award-nominee Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under, The Visitor), who turns in a pitch-perfect performance as John’s mildly autistic, coin-obsessed father, and Henry Thomas (E.T., Legends of the Fall) as Tim, Savannah’s neighbor. The father-and-son relationship quietly develops into one of the film’s main drivers, helping us to discover John’s tightly wrapped layers.

Thomas, no stranger to sweeping romances, acts both as a mirror to John and his father, in being a single father to an autistic son, and as an important wheel in Savannah’s development as a young woman. There were some aspects to his plot strands that may be discomfiting, but overall, the underrated former child star plays his part with panache, striking the right emotional chord.

Director Hallestrom (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat) once again demonstrates his intuitive ability to allow scenes to speak for themselves, encompassing distinctive motifs that enhance his storytelling – in this case letters, the coins and the moon. Hallestrom manages a varied pace, slowing down and speeding up rhythmically, helping to prevent the action from dragging.

The Charleston beach is exquisitely shot, a bittersweet backdrop to the evolving romance, while the war scenes are gritty without being gratuitous. The film avoids making its stance on the American “war on terror” too explicit, while showing the personal sacrifices the soldiers have to make to keep fighting it. More importantly, the film shows that even when there are foreign wars to fight, life for those left behind continues, and is no less difficult.

The letters themselves are an enthralling cinematic component, at once old-fashioned and yet plausible, allowing a plausible portrayal of a timeless romance against a contemporary backdrop – and are a refreshing antidote to this digital, instantaneous age. The letters become a testament to the power of words, both positive and negative.

If you’re in the mood for a thoughtful romantic melodrama that stops just short of being saccharine, this would be ideal. Dear John isn’t quite another The Notebook – but that’s a good thing.

Verdict: A poignant romance that manages to surprise, as well as satisfy.

Dear John (Screen Gems, 105 minutes)
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
Produced by Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Ryan Kauvanaugh
Written by Jamie Linden, Nicholas Sparks (Novel)
Starring Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, Thomas Henry

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Cult rockers battle the night


Sara Veal

For 15 years, alternative rock stars Placebo have set the music world alight with haunting tunes and unabashed debauchery.

Last Tuesday, Jakartans finally had the chance to see the naughty Nancy Boys in spectacularly acoustic action.

Since its 1994 formation in London, Placebo has gone through a number of line-up changes, but core duo Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal remain as front man and bassist/guitarist, respectively.

Drummer Steve Forrest is the newest and youngest member, completing the official trio, and Tennis Indoor Senayan saw live support from bass guitarist Bill Lloyd and musical Girl Friday Fiona Brice on the keyboards, electric violin and theremin.

Before a large screen with narrative video clips, the band got down to business with “For What It’s Worth”, the spunky first single from 2009’s Battle for the Sun.

Placebo’s newest and sixth album was very much the focus of the gig’s 21-song setlist. After a soaring, insistent “Ashtray Heart”, “Battle for the Sun” more than earned its title track status, with Forrest’s thudding beats, Olsdal’s feverish strumming, Molko’s impassioned vocals and Brice’s violin accompaniment conveying apocalyptic bewilderment.

It was then time for a slight step into the past, with the powerful “Soulmates”, a heavier version of 2003’s “Sleeping with Ghosts”, from the album of the same name.

“Thank you very much Jakarta!” said Molko, looking far younger and fresher than you’d expect for his 37 years, and the amount of pharmaceutical experimentation to which he has happily confessed, before launching into the tinkling and relatively upbeat “Speaking in Tongues”.

“Follow the Cops Back Home” (Meds, 2006) followed, sorrowfully transforming the mood, and then a rousing rendition of “Every You Every Me” (Without You I’m Nothing, 1998) inspired sing-alongs and wolf-whistles, setting the scene for “Special Needs”, on which Olsdal especially shone.

“Breathe Underwater”, sure to become a fan favorite, upped the ante even further.

“It’s very funny for us every time we go to a new country, with a new audience, I’m surprised that people like us so much, so thank you for giving us your love tonight,” said Molko, while the band readied for “Julien”, which he introduced as a “song that begins in the gutter and ends with an ascent into hell”.

Battle for the Sun
continued to take center stage with the fiery “The Never-ending Why”, plaintive “Come Undone” and anthemic “Devil in the Details”.

Molko’s willingness to talk and sing about drugs was showcased in the playful “Meds”, frenzied “Song to Say Goodbye”, and of course, “Special K” (Black Market Music, 2000), which garnered the most enthusiastic response of the night.

After electrifyingly delivering “The Bitter End” (Sleeping with Ghosts), Molko and co said their goodbyes and disappeared into the wings, as a disturbing video clip of a ballet-dancer became a poor replacement for the band’s charismatic stage presence.

But with appropriate commotion from the audience, the band triumphantly returned for a much-wanted encore.

As Molko resumed his inimitable serenade, a suddenly shirtless Forrest, revealing impressive ink, threw himself into the delightful “Bright Lights”, which was perfectly complemented by “Trigger Happy”, an unreleased number that paired clap-happy beats with anti-war lyrics.

During the groovy “Infra-red”, a sweaty Molko literally threw the towel in, to one lucky fan’s evident pleasure, before the band closed the night with the classic “Taste in Men”, ending on a gender-ambiguous note, to thunderous applause.

“I thought they sounded great,” said student Meli Sastro, 22, who was seeing Placebo live for the first time. “All of the band had great stage presence and Brian Molko was looking fine, and the bassist’s sparkly pants were lovely.”

Placebo enthralled their Jakarta audience without theatrics or pyrotechnics. The glam rockers still have that special something.

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10 testaments to love


Sara Veal

Romantic comedy king Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride) is back with Valentine’s Day, in which several LA couples endure various romantic trials and tribulations on the big day itself.

The film is filled to the brim with romantic comedy veterans, like Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Alba, Bradley Cooper and Ashton Kutcher. It’s essentially several romantic comedies for the price of one — perfect for the YouTube generation.

By its nature, the romantic comedy is one of the most formulaic genres of film, if not the most. You want to care about the central couple, you want to be amused. You want it to be predictable, but not too predictable. Here we identify the conventions of a Hollywood romantic comedy, most of which you’ll find in spades in Valentines Day.

Meet Cute

The Meet Cute is a romantic comedy staple, often the catalyst for around 90 minutes of “will they/won’t they” wondering. In Sleepless in Seattle, Sam (Tom Hanks) and Annie (Meg Ryan) Meet Cute thanks to Sam’s son Jonah’s impassioned plea on the radio, leading Annie to write a winning letter that sets things in motion for the memorable Empire State Building actual meet-up. In Serendipity, Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale) Meet Cute when they try to buy the same pair of gloves at a department store, which spurs a series of fateful near-misses.

Hate at First Sight

Even when people Meet Cute, this can still result in Hate at First Sight. But not to worry, because usually, the more hate there is to start off with, the more love we end up with later on. In The Proposal, Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) despises boss-from-hell Margaret (Sandra Bullock), but after engaging in a major Deception (see below), he sees her softer side and little love hearts start appearing around both of them. Kat (Julia Stiles) hate 10 Things about Patrick (Heath Ledger), but most of all, she hates that she doesn’t hate him at all.

Romantic Rival

What’s a prize you don’t have to fight for? The Romantic Rival is often flashier and nastier than the romantic hero/heroine, a villain that is keeping the true lovers apart, as in She’s All That and The Wedding Singer. If the Romantic Rival is actually rather nice, like Patrick Dempsey in Sweet Home Alabama or Idina Menzel in Enchanted, then he or she will be rewarded by a more suitable lover at the end of the film. There’s enough love for everyone, as long as you’re a good guy.

The Friend

Without mates, a lovesick protagonist would come across as a creepy stalker. Think Travis Bickel in Taxi Driver or Alex in Fatal Attraction. The romantic heroine’s Friend is usually kooky and/or ethnic, or a gay man. The romantic hero typically has a lothario Friend and/or a happily coupled-off Friend, situating him comfortably in the middle of the two extremes, and/or a gal pal to confide in. The Friend for both genders could also be a child wise beyond his or her years. Sometimes the Friend (when not a child) is the One in disguise, as in 13 Going on 30. The romantic hero/heroine will usually have an Epiphany (see below) that the Friend is the One once the Friend meets someone else (a Romantic Rival) or threatens to Relocate (see below).


Whether it’s a 20-something Drew Barrymore pretending to be a high-schooler as she’s Never Been Kissed, Kate Hudson deliberately acting like a crazy lady so she can lose a guy in 10 days, or Sandra Bullock lying about being engaged (a recurring pattern for her) to a comatose man (While You Were Sleeping), many romantic comedies have a deceitful conceit at their heart. If you’re feeling generous, you can think of them as “secrets”. This gives the flick a unique hook and/or powers the plot along, allowing for humorous moments — and well as a dramatic denouement when the truth finally comes out. As it always will. In Hollywood, liars — or at least liars that don’t fess up — don’t deserve true love.


This one dates all the way back to Romeo and Juliet, and often comes into play in tandem with Deception. In romantic comedies, people are always mishearing or misinterpreting things, and then acting upon them rashly, which leads to more Obstacles (see below). In The Holiday, Amanda (Cameron Diaz) thinks Graham (Jude Law) has another lover, but really he’s talking to his daughters (who also act as his Friends).


Hate at First Sight, the Romantic Rival, Deception and Miscommunication all create Obstacles, but failing those (or in addition to those), there will be another barrier entirely, usually social or supernatural. In Notting Hill, it was Anna’s (Julia Robert) super-stardom. In Just Like Heaven, it was the small matter of Elizabeth’s (Reese Witherspoon) ghostly status. In 17 Again, Zac Efron was a 30-something trapped in a 17-year-old’s body, which made the chemistry between him and his ex-wife very inappropriate (although not as awkward as his daughter trying to crack onto him). In Kate and Leopold, the titular pair are from different centuries. The list goes on — all you need to know is that if it’s True Love, it will conquer all, even time, space and relentless paparazzi.


Just when everything seems lost — or the film only has around 10 minutes left — the romantic hero/heroine (or the object of their affection) will suddenly realize something they never did before — that they’re ready to commit, that their True Love has been in front of them all along. The Epiphany either immediately dissolves whatever Obstacles kept them apart before, or gives the romantic hero/heroine the impetus to leapfrog over these into the arms of their sweetheart. This applies to pretty much every romantic comedy, ever.


To add further drama — and a time limit — to the lovers’ situation, Relocation often looms. Usually this happens just after an Epiphany, which often leads to a fraught Airport Scene (or variant thereof), as the romantic hero/heroine races to prevent the One from slipping through their fingers forever, as in The Wedding Singer. Sometimes, the supposed Relocator will reveal that they weren’t really going anywhere at all, or that they were only going there for a little while, as in Bridget Jones’ Diary, when Mark Darcy leaves after reading the infamous diary. But it will have the desired effect, which is all that matters.


Love doesn’t just conquer all, it also often changes all. At the beginning of Pretty Woman, Julia Robert’ s Vivian was a tacky prostitute and Richard Gere’s Edward was a heartless businessman. By the film’s end, Vivian has fashionable clothes and plans to go back to school, while Edward makes a fairytale-esque romantic gesture, arriving as a knight in a white limousine to sweep his lady off her feet. In 27 Dresses, thanks to Kevin (James Marsden), the uptight, always-a-bridesmaid Jane (Katherine Heigl) learns to loosen up, and in doing so, earns a 28th dress — this time for her own wedding.

Valentine’s Day is currently showing at Blitz Megaplex cinemas.

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Recipes for romance


Sara Veal

Love is all around us – not just in our fingers and toes, but even in items you might not have considered, such as insects and salad. Or so it is believed. Many aphrodisiacs are considered as such because of their resemblance to sexual organs, the qualities of the animal, symbolic connections to fertility and romance or, most rarely it seems, chemical properties and effects. Here are 10 unusual aphrodisiacs from around the world – you may not want to try all of them at home.

Ants. Not just any ant, but atta laevigata, a species of leafcutter ant found between Columbia and Paraguay. Known in those parts as hormiga culona (large-bottomed ant), they have been eaten for hundreds of years, and because of the supposed aphrodisiac qualities of the queens, are often given as wedding gifts. However, the regular harvesting of these romantic ants, among other factors, has led to their decline. It’s probably best to stick to homewares and money when it comes to wedding presents.

Chicken fetus. Chicken embryos, or balut, are a delicacy native to the Philippines and also commonly consumed in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Apparently eating balut “hardens” men’s knees (yes, knees), which is a good thing. Generally, across cultures, eggs (fetus or not) are regarded as having aphrodisiac qualities because of their link with reproduction.

Goat soup. “Mannish water”, a soup made from goat parts including the head, brains and scrotum, has been popular for at least 300 years in Jamaica. It is supposed to make you “man enough”, or as strong as a bull, hence the former name. Grooms are traditionally served the dish on their wedding night (lucky brides). Similarly, cow cod soup is another popular aphrodisiac in Jamaica, and comprises cow penis (the “cod”), cooked with bananas and white rum.

Green M&Ms. What is it about the green ones? Since the 1970s, in the US, rumors have circulated that eating green M&Ms puts one in the mood for love. Mars, the company behind M&Ms, picked up on this and in 1997 introduced a sexy, female mascot for the green candies; she has a husky voice and a penchant for innuendo. In 2008, they even brought out special bags filled only with green M&Ms, claiming green to be “The New Color of Love”. Actually, although red certainly dominates all that’s romantic, green had a claim to love for eons, with its connection to spring, rebirth and witchcraft – a powerful mix!

Jewelry. You know that pretty necklace you were thinking of giving your sweetheart? You might consider crushing it instead. And then eating it. Pearls, rubies, gold dust and agate are all purported to stimulate desire and enhance attractiveness when consumed. Cleopatra – she who seduced Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony – is said to have dissolved pearls in vinegar and drunk the mixture, which likely popularized the concept.

Lettuce. Those healthy green leaves that populate your salad dishes don’t just aid your digestion; they can also boost your sex drive. At least the Ancient Egyptians thought so, based on the fact lettuce was a popular offering to Min, the god of fertility and sexuality. However, the Romans considered lettuce to have the opposite effect, and dampen ardor, because of the plant’s mild sedative and painkilling effects. In 2005, an Italian scientist theorized that both the Egyptians and the Romans were right – it all depended on what part of the plant you used.

Puffer fish. What could be sexier than a brush with death? This seems to be the thinking behind the purported aphrodisiac powers of puffer fish, or fugu in Japan. This ugly fish has a high content of tetrodotoxin, which is considered more than 1,000 times deadlier than cyanide. Only specially licensed chefs who have studied the art of fugu cooking for years can safely prepare the fish – and even then there’s no guarantee. Personally, I’d prefer to flirt with my date than with danger – and for my last supper to include something other than poisoned fish.

Spanish Fly. A beetle, not a fly, that is found between southern Europe and central Asia, and has a lengthy, dramatic history as an aphrodisiac. It was used by the scheming wife of Augustus Caesar to blackmail guests and the Marquis de Sade in the 18th century to spice up an orgy. The Spanish Fly contains cantharidin, a poisonous, potentially fatal, chemical compound that, when consumed, can irritate the urinary tract, leading to genital swelling that lasts for hours. In other words, an ancient Viagra that’s probably not worth dying for.

Urine has been a respected part of medicine in many cultures, for thousands of years. It’s purported to have many health benefits, from antiseptic to moisturizer. The romantic bonuses likely come from the hormones present, including muramyl dipeptide, a compound that has a similar effect to seratonin. And that doesn’t just go for human urine, apparently. In Zimbabwe, baboon pee is mixed with beer, and in India, cow urine can be considered a powerful stimulant when drunk straight. I’ll have mine on ice with a twist of lime, please.

Whale vomit. More commonly referred to as ambergris, a waxy, gray substance formed in the stomachs of whales. Ambergris, which has a sweet, earthy odor, is a traditional fixing ingredient in musk perfumes, and is meant to release pheromones when applied to the skin. It also supposedly enhances the flavor of food and wine, and has medicinal qualities. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay US$20 per gram if you want to put it to the test. Love doesn’t always come cheap, you know…

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