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Can you Kindle it?


Sara Veal

In the run-up to last Christmas, messages from Amazon suggesting I buy a Kindle began polluting my inbox.

I deleted every one with gritted teeth, mentally screaming “Don’t want!”, as if the Devil was trying to pester me into exchanging my print-loving soul for a literary iPod.

But, as I began to investigate electronic publishing in Indonesia, I decided it would be good to actually test one of the evil things.

Don’t knock it before you’ve tried it, and all that.

Gramedia were generous enough to lend me one for a week.

Seeing the Kindle in the “flesh” melted away quite a number of my reservations. It did look like a literary iPod… in a good way. White and sleek, with an “electronic ink” screen that was incredibly close to paper. I ran my fingertips over its smooth service, intrigued as Rio Eka Putra, head of Gramedia’s IT & Research department, gave me a demonstration.

At home, I logged onto my Amazon UK account and downloaded Charlaine Harris’ Gone and Dead, which I had been waiting to be released in paperback form in Indonesia – that would have been May this year or even later. The process was effortless, speedy and exciting.

Reading on the Kindle was initially odd, but I soon got used to it, and found “turning” the pages and finding my place intuitive, although I missed knowing what page I was on – instead the percentage read so far was displayed at the bottom of the screen. I especially liked being able to read with one hand. The battery power was impressive. I only had to charge it once in the week I had it.

However, there was definitely room for improvement. As an electronic device, it should be backlit so you can read without an external light, and have a better way of categorizing purchases.

At least the two purchases I made remain mine even after I surrendered the device to Gramedia, and I can send them to any future Kindle-compatible devices I may have in the future.

I also discovered that it wasn’t the presentation of books that mattered so much – at least in the case of image-free texts – it was the words and stories.

I had chosen Dead and Gone because it was “light reading”, but when my friend in the UK recommended via MSN messenger Daphne du Maurier’s The Breaking Point, a collection of short stories, I immediately took her advice. Within moments I had the electronic version on the Kindle, a heady dose of previously unimaginable instant gratification. Du Maurier – a more literary author than Harris – was just as magic on screen as she was on paper.

I imagine owning a Kindle would mean I’d buy less of certain kinds of books (light reading, series) and maybe invest more in limited editions I wanted to have on the shelf.

A Kindle extends the reading experience, allowing for experimentation and less waiting time. And it was great having so much choice at my fingertips. Definitely a winning travel companion.

Even though the pros arguably outweigh the cons, the price is rather steep, at US$259-489, especially with hefty import and shipping costs if you’re having it delivered outside of the US. But for avid bookworms with cash to spare, it might just be worth it.

Note: Kindles aren’t yet compatible in Indonesia, so you will only be able to download books if you have a credit card and Amazon account linked to a Kindle-compatible country. See Amazon.com for further details.



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Screen legends keep it simple


Sara Veal

Meryl Streep can do no wrong. She’s cheated death (Death Becomes Her), reduced Anne Hathaway to a nervous wreck (The Devil Wears Prada) and chosen between her children (Sophie’s Choice) – whatever she does, she always pulls it off, repeatedly proving herself to be one of Hollywood’s finest leading ladies.

Despite hitting 60, Streep’s been enjoying a run of rom-coms, kicked off by her winning turn in smash Mamma Mia and continuing with gastronomic pleasure Julie & Julia. Nancy Meyer’s laugh-out-loud It’s Complicated completes a love trifecta, placing her in the middle of a triangle with fellow Hollywood stalwarts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.

Jane (Streep) is a loving mother-of-three and successful bakery owner, who after 10 years of separation, is finally “happily divorced” from attorney Jake (Baldwin), who left her for shinier, newer model Agness (Lake Bell).

In fact Jane and Jake are now on such good terms that they end up rediscovering their old magic, leading to Jane becoming her ex-husband’s “other woman”, a confusing situation the pair need to hide from their kids. And if things weren’t complicated enough, architect Adam (Steve Martin) has also fallen under Jane’s spell…

As the central object of affection, Streep is immensely likeable, and steers clear of the grating, screeching territory fellow romantic leading-lady-of-a-certain-age Diane Keaton often veered into. Jane is warm, self-effacing and oozes modest charisma, and it’s easy to see why Jake and Adam would fall for her.

Baldwin is his patented charming self as Jake, and he and Streep generate a comfortable chemistry that believably reflects a long-standing love. He provides most of the comedy, with his offbeat seduction techniques (stalking, accidental webcam striptease). There’s an element of sadness too as he’s seemingly trapped with a domineering wife and exhausting, disrespectful stepson. Meyers seems to making a point about men who “trade up” only to find it’s not what they wanted at all.

The biggest surprise is Martin, who is downright nuanced, a huge change from the broad comedy of recent outings like the Cheaper by the Dozen and The Pink Panther sequels. Adam, also recovering from divorce, is vulnerable, mature and sincere, offering Jane a taste of something new. It isn’t all straight-man for Martin though, a winning scene in the move in which Adam and Jane decide to cut loose allows the funny-man to come out – and the small dose makes it even more effective.

Adam also has palpable sparks with Jane, which makes the ménage-a-trois compelling. You’ll find it hard to decide who you want Jane to end up with – both men make convincing and charming cases for her attention.

Most of the supporting cast fade into scenery next to the three heavyweights, but of particular note is John Krasinski as Harley, Jane and Jake’s eldest daughter’s fiancé who accidentally gets swept up in the couple’s subterfuge. Harley adds a thread of laidback, good-hearted humor and feels like a real person whereas the other youngsters are rather cardboard.

Another element that prevents the film from coming down-to-earth is the hoity-toity backdrop, which seems to be the only world Meyers is familiar with – upper-middle-class, perfectly decorated homes, high-flying careers and premium education – and completely isolated from the global financial crisis.

However, the setting does provide an alluring escapism, best epitomized when Jane uses her luxurious bakery to make delicious treats for a lucky man.

It’s Complicated is actually rather simple – and all the better for it. It’s about second chances and sexiness at any age, and will have you clutching your sides as the trio of talented thespians play off one another perfectly.

Verdict: Three of Hollywood’s finest make this straightforward rom-com a delight for all ages.

It’s Complicated (Universal Pictures, 120 minutes)
Directed by Nancy Meyers
Produced by Nancy Meyers & Scott Rudin
Written by Nancy Meyers
Starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, Lake Bell, John Krasinsk

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Return to the rabbit hole


Sara Veal

Adapting books for the screen is tricky, even with big bucks and star power there is no guarantee of getting it right.

Time and time again, audiences excited to see their favourite story brought to life have left the cinema disappointed, cursing the director for failing to match what their minds had conjured up.

Once upon a time, I would have said, without hesitation, that the combination of Tim Burton and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was a match made in adaptation heaven.

In Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, The Nightmare before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, The Corpse Bride and Big Fish, Burton spun magical, edgy worlds where you were never quite sure what would happen next, ideal for the irreverent Victorian fantasy. But Charlie and the Chocolate Factory left a nasty taste in my mouth, which overpowered my appetite for Roald Dahl and the delicious Johnny Depp.

So, I reserved my expectations. And Burton proved me wrong yet again – his latest attempt to adapt a children’s classic is a triumph, remaining true to the spirit of the source material while offering something new.

We first encounter an Alice much like the one in the books, at seven, complete with blue pinafore dress and buckets of curiosity – and suffering a constant dream about a strange land of wonder.

Twelve years on, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is still curious, which puts her at odds with her peers and the starched white environment full of rules she is forced to inhabit.

Alice’s mother and sister hope she will marry a chinless aristocrat whose family now owns her recently deceased father’s company. Before she has to make a decision, she falls down a rabbit hole into Underland, a place she remembers from her dreams.

Or does she? As Alice surrenders to the oddly familiar world she finds, dream or not, she is expected to attempt a heroic feat, the success of which will decide the Underlanders’ fate.

Burton has fashioned a plot out of the book’s series of mad, vaguely connected events, one that well sustains audience interest in the 108-minute running time, without losing the essential whimsy. Absurdity is ever-present, provoking helpless giggles, and blended with plenty of heart that will ensure you care about what happens.

The plot-driven narrative suits Alice’s journey from uncertain girl to empowered heroine, transformations the Australian Wasikowska deftly manages, whether physical or mental. Her Alice is strong without being spunky – she is realistic despite her surreal surroundings.

There’s an unsettling hint of romance between Alice and Depp’s Mad Hatter, but overall the two have winning camaraderie, and you understand their support for one another without need for exposition.

Depp, forever a Burton muse, disappears into the makeup-heavy role, projecting pathos as the post-traumatic-stress-disorder-suffering Hatter. His English accent has come on in leaps and bounds since Sleepy Hollow, however his Scottish one needs more work – the instances in which the Hatter lapses into an angry Braveheart are only the false notes in an otherwise faultless performance.

Wasikowska and Depp take care not to overshadow the galaxy of supporting stars, most of whom are digitally manipulated or animated, mixing seamlessly with each other and the fantastical environment.

Helena Bonham Carter (Burton’s wife) as the toddler-like and decapitation-demanding Red Queen, is both villain and comic relief – and somehow sympathetic. The White Queen, the Red Queen’s rival and sister, allows the oft-sweetly neurotic Anne Hathaway to try something new – she is ethereal and a touch psychotic, like most of the Underlanders.

Crispin Glover’s Knave of Hearts is enjoyably deplorable, while the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) and the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman) are languidly voiced. The White Rabbit (Michael Sheen) is suitably antsy and the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse) is completely bonkers.

The often hangdog Timothy Spall works well as the voice of Bayard, a kindly canine who has to balance helping the Underlanders’ cause and looking out for his family. Little Britain’s Matt Lucas is especially entertaining as bantering twins Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee – or “fat boys” as the Red Queen amusingly refers to them.

Underland is gorgeously rendered, a shadowy rainbow place that sharply contrasts with the prim and proper Victorian world above. Within Underland are rich environs that reflect characters, such as the Red Queen’s psychedelic palace, the Hatter’s decrepit Tea Party and the White Queen’s austere castle, adding to the texture and expansiveness of the imaginary world.

The 3D is not integral, but there were moments when I tried to dodge “flying” objects. The CGI is a tad video-gamey at times, especially at the Red Queen’s palace, where Carter’s digitally oversized head bobs along unconvincingly against a painfully color-schemed backdrop. At other times, it’s eerily tangible, as when Alice steps on corpse faces in the moat surrounding the same palace.

More consistently impressive than the CGI is the makeup and costuming, particularly with Alice’s outfits as she shrinks and expands, and enters new places, nonchalantly donning couture outfits that fashionistas would give their eyeteeth for, and add to her development and the wonder of Underland.

Perhaps the best thing about the film is that it achieves closure – a rarity in this sequel-driven age. Burton may take two hours to tell Alice’s story, but he wraps it up, and treats the audience to many ingredients while he’s at it – a coming of age, an epic battle, hilarity, thrills and enough visual eye-candy to land you in a sugar coma. It satisfies while leaving you wanting more.

Future novel-to-film adaptors would do well to take a page out of Burton’s book – he’s created something existing fans will likely love, balancing admirably between faithfulness and originality.

Verdict: Maintains the magic of the book while offering surprises, adding up to a weird and wonderful ride you’ll want to return to.

Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney Pictures, 109 minutes)
Directed by Tim Burton
Produced by Richard D. Zanuck, Joe Roth, Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd
Written by Linda Woolverton (screenplay), Lewis Carroll (book)
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Michael Sheen, Stephen Fry


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The end of books?


Sara Veal

Electronic books, or “e-books” have been around for 40 years, without posing much of a threat to printed books.

But with the growing popularity of dedicated e-book readers like the Amazon Kindle, and the buzz surrounding Apple’s enigmatic iPad, one wonders if that will ensure e-books’ appeal amid Blackberry-hungry Indonesians, and thus the tragic death of traditional publishing.

While all kinds of e-books are freely available via the Internet, official e-book content in Indonesia remains limited. That could change dramatically within the next two years, as Kompas-Gramedia, the country’s largest media conglomerate, is formulating its digital content strategy.

“We are developing Kompas Gramedia Digital. We are focusing on developing e-book content, not a gadget,” says Rio Eka Putra, head of IT & Research at Gramedia, adding they were open to creating content for both the Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad.

Rio describes Gramedia’s approach as a “wait-and-see” one, as the technology is “so new”, and there remain many questions associated with widespread digital content, especially preventing piracy and getting authors on board.

“We are trying to explain to the writers about e-publishing, some still don’t understand what it is, what their rights are,” says Anastasia Mustika, fiction editor at PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama.

Young adult author Andrei Aksana, who agrees to his content being digitized, says “e-books are the future of reading” due to convenience and environmental benefits.

“There are now around 30 million Internet users in Indonesia if I’m not mistaken … and the numbers are growing very quickly, after India and China. So, e-books have enormous potential. E-books mean we can read any time, anywhere [with internet-ready devices] such as Blackberry, iPhone, although it’s a pity these [devices] are mostly only enjoyed by the middle class.”

Clara Ng, author of the MetroPop series and children’s story books, also accepts digitisation, as it would allow more to access her books.

“As a reader, I am happy with e-books because they are cheaper [than conventional books].”

Writer Sitta Karina, however, remains sceptical about e-books, preferring “holding the physical form of the book, savoring the paper smell of each page”. While she appreciates the potential environmental benefits, she has not yet agreed to content digitization.

“Not in this short period. I’m still worried about book piracy. Even most internet hackers now could break through ‘m-book’ coding,” she says referring to Gramedia’s collaboration with Telkomsel to offer m-books, fiction through mobile phones.

Available since last year, the 100 or so m-books are mainly young adult fiction and cookbooks, which Telkomsel customers can purchase chapter by chapter.

Anastasia says the m-books scheme was profitable and would continue, although Rio felt reading on handphones was not the way forward, due to the small screens.

“It’s not comfortable to read on [handphones and Blackberrys]. We must go to the gadgets.”

While Gramedia is adopting a cautious attitude to the novel technology, Lontar, a publisher specialising in Indonesian literature-in-translation, is leaping head-first into digital publishing, finding it a solution to existing challenges.

“Until print-on-demand technology came in Lontar has always been hobbled by the fact that the cost of shipping is so exorbitant that it’s impossible to make any money on the sale of books,” says John McGlynn, Lontar’s co-founder and director.

With print-on-demand, digital content can be uploaded to servers and then printed in response to orders, anywhere in the world through the associated printer, circumventing shipping costs.

“It’ll be a year before we actually find the results. But starting this year we’ll be putting 28 books in print-on-demand format,” says McGlynn, adding that previously Lontar had only been able to annually release a handful of books.

As well as widening Lontar’s titles, and hopefully profit margins, McGlynn says print-on-demand could facilitate the distribution of textbooks around the archipelago, a flow of information that could indirectly enhance national literacy.

“You look at education in Indonesia… and especially in Eastern Indonesia and elsewhere, where publishers do not send books there. Gramedia is one of the few that has bookstores in the country. But even there and in Papua… they are only two or three in the whole province. If, for example, there was a print-on-demand operation in Papua, and Indonesian books were already digitized, they could print them immediately.”

Matthew Schafer, media specialist at Jakarta International School (JIS), also saw the educational potential in electronic content, specifically through the Kindle, if they were fully compatible in Indonesia and adapted for schools.

“I’d love to have 30 of these and start checking them out. Whenever the next Twilight comes out, I don’t have to ship them, and have them ready on the day… click and buy until there’s a nice rotation… or when a kid wants to order something unusual. It would be a great service to provide,” says Schafer, who has been using a Kindle since last year.

“The amount we spend on shipping to get books here is through the roof… in a perfect digital world, we’ve save a lot of money.”

Schafer adds e-book readers would also be a convenient way of giving students all their books for the year, and that the Kindle’s functions, like text-to-speech, inbuilt dictionary and translation would be useful for those who did not speak English as their native tongue.

“That part’s awesome from a teaching standpoint.”

Librarian and author Sylvia L’Namira agrees that e-books could encourage and facilitate literacy in youth.

“But that of course depends on the librarian who runs the library – and the board who give the library budget – whether they think it’s important to collect e-books or not. I have noticed that readers are starting to look for e-books rather than buying books. Maybe because e-books can be downloaded for free from the internet, while you have to spend some money to get the book.”

Aspiring novelist and part-time translator Melissa Chandra vouches for the educational benefits of e-books.

Melissa, who has been completely blind since adolescence, first encountered e-books in her final year of high school, which, with the aid of a screen-reader, expanded her literary world.

“Before, the only way for me to read was through my mother to reading me, or the audio library in one of the blind communities I have been active in since the start of senior high school. I prefer e-books, as I do not get sleepy – as opposed to listening to audio books – and it was much more practical too.”

However, Amang Suramang from Good Reads Indonesia, reserves short-term expectations for both e-books and print-on-demand technology, noting that most Indonesians still do not comprehend the concept, although he expects that eventually e-books will prevail, without completely displacing printed books.

“I see e-books and books like a horse and a car. When you’re on a horse, you enjoy the emotional journey… but you’ll be challenged to find people using a horse to go to the office, they use a car. E-books are a car. But we need time,” he says adding the price point of the Kindle and other such e-book readers (US$259 and upwards) was still too expensive to be accessible for Indonesians.

Considering the multitude of possibilities and already proven benefits, it’s safe to say that the reign of digital publishing is nigh. But it also appears printed books aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Like Gramedia, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

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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.”


Filed under Clippings

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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