Monday, February 27, 2006

(Baby Baby) Can I Invade Your Country?

.. rightaway gained my affection on the first hearing. Along with songs from the same album, Sparks' newest Hello Young Lovers, all are quite catchy. It didn't take too much getting used to for me; I was rightaway absorbed into the music during the gig at Paradiso, Amsterdam, last Tuesday (21 Feb). Paradiso, which used to be a church, is not a very big concert venue; in the contrary, it's sort of snuggly. The standing space (ground floor) was full (of about 500 people), and there's no barricade between the stage and the floor (people at the first row could lean on the stage).
In the first half of the show, all Sparks band members wore identical black outfits. There's a screen (white between black transparant clothes) separating Ron & Russell Mael (brothers who are Sparks) from the rest of the band (two guitarists at the left side and a bassist & a drummer at the right). During the show, the white screen was actively used to display projected images that corresponded to the songs. The images also corresponded to the acts of Ron and Russell, i.e. Ron 'hitting' his image, Ron 'playing' an orgel on the screen, Ron & Russell standing 'in the rain'. There's really a lot of screenteraction going on.
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Russell and Ron during the show in Amsterdam. Photo source:

Now, the music. How shall I put it - it's all very energetic, I could even feel the vibe of every beat (although perhaps it had to do with the fact that I stood next to the speaker, 2nd row, far right). What amazed me the most is Russell's constant voice - how could he sing like that for (almost) two straight hours, so powerfully?! The atmosphere was quite pleasant, the crowd seemed to have fun; some danced and sang along. Although, I regret that some people lit up their cigarettes during songs. How distracting and inconsiderate.

The first act consisted of all songs from Hello Young Lovers: Dick Around, Perfume, The Very Next Fight, (Baby, Baby) Can I Invade Your Country?, Rock Rock Rock, Metaphor, Waterproof, Here Kitty, There's No Such Thing as Aliens and As I Sit to Play the Organ at the Notre Dame Cathedral (which was presented so grand when they purposedly lit up the old church windows of Paradiso). The lyrics were smart and witty, the music pleasant and humorous, and sounds almost pompous. For this album, Sparks applied drums/percussions and guitars, unlike for the previous album. I welcome this change very much: different, but still sounds 'sparky'.

For the second act, the screen was dismantled, and all personel wore semi-formal outfits (i.e. jacket and tie), performing older Sparks songs (from the '90s). I knew Sparks waaay too late (only about 4 years ago - while they've been making music since the early '70s), so I wasn't too familiar with most of the songs. I knew only the ones from Lil' Beethoven, which they presented at the end of the show (at around 23:30 - they started at about 21:00). All in all, we are very satisfied and couldn't stop talking about it on our way home (on our bikes, so it's more like yelling than talking). I was very lucky to have the chance to watch them LIVE! And of course, many thanks to Sybrand for introducing me to Sparks and getting me the tickets as my birthday present! (He said he has all Sparks albums, but mostly in vinyl.. well, I've got a lot of catching up to do!)

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From the show in Sweden, the next day (same outfit, though!). Photo source: a link from Sparks forum

My graphic notes from the event are here and here.
Sparks site:
More about Hello Young Lovers at BBC Music - including downloadable songs: Perfume and (Baby Baby) Can I Invade Your Country?

Ron and Russell Mael are joined on stage by Tammy Glover (Drums), Dean [Faith No More] Menta (Guitar), Josh Klinghoffer (guitars) and Steve [Red Kross] McDonald (Bass).

Top image: cover of Hello Young Lovers CD

Friday, February 24, 2006

He is happy where he is right now

Too late. That's what came to mind right after I heard the news. I was
way too late, I could have done what I meant to do long ago, but never
got to do it. Now I won't be able to make up for anything, for I was
too late.

Yesterday afternoon was a doctoral public defense for a friend of mine,
Gembong, in Eindhoven. I came to give him support, also to see if I
could meet some friends whom I met rarely since I moved away from
Eindhoven. I was right: in the auditorium (where the public defense was
held), I saw familiar faces. During the break (between the defense and
the doctoral degree declaration), a woman smiled widely and called my
name. I broke to a sort of disbelieved smile and uttered, "Diane!"

Memories from my life in
Eindhoven flashed quickly in my mind as soon as I saw her. Diane, an
Italian American, and Izaac, her Indonesian husband, were among the
most helpful and friendly persons I've ever met. I was introduced to
her by a flatmate of mine, Mignon (a Korean girl), once I told her that
I was looking for a protestant church I can go to. So one Sunday
morning, Izaac and Diane picked me up from my apartment and we drove
together to the International Baptist Church. They did this to make
sure I know the way, so I could go by myself (by bike) next time.

Shortly later, I found out that
this couple has been dedicating lots of their time and energy to take
care of international students in Eindhoven. They let their house
functioned as a kind of 'community center' where youths from any
nationality, culture and religion, could meet, talk, eat, sing, play,
and basically gather. Most international students in Eindhoven would
have heard about
4U2 (International Student Group Eindhoven) as well as about Izaac and Diane (here's an article about them at Cursor,
weekly paper of TU/e). This couple has always been helpful in any way,
from finding a lodging to physically helping someone packing and
moving. From having fun and listening to petty problems, to consoling
serious matters. In the later year of my study, I hung out with this
community quite often, enjoying each other's company and feeling the
luxury of having so many brothers and sisters.

When it was time for me to move
to Amsterdam, I promised I would visit them. When I gave birth to our
son, I promised again I would bring along our baby to meet them, but I
never did. When I gave birth to our daughter, I made a similar promise,
which I also didn't fulfill. I kept thinking, I live not too far anyway
and I could always make time one day - until it's too late.

Almost automatically, after I called out, "Diane!", I right away asked,
cheerfully, "Where's Izaac?". Diane said quietly, "He passed away". I
was stunned and didn't know what to say. She continued, "It was a
couple of months ago. I know I should have told you, but... Well it
went so quickly, it was a heart attack. He went to sleep and never woke
up anymore". I was on the verge of tears, but seeing Diane looking so
calm and brave, all I could do was saying, "He is happy where he is
right now".

Afterwards, we couldn't go deeply over the fact that Izaac is no longer
with us, due to the happy occasion that Gembong succeeded in his
defense and acquired his doctoral degree (which wasn't easy, since he,
too, has been through a turmoil during the completion of his
dissertation). Later, Gembong told me that one day before passing away,
Izaac had helped him and his family during the hustle and bustle of
sudden packing and moving back to Indonesia. Lifting boxes, loading his
car, driving around, and everything he used to do for anyone in that
state. The next day, he was gone.

Later at night, when everything was already quiet and everyone asleep,
I finally had time to ponder about Izaac and Diane. What they have done
to make us, foreign students, feel at home and be a big family in
Eindhoven. How I should have fulfilled my promises and brought my kids
to see them. Rest well, Izaac; I know you'll always look after us,
wherever you are. I finally fell asleep, ignoring the dampness on my

Image: from the 4U2 website

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Disease of Language

Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels
Author:Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell
Bila hanya melihat sampul depan buku ini, orang akan mengira bahwa ini adalah buku popular science: bagian atas berwarna merah gelap (deep red), dengan samar2 gambar bayi di sudutnya, bagian tengah sebuah bidang putih bertuliskan judul, dan bagian bawah merupakan detail motif sisik ular dengan warna merah gelap - kehijauan.
Namun A Disease of Language berisikan karya Alan Moore dalam kolaborasinya dengan Eddie Campbell, yg menampilkan:
Birth Caul – Birth Caul, sebuah talisman masa kanak2, pertama kali dipentaskan secara monolog oleh Alan Moore di Old County Court di Newcastle-upon-Tyne pada 18 November 1995. Campbell menawarkan diri utk menggrafiskan monolog ini, karena ia merasa mempunyai hubungan erat dengan isi kisah ini.
Snakes and Ladders – sebuah naskah yg dikirimkan Moore utk Campbell tak lama setelah penggarapan Birth Caul, yg pada intinya bernuansa sensual.
Wawancara dengan Alan Moore oleh Eddie Campbell – berisi konsep dan pemikiran2 mendalam seorang Alan Moore dalam hal pencitraan tulisan2nya.
Gambar2 awal untuk Snakes and Ladders – kumpulan sketsa awal dari adegan2 tarian dalam Snakes and Ladders, yg diakui Campbell sebagai koleksi langka, sebab ia yg sangat jarang menyimpan oretan2 awalnya, sangat terpesona akan sketsa2 tsb sehingga merasa wajib mengabadikannya dengan menerbitkannya dalam buku ini.

Birth caul, atau selaput yg membungkus kepala bayi saat ia dilahirkan, adalah sesuatu yg sangat jarang terdapat pada kelahiran bayi. Terdapat banyak mitos mengenai selaput ini, sehingga ia banyak disimpan sebagai talisman atau jimat demi keselamatan seseorang.
Dalam Birth Caul, Moore menuturkan kilas balik, atau refleksi dirinya, dari masa dewasa menuju ke masa kanak2nya. Di batasan setiap masa, Moore menampilkan berbagai makna dari birth caul itu sendiri. Campbell dengan sangat tepat, indah sekaligus mencekam, berhasil menggambarkan refleksi diri ini dari masa dewasa, hingga masa muda, menuju ke masa kanak2, hingga akhirnya kembali menjadi bayi, menjadi janin, menjadi bakal sperma, hingga menjadi ketiadaan.

Gabungan kata2 dan gambar ini tidak dapat dibaca hanya sekali saja.Banyak hal2 yg dapat membuat kita ikut merefleksi diri terhadap makna pertumbuhan dari kecil hingga dewasa, dan bagaimana kita terbentuk menjadi manusia sekarang karena bekal kata2 dan berbagai jenis bahasa yg melingkupi kita sejak bayi – bahkan sejak di dalam kandungan, atau sebelum semuanya ada.

=====akan dilanjutkan bila seluruh isi buku telah terbaca=====

A Disease of Language
Hardcover 160 pages (February 2, 2006)
Publisher: Knockabout Comics
ISBN: 0861661532

New Recruits

Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels
Author:Dark Horse
Trade Paper Back dari Dark Horse kali ini memuat 6 karya yg terpilih sebagai ‘pemenang’ program New Recruits. Karya2 ini berasal dari mereka yg sebelumnya bukanlah berprofesi sebagai komikus, namun ingin terjun ke dalam bidang komik, dengan bergabung dalam ‘The Dark Horse Army’. Dari album ini, pembaca dapat mengharap munculnya album2 komik di masa yang akan datang, dengan tokoh2 baru dan kisah2 yg tidak kalah memikat dibandingkan karya2 besar yg ada sekarang. Berikut ini sekilas mengenai keenam komik tsb.

Wild TalentsIan Culbard
Ber-setting akhir abad 19, Wild Talents mengisahkan ttg sekelompok robot pembunuh yg selalu mengambil korban para pelacur, dengan memutilasi tubuh mereka. Tak ada yg mengetahui asal robot2 tsb, hingga muncul dugaan bahwa robot2 ini adalah proyek rahasia polisi. Detektif muda Mundi dan rekannya, Mister Chimes, turun langsung utk menangani masalah ini.
Dari panel2 gambar yg didominasi warna2 gelap, kekuatan bayangan, dan bentuk2 manusia dan elemen2 lain yg terstilasi, ditambah dengan keunikan jenis cerita: misterius dengan sedikit bumbu mistis dan fantasi, dapat terlihat bahwa karya Culbard ini sangat cocok dengan ‘semangat Dark Horse’. Pembaca Wild Talents pasti akan sangat mengharapkan petualangan Mundi & Mister Chimes berikutnya.

The Pied PiperAdam Adamowicz
“Apakah yg akan terjadi apabila benak seseorang dipenuhi tikus? Kengerian tiada tara.” Demikian kata pengantar pada sampul belakang New Recruits. Kali ini, dikisahkan seseorang yg pada awalnya merasa bahwa apartemennya dipenuhi tikus. Lambat laun, ia merasa tikus2 tsb bukanlah hanya berada dalam kamarnya, melainkan juga berada di sekelilingnya, dalam hidupnya sehari2.
Gambar2 pada komik ini bergaya sangat dinamis dan ekspresif, finishing-nya hanya berupa sapuan2 pensil atau pastel berwarna. Aliran adegan2nya cukup dapat membuat kaget, dan saya kira nilai tambahnya adalah pada ‘building emotion & suspense’. Kisah ini tidak berakhir di sini; sebaliknya, sepertinya hanyalah awal dari suatu kisah yg lebih besar.

Discreet DespairRHS
Tak ada lagi yg lebih tepat menggambarkan bagian ini selain: “Tragic poetry in words and pictures”. RHS yg sebelumnya telah banyak bereksperimen dengan berbagai gaya gambar sekaligus menggabungkannya dengan kata2 dalam berbagai bahasa kali ini menampilkan kumpulan karyanya dalam suatu kisah tragis. Dalam satu halaman terlihat panel2 berurutan dengan gambar yg hampir spt gambar kanak2, halaman berikutnya dipenuhi satu panel berisi citra surealis.

Zombie KillerAndrew Krahnke
Satu lagi kisah yg tidak terselesaikan, dan hanya merupakan awal dari sebuah kisah kolosal. Zombie Killer diawali dengan jatuhnya sebuah pesawat ruang angkasa, yg isinya diduga adalah zombie, dan menampilkan seorang remaja dalam lingkungan sekolah dan teman2nya, (diperkirakan) sebagai tokoh utama yg akan menumpas zombie tsb.
Dengan grafis hitam-putih yg kontras, Krahnke dengan mahir menampilkan berbagai detail, yg seolah merupakan versi garis2 yg lebih tajam dan kontras dari garis2 organik pada Akira-nya Katsuhiro Otomo.

The Mighty Skullboy ArmyJacob Chabot
Tokoh pada cerita ini adalah si Skullboy yg cerdas (seorang anak sekolah yg kepalanya berbentuk tengkorak), robot mainannya, dan monyet peliharaannya. Skullboy pernah memberikan pager pada robot dan monyet, demi kelancaran komunikasi kelompok mereka. Namun robot dan monyet terlanjur menggadaikan pager mereka tanpa sepengetahuan Skullboy. Sehingga, utk menghindari amarah Skullboy, mereka mencari jalan agar dapat menebus kembali pager tsb dengan cara berjualan jus lemon.
Gaya gambar kisah ini bagai utk konsumsi anak2 kecil, dengan bentuk2 lucu dan sederhana (namun, ya, ceritanya agak2 ‘miring’ sehingga belum tentu cocok untuk anak2), tampil dalam hitam/putih dan panel2 yg mudah diikuti.

The Way of All FleshIan Culbard
Sekelompok jasad yg telah mati, kembali hidup di sebuah desa terpencil, untuk menuntut balas atas perlakuan yg mereka peroleh semasa hidup.

Sampul depan/belakang dan contoh2 halaman isi album ini dapat dilihat di situs Amazon
New Recruits
Paperback 128 pages (January 15, 2006)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics,U.S.
ISBN: 1593073836

Sunday, February 5, 2006

How did you two meet?

That is a question commonly asked to a couple whom you're just getting
acquainted with. When asked, we usually exchange looks to each other
with inward smiles and answer, "The book!". Indeed, it was a book project that has caused us meeting each other in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1994.

I was in my third year of my university life that year. I remember it
was around the fasting month, for the school was rather deserted,
especially in hot afternoons like that day. I was, as usual, working at
the Industrial Design studios when two persons approached: one was
obviously a guest, another was a student who was showing him around our
faculty (but I forgot who). This student looked relieved to see me,
"Thank goodness you're here, Tita! Please take over and show this guy
around the building! Your English is better than mine!". Welcoming the
break from my school assignment, I agreed to take his place and
accompanied the guest.

I found out that afternoon that his purpose of coming to Bandung was to
gather data and conduct interviews in Indonesia, as a part of a team
who was working on a book about Indonesian culture. His task was
to complete, among others, the chapter about "design" - therefore he
went to our faculty. He had an appointment with our Head of Design
Department who was still at a meeting. While waiting, he was asked to
sight-see around our studios and class rooms.

He still had a lot of people to contact, and I offered my assistance in
making those appointments, considering there's hardly any house keeper
(most likely the one who would pick up the phone) who speaks English.
So that afternoon, after his meeting, he came to our house where I made
phonecalls for him.

I found out more about him; that he works for the Association of Dutch Designers (BNO)
as the final editor of their journal (and, later, also their website)
and that he is also a Project Co-ordinator for the Applied Arts
department of Sandberg Institute
in Amsterdam. So, why not show him my current works and have him
assessed my portfolio? Hee hee. That's actually what I did (his first
comment on my project portfolio was, "A person with this kind of
handwriting usually fits to be a friend"). Then we browsed my
collection of books and discussed them, too.

Several days afterwards I met him once in a while, oftenly accompanying
him to find the house of his sources, whom I know in person. One of
them was a professor whose son was my class mate at the university. I
remembered they were having a serious conversation in the living room,
while I and my friend had a burping contest in the next room (a study).
Now that was embarrasingly hilarious.

The day came when his works in Bandung was finished, and he had to
continue in Jakarta (more interviews, writing and sending reports). In
Jakarta, he had a chance to interview me and a friend of mine (also
from Industrial Design Department) for the book. After he's done with
his work in Indonesia, he had a friend coming from Holland who came to
have a 2-weeks holiday in Bali. He asked his friend to bring books for
me, and she did! Foreign books about "design" were (and are still, I
think) rare in Indonesia, and if available, are very expensive.
So just imagine how much I appreciated the books brought for me!

I spent most of 1995 doing an apprenticeship in a design company
in Germany. We visited each other during the year: once when I visited
my friend Arief (then a student in London) who was doing his
apprenticeship in Delft, once again when he came to Vorhof (the name of
the village in Germany, near Heilbronn, where I stayed) to visit for a
weekend. We were still friends then (I had a steady boyfriend already).

Oh, "the book" was launched at the same year. The title was Belanda-Indonesia 1945-1995: Suatu Pertalian Budaya (Netherlands-Indonesia 1945-1995: A Cultural Link),
published in two languages (Dutch and Indonesian). The contents mainly
told about how the Indonesian and Dutch cultures influenced each other
in various fields of arts: language, performance, dance, theater, film,
fine arts, crafts, design and architecture. It was actually a present
from The Netherlands government to Indonesia on Indonesia's 50th
anniversary. However, it's a pity that something went wrong (with the
printing policy and such), that the book wasn't allowed to be sold in
common bookstores in Indonesia (but in airports or hotels' shops). He
sent a new copy to Germany for me, and of course I rightaway looked for
the sub-chapter that featured my interview. "Hmm.. I don't know..", I
said, commenting on the article, "The flow of the sentences feels
weird". It turned out that the final editor (not him) made it as if I
and my friend were being interviewed at the same time. Oh well.

1996 was mostly filled with my final project. We exchanged news through
letters (yes, postage with real envelopes and stamps - e-mail wasn't
very common then). He even sent me a tape (yes, a cassette, as
CD-burning wasn't so common either) of his band's performance (my
comment, "I wouldn't listen to those songs alone. So depressing.")

February 1998, I departed to Eindhoven to start my Master Program at The Design Academy.
I've never been to Holland before except very quickly during a tour in
1994 and I had no family and friend except him. He kindly offered to
pick me up at Schiphol (really, really early in the morning) and took
me to the Amsterdam Central Station and put me on the right train to
Eindhoven (he lives and works in Amsterdam).

A couple of months after I arrived in Eindhoven, I broke up with my
boyfriend-for-6-years (to borrow a Friendster term, "It's
complicated"). I maintained a friendship relation with my Dutch friend;
he assisted me a lot in my research, especially providing references
and the latest updates about the design world in Holland. Once in a
while he came to my school to be a guest lecturer for the bachelor
class (his youngest brother,
an Industrial Designer, teaches there), and I also went to Amsterdam
occassionally, usually to attend some design events (lectures,
symposium, exhibitions). Since then, things went on naturally.
Mid-1999, he sent a letter (yes, hand-written, eventhough e-mail was
already very common) to my parents, asking their blessings and
permission to marry me. And we did, at the end of 1999. "The book"
itself might not be a big success, but it has played a rather important
role in our life.

image: Cover of "the book"

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Choco Creed

Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels
Author:Cafe Creed
Akhir pekan yang lalu, telah berlangsung sebuah ajang komik paling bergengsi di Eropa: International Comics Festival/ Festival International De La Bande Dessinee, yg diadakan di Angouléme, Perancis Selatan. Salah satu oleh2 yg dibawa pulang kembali ke Belanda dan ditempatkan di sebuah meja khusus di galeri oleh kru Lambiek adalah seri Choco Creed, yg langsung merebut hati saya.

Seri Choco Creed terbit berbentuk TPB (soft cover) dengan tebal sekitar 150 halaman. Format bukunya yg bujur sangkar terisi penuh oleh warna-warna cerah dan grafis yg mirip utk buku bacaan anak2. Tapi kisah2 yg diangkat dalam seri ini tidak semua cocok utk konsumsi bocah2 cilik, sebab temanya kadang2 `dark & twisted'.

Hingga kini terdapat 5 seri Choco Creed, tapi mereka tidak berhenti hingga buku: khusus utk acara di Angouléme ini mereka juga memproduksi coklat (bekerja sama dengan sebuah chocolaterie terkenal di Angouleme) yg kemasannya bergambar persis grafis pada kelima sampul buku tsb. Selain itu, ada juga poster2, sticker set, dan paper-model set (pola utk membuat model 3 dimensi karakter2 pada seri tsb dengan kertas). Saking gemesnya, saya `terpaksa' beli Choco Creed yg terbaru (nomer 5) + sekotak coklat dengan sampul yg sama (coklatnya jenis yg berisi serpihan crispy).

Tadi pagi dalam perjalanan menuju kampus, di kereta sempat saya baca2 buku itu. Choco Creed merupakan kumpulan karya berbagai komikus Perancis dengan gaya masing2, namun mempunyai kemiripan atmosfir: cute and a bit twisted at the same time. Nggak masalah bahwa saya nggak bisa berbahasa Perancis, sebab sebagian besar kisah pada buku tsb mengutamakan bahasa visual. Jarang ada teks, apalagi yg berkepanjangan. Di beberapa lembar terakhir, terdapat permainan2 yg biasanya kita temukan di buku anak2 sejenis 'belajar-sambil-bermain' (mencari perbedaan gambar A dan B, mencari jalan keluar di labirin, dsb).. tapi image-nya benar2 di luar dugaan!
Info lebih lengkap ttg Choco Creed, ada di situs mereka:

ps. Sebenarnya saya memang penggemar komik imut-imut-geleuh seperti jenis Choco Creed ini. Dari Belanda sendiri, saya punya beberapa nama komikus favorit seperti Femke Hiemstra yg karya2nya telah diproduksi jadi bros, emblem bordiran, "Bling Bling", dsb. Juga Floor de Goede (yg juga tergabung dalam Cutie Comics for Girls. Terus terang, saya amati justru yg seperti ini bisa bertahan (financially) berkat penjualan merchandise-nya (ya Tul yaa). Orang yg belum tau komiknya, begitu melihat pernak-perniknya yg unik, biasanya akan langsung tertarik utk mencari tau lebih jauh (and even better: utk mengoleksi!)

pps. I should be doing my papers now instead of reading comics! AARRggghhh

image: sampul Choco Creed nomer 5

image tambahan: sampul Choco Creed nomer 3, yg juga dipakai sebagai desain bungkus coklat rasa 'coklat putih'
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Kemasan coklat dengan sampul Choco Creed nomer 5, tampak muka:
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...dan tampak belakang:
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