Monday, December 12, 2016

Longman Language Activator – Book Review


Longman Language Activator
by Pearson Education

A ubiquitous, classical question that lingers in many people's minds is "How can I improve my English?" In certain cases, one of the areas that they really need to improve on – but that they might not realize they have to – is vocabulary. Our world is a vast entity where a massive number of things exist and occur. Thus, we need to be able to express an idea or thought as clearly as possible. For this reason, expanding your English vocabulary bank would surely turn you into a more effective communicator.

And congratulations, folks! The Longman Language Activator has been 'born' to serve that function. In the preface (p. vii), it is mentioned that Lord Randolph Quirk called the Longman Activator, which includes the Longman Essential Activator (intended for lower-level students), 'the dictionary the world has been waiting for', and in my view, it definitely is.

How will this dictionary help you enrich your vocabulary? The Longman Language Activator will take you on a journey to words and/or phrases in generally the same meaning area, so that you know their differences, if any, and express what you want to say or write more exactly and/or accurately. For instance, under the "to eat" section (p. 345), there are "eat", "have", "chew", "swallow", "lick", "consume", "dig in/tuck in", and "chow down". In addition to clear, easy-to-understand definitions, this dictionary contains plenty of examples in case you need help in understanding. It also features pronunciations to make sure you pronounce the words and phrases correctly (British/American) as well as labels to ensure you use them appropriately (British/American, formal/informal, etc.). Grammar and collocation information, which I find extremely important, adds to the appeal of this book and the alphabetical order organization as well as a useful index at the back of the book make it convenient for readers to use.

One thing that could be improved is its coloration, as this book is printed in black and white except for the cover and the "Using the Activator" section. Its 'sister' (the Longman Essential Activator) is more pleasing to the eyes as it is beautified with color. What is more, the second edition of the book was published in 2002; it has been 14 years since then, so it might need to be revised/updated.

Without a doubt, the Longman Language Activator – along with the Longman Essential Activator, I believe – is absolutely a must-have for English learners and teachers who would like to take their English to the next level. This book is definitely worth every cent/penny you spend.
Continue reading..

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Indonesian or English Expressions?

It is no surprise that a humongous amount of Indonesian language has entered my ears and my eyes--and my brain--considering the fact that I have spent most of my life in this wide-stretching, equator-passed country. Surprisingly, there are a huge number of Indonesian expressions that are strikingly similar to or even exactly the same (if translated) as English ones. I have compiled a 'mini' list of these expressions and hopefully it will quench your language thirst, expand your linguistic knowledge, or even just kill your time in a nice fashion. Cheers!


Note:
• The Indonesian expressions display a range of formality levels.
• I believe there are many, many more of such expressions out there. So if you know any, please poke me, and I will add yours to the list.

1. a bitter pill to swallow – menelan pil pahit
For Chelsea, losing to Manchester United was a bitter pill to swallow.
Chelsea menelan pil pahit dengan kalah dari Manchester United.

2. backstab – menusuk dari belakang
Several days ago I found out that Lousia had backstabbed me. I thought she was a good friend!
Beberapa hari lalu saya menemukan bahwa Louisa menusuk saya dari belakang. Saya pikir dia seorang teman yang baik!

3. crocodile tears – air mata buaya
Don't believe Martin. He is a playboy. Those are just crocodile tears.
Jangan percaya Martin. Dia itu playboy. Itu cuma air mata buaya.

4. empty vessels make the most noise – tong kosong nyaring bunyinya
That gubernatorial candidate speaks the most but actually he is the least skilled of all. Empty vessels make the most noise.
Calon gubernur itu paling banyak berbicara tetapi sebenarnya dia yang paling tidak mampu dari semuanya. Tong kosong nyaring bunyinya.

5. get out of bed on the wrong side/get out of the wrong side of bed – salah bangun tidur
Clark must have gotten out of the wrong side of bed. He has been grumbling all day.
Clark pasti salah bangun tidur. Dia ngomel-ngomel seharian.

6. guinea pig – kelinci percobaan
No, I don't want to be a guinea pig! What if I die after taking those pills?
Tidak, saya tidak mau menjadi seekor kelinci percobaan!. Bagaimana jika saya mati setelah mengonsumsi pil-pil itu?

7. greenhijau
Are you sure you will assign this huge task to Britney? She is still green.
Apakah Anda yakin Anda akan memberikan tugas besar ini ke Britney? Dia masih hijau.

8. half-heartedly – setengah hati
Eric's work results are always bad because he does his job half-heartedly.
Hasi kerja Erik selalu buruk karena dia melakukan pekerjaannya setengah hati.

9. hidden agenda – agenda terselubung/tersembunyi
Tracy is visiting her house too? Hm... He must have a hidden agenda.
Tracy mengunjungi rumahnya juga? Hm... Dia pasti ada sebuah agenda terselubung/tersembunyi.

10. lightning fast – secepat kilat
Maria can run 8 meters per second. She is really lightning fast.
Maria bisa berlari 8 meter per detik. Dia benar-benar secepat kilat.

11. like a broken record – kayak tip pecah
Your brother sounds like a broken record. He is always talking about the same things.
Kakak laki-lakimu kayak tip pecah. Dia selalu ngomong hal yang sama.

12. like talking to a brick wall – kayak ngomong sama tembok
I've asked her to go to school many times, but it's like talking to a brick wall. Basically she won't do that.
Gua udah berkali-kali minta dia pergi ke sekolah, tapi itu kayak ngomong sama tembok. Pada dasarnya dia ga mau.

13. lose face – kehilangan muka
The sex scandal made the singer lose face.
Skandal sex tersebut membuat sang penyanyi kehilangan muka.

14. make yourself at home – anggap saja rumah sendiri
Please sit down and enjoy the snacks. Make yourself at home.
Silakan duduk dan nikmati makanan ringannya. Anggap saja rumah sendiri.

15. money laundering – pencucian uang
Those men in white are accused of money laundering.
Pria berpakaian putih itu dituduh melakukan pencucian uang.

16. oil and water don't mix – bagai air dengan minyak
Stephanie and Aldo always have quarrels when they are together. Oil and water don't mix.
Stephanie dan Aldo selalu berseteru jika sedang bersama-sama. Mereka bagai air dengan minyak.

17. opportunity only knocks once – kesempatan cuma datang sekali
You should accept that job offer. Opportunity only knocks once.
Kamu harus mengambil tawaran pekerjaan itu. Kesempatan cuma datang sekali.

18. over my dead body – langkahin dulu mayat gue
You want to use my car? Over my dead body!
Loe mau make mobil gue? Langkahin dulu mayat gue!

19. play with fire – bermain dengan api
You want to sell drugs? Don't play with fire!
Kamu mau jual narkoba? Jangan bermain dengan api deh!

20. silence is golden – diam adalah emas
Taylor was punched by Annie because he gave her criticisms. Silence is golden.
Taylor dipukul oleh Annie karena dia memberi kritikan. Diam adalah emas.

21. sleep with – tidur dengan
The mayor was arrested because he had slept with his mistress.
Walikota itu ditangkap karena ia telah tidur dengan selingkuhannya.

22. spoon-feed – cekokin
Let him work by himself. Don't spoon-feed him.
Biarin dia kerja sendirian. Jangan cekokin dia.

23. take my hat off to – saya angkat topi
Our sales have increased by 25% in the last three months. I take my hat off to you!
Penjualan kita telah meningkat sebesar 25% dalam waktu tiga bulan terakhir. Saya angkat topi!

24. take part (in) – ambil bagian (dalam)
My neighbor is taking part in a charity event next Sunday.
Tetangga saya akan ambil bagian dalam acara amal Minggu depan.

25. the apple doesn't fall far from its tree – buah jatuh tidak jauh dari pohonnya
Like his father, Andrew is enthusiastic about table tennis. The apple doesn't fall far from its tree.
Seperti ayahnnya, Andrew antusias terhadap ping-pong. Buah jatuh tidak jauh dari pohonnya.

26. the grass is always greener on the other side – rumput tetangga selalu lebih hijau
My little sister always thinks other girls are a lot luckier than her. The grass is always greener on the other side.
Adik perempuan saya selalu berpikir gadis-gadis lain jauh lebih beruntung daripada dia. Rumput tetangga selalu lebih hijau.

27. throw in the towel – lempar handuk
The badminton players thought they couldn't' win the match, so they threw in the towel.
Pemain-pemain bulutangkis itu berpikir mereka tidak dapat memenangkan pertandingan tersebut, jadi mereka melempar handuk.

28. to have a sense of humor – punya selera humor
My uncle has a great sense of humor. It is always fun to talk with him!
Paman saya mempunyai selera humor yang tinggi. Berbicara dengan dia selalu menyenangkan!

29. to have the last laugh – ketawa terakhir
I accept the defeat, but I will have the last laugh.
Gua terima kekalahan ini, tapi gua yang akan ketawa terakhir.

30. wholeheartedly – (dengan) sepenuh hati
One of the keys to success is working wholeheartedly.
Salah satu kunci kesuksesan adalah bekerja dengan sepenuh hati.
Continue reading..

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ask Yourself

No, I wasn't galvanized to write this post by Justin Bieber's song Love Yourself. This post is a fruit of me looking at what has been happening in my life.


I just got in a relationship recently. It is a phase that is blissful; I have found someone that I have been waiting for. Being in love is one of the greatest things humans can experience, I believe.

However, it doesn't mean there are no rocks on the road. Once my respected high school teacher told me something that sounded like "Living a relationship or marriage life is not a piece of cake; it is not easy to 'unite two heads.'" Arguments or disagreements must occur between the two loving ones. I have encountered these and I learned something from seeing about this kind of situation.

From my vantage point, when a problem comes up, humans tend to see anything that is not them. We automatically think of other people associated with it and try to find the 'mistakes' that they have made. I think it is a trait that should urgently be changed. I found asking myself an amazing way to deal with a problem. Instead of 'looking outside', spattering ourselves with questions such as "Does the problem exist because of me?"; "What mistakes have I made?"; and "What have I done wrong?" would be a much better option.

Most of us deal with many people on a daily basis. Friends and family are some who you can have skirmishes with. So, you could start to solve them by being wiser, using the 'magic mirror'. Or let's take it to a much higher level: think about an issue your country is facing. Is it really the government's failure? Or is it you who don't care about your own country?

I'm not saying that we are always the ones to blame for anything bad happening in our lives. It is just that we need to not forget to take ourselves into account when considering something. It is always good to reflect on ourselves, isn't it?
Continue reading..

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Problem of Tolerance


Recently, in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the food stall of an aged woman named Saeni was inspected by officials of Banten, one of the biggest provinces in Indonesia. They confiscated all of her food – and perhaps drink(s) too – since it was considered illegal for people to sell food and/or drink during certain hours in the fasting month for Muslims. This was recorded on a video and it became viral on social media; the public responded by giving her a big donation – around 265 million IDR, equal to approximately 19,925 USD.

The underlying idea behind this attention-drawing event is that people should express tolerance to those who are fasting. However, there are people who are opposed to this with the thought that, actually, Muslims are the ones who have to pay respect – to those who aren't fasting – which makes a lot more sense since, as far as I know, fasting is not about avoiding temptation, but resisting it.
But, say, it is really about 'avoiding temptation'. So we are faced with a clash – one side wants fulfill their daily sustenance needs (and this means bread and butter for Saeni), while the other wants to experience as fewer things that can drive them to consume food and drink as they can.

In the wake of this controversial matter, a meme challenging the Minister of Religious Affairs to keep Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport open on Silence Day and ban Christmas trees in malls has spread on the Internet. If you think about it, they reflect the same kind of issue. Most Balinese are Hindus, but there are Balinese who aren't. I believe so many foreigners, as well as non-Hindu Balinese (including Muslims), want to enter and leave Bali through the airport on the religious holiday, when Hindus don't work – perhaps they want to visit their families or partners that they haven't met for ages. The question is "Who is to tolerate who?" The same thing can be recognized in the second case, although it is subtler. Would a Muslim hanging out in a mall be agreeable to occupancy of items promoting Christianity, which clearly teaches doctrines contradictory to Islamic ones, in some space where they should be able get through? The honest answer is "no". And this gives rise to the same question "Who is to tolerate who?"

I reckon we can find many other examples easily. You live next to a church and the choir is enchanting a hymn while you are trying to meditate, needing silence. You are exhausted and trying to catch forty winks at noon before continue working at 1, but the mosque near your workplace is emitting loud sounds through its speaker(s) – it's very likely to happen in Indonesia. You are discussing the possibility of a new contract with your important business partner while the smoke and ash of burning incense from a temple is making your eyes ache and distracting your concentration. Who is to tolerate who?

There is no win-win solution to this kind of thing. One has to swallow a bitter pill, whereas the other rejoices in the fulfillment of their wish. The end result might be in favor of the majority of inhabitants of the region.
Continue reading..

Friday, July 15, 2016

Why Dinosaurs?

Other than Jay Chou, another thing that might arise in my friends' minds when they think of me is surely dinosaurs. The fascinating beasts that come in all kinds of shapes and sizes have never ceased to intrigue me to date.

A Tyrannosaurus skeleton

As with most dinosaur fans all around the world, my liking for dinosaurs started early in life. In my childhood, I got a bunch of dinosaur books which were laden with numerous visuals designed to attract young readers. At one of his TED Talks, world-renowned paleontologist Jack Horner says, when asked what is behind children's love for dinosaurs, he usually replies that "dinosaurs were big, different, and gone" – although actually they are not gone, as Jack clarifies subsequently. I think it partly explains why these bizarre creatures captivated me as a little kid, because, as American paleontologist Steve Brusatte says in an Earth Unplugged video, "there's just something about dinosaurs, there's some magic to them, there's some indescribable essence to them."

Aside from the above mentioned reason, why dinosaurs? Why not Pokémon GO, which is arguably the most popular game nowadays? Why not anime and manga, of which a huge number of fan bases are scattered on the globe? Why not superheroes, like those created by Marvel and DC?

I would start with the most 'important' one: learning about dinosaurs means learning about the world as a whole, including ourselves. It takes us on a deep journey into prehistory, the time before we, humans, appeared on the scene, so that we can actually understand how our world works. We must take dinosaurs into account to really understand evolution, including how we came to be who we are. It is a pity that many people are ignorant of or even deny the theory of evolution; dinosaurs are a great tool to teach this (and science, in general – Steve says dinosaurs are "just an automatic gateway into science" in a science festival video) to the public and eradicate the misleading thought.

Knowing dinosaurs has also turned me into a more humble person. It has made me realize that we are just 'tiny' things – with a lifespan of around 70 years – existing in this vast, super old (around 4.6 billion years old), changing world and our species, Homo sapiens, is just a newcomer. Terrorism that is invading our planet – and seems to be getting more and more cruel and violent day by day – claiming an enormous number of lives, I believe, is a product of false understanding or a wrong view of the world. Together, as the human race, we need to strive for a better world for our continuous existence. I firmly believe and am very confident that dinosaurs can play an exceptionally important role in attaining world peace.

Dinosaurology is also extremely important as it significantly contributes to our knowledge of "how the earth has changed over time" (a phrase by Steve from his Earth Unplugged video The Dinosaur Expert that keeps reverberating in my head) and this relates to climate change, which is a global issue we are currently facing. Understanding this in should help us solve this urgent problem. Studying dinosaurs means studying the past in the present for the future.

Last but not least, seriously, what is more engaging than dinosaurs? Gigantic behemoths possessing extremely long necks and tails, big-headed vicious-looking predators equipped with lines of big serrated teeth, rhino-like animals boasting eye-catching head ornamentation, club-tailed creatures with body coverings reminiscent of tanks, and many more – not to mention 10,000 or so species of our feathered relatives: birds, the only surviving lineage of dinosaurs. Nothing, right?

Continue reading..

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

May All Beings Be Happy

Is it possible?


This saying kind of "tingled" my brain perhaps several years ago. Let's dissect this idea.
According to Macmillan Dictionary – one of my favorite dictionaries – "being" means "a living thing". Therefore, "all beings" are all living things, which include all humans, animals, plants, as well as microorganisms, such as bacteria.

Now let's take a look at the second most important word in the phrase: "happy". The same dictionary defines "happy" as "feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc." (I don't think anybody would disagree with this definition)

Now that we, hopefully, understand what the sentence means, let's move on to the question that has made me ponder: Is it likely that all beings will be happy?

Lions and zebras. I believe everyone knows the relationship between these two types of animals. To put it simply, lions try to hunt zebras and zebras try not to be hunted by the "kings of the jungle". Do zebras want to be feasted on by lions? Of course not; that's why they run as fast as they can when lions are chasing them. Do lions want to let zebras eat grass peacefully? Definitely not since lions have to fill their rumbling stomachs or otherwise they will die. So I guess it is pretty clear that either lions are happy or zebras are happy. It is utterly impossible that both kinds of beings are happy (please let me know if there is a zebra approaching a lion in order to be devoured by the predator, or if somewhere on Earth a lion, while being surrounded by a dozen zebras, fasted until it died).

It is just one out of, I believe, a huge number of predator-prey relationships on this planet – birds and worms, grizzly bears and salmon, Tyrannosaurus rex and hadrosaurs, you name it. Parasitism (such as, the relationship between fleas and your neighbor's beloved dog) is another happiness-is-just-for-one-of-them association.

It appears that we live in an unfair and nasty world. But that's how nature works. Species strive to continue their existence with a broad spectrum of behavior, even if it requires members of other species to suffer or even die.
Continue reading..

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Animal Abuse

On June 21, 2016, the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, perhaps familiarly known as the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, began in China, despite a cornucopia of opposition from inside and outside of the country. The dog-slaughtering event has aroused my desire to express my view on this fairly controversial topic: animal abuse.


Modern humans have existed for a relatively long time, around 200,000 years. Our ancestors must have fed on a wide variety of diets, including a great number of members of the animal kingdom. It makes a lot of sense to think so since the present time sees human consumption of numerous kinds of creatures – some of which you would probably gape at — as a means of surviving in the modern world. The Manadonese, a tribe native to Manado, one of the largest cities in Indonesia located in Celebes island, take it to an extreme. It is a common practice for the locals to eat bat, cat, and rat meat, as well as dog and monkey. Perhaps this ethnic group is comparable to the Chinese, who are also known to indulge themselves in enjoying a vast range of foods made out of animal flesh.

Is it morally wrong to kill a dog and devour it? Does it deserve to be abhorred to take out a clowder of cats and cook "steaks" out of them? As with a bunch of other things, humans can't be separated from culture. Different cultures may have differing attitudes toward this issue. Those who are accustomed to it would say it is perfectly all right – it might be weird for them not to eat a certain kind of animal. On the other hand, others might see this sort of act as being cruel and evil.

Actually it is not really difficult to work out why this can happen. People grow in different environments and are shaped by them. It is worth mentioning that humans naturally have feelings, such as compassion. Dog and cat lovers would say a BIG yes in reply to the two questions posed at the beginning of the previous paragraph. Being in contact with these types of animal for a long time – perhaps in most cases, since the creatures were born – have certainly generated affection and pity in them, hence the disfavor.

There was a controversy relating to this matter in Indonesia a few months ago: dog lovers protested to the owner of a pet shop in South Tangerang against a puppy/puppies being fed to the snake pet(s). When I first noticed this, I thought, What would snake lovers do if they knew this? Would they protest to the dog lovers?

It seems silly to actually grumble about this situation. If the human race has maintained their existence in varied ways, why should we, the current generation, feel agitated? In my opinion, as long as it doesn't have a negative effect on our species' survival, it really is no problem. (Some people might have a thought that it is simply wrong to kill an animal. However, do they care about the massacre of countless chickens that will end up at KFC's and McDonald's tables every day? I believe not – consistency is the key here.)

I am suddenly reminded of the killing of Harambe, a gorilla in the Cincinnati Zoo, the U.S., which took place recently. He was shot dead with the intention to prevent a young boy who had fallen into the gorilla's territory from experiencing imminent death. While I agree that we need to conserve biodiversity, saving living things from extinction, our species has always to take priority over others.
Continue reading..

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Death

The younger brother of my late grandfather has just passed away. The decease of the relative of mine propelled me into a state of questioning one of man's ever discussed subjects: death.


Birth and death are two phenomena that (must) take place in a person's life. People were born into this world via their mothers' – or in some cases, others' – wombs and will die of something (an accident, disease, shock, a combination of several damaging things, or some other cause) someday down the road. It seems that the human race still hasn't found a way to stop the latter from happening.

Death actually is a natural thing. If you think about it, all creatures, including dinosaurs, die. Species continually disappear and give rise to others, letting them fill the niches left behind.

However, Homo sapiens is a limit-breaking species. It is so astonishing that they have always achieved things that they always wanted to (think of the telephone, airplane, Internet, and the like). So, it won't be stupefying that some time to come humans can prevent the so-called unstoppable event.

The next question would be "What happens after death?" The quick answer is we don't know. Religions provide varied answers to this mystery, at least some of them referring to the concept of Heaven and Hell. But frankly speaking, we just don't have the faintest idea about what really happens after the "frightening" occurrence.

How long is a human's life? I guess it is, on average, in the region of 70 years or so. I think, with such a limited lifespan and our incapabilities to know when we will die, it would be wise to consider death as a humbling reminder of our "mere" existence and a motivation to make the most of our lives.
Continue reading..

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

True Man


I am writing this post partly because of the book I am currently reading, The Good Women of China by Xinran. In this book, which tells tales of the past lives of Chinese women, there are many accounts of men doing appalling things. In one chapter, a Chinese woman described all men as "filthy, lustful, bestial, and brutal", a conclusion that she made based on the gang rape she experienced when she was a teenager. It is just one of the many dreadful deeds of men's written in this book.

Another reason is my observation of men around me. Try living in Jakarta and you will understand right away. Traffic violations, including drivers running a red light, which is essentially dangerous, are so common in this city that they seem to have become a normal and acceptable practice (most drivers are males). One of the closest men of mine was (and probably is still) a gambler. And I can feel strongly that he is an idle man and not willing to learn. The result? There have been a lot of irritating effects imposed by him on me. I once met a university friend at Grand Indonesia, one of my favorite shopping centers in Jakarta. He, who was already married at that time, told me something that suggests that it is okay to enjoy "beautiful views"; they refer to other women's appearances.

Talking of Indonesia, corruption, violence, murder, and sexual harassment committed by men appear regularly in this country's media. One of the most recent pieces of shocking news is an already married man killed his pregnant girlfriend and mutilated her. This vile act happened in Tangerang, a big city which borders Jakarta. What is more, I have heard lots of saddening stories of unfaithful husbands, who might have made vows that they would be loyal to their wives until the ends of their lives whatever happened.

So, what does this mean? All of these (and other similar things) have made me think of myself, think of my existence. The world is filled with masses of evil men; they behave destructively in many different ways. I regard them as the antithesis of role models; I must be a true man. I feel the urge to be a good man, a respectable citizen, a devoted and loving husband, and so on. That is actually an honorable goal that all men have to achieve, including me.
Continue reading..

Friday, April 22, 2016

Endurance


I decided to write this article after a flash of inspiration that came across my mind yesterday. I am currently searching for a "good" distributor of imported books – that is, one that can offer low prices/discounts; I would like to "resurrect" my "now-extinct", precious dinosaur and English books, which have brought me to this point of my life.

As you are a close friend of mine, chances are you already knew that my little house got burned by a big fire last year. The much sadder thing is this disastrous event decimated almost ALL my imported books, which were worth approximately 8,000,000 rupiahs (around US$605). And, "uniquely", this took place after my second trip to Vietnam, which was very exciting.

Sad? Of course, I was. But this is life. We cannot really predict what is going to happen, and both good and bad will surely come along in our lives. I didn't let myself to get carried away and made up my mind to be a tough cookie instead.

I reckon endurance is a quality that everyone must possess in this world. We need to foster an accepting attitude towards reality and stay strong. Life is not always full of sweet and sparkling things; there are a lot of rocks and spines ready to torture you down the road. These can be in the form of getting dumped by your boyfriend/girlfriend, losing your dream job, being lied to by your best friend, experiencing bank fraud, and so on. Many people have decided to end their lives, but it is not a very wise decision. We have the opportunity to live (although only once) and there is always more we can do. :)
Continue reading..

Friday, April 8, 2016

Why Jay Chou?

Who is this guy? Perhaps many of you have heard his name but are not sure who he is exactly (some people might mistake him for John Cho, a South Korean actor and musician). To make a long story short, Jay Chou is a famous – especially in Chinese-speaking countries – Taiwanese singer, songwriter, producer, actor, and so forth. And he was dubbed the "heavenly king" for a reason.

Me with Jay Chou wax statue at Madame Tussauds Singapore

Those who know me well – or at least friends of mine on Facebook – must know that I am a staunch fan of him. Thomas Huxley supported Charles Darwin's theory of evolution so much that he got referred to as "Darwin's bulldog"; I would be more than happy to be called "Chou's T. rex". :)

Maybe people around me are wondering, "Why is he fanatical about Jay Chou? What's so special about this man? Why is he always rhapsodizing about him?" I listen to and sing his songs every single day; I attended his first concert in Indonesia; and I have even written a few articles about him (never listened to Jay's songs? Click here) – well, it is a little act that I can do to spread the "good news" of JC (= Jay Chou): this is called "evanjaylization", a term which I coined last year.

Nowadays, many people, especially girls, are crazy about the Korean drama series Descendants of the Sun (which reminds me of birds: descendants of the dinosaurs). I guess it is largely because of the main actor Song Joong-ki, who is thought to be handsome or cute. It is also easy to point out other popular Korean artists, such as Girls' Generation (SNSD),  2NE1, Kara, T-ara, and SISTAR (bands consisting of several beautiful and sexy girls capable of singing and dancing energetically and simultaneously) and their male counterparts, such as Big Bang, Super Junior, SHINee, and 2PM, not to mention Psy, whose Gangnam Style MV has amassed over 2 billion hits.

Let's move from the east to the west. Countless names are ready to overwhelm us when we are talking about music. Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry are some examples; they have enormous fan bases scattered all over the globe. Justin Bieber seems to have gained favor again with his new catchy songs, such as What Do You Mean? Bands such as One Direction have also attracted people all around the globe and there's also old-time favorites, like The Beatles, Queen, The Rolling Stones ... you name it.

But... Why Jay Chou? Why do I only stick to this not-talking-much, slanted-eyed man. Why do I always look for his CDs and/or DVDs when entering a music store but not others?

First of all, I 'm not a moviegoer. It is not that I loathe going to the theater, but it is just that the silver screen is not something I am enthusiastic about (seems legit, doesn't it?). I don't know much about acting and that sort of stuff, so although Jay has starred in several movies, including the Hollywood action flick The Green Hornet and the self-directed one Secret, I'm not really keen on them. (Nevertheless, as a "layman" I know that he is NOT a bad actor and CAN act.)

But music is my thing. It colors humans' lives in infinite ways, and Jay is a special gift in this matter. I think the answer to the question (the title of this article) is that, in terms of music, nobody can be compared to Jay Chou (this reminds me of his Incomparable concert and his war-themed song 無雙 (Wu Shuang), which translates to "incomparable"). Jay has a talent that no-one else has. He is a multi-instrumentalist in that he can play the piano, guitar, drums, and many others, but there's something more than that. American paleontologist Steve Brusatte says in an Earth Unplugged video that there's just something about dinosaurs, there's some magic to them, and there's some indescribable essence to them. Jay Chou is similar to dinosaurs in this way.

Bang Jay*, as I often call him, is a music prodigy. Other than his fantastic ability to play lots of musical instruments, some things that might fascinate you are as follows:

  1. he composes and sings all his own songs
  2. he writes lyrics for his songs (although a big part of them are contributed by Vincent Fang)
  3. he writes songs for other singers
  4. he has won countless music awards

HOWEVER, it's JUST NOT enough... Frankly, it is probably almost impossible to explain why I adore his music so much. You need to get your feet wet and I'm sure (hopefully) you will get addicted to it.

Jay's music is unique. To be honest, personally, I think his songs can't be categorized into any well-known genres, such as pop, ballad, and rock – that's why when people ask me what my favorite kind of music is, I answer "Chou style". However, it seems that Jay Chou's music can divided into several major types. Jay Chou's songs range from Chinese style (zhong guo feng) songs, such as 東風破 (Dong Feng Po) and 青花瓷 (Qing Hua Ci), through romantic, lovely ones, such as 簡單愛 (Jian Dan Ai) and 手寫的從前 (Shou Xie De Cong Qian), to gloomy, heartbreaking ones, like 說好的幸福呢 (Shuo Hao De Xing Fu Ne) and 安靜 (An Jing). Jay is also well-known for his rap ability: catch some melodies in 聽媽媽的話 (Ting Ma Ma De Hua) and 雙截棍 (Shuang Jie Gun). On top of that, Jay has attempted to produce rock-like songs, such as 龍戰騎士 (Long Zhan Qi Shi) and 跨時代 (Kua Shi Dai).

Jay Chou has been my idol for around 13 years. "Officially", the first song that I listened to was The One concert version of 雙截棍 (Shuang Jie Gun), thanks to my first brother, who borrowed his friend's VCD or DVD. Since that moment, I have grown up listening to his songs, which is something that I am proud of. Jay Chou was, is, and will always be in my heart.

*"Bang Jay" is a term that is occasionally used by Indonesians to refer to Jay Chou – "bang" is short for "abang", which means "older brother" in Javanese. I am not sure, but this was probably invented by me myself. :p
Connection with Jay Chou:

English website about Jay Chou:
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Monday, March 14, 2016

Use It Up!


I've just visited Saigon, Vietnam for the third time and the vacation trip was totally amazing. I met lots of friends (old and new) and made newer ones, including members of Talking With The Tourist – as Cong Vien 23 Thang 9 (23/9 Park) is such a strong magnet for this Chinese Indonesian that I kept going there over and over.

I won't write every experience I had there but, instead, I am going to share a little lesson that I learned from this small part of my life.

February 24, 2016 was a day that I had been waiting for. It had been around two years since I realized I loved this huge city. I woke up around 6:30 in the morning and got prepared. Next, my father took me to the bus station from which we set out to Soekarno-Hatta Airport. I didn't book a direct flight ticket; I had to stop over at Singapore and then continued my journey to Saigon. Everything went well at the airport and I departed from Jakarta to Singapore at about 9:20 a.m. with Tigerair – it is an airline that I trust; I have always flown to Saigon with Tigerair and I have always been satisfied by its service.

I landed in Singapore at probably 11:30 a.m. Jakarta time or 12:30 p.m. Singapore time. Afterwards, I had lunch and, after doing some research on must-visit attractions in Changi Airport, I decided to take some hopefully eye-catching photos. My next flight was at 4:05 p.m. Singapore time and I thought I still had abundant time. What would happen next?

Changi Airport has so many beautiful spots, such as Sunflower Garden and Butterfly Garden, that I wanted to eternalize many moments there. At approximately 3 p.m., after collecting quite a lot of photos, I went to the information desk to ask for information about which gate my flight was set to leave Singapore from. The information lady told me the gate number and warned me to hurry. In response to that, I galloped to the destination gate despite a bit of doubt in my head. What is happening? As soon as I got to the gate, I was welcomed with confusion of the person I was trying to talk with. Then, another man turned up and told me that I had missed my flight – I saw a Tigerair airplane moving away, which was very likely my flight.

I was shocked to the marrow! I'd thought it would be a phenomenal trip but THIS "calamity" happened! As a result of this, I had to book another ticket – I spent more or less 75 USD on the next day's flight. I believe you know that the blunder was caused by me mistaking my cellphone clock time (Jakarta time) for a Singapore time.

So, what am I trying to say through this article? In spite of the horrible stuff, I decided to make this trip fantastic; I didn't want to miss out on great moments I should have in Saigon. I set a positive attitude towards everything and the trip turned out to be WOW!

Make the most of everything. Bad things happen but it is not the end of the world. Keep smiling and "use it up"! :)
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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Parents' Role in Educating Their Children


I am no parent; I'm single and currently I'm still seeking (or waiting) for my life-long partner. However, on the basis of my observation, I know what people called parents should do to prepare their children for the 'harshness' of the world, not to mention the fact that I have gone through a childhood phase.


First of all, people should know that bringing up children is no easy task. It requires a lot of effort, money, time, and so forth. I'd say parents have (almost) full responsibility for their children since they didn't choose to be born: they arrived because of their parents' will. So, for those who want to get married and have children, think about this carefully.

Next, every parent must realize that they and their children are different individuals. Many parents – I hope I'm wrong – push their children to be what they want them to be (perhaps, this is most common in Asian countries). Every child – everyone, essentially – mustn't be forced to do anything; they have their right to do anything they want. Are you out of your head? You might be asking.

From my personal standpoint, parents' responsibility toward their children is to let them "see the world as it is". They need to inform their children of the many options or choices available on the planet, together with their implications, good or bad. I'm not saying that parents should give their 3-year-old a knife, as it would likely hurt the cutie. Parents should always lead their children to good, that is, the survival of our species, and they need to know when their children can think well enough to make sensible decisions and give them freedom from that very moment on. I think this is an honorable act parents can do to their beloved ones.

It is a pity that many parents – again, I hope I am wrong – expect their children to be "money-printing machines". They regard them as "investments". And, this is such a terrible idea. I hope the suicide cases of adolescents worrying about passing exams are not a reflection of this sort of situation.

Then, what should parents do? As I've mentioned, parents ought to be something like a detective. They need to work together with their children and help them to figure out what the best future of their loved ones is, without insisting on them fulfilling their egocentric desire. So, it is a matter of being a "partner" rather than a "ruler".

Nevertheless, it makes sense that parents are not the only ones in charge this huge duty. This exciting job should be done in conjunction with schools. Why? Simply because schools are where they spend quite a considerable amount of their day, around one-third of it. So, schools, and especially teachers, also play an important role in creating a marvelous generation of people.

I was inspired to write this article thanks to an invitation to be one of the speakers on Profession Day – February 6, 2016 – at my junior high school. The content of my speech is roughly identical to the message of this writing, with a slightly different emphasis. If I were to summarize my talk that day in one word, that would be "passion". And I hope you will encourage your children by telling them a sentence like "Darling, follow your passion."
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Monday, February 15, 2016

Language Is an Illusion

Why is that?


To begin with, there is a short tale for you to heed. Steve Martin is a British man. He was born in London 35 years ago and raised by his parents, who are also of London origin. He has spent most of his life, playing, studying, and working in his home country. Needless to say, having in contact with British culture and language for most of his time, his English is unquestionably excellent.

Now let's use a lot of third conditionals here: what if Steve had been born in Vietnam, where the official language is Vietnamese, not English? What if he had been brought up by parents who came from Quang Ngai, not London? What if he had had to nod his head a little bit, instead of shaking hands, which is unusual in Vietnam, when meeting someone for the first time? Would he be the one he is now?

Of course not. He would be very fluent in Vietnamese and his English might not be as good as his now.

(You might be wondering why there is a cultural question there. The quick answer is because language and culture are inextricable. Check out this awesome TEDx Talk by Tim Doner, a hyperpolyglot from the U.S.A.)

Now let's move on to YOU. What if you had been born, not in your homeland, but in another country? What if you had been brought up by parents whose mother tongue is not your native language? What if you had grown up getting exposed to a culture that is so different from the one you are used to? Would you be YOU?

No, you wouldn't. You would speak "that" language better than your real first language. Basically, you would be "a new you".

Getting back to Steve, if he were with his real parents in London, would they understand what Steve said in Vietnamese? Probably not. Would Steve understand what his parents said in English at a fast rate? Probably not either.

Now imagine "the new you" is now with your real family members at a monthly gathering at your maternal grandmother's house. Would they understand what "the new you" talked about? Probably not. In an exactly the same situation, they wouldn't get what the heck you were talking about and vice versa because of the different languages.

So what is this all about? It means language is nothing but a medium, or a system, as I like to call it. Language is only meaningful when a group of people (perhaps a tribe or a nation) agree on the "effects" it can give – I recall my high school friend told me that language is "an agreement". Or, in other words, it is an illusion. To see my tips for learning English, click here – be sure to check part 2 as well.

Actually this is what made me realize that to learn a language successfully is not that hard as long as you want to adapt to the "system". Or, to put it more dramatically, you must (want to) be "reborn' or "born again", like Christians do.

What is more, this also rebuts the notion that you need to be talented to be successful in languages. When we are talking about talent, we are referring to a small number of people, right? Now, how many French people can't speak French fluently? How many Germans can't write German in an effortless fashion? I believe only an incredibly tiny fraction of a nation are not able to learn and use their native language and it must comprise those with sight and hearing impairments. In short, language proficiency is not linked to talent.
To end this article, I would like to quote Tim Doner at the end of his TEDx Talk presentation "Breaking the language barrier" (find the link above):



"You can translate words easily, but you can't quite translate meaning."
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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Natural Selection in the Human World

The longer I live, the more I discover the truth of the theory of evolution by means of natural selection, proposed by Charles Darwin, an English scientist whose 207th birthday was just celebrated – on 12 February.

Charles Darwin statue at a museum

How? You might be asking. It is simple: by looking at our own society.

Let's play a bit of a game. Ask yourself what you do for a living? Got your answer? Now ask why you do that. Got your answer again? Ask again: why? Do the same procedure over and over, and if you are "normal" – by "normal", I mean you are not a psychopath or that sort of thing – you will end up giving an answer that sounds more or less like "so that (modern) humans a.k.a. Homo sapiens will always survive." Yes, the keyword is "survive".

You might be a computer programmer, trying to make the most helpful applications for the world (including for yourself). Hopefully, humankind  (including you, who gets a salary) will benefit in some way because of your work or products. You might be a doctor, trying to heal sick people or patients in hope that the existence of the human race will go on and on. Whatever you are, if you think about it carefully and thoroughly, this should be your ultimate purpose.

Now we look at the "agonizing" part. How many people are poor? How many people are on the street, begging for money and food? How many people are suffering? How many people have died before their life expectancy? This is probably the result of their laziness, which is a quality that natural selection doesn't favor. Their unwillingness to develop or improve themselves in some way is what caused them to be so. However, many of the pitiful are in their states not because of their "faults", but by misfortune: an example would be children with AIDS, who inherited the disease from their mothers. Thankfully, some people are so kind that they help these "unfortunate" people to live as long as they can, by being volunteers or that kind of thing (again, for the continuity of our species). It is a shame that racism still exists in the world: black, yellow, brown and white people are different variations but they are the same species, aren't they?

On the other hand, we see "successful" people, those who seem to be happy and are likely to live longer than others. They have worked hard, increasing their skill to contribute to the world, and as a result, they reap what they have sown. They are also more likely to have more offspring that will be great representatives of the next generation of humans. And, on a larger scale, we all should learn from these people and foster the good attitudes that they have in order to ensure our future existence as one species.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

7 "Little" Things You Can Do to Make the World a Better Place

No-one can deny that we live in one big world called Earth. The globe is the place where we entirely spend every single day – unless you are an astronaut. And I think it makes sense to think that it is highly demanded that our dwelling place increase in quality so that every Homo sapiens living here can take full advantage of it.


I know that this post might not change your behavior in an instant, but I am glad that you have read this article up to this point so far, making my hope go up. The last mass extinction event happened around 66 million years ago, wiping out the non-avian dinosaurs and other groups of animals, and I am sure you don't want humankind to vanish soon. So, here they are: some things that you can do to make the earth a more enjoyable place to live in.

1. Give up smoking
This is probably a 'rusty' topic. But, let's give it one more try. I am pretty sure there are smokers in each country existing today. To the best of my knowledge, there is no single advantage of consuming this 'small killer', except for escapism. Some points to highlight:

• Smoking kills you and people around you
You already know so many diseases can be caused by smoking: cancer and those with believably Latin-derived names. And the thing is, you don't only kill yourself – yes, literally kill – but also take out your loved ones. And the unique thing is I have never heard of people put into jail because of this horrendous act.

• Smoking is a waste of money
In my country, Indonesia, a pack of cigarettes costs around USD 1. Let's say, you buy one pack a day: this means it swallows USD 30 per month or USD 360 per year. You could spend that sum of money on something useful such as the education of your children or high-quality dinosaur books such as Dinosaurs: The Most Complete Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers or All Ages.

Smoking is probably one of the most terrible ideas ever in the history of the human race. Sometimes I imagine what would the world be if all smokers just quit it simultaneously. Ahh.....

2. Stop getting drunk
Well, yeah, you know the health implications of drinking too much, not to mention the family quarrels that it has contributed to. You might throw some plates or knives, which might lead to injury or even death of your spouse and/or children. And think of what you would get if you spent that amount of money on dihydrogen monoxide. Yes, children in Africa could have drunk it.

3. Put trash in the proper place
Hmm... This relates to an 'excruciating' disposition of some humans. Actually, if you think about it, it is pretty simple. You buy a package of Keripik Karuhun in a convenience store and finish it up. Then, you realize there is no garbage can around. You just need to keep it until you find one along your way home. In addition to musty smells that sting everybody's nose nearby, huge accumulations of trash can trigger major floods, which affect people's lives in a not-so-good way. And sadly, sometimes it can switch them off as well. The problem is people often do something without thinking about any harmful effects it may cause. I hope you are not one of those. Remember our existence depends on us.

4. Say thanks and sorry
This seems to be a petty thing but I consider this "of huge importance". I often experience this kind of thing, people benefiting from a good favor without saying thanks and doing something unpleasant without saying sorry. From my personal viewpoint, saying thanks and sorry is an honorable act that makes people people. I base this on my experience: the feelings that I had when I received sorry and thanks, even though the objects concerned were of little importance, were 'overwhelming'. I smiled and it seemed as if there were flowers growing in my heart. I am not trying to be poetic or whatever else but this is an honest confession. In contrast, annoyance coming out from the opposite situation is surely irritating, bringing about a bit of a bad day. Saying thanks and sorry can bring happiness to the world and cause a domino effect. Yes! Let's do it – say them sincerely, though!

5. Avoid speeding
You are not a great driver if you do this. Instead, people might call you "the Grim Reaper" or something. The speeding case of Abdul Qodir Jaelani a.k.a. Dul, the third son of famous Indonesian musician Ahmad Dhani, in which he caused many people to die, has gotten many people to deem him evil. Speeding is only for those who want put their and others' lives at stake. Why don't you just sit at home, reading blog posts by Brian Switek?

6. Stop talking garbage and that sort of thing on social media
Technology has made almost everything easier. Communicating with people 1,000 miles apart is a piece of cake, nowadays, thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and the like. However, unfortunately, not everything produced there is satisfying. Many people use this advancement to express things that are not for the good of society. Often, they insult each other and boast about themselves, acting as if they are the most important people on the planet. They exhibit something that they shouldn't and the list goes on and on. The principle is simple: before you write or post something, think about why you should do that. Will it make you and others happy? Will it be helpful for the readers in some way? Will it contribute to humanity?

7. Reduce the use of plastics, paper, etc.
I am quite sure you have heard or been given this advice at some point in your life. It might appear to be a hard thing to do, but thankfully it's not. Three things that you can start doing tomorrow – or now:

• Going shopping? Use your own bags!
Whenever you want to go to supermarkets, remember to carry your own bags. I myself try to use my own backpack to keep the things I buy from minimarkets and stuff, and often I consume them as soon as the transactions are finished.

• Do not order takeout
Yes! Why not? You don't have to eat at home: just enjoy the food in the eatery like what I do whenever possible – perhaps you will meet your future spouse; who knows?

• In the restaurant, ask for reusable items (for example, stainless steel spoons) instead of disposable ones (for example, wooden spoons)

Bonus: Eat (and drink) all of what you have bought and ordered.
It's pretty simple and actually will help you save more money. Remember that we all are connected and make up the human race. Isn't it wise to share with our fellow humans by not wasting food and drink? Bear in mind that we all must be responsible for the resources that are available on our planet, including sustenance.

Let's unite and make the world a better place!
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Saturday, January 23, 2016

A List of Jay Chou's Chinese Style Songs (Zhong Guo Feng)


Jay Chou, who is arguably (for many people) and surely (at least for me) the best musician in the world, is so talented that he can play a tapestry of musical instruments, including those of Chinese origin, such as the guzheng and erhu. This, with his superb musical ability, has resulted in him producing pleasant-sounding music of "Chinese taste", and among his true fans, I believe, this sort of music has its own place in their hearts. Here is a list of Jay's zhong guo feng songs, which I hope will color your life on a day-to-day basis!

Note:
• Personally, I think Jay Chou's songs can be loosely categorized since they are so rich in musical elements! So, this list is what I think can be strictly put into the zhong guo feng genre.
• For translations click here.

1. 東風破 (Dong Feng Po) → East Wind Breaks
2. 髮如雪 (Fa Ru Xue) → Hair Like Snow
3. 千里之外 (Qian Li Zhi Wai) → Faraway
4. 菊花台 (Ju Hua Tai) → Chrysanthemum Flower Bed
5. 青花瓷 (Qing Hua Ci) → Blue and White Porcelain
6. 蘭亭序 (Lan Ting Xu) → Lan Ting Preface
7. 煙花易冷 (Yan Hua Yi Leng) → Fireworks Cool Easily
8. 雨下一整晚 (Yu Xia Yi Zheng Wan) → It Rains All Night
9. 紅塵客棧 (Hong Zhen Ke Chan) → Worldly Tavern
10. 天涯過客 (Tian Ya Guo Ke) → Ends Of The Earth Passing Traveler

Please do share this article so that more people can enjoy this treasure trove!



Source: http://www.jaychoustudio.com/jay-chou-discography (title translations)
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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Service


Actually, I should've written this article a long time ago. However, better late than never. Thankfully, I had that experience just now.

As you might already know, I am crazy about Vietnam. This Indo-China country has drawn my attention and, as a result, I have stepped my foot on its land twice.

One thing that always reminds me of Vietnam is Lotteria. For those who don't know it yet, it is a Korean fast-food chain, like KFC and McDonald's. In Ho Chi Minh City a.k.a. Saigon there are countless Lotteria restaurants. By contrast, in Jakarta, the place where I live, Lotteria is not that popular: it's opened possibly around 10 outlets – I'm not so sure, but I can guarantee there are many more in Saigon.

A few hours ago, I answered a labyrinth question posed by Lotteria Vietnam Facebook Page – but this article is not really about it. On top of that, I commented on the post, thanking Lotteria Vietnam, writing a bit about myself and my Vietnamese experience, expressing my liking for its products, as well as promising that I would eat there again on my third trip to Vietnam. What surprised me was what happened next.

The admin said thanks to me and, in a nice and friendly way, asked me to inform them when I stop by Lotteria Vietnam . Personally, this made me so glad! I was touched by the great service. Then, in an excited mood, I replied that I will do it and also take a photo there!

This might seem petty stuff but the effect is profound. I will definitely go back to Lotteria Vietnam, not only because of the quality of its products, but also its heartwarming service. In comparison, I have had a few terrible experiences regarding service (if I'm not mistaken, all of them are related to food), and I convinced myself that they were the first and last times I'd bought their products. What is more, I only remember one of them, since he does his business near my office. What a pity!

In short, a product can have greater value if excellent service is "packed" with it (even if the product itself is not really wow, according to my experience): it will always be remembered by its customers and, of course, ensure their loyalty.
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