Meet Ted Fishman

Forrest Gump’s mother always said that life was like a box of chocolate. You’ll never know what you’re gonna have.

A fortnight ago, I had the rare chance to meet this incredible guy personally. In case you haven’t heard of him, he’s a journalist, the author of China, Inc. as well as Shock of Gray. This guy was once a lecturer in Universitas Gajah Mada and is now on a two-month trip in Jakarta. He was about to treat me a Big Mac–if only I hadn’t bought my own meal.


Ted: (to a mas-mas) “Terima kasih!” (“Thank you!” in Bahasa)
Afu: “You must’ve been here before. You speak Indonesian!”
Ted: “Well, actually, yes. But you only see the part of language that I know. There are parts that I don’t–and that’s a lot more!”
Afu: “Haha, alright.”
Ted: “Okay. So…”
Afu: “So, yes. What would I do, as a research assistant?”
Ted: “Well, I think I’ll have to tell you how I work. I never have specific things in mind when I decided to write something. I just talk with people–talk with almost everyone, and then I observe their thoughts, I discover the concerns that they have, and then I narrow my topic down.
Afu: (that’s pretty much what I myself do)
Ted: “I contacted a friend of mine to help finding these people…yet, instead of bringing me to the market or kampungs, he made appointments with far too great people–like the ministers and all those politicians. I don’t think I’m smart enough to meet them now. So I freaked out.”
Afu: (what a humble guy–he can’t even tell who’s smarter than whom)
Ted: “Basically, I need someone to be a translator–to falicitate me converse with real Indonesian people in the suburbs, in the market…preferably in the afternoon. Because that’s when people slow down from their morning rush.
Afu: “Well, I’d love to. I think it’ll be a great opportunity to directly learn from the field.”
Ted: “Really? Great!”
Afu: (asks technical questions)
Ted: (answers technical questions)
Afu: (nods in agreement)
Ted: “Your English is excellent, by the way. Did you grow up somewhere abroad?”
Afu: “Thank you. Nope. Actually, no. I just watch movies.”
Ted: “Wow, that’s great. So, tell me about yourself. Your interests, your dream…your plans in the future?”
Afu: “I…aspire to be a writer…just like you. An academic one, who argues about something. I also want to give lectures in classes, and I hope I can do both simultaneously. But I’m not really sure where to start.
Ted: “Well. I think Indonesia is a great place for writers. The people here are hungry for information. There are a lot of newspapers to start writing for.”
Afu: “True. But that’s exactly why we can’t tell which news is worth reading and which is not. There are too many of them.”
Ted: “Well, the thing that you have to bear in mind is that books are not newspapers–nor magazines. People buy your book because they like your idea. Newspapers and magazines, on the other hand, are issued frequently. People buy them on a habit, for example.”
Afu: “Can’t agree more.”
Ted: “I’m not saying that magazines are bad–I subscribe to a number of them. But you know, you’ll have to have the idea to sell a book.”

I don’t know what point I’m making by posting this up, but I think when you’re really great, it would be hard for you to realize that you are. He’s such an increadibly smart, family-loving, and amicable man. He has all the checklist that ladies compose for their candidate husband. I fell so fortunate to have met him in person, on a table at McDonald’s Pasar Festival.


My Farewell to the Magic World

The good thing about books is that they’ are perpetually there, right on your shelf. Whenever you miss a character or you want to relive a particular event in a story, you can always turn the pages and find that chapter. However, I believe that the first experience is what counts the most.

I have to say that I’m a proud fan of J. K. Rowling and the amazing 7 titles who is currently in a deep grief to completely say goodbye to her lifetime favorite series.


I first ‘encountered’ Harry Potter at the 3rd grade (aged no more than 7, I was) on–believe it or not–Majalah Bobo. At that time, my childhood magazine published an article about ‘the book to the magic world’, and somehow the description made me feel ecstatic and believed that I have to experience the story myself.

So I went to Gramedia Padjajaran and found the 2nd book (Chamber of Secrets), yet I had to put it down for the book was too expensive. My mother doubted that I’d finish the book since it had quite too many pages for an elementary schooler like me. Then I went sick.

It’s almost like a tradition in the family that whenever their only daughter gets ill, there must be something wrong with her heart–or mind. Apparently, that time, Harry Potter was the cause. Mother finally decided to buy one, brought it home, let me read on the bed, and I got well really, really soon. I finished the book within a week or more (it was a long time ago), and couldn’t wait to buy the first book (Sorcerer’s Stone)–which I did.

I grew up believing that I was a stranded Ravenclaw, memorizing little facts and names that appeared in the books, and getting mad at by Eyang because I couldn’t move a bit whenever I started reading them. I was known as a fast-reader in the class but nobody knew that it was because I got used to Harry’s heart-pounding stories. I became familiar to grammatically-English-structured sentences (translated to Indonesian by Maam Listiani Srisanti) without really being aware of it, and unconsciously gave a huge space for the magic world in my heart and mind.

Silly–corny, you might say, bearing in mind that I’m currently 19, but I always feel myself like 9 whenever I get in touch with Hogwarts and wands.

I remember buying my last copy of Harry Potter (Deathly Hallows) on the first day of its release date, the English version, sacrificed my monthly saving, and ended up in tears the next 3 days since I realized that most part of my childhood had ended. It really did.

The fact affected me in two ways: a) I was desperately hoping that Rowling would come up with the 8th book (perhaps about their aftermath life?) and b) I repeatedly convinced myself that it has not utterly ended because there are 2 more movies worth waiting for.

So I waited–and watched Harry Potter 7 part I which turned out to be stupendous. Today, the finale is being screened in cinemas all over the world but somehow God does not want me to watch it. Indonesia still has not finished its tax issues with blockbuster movie distributors. Maybe He wanted to prolong my pseudo-waiting in despair. I tried to not care too much about it because the book had ended anyway–although, it really puts me in galauness to perceive that my friends are watching it abroad and I’m stuck with my works here.

Good bye, Harry Potter. Good bye Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. Good bye, our not-so-charming hero Serverus Snape. Good bye and be good, Voldemort. Let’s meet up again someday. This time, Ravenclaw will play the most part.

“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.” –Edward P. Morgan

A (Not So) Brief on Almost Everything

Not posting for almost a little too long, I got myself stuck with a lot of ideas to break down. At first I was about to write a single post for each thought, but then I realized that it’s gonna take such a long time and space, so I decided to compact them all into a single post. I hope that you treat every point as valuable as a full post, and–since the post is going to be quite long–I also am humbly asking you to at least read the bold sub-titles and continue to its paragraph if you find them interesting.

The world makes you think that, success or failure, you deserve what you get.

I happened to have stumbled upon Alain de Botton’s TED Talk, and I could hardly stop myself from attentively nodding to Watson’s screen (That’s the name of my laptop, yes.). What I really want to quote from his 16 brilliant minutes of British-accented speech is this:

Back in the middle age, when you saw a poor man on the street, you would say that he’s unfortunate. Today, you call people without job as losers. There’s a big difference between these two terms, and it is constructed throughout 400 years of evil meritocracy.

Another way to say it in modern English: “There are too many random factors that contribute to your path of success; being on the top of a society-constructed pyramid/career does not always mean that you’re better than those at the bottom.” In which, I wholeheartedly agree. Some people get to decent colleges because they have their parents’ money. Some extremely smart people ended up selling shoes at their father’s shop. We really have to recreate our concept of ‘ social structure’.

One funny example: the bald guy was born earlier, so he got the chance to convey my own thoughts to a larger audience. I was born later in a developing country whose people, generally, do not care about impractical philosophy discussion. This surely can’t be explained by the principles of meritocracy.

People who read too many romance tend to complicate things.

I always think that a perfect love story will only happen to people who don’t read novels–or watch drama movies. I myself have consumed too many fiction books that have various plots to not have assumptions on what would happen next, making it impossible for me to fully enjoy the not-knowing-state and be surprised of how people show their affection to each other. In other words, these stories eradicate your sacred idea of uniqueness. A research additionally showed that these novels and movies actually make women set their expectation of relationships very high when, matter-of-fact-ly, it is unlikely to happen unless the guy is some exceptional alien who thinks–or at least understand–the way female beings do.

‘Be yourself!’ is so last year.

I once had a discussion with some friends about whether or not we should really be ourselves at all times. Putting the riddle of ‘how do you really know which one is your true self’ away, we came up with what we call as ‘conditionality’. This means the skill of being able to equalize our frequency to the person we’re with. For example, when you’re out with your yeyek friend, to some extent loosening yourself up to a bit of yeyekness doesn’t hurt. The goal of this behaviour is mainly to befriend and understand the subject in a much better way. We concluded that ‘being ourselves’ does not always benefit us in every situation.

The process of learning a language always creates a certain prejudice to its words.

Especially when you don’t live in the native speakers’ environment and merely study it from weekly courses. Teachers who see English as a foreign language will never get you any close to the real language. They tend to tell you to memorize vocabularies and relate it to a certain translation in their own language. This is where the problem starts. For example: since average English-speaking Indonesian started their lesson back in elementary school, once they hear the word chair, they will always relate it to a physical seat. So even if you know that when a professor is endowed with a chair in economics it means that he becomes a professor, you will always have an image of a chair pops up in your head. Tell me I’m right.

A bit off the topic, a year ago, an abla (Turkish pronoun for sister) told me that Arabic is the universal language of our souls. This is indeed very highly related to Islamic believes and make no sense for secular people, yet I love the idea that every person in the globe actually speak a singular language. This notion also explains why we are told to read the Quran in its purest form, before any translation occured. Because regardless our conscious does not fathom anything, our soul does.

Soulmate is a floating, never-to-be-verified concept.

Ranked second after fate, the idea of soulmate always tickles my brain’s philosophical realm. The big concept is that ‘there is a special someone that is destined to be your company for the rest of your life’, right? This means that you’re cluelessly searching for a single man, or woman, out of 9 billion people in the world? How do you even know where to start? A hypothesis? My questions would then be:

  • At what point can we be assured that someone is our ‘other half’?
  • How can you confirm your faith before the story even finishes?
  • Is relationship/marriage only a tool to officialize this hypothesis? Because you now, married ‘soulmates’ divorce, too.
  • If your partner cheats on you, does that negate the idea that he’s your soulmate? What are the indicators?
  • Is death then the only validation to prove your hypothesis?

Feelings will always deceive owners. Thenceforth, I believe that unless you can quantify its premises, it never really exists.

Making mistakes is the best way to learn.

Almost a month ago, my friend wrote something on being wrong. He summarized Kathryn Schulz idea of the–quoting his own words–misconception of human understanding of erroneousness. I’ve just watched the whole video myself and I turned into wonder as she explicates her genuine, provoking thoughts.

We should never stop entertaining the possibility of being wrong.

The idea of being right at all times will eventually kill you because it becomes harder for you to admit that someone else’s argument makes more sense than yours. I believe that being wrong once in a while is an att

ribute of humane, that it is inherent in everyone. The only difference is on how we react when we realize that we are. Next time we’re wrong, let’s learn to forgive ourselves.

A different approach should be applied when we talk about proofreaders, though. Let them be all tortured with shame and people’s ridicule when they fail to correct the wrongs, because hey that’s what they are paid for! Haha.

Being paid takes a part of your freedom.

I’ve just come to an epiphany that maybe, people love blogging because they don’t have editors who scrutinize whatever crap they write. I am now a labor that is paid on $15 per day to write articles, so I have to accept the fact that I’ll have someone who supervises my work and wake me up to make improvements on this and that. Dee Lestari once tweeted about how your relationship with passion will change once it becomes a profession and I’ve just understood that she’s totally right. For now, I will try my best to make sure that I’m worth the money they pay me for. Oh and I really, really hope that the government also think the same way.

Some people don’t judge but are very judgmental about how people will judge them.

Like, “I don’t think that my speech would impress them that much because I’m just an unimportant person from a second-class college and they’re Harvard guys.” These negative thoughts, ladies and gentlemen, are very deadly. These kind of people don’t even bother taking care about that guy who sits in the corner wearing a pink shirt, but they do care too much about whether or not people will see them as gay if they put on the same outfit. The worth-a-try solution is to stop doing that on purpose.

Indonesian people need to be trained on ‘laughing strategically’.

This aptitude is very practical and useful in one-on-one conversations. I sometimes find it hard to really harmonize my laughters into others’ because sometimes I laugh too early and sometimes too late. It would be nice if an expert can share their ideas upon when we should laugh loudly, quietly, or when we should just be silent all the way.

That’s all I can say for now. Thanks for reading thoroughly (which I doubt that you did)!