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Movie Review: Wolfwalkers

Oh oh oh. I’m sure you have all had this experience, where you see something interesting and decide to try it with no expectations at all. That was my case with Wolfwalkers (2020). It is an animation based on Irish folklore, directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart. The story revolves around two girls. The first is a young girl hunter named Robyn Goodfellow, whose mother has died and is now living only with her father. The second is a wolfwalker named Mebh, who is a girl during the day and a little she-wolf cub at night.

Wolfwalkers pleasantly surprised me and won me over with the gorgeous artwork, anti colonization theme, women empowerment message, and friendship amongst different creatures. It reminded me of Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, although with completely different artwork concept.

“I don’t want them to put you in a cage,” the hunter Bill said to his daughter.

“Can’t you see? I’m already in a cage!” shouted Robyn.

Synopsis

The Lord Protector whom Bill works for insists that the hunters kill the wolf pack that lives in the forest. Their death will show that the Lord Protector can control the forest, and as such is a brutal show of his power. Of course, his voice represents the voice of God, so everyone must listen. Everyone, but the rebellious Robyn and her mysterious friend Mebh.

Robyn met Mebh in the forest, where the cub accidentally bit Robyn to help save her from a trap. This bite turns Robyn into a wolfwalker like Mebh, and so Mebh shows Robyn the secret place which is the sanctuary of the pack. In this magical cave lies the sleeping body of Mebh’s mother, who has been in that state ever since her wolf body went missing months ago. Mebh is determined to find her mother, and Robyn promises to help her.

However, Robyn’s rebellious behavior attracts attention from the Lord Protector. Thus he instructs Bill to keep a reign on his daughter, or “reigns will be put on her.” As a result, Bill forces Robyn to work in the scullery (kitchen) under the watching eyes of other maids.

Will Robyn be able to fight back against her fearful father? Is her and Mebh’s friendship strong enough to overcome the many differences that lie in between? Will Mebh be reunited with her mother and protect their pack, or will they all be annihilated by the Lord Protector?

Please find out for yourself and watch Wolfwalkers. It was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the Academy AwardsGolden Globe Awards and BAFTA Awards. You won’t be disappointed at all!

A special perk of this beautiful movie is the song Running with the Wolves by Aurora.

Go row the boat to safer grounds
But don’t you know we’re stronger now
My heart still beats and my skin still feels
My lungs still breathe, my mind still fears

But we’re running out of time
Oh, all the echoes in my mind cry
There’s blood on your lies
The sky’s open wide
There is nowhere for you to hide
The hunter’s moon is shining

I’m running with the wolves tonight.

Have you come across this movie? What did you think?

PS: If you like wolf and magic put together, the book A Wolf for A Spell by Karah Sutton is a great fun read.

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How to Deal With Hate Speech on Social Media

I recently opened a TikTok account, to the great chagrin of my husband. Tiktok‘s platform is great in offering people easy access to creating awesome 1-minute clip videos. However, I drive him nuts whenever I’m editing the videos. There are only so many times that he can listen to a K-pop jingle.

Many people have said that TikTok is the fastest growing social media. Its algorithm is still quite good in comparison to other older platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest (you name them, I have them). Especially in the case of Facebook and Instagram where it’s now a “pay to get” platform – you have to pay to get followers, likes, comments, etc.

Viraling on TikTok

With TikTok, if you have a viral tune, trending hashtags, and relatively good content, then it’s easy to get thousands of views and reactions such as likes and comments. Two of my videos have gone viral just in this past month. The first one was on my speaking up against Asian American hate which reached 33K viewers. The other one was responding to the recent terrorist attack on a church in Makassar, Indonesia, on Palm Sunday (a religious Christian holiday). This video got 9K viewers and 200+ comments.

In the space of about two weeks, these 2 viral videos boosted my followers by an additional 300. That’s a huge lot!

However, I learned that with the coveted popularity comes the rot: hate speech. I won’t show them here because it will trigger all kinds of angry emotions. Instead I will share a few survival skills to implement in dealing with hate speech on social media.

Tips to Deal with the Hate Speech

First: Disengage. When the hate comments are pouring in (and sometimes you’ll get like 10 hate comments in 1 hour) it can be overwhelming. Disengage. Get off the app, let the algorithm play out, and you go take a rest or take a walk or do something else. I also did some box breathing so I didn’t panic. Only check back on the platform when you’re ready to take action to filter the comments.

Second: depending on how you want your channel to be, you can either filter and block the comments, reply to disagree or call out the hater, or simply let it be and see what happens. I did a mix of first and third. Some of the comments were so offensive I right away blocked the user and reported them to TikTok. I left the other comments which I thought were borderline but had a trace of a valid argument. Lo and behold, some people stepped up and started defending and speaking for me, which was so nice of them. I supported my defenders by liking their comments, and adding them as friends while ignoring the hating users.

Third: use it to your advantage. After the video cools down in its virality, and I’m much more in control of my emotions, I take a look at some of the arguments happening, screenshot it, and use it as content material on other platforms. My goal in doing this is to educate social media users to take a more active approach towards hate comments if they come across them. I want to encourage people to defend and speak up for users who are being bullied.

Speak up and defend users who are being bullied on social media.

The saddest thing about all of this is that hate speech is not just an online problem. It is also pervasive in our everyday lives. Learning how to deal with hateful comments and then using them as educational material to your advantage is being proactive, smart, and a responsible citizen of the internet.

Have you encountered hate speech on social media? How do you deal with it?

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Book Review: Heartless

My fellow co-founders of the Mad Tea Book Club Sherry from The Cozy Library and Krisandryka Wijaya recommended Heartless. In fact, Marissa Meyer is Sherry’s favorite author! With such high recommendations, I thought I had to check it out. Spoiler Alerts!

Synopsis

Heartless is a delicious, flirtatious, and absolutely MAD retelling of how the Queen of Hearts (from Alice in Wonderland) became so angry, vengeful, and well…heartless all the time. Given the title and the subject of choice, we all know where the ending is going right?

Obviously, the relationship between the protagonist Lady Cath and the mysterious court Joker Jest was not going to go well, even before those two characters were ever conceived. Alas, a sad destiny. But oh, the build-up! Marissa Meyer is great at building up the chemistry between the two of them, and slow cooking them into each other’s lives.

All our favorite characters from Wonderland are here. The Hatter (who is not yet mad!), Cheshire the invisible-invincible-infuriating cat, and even the monster we all love to slay: the Jabberwock. Thinking about it, I wonder why no one has made a retelling of the Jabberwock’s story…a little ugly beast dejected by the other creatures, his environment destroyed as a result of the ever-pressing humans into his natural environment…okay there’s an idea for you writers!

Too Long?

As much as I enjoy Wonderland and all its loony characters, I felt like this book was rambling on a bit too long. Lady Cath is extremely indecisive in choosing her dreams over the expectations of her parents. She is equally as flimsy in choosing between the mysterious Jest or the silly but kind King. Several of the back and forth scenes also did not add anything to the plot, nor to the characters’ developments.

The ending still packed a punch despite being obvious (the creepy Three Sisters even prophesied it). However, I was so impatient that by the time I got to the ending, I was not as heart-broken as Cath.

All in all, 3 stars. Would I venture to read more Marissa Meyer’s stuff? YES, because I do love fairy tale retellings. I just hope the other protagonists are more decisive than this one!

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May Sale!

I launched this blog in October for beta readers, and it went public for everyone in November 2020. It’s now May 2021 and I can’t believe I’ve been hacking away at it consistently for 6 months! I’m so proud of myself, and I’m so thankful to all of you who stop by my corner of the internet. Whether you are reading the blogs, listening to the podcast, or even shopping, know that I’m at the back end doing a little jig whenever you’re here.

From buying a new Huawei laptop (the last time I used a laptop was 10 years ago) to getting carpal tunnel because I was typing too long in the wrong position, to finding my first partner for the shop, it’s all been a worthwhile ride.

To celebrate this journey together, there is a storewide May Sale. Everything in the Shop will be half off-all you need to do apply this coupon: MAY50OFF to your checkout cart.

If you run into any problems, simply contact me. Enjoy!

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Communication Lessons From Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is one of my absolute passions; I’m currently a divemaster-in-training (Covid is making this training much more complicated than it would normally be) but I am sure I’ll finish the requirements in due time. I’ve learned so many things through scuba diving that can be implemented in daily life, such as dealing with fear and not panicking. In this post, I’ll be going through what I learned about communication through scuba diving hand signals.

The 3 Main Hand Signals in Scuba Diving

Sign 1.

Under the water, you obviously can’t talk, so hand signals are the way to communicate to your dive buddy, instructor, or guide. A good divemaster or guide will continuously check in on you during the length of the dive to make sure everything is alright with your oxygen, equipment, and to make sure you’re staying within sight and in line with everyone else.

As your guide checks in on you, you have to give the signs. If everything is going well and you feel happy, then you give the first sign. It means let’s continue, all good.

If something is bothering you and you need to pause, then give the second sign. This doesn’t necessarily mean we have to stop the dive yet. It just means something is wrong and we need to fix it before we can continue. In scuba diving, it might be the oxygen is feeling weird, or the fins are too tight (or too loose), or the weights are too heavy (or too light). Anything can cause discomfort under the water.

It’s important to pause and check up on the root of the discomfort. Once it’s fixed, you give the OK sign and continue. If it’s something that cannot be fixed under the water, and no one has a spare part or solution, then you give the third sign.

The third sign means we have to abort the dive and surface. This is completely fine-there is nothing wrong or shameful with aborting a dive. Diving can be very dangerous and you need to be in tip-top shape, so if you feel something cannot be fixed then it is much better to abort the dive.

Daily Life Implementations

Sign 2.

This philosophy has taught me so much about communication with my team members when I think something is wrong, and that we need to just pause to fix it before we move on. If it’s not fixable, then we need to discontinue the project or the program or the partnership, or the relationship. There is nothing wrong with discontinuing.

Perhaps some other time down the road the circumstances will be better and the idea can be picked up again. Or perhaps, it is just one person that needs to remove himself or herself from the project and the project can carry on with the rest of the team-just like how the dive can carry on once the person not feeling well is safely escorted to the boat.

There is nothing wrong with discontinuing. Nothing great comes out of pushing yourself to continue the dive when you feel bad.

Sign 3.

Nothing great comes out of pushing yourself to continue the dive when you feel bad. I have learned this is the case with life. If you don’t feel good about it, then don’t push yourself to do it. You will likely end up feeling worse afterward, not better. If you need to take a break, take a break. If you need to stop, then stop. It’s completely okay. Your sleep, your health, your mental health is much too precious and nothing is worth sacrificing that.

The key here is to make clear communication to your partners/team/buddy, and to be okay with that decision. Don’t let people make you feel bad about it. You know your situation and your own limits best.

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Meatless Monday Challenge

The most recent episode of my podcast was launched on Earth Day. I interviewed Alexandra Iskandar on her sustainable lifestyle, and asked her for tips on how the average person could start their sustainable living journey. One of the tips she gave was the #meatlessmonday challenge.

Why?

Because research shows that livestock production and transportation contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than plant based foods. Climate change can be traced to what we eat for lunch! Golly.

I was inspired by these facts which Alessa shared in the podcast to try Meatless Monday with my husband Cung. We did it on and off for the past couple of weeks, with not much regularity and discipline, I am afraid to admit. However, I’m not going to give up!

I have always been of the mind that to achieve our goals, it’s easier when done in a supportive community. So I decided to invite a couple more like minded people to try the challenge. We will begin Monday, April 26, and attempt to stick to Meatless Monday four Mondays in a row until May 17.

Note: The supportive community will be done via Whatsapp Group for 1 month. Please only join this challenge if you truly have an intention to live a more ecologically friendly life by changing your eating habits.

If you are serious about it, and think the supportive community would help you, then contact me to join! Let’s take our small steps towards sustainable lifestyle together.

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Small Steps to Sustainable Living – Podcast Episode 6

Maria Alexandra Iskandar, Sustainability Associate
The Body Shop Indonesia

At the very young age of 22 Maria Alexandra Iskandar, known often as Alessa, is the Sustainability Associate at The Body Shop Indonesia. She helps to track the company’s ecological impact. Prior to that, Alessa grew up in Bandung, Indonesia. She became familiar with living an ecologically friendly life through her mother: Ibu Sherly.

Seven years ago, Ibu Sherly started an NGO called Eco-Camp. The organization educates roughly 4,000 people yearly on living how to live a sustainable lifestyle. They continue to thrive now with their programs, waste management system, and organic garden. In this episode, Alessa shares the basic philosophies of living a sustainable lifestyle. She also gives tips for those of you who want to live kinder to yourself and to our planet.

I myself am so inspired by her youth and clarity of mind! I hope listeners of my podcast will be encouraged to take a small step towards an earth-friendly way of living. For me, it began by composting through the pandemic. What will it be for you?

Happy Earth Day!

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Composting Through the Pandemic

The great lockdown of 2020 no doubt shocked everyone and forced a cataclysmic change of lifestyle whether you were ready or not. I chose to spend the lockdown with my then-fiance Cung in his house in Bogor, right next to a huge organic farm called Kuntum Farmfield. There are worse places to be locked down in, so no complaints from me about location.

We walked daily to the farm to visit the horses, cows, sheep, goats, and many other farm residents. In addition to the animals, Kuntum also grew fresh produce, so we did not tire of fresh organic produce. The price? 1 bunch of fresh organic bokchoy for less than 2$. And only a 3 minute walk away. Glorious.

One of my future dreams is actually to be able to grow my own food, so I took advantage of the situation to start gardening. Well. experimenting really. With seeds, media, and compost being sold only a step away, it was the perfect situation.

Gardening Experiments

My gardening experiments started with garlic. Lo and behold, all the bulbs ultimately died because garlic is not a native herb to Indonesia (it needs cold winter months to hibernate before its growth will be stimulated). Silly me! I then tried everything from mint, rosemary, potatoes, sweet potatoes (got stolen by a rat! URGH), onions, and even avocadoes.

I had a lot of fun, but no success except for the avocadoes. The avocado babies bloomed, and there were so many in our backyard that it inspired me to name avocado as the theme of our wedding in August 2020. But to be fair, it takes about 7 more years before I can judge whether the avocado is a success or a failure so I probably should just hold off my big mouth.

Composting

Bins filled with organic food waste and dried leaves.

One thing for sure that was a success was composting. Yes, we made soil!!! From our food waste during the lockdown! At first, we both thought oh god, we’re just collecting trash in the garden. Cung stared helplessly at his stone garden which was I was demolishing with pots and pots of organic trash.

Most of the gardening blogs I looked at suggested a composting recipe of “greens” and “browns”. Greens are the food waste. Browns are dried leaves. So the compost bin should not stink, and if it is smelling bad that means there are not enough dried leaves in it. Simple enough!

We started about mid-March 2020, and religiously composted our organic trash until it became a habit and we didn’t even think twice about it. Fast forward 1 year to March 2021. Cung decided to peek into the pots. For him, the sooner the better to get rid of the pots.

Ta-DA! We have SOIL. Life-giving, food growing, brown earthy stuff. With long, fat, slimy wormies-major sign of fertility! It’s a one-year miracle. I never “made” soil before and simply knowing that I finally gave something back to my planet and mother earth instead of just taking and defiling her made me feel so much better about myself.

Rolling up my sleeves, getting my hands dirty, and composting is the life.

That’s one of my special memories from the 2020-2021 lockdown. We composted through the pandemic 🙂

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With My Two Hands, a poem

With my two hands

I can cook a meal to feed my body and my loved ones.

I can massage away pain and give a short relief for aching muscles.

I can garden! Oh the Joy!

Create resources which I get to harvest myself!

With my two hands

I can make music, the very language of the universe.

I can write, immortalize my story.

With my two hands

I can make a difference

I can change my life.

Written 11 March 2021. For more of my poems, you can visit A Season of Poetry at the shop.

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Book Review: Where’d you go, Bernadette?

The first time I read Where’d You Go, Bernadette was several months before I met my first husband: Oky Kusprianto. Why, do you ask, is this important? BECAUSE BERNADETTE IS AN ARCHITECT! Many things happened in my life (like Oky suddenly dying), and I forgot about how much I loved this book until the Mad Tea Book Club was born. Several weeks ago I was doing some content planning with fellow co-founders Sherry from The Cozy Library and Krisandryka Wijaya. Our theme for March is women-themed books, so I remembered Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.

I re-read the book and it was every bit as hilarious and touching as the first time around. This time, the significance of Bernadette being an architect was highlighted because I also watched the film with Cung, my second husband. Cung is also an architect, by the way. The film version stars Cate Blanchett who was amazing as the genius and reclusive Bernadette Fox.

Synopsis

Two days before Christmas Break, Bernadette Fox disappears. She leaves behind Elgin Branch, a top officer at Microsoft, Balakrishna “Bee” Branch, their bright teenage daughter, and Ice Cream, the beloved family dog. The whole family was supposed to go on a holiday to Antarctica as a treat to Bee for her stellar grades in school.

The story is told mainly from Bee’s perspective, with heavy use of emails, texting, recorded phone communication, and also written letters. Bee shifts through all this material to try to find out exactly what happened to her mother.

I love this book because…

Me copying Bernadette Fox.

Maria Semple’s satiric style is absolutely a kick. Even the plot is satirical, although in an all too possible way in this digital age and time. Bee is a lovely girl, and it is her relationship with her mother that this whole book lies upon. At the heart of it is not a detective story, but a story of the incredible bond between a daughter and her mother, and how that relationship can look like in this modern era.

There is nothing I don’t like about this book. That should tell you something because I’m very, very picky with the books I read. I love Bernadette so much, I even started copying her fashion style!