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|The Certifiably Mad Book Review on Jakarta Inside Out|
(19-May-2003) | Readers Say
It is with extreme difficulty that I write this article without sounding overly enthusiastic and wanting to just tell you about it with a rush of euphoria in the deepest sense, but I'll admit it (and at the same time, warn you): I am absolutely insane about this book I just discovered called Jakarta Inside Out by Daniel Ziv. Mind you, anyone who knows of my obsession with Indonesia will understand my perfectly valid reason to drool and jump 10-storeys high over the mere mention of a book like this one. Therefore I shall bear no shame in telling you about how unnecessarily restless I was in getting my hands on a copy of this Godsend book. Let the adventure begin...
It started innocently enough; I stumbled upon the book title while surfing on Indonesia's QB World's website for some research before I began my writing my last article on Seno Gumira's dark comic book Jakarta 2039, in commeration of Indonesia's sorrowful May 1998. Like most bookstores, QB World was no different in tempting bookworms to purchase books based on what's most popular on their top-10 best sellers of the month, you know, illusive consumerism gimmicks like that. I believe that just because something's popular doesn't mean it's of high quality, I'm sure some people will agree with me. Or maybe not. Quality is, after all, a subjective matter of individual taste and preference. Like how some people's mouths will water to the idea of eating durian ice cream smothered in chocolate sauce, and some won't. You get the idea.
Anyway, Jakarta Inside Out was number 7 on this allegedly popular books list in this Indonesian bookstore franchise; the other book titles listed didn't quite make the cut to me as far as attractive naming conventions were concerned. Jakarta Inside Out sounded chic, retro yet simple. Most importantly, it sounded intriguing. I have always been fascinated with lifestyle in the Indonesian capital, having written about the many things I've seen and experienced during my travels to the country and dutifully putting them up on my website for other Indonesian enthusiasts to read. So surely a book entitled Jakarta Inside Out sounded like a promising addition to my humble collection of travel books plus a great topic to write about and put on my website, no? Oh, I had no idea how promising or how great!
Moving along, I read the brief description of JIO on QB's website; hmm, sounded interesting enough but I needed to know more. So I "Googled" Jakarta Inside Out and Daniel Ziv. Doing that brought me to Equinox Publishing (JIO's publishing company)'s website where there was an exclusive interview with Daniel Ziv himself, elaborating about his new book which he completed in September 2002.
Daniel only had to mention a few things to make me lift my chin up in divine interest: Indon mall and handphone culture, gorengan, nongkrong, creambath, late night street dining, waria (he-she) culture(!) and most importantly, teh botol! There were actually chapters on the mentioned subjects, stuff that most Jakartans do not think twice about. This was definitely exciting for me! The combination of topics was too great to resist; even though there were no pictures of Jakarta Inside Out on the Internet (other than the cover), I knew this was the book on Indonesia I had to own. It is one that seeks to uncover the daily routines of Jakarta life, told in a simple and yet humorous manner, from the perspective of a bewildered but appreciative outsider but yet with a hint of insider-ism.
At this point I sincerely believed that Jakarta Inside Out was going to be a most Delectable book.
By far, JIO sounded unlike the typically written-by-"Indonesianist" books whose focal points always seem to be the dark sides of hardcore Indonesian politics and corruption (although Daniel does touch on these inevitable subjects in a good-humored way since they are so intertwined with the simple notion of living in Indonesia). There is definitely no mention of Indonesian wayang kulit (shadow puppets - Daniel firmly assures you his book is officially shadow puppet-free!), apparently a source of humour for people who know that wayang kulits seem to be what every foreigner wants to buy, one to three hundred of them, as souvenirs.
Don't get me wrong, all those orang putih (English and written by foreigners) books you find written on Indonesia are good resources, but they're all geared for very extreme audiences: young naÔve surfer dudes looking for a book covering stokeful surfing spots on the beaches of Bali (maybe not anymore because of the Bali bombing) or geeky postgraduate students aiming for a Masters in Southeast Asian Studies who have to research on the Indonesian political unrest and studies on how to overcome the nation's atrocious International Monetary Funds debts (yawn).
My mission was clear now come Monday that week: must must must get Daniel Ziv's book. I almost forgot to go to work that morning because I was so darn excited. As soon as I got to work, I stole some working minutes to make some frantic phone calls to the MPH bookstores in town and actually enquired how many copies of Jakarta Inside Out they had in Klang Valley and where (the list went something like: 4 copies of JIO in MPH Midvalley Megamall, 2 copies in MPH Sunway Pyramid, 2 copies in MPH One Utama, a few in popular expatriate city spot Bangsar's MPH as well). I even told the book clerk to put JIO on hold for me, like there was ever a chance that a book on Indonesia (this is Malaysia, after all) would become the best seller and all copies of JIO would suddenly disappear from the shelves in one day, but hey! I wasn't willing to take chances.
After thundering down to Sunway Pyramid after work and nearly crashing into a divider in Puchong, I parked my car carelessly in the lot, panted my way into the MPH, hurriedly fished out RM70 and handed it over to one very confused looking guy manning the cash register who was possibly wondering why I was handing him cash for nothing. Oh wait, he has to get the book for me first, I was getting way ahead of myself. See what a most enticing book can do to one's sane actions and judgment?
Finally, a glorious copy of Jakarta Inside Out in my hands, aching to be opened! I swear I nearly snatched it out of the cashier's hands without saying thank you. But I didn't. I was nice. I took the plastic bag gently and murmured a thank you. After walking a few quick paces, I savagely ripped through the book's plastic packaging to savor the sweetness of what the pages were going to offer me. I sniffed the pages, ah, the smell of newly pressed books (well, sort of).
Certainly at this point I believe it would be an understatement to say I have long craved for a book on Indonesia like Daniel Ziv's.
Forget about finding travel maps, postcard-pretty pictures or goody-two-shoes descriptions of famous tourists spots; Jakarta Inside Out is the real raw deal on Indonesia's capital city. Alphabetically listed and vividly illustrated with the coolest photos you ever saw, snapped by some of Indonesia's talented photographers and some by Mr. Ziv himself, Daniel walks us through the various daily routines, practices and trends that make Jakarta the cool but complicated city that it is today with zany comments sometimes spiced up with comical criticisms. Heck, towards the end of the book he even has five suggestions to give to the governor of Jakarta on how to run things in the city, imagine that. The frankness this man exerts (*shudder*). Inspiring indeed.
So engrossed was I in reading JIO that due to constant page-flipping and the scorching hot weather that we're having in Malaysia right now (did you hear? Hot weather to continue till August - tolong!), I have officially worn the pages off the book cover from its melting gluey spine within less than a week of owning the book. Nothing "Elephant brand" super - oops, sorry - SUPA-glue couldn't fix of course. Thank you Mr. Elephant.
Ok, 'grandmother' stories aside, let us take a brief tour, shall we, of what I consider the best read on Indonesia that I've had all this while. I took the liberty of taking some pictures of the chapters that were to become my favorites from Jakarta Inside Out (but honestly I love them all). Mind you it was very hard to resist the temptation to put the entire book online because the book is just that darn cool. (Hi Daniel, I hope it's all right by you if I do this. More book sales for you, Mr. Ziv sir.)
Please Note: I've somewhat altered some of the following photos I took of Daniel Ziv's JIO by adding some silly dramatization to them (his books don't actually have those silly markings or speech bubbles I added). I hope Daniel or his publishing company does not find these alterations offensive or anything. Or else I am in big doodoo.
Metro Mini (pg. 96): I choked with laughter when I saw the picture taken for this Metro Mini chapter: There's no glass on the back window of the bus! Metro Minis of Jakarta make the now defunct madly driven and pink Bas Mini of Kuala Lumpur look like tame harmless kittens.
Salons & Creambath (pg. 124): Ladies, if you ever have girl friends in Jakarta, be prepared to be in a mess of tug-and-war with them as they pull your arms and argue as to who gets to take you to the next Creambath session (I should know, I nearly lost my arms in such catfights!) Daniel must have many Indonesian lady friends who like this rather stress-relieving form of head and hair massage. So good!
Demo (pg. 32): This is one very funny outlook on the practices of political demonstrations in Jakarta; apparently there is very sleazy business going on. In this hilarious chapter, Daniel points out that in three different demo photos taken at three completely different occasions at different times, one man with the same t-shirt (euw) is captured randomly on camera, hinting that the demonstrations are nothing more than organized charades!
Gorengan (pg. 56): This has got to be my most favorite picture in the entire book; the photo is of a man selling gorengan (fried stuff), taken from the perspective of a piece of gorengan sitting in the basket of other gorengans! How absolutely cool! Man, the gorengan stuff looks tempting doesn't it? Makes you suddenly crave for a piece of fried banana...
Macet (pg. 86): What indeed is Jakarta without its infamous macets or traffic jams! Look at that, 16 lane highways and the jams are just building up! (I think Malaysians should think twice before they start complaining about the jams we have in KL.) According to Daniel in JIO, on February 2, 2002 (02-02-02; a supposedly auspicious date to have weddings and functions for many Indons) the traffic jams in Jakarta were so massive and severe that wedding guests were stuck in it overnight!
Pengamen (pg. 106): I have written about my experiences with pengamens from time to time again. As annoying as they are, pengamens hold an inevitable presence in Jakarta's landscape of people; most are young folks trying to earn a living with their self-taught guitar strumming and singing, among many other questionable talents that they possess (Daniel Ziv thinks these buskers are musically challenged, though I personally think theyíre quite alright and they sing and play music well... sometimes). They can most commonly be seen at, but not limited to, traffic lights when they turn red; they come to your car window by the hoards.
Teh botol (pg. 140): Ah, the manís a darling for including a whole chapter on teh botol, the popular local tea drink that surpasses the sales of even Coke and Pepsi, and one of the reasons why I rave about Indonesia. Teh botol has grown to be one of my favorite thirst-quenchers. Itís truly my Indon friendsí fault that I constantly crave for it in the teh-botol-less land of Malaysia. (No I donít want the fruity Sosro teh-botols you can find in the 7-11s, I want the original teh botol, pure strong jasmine tea flavor in Coke-like glass bottles and all.) Can we build a teh botol factory here in PJ? Right next to my house?
Jakartans in Caricature (pg.161): These caricatures of typical Jakartans creatively drawn by Benny and Mice are literally a scream and to die for. Definitely one of my favorite parts of Zivís masterpiece (which part isnít?) There's a total of 8 caricatures for you to snicker at, including the society lady (ibu-ibu kaya yang seneng shopping), preman (Indonesian mafia-thugs complete with scar on eyebrow, weapons sold separately), mall babes (tight-fitting-and-panty-line-revealing pants and all!) and a political activist who looks like he badly needs a shower!
Don't even get me started on the cartoon of a pengamen dressed up, most horrifyingly, like a woman but with a noticable protruding bulge in his/her (its?) crotch area, as aptly pointed out by Daniel Ziv. (Have I mentioned the unshaven legs on this character?)
Now, don't you think that Jakarta Inside Out is a neat book? I'm proud to own it, it is a rare and fine jewel to my book collection. My other books are insanely jealous with their new "brother" JIO (because I spend so much time with it) and are plotting a demo against it by pushing it off my shelf:
(I also discovered the lighter with which they were planning to use to burn JIO up. Sheesh, where do books learn such abominable acts of terror, surely not from us humans.)
To conclude this review, I am going to build up your curiosity to, hopefully, a feverish frenzy with a table of contents from Daniel Ziv's Jakarta Inside Out (the subjects I circled in red are what I confidently believe Malaysia has in common with Indonesian local culture):
So, are you curious beyond repair now? Buy the book lah or steal a read at your local bookstore or something (careful, they wrap JIO up in a plastic sheeting, making inconspicious sneakpeeks rather tedious - you have to do your own cellophane tape picking there).
Go, I've pampered you with enough exquisite Ziv material already.
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You can purchase Jakarta Inside Out (ISBN: 979-95989-7-8, published by Equinox Publishing) from any established bookstore in town or from Amazon.com. In Malaysia the book price is RM70; in Indonesia it costs Rp.179.000, and in American dollars it's about $27.99.
|WHAT READERS SAY ABOUT The Certifiably Mad Book Review on Jakarta Inside Out:|
#18. FATAH: Saya jarang menulis sekarang sebab kesibukan sehari-harian. Insyaallah kalau ada waktu lapang dan inspirasi, saya akan terus menulis. Masih banyak yang belum tertulis tapi disimpan dalam otak saya.
Posted by Fairy - Website † on 21-Mar-2010, 18:15 MYT
#17. jadi pengen beli bukunya..btw fai..kenapa skrg jarang menulis di situs ini lagi?
#16. Go Baby !
#15. woooohhh,........... very cool
#14. If anyone is still undecided as to whether to buy Jakarta Inside Out or not, I'd highly recommend it. Even if I weren't a friend of Daniel's, I'd say it's a very entertaining, informative and thought-provoking read. As it is, it's personally gratifying to see the input I had (however miniscule) make it onto the final product.
#13. serius tak jumpa, blom ada chance pergi kino and borders jer, town pretty far for me hahahahahaa.
#11. RAF: How come you didnt find JIO? Have you checked all the major bookstores? Come on man, I thought Singapore had everything! Unless of course the book was so darn laku lah.
#10. went ard looking for the book on sunday, tak jumpa =\
#9. i've seen that book... pakabar sista fairy?
#8. btw, fai udah pernah coba liat buku yang judulnya "Jakarta Undercover" belom? buku ini juga mengulas tuntas tentang culture2 baru di Jakarta. Bedanya .. buku ini fokus sama hal2 yang sifatnya aga naughty, nakal atau malah terkadang illegal. And unlike Jakarta inside out, Most people won't relate to the content. Karena sebagian besar isinya adalah hal2 yang bersifat 'rahasia umum' di kalangan jetsetters & yuppies. Banyak lagi deh. Yang jelas lumayan menarik buat dibaca
#7. huahahaha FAIRY! you're the goddess! thank you bangettt buat review bukunya! Sekarang gue tau euphoria yang lo rasain pas baca review di equinox. Sama kaya yang gue rasain setelah baca review dari lo! hehehe .. must must must must buy nih.
#6. Well you don't have to be an Indon enthusiast to buy Jakarta Inside Out actually, ANYBODY could (and should!) read it, it's all about pop cultural enlightenment
#5. u know im not as fanatic abt indon as you, but theres one reason why am i gonna get that book uve just featured abt cause im a bloody bookworm and the way u wrote abt the book looks bloody interesting to be read abt!
#4. ..'jakarta inside out' huh!!..fai..to buy or not to buy..??..apa apa pun, new look ni mmg best..heheh thumbs up fairy..in fact your latest review on JIO tu mmg best..yang lain pun best jugak..nak kena beli ni..!!..u can bring fairy out of indonesia, but you cant bring indonesia out of fairy!
#3. Allo Fai..., asyik juga ide-mu buat nempatin random image di tiap header webpage-mu... pokoknya keren abis deh!! Apalagi fairy.mahdzan.com-ny a muncul di bajaj, di kaos, daftar menu, papan sign, etc.. funny juga (inspirasinya dari Jakarta Inside Out ya...).
#2. OMG, I have been graced with a visit from Daniel Ziv. *gasps* It is truly an honor!
#1. Hi Fairy!
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