Last night, the dream was not quite intense, but interesting in the blatant view that it obviously reflected my questions on personal branding, popularity and critique.

The Paper

In a foyer of a microcinema filled with film enthusiasts and who’s who in arts circle, a colleague warmly greeted me, and then politely asked me have I ever thought of working on non-commercial writing projects. I wanted to explain her that indeed I have laid out such plan in the near future, but she seemed to be satisfied with a short positive answer, then continued by saying that the reason behind her question was because she just read someting appalling written about me in today’s paper. She handed me the paper, and then left me to read it in piece.

It was a national paper that in real life was published in Indonesian, but in my dream it was English. The article was written by a young man whom I suspected have been making his name on social media. The style of language was vulgar. He exposed my lifestyle that included sleeping with many men, and how it somehow correlated with my works as a scriptwriter. He claimed that my works were of completely bad taste. The article was one-third of a page, and there was no single information there supported with facts and data. As many self-proclaimed writers who have made their names in social media, the concept of research and collecting reliable information seemed like too much of a hassle for them.

I quite remember vividly how I felt in my dream as I read that piece. (I find it very interesting that in our dreams we actually feel something.) In real life, since the very first time I wrote for TV series in 2002 I had already seen what would come – such bashing it was. I had been well prepared and I had anticipated it rather lightly. So, what I felt in my dream last night was exactly the same with what I felt in real life every time the movies that I wrote got reviewed in print or social media: I felt the attack was childish and ignorable, even a subject to mockery.

The Three

The dream continued with three of my female friends approached me in turns just to say hi, and I told them briefly what I was just reading. I found that these three friends that appeared in my dreams, clearly straight from the outer layer of my subconsciousness, very interesting to talk about.

The first one was a fellow scriptwriter and script editor. In real life we were in the same writing workshops together. She does no small talks. She says things bluntly. She is mean, honest, truthful, and very smart. She will show it clearly without any resentment if she likes or dislikes something. I rarely meet her. We keep in touch only for work-related issues, which was almost never because we have never been in a lasting project together. But, she is one of the persons that I can really trust.

The second one was actually a friend that I just met less than two years ago. She studied something related with arts, media and journalism. She is now an art curator. We are in the same circle. She and I have been in several projects together. She is full of smile, and some of the smiles might be drawn in the name of politeness. However, she is also someone who talks honestly. Unlike the first friend I mentioned above, she shies away from confrontation. She likes to encourage people, enjoys nurturing talents, and she does it all wholeheartedly.

The third one was one of my business partners and longest friend. I have known her for around fifteen years. Ever since the first time we met I knew that we clicked. She is vibrant, very smart, strongly opinionated, blunt, straightforward, analytical, a quick and efficient decision maker, and now a model wife and mother. She is someone whose critiques mean a lot to me.

It was interesting that these people appeared in my dream. They all delivered similar reaction upon knowing about that poor article about me in the paper. The first one just delivered a sarcastic joke on me about it (and I love people who know how to make a sarcastic joke about me!), the second one enthusiastically read every word to also try to understand that the writer was aiming, and the third one just laughed and did not care to read such a trash as she knew very well that I would be just fine reading bad things about me in a national paper.

The Support

As I woke up from the dream I got reminded that indeed I was actually a wee bit anxious about my plan to reinvent myself next year. I have been asking about it to two friends of mine who understand a thing or two about personal branding, and have been deeply thinking about their suggestions. I am pretty sure my reputation is far from spotless, but that is not the thing that I worry much. My anxiety is more towards whether this plan will work; not to make me look better, as I do not believe in “better” or “worse”, but to make me look different as I will be charted towards a different direction.

I think the dream was the media that my subconsciousness used to convey an encouragement. In the worst case scenario where my name could be tarred and feathered in public my subconsciousness recalled that I would, one, be nonchalant about it, and two, have a small and strong support system to back me up. It was very interesting how my subconsciousness opted to represent that support system with three female friends.

Yeah, that was a dream really worth recording here.

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Crime and Almost Punishment

In my dream last night I was a high school student, somehow wearing the uniforms like a Thai student: oversized white shirts, knee-length blue shorts, white socks and black sneakers. (Indonesian senior high schoolers wear long grey pants.) I belonged to a gang of brighties in the school – much like in my real life during the second and third junior years, and that was almost thirty years ago.

In my last night dream, though, my gang did something much more exciting. We were in the middle of a heist as the dream started. I guess there were about ten of us. There was a leader, and I couldn’t recognize that leader; I guess he did not relate to any real friends that I have in real life. But I remember he was handsome, charming, and brave. I think he was a Julian. I am referring to Enid Blyton’s Julian from Famous Five series.

This Leader and I were close. He favored me because I did not talk much, but I did my tasks right. Another particular member in the gang was someone the Leader did not like so much because he was a kinda fool who messed up things so he always ended up doing only trivial stuff. I was glad I was not that person. The Leader always counted him last.

The object of our heist was a stack of government bonds worth some millions (I guess, because I did not understand much about government bonds). We have succeeded in our heist and got back to our school building where we distributed our shares. After I got mine I quickly walked out of school casually. It was around five in the evening and the sun was preparing its way down west. As I walked out of school I had already got a feeling that some government agents were actually tailing us, and we would be caught eventually. I did not dismiss that intuition, I accepted it, but I did nothing. My conscience was well adjusted with such eventuality, much like Raskolnikov’s.

I went home where I lived with a sister – but not my real life sister. I could not recall the face of this sister and her husband. But they were a nice and loving couple. They were not there when I went home, but I knew that they would be in an hour or two. So I spent time flirting with some boys near my house. There were one boy that I always had my eyes on but he always hung around with his two other friends so it was quite hard for me to advance my moves. That evening I actually had a good chance of scoring him as he also gave a positive signal. Too bad it was the time when I heard some movements in the house. My sister and brother-in-law had come and they were going through closets in my bedroom. They must have been informed by the police that I was in some kind of trouble.

I entered my room, and the sister and brother-in-law looked at me, troubled and full of disbelief. Apparently in that dream universe I was known as a good boy with no slight chance of ever committing a crime. I replied with quiet yes-I-did-that look. I took out my share of the government bonds from the pocket of my white high school shirt and let them saw them.

The next thing I knew I was already sent to a prison. I was then put in line with my fellow gang members. We were queuing to have our hair cut and shaved. When it was my turn, I smiled to the officer who would by prison barber. My hair style was always semi-bald, so I casually told him, “Well, mine wouldn’t be much work for ya’.” He welcomed that joke with a friendly smile.

Lucids in the Sky with Diamonds

That was the time in my dream where my mind made a conscious decision. “Ah, no I don’t want to experience this dream any further. Prison life would be nasty. OK, time to leave this dream and get back to reality.” Thus, I forced myself to wake up.

Was it count as a lucid dream? I cannot be sure. I have not had a chance to read Freud thus I have no confidence to talk about dreams. But I have just finished Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and Homo Deus – two awesome books that I devoured in a week. Harari said that we are now losing our ability to dream;

In addition to smelling and paying attention, we have also been losing our ability to dream. Many cultures believed that what people see and do in their dreams is no less important than what they see and do while awake. Hence people actively developed their ability to dream, to remember dreams and even to control their actions in the dream world, which is known as ‘lucid dreaming’. Experts in lucid dreaming could move about the dream world at will, and claimed they could even travel to higher planes of existence and meet visitors in other worlds. The modern world, in contrast, dismissed dreams as subconscious messages at best, and mental garbage at worst.

Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus

I guess I have experienced lucid dreams more than a couple of times where at the very least I could call “Cut!” when the scene were going to an unpleasing direction. At least three times I have also intentionally woke up from a nasty dream, then quickly submerged my consciousness back to the dream world, placed myself in the previous scenes, and made better choices to have a better ending of the dream. Sadly, I took those expriences for granted and never recorded them.

Last night dream was quite beautiful. I guess it reflected a lot about my complex morality; my crime, my sexual desire, and my acceptance of eventuality. I also loved the prominent characters in the heist dream; the Leader, the Fool, the Sister, and the I.

At the very least, the dream reflected the books I have just recently read; Harari’s and Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

I wish to collect more stories and reflection by noting down my dreams, lucid or not. I suspect recollecting dreams will train myself to atune to dream world. I believe there will be more government bonds and even diamonds to harvest.

Note to Self: Do further research and read Freud. (Oh, and should there be fateful readers who come across this entry and have a say about dreams and lucid dreams, please flood the comment section – much thanks!)

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The Lady and Her Espresso

I was enjoying my V60-ed Rwandan coffee and a copy of Penguin Classic book when a sixty-something lady stepped into the coffee shop carrying her beaten iPad. I had frequented this specialty coffee shop for the last year and had never seen this lady before. She looked kind of lost. She picked a comfortable seat, and a quick moment later realised that there would be no waiter to approach her. In this small coffee shop every customer simply had to approach the bar and place their order directly to the barista.

So she took two steps to the bar, bewildered with the chalk scribblings coffee drinks menu displayed at the back wall. She asked for a menu book instead and studied it behind a pair of thick glasses. After a long while trying to understand what had been written there in small letters she decided to go for the espresso.

A lone, sixty-something lady ordering a shot of espresso is not a common sight in Jakarta – a city where the previous generation is still wondering what in the world is “third wave coffee”. The unlikeliness of the scenes unfolding before me triggered my curiosity, and I started observing it closer from my quiet and comfortable corner.

As the barista handed her the demitasse cup of espresso, a sense of amusement came to her eyes; the sense of wondering was palpable as she tried to figure out what was in that very small volume of coffee beverage. Yet, she was polite enough to not say anything.

She sat and tried to sip the coffee. Predictably, she quickly asked for sugar. The barista did not hesitate to help her adding sugar to the supposedly already sweet – by the standard of a coffee snob, of course! – cup of coffee. She tried taking another sip, and immediately asked, “More sugar, please!”

I am pretty sure that most specialty coffee enthusiasts and connoisseurs would frown and mentally judge the old lady for being “uncivilized” and “uncool” with her repeated requests of sugar. Obviously, I was guilty of delivering that judgment myself too.

The old lady smiled as the coffee became as sweet as she liked it. She was happy. I was relieved that the coffee blasphemy scene was finally over though my disapproval on how she treated her espresso was still intact. It was her next statement to the barista that gave me the hardest nudge.

“I wonder why my son always drinks espresso with no sugar.”

It was then I realised what that old lady was actually doing in that coffee shop.

No, she wasn’t there for the free wifi. No, she wasn’t there to take pictures to parade on her Instagram account. And, no, she definitely wasn’t there for the espresso.

There she was, a lady from the previous, analog generation, trying to keep up in the digital era with her old iPad. Her son was probably already in his early thirties; someone who had built a career somewhere, and probably was quite successful. Someone who went from one coffee shop to another. Someone who might be thinking to quit his job to open his own coffee shop. Or, at least, someone who had been taking this new trend of third-wave coffee rather too enthusiastically. Someone whom this old lady is trying to understand and to connect.

So there she was, stranded in a small coffee shop that to her might as well be another planet, trying to understand her son as much as she tried to understand the iPad she was holding for no further purpose than chatting on WhatsApp in bigger screen with bigger font size.

There she was, an old lady trying to reconnect with his son, trying to stay relevant in his son’s life. It did not matter what the espresso tasted like. What mattered to her is to relate to her son and his lifestyle.

The old lady’s voice woke me from my thoughts. She handed her iPad to the barista, and said, “Please take a picture of me and my espresso. I want to send it to my son.”

Dear specialty coffee shops,

Every customer who walks into your place has a story. Let them pour sugar on the precious espresso that you have geeked yourself out for. Let them order iced lychee tea and ignore your urge to sell them Panama gesha. Let them use your wifi and isolate themselves from your enthusiastic coffee stories. You never actually know where they came from, what they have been through, and why they are there.

Editor: Dianthus Saputra

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The Nine Kisses
The Ten Commandments of a Coffee Connoisseur

NOTE: Best read with an attitude of an Italian mob boss.

Yegor, listen to me, Yegor. Don’t you frown your face and think of me like making you my dog. Listen. I not push you around, Yegor. You got your freedom, you do what you wanna do. You got your freedom to choose. You’re my man, Yegor. Not my dog. You have what they call … “free will”.

But why you use that “free will” to make me sad, Yegor? You not following my rules. You disrespecting me. You not paying your dues. You making me lose my face in front of everybody.

So what you give me is no choice but to let my dog Diablo get you. Men who not please me, who not worship me, who not talk good things about me – I send them to Diablo.

You see, Yegor? No, I no pushing you around. You just got to make a decision. Make a conscious decision to make me happy. If you just make me happy because I ask you to then I won’t be happy because I can see that your heart is not true. I save you from the street so that you make me happy, Yegor. Make me happy with your true heart. It must come from you yourself. Your “free will”.

You see my son? My only son? I gave him as good, good example. I told him to come to you, to act like he no son of mine, then to become scapegoat, so that you all can put all the blame on him, and I see him as a mistake, and I send him to Diablo too. Because I wanna show you that I am fair, I am just, I am the boss.

Different is, my son can beat Diablo. Can escape from Diablo’s turf. No, he don’t kill Diablo. He cannot kill my man nor my top dog. But he beat him to pulp.

Now my son, my only son, sit right next to me.

Are you my son, Yegor? You believe you can beat Diablo? What is making you believe you can do what you want in this world I created?

You have your freedom from me, Yegor. Use it wisely. Use it to make me happy. And I make sure your business is secure and nobody giving you trouble.

I love you, Yegor. As long as you please me with all your heart.

Something like this:
Conversations with the Gatekeeper
A Conversation with the Gatekeeper
Caged Bunnies

You didn’t ask to be born. Your parents decided. (Or, in some cases, you’re an accident. Fine.)

You were born with free will. Your parents – if they’re properly educated – knew it.

As soon as you are mature enough – and I’ll say it’s 6-7 years old – you are geared to use your free will as much as you want.

What you want is above what your parents think you need.

You don’t belong to your parents. It doesn’t mean a thing if they think so and dictate what should you be, which idiotic religion you should or shouldn’t follow, or with whom you should have sex.

Once your parents do not show concern on your personal happiness then they have failed. You don’t need them. You don’t owe them a thing. (Remember: you did not ask to be born.)

There is no durhaka (“insubordination”, or many times interpreted as “rebellious towards parents”). There are only wrong decisions you’ll be responsible of, and great ones you’ll be proud of.

Something like this:
A Conversation with the Gatekeeper
Conversations with the Gatekeeper
The Rules of the Game


“She’s a pretty looking girl, don’t you think so?” Atreyu Moniaga asked about the picture above. “But, can you also feel the insecurity in her eyes? And how she covered her body? She is actually a friend of mine who, in her real life, has a severe body issue. And her insecurity connects to us. Because maybe we have insecurity issues in other areas, too.”

From May 25 until June 25 the many faces of pain are displayed in Qubicle Center, Jl. Senopati 79, South Jakarta. Atreyu Moniaga’s solo exhibition showcases stories that are very personal to him, represented in his photography artworks. The exhibition is curated by Jhosephine Tanuwidjaja who separated Moniaga’s artworks in three chambers.


The first chamber represents the denying stage where uncertainty and awkwardness dominate each frame. The second chamber is the acknowledgement stage where emotions burst and angst freely expressed. The final chamber is the recovery stage where the individuals try their best to untangle their conflict, and even get to a reborn phase. And, finally, an image formed by nine 60×60 cm canvases portrays a coming-of-age boy with stronger confidence.


PULIH – or “road to recovery” – is Atreyu Moniaga’s first solo photography exhibition. He has made his marks as an illustrator by showcasing his works in several solo and group exhibitions. He has collaborated with famed fashion designer Sebastian Gunawan for Melange des Sans collection in 2014. This visual artist has also made an acting career. He playead a leading role in The Fox Exploits the Tiger’s Might that was in Semaine de la critique competition in Cannes Film Festival 2015, and won Best Short Film in Indonesian Film Festival 2015.

BLIXT and Other Projects

The postgraduate student of Jakarta Institute of Arts is also a lecturer in a university in North Jakarta. He actively holds exhibitions outside campus for his selected college students, and recently initiates Atreyu Moniaga Project to further nurture and grow young artistic talents.




The Gatekeeper has this lovely job of waiting the gate that will bring the souls of the dead to the afterlife.

Dead Pious: So, Gatekeeper. You must be the one who is keeping the balance between my good deeds and – well – the things I did unintentionally.
The Gatekeeper: You’re definitely not the first one to think so, and – yes – you might think that way according to your belief, or religion. You want to know how is your performance during your life?
Dead Pious: I surely do.
The Gatekeeper: I can say that out of ten things you’ve done in all your life nine of them were praise-worthy. If their weight were measured, your good deeds and unselfish acts of charity will be around ninety kilograms, while your wrongdoings will be no more than a few hundred grams.
Dead Pious: Ha! So I will get to Heaven, right?
The Gatekeeper: Well, the thing is, there is no gravity here. We do not measure or scale your deeds.
Dead Pious: What? So?
The Gatekeeper: Whoever told you that your good deeds in your life will have any value here must be the stupidest and most moronic persons ever lived. No. Any of your deeds have no afterlife value. They are nothing. Even if you’ve raised a hundred orphans – no. It’s nothing. You’re dead now. None of them matters anymore.

Dead Martyr: They promised me Heaven if I blew myself in a shopping mall.
The Gatekeeper: Yeah, it’s like they promised that you would shit gold. Na’ah. Ain’t gonna happen.

Dead Recycle: So, what am I gonna be next? I’ve meditated in total silence for the last fifteen years in my life. I’m gonna be a dragon? Or, stars in the sky?
The Gatekeeper: Naaah. You’ve done nothing, so you’ll be nothing. Go on.
Dead Recycle: But, but, if I had done anything then it would be nothing to. So, what was the point of my existence?
The Gatekeeper: What made you think it had a point? You were just an accident.

Dead Sunday: Is my Savior your Big Boss? I am His disciple. I lived in and by His name. I will get to Heaven and rule with Him, right?
The Gatekeeper: Do I look like someone who works for a boss?
Dead Sunday: But, but, but … I’ve made so many other souls to believe in my Savior as well.
The Gatekeeper: Yeah. Stupidity is the main commodity in multi level marketing.

A Conversation with The Gatekeeper
The Rules of the Game
Caged Bunnies