Discover more from Why is this interesting?
The Monday Media Diet with Radit Mahindro
On hospitality, Catching Fire, and Dapur Bali Mula
I first stumbled upon Radit Mahindro (RM) writing on hospitality and architecture. I reached out and we became friends. He currently works for Aman in Bali, and also worked with our friends at Potato Head before that. We’re happy to have him on the page. Hope you had a nice festive season and are able to get some rest. -Colin (CJN)
Tell us about yourself.
I studied graphic design and my first formal job was a drawing teacher. I moved into the hospitality world more than 12 years working for brands like Regent, Fairmont, Alila, and Potato Head. I joined Aman as a consultant in 2020 and became a full time member in July 2021. I did consulting for non-hospitality projects for Space Available (a creative platform and ecological design studio founded by fellow ex-Potato Head Dan Mitchell), Begawan (farming, cultural learning, education, founded by the Debora and Bradley Gardner who established the Begawan Giri Estate in late 1990s - sold to COMO in 2004 and became COMO’s flagship resort COMO Shambhala Estate), etc. I’m currently preparing a book that chronicles the evolution of hotels (the building) and hospitality (the feeling and interaction) in Bali from 1930s until 2020s. The plan is to publish it next year.
Describe your media diet.
I consume media on mobile phone in the morning, and laptop in the evening. Morning is more to quickly read what’s happening. Evening is when I make up my mind and decide to read what’s actually interesting. I love reading Emergence Magazine, Atmos, and Futureworld, so much relatable stuff there. Stephen Mai launched Woo during the pandemic with wonderful content about well being (and about travel next year, he told me), and the website is amazing, really!
Sometimes I also listen to podcasts in the evening or when I’m driving. I follow Inspiring Futures by Ed Cotton, Unpacked by AFAR, Zane Lowe Show, and Sleeper podcasts. WeTransfer and Björk created a super interesting mini-podcast Sonic Symbolism.
What’s the last great book you read?
One day I was just wondering why I eat what I eat regularly: steamed rice, tempe (fermented soybeans), ayam goreng (fried chicken), etc - I guess this was overthinking because of lack of activities during the pandemic. I then went to the rice farms and learned about heritage rice farming for several months, which was a very interesting and sad experience at the same time. It took a lot of effort to just harvest a single grain of rice yet we are still doing it manually in many parts of the world, and in the other parts of the world we waste so much of it because of whatever reasons.
Meanwhile, just around the farms, ducks were wandering around picking up food (and probably fallen rice grains) on the soil, and cows were grazing leisurely, watching us humans trapped in an agonising cycle of a long and complicated process of producing something just to eventually put it in our mouth.
The distinctiveness of us, humans, as part of the animal kingdom, has been a subject of study by countless philosophers and scientists for ages. In Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Richard Wrangham, an anthropologist, proposes that the discovery of fire and cooking freed our human ancestors once and for all from an arboreal existence and led to a patriarchal social system / a sex-based division of certain social roles.
With fire, humans no longer had to sleep in the caves or on the trees to hide from predators and could transition to a completely terrestrial existence. With fire for cooking, many foods were made softer, less toxic, and easier to digest. We became physically and physiologically adapted to feeding on cooked foods, spending less time chewing and having more time doing things that are exclusive to our species: observing stars and mapping out seasons, creating arts, writing, building empires, establishing economic systems, inventing money, buying virtual products, etc.
Changes in the gastrointestinal tract allowing the bodies of early hominids to allocate more resources to energy-intensive brain growth and maintenance. And voila, homo sapiens is born with a bigger brain and ready to conquer the world!
What are you reading now?
I’ve been trying to find Java Style for a very long time and strangely found it brand new in a bookstore in Siem Reap International Airport. It’s an old book written by Peter Schobert together with art curator Soedarmadji Damais and photographer Tara Sosrowardoyo - both are Indonesians. First published in 1998, the book explains what is actually ‘Java Style’ in the context of architecture and space design. A style that is not simply drawing batik motifs on your cushions or putting an old gebyok (a heavily ornate teak wood gate, usually functions as room separator) in your hotel lobby, but more about the whole feeling of being in a familiar house or building in Java.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
I very rarely read physical publications now. When I do, I stop at anything with interesting visual (photography, illustration, layout, font, colour).
We are experimenting with running some weekly classifieds in WITI. If you’re interested in running an ad, you can purchase one through this form. If you buy this week, we’ll throw an extra week in for free on any ad. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop a line.
Exhibit B. Books: true crime told and sold Shop the 12 Days Of ExMas sale now
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a favourite writer, be it a book writer, magazine writer, online writer, or any kind of writer. However, I like reading interviews, and any interviews with Jonny Greenwood in it are always interesting. Thankfully, he is super productive in the past three years with scoring works for The Power of the Dog, Spencer, and Licorice Pizza, and with his new band The Smile.
He did some interesting interviews with The New Yorker, Variety, and NME last year explaining his orchestral works. His jazz-classical hybrid scoring for Spencer complements the anxiety of the protagonist very well, though it's not the typical classical music written for a Royal Family-inspired film. His minimalistic work for The Power of the Dog is even far away from most films about cowboys, but it just fits the intensity and the landscape of the film very well.
His interviews with The Guardian about classical music and his love of recorder is quite entertaining. And I remember he wrote something, years ago, about his admiration towards Indian and Qawwali Sufi music for the Evening Standard.
Obviously Jonny Greenwood is a gifted guitarist and generally a magnificent musician who can play a wide array of musical instruments from bass guitar, piano and keyboards, banjo, cello, viola, harmonica, harp, to arranging a 48-piece orchestra while also writing a music software / electronic music. He is both classic / analog and modern / high-tech at the same time. Beyond that, he always avoids the obvious in any projects he's working on. It seems like he sees himself as ‘a band member who loves to collaborate and contribute anything’ rather than merely ‘a guitarist in a rock band’, which is a huge difference.
I will always remember his saying in his interview for NPR Music: "It's not really about 'can I do my guitar part' now, it's more 'what will serve this song best? How do we not mess up this really good song?'. Part of the problem is Thom will sit at the piano and play a song like "Pyramid Song" and we're going to record it and how do we not make it worse, how do we make it better than him just playing it by himself, which is already usually quite great." I imagine if we bring this mindset to the tourism and hospitality world: it's not really about the visual aesthetics and physicality of the development (design, architecture, facilities), but what will serve the landscape, the culture, and the people of the destination best?
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
Timezone Converter. Why is it useful for me? Because: 1. Sometimes I have calls with colleagues from different time zones, 2. Basically I’m not a fan of apps and I switched-off all app notifications on my mobile phone except phone calls, 3. I don’t have a watch.
Plane or train?
For me, train is more romantic and inspiring, while plane is cold and robotic. I always think that the train is the result of our desire to move and transport things from one point to another (that is far away), while the plane is the embodiment of our ego to conquer the sky.
What is one place everyone should visit?
Dapur Bali Mula in North Bali (‘dapur’ means ‘kitchen, ‘mula’ means ‘beginning’). Dapur Bali Mula is owned and run by a priest Jero Mangku Dalem Suci Gede Yudiawan. Basically it is literally a kitchen, a Balinese traditional kitchen, which uses wood fire and clay stoves. Jero Mangku cooks as he likes based on what is available in the neighbourhood: ducks, urutan (Balinese sausage), pork ribs, fish sate (skewer), etc, all are Balinese cuisine. So the food is always changing, but there is no real menu and no price. Guests are asked to pay whatever they think appropriate for the food and drinks they consumed. He's happy spending time with guests, giving a tour around his kitchen and arak (Balinese traditional spirits) distillery, demonstrating his cooking skills, telling stories of Balinese culture, or simply talking about daily life in North Bali. For me this is true hospitality.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.
Wikipedia and Wayback Machine are my all time ultimate rabbit holes. I usually branch out from there to other websites, online forums, YouTube videos, and actual books. The subject revolves around comparative mythology, hospitality and travel, art and design, pop culture, and music. Recently it's been more about holistic conscious lifestyle from the perspective of both indigenous and modern culture.
Indigenous people have been practicing all those things for ages: they took from nature what they needed, not what they wanted. They asked Mother Nature for permission to slaughter animals (even asking permission from the animals themselves before performing the cut), cooked it over fire, shared it with family and friends, and left nothing but the bones to naturally reunite with the earth. Houses and buildings were built around nature using found natural materials, measured by priests who can 'read' nature and human scale. The arts were produced as genuine expressions, not to impress museums and art galleries. Sometimes food can be art too, offered to the spirits of the ancestors, or given back to nature as symbols of gratitude. Music was occasionally therapeutic but often brought people together while enjoying the food and the unpolluted evening sky. Transporting food was always eco-friendly, be it using leaves to wrap the food or preserving it using salt and stones. And death marked our return to the 'source', not the mournful end of life.
I find it odd that sustainability, mindfulness, conscious eating, and ecology in general are becoming global buzzwords and trends just recently. Some of us are riding this for branding and marketing, some others prefer to just learn and practice this wisdom directly from the indigenous people. But all in all it's good that people are more aware about this.
There is one Navajo phrase that I like, 'baa shił hózhǫ́', it is roughly translated in English as 'about it, with me, things are beautiful', referring to a balanced human connections with nature, animals, things we consume, and all interconnected elements in life. In Java, a comparable phrase is 'memayu hayuning bawana', which means 'the cosmos (microcosmos / inner soul and macrocosmos / the physical universe) is beautiful, but we shall make it even more beautiful', referring to our purpose in life. (RM)
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Radit (RM)
Why is this interesting? is a daily email from Noah Brier & Colin Nagy (and friends!) about interesting things. If you’ve enjoyed this edition, please consider forwarding it to a friend. If you’re reading it for the first time, consider subscribing.