Monday, May 22, 2017

Shooting ourselves in the foot again (and again!)

Biro Tatanegara (or the National Indoctrination Bureau) was established in 1974 during Tun Razak's tenure. But it took around ten years to evolve into the sinister operation that has been getting a load of negative publicity in recent days.

The fact that BTN is an adjunct of the Prime Minister's Department makes it a convenient mechanism for the systematic dissemination of the official doctrine throughout the rank and file of the civil and diplomatic services. BTN also ensures that the academic bureaucracy adheres to Umno's official doctrine of Ketuanan Melayu and loyalty to the government.

Some who have been processed through the BTN experience and survived with their minds intact and independent report that the BTN's agenda is insidiously racist and deliberately divisive. Unthinking conformity is what the Biro Tatanegara is really all about.

The desire to imprint the rulers' ideology on all subjects is a hallmark of every patriarchal society. After all, the words "pattern" and "paternal" share the same etymology, namely, issuing from the Pater or Father.

And isn't it true that every Father wants his children to be, above all, obedient? The Old Testament - specifically, Genesis - portrays disobedience as the Original Sin.

Fast-forward to the Digital Era where being at the cutting edge requires thinking out of the box, an adventurous and innovative spirit, and a willingness to break the rules.

Where do our BTN graduates stand in the 21st century world of instant communications and nanotech? You can invest billions in an artificial city called Cyberjaya - but, unless you import all the talent, you're not going to find many innovators emerging from local institutes of learning.

In the first place, genuflecting before your social superiors is hardly conducive to nurturing creative genius. Don't forget Tuan is a contraction of Tuhan - and a culture that compels an individual to submit to God will always extend that compulsion to submitting before God's representatives on Earth, namely the Monarchs. And, by extension, their ministers.

Talented and inspired brainiacs like Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple Computers), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (founders of Google), and Mark Zuckerberg (originator of Facebook) aren't the type who can handle too much protocol - unless you're referring to computer protocols.

Indeed, a distinguishing feature of cybernetic wizards is their disdain for red-tape and formality. Imagine the fun the pioneers of IT had naming everything from scratch. How did they come up with "mouse" for the device with which you navigate the screen? Or a name like Yahoo! for an all-purpose portal?

Let's say you're the Sultan of Selangor and you're accustomed to being addressed formally as Duli Yang Maha Mulia Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Al-Haj ibni Almarhum Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Al-Haj (best to leave out the interminable list of honorary titles).

So what happens when the Sultan becomes IT savvy and buys himself a Macbook? He's going to be using email and you can't possibly have such an unwieldy name in your email address. He could shorten it to or perhaps even - and in so doing he would be dispensing with cumbersome formality. In all probability, he would write in normal language when sending emails to his buddies, instead of adhering to traditional court language. Indeed, if he were to try his hand at internet chat, he'd probably want to conceal his royal status with a funky nick like "nicerichboy" or "hrh1."

This is what happens when human consciousness shifts from analog to digital mode. Traditionalists may scorn the way kids today have murdered language by coming up with SMS terms like :-) or LOL or 2moro or CU. But you have to admit there's a certain appeal in adopting newfangled computer symbols like @ or signing off with an ASCII heart, or adding some #hashtags to every post - and, as these new memes spread like some species of computer virus, the near-lightspeed movement of binary codes and pixels across the planet's fiber-optic highways swiftly creates a far more egalitarian social template than any theory of human evolution could ever have predicted. That's why I always ROTFLMAO whenever I hear potato-headed politicians like the education and communications ministers urging Malaysians to be "more innovative" and to prepare themselves for the rapid shift to "a knowledge-based economy."

You guys wouldn't recognize a creative genius even if one snuck up and poked you playfully in the butt. I bet you didn't realize a lot of creative geniuses look just like that troublemaker Namewee @ Wee Meng Chee whose citizenship you once wanted to revoke because he "insulted" the national anthem (as though a song could possibly be offended by some 23-year-old rapper doing an off-the-wall cover version of it).

Well, if that's what you really want, you're really gonna regret it when you finally get it. Do you know why? Because no creative genius will give a fuck how much you paid for your silk ties nor will they be too impressed by all the guff that issues from your political mouths. Keep the population dumb and conformist with your goddam BTN, if you wish to enjoy your VVIP status and your ridiculous robber baron perks. But don't you dare lament the fact that Malaysia has been left way behind every other country.

Up till now you've had it good siphoning off our collective wealth with all the natural resources the land has produced - and things got even sexier when oil was found off our coast. However, some say the oil reserves will be depleted within a few years - or the unexpected will happen and oil prices will plummet - and then how are you going to maintain your extravagant lifestyle? Revert to piracy and slave-trading?

[First published 28 November 2009, reposted 16 October 2013]

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Words of Wisdom and Folly ~ a pictorial

Then make them attend your workshop or subscribe to your e-bulletin.
Then you reach the end and discover it was a complete waste of time.
If nobody's looking, you're allowed to cheat.
Happiness is overrated anyhow... don't you think?
Yelling at people also helps, if you can afford it.
In fact, you can have lots of fun just hanging around them till they go crazy.
Or just keep quiet and let the damned fool step right into the open manhole.
Well, just ask for directions, silly.

[First posted 26 May 2012]

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dreaming about a Great Beast in captivity and what it might mean (repost)

I awoke this morning from a particularly vivid dream. Usually, I don't retain dreams for very long. By the time I've washed my face and put the kettle on, they have all evaporated. However, today was different. Even as I was munching on my breakfast and doing my routine email check, followed by a quick look at Malaysiakini headlines and dipping into facebook (which is akin to opening the window and looking out at the traffic along the streets), elements of the dream kept returning to the forefront of my awareness.

So I decided I would record the dream as best I can - even though 12 hours have elapsed and I've been to the pasar malam, bought dinner and two pairs of cheap pants, got caught in a heavy downpour, enjoyed a hearty meal - and now, with a cup of coffee cooling beside me, I'm finally ready to begin...

I was in an old mansion which required a wee bit of renovation and some additional fixtures. It felt like a place I had known since childhood - or in a different lifetime. I was showing somebody around - I don't remember who, but I felt relaxed and exhilarated, the way one might feel with a new romance that's just beginning to settle in comfortably. I recall making a mental note to fill in a few cracks in the marble steps leading towards the garden, and telling my companion: "Well, now that I've been bestowed immortality, this is as good a place as any to spend eternity in. I like it here and there's always something to do; I don't think I'll ever be bored."

As we were about to take a walk around the mansion, I was startled by a loud roar approaching from a short distance. What I saw when I turned around to look was an incredible sight: a red pick-up truck was gunning up the slope pulling a huge metal cart behind it, and on the cart was the hugest bear I had ever seen. It was absolutely gigantic and as the truck came closer I realized that the bear was monstrous in size compared to the truck. It was as big as a full-grown African elephant and it was growling in fury.

The colossal bear, which was reddish gold in color, suddenly leapt from its cart onto the roof of the pick-up truck, causing the driver to swerve wildly. The truck began spinning around in a deep puddle of mud until, finally, it found some traction and sped off into the distance, with the bear still growling ferociously.

What I felt was initially a slight tinge of anxiety - more for the safety of my companion than myself - followed by intense curiosity and the sort of excitement one invariably feels when a wild beast is sighted. Then I grew upset sensing the bear's anguish at being captured by what was apparently a poacher or game hunter who was transporting his catch to be shipped off somewhere - perhaps a circus or zoo. The bear was so spectacular and magical a creature, it was horrible to witness how it was being mistreated by humans.

I suddenly felt a deep sense of sorrow sweep over me, to think that humans could behave so cruelly and callously towards a fellow creature, especially such a magnificent specimen worthy of awe and admiration. There seemed to be nothing I could do to liberate the great beast and, suddenly, the thought of spending eternity in such a barbaric world no longer appealed to me.

Nevertheless, I felt uplifted and buoyant the rest of the day, knowing that immortality was now an option. But would I choose to live forever in a reality where such hideous insensitivity can occur?

Later I began reading up about the dream symbolism of bears and found this in a Huffington Post feature dated July 2011 where "dream expert" Barbara Condron had this to say:

In the 'Universal Language of Mind' - the pioneering study conducted at the School of Metaphysics for almost 40 years - the bear is noted in indigenous cultures that honor and live close to the Earth. The bear represents the power of the warrior, often heroic and often dual, being either awake or asleep. Dreaming about bears is fairly uncommon, even though many dreams do include animals. Wild animals, like bears, are more likely to occur in someone who feels they recently spoke out of turn, acted poorly or participated in some other event where they were "untamed."

Other interpretations of bears figuring in dreams include this:

Bears are symbols of calm, stoic strength. Bears also indicate a time of introspection. If you are dreaming of a bear sleeping or hibernating, this is a message to do a little soul searching before you present an idea to the world. If a bear is chasing you, this means you are avoiding a big issue in your life, and it is time to deal with it. If the bear is standing up, this is a sign you need to defend your beliefs.

Bear has imminent domain, and when it deems that space altered, it is fully prepared to defend. Woe be to the one who provokes the wrath of the bear. In this powerfully impressive display of defense and aggression we pick up bear meanings of sovereignty, courage and themes of the warrior. To wit, in Scandinavian legend the bear was an aspect of the god Odin, and Berserkers were known to wear bearskins to enhance their ferocity in battle. Such vicious looking warriors were ensured a victory. We see more bear-dressing in the cult following of Artemis. She is a Greek huntress, and her maiden devotees would don bear dressings as a symbol of hunting prowess and power.

Does that indicate that we are about to shift into full battle mode as Malaysia prepares for the Mother of All Elections - one that will determine the fate of unborn generations? I decided to delve deeper into the mythological significance of the Bear which belongs to the Ursidae family. The word "Ursa" comes from the Latin ursus, which means bear. According to Webster's Dictionary, the Anglo-Saxon word for bear (bera) is derived from the Latin word fera meaning "wild beast" - but Wikipedia maintains that bera derives from a Germanic word meaning "brown."

Druid King Arthur Pendragon conducts
a solstice ceremony at Stonehenge
Brown, Bruno, Brawn, Bran (incidentally the name of a Celtic deity)... Interestingly, the name "Arthur" comes from the Celtic arth, related to "Ursus" - namely, "bear." From the Wikipedia entry on King Arthur: "An alternative theory, which has gained only limited acceptance among professional scholars, derives the name Arthur from Arcturus, the brightest star in the constellation Boötes, near Ursa Major or the Great Bear."

Hmmm... Arcturus! Immediately I was reminded of the Arcturus-Antares Midway Station which I first came across in Surfers of the Zuvuya by José Argüelles, who explains it thus:

Arcturus/Antares Midway Station, located interdimensionally above the planetary midpoint between Jupiter and Maldek (Asteroid Belt). Also known as “the Mother Ship” the AA Midway station is the location of the particular unit of the Galactic Federation assigned to monitoring the star system Velatropa 24.3, scene of the final dramas of the Free Will experiment.

Velatropa, Velatropa sector – Name given by advanced intelligence to galactic sector where Earth’s star and its solar system are located; specifically, quarantined zone of the “free will experiment.”

Ah so! Dreams are absolutely wonderful, aren't they - especially when you can remember them and can be bothered to dig around a bit to see what buried meanings you might unearth.

[First posted 29 October 2012]

Friday, May 12, 2017

Portrait of a Malaysian Hero: Fan Yew Teng (1942-2010)

Fan Yew Teng in Cambridge, U.K., after a marathon land and sea journey through
India, Afghanistan, Iran and Yugoslavia to join his wife Noeleen (1975)

In December 2010 I was jolted by the news that Fan Yew Teng had succumbed to cancer in a Bangkok hospital. I hadn’t been in touch with the man since the mid-1980s, though I recall bumping into him a couple of times, either in theatre foyers or at public forums, but the last real conversation I had with Fan was perhaps when he commissioned me to do a campaign poster in 1984 for his Social Democratic Party which never saw the light of day, apparently because he couldn’t find a printer willing to do the job.

In retrospect the cartoons I did for the poster weren’t all that hot, but it was my first attempt at political cartooning and laid the groundwork for the drawings I did four years later for ADOI!

Fan Yew Teng, the public
intellectual, in 1980
Malaysians were terrified of Mahathir’s secret police – and for good reason. A certain amount of dissent was tolerated but whenever it cut too close to the bone or threatened to make an impact in the public psyche, the full force of the regime’s monolithic power would come into play, making life utterly miserable for anyone who dared speak truth to power openly.

Fan Yew Teng and Mahathir Mohamad are what you might call diametric opposites – not unlike Arthur Koestler’s Yogi and Commissar archetypes, the ultraviolet and infrared ends of the psycho-emotional spectrum. The Yogi, representing inner evolution, envisions a world where every single soul is enlightened, liberated and in a natural state of bliss; while the Commissar, representing external revolution, has wet dreams about lording it over a perfect mechanical anthill colony where every atom knows its proper place and nothing irregular goes unpunished.

The Yogi and Commissar polarity is more or less the same as the Christ-Caesar dichotomy. Is it possible for these polar opposites to align and merge? I would say it’s not only possible but absolute necessary if we are to survive as a tool-using species – however, the only way such a magical fusion can arise from the general confusion is if the Yogi or The Christ is accorded supreme and ultimate power, to be equitably shared with all strata of life and consciousness. What characterizes a true Yogi or Christ is the conscious renunciation of wielding power over others - and loving compassion for each and every expression of life, even apparent enemies.

The Commissar or Caesar types are what we might call younger souls - brash, ego-driven and reckless, but charged with a pragmatic dynamism that can and must be harnessed to loftier goals than crass power-over-others world domination. In the Pentagonian Hawk or Umno Warlord we see a classic example of Little Boys with Dangerous Toys whose playground brawls will inevitably bring about massive carnage and ruin.

Fan at a socialist convention in Paris, 1976
The Commissar or Caesar personality is a jealous, vengeful, spiteful, insecure and malicious Old Testament god who becomes utterly anal and aggressive when confronted with the prospect of having to share power. You can observe this behavior pattern among the Greek gods who were known to devour their own children rather than accept the possibility that one day their offspring will grow strong and take over.

Indeed, you don’t have to go so far back in time – only 18 years ago, Mahathir Mohamad did exactly that to his hand-picked successor Anwar Ibrahim. As usually happens when demented old gods devour their own progeny, the outcome is a gigantic bellyache, followed by violent convulsions, a great deal of vomiting and angry rivers of diarrhea destroying all that we deem decent and honorable.

Well, as one who embodied everything we deem “decent and honorable,” Fan quickly became marked as an “enemy of the state” – and the state took pains to crush Fan’s political aspirations and thwart his dream of an enlightened and liberated Malaysia.

Fan & Noeleen in Salzburg, Austria, 1976
Fan experienced this faceless form of bureaucratic intimidation repeatedly but remained defiant and undaunted. In the 1960s he became active in the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and took over editorship of The Educator, the union’s bulletin. He was among the organizers of the 1967 nation-wide teachers’ strike demanding fairer wages and benefits for this very important profession. The Ministry of Education tried to break his spirit and browbeat him into silence by transferring him to increasingly remote towns and villages. This only served to nudge Fan into full-time politics.

He joined the Democratic Action Party (DAP) in 1968 and was soon appointed Acting Secretary-General and editor of the party organ, The Rocket. In 1969, Fan was elected MP for Kampar and in 1974, for Menglembu. The home ministry used the archaic Sedition Act against Fan for publishing a speech by the Penang DAP Chairman. Although he was never formally disqualified as a Member of Parliament, Fan was deprived of his MP’s allowance, salary and even his pension.

Dynamic young editor of The Educator, bulletin of the National Union of Teachers, in the mid-1960s

Finding himself out of work with time on his hands in 1975, Fan withdrew his meager savings and embarked on an epic land and sea journey from Port Klang to join his wife Noeleen Heyzer in Cambridge via India, Afghanistan, Iran and Yugoslavia. Three years later Fan and Noeleen’s beautiful twin daughters, Lilianne and Pauline, were born.

In Cameron Highlands with twin girls Lilianne & Pauline, 1985
I remember Fan Yew Teng as an affable, contemplative, pipe-smoking man forced into politics by his own passion for noble ideals, social justice and democratic principles; but more so by his extraordinary compassion for all living things.

Fan, Noeleen & their girls in Bangkok

With Pauline in early 2010
Every time Fan came to visit he would invariably have a recently published book in hand as an offering. In the mid-1980s I wasn’t really attuned to local politics and found his books and socialist ideology a mite strident in style – but what he wrote about were certainly cogent issues and he was indeed prolific, churning out four books between 1988 and 1990: If We Love This Country, Oppressors and Apologists, The UMNO Drama: Power Struggles in Malaysia, and The Rape of Law. I believe his last book was published in 1999 – Anwar Saga: Malaysia on Trial. I would really love to get hold of these books, especially the last two titles, and I’m sure they are well worth re-issuing.

Anil Netto wrote a simple but profoundly moving introduction to the December 2010 issue of Aliran, which featured Fan Yew Teng on its cover:

With Lilianne, early 2010
Alas, how often do we only recognize true greatness in people after they are gone forever. Maybe we are destined to do this over and over again because it is only in the vacuum of loss that we can step back and grasp the full impact of a life lived to the full. How true – and even more so – that is in the case of the late Fan Yew Teng. During his memorial in Brickfields on 5 January, speaker after speaker peeled away so many layers of Fan’s multi-faceted personality. Politicians tried to straitjacket him but Fan refused to conform and crossed many real and artificial boundaries. He didn’t need the usual trappings of wealth and status to become a towering Malaysian. Unionist, political activist, dissident writer with his trusty typewriter, global citizen – Fan was well ahead of his time. Long before the Internet shrunk the world into a global village, he was already a global citizen campaigning against war and oppression around the world. Long before our era of climate change, Fan had embraced simplicity so that his carbon footprint was probably minimal. In fact, the environmental component of Fan’s Social Democratic Party manifesto in the 1980s was much more substantive than those of other contemporary parties.

Dr Kua Kia Soong
In a way, Fan has much in common with another cherished friend, Kua Kia Soong. Both perfectly fit the role of clear-minded, articulate public intellectuals lured into politics because they believed real change was possible, but only through dedicated involvement in the public arena.

Fan and Kua both found themselves joining the DAP – and both had personal issues with the party leadership, perhaps because they were first and foremost scholars and humanists, rather than streetfighters and demagogues - and both can be described as fiercely independent-minded individuals who can only toe any party line so far and no further.

Well, Fan Yew Teng has left us to take his place in the pantheon of cult heroes where he can hobnob with the likes of Martin Luther King, Che Guevara, Bob Marley, Rabindranath Tagore, Kahlil Gibran, Bertrand Russell, Frantz Fanon, Leo Tolstoy, and Teilhard de Chardin.

However, former ISA detainee Kua Kia Soong is alive and well and still actively involved in public affairs through the human rights NGO, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) and through his books - May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969, Questioning Arms Spending in Malaysia: From Altantuya to Zikorsky, Patriots and Pretenders - to name but a few recent ones.
In years to come Malaysians will gain some appreciation of what Fan Yew Teng contributed
to a higher quality of political consciousness

Fan’s widow, Noeleen Heyzer, continues to work through the UN empowering women around the region, while their gorgeous daughters Lilianne and Pauline – now grown into full-fledged incarnations of noble intellect, compassion, ethics and aesthetics – are poised to influence and shape the new world of freedom and joy that’s being born even as the ugly and abusive old world order crumbles.

Lilianne & Pauline: Fan Yew Teng and Noeleen's brilliant and beautiful genetic legacy

[First posted 7 December 2011, reposted 7 December 2013 & 13 May 2016. 
Fan Yew Teng family photos courtesy of Lilianne & Pauline]

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Basics of Magical Conjugation ~ A Handmade Manual of Sexual Yoga

This is a handmade booklet I created in 1973 as a wedding gift for my friend Lee Chang Song & his bride Sim. Only one copy exists... but I made a photocopy for my own archives & here it is, lovingly scanned & restored for posterity!

The faded & stained photocopy wasn't at all clear, so I couldn't really figure out the details.

The manual was egg-shaped & mostly hand-drawn.

I never got any feedback from the newlyweds, so I don't know if they found this advice helpful.

At 23 I had so much excess energy! 

The drawings are still pretty good, no? 

Hmmm... it would take more than drums to get me aroused these days.

I must admit I'm partial to oily sex.

This was probably lifted from a book by Vera Stanley Adler (but there was no space for credits).

Aleister Crowley had an insufferable ego - but he was never a tenth as evil & dangerous 
as he would have appeared to the sexually repressed Victorian psyche.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Do you know what it means to be "royal"?

It's obvious that the feudal era is long past its sell-by date. Only a benighted handful continue to believe in the divine right of kings to behave as they will - regardless of the rights and wrongs of their actions and how their misbehavior ultimately burdens the citizens and increases the level of darkness and disease in the realm.

Small but powerful cabals of politically connected players have learnt how to get hereditary monarchs to do their bidding and in so doing, have effectively tainted and corrupted what might once have been a revered and dignified institution. In the case of Malaysia, bureaucrats and politicians gleefully imitate the indulgent lifestyles and extravagant habits of their own tribal chiefs and ceremonial rulers, surreptitiously misappropriating the sultans' traditional power and status.

Chinese pictographs are sophisticated symbols with multidimensional meanings. Take the pictogram for wang or king (left): three horizontal strokes connected by a single vertical stroke. The bottom line depicts ti, the earth; the middle line is ren, humanity; and the topmost line is tien, heaven. The single vertical axis serves as a pillar that separates heaven from earth while holding them together and uniting them, in order that humanity may flourish. Therein lies the essential meaning of kingship. If the axis is bent or infirm, heaven and earth will be out of alignment and the kingdom will collapse in disarray.

Most traditional monarchies have long been disconnected from their mystical and spiritual origins - either through excessive inbreeding, inauspicious crossbreeding, or through usurpation of the ancient quasi-divine Anunnaki bloodlines by atavistic terrestrial modified primates, infected with mind viruses that fuel their petty ego drives and turn them increasingly cruel and ruthless.

In the last few thousand years of imperialistic wars, brutal massacres and general mayhem, most of the authentic bearers of the original "golden thread" prime genetic (characterized by its high content of monoatomic gold, the elixir of longevity and immortality) have gone underground or mixed genes with the plebeians.

But in the modern era, a new form of meritocratic aristocracy has arisen from the ashes of the debauched and decadent royal bloodlines of antiquity. You will often find them in the ranks of movie stars, pop kings and queens, rock gods, best-selling authors, box-office filmmakers, weavers of fantastic dreams - outstanding individuals blessed with charisma and artistic talent, or endowed with inventive genius.

Emperor Marcus XII
Watching Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on a live feed recently, I was struck by his resemblance to a young Roman emperor. Turning 33 this May, Zuckerberg exudes the confidence of a man twice his age - and who wouldn't be self-assured with an estimated net worth of nearly $64 billion?

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who gave the world a more efficient search engine, thereby facilitating easy access to information via the internet, come close to being as cash-rich as Zuckerberg. But they chose to dilute their personal stakes in the colossal corporation that grew out of their Stanford University dorm rooms, allowing sinister deep-state players convenient access to the massive databanks that constitute Google's primary resource.

Sergey Brin & Larry Page:
estimated combined net worth $75 billion
These youthful overachievers of the digital age may have no armies at their command - but they don't need them to wield enormous clout over the fate of the planet. Like Elon Musk who gave us PayPal, their visionary entrepreneurial skills have redefined what it means to be royalty in the 21st century.

Far more intelligent and street-savvy than all the monarchs of past ages put together, today's movers and shakers now find themselves in an unprecedented position to influence geopolitical trends. Given full authority to redesign and restructure the human-nature interface on a planetary scale, it's not impossible that they will embrace technology-assisted utopian ideals, and facilitate a quantum shift towards the realization of heaven on earth.

Unfortunately, the old guard stands in the way of rapid, radical change. The traditional keepers of the keys to earthly power, the warlords and usurers, are not quite ready to experience a monumental change of consciousness - and heart. They have yet to grasp the newfangled transformative idea of pronoia, which free-will astrologer-musician and poet Rob Brezsny has popularized as the antidote to paranoia. A pronoid human sees all of reality as a playground as well as a schoolhouse, set up to encourage and support our physical, mental and spiritual growth. The pronoid human experiences the entire universe as a benign conspiracy - a holographic construct that ultimately serves our own greatest good. Why so? Because each of us is a fractal of the whole, of the Unified Field of Consciousness, of All That Is (and Isn't).

Which makes us all divine humans, diabolical streak and all, entirely deserving of complete fulfillment, boundless joy, vitality, even immortality, should we so desire and deserve it. In short, the only authentic royalty is the sovereignty you reclaim for yourself, in the light of this initiation, when you awaken from your cultural trance and embrace your own eternal glory, power and kingdom (or queendom, if you happen to be a Freddie Mercury clone).

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

THE AQUARIUS PROJECT ~ a 30-minute alchemical docu-poem on WATER

In September 2003 a friend tipped me off that Discovery Channel was looking for 30-minute documentary ideas from untested filmmakers. He suggested I submit a brief outline and try my chances. Winning entries would be granted a production team and a $25,000 budget to realize the project. I just re-read this proposal from 9 years ago and decided it was worth preserving as a blogpost. Even with a $250,000 budget I no longer have the stamina to do stuff like this. But if any young filmmaker who chances upon this would like to pick up on it....

Preliminary outline

We are watery creatures living on the surface of a watery planet and are subject to lunar influences that generate a subtle emotional tide in our interactions with our environment.

Water is one of the five elements that constitute life as we know it.

No one can agree on what the fifth element is: the Chinese consider metal as the fifth element while Hindus say it is akasha, the ether. Recently, there has even been a suggestion that the fifth element is LOVE. But everyone accepts that Fire, Air, Water, and Earth are the elemental constituents of all life on this planet.

Fire is associated with Energy, represented in the Tarot deck by Wands and in the modern deck by Clubs. Air is Communication, represented by the Sword of Intellect in the Tarot and Spades in the secular deck. Earth is Material Wealth, represented as Pentacles in the Tarot and Diamonds in the modern deck.

Water is Emotion, represented by Cups and by Hearts.

Some astrologers say that on the vernal equinox of March 20, 2001, we finally entered the Age of Aquarius, symbolized by the Water-Bearer. Yet scientists have recently warned that water shortages may be a potential cause of violent conflict in the 21st century.

Water – in all its forms and moods and guises – is the main character of my proposed ‘alchemical docu-poem.’ Water in its literal and metaphorical aspects, as the source of life and the spring of our emotions: water is a liquid analogy for the entire gamut of feelings we experience – from mirthful playfulness to unmitigated rage, from transcendental serenity to violent agitation and profound sorrow. A few years ago I wrote a polemical tract which succinctly summarizes the poetic perspective I intend to translate into moving images and sounds:

Humility means acknowledging how little we know about the universe; and humility comes from realizing that nature’s beauty and mystery are worth infinitely more than our perverse obsession with illusory fame and fortune. Being able to breathe clean, fresh air and admire the distant hills every day may not get us into the Guinness Book of World Records or the Who's Who of the Banana Republics ‑ but it will certainly get us closer to regaining heaven on earth. So stop midway through this frantic and futile feast of fools and look up at the ethereal clouds in the sky, and remember why we chose to be born on this exquisite and unique gem of a planet.  Was it to puff ourselves up with toadish pompousness and amass a hoard of dragon's gold we could never bequeath to our grandchildren? Because our grandchildren would be too busy turning into cockroaches, rats and other lifeforms that can survive or even thrive in ugly and polluted environments.

Or did we come here to experience the separation of matter from spirit, and to learn how they can be harmoniously fused again? For this lesson would teach us that the outer reflects the inner.

Where there is drought in the external reality, it means our souls are parched of feelings, love has dried up. Where there are landslides and flash floods, it means our integrity is decaying and our emotions are murky and raging out of control, bursting the banks of tranquility. And where the air is thick with greasy crud and black with factory soot, it means our thoughts are indecent (i.e., mechanical, pornographic) and our spirit is exhausted.

The Aquarius Project will address the issue of modern technology indirectly, by demonstrating the intimate relationship between murky emotions and contaminated waterways. Humans and human activities play a supporting rôle in the fluid narrative which will favor the non‑verbal over the verbal ‑ although a certain amount of language will be used to help shape the form and intent of the flow. The sad state of human emotions in an industrialized landscape is revealed in our clogged and polluted streams, many of which have undergone the indignity of being turned into drains and sewers.

Only when absolutely needed will a voiceover be used. However, text will feature as an aural and visual element in the narrative, which will alternate between linearity and non‑linearity. This could happen as bits of spoken dialog, as recitations, as song, or as direct interviews with the poet-documentator and others.

I envisage working independently with a digital videocam as well as with a professional crew to achieve a balance between the intimacy and immediacy of an experimental short feature and the technical polish and authority of a conventional documentary. As a musician, I look forward to creating part of the soundtrack for specific sequences, and using library music and live sound for others.


  • Lots of generic water shots: cloud formations, dewdrops on leaves, cascading falls, ripples on lakes and ponds, reflections in puddles, slomo sequences of watery movement, torrential downpour, drizzle, dripping faucet, lawn sprinklers, bathroom showers, wet umbrellas, raincoats, flash floods, muddy rivulets, aquarium sequences, rolling breakers, shimmering seas, speedboat wakes, etc.
  • Whitewater rafters, kayakers, rubber‑tubers, waterskiers, fishermen, boaters, swimmers, kids in rivers, swimming pool sequences, bodysurfers, public urinals, sewage outlets, effluent pipes, drainpipes, monsoon drains, abandoned wells, gutters, stagnant ponds, poisoned streams, sanitation workers, laundrywomen, aquatic flora and fauna, pedestrians caught in thunderstorm, industrial carwash, glass & concrete urban gvs. 
  • Archival footage or stills of severe drought (Afghanistan), destructive floods (China, Bangladesh), famine (Biafra), pestilence (Kosovo, Cambodia), street riots (Indonesia), massacres (East Timor), massive catatastrophes (Kobe, Gujarat), destitution and suffering (Iraq, Sierra Leone), poverty and neglect (Chennai, Chow Kit).
  • General footage of industrial activity, environmental degradation, deforested hills, dust storms, physical and metaphysical desolation.
  • Celebrants and mourners: candid portraits of emoting humans (can either be original footage or culled from magazines, photo albums, libraries, etc.) 

My preferred approach to cooking is to select and prepare the ingredients, look up the recipes of a few tried‑and‑tested dishes ‑ and then leave it to inspiration (and the random factor) to integrate and synthesize the elements, trusting that my artistic instincts will unerringly guide me to making the right decisions. This could prove a chaotic and messy process, but having emerged from a commercial background where artistic self‑indulgence must always concede to entertaining, stimulating and captivating the audience ‑ and being, incidentally, a Capricornian with a hardwired sense of internal order ‑ I have full confidence that I can come up with an immensely watchable and memorable 26‑minute docu‑poem that's aesthetically more adventurous than the straightforward documentary, but still accessible to a mass audience.

I began using a box camera at the age of 6 or 7 and have been an avid photographer most of my life. In the 1970s I had the use of a Super 8 cinecamera and made several experimental home movies which, alas, have all succumbed to the ravages of climate and time. Although I have yet to own a digital videocam, I've handled them occasionally with wholly satisfactory results. I'd like to buy or borrow a decent digital videocam so that I can gather special footage unobtrusively and at my own leisure ‑ leaving the betacam sequences to more experienced professionals. As such, I'd like to be writer, co‑camera‑operator, editor and director on The Aquarius Project ‑ but would greatly appreciate the logistical support of a competent production house.

[First posted 10 August 2012]