Saturday, April 22, 2017


From a talk by Antares at the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia, 18 October 1992

I HAVE TEN MINUTES so let's dispense with formality. Now why am I standing here talking to you today? Who on earth am I anyway? Well, I'll tell you: I'm an essential part of you. I breathe the air you breathe. I'm connected to every living cell on this small planet. I've got billions of names (scientific as well as unscientific ones) but the one I'm using right now is Antares.

I've been around the Sun more than five dozen times. But my genetic memories go all the way back to what scientists call the Big Bang. What do I do? That's a very good question. Well, I breathe and eat and shit and move about like everybody else. But mostly I just think and dream and feel. And I'm amazed and amused by this phenomenon called Life.

Once in a while I get terribly depressed. Then I get angry and scold a few people and I feel all right again. In short, I'm not a specialist. I can see the woods as well as the trees.

Trees! You were probably wondering when I'd get round to talking about our rainforests. In a minute I'll mention them. But first let me finish telling you why I'm standing up here talking to you today.

I lived in Kuala Lumpur for 22 years, in the Ampang area. When I first moved there in 1970 the street in front of my house was so quiet I could rollerskate on it. Now it's lined with 26-storey condos and jammed with cars. So I decided to move to the hills, to a place called Magick River. Everywhere you look all you see is beauty.

Occasionally I go back to KL and when I happen to catch the 11 o'clock news on TV - I can't believe all that stuff is happening in the same Universe. War, famine, hurricanes, plane crashes, stockmarket crashes, oil spills, earthquakes, floods, massacres... there's been a lot of speculation about the Millennium, about the End of the World, the End of History.

Don't worry, it means a new cycle is starting. It's really up to us to shape it. How do we do that? With our thoughts, with our deeds, with our willingness to help in the healing process. But ultimately our Vision has to be centered in the heart - not just in the head. We have to think beyond national boundaries. Earth is one world. Our vision must become whole, holistic, holy - which means we must experience being part of the Whole. We can't depend on slogans, no matter how clever they sound.

But before anything constructive can be done, we need to overcome our own fears. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of change, fear of routine, fear of loss, fear of death, fear of trusting our own inner authority.

Okay, time to talk about trees. A few miles up and down the road from where I live you can see logging trails winding deep into the hills. Magnificent jungle giants being cut down and taken out to be turned into chopsticks for the Japanese. Why don't they learn to eat with their fingers like civilized people?

Now these concessions are adjacent to areas designated as Permanent Forest Reserves. It's a water catchment area, for heaven's sake. No wonder all the once-crystalline rivers now turn into kopi susu tarik (Malaysian capuccino) everytime it rains heavily.

One afternoon many years ago I rode my motorbike up a dirt track and found myself in a deserted logging camp. There was a huge pile of logs lying lifelessly about. Something snapped in my head. I saw it all so clearly: a few businessmen and politicians getting obscenely rich by plundering our rainforests - heedless of the catastrophic consequences to everyone else.

Toothpick factories where shady 300-year-old trees once stood. Assembly-line houses, condos and shopping malls sprouting everywhere. Sterile wastelands they call industrial parks. Sheer ugliness obliterating anything natural, anything truly beautiful. Dishonesty and greed and hardnosed cynicism in every boardroom of every corporation big enough to make a dent in reality. All of this came to a sudden focus in one astounding revelation.

These Umnoputra and Umnoputri with their logging concessions... why on earth are they so anxious to destroy a major watershed? To make big bucks of course and for what? To buy a big house and a couple of Porsches and a SUV with a mobile phone or two and then on weekends they can roar through the jungle armed with shotguns so they can shoot down a few wild mangos. I swear this actually happened in front of my house.

And their kids with baseball caps on their heads and Nikes on their feet... why, they just wanna be all-American Malaysians. That's what they grew up absorbing in front of their TV sets. And the most incredible thing is... these people form the ruling class. Good heavens, the world is in the wrong hands!

I'm not just talking about this country. I mean the whole goddamn world is in the wrong hands. It's in the hands of individuals who stubbornly insist that MIGHT IS RIGHT. And why shouldn't they. They're VERY POWERFUL PEOPLE. Or so they've managed to make a lot of us believe. Now how did it happen? How did our planet fall into the wrong hands? I think I know how it happened but I have only ten minutes, so you'll have to fill in a lot of blanks. I can only give you the barest outline of the story, so please pay close attention.

ONCE UPON A TIME (or perhaps an Eternity) the only One who owned anything at all was that entity some of us call God or Wakan Tanka or Great Spirit. Only problem was, there was NOTHING to own since the Supreme Being existed solely in Its Own Imagination. Never underestimate the power of the Imagination.

Anyway at some unimaginable point the Wholly One became aware of Itself. That's when the Big Bang is supposed to have occurred. I say "supposed" because there wasn't any BANG as such. It was more like the Entire Universe waking up and realizing... Hey! I AM!

And so it began to breathe: out, in, out, in, out... expansion and contraction... centrifugal and centripetal force... now where these two Forces overlapped MATTER condensed out of SPIRIT. Are you still with me? Good. Let's fast forward...

Now in one of these pockets of Matter our solar system exists. Counting from the Sun, the third planet is this "bluegreen pearl" we call Earth. Don't ask me for details. There's a Mystery yet to be solved. Let's say that at some point in Earth's early evolution the planet had to be quarantined from the rest of the Universe. Which meant NO DIRECT ACCESS TO THE HIERARCHY OF EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY EMANATING FROM THE SUPREME BEING.

Instead we were saddled with a few penghulus: local representatives known as Kings and Queens. Originally all Royalty was appointed by Divine Decree ("You over there with the spectacles; you'll be the Class Monitor.") The tribe would then anoint the chosen candidate for rulership (and from this comes the word charisma, from the Greek chrisma meaning "sacred oil.") So the word REAL as in REALITY or REALM means ROYAL - APPOINTED BY GOD.

Real Estate should read ROYAL ESTATE: property managed by the earthly representatives of the Supreme Being. No one is allowed to buy or sell or muck around with it without the authorization of a Rightful Monarch.

Sound idea but who's a Rightful Monarch? It's been a hell of a long time since the "Sons of God" came over and mixed their genes with the local primates. These days it gets harder and harder to tell just who was Born for Glory and who's still a Baboon (don't you be fooled by their bow-ties and silk shirts).

I just wanted to let you have the Big Picture. So we can talk about Management Policies on this planet: who has the authority to define the sort of activity that goes on here? Kings and Queens and their Legal Representatives, right? But what do we do when, for example, we find ourselves stuck with a syphilitic braindead ruler whose legal reps are more inclined towards ILLEGAL DEALS? How can we check and balance things?

Well, we could leave it to the Law of Karma, to Divine Justice... in other words, we could leave it to Nature. After all, no matter what we do to this planet she can't die. Sure, she could turn really mean and ugly and unfit for human habitation - but that doesn't mean the planet's dead. That only means WE are dead. Unless we mutate into ninja cockroaches or intelligent poison bogs.

Hey, don't worry, be happy - the Earth will go on spinning quite merrily round the Sun for another 15 million years or so... until the Sun decides to go on vacation or transforms into Something Altogether Different. (Is my ten minutes up?) See... the Earth is quite safe, she's absolutely fine, no worries. However, we do need to consider what's going to become of the human race.

I think the only way we can determine how we - collectively, as a species - would like this priceless piece of prime property called Earth to look is to make sure she's in the right hands. Any volunteers for the job? Come on, don't be bashful. Just hold up your hand, like this...

Congratulations, you've got the job! One of the first things you'll have to do when you take over the day-to-day management of Spaceship Earth is to make sure that people like Chief Ministers and their family members aren't permitted anywhere near a forest with their chainsaws and bulldozers. No one must be allowed to tamper with the ecosystem who doesn't have an inborn sensitivity to its secret life.

There's no such thing as a "thing." It's all energy transforming itself infinitely in a sacred dance we're intimately part of. So how can we describe a field of paddy, fruit-bearing trees, chickens, bamboo groves, fish, mineral-rich mountains, ducks, sheep, wild berries, clear streams, sugarcane, all forms of life support spun out of sunlight, as "commodities and resources"? It's as crass as calling your beloved a meatball.

What's in a name? Well, call someone "enemy" and you can kill him. Call him "friend" and you can love. If we knew the trees in our area each by name, would we turn them into furniture without at least a prayer of thanks?

Times are changing fast. We are the caretakers of Earth. Let's not muck around simply because we don't expect a surprise visit from the Supreme Being, the one and only original owner of everything. Even if you don't believe in stuff like this, do it for yourself, do it for your grandchildren.

And speaking of wrong hands and right hands, what's wrong today can become right tomorrow and vice versa. So we absolutely need to have Cosmic Accounting and Accountability on all levels, public and private.

Secrecy is evil. Why hide the skeletons in your closet? Everybody's got one or two. Open the doors, let in some fresh air and some truth.

Cosmic Accounting requires an appreciation of the largest possible context in which we are conducting our daily affairs. We have to look up from our notebooks and feel the breeze from time to time. Cosmic Accountability demands something called Freedom of Information - or at least an independent press. (I know our irascible friend Dr M once boasted that Malaysia has the freest press in the world. Good sense of humor, Doc. I know how you detest folks like me. You call us "anti-development" and "anti-progress" - even "anti-government" and "anti-national." You got it wrong, Doc. We're only anti your shallow, hollow, densely materialistic and spiritually retarded perspective on reality!)

Seriously though, folks like me - and all green souls gathered here to celebrate our greenery - are just Nature's way of jamming on the brakes. So we won't hurtle over the cliffs of relentless development like a herd of swine possessed by demons of ruthless ambition and greed. There's a time for Action and a time for Quiet Contemplation. But Contemplation must take precedence. Otherwise our actions will lead us all to a hell of our own making.

Finally - and this is the most vital thought I want to share with you - remember the Environment begins with your own physical being. Your body is the first definition of Environment. Then it extends to your home, your bioregion, your planet, your solar system, and so on. Take care of it and be aware.

Be aware of your own Infinite Potential. You may be only ONE individual. But then so is GOD. Don't forget we all came from the Big Bang. And I hope we're all heading for the BIG BANK where we shall claim our divine genetic inheritance which has been accruing interest since 20 Billion BCE or so.

Then we'll ALL be fabulously rich, rich beyond our wildest fantasies... and we won't have to go round chopping down lovely old trees to sell as toothpicks and chopsticks.

Thank you.

Antares © 1992, 2014

[First posted 11 September 2008, reposted 18 December 2014]

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


If you find this attractive, you might be an AI.

Google recently unleashed its image identification artificial neural network to the internet masses, and, predictably, the internet has quickly decided to turn it into psychedelic porn for robots. Google's DeepDream program takes images fed into the company's image recognition system and turns them into the most extreme version of that image imaginable. The network snags tiny portions of an image and runs it through its recognition system, exaggerating small features within it. As we explained last month:
"This basically generated a feedback loop, which exaggerated or read more meaning into simple features. For example, the researchers explained that: 'If a cloud looks a little bit like a bird, the network will make it look more like a bird. This in turn will make the network recognize the bird even more strongly on the next pass and so forth, until a highly detailed bird appears, seemingly out of nowhere.'"

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Steve Bhaerman on the Heart of Darkness (repost)

Heartland Security and the Heart of Darkness
By Steve Bhaerman

"The more the world crises come to a head, the greater the need for Humanity to come to a heart." ~ Swami Beyondananda

I was having dinner with a friend the other night, and he was reflecting on a reunion he had recently with fellow (and gal) participants in a well-known self-help seminar they all took some 30 years ago. He found these folks to be largely successful, intelligent, compassionate, and committed to a world of peace, justice and sustainability. And yet -

And yet, he told me, they hadn't a clue about what it would really take to have what Bucky Fuller called "a world that works for everyone." Why? Because their own belief in the "goodness of human nature" blinds them to our just-as-prevalent "inhuman nature" - to the evils humans are capable of perpetrating, and the even greater evils enabled by "good" people who refuse to look "the heart of darkness" squarely in the face, consequently allowing the dark forces to proceed unchecked.

The classic example, of course, are the "good Germans" who went along with Nazism because they couldn't believe their leaders were capable of exterminating an entire race of people. My wife Trudy, who was born in Germany, returned to visit as a teenager. When she asked her relatives if they knew about the death camps, the response was, "We were told that was American propaganda, and we believed it because frankly, the prospect of it being true was too horrible to contemplate."

Not even the Jewish community in pre-war Germany was willing to face what the Nazi government was capable of doing. Despite the shattering of illusion that happened on kristallnacht, many Jews continued with "business as usual" until they were rounded up.

Confronting Not-Seeism

Now fast forward from Nazi Germany to Not-See America, where we have a mass media that purposely protects us from seeing the gunk on the "underside of our karma" - and diverts our unspoken despair to focus on the lowly criminal, conveniently side-stepping the highly criminal. As the Irony Curtain shows signs of fraying, we are getting glimpses at the disturbing patterns of abusive power - the most recent being the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which legalizes indefinite detention of American citizens.

However, the letter I just received in response to my most recent posting, On Thrive and Thrival, posits a far darker prospect. By way of introduction, I attended a conference over 15 years ago that I immediately termed "the Paranoids Conference," because of some of the outlandish reports and theories. So dark and unspeakable were some of the things I heard there, I simply had no "place" to put them. One of the presenters was a woman who told of being a combination "human tape recorder and sex slave" for U.S. military intelligence. She said she was "programmed" to commit suicide at 30, but somehow evaded that part of the program. I had to face two conflicting questions: How is something like this possible? ... and ... Why would she make up such a story?

Then last year, a friend who I've known well for more than a dozen years confided some things about her own childhood. She was raised in a military family back in the 1960s, and as young children she and her brother would go off to "swimming lessons" with lots of other young military children. She now believes these were part of mind-control experiments conducted during that period. Later - when she and her brother were approaching puberty - they were instructed to go down to the basement of their home. Doing what her father instructed, she was to lay face down on the basement floor, wearing a short dress. Her brother was also there, face down. In walked a high-ranking military officer, who "chose" her brother, ostensibly for sexual gratification, but spared her. The brother later took his own life.

Is this real? Is this some movie fantasy augmented by a vivid imagination? What do we do with this information? And why should we do anything with it, particularly if we see no way to do anything about it?

As you read the letter below, here is the "take away" I hope you will take away. We CANNOT heal the body politic or approach the kind of world we know is possible without "truth and reconciliation." Truth is required, because without truth there is no trust. The primary reason for the Truth and Reconciliation program conducted in South Africa in the 1990s was to establish a common, trustworthy story ... so that future trust could be built. The "reconciliation" part reflects the evolutionary understanding that for most collective "crimes," reconciliation is more helpful than punishment. It allows us to collectively own our species' darkest tendencies, and to identify "sociopathogens" not just as "bad" individuals but as persistent institutionalized behaviors enabled by our silence.

The Heart of Darkness and the Light of Love

There is no "heartland security" without our facing the heart of darkness and the "heartless minds" that have stepped into the moral vacuum left when science and religion went their separate ways. As I have said many times, because we Americans have been divided into two rival cultural and political "tribes," we haven't until now been able to gather around the virtues and values we have in common and establish a moral "bottom line" as a foundation for our collective behavior.

So ... is there a way to "metabolize" these toxins in the body politic, so that we can indeed emerge to a healthy new order? I am reminded of something called the "3 A's" that I've seen from a number of different sources: Awareness, Acknowledgment and Acceptance. These simple three steps may hold the key to the spiritual / political transformation that is necessary for our species to graduate from surviving to thriving. But here is something very important. These three steps must not merely be intellectual understandings, but involve heartfelt experience. It requires "staying in the room" as we become aware of these perpetrations, acknowledge our entire system's compliance with them, and then accept that (and here is the challenge) these horrors are part of our species' learning process called "evolution."

That is, provided we learn from them. The joke is, history repeats itself because we keep flunking it and have to take it over. As soon as our species collectively gets the "lesson," future lessons in this regard are unnecessary, and we can move on to greater expressions of our human potential. And the "organ" best suited for transmuting the "residoodoo" created by thousands of years of rule by the lowest common dominator? The heart. Only through the presence of the light of love - characterized by Plato as "truth, beauty and goodness" - can we establish a field that can "overgrow" this past dysfunction, and create a new standard for relating to one another and the whole of Creation.

May 2012 be a year of truth, and may we gather enough love to face the music ... and dance together.

A Reader's Response to "On Thrive and Thrival"

Dear Steve, I hope you personally get to see this email. I've subscribed to your emails for quite a while now, because I am a person who is deeply spiritual (from the cradle up pretty much) AND because I have seen the writing on the wall in the USA and the world for a long time... my own wake up call was delving into 3 months of missing time from my USAF days in 1980, and a subsequent long trek down a very deep rabbit hole. Finally circumstances in the world compelled me to go public with this, even though I dug my heels in for many years and just wanted to live a "normal" - whatever that used to mean - life. But today, none of us can hope to live a normal life of liberty and pursuit of happiness if we do not act with conscience and discernment. 

I have watched through many many years a gradual convergence between what spiritual teachers and personal growth gurus of the world impart, and the "conspiracy theory" factions, as what has been happening on our world becomes harder and harder to ignore. For a long time, it seemed that the love & light, law of attraction folks were going to try and ignore the darker elements of what is happening on our world, I suspect out of fear of acknowledging the dark because it might undermine their intention-law of attraction process. How does one reconcile the dark with the light. I'm doing my best to reconcile the two in a book I'm writing that will be out in a couple of months.

I completely applaud Foster and Kimberly Gamble for the film they have created and especially for touching on the UFO material. It is just the very beginning of a vindication and validation for me of information I've had to carry around since I had hypnosis in 1994 to retrieve some chunks of my lost memories - of being taken out in the middle of the night while in the USAF, instructed to try and track extraterrestrial or back-engineered ET space craft, then later brutally worked over with drugs and sexual assault to get me to bury the memories through inducing trauma. I am far from being the only one this has happened to also.

Imagine what it is for people like me to see the disasters of the Gulf oil spill and the Fukushima nuclear "accident" visit such devastation on the people who live in the path of the destruction and to KNOW, down in my very bones, that such disasters never had to happen. That so much human and animal suffering never had to occur because free, clean energy is possible - if only the oil cartels and those who have commandeered so much economic power had not kept it secret and killed or harassed those who came up with such energy systems themselves. Yet they have, and We the People keep paying the price for their secret attempts to keep us all under their control. Thrive's commentary on the elite of this world being parasites on the larger host population of all of us regular folks is spot on.

David Icke
As to David Icke, I respect people's right to disagree with him on certain points. Yet, he was a groundbreaker on shadow governments and the New World Order long before it was in any way socially acceptable. He has relentlessly kept at it and now much of what he warned us about is established fact. He has done exhaustive and extensive research into his topics and they deserve serious attention and cross-checking by fearless and unbiased others. I know he discusses reptilians, and I do not doubt what he has to say, though I don't put too much of my focused attention on it. My philosophy is to keep a weather eye on what's wrong on Planet Earth, while keeping the majority of my attention on what I want to create in the world through love. And never to turn away from any disturbing information out of my own fear, but to face my fears and move through them, otherwise what I would like to envision, intend and create in this world will be undermined by that fear.

My own experience with reptilians: While investigating my 3 months of missing time, driven to find some answers, and before having my own hypnosis, I attended a lecture by another reptilian researcher, John Rhodes. Much of it was fascinating, but I just could not buy the reptilian idea - I walked out thinking this guy had watched too much scifi. Then, much later, my own hypnosis yielded up 2 reptilian encounters, minor ones, but there. One was passing a laboratory where a reptilian being was overseeing two other researchers, and one on a flying saucer. Under hypnosis, seeing them took my breath away, and it was hard to get it back. They looked terrifying to me.

Being of a scientific inclination, I have researched and cross-checked and correlated my memories with other information and testimony over many years to try and understand what I re-experienced under hypnosis. This includes working to understand the political and social context in which such things could even occur - which led me to the same places that Foster and Kimberly Gamble have reached and put into their film Thrive. I know that some people regard hypnosis with suspicion. That's fine. But when the information together with my own experiences is checked and cross-checked and correlated - volumes of it - lead to the same place, and some people remember without hypnosis, then you have to give it serious consideration at the very least. I now conclude that reptilians exist. I respect Mr. Icke's research and knowledge on this subject while reserving the right to my own conclusions based in my own experiences and study.

Jacque Fresco's Utopia Town
UFO secrecy is free energy secrecy. Free energy secrecy is directly related to severely curtailing the freedom of people like you and me and the general population, because if people had free energy, the cost of producing goods and services and transporting them would fall to next to nothing and the economic empire that exists on a foundation of oil would collapse. People would then be truly free, to live, to breathe, to create, to love and build connection rather than be indoctrinated to divide and conquer each other. Greed would be unnecessary in a world where such freedom existed. As visionary and futurist Jacque Fresco of the Venus Project teaches, the environment shapes the people who live in it... how could people be shaped in a world where abundance is so plentiful that everyone thrives? What place would greed have in such a world? None. Greed and hoarding is only necessary when some want to control everyone and everything else.

I hope you see this message, and while it would be nice to get a response, none is required if you are too busy. I'm busy too, finishing my book! Stay well, stay joyful no matter what, and my deep gratitude and blessings to you for having the courage to see what is happening in the world and address it in your wonderful and unique way.

Very Warmly!
Niara Terela Isley

[First posted 21 January 2012, reposted 2 June 2014]

Friday, April 14, 2017


In early 2004 when the arts portal had the infamous Pang Khee Teik as editor, we experimented briefly with an "artistic agony aunt" column that only ran for a few months before it fizzled out for lack of interest. Rummaging through my files, I found these obscure documents I felt were worth re-issuing for posterity.

The very first person to send a question to Uncle Ant's Agony & Ecstasy column happened to be the ever-popular actor/author/raconteur & restaurateur Patrick Teoh....

So much has been said about Malaysian English language theatre. Elitist... Incestuous... Self serving... Must not be entertaining or it will not be theatre... etc., etc. So my question is this: Which should fuel whom ah?

Stratford fuels West End? Broadway fuels 'serious' theatre? These theatre baargers talk too much and do too little. Sometimes I wish that they would just shut up and do their thing, whatever that may be, and let the paying public decide if they want more or not. Let's stop or at least pull back a little on this "hey we want to make you think, make a difference in your life and your community, etc, blablablahhhhhhhhhhhh"...

I buy a ticket, and they are getting really expensive these days, so make it fun for me first lah. Then if I get something out of it that will make a diff in my life OK that's a nice bonus. If not so what lah? Nowadays, first first already WAH must think about this and that, much fight with authorities, issues, issues issues... Wah theatre damn difficult to enjoy lah... let's buy ticket go to Tanjung Golden Village cinema lah.

I hope I am making some sense to you, my old friend. if not just delete this email and relegate me to that bunch of wankers above and I shall not bother you again lah :-)

Patrick Teoh

AGONY ANT says...

Congratulations, Patrick, for being the very first to pose an "arty" question to Uncle Ant's all-new Agony Column on! Can't think of a better way to kick this off than with the funny-serious question you raise - which actually opens up a complex of issues to which no straightforward answer could possibly apply. 

First of all, it prompts us to return to the foundation of all artistic endeavor and see if we can learn anything by excavating there. But let's keep our search focused on theater so this doesn't degenerate into a wordy tome. 

Theater has long been represented by a pair of masks - comic and tragic - showing the two sides of human experience, the light and the heavy. The mask as a symbol of personality goes back to prehistoric times when tribal shamans would trance out by donning a mask and robes while channeling an animal totem or the spirit of a powerful ancestor. This magical ritual was usually to bless a hunting expedition with success, or rescue a soul from the astral realms and return it safely to its physical vehicle, thereby curing any illness afllicting it. In Athens, theater served as social catharsis as well as moral education - with masked players personifying various attributes and tendencies like nobility, loyalty, courage, jealousy, greed, cruelty and deceit.

In general, tragedies were favored by the ruling elite who found solace in watching their own tragic flaws depicted on stage and were thus able to assuage their guilt a little and discharge a few sentimental tears (even tyrants enjoy a good cry, as exemplified by Hitler's S.S. officers who reportedly shed copious sentimental tears while listening to Wagnerian opera - after sending trainloads of unfortunates to the death camps).

Comedies were often a form of stress relief for the masses who could enjoy a public snicker or two at the foibles of the upper classes without having to risk their skins by openly rebelling against the power structure. Satire was, in effect, an important safety valve promoting social stability without actually threatening the status quo. 

Nevertheless, theater certainly contributed to radical shifts in the mass consciousness by triggering perceptual change from within, on the ethical and aesthetical levels. Those who desire to maintain tight control of public opinion are understandably wary of the potentially subversive power of artistic expression. Indeed, almost all major shifts in the mass psyche can be said to have been precipitated by specific literary and theatrical works. 

Scene from Tristan & Isolde
How about the visual arts? Well, they do inevitably exert their aesthetic influence, but they have traditionally been addressed more to the privileged classes than to the masses (cartoons and photography are interesting exceptions that warrant a whole separate study, which we won't delve into here).

So where does "entertainment" feature in all this? A play doesn't necessarily have to be funny to be entertaining. Any story told with great skill is entertaining in that it effectively engages the audience's attention. Millions enjoy following soap series on the boob tube in a multitude of languages and dialects. Tragic romances like Tristan und Isolde - the inspiration for Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story - have enchanted audiences for generations. In effect, it doesn't matter whether the subject matter is light or heavy - what's important is that the tale be masterfully told. 

There's nothing more deadly than a good joke badly told. A heart-wrenching tragedy, artistically rendered, can be life-affirming and uplifting. In short, giving theatre audiences their money's worth has little to do with actual content - but everything to do with the degree of skill, the intensity of commitment, the level of passion the performers manage to inject into the overall effort.

While those in theater are often accused of being there to gratify their enormous egos, the same can be said about every other human endeavor - including warmongering and empire-building. Perhaps it's our deeply-ingrained need to seize some species of immortality, spawned from an awareness of our pathetic mortality and vulnerability in the face of life's vicissitudes.

Returning to Patrick's question about whether our theater scene is "elitist, incestuous, self-serving, etc"... of course it is, old chum! Elitism vs Populism is an age-old issue. Elitism assumes that the hoi polloi is a dumb ass that needs to be thrown a stack of hay once in while (or at least a loaf of bread and a few circuses). 

Bread and circuses: another bad review

Populism believes the public is a dumb ass only because elites have rigged the game to keep it forever so. Each of us conducts within our own psyches a neverending argument between the Elitist and the Populist. The Elitist in us knows we are far superior to Most People. The Populist feels it's our sacred duty to disseminate our gifts and insights as far and wide as possible, in the hope that Most People will ultimately benefit - and, even if they don't, at least they'll be forking out hard-earned money to keep us in the business of having fun. 

The true Populist is shamelessly vulgar and watches only wrestling videos, 'Survivor' and late-night product promos - dismissing everything else as "one big self-indulgent wank." The true Populist came into his or her own during Mao's Cultural Revolution, when intellectuals and artists had a real rough time. I don't believe I've ever met a true Populist and I pray I never will!

Incest is how it all began and incest is how it all ends. Remember when there were only a handful of families on the planet - and they were all related? Brother-sister marriage was common practice amongst the ancient royals. Why, they learnt it from the gods among whom incest was not only prevalent, it was perfectly normal. 

Since theater people the world over are a great big fraternity (and sorority) - and since all of us are evolving into soul-brothers and sisters (or water-siblings if you prefer Robert A. Heinlein's terminology as presented in his seminal work of speculative anthropology, Stranger in a Strange Land)... how can any of us have any fun if we don't practise incest? Just answer me that, Bro.

Rafael Trujillo, dictator of the
Dominican Republic in the 1930s
If you argue that incest breeds stupidity... hey, do you think a smart species would go about destroying its own ecosystem and expending most of its energy on perpetual warfare? Maybe it's high time we invited a new crop of ETs to come and revitalize our Gene Pool?

Self-serving? Hey, show me someone who claims to be serving the "common good" or "public interest" - and I'll show you a politician or a creepy civil servant who just wants to get on the censorship board so he gets to see all the naughty bits everybody else can't. Never trust anyone who isn't serving his or her own interests, Patrick. They all grow up and become dictators and dickheads. 

Which brings us to the possibility of ENLIGHTENED self-interest, wherein we finally realize that our lives are all interconnected and interwoven in time and space - and that by guiltlessly fulfilling our own ego needs, we are actually playing a unique role in evolution. There's nothing more inspiring than a self-fulfilled individual, free to do his or her own thing, and in the process turning others on and firing synapses they never even knew existed.

As for your remark that theater tickets are “getting really expensive” – it’s all part of the yuppism that began in the mid-1980s. Remember when a cup of kopi-O cost only 50 cents (that was before the day of the sen)? Now you pay at least RM5 at the Coffee Bean (and it’s not even the tasty local stuff but some fancy imported variety that makes you think you’re in Europe). I couldn’t afford to see a single play if I didn’t get comps as a reviewer – yet I still see full houses at some productions, even the ones with RM100 tickets or more! Obviously there’s a new middle class that can afford a night or two out every week. They constitute the main support of English language theater in KL and Penang.

Theater is generally priced for the comfortable middle class no matter where you live. But now that we have affordable digital technology, there’s no reason why every major production can’t be professionally shot on high-grade digital video and packaged as DVDs and VCDs which can be sold at pirate prices or uploaded on YouTube, so those who can’t afford the luxury of a live performance can at least enjoy good theater at home. Indeed, it’s about time we introduced a cultural channel on TV that features televised plays, interviews with interesting personalities, intelligent discussions on current issues, documentaries on inspiring writers, actors, dancers, sculptors, composers, and so on.

To sum it all up, I'd say that despite the odds theater is alive and well in Malaysia and has actually come quite a long way. There is only one stumbling block as far as I can see: it's the "katak di bawah tempurung" (tempurungism, I call it) patriarchal-provincial mindset - the same that produced the Inquisition and the Taliban - still prevalent amongst our bureaucrats. The sort of bungling interference that has put City Hall in the limelight recently can be viewed as a sign that our theater scene is gaining influence, maturity and power - and therefore poses a threat to the status quo which must be nipped in the bud (not pinched in the butt). This presents us all with an opportunity to seriously question why City Hall has been charged with issuing entertainment licences - why do I need a licence to be entertaining? It's absolute crap.

Anyone know a professional abolitionist who can help abolish all primitive, irrelevant and suppressive laws? Methinks only an abolitionist can deal with those perverted abortionists of art that lurk in the corridors of officialdom.

Agony Ant
25 Feb 2004

[First posted 16 January 2012, reposted 10 December 2015]

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Why We Have Come ~ a poem by Troy Skeels

We have come because
the trees are in blossom
because the wind tugs at our sleeves
we come because the ocean has brought us here
many times

We have come because a man
once held a fresh page to the light
and declared tyranny dead

we have come because a woman
refused to keep to her place

We have come because the planet brought us
on its way around the sun

trees hold onto the sky and breathe the rooted earth
singing deep songs of oxygen

bees roam between flowers and the moon
weaving genetic strands in the ageless spiraling dance

restless elephants push against their diminishing range
tear through fences looking for food
never imagining fences.

We are people
and this is what we do

We have come to say
the planet will not be privatized
the holy ground will not be sanitized
people are not numbers to be erased

we are tired of insider deals cut in rooms
full of plush carpets and air conditioning
while families starve in the sweltering doorways

sick from the sludge of poorly digested dollars
oozing from the sewers and washing the shopping malls
in the stench

development loans that build dictators' palaces
and prison factories
while charging the people
for the chains that enslave them
and the bullets that kill them
plus interest

We have come because we have followed long trails of blood
to this place
and we are asking to see your hands

we have come because we looked in the mirror today
and we saw that you were us
and we are trying to change

we have come because we are here
because we have been taught to stand
because we were born

because an endless river brought us here

- Troy Skeels

[First posted 6 October 2007]

Thursday, April 6, 2017

MOTH BALLS ONLINE: New Blog In Progress!

(now Antares)


F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri
I saw Miloš Forman’s film of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus five times at the same cinema. And I’ve watched the VCD at home at least three times. What impressed me most was F. Murray Abraham’s oscar-winning portrayal of Antonio Salieri, court composer to the Hapsburg emperor Joseph II.

Today everybody agrees that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a divinely inspired genius. A few of us know he died a pauper at 35 and was buried in a mass grave – and that his monumental musical legacy lay largely forgotten for more than 70 years - until Ludwig von Köchel published a descriptive catalogue of the 626 works Mozart composed in his short but intense career.

Portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
In Shaffer’s fictionalization of Mozart’s story, Salieri’s professional envy of the gifted upstart becomes the central motif of the drama. Salieri is one of a small handful of academic musicians with sufficient savvy to appreciate the full extent of the man’s extraordinary talent; but he chooses to thwart Mozart’s destiny in every way possible. Nevertheless, Mozart succeeds in seizing a brief burst of popularity with his vibrant operas.

The pious Salieri eventually loses his faith in God, and murders Mozart by posing as an anonymous Count and commissioning a Requiem, with an impossible deadline and a monetary reward Mozart couldn’t possibly refuse (being in heavy debt, owing to his hedonistic habits). Salieri thereby pushes the already frail genius beyond the edge of exhaustion to an untimely demise.

For his efforts, Salieri ends his days in an insane asylum, where he pontificates about the rectitude of mediocrity and blesses his fellow inmates for their lacklustre and wasted lives. Two centuries down the line, nobody remembers a single melody written by Antonio Salieri; while Amadeus triggered a worldwide Mozart revival which would have made Wolfie posthumously richer than Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sir Paul McCartney, and Sir Elton John combined.

"God bless the mediocre!"
The theme of genius unrecognized and unrewarded, I must confess, has obsessed me for the greater part of my early life. In my schooldays only three teachers noticed I was a precocious kid – and one of them happened to be a Peace Corps Volunteer from Baltimore. This may have encouraged me to spend a year in the U.S. as an exchange student, and it was then that I finally received the ego nourishment my soul craved. Ironic that the glitzy culture that spawned Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and “pre-emptive” war has also provided me with the greatest amount of positive feedback. Perhaps the land of superlatives got that way by giving its kids the hearty encouragement all kids require, to grow up brimming over with initiative and innovative chutzpah. My own initiation into adulthood in Malaysia taught me not to bother applying for a government grant unless I snip off my foreskin.

Which brings us to the Malaysian Dilemma: here we are, a feudal society abruptly thrust into the Digital Age by “market forces” that emphasize competition over cooperation. No matter how often we yell “Malaysia Boleh!” - and no matter how much official sponsorship is invested in some guy who sails solo around the world to claim his Datukship, or that well-heeled lady who solo-trekked across the Antarctic, only to have her victory inundated by the most spectacular tsunami within memory – we’ve shot ourselves in the foot so many times, one could remark that our national ego has clay pigeon feet. At least we can brag about our fantastic marksmanship: it’s no mean feat, you know, to shoot your own foot when you have to crane your neck just to see where your feet are. Well... burp... there are no starving hordes in evidence in Potbellyland – and that’s something we can be proud of without even trying!

So... are we really doomed to remain a mediocracy forever? Is there no cure for the Salieri Syndrome? Indeed there is. You only have to take a stiff swig of this ancient Chinese prescription: “One does not grow taller by chopping off other people’s heads.” That’s right, folks. Ego insecurity breeds jealousy. Which is (I keep reminding people, especially my wife) the root of all evil.

For that matter, one does not grow taller by wearing platform shoes either. But that’s an entirely different disease called TLFC – The Lord Farquaard Complex – which can be easily treated with a little bit of dragon magic.

[Originally published in the April 2005 issue of VIDA! First posted 8 January 2007 & reposted 9 July 2014]

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hypocrisy keeps the Status Quo static...

A couple of days ago I received an invitation to what was billed as "a global conference on Enhancing Philanthropy in Challenging Times." Hmmm.... that's intriguing, I thought. The idea of encouraging corporations to give back more to the community during a financial meltdown is certainly refreshing...

Then I read in the next line that the conference would be officially launched by the Crime Minister of Malaysia.

The third line boasted "a host of international speakers, including the wife of the PM."

Pukimak! That did it. I almost retched on my keyboard!

As if that wasn't sickening enough, the conference was going to be officially closed by the spineless minister of national unity, Koh Tsu Koon!

I immediately shot off a response to the perfectly respectable gentleman who had sent me the invite:

"No collaboration with the Irredeemably Corrupt, Greedy & Murderously Wicked!"

Almost instantly I received a reply: "Thanks for your frank and realistic comments. The challenge is how to manage the wicked to do some good... can we con them too or get caught by them?"

Well, at least my friend didn't attempt to deny or dispute the fact that the conference had invited, for the sake of political correctness and expediency, some notably wicked people to officiate. In any case, I felt it was my moral duty to elaborate on my visceral response to receiving such an invitation to participate in the philantrophic conference (for only RM900), so I wrote the following clarification, which I post here for the public record:

Anyone who publicly or privately endorses the crime ministership of Najib Tun Razak and Rosmah Mansor is tacitly expressing complicity with Umno/BN's abysmal track record on issues of justice, human rights and abuse of power.

Just as lending support to tyrants like Robert Mugabe, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush is tantamount to acquiescing with oppressive laws that allow the state to detain dissidents without due process, inflict torture on those suspected of political or religious heresy, and manipulate the mass media so that the public remains unaware of the colossal crimes committed by those in high office.

Corporations "play footsie" with such degenerate entities because they themselves are degenerate and hypocritical and are almost indistinguishable from their counterparts in politics. That's why there is a revolving door that facilitates a smooth exchange of personnel between big business and government; and that's exactly what keeps the nightmare carousel of human suffering going around and around seemingly without end.

However, the end is undoubtedly nigh for this despicable kind of self-serving "pragmatism" - all for the sake of an extra buck. This kind of cynical self-justification is what characterized the Pharisees and Sadducees in Judea. We seem to have learned nothing and made no spiritual progress after 2,000 years!
 Nevertheless, the moment these archcriminals resign from office or publicly demonstrate remorse for their gross transgressions, I am of the opinion that they be should be offered the opportunity to restore their "good standing" in society by returning at least 80% of their ill-gotten gains to the national treasury and accepting that they are henceforth disqualified from wielding political power. No need for lynch mobs and lifelong incarceration.

I absolutely do not agree that you can cooperate with them in any positive or wholesome way - just as it would be suicidal for PAS or Pakatan Rakyat to form a political alliance with the ravenous and morally depraved Umno which deserves to exist henceforth only in cultural museums as an instructive relic of the Kali yuga.

Those of you who profess to be Christians: quit playing the role of Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes for whom the Bottom Line is all that matters! Whose side are you on anyway? Yeshua the Reformer... or The Corrupt and Evil Establishment?

How will things ever improve if you keep smiling for the camera and shaking the Sheriff of Nottingham's pudgy hand to clinch a couple of lucrative contracts... while secretly applauding and rooting for Robin Hood?

[First posted 19 June 2009]