Monday, February 27, 2017

Alternate Realities Revisited ~ by Paula Peterson

MODERN DAY MYSTIC: Awakening to Alternate Realities

"Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one." ~Albert Einstein

"Reality is just a crutch for people who can't cope with drugs." ~ Robin Williams

Many find it difficult to believe that "ordinary" people can have mystical experiences. Just like some of you reading this, I have experienced such events ... and yet, to avoid being categorized as a "looney" I have kept much of it to myself or briefly shared a few stories with trusted listeners.

After all, super-sensitive folk who hear voices that no one else hears, see visions that no one else sees (angels, ascended masters, elves, fairies, spirits, star-people, spaceships, strange lights, etc.) and feel energy or vibrations that no one else feels are often perceived as kooks - even labeled schizophrenic - while some end up being institutionalized when talk of such topics are too openly and too often discussed in the presence of the wrong people.

As if threatened by the unknown (or sometimes even envious of the mystic), the non-experiencer will often resort to ridicule, debunking or harassment of those who are brave enough to tell their stories. Because they believed strongly enough in their experience to tell about them, the lives of some very fine and honorable folk have been severely damaged and their reputations unfairly shattered by vicious skeptics and debunkers. I personally know such individuals and have, myself, been subjected to cruel and ignorant ridicule.

Many have a personal or collective investment in keeping things the way they are. They may employ extreme methods - or engage in subtle, indirect manipulation - in order to maintain control, secure a state of comfortable existence and manage their version of reality. From individual to entire governments the agenda is the same: to oppress or eliminate whatever threatens a reality that appears to insure a sense of control and security.

It seems that the vast majority in this culture still cannot accept that there are other planes of existence not ruled by the "laws" and perceptions of this physical world nor easily and comfortably explained through use of logic. Doors flung open wide to greater enlightenment are just as quickly slammed shut when the fear of closed-mindedness reduces a mystical experience to a fabrication of an overactive imagination.

By forcing an extraordinary experience into the limiting confines of trite and easily managed explanations, one is robbed of the power of the mystical event to inspire and awaken its beholder through awe and wonder ... and a potential breakthrough to deeper unity with the divine is missed again.

This is why the urban mystic of industrialized, high-tech, First World cultures often chooses to conceal extraordinary experiences and are content to simply allow these events be known only between himself (or herself), their chosen Higher Power (God, Jesus, Great Spirit, Buddha or whomever) or a few trusted individuals. Those living in less advanced countries are fortunate in that a large segment of the population - mostly those still living close to the land and the spirit of nature - still accepts the supernatural, mystical and unexplained phenomena as another part of life - and an important one. In those cultures, the mystic in the form of shaman, currandero, healer, sage, medicine man, etc., is a respected member of society.

Thankfully, the more advanced societies - like America - are witnessing increasing numbers of folks who do believe - or want to believe - even if they themselves don't have these experiences. Perhaps this is true because the hopes and dreams that we were raised upon - which emphasized accumulation of possessions; personal fulfilment and accomplishment through monetary gain; cultivating intellectual and academic status; and a myriad of other material pursuits - has finally reached the saturation point for many of us: we have found that in striving for the accoutrements of a mundane, material world that we have become "spiritually bankrupt" and sadly lacking in miracles and deep soul fulfilment.

Seeking deeper, more meaningful experiences that unite us with a Higher Power through re-uniting with the inner, mystical-self is becoming the new adventure. The inward journey abounds with discoveries just as rich and juicy - even more so - than any experience of the external world.

And so it serves us greatly to embrace stories of mystery and awe ... not because we're gullible ... but because such stories have the power to instil wonder and awe and bring our over-busy, chattering, analytical minds to a screeching halt - which can then give way to a quieter but more compelling voice that whispers, "What if it's true?"

What if it really IS true .... then what? Will our world seem less predictable? Will we feel less in control of our reality? Will we have to question our beliefs and all the things we were taught while growing up? Will we feel less secure with ourselves if the mysteries of the unknown remain unexplainable? Will it really be all that bad for us if we are simply left with a wondrous feeling of awe in the wake of a mystical experience?

What if we really are being visited by advanced civilizations from other worlds that wish us no harm? What if these advanced civilizations use telepathy to communicate instead of the spoken word? What if some of these same visitors recognize the benign and peaceful intelligence of dolphins and choose to hide their ships in the quiet depths of the ocean?

What if these advanced civilizations were simply observing while waiting for earthlings to stop being so disrespectful and hurtful towards each other, the animals, the forests, the land and all living things? What if they were waiting for us humans to stop fighting so much before revealing more of themselves to us?

What if visitors from other worlds are to play a significant role in helping to raise the consciousness of humankind and lead us into a more peaceful, productive and fulfilling future? Its entirely possible when we are willing to think "outside the box" of the old paradigm.

Of course, I could go on and on with the questions ... its fun to contemplate the possibilities. Posing such questions is also another way to trigger a shift consciousness since a deeper part of our awareness will try to rise to the surface in the attempt to answer: not with the usual answer that comes from beliefs taught by a disbelieving society - but an answer that comes from an ancient, abysmal and long forgotten aspect of ourself that "knows."

The unexplainable and the mystical happens everyday - in small or large ways - in some area of the world. We may call these events miracles, super-natural or extraordinary (extra-ordinary!). Or we may simply accept them as another part of life that is just as real and significant as any other part of life.

After all ... we can order plain, ordinary pizza or we can order a cosmic pizza with an extraordinary array of tasty items - both known and unknown! Maybe we'll suffer momentary mystical "indigestion" as the mix clashes: the familiar with the mysterious. But it is guaranteed that the first burst of amazement will remain in our memories forever as a moving experience that left us changed ... to become an experience we can draw from for inspiration and wonder forever after.

Paula Peterson

Spirit Grove by JJ Leduc

[First posted 1/11/11 @ 11:11PM, reposted 10 May 2014 & 27 March 2016]

Sunday, February 26, 2017

THE INNER TECHNOLOGY OF ART: Making Public the Private (repost)

A paper presented by Antares at Sidang Seni 2001, Galeri Petronas’ first annual conference on the arts, March 24-25, 2001

ONCE IN A WHILE it helps to sit back and think about things like Art – and what it actually means to be called or to call someone an Artist. We could think about the earliest evidence of human artistic activity, found before the outbreak of the First World War in southern France: the famous paleolithic cave paintings of Lascaux, more than 30,000 years old, which largely depict the primal mystique of the hunt. The scholar Joseph Campbell, in Primitive Mythology, describes these prehistoric artists as shamans: medicine men and women who worked as intermediaries between the mystical and practical worlds, whose private visions - projected into public ceremony and ritual - could effect profound change in our lives by impinging upon our perceptions.

Then, as now, the shaman-artist served as a visionary of the sacred, a medium connecting the various dimensions, a transducer of spirit into matter and vice versa, a vital link between metaphysical and physical. His ability to merge the inner world of dreams and symbols with the outer world of the hunt made him a healer and a seer, gifted with initiatic and prophetic authority.

Australian aboriginal creation myths speak of archetypal ancestors, closely linked to specific animal lineages, singing the landscape into being as Songlines. The spiritual world is a vibratory essence which can materialize itself by lowering its frequencies. Physical reality is but a shadow of the metaphysical.

Interestingly, this idea of earthly existence as a shadow-play is the central metaphor in Plato’s famous Allegory of the Cave, wherein he describes the unawakened consciousness as a prisoner chained in darkness, kept enthralled by an illusory pageant of animated shadows enacted by an invisible priesthood. Precisely the technique employed in the Wayang Kulit tradition, still practised in former colonies of the Majapahit Empire.

The imaginative interplay of light and dark creates all drama – a word associated with dreams and nightmares.

From Plato’s Cave to Wayang Kulit to the Magic Lantern and George Lucas’s Industrial Light Magic is a mere progression of technological sophistication. A father amusing his child by creating animated shadows with his hands is drawing on a very ancient artform.

These days the same father (especially if his name happens to be George Lucas or Steven Spielberg) would have access to computer-generated digital images which enormously enhance his power to project his imagination to a remote audience of millions. The art of entertaining and enthralling an audience is akin to hypnotism (or to an ancient Javanese magical practice known as pukau, by which means the victim is involuntarily put into a paralytic trance, thereby allowing the practitioner to do as he will as long as the spell lasts).

Disregarding the superficial changes in the technology of art, the primary tool of the artist will always be his imagination. The secondary tool of the artist might be a stick with which to draw figures in the sand, a brush with which to paint, a chisel with which to chip away stone, a flute on which to blow, a lute on which to strum, or a computer with which to sequence an electronic fugue. Technology, after all, is essentially the evolution of tool-making and using. A gripping tale can be told with only an eloquent tongue – or with an extravagant panoply of son et lumière effects. Without the artistic imagination, Creation itself would not exist, nor would the concept of a Creator. We have been told that God made man in his image; the artist intuitively knows that the reverse equally applies.

To imagine is to create an image on the screen of one’s mind – and this act of imagination, when focused through the clear lens of willful intent, is a magical performance which can effect a transformation on all levels. Thus the artist-shaman-magician has always been a source of fascination and fear. His powers of creation and projection make of him a god or demon, depending on his mood and inclination. And indeed, in days of old, the visionary power of the artist-shaman often gave him tremendous influence over his tribe. It was only recently – in the last 13,000 years or so – that brute strength gained ascendancy over mind, and the warrior muscled his way into dominance. The gradual erosion of archetypal pantheons and monarchies has facilitated the rise of the merchant-entrepreneur, whose crude Time-is-Money credo rapidly became the ‘Bottom Line’ over the last few centuries.

Commercialism and industrialism now threaten, alas, to turn Art into just another economic activity – and the Artist’s ceremonial and magical rôle into a purely ornamental one.

No doubt a certain superstitious awe still attends the artist’s endeavors; but in the Age of Consumerism, the artist-shaman’s contribution to the success of the hunt has been reduced to churning out effective advertising and public relations for the vulgar new gods of materialism - or fashionable new trends for the children of the privileged.

AT THIS JUNCTURE, we must examine the complex interactions between the inner and outer self of the artist. Paradoxically, what begins as a unique experience ultimately transforms itself into a universal truth through the exercise of the artistic imagination and will.

A personal encounter with grievous loss and emotional distress, for example, can be transmuted into art – in the form of a novel or a symphony or a painting or sculpture - and thereby shared with society at large. The skillful selection of linguistic, visual, auditory, olfactory or tactile symbols that will compress a complex experience into communicable or transferable form is what constitutes the inner technology of art.

The word technology itself derives from technique – which may be classified as “hardware and software” in modern parlance. Tools are hardware and, as such, are utterly useless unless one is also equipped with the necessary knowhow, the software. A simple case in point can be seen in the evolution of writing utensils - from chisel or quill or brush to chalk or crayon or ink pen; from manual to electric typewriter, to electronic word processor – all in the course of a mere 6,000 years.

And yet, the use of a high-powered computer does not provide any creative edge over the use of a goose quill. Would Shakespeare or Mozart, for instance, have done more inspired work if they had had access to “better” tools? Indeed the sonnets and plays of Shakespeare have survived the centuries better written in ink on parchment than they would have as digital code on magnetic disks – just as Mozart’s masterpieces have better lasted the centuries on paper than they would have on acetate or vinyl or optical disk.

Perhaps a digression is in order here: when politicians speak of “Smart Schools” they invariably have an image of students being plugged into a network of expensive computers. The big budgets are reserved for the acquisition of high-tech hardware rather than human software (in terms of dedicated and conscientious and innovative educators). This is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse, of valuing packaging above content, of idolizing form devoid of spirit, of exalting style above substance.

The unfortunate fact is that, in the last 500 years, businessmen and bureaucrats have quietly forged themselves into a freemasonry of secular authority – wresting control of human destiny from the sacred visionaries, the healers and the seers, the artists and philosophers.

No one can stop the pragmatic businessman or bureaucrat from having visions – but it is almost inevitable that their pragmatic visions would tend towards the ridiculous rather than the sublime, the crude rather than the subtle, the ugly rather than the aesthetic. Instead of making public the private, their basic instinct is to make private the public, thus spawning an atmosphere of hypocrisy and secrecy conducive to criminal conspiracy rather than creating the climate of openness and trust necessary to greater social cohesion.

This is the great quandary in which the modern world finds itself. Industrial society’s pursuit of Quantity has blinded it to Quality; the entrepreneur-merchant’s quest for and obeisance to the “lowest common denominator” makes him favor the numerous above the numinous, the secular above the sacred.

Democracy is misconstrued as being allowed to choose from a wide range of political candidates or consumer products.

The ancient nobility has been rudely supplanted by a clamorous cadre of status-seekers who have no qualms about using ignoble means to achieve their myopic ends. A newly ascended plutocracy of soulless materialism appears to have usurped the traditional aristocracy of spiritual values.

Perhaps this was an inevitable development. The artist-shaman is acutely individualistic and on the human level is more prone to ruinous competitiveness than any athlete or warrior. Could it be that the golden age when art and philosophy reigned triumphant abruptly ended when artists and philosophers became too isolated in their ivory towers and lost direct contact with the grassroots? Is that why there has been a pronounced swing towards community arts as a new context in which the artist can once again feel connected with his or her tribe? Contributing positively towards greater cohesion and healing is possibly the most creative option available to the artist-shaman at this point in evolution.

As human consciousness becomes more engrossed with density, darkness and discontent, the urge to destroy grows more compelling than the urge to create.

Hindu mythology offers us a helpful metaphor by postulating the archetypal trinity of Creator-Destroyer-Preserver – Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. The dynamic principle of 3 defines many processes, even in the atomic world of nuclei, electrons and protons.

The eternal quest for truth is ultimately three-pronged: Science represents the left brain, Art the right brain, and Spirituality the heart. Only a creative convergence of all three prongs can lead us to self-mastery and wisdom. In the biological world the trinity of Mother, Father and Child underlies all life cycles. What the Mother creates, the Father destroys, and the Child preserves – even as we emerge from the past into the present, and project ourselves into the future.

The conclusion we may draw from this is that our greatest hope now resides in the upcoming generation: whether it has the ability and agility to avoid growing up like the corrupt and morally bankrupt Father and propel itself an octave higher in aesthetical and ethical awareness, attaining the mystical baraka or Heaven’s Grace - and regaining thereby the artistic key to a new paradigm of paradise on earth.

Antares © March 2001
“Art is a means of connecting two worlds, the visible and the invisible, the physical and the spiritual. The area of our consciousness where culture has its roots lies in the uncontrolled mind of every individual: in the moment when it is given space to make a creative leap. Artists, scientists and spiritual masters alike have great respect for that particular faculty of our human potential. It is in the realization of each individual’s intuitive creativity that everybody would agree with the statement, everyone is an artist." ~ Louwrien Wijers

“art as awakened warriorship... art as a dynamic agent of planetary transformation... art as a foundation for global peace...” ~ José Argüelles

“Culture is shared meaning in which everybody participates.” ~ David Böhm

“Our true capital is our creativity.”
 ~ Joseph Beuys

"It's far too late for anything but magick, as the future is clearly up for grabs."
 ~ Antero Alli

[First posted 4 October 2008] 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Adapted from an anonymous tract, 
expanded upon & illustrated by ANTARES © 1994
First posted 19 August 2008

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bogus gods spawn bogus monarchies

My blogbuddy Walski published a very good essay by everyone's favorite academic, Farish A. Noor, on his myAsylum blog. I was prompted to leave a long comment which I have fleshed out and prettied up as a short essay fit for posting! 

Bogus gods spawn bogus monarchies, and bogus monarchies create bogus aristocracies, which then give rise to bogus ministers and administrations. Bog help us!

Unlike Farish Noor whose academic roots ground him in the empirical approach to truth-speaking, my own perspective on "reality" (and, incidentally, the word "real" itself means very little unless one understands it as pertaining to true royalness or regality; in effect, to be honorable, noble and in total integrity) is not necessarily confined to the flatlands of 3rd dimensional physicality.

Our sensory organs and scientific instruments can only access approximately 0.01% of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. 99.99% of "reality" occurs in what we might call the realm of metaphysics - the domain of thoughts, feelings, ideas and memories unbounded by our familiar spacetime continuum.

Indeed, we began as omnidimensional extensions of the Unified Field of Consciousness (call it GOOD if you will, not GOD!) but voluntarily stepped ourselves down deeper and deeper into static density and specific gravity in order to experience and explore the weird and wonderful worlds of form and structure.

Being trapped for millions of millennia in ever more compressed energy packets made us forget our original limitlessness. Limits became "the norm" for us and we began taking boundaries too seriously.

The first boundary we take too seriously is our personal ego, our definition of individual existence.

The second boundary pertains to our concept of kinship, our blood relations and extended family or clan.

The third boundary is called the tribe, and the fourth is the collectivity of tribes that constitutes our sense of nationhood.

As we evolve to the fifth boundary and see ourselves as inhabitants of various biocultural regions (Asia, Europe, North and South America, and so on), we begin to approach planetary consciousness as global citizens.

One more step and we attain galactic alignment, i.e., the awareness that our nearest star is a member of hundreds of billions of stars that comprise our local galaxy.

I wonder what Jamal Md Yusof would do if offered galactic citizenship - despite his obvious unsuitability for such an adventure, at his present level of consciousness. There's nothing problematic about Jamal as potential GOOD in human form; however, the software he's running became obsolete several generations ago. Well, he obviously missed the 21 December 2012 deadline to upgrade his operating system and integrate it with the impending quantum shift that will propel humanity beyond win-lose zero-sum games into workable win-win scenarios. But then, Jamal is far from being the only one who has missed the boat of onward evolution beyond the fallen angel and modified ape dichotomy.

"Grand Universe" by Antifan Real

Farish Noor: Still dreaming of a Malaysia to call Home 

[First posted 14 August 2011]

KAM RASLAN ~ Portrait of a Malaysian Author/Filmmaker/Humorist

Antares: Did you desire to become a filmmaker or writer - or both - as a kid? Or were your early ambitions entirely different?

Kam: Film came first, but I realized straight away that if I wanted to make a film I’d have to write it as well. So although the initial spur was film they went hand in hand. I got the film bug when I was around 17 and it hit me hard when I watched a Russian movie called The Mirror directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. It’s a beautiful hypnotic movie and it’s very un-Hollywood - but it suggested to me that film is capable of something exceptional.

Writing for film is a strangely technical exercise that I’ve only really begun to truly understand very recently. Part of my difficulty with writing for film has been that I was inspired by the epic movies of David Lean, who directed Lawrence of Arabia and Dr Zhivago. I can find myself at the computer wanting to write, “The Red Army cavalry charges across the vast Russian Steppes and crushes the anti-Bolshevik Tsarists.” And then I immediately realize that I can’t afford that unless I can do it with a couple of Bangladeshis and Jit Murad. There are also other technical film narrative story-telling aspects that I won’t bore you with, but after a while they felt like constraints and I wanted to find a way to tell stories that could be realized and accessed immediately. So I started writing fiction and suddenly it felt liberating. Suddenly I could write stories that traveled continents and were set in the past. Also film is a slave to plot momentum, and character can become secondary. If you read the script of Die Hard there is nothing about the central character that you haven’t seen before and the only thing that makes it exceptional is Bruce Willis’ performance. With fiction the character can take over more and can say or, more especially, think things that are not necessarily plot related. But everything I’ve learnt from film has been vitally important, especially the desire to keep the story going and being concise.

A: Your elder brother Karim is an established writer. Does that make your relationship competitive or supportive?

K: I’m the youngest of three brothers. I’ve always looked up to them although we grew up quite separately. Johan is the eldest and he’s the chairman of Price Waterhouse Coopers in Malaysia and then there’s Karim, who’s a writer, lawyer and political consultant. Karim has been writing for a long time and is well-known for his Asean-wide political commentaries as well as his short stories. He has also, I believe, finished writing his novel. Karim and I write very different stuff so I don’t know if there can be any competitiveness. He’s always been very supportive and believed in me even before I did. One area that was a small cause for concern for me was that Karim wrote fiction long before I did and I always felt that was his area. So when I started writing fiction I worried that I was trespassing on his turf but he’s very supportive. All three of us look quite similar so I’m constantly being mistaken for one or the other. If somebody says they’ve read one of my articles in the paper I’ll wait to see if they liked it. If they did then I’ll take all the credit but if they didn’t then I’ll say, “I think you’ve mistaken me for my brother.” Sometimes I don’t bother to correct them at all because it might embarrass them and on one occasion I happened to be standing next to a notable Tan Sri who told me that he had decided to award his company’s business to me. I really didn’t know what to say because unless he wanted me to wash his cars then I really couldn’t have been much use to him. I think I shouted “Fire!” and ran away.

A: How have both your parents influenced you? Would they have preferred your opting for a less "nebulous" profession?

K: Our father died when I was four years old so our mother raised us alone. I can’t imagine what my father would have wanted me to do although I suspect it isn’t what I presently do. He was in banking at the time of his death and throughout my childhood I told people that I wanted to be a banker, even though I had no idea what that meant - anyway, that doesn’t seem to be a problem in Malaysian banking. My father’s influence came through his absence and through my imagining of him. Through his absence I grew up quite independently and have by and large discovered the world for myself. But he did leave behind the sense that he was somebody important. Throughout my life I’ve met countless people who don’t know me and didn’t know him but knew of him and respected him. It gave me a sense that one must achieve something big. It’s a blessing and a burden. But he was an avid photographer and he did leave behind hundreds of photographs and two movie cameras that I was obsessed with. I know that I was drawn to film because of those cameras and because they created a connection to him.

But I was raised by my mother so she has had a big influence on me. She worries about my financial state but she’s stopped suggesting I “do something in computers.” As I get older I become more like my mother and whenever my hair grows long my wife calls me Dorothy because I look like her. My mother is always apologizing for my hair as if it’s her fault. She plays the violin and tried to make me learn but I rebelled. It’s an impossible instrument. But the fact that I was always around classical music has had an enormous impact on me because I think it’s given me the patience to be able to appreciate not only things like Wagner but also slow Russian movies. But having said that, I was a very surly teenager and would disappear into my room and listen to David Bowie but recently my mother told me she’s a fan of Bowie. She’s full of surprises. She’s also very independent minded and has always let me make my own choices in life. She’s originally from South Wales and when she married a Malay in the 1950s and then moved all the way over to Malaysia it took either courage or foolish romanticism. I think that dichotomy is what I’ve inherited from my mother. And the hair.

A: As an Anglo-Malay educated in England, do you experience your genetic heritage as advantageous or disadvantageous in terms of "fitting in" with the Malaysian milieu? Do you sometimes feel estranged from the local social and political context?

K: Calling me “Anglo-Malay” makes me feel like an old bungalow overlooking Port Swettenham. When I first returned to Malaysia I was concerned about “fitting in.” I’d spent very little time in Malaysia growing up and worried about my lack of Malayness. It took me quite a while to realize that there is no genetic cultural inheritance and that I am what I am. And that is a Malaysian. My friend Dato’ Hamid likes to think of himself as a Malayan and I would go along with that too. I think there are over 20 million different Malaysias and over time I’ve found mine. There have been several epiphanies along the way but one was a story that a friend told me. She was standing at an isolated phone on the east coast when a girl walked up. The girl called her boyfriend in KL and he obviously told her that it was over. The girl pleaded and listened, put the phone down and walked back along the long, empty road. People are always more than how they are defined by their IC. Human stories, that we can all understand, happen everywhere.

A: One of your literary trademarks has been an acute sense of irony expressed as dry, sardonic wit. Does that come naturally or was it a conscious decision to write in that style? Have you tried other forms of writing, e.g., poetry, scifi, horror, journalistic?

K:  I have tried, sometimes too hard, to be humorous whilst talking about serious issues. Expressing public opinions can sometimes be tricky in this country and I need to couch my words so that people will “get it” but without necessarily being overt. In trying to find another way of saying something I think I’ve discovered for myself some interesting connections. Besides, reading people’s rantings can be dull and I only want to write stuff that I myself would want to read. I don’t want to appear arrogant but if there is one trait that I know I do have it’s a sense of humor. I am quite funny. I don’t know where it comes from but I can remember the first time I used it. It was one of my first days at school in England when I was 5 and only a few bewildering months after having left Malaysia. Suddenly the rowdy English kids picked me up and were about to carry me away to beat me up. I had never been in a situation like this before and my mind raced to think of a way out when, I’m ashamed to admit, I blurted out, “Hey, do you want to hear what a Chinese person sounds like when he’s angry?” I did a quick impression of our old Hainanese cook, Ah Chong. The kids started laughing and put me down and went off and beat up the school’s only Chinese kid. (I made that last bit up, but it would have been funny – in a dry, sardonic kind of way.)

A: Having spent the last 10 years as a scriptwriter and film director, does that tend to make you a visually oriented novelist? Do you, for instance, see your novel being turned into a movie?

K: Actually, it’s over 20 years, but, yes, I think it does help make me be aware of the importance of the visual. But to be visually concise because movie scripts waste very little time on description. I think that, very often, long descriptive passages are unnecessary. The reader needs to know where they are, what it looks like and what it means but often that can be simply stated as, “It was a big, scary-looking house.” People interact with and are influenced by their environment and I want to show that. I have a relatively long descriptive passage in one of my stories that describes the east coast monsoon but I did that because the monsoon is an essential backdrop and even a character in the story. My film background has also taught me the importance of sound and I’d like the reader to be able to hear the story as well as see it. But what I enjoyed while writing was being freed from film constraints. I wanted to be able to write an unfilmable epic without worrying about the money. If any movie producer read a script that said “The monsoon covers the land as far as the eye can see” they’d throw it away because it would mean waiting for the rain that might not come, and I know from experience that if you point the camera at the rain, it doesn’t look like it’s raining. So I think that the novel can be turned into a movie in the reader’s mind but I never wanted to write it with a view to filming it. But if anybody wants to, then please make the cheque payable to “Cash.”

A: What was the interval between the conceptualization of your novel and its completion? Were you working in a disciplined, regular way - or only when inspired?

K: This was a tale of blood, sweat, toil and tears. I wrote the first story in 1999 and finished the last one at the precise moment when Italy equalized in the World Cup final of 2006. One story alone took five years to write and it’s only 3000 words long. After I wrote the first story I realized that I could write a lot more and it took a while for it to coalesce in my mind. I tried to be disciplined but I failed every time. It was hard work but much later, when they were serialized in Off The Edge magazine, I read them again and I couldn’t see the blood, sweat, toil and tears at all. The stories seemed to flow easily and I couldn’t believe that I had written them. The only way I could make it easier for myself - and I recommend this to any aspiring writer - was to break the story down into small scenes. Then I tried to write one scene each day and tell myself that I had achieved something. As for inspiration, that has always come in a flash and the whole story reveals itself in an instant. Then five years later you’re still at the computer trying to convert it into words. I know that Karim is much more disciplined and I wish I could be too.

A: How would you describe your worldview? If you possess no specific worldview, would you care to explain why?

K: I’m a secular humanist and I believe in liberal democracy. Because of where I grew up I consider myself to be innately middle-class – a race of people who, in this country, are easily pushed around. Malaysia’s politics of race means that nobody will stand up for middle-class aspirations because that would create a connecting thread between the races. Instead, for instance, Malays with universal middle-class aspirations find themselves trapped by somebody else’s definition of what it is to be, for instance, Malay. To step outside that is to be a race/religion traitor. Our notion of democracy has boiled down to the majority vote but democracy is also about minority rights and the rule of law. Perhaps because I grew up in a country where I was the only Malaysian for miles around I am interested in the minority but not just the obvious racial or class minority. Many of us, even when we are amongst our family or community will feel separate or alienated for some personal, emotional reason. I am interested in those moments and I am drawn to what it is to be outside.

A: Would you consider yourself prone towards pessimism or optimism? Does thinking about the future inspire in you despair or hope?

K: I always think that things can be better, which is a form of hope or optimism. All of us can do something to make things better, but I don’t think many do. I’m always astonished at how we can absorb rubbish into our lives and imagine that that’s just the way things are and we accept it. We’re too scared to be angry. I’m very worried about the future of this country. I certainly believe that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” After a brief moment when it looked otherwise our style of democracy is now entrenched. It’s like a train that’s waiting at the platform about to leave for the next stop but latecomers keep rushing in and the conductor keeps squeezing them into the train. The train will never leave. My only hope is that the rest of us, who know that we have no choice but to go to that next station, will build our own train.

A: Are you already planning, or have you begun, on a new novel? Any hints about the subject matter?

K: Now that I’ve finished the book I miss Dato’ Hamid. I imagine that he’s on holiday somewhere in the South of France or tending his orchids but that we’ll meet up again soon. One of the stories in the present book is a murder-mystery and I’d like to do another where somebody is murdered at an MCKK Old Boy’s reunion.* I’m also toying with the idea of the Dato’ being at the fall of Saigon but I’d really like to do one with him in Africa. The problem for me is that I wrote the last stories on the basis of what I already know in life but if I’m to write anything new then I need to have new experiences. I fear that the Malaysian market is so small that I’ll never be able to generate enough income from here so I must sell outside. The book I’d really like to write is non-fiction looking at post-conflict nations. News organizations always report a conflict but leave when it’s over. I’d like to see how people have resolved conflict and learnt to live with each other. I’m thinking about things as diverse as The Emergency, the American Civil War or Northern Ireland. But to write something like that I’d have to sell it overseas because no Malaysian publication would have the resources to pay for it. I guess the next thing should be a movie but I get worried thinking about telling the man with the money about how it’s set in Kuala Kangsar in 1917.

A: How has marriage affected your work as a writer?

K: I feel like I’ve known my wife all my life but we’ve only been married for a few years. She’s very patient with my slow rate but wanting to achieve something for her, or for us, is an important spur. She’s always able to contradict or inform my assumptions and, however painful it might be, we learn the most when we are wrong. Knowing her and her family has really broadened my horizons and their opinions and insights constantly reappear in my writings.

A: Have you discovered your life purpose... or given up the quest?

K: A long, long time ago I woke up suddenly in the middle of the night because in a flash I had understood my life’s purpose: “I must learn how to feed my body through the process of photosynthesis!” Since that night I’ve not really tried to think about it. I’d like to be able to write books that people want to read and I want to direct the movies that I want to direct. To be honest, my quest is to do what I want to do. And this might sound strange but with the Dato’ Hamid stories I want to show that the history of Malaysia is more interesting and epic than reading the papers might suggest. There are stories in between, alongside and behind. We may not be aware of it but we have all been part of a great big, global drama. Ultimately I want to do a piece of work that’s as perfect as a Beatles album. But that’s impossible.

*MCKK = Malay College, Kuala Kangsar, elite residential school established by the British Colonial government in 1905 to groom the sons of ruling class Malays for public office.

[First published December 2006 in The Hilt & posted here 28 June 2012]

Monday, February 13, 2017

Money As Debt ~ a short film by Paul Grignon

Paul Grignon's 47-minute animated presentation of Money As Debt  tells in very simple and effective graphic terms what money is and how it all is being created. It is an entertaining way to get a very important message out. Highly recommended as a painless but hard-hitting educational tool. Every thinking person concerned with the present unsustainable monetary system on planet Earth is encouraged to circulate this viral video. Do it soon and wake everybody up - before the Final Financial Meltdown (coming real soon to a market near you!)

[First posted 18 August 2007]

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Khinzir* Report (revisited)

THE PIG is one of the oldest forms of livestock, having been domesticated as early as 5000 BC. It is believed to have been domesticated either in the Near East or in China from the wild boar. The adaptable nature and omnivorous diet of this creature allowed early humans to domesticate it much earlier than many other forms of livestock, such as cattle. Pigs were mostly used for food, but people also used their hide for shields and shoes, their bones for tools and weapons, and their bristles for brushes. Pigs have other roles within the human economy: their feeding behavior in searching for roots churns up the ground and makes it easier to plough; their sensitive noses lead them to truffles, an underground fungus highly valued by humans; and their omnivorous nature enables them to eat human rubbish, keeping settlements cleaner than they would otherwise have been.

Pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world, providing about 38 percent of daily meat protein intake worldwide, although consumption varies widely from place to place. This is despite religious restrictions on the consumption of pork and the prominence of beef production in the West. Pork consumption has been rising for thirty years, both in actual terms and in terms of meat-market share.

Throughout the Islamic world, as well as in Israel, many countries severely restrict the importation or consumption of pork products. Examples are Iran, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Pork is one of the best-known of a category of foods that are forbidden under traditional Jewish dietary law. The biblical basis for the Jewish prohibition of pork is in Leviticus 11:7. The Qur'anic basis for the Islamic prohibition of pork can be found in surahs 2:173, 5:3, 5:60, 6:145 and 16:115.

Seventh-day Adventists likewise eat no pork. Rastafarians too avoid the consumption of pork, their basis is also the book of Leviticus. [The Rastafarian religion is essentially a quirky spin-off of Judaism.]

The Scottish pork taboo was Donald Alexander Mackenzie's phrase for discussing an aversion to pork amongst Scots, particularly Highlanders, which he believed to stem from an ancient taboo. Several writers who confirm that there was a prejudice against pork, or a superstitious attitude to pigs, do not see it in terms of a taboo related to an ancient cult. Any prejudice is generally agreed to have been fading by 1800.

(From the Wikipedia entry on PORK)

Think about this for a moment. Several ethnic and religious groups on earth share a pork taboo: Jews, Arabs, Malays, and Rastafarians. Okay, some Seventh-Day Adventists avoid eating pork - probably because of the Gadarene swine story in the New Testament that describes how Jesus arrives in an area called Gadara and encounters a man possessed by demons. Jesus then chases the demons into the bodies of 2,000 innocent swine... who, maddened by the demons, stampede into the sea and drown. In this scenario the pigs were blameless and ought to be profusely thanked for taking on the possessed man's evil karma.

What else do these pork-fearing tribes have in common? A deeply-embedded religious fervor, perhaps, that makes it virtually impossible for them to get close to other tribes - especially the pork-loving ones. In effect, the pork taboo serves as a tribal, cultural and culinary barrier isolating a few groups from everybody else.

Problem is, even though the Arabs and Jews don't eat pork, they still can't get along with each other. In fact, they've been at loggerheads since Abraham, on the wicked advice of his wife Sara, dumped his mistress Hagar. You see, Hagar was the mother of Ishmael, Abraham's firstborn and forefather of the Arabs; while Sara gave birth to Isaac, forefather of the Jews. Yup... deadly sibling rivalry, owing to parents playing favorites among their kids.

Who are the world's biggest pork-eaters? The Chinese, Germans, English, Irish, most Scandinavians, Balinese, Papua New Guineans and Americans (in that approximate order). What characteristics do these racial groups share? Well, they are all known for pragmatism, industriousness, resourcefulness, an ability to learn from other cultures and enjoy a joke at their own expense. Doesn't that make you wonder if there may be some hitherto unidentified substance present in the flesh of pigs that tends to ground people in common sense, good humor, and enhances their long-term survival quotient?

*Khinzir = Arabic for "swine"

The Other White Meat

The Gadarene Swine Fallacy

[First posted 11 August 2008, reposted 19 September 2015]

Walt Disney Women... Vava-voooom! (revisited)

This is a confession of sorts. My 20-year-old son Ahau and I... we share the same taste in women.

Ever since his eyes could focus he's been fond of watching videos. An early favorite was Peter Pan, which he could happily watch several times a day. One day he discovered the rewind button on the VCR (those were pre-VCD/DVD days). That was it. Ahau became the Instant Replay Man, compulsively and obsessively replaying his favorite bits of every video.

One day, I caught the little tyke pressing his face to the TV screen. He was trying to kiss Tinkerbell. I had to laugh. When I was a kid, I was myself intensely intrigued by Peter Pan's sexy little sidekick.

X-rated Tinker Bell
The irresistibly cute pixie with the hourglass figure and gossamer wings and magic dust that could sweep you off your feet with happy, horny thoughts!

In fact, I named my second daughter after my childhood sex symbol - but when she grew up she decided to drop the "Tinker" and add an 'e' to the "Bell" - and it has worked out beautifully for her (see the glam shot she sent me at left...)

Ah, what an absolute prodigy he was, that fellow, Walter Elias Disney (1901-1966). His unmitigated genius deserves a series of in-depth studies - but this is not the time and place to dwell on this supremely inspired icon of animation art. Instead, I want to ramble on a little about the fetishistic femmes Mr Disney conjured from his fertile imagination. Remember, this is America in the early 1950s - the heyday of Life magazine's Norman Rockwell covers and clean-cut Sunday schoolkids, when the only erotic art you might find would be on the back of naughty playing cards. Overt sexuality wouldn't come into fashion until Hugh Hefner unleashed his Playboy Bunnies on the world in 1953 - the same year, incidentally, that Disney released Peter Pan.

Ahau's next major crush was on Ariel, the redhead with a hauntingly melodious voice and a fish tail. I could see why he adored Ariel, but she wasn't really my type, not even with legs. Too wishy-washy, the way she mooned over that cardboard cut-out prince. Now, if only Ariel had the street cred of the neurotic, waif-like mermaid in this sketch...

Belle, as in Beauty and the Beast, is something else. Feisty and admirable in her devotion to her eccentric inventor dad. A daughter after my own heart... and one who can surely bring out the, I mean, the best in any man.

But, ultimately - and both Ahau and I agree on this - it's Pocahontas we'd seriously love to poke. Indeed, we'd wed her without a moment's hesitation.

Her wild spirit, her incredible courage, and her ability to leap off waterfalls (not to mention her flawless anatomy) make her utterly irresistible to us both. Too bad she only seems to go for raccoons and Mat Sallehs* named John.

*Mat Salleh - local slang for Caucasians.

[First posted 25 March 2007, reposted 4 Februaery 2014]