Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Incomparable Nurul Izzah Anwar Speaks...

First time I shook her hand was in 1998, shortly after a commando team broke rudely into Anwar Ibrahim's Damansara Heights residence and bundled him off to jail as "a threat to national security." Nurul Izzah was only 18 years old then, but she was composed and confident as she greeted the throngs of well-wishers passing through their home to lend moral support.

Nurul Izzah's illustrious father, Anwar Ibrahim, was indeed a very serious threat - not to the nation but to the corrupt, hypocritical and tyrannical Umno regime established by the megalomaniacal and Machiavellian Mahathir Mohamad - who, in his 22-year term, almost single-handedly obliterated the horizon of decency and morally contaminated every public institution in the country - from the police force and the judiciary right down to our universities, civil service, and even the religious agencies.

Almost 14 years later, little has changed in Malaysia. The evil legacy left behind by Mahathir still plagues the nation. And Nurul Izzah's father is still the icon of political reform, as the Opposition Leader poised to become Malaysia's 7th prime minister if we can somehow overcome BN's fraudulent election system and knock them off their high horses.

At only 31, Nurul Izzah Anwar is already a seasoned campaigner. Everyone I know admires her courage, intelligence, composure - and, most of all, her compassionate, down-to-earth political stance. Of course, her striking beauty is a fantastic bonus. We dream of the day when we can watch our prime minister address the nation with sheer adoration and open-hearted admiration.

It's high time Malaysia gets a leader who deserves a standing ovation whenever she opens her mouth.


Mysterious lineage, possibly descended from one of the Great Khans; may also have genetic links to ancient shamanic bloodlines. Independent-minded and strong-willed, thrives on controversy and breaking social taboos. Ambitious and fashion-conscious, fond of luxury and an extravagant lifestyle. Passionate and romantic, with a protective veneer of cynicism and pragmatism. Adventurous spirit, assertive and self-confident, with a weakness for high-profile alpha males, especially the rich and famous. Emotionally wounded, fatally attracted to experiences of betrayal, sorrow, disappointment and tragedy.

Domineering spirit, drawn to wealth and power, and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her ambitions. Inclined towards superstition and a belief in magical talismans; gracious and charming to anyone who can serve her purposes, but cold and spiteful towards those who do not fawn over or lavish her with flattery. Tendency to be ruthless and vindictive when thwarted.

Born into wealth and inherited power, self-assured about his social status and ability to command. Emotionally vulnerable but groomed for high office, hence skilful at camouflaging his feelings and maintaining a stiff (albeit pink) upper lip. Unresolved issues with father and mother: tends to defer to authoritarian father figures, while attracted to strong, domineering females. Inclined towards sensuality and sexual decadence, but acutely conscious of reputation and therefore constantly burdened with feelings of guilt. Able to detach completely from his emotions and thus capable of insensitivity and cruel, unfeeling behavior.

An explosive combination of personalities: when fire and ice come together, it can get really steamy. Steam, as we know, can be harnessed to power mighty engines - but if unreleased can produce calamitous effects.

[First published 10 October 2008]

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Astrology of 2012 and December 21st ~ Craig Howell

Big movements are afoot in the heavens as the planets jostle into position, signifying no less than the birth of a new consciousness. But with birth sometimes comes painful transitions until mother and child are resting in each others arms. The beginning of this goes back to the “Harmonic Convergence” of the ‘80s, but the most recent turn of events is showing a ratcheting up of the energy to the point where something’s got to give, as they say.

In June of 2011 there began a series of hard aspects between Uranus and Pluto, sometimes forming Grand Crosses with other planets in the Cardinal Signs. Uranus is the planet of independence and revolution and by that time last year it was in full swing with the “Arab Spring” and the “Occupy” movement not far behind. Pluto deals with old energy that needs shifting and in this case, in Capricorn, old structures that have been mainstays of society that need an overhaul. All astrologers agree that when planetary energies push against each other such as these, the friction and pressure create something like a world seismic event that lasts for a long time. It’s like an earthquake that has been building over years, starts swarming and then releases the pressure in various eruptions.

When other planets join in and form a cross in the sky, it intensifies this pattern. Cardinal signs (Aries, Libra, Capricorn, Cancer) show that the effects of this transition will be temporary, yet fraught with emergencies, creating issues or problems that require immediate solutions. It also shows that although there will be wasted energy spinning wheels, there will ultimately be growth and change for the better. Hard aspects will come to a conclusion in 2016, but it doesn’t mean that we’re done. It’s going to take a while to straighten everything back out. As one channeler expressed about this transition, “we are waist-deep” into it. We are in a major transition.

It’s time for “business as usual” to change, whether you want to or not. The Universe doesn’t ask if you are ready. This will turn the tables on the Plutonian power brokers if they are using their energy to control and manipulate the masses, because the masses just woke up and they are not going to lie down and play the game anymore. This is the beginning of the end for old political, financial, cultural and even religious structures (especially male-dominated types) that have run their course and are no longer assisting our evolution. This is the general climate at this time.

Now it is 2012 and everyone is wondering what’s going to happen when we get to the date of December 21, 2012. As an astrologer, there are indeed real physical alignments of planets around that date, but are of a more subtle nature. There is still Uranus and Pluto pounding it out along with the Sun and Moon, showing a minor flare up, but there is another configuration that begins at this date and continues for a short time. This is called a Yod, or the “Finger of God.”

Although this sounds ominous, it is actually symbolic of a time when a clear choice must be made as to where or how to proceed. With that choice a new destiny is born. It shows that we are at a crossroads, everyone knows it, and in fact may have even felt this for a long time, but now the realization that we can not go on like this has arrived. On December 21st, this may be but an inner knowing among us, but by late March, 2013, we will see what our choices have brought us. This configuration is helped along by having Pluto and Saturn sharing each other’s ruler. Pluto in Capricorn is saying tear down the old systems. Saturn in Scorpio is saying reuse and retool what is worth saving into something that works for us now. Because Jupiter is the trigger for this transit, it may be that people will be assessing their belief in their own abilities to accomplish a major shift (both inner and outer) and checking their personal spiritual beliefs. Maybe because Jupiter is in Gemini (and retrograde) people will be talking a lot about this to each other as well, attempting to process this and gauge other’s experiences of this at the moment. Then we will see what we have manifested in March, 2013.

Along the way there will be more exposing and reversal of power structures that do not serve our spiritual growth at this time. This may create some emergency situations that must be dealt with. It will also be a challenge to us to take back our power individually; to be accountable for our decisions and for the circumstances we find ourselves in. This may be felt as just a nudge now, but a more visceral effect will show around April of 2014, especially for the United States, as Jupiter moves into Cancer and triggers the Uranus /Pluto formation all over again.

This year Neptune moves into its home sign of Pisces. I believe it will be seen on one level as personal and group spiritual involvement and, on another level, as a social concern for the underprivileged or disenfranchised, where people are volunteering and sacrificing to help others in need. But there is more.

Because this involves Neptune, one must tread carefully so as to be able to get a constant reality check. This position will open people more to the spiritual realms, but also become the gateway for delusions, illusion and fantasy. Although we will be learning to be our own spiritual guide by connecting through our heart and soul, there will still be many searching for that one who they can follow, the one who they believe can save them and save the world.

Neptune tries to get us to live in higher consciousness while living in a lower vibrational third dimensional world, which provides some conflict for most humans, to say the least. Neptune seeks perfection in an imperfect world by any means possible, hence the negative reaction in striving to feel Nirvana through drugs or any escapist tendency instead of going within to align with their higher awareness. With Neptune, the “real” world weighs heavy on the soul.

As far as 2012 goes, this could mean that there is so much belief from so many that a particular event can occur, this event—or series of events—begins to manifest. Whether it is a manifestation of fear or of love is up to us. It comes down to the question, “How do you envision your future?” It may be the beginning of a time when we really start seeing our own thoughts and feelings manifest in our lives very clearly. Those that do not understand this may be creating more negativity for themselves and, only seeing this, they may believe it to be their reality—a never ending circle. This may be what people have predicted as a shift or separation in reality, which could be very confusing if you’re not prepared for it.

The greater effect for the United States will come around 2014-2024, as planets make harsh exact aspects to planets in the United States chart. This will shift the country in a deep and long lasting way. After this transit the USA will never be the same. This sounds dire, but it is actually going to bring a breath of fresh air after the power struggles are over between those who don’t want change and those who do.

My take on the big picture is that Neptune in Pisces is the last gasp of the Piscean Age with all the attending irrational fears, hypersensitivity and emotional hysteria until it goes into Aries (2026) about the same time as Pluto goes into Aquarius in 2024. Then we will see the real beginning of the Aquarian Age where people have a greater understanding of the spiritual energetic principles that create our existence and a tolerance for the beliefs and lifestyles of others.
Craig Howell has been a published writer since 1993 when he created and published his holistic/metaphysical monthly publication, The Wheel. He has since created four books: A Flower Unfolds (spiritual giftbook), Through the Eyes of Kwan Yin (Q&A with a Kwan Yin channel), Spiritual Teachings for Young Souls (basic teachings for teen empowerment) and 2012 Messages. He has contributed to many publications online and in print, most recently in Dell Horoscope Magazine.

[Brought to my attention by Olivia de Haulleville]

Latest music video from Hugo Farrant (the most erudite rapper on earth!)

Mash-up video for Hugo & Treats "1 1 2 3 5 Let It Reign"

Lyrics written and performed by Hugo
Music blended by Treats
Vox recorded, mixed and mastered at Squid Studios by Frank Pearce
Uploaded on YouTube 10 March 2012

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Censorship & the performing arts in Malaysia: a case study

Antares mulls over the far-reaching effects of censorship

Paula Vogel
This was supposed to be a straightforward review of a not-so-straightforward play, The Baltimore Waltz by the award-winning playwright Paula Vogel, directed by Rey Buono and produced by the Instant Café Theatre. However, external circumstances sometimes intrude and irrevocably alter the course originally intended.

The play was very nearly cancelled. Indeed, one day before opening night, The Baltimore Waltz was banned by DBKL (Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur aka City Hall) which issues public performance licences for all shows staged in the Federal Territory. DBKL have thus far been, to their credit, fairly cooperative, easygoing and mature about this ruling - until the recent flap over The Vagina Monologues (which saw a very successful initial run, only to have its application for an extension rejected).

Producer Adeline Tan and artistic director Jo Kukathas filed an urgent appeal with DBKL and, after agreeing to extensive cuts, were given permission to stage the play as scheduled. This, in itself, is reason to celebrate: firstly, the never-say-die feistiness of ICT and the cast of The Baltimore Waltz, which saved the show; and secondly, the fact that the show did go on indicates that the people who work at DBKL aren’t TOTALLY unreasonable and are, to a certain extent, still open to a little give-and-take. After all, a tremendous amount of energy, time, money, and talent goes into a theatrical production of this caliber – and it only takes one “TAK BOLEH!” to see everything go down the drain. Theatregoers will be condemned to a boring plastic future of uncontroversial plays and harmless frolic – because potential sponsors will inevitably balk at any material that extends the frontiers of artistic expression.

Rey Buono
This is a good time for all of us, whether or not directly involved in the performing and cinematic arts, to reassess how we really feel about being told what we can and cannot see and hear on stage or on the screen. Who decides and why? Censorship, no matter what the excuse, ultimately serves only to retard us mentally and culturally infantilize us. This may suit you fine if you happen to be in business or the bureaucracy – after all, a bunch of docile, overgrown kids are easy to keep in line with candy and canes (or bread and circuses).

Malaysia’s censorship laws, like our notorious Internal Security Act, are a legacy of the British administration. Archaic, irrelevant and unnecessary though they be, these laws are a convenient foil against any attempt to change the status quo or overthrow the ruling regime through nonviolent means. I’d like to quote extensively from my review of Chin San Sooi’s heavily censored play, Morning In Night, published in the New Sunday Times of August 24, 1986:

Freedom of expression isn’t something one can take for granted. Even in merry England, the necessity of getting official sanction for all plays was a centuries-old thorn in the side of the theatre community – until 1967 or thereabouts when Kenneth Tynan led a successful campaign to abolish the all-powerful rôle of the Lord Chamberlain in granting public performance permits.

Robert Walpole (1676 ~ 1745) 

The history of secular censorship in the English theatre goes back to a Playhouse Bill proposed by Robert Walpole in 1737. As First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Walpole was in a highly favorable position to amass great personal wealth through corruption; he was, in fact, unofficially England’s first Prime Minister and not without his critics, who often resorted to the symbolic weapon of the stage to lampoon his inflated political ambitions. Walpole’s Playhouse Bill passed into law and all scripts were subjected to the Lord Chamberlain’s scrutiny; the Lord Chamberlainship, naturally, was an office appointed by the Lord Chancellor of the Exchequer. The fact that it took the English 230 years to rid themselves of this particular nuisance shows how difficult it is to unmake unnecessary laws.

I hear voices piping up: “But, but… there HAS TO BE some form of control over artistic output or the whole nation will be plunged into chaos!” Well, let’s remind ourselves that originally all artistic expression was regarded as the chief means by which Divine Intelligence (or the Collective Psyche) revealed itself to mankind. If we’re going to run around hysterically plugging up these channels of intercommunication just because some of them threaten our narrow understanding of life, would that not precipitate our worst fears and bring about a monopoly of the Truth wielded by vested interests? Humans, in their faithlessness and folly, love to make laws, which the smarter ones break. Wise is he who knows how to unmake laws.

So much for censorship. I don’t have anything positive to say about any form of censorship – and don’t give me that cynical crap about “multiracial, multicultural sensitivities.” The only chance we have to resolve any human conflict is through honest, uncensored communication; and the best people to attempt this task are our writers, thinkers, and performers – not bureaucrats and politicians!

How about the play itself? I didn’t care too much for Paula Vogel’s writing, although I think the play is an instructive study for aspiring playwrights in its clever use of cinematic devices, literary allusions and cultural clichés. Vogel’s insights and responses are circumscribed by the intellectual materialism of her academic background. Her script, which humanizes the experience of being gay and dying of AIDS, may evoke sympathy for AIDS sufferers in particular and homosexuals in general - but her typically American (Hollywood?) sentimentality about death and dying came across as trite. I’d have been a great deal more intrigued if she had at least alluded to the possibility that the HIV virus was a top-secret population-culling project of the WHO that went awry. Fortunately Vogel managed to poke some timely fun at Big Medicine, pharmaceutical companies and their professional quackery and chicanery.

Ghafir Akbar
Despite the initially amusing, then annoying, surgical excisions - goodhumoredly captioned with slide announcements like: “UNACCEPTABLE DIALOGUE REMOVED” or “UNACCEPTABLE REMOVAL OF CLOTHING REMOVED” - the play was elegant and sophisticated, and might well have marked a new level of artistic achievement in KL theatre. Rey Buono showed himself once again to be an imaginative, intelligent, and inspired theatre director who combines craftsmanlike competence with poetic passion.

Rohaizad Suaidi
The cast deserves a tremendous round of applause for the superhuman effort they put into entertaining their audiences, in the face of the dreadful uncertainties and bureaucratic stress they were all subjected to. Rohaizad Suaidi was credible and animated as Carl; Ghafir Akbar was remarkably versatile with his multiple quick-change characterizations; and Joanna Bessey was simply lovable as Anna. Theirs were technically challenging rôles – especially Ghafir’s – and I felt they could have fine-tuned their characterizations a great deal better without the help of DBKL’s censorship board. As things turned out, it was like going to the cinema and seeing a goondu’s hand blocking the projector every time an “objectionable” scene came up. Unwittingly, DBKL (as the symbol of official repression) became the fourth member of the cast and their performance was, frankly speaking, shameful.

Joanna Bessey
Malaysians are generally a patient lot but are we prepared to put up with mediocrity forever? Because that’s what censorship ultimately breeds. I certainly hope not. It’s like granting the butler the power to stop you from leaving home if he felt you weren’t “suitably” dressed. Or allowing the security guards to decide what books to order for the library and what books to burn.

An advanced culture loves and accepts diversity in all things and allows free exchange of ideas. It doesn’t stifle artistic expression and suppress truthspeaking theatre. Seems like we’re a little backward when it comes to cultural maturity.

[First published in in June 2003]