Thursday, April 6, 2017

MOTH BALLS ONLINE: New Blog In Progress!


(now Antares)


THE SALIERI SYNDROME (revisited)

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

Chief Rosy Lips, no use flogging a dead horse, catch a bus! (repost)

Native Americans (often referred to derogatorily as "Indians") never owned land. They saw themselves as caretakers and had the wisdom to respect others’ right to walk upon the land. If only the White Man had befriended them and left them in peace, he would have learned a lot from them and been better off for it.

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that: when you discover you are riding a dead horse, your best strategy is to dismount.

However, in our government, more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Buying a stronger (and more expensive) whip.

2. Changing riders.

3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

4. Arranging trips to other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses.

5. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.

6. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.

7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase efficiency.

9. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase dead horse's performance.

10. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.

11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some live horses.

12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.

And of course....

13. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

If you don't understand the stupidity in this reasoning, you probably are happy with the way our tax money is being spent... and that would totally make you part of the problem!

[First posted 1 January 2012, reposted 24 February 2014 & 5 November 2015]



[Dead Horse story courtesy of Olivia de Haulleville]

UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS DECLARATION

Universal Human Rights Declaration
by Antares

There are two very basic human rights that are often overlooked. These very basic rights have far-reaching implications affecting the way we look at reality.

THE RIGHT TO LIVE

This right has historically been completely disregarded when those who wield hereditary power have decided to wage war. The military solution to economic, political or ideological conflicts is very rarely justified.

Warmongering is an infringement of humanity’s right to live by its highest ideals. All those involved in war activities - which includes the development and manufacture of death-dealing devices - must be regarded as potential killers.

Their thought-patterns and behavior can be classified as pathological. I would extend this classification to those engaged in commercial and industrial activities that have deleterious long-term effects on the environment - because the right to live implies the right to a healthy natural environment.

The Death Penalty is a vestige of moral barbarism and I urge that it be abolished throughout the world.

THE RIGHT TO DIE


Now let’s look at another basic human right: the right to die. All forms of drug addiction may be regarded as subtle ways to commit suicide. And although we do what we can to discourage people from terminating their lives prematurely, the final prerogative belongs to the individual.

We must respect the right of others to die, if they no longer wish to live. Therefore, I propose that all forms of drug addiction be decriminalized, and that drug addicts be regarded as potential suicides - and since the suicidal tendency is essentially a pathological condition, treatment or therapy must be freely provided to those who seek it.

I would like to see Malaysia’s mandatory death penalty for drug offences abolished. Stringent drug laws only serve to make the illicit drug trade more lucrative for criminal syndicates. Supply will drop dramatically – and, most likely, so will the demand - when addictive substances are available over the counter at regulated prices with the same quality controls as other consumer products.

Drug addiction may not disappear completely, but decriminalizing it will definitely relocate the problem where it belongs - in the medical, sociological and psycho-spiritual context.

[Drafted in December 1990 as a paper to be read out at a Human Rights Day event organized by the Universiti Malaya Law Faculty. Unfortunately, the organizing committee decided to drop me from the list of invited speakers at the last minute, after consulting with their lecturers. First posted 17 March 2010, reposted 29 October 2015]