Thursday, October 30, 2014

Just one more, just one more--

"Just One more, all it takes is just one more."
Just one more to make 1110 FaceBook friends--
In my novel Wolf by KMKaung
Daw Suu in a fictionalized scene, holds up a finger to ask someone to second her proposal (for a student leader) "Just one more" in 1988 on balcony of Rangoon City Hall.
And someone comes out to second her proposal "in a world of stoolies." (My words).
This scene was told to me by Moethee Zun.
Of course in a novel all scenes and dialog are made up or re-created.
I know a woman, beautiful, smart, well placed, rich, well educated in W., savvy abt Burma who used to write a lot in Asia Week about Burma.
But she gave up in a very few years.
I heard then she imported jeans to Burma.
I asked her about this--the giving up, not the imported jeans.
She said, "What difference will it make, just one person writing?"
Well, it was her decision, but I think if we all thought that way, where would be that much vaunted change??
In her defense, there is one very well known democracy advocate in her family.
Think how it would be if reporters thought they could make no difference?
This recent murder of Ko Par Gyi is terrible.
see also my blog
and a pox on the landowner "economist" who made fun of my blog.
History will show who got it right.

Seniors day out-- Midori concert rehearsal at the Kennedy Center--

As I said, I went to the Midori rehearsal at the Kennedy Center, M playing with the National Symphony Orchestra.
I was so nervous I would oversleep and miss my 8.45 AM bus, I took a shower the night before, and was just one notch short of my Philippina classmate in Boulder CO, when I first arrived, who said she always slept in her jeans if she needed to take a morning flight, and also packed a sandwich from Manilla, in case it was too dark and she was too tired when she got to NY and could not go out to eat.
Sounded reasonable enough to me, but of course customs threw out her ham sandwich.

I saw a custom bus waiting by the curbside at the Village Center near me, but the bus driver was sleeping inside and motioned to me to go to the Center, where the door was closed.

It's getting rather nippy, but the fountains are still on.

I saw one woman, but she said she was with the walking group.

The walkers were all dressed for walking, not to go to a classical music concert, albeit a rehearsal.

I used to walk with them before, before I got into the late night fiction writing, and before my favorite in that group, elegant, gracious Marjorie, died at the age of about 82.

Now maybe I should start trying again.

The group has reconstituted itself, apparently, with slightly younger folks and many Asians.  That should be interesting.

Presently they set off, and the music lovers arrived.

It was very easy, being shepherded by 2 staff members from the Center and going and returning almost door to door.

It only cost $25 and even the taxi one way cost $50 when I went to see the Shen Yun concert (balcony $95), in the midst of a very cold winter.


This is a rehearsal, the first I have ever been to.
They played one piece straight through, and it all sounded fine to me, but then the conductor, who had a most interesting conducting style, rehearsed the musicians over different phrases.

I think what he was doing was trying to bring up the drama of the dramatic moments, and the lyricism of the lyrical phrases.

It really was very interesting to me.

Classical music rehearsal (contd)

I was going to listen to Midori live! so I did not want to go in the clothes I might go to supermart with.

So I wore my customary black outfit with the light coat I made from Thai woven materials (I am wearing same on pic on L, taken with photographer Reza) and the same shocking pink scarf, also from Thailand.  I added a big floppy pink flower I made myself from the cut off edges of my old lambswool sweater.

I had to wear my wool coat on top as it was 40 degrees F.

On the bus, the lady in charge explained concert manners, cell phones off, no chatting and told us not to get lost, our bus was #--rehearsal from 10-12 noon--

and we should do everything we needed to do during the intermission.

During intermission the ladies line was winding round and round like a snake.

Someone behind me admired my hat, so I said, I needed my hat now due to the glare bothering my eyes, and I bought the hat and added the felt rose.

I asked what piece that was they just played, and woman next to me said, Mendelsohn, with bits of Bach thrown in, if you listen carefully you can hear it.

And the conductor?

She said a name like Eichorn?

(I can't go to NSO site right now as my laptop is acting up.)

The conductor would make little jumps when he wanted to emphasize something.

--back in--

saw Midori on stage tuning with first violin, wearing black skirt, black and white top with red piping, habitual severely pulled back black hair, and black pump shoes.

I got sleepy during this section and felt the orchestra playing loud did not go so well with M's soft style, anyway, nodded off, maybe bc I slept only a few hours last night.

Then either intermission (2nd) or end of rehearsal.

No one announced anything and paid no attention at all to the audience, about 300? in all, mostly seniors, mostly women.

But ushers there, and ushers also seniors.

Well, I have been a theatre usher in Philadelphia at the Annenberg Center, as I love plays and have written one, and being an usher is a great way to study plays.

So I asked the usher if it was the end of the rehearsal, as our lady of the bus had said 12 noon, and it was 12 noon.

Definitely not, Usher said, I think he's going to do the Mozart.

So I headed back in straight away.

No way will I miss any Mozart.  If I miss the bus, I can return on the Metro.

There is no snow and ice and there's a Kennedy Center shuttle.

I love Mozart.

(In Boulder my friend, a lady who had known poet Langston Hughes, got us tickets to The Magic Flute.  I headed in fast after intermission, as Act II starts with O Isis and Osiris, a lovely prayer.  Not this ISIS, of course, the Egyptian god Isis.)

Anyway, it was Mozart, and they did a pretty good job.

It sounded like the Overture to The Magic Flute.

--Back on bus, only 2 people a bit late, but as we all sat in our seats and Lady was very systematic, no one was left behind.

I am going to do more of these day trips in future, and book early, and even maybe some of the over-nighters, if my budget allows it.

Got back to Village very hungry and went and had salmon bento, the salmon piece getting smaller and smaller, but still a good deal.

Waitress said I looked "fresh" but I know her English is not so good, and she meant "well-dressed."


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

John von Neumann--amazing genius

My 1108th Facebook friend--

Tribute to my 1108th FB friend-Khaingmar Kyawzaw  Previously I only knew Khaingmar as friend of a friend and someone who typed up U Mahn Nyein Maung's autobiography.

Now I am very happy to see she is such a strong writer and poet.



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My novella The Lovers--

My novella The Lovers, about a Chilean ballet dancer who emigrates to Philadelphia can now be bought in France and other EU countries.

The Dalai Lama, reincarnation, Tibet and politics--

Went to book reading/signing by Walter Isaacson--

I went to a book signing and reading by Walter Isaacson which turned out very good.
As usual I was one of only about 3 Asians attending, and I had to wait till last to ask my question, but I did like his presentation on his new book The Innovators and I did like his responses to my Qs.

But even though he said citizen journalism, FB etc and Amazon self publishing and "the monopoly of the mainstream being broken" is a good thing perhaps, his book is still published by Simon and Schuster.

So many people buying the book, The Center was jammed.

Among other things he mentioned Lord Byron's daughter who combined poetry, math and first computer science, ENIAC first computer developed at my school Univ of Penn., John von Neuman, Google and other things.

It was good to get a painless recap of a revolution I have lived through and how it happened, and to get the history of the digital revolution all pulled together like that.

In response to the first Q, he also went into "What's so special about Middle America."


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Special post--Asses for the Masses translated by ko ko thett

Special posting with permission from Poet ko ko thett.

He's a Poet with a capital P, but he spells his name like e e cummings in lower case.

No lower case about this Excellent translation--

Asses of the Masses.

Maung Phone Myint

Asses for the Masses 

According to surveys

The masses who have accidentally smashed into fala

Have abandoned their cyclone aid clothes

That do not fit their constitution

The voice of the masses must be heard in the

Implementation of federalism for 

The asses of the masses

In the upper regions of Chindwin & Monywa

The cattle of the masses are already pissing 

Through a hole in the back of their house

Into the urinal tracks of SEA Games

The opposition who have agreed in principle

To toe the toad in principle says

They will support the bill in earnest

Nationalism is the sixth column

In the genuine XXX union

That will consolidate the asses of the masses

The foundation has not been laid yet

Partly because

The asses of the masses are not firm yet

When a party colludes with another

& blow a rubber

Peter, in the face of the masses,

Becomes a parliamentary erect for the masses

A nail is driven into the thigh of the masses

Another, into their ass.

The Commission for the History of the Asses of the Masses

Has been approved

For the monkeys in musth

In the midst of a storm

The masses who do not know how to react

When the Allies in all grandeur enter them

Simply croon their national anthem

‘The Grandeur’ in unison

No Committee is available to answer

the paramount question from the masses:

How can we fuck your ass back?

The masses are a damaged condom

Between the cliff of cronyism

& the opposition in the establishment 

It has become an additional duty

Of the masses who grind their teeth & moan

‘Tough it out. We are simply in the wrong age.’ 

To tough out the tyranny of the civil society

In all holes of their communities

It’s also an absolute norm for the masses 

To step back another line, so

Their country won’t step back

As the good masses, we only know

How to wag our head in approval

As such, in each & each age,

The masses & the asses, the asses & the masses  

Are synonymous

I heard, it has always been that way 

Since the twilight years

Of the Konbaung Dynasty.

Translated by ko ko thett


fala : a Burmese neologism, the translator has no idea as to the etymology and meaning of fala, perhaps fala alludes to maha (see below)

The Grandeur : maha in Burmese, a Burmese song by Zaw Win Htut. Written by Mya Than San, the song is an oath to ‘the grandeur’ of pre-colonial Burmese dynasties and that of the post-colonial military regimes. The song was performed at the official opening ceremony of SEA Games in Myanmar in December 2013.

Konbaung Dynasty: The last dynasty of Burma (1752-1885) whose sovereignty was lost to the British. 

The original poem is available at the author's blog:


ko ko thett

Friday, October 24, 2014

Long live markets and free to choose, from my Facebook page--by Kyi May Kaung

Long live markets & Free to Choose.

The first thing Dr Aye Hlaing and Dr Maung Shein taught us is what are markets.

Markets are not always a place.

They don't always have walls.

What do markets do?

They connect buyers and sellers.

The 2 profs went on to teach us about barter, a coincidence of wants and needs.

Then about demand and supply, goods and services, prices, money, government budgets, trade cycles.

Dr. Findlay taught Growth Models, International Trade Theory, Soviet Planning Experiences, among other topics.

His lectures prepared me for a lifetime of criticizing top down command economies.

I remember best his lectures on The Schoolmen, Duns Scotus, The Reformation, Martin Luther, the Sale of Indulgences by the Catholic Church --  Martin Luther nailing his points on the church door in Wittenberg.

Dr Shein  started us off with Lionel Robbins and a definition of Economics and a lecture on Jeremy Bentham.

(My brother told me of Bentham's corpse preserved in a glass cabinet in England).

I have been reading the essays contributed to our upcoming collection.

Only Daw Khin Khin Thein was one  or two years senior to me.  Therefore only she could remember and comment on the curriculum before 1962 and macro economics.

I am afraid my younger colleagues were not all in time for The Greats.

As I was saying to Sean Turnell a few weeks ago, in Burma things change a lot in 2 years, so we each had different experiences.

But I think, like that Social Science Lib downstairs set up by the Ford Foundation, initially by Paul Bixler,

which gave us all the essentials, incld several volumes of Havelock Ellis, which helped me at least prepare for my marriage

--the Economics staff led by Saya Aye Hlaing and Saya Findlay prepared us for understanding micro and macro economics, including business cycles.

Many basic principles they taught helped me in real life to prioritize, shop, budget well, choose a place to buy a home and live, certainly to recognize it was time to leave Burma.

I will never forget the first words Dr Findlay said to me when I went to see him at his office at Columbia Univ.

His office was still full of books and articles, his legs were still up on a low table, as when I used to take my MA thesis drafts to him, but somehow his legs seemed shorter in the USA.

And in NY I noticed for the first time that both Saya and my cousin Mongoose had Ango-Indian accents.

My cousin said in introducing me to his UN colleague, "My cousin sister."

Saya took me to have lunch at the faculty club.

A lavish display/buffet of  meats, salads and desserts were set out on a long table covered with a white cloth.

My eyes could barely take it all in, and I was too nervous to eat.

I felt very studentish, in my wind cheater and jeans.  I went into NY in those days on Greyhound buses.

"Free to Choose, Kyi May, Free to Choose," Saya said, waving his hand at all the food.

On my first trip Saya and Ma Ma Jane invited me and my guide Ko Myo Thant, then going to NYU, to dinner cooked by Ma Ma Jane.

"The gold beef curry full of onions" which later made its way into my poem, Eskimo Paradise, later anthologized in Norton's Language for a New Century,

my first taste of broccolli and oyster sauce

and lots of strawberries with cream, Ma Ma Jane saying, "Take more, take more."

Free to Choose of course was the famous TV program on ecos. by Milton and Rose Friedman.

I had bought myself a copy at a yard sale in Princeton, that my good friend AM took me to.

The problem in Burma is there is no free choice.

Copyright  KMKaung

This was all a long way from our coffee club at Inst of Ecos, where Ma Ma Gracy Khoo helped make the coffee, but after 1962, coffee and condensed milk got so expensive, out club went out of business.  Also the stink of clogged up toilets seeped into everything, and come into my consciousness whenever I am stressed.  I still remember with some kind of shock how puffy haired ugly woman took so many spoonfuls of the condensed milk greedily when I brought in a tin of condensed milk for my lunch treat when I was promoted to lecturer in the 70s.  And this a woman who boasted all the time of how she was related to the general himself, not to his wife Kitty.

No wonder my Immigration Lawyer in the USA said Saya Findlay wrote me an excellent recommendation letter, and said I was repulsed by the system in Burma.

And once when we went on a day trip village survey, I took 2 plain cakes in a wicker basket, but no one else brought anything.  Moreover, they wolfed down the cake before I had a chance to save something for Prof. U Tha Hto.

Life was hard, in the country now changing they say to "discipline flourishing guided democracy.

People often ask me if I will go back or come to visit.

I think what I hate most is how the army has remade things in its own image, ugly crude vulgar.

And what it has done to the People is unforgiveable.

THAT, the damage to the psyche, I don't think that is reversible.


Photos, Copyright KMKaung

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Black Rice of Winter (after Paul Celan) by Kyi May Kaung

Black Rice of Winter by Kyi May Kaung.

One hour to kill
how better to do this
than reading the poetry
of Paul Celan.

Black rice of winter
we till you and till you
seeding ya kyaw sabar
and other grains that don't
taste right
and don't sell.

Black rice of winter
we till you and till you
and brave
compulsory delivery quotas
and not being able
to feed our own families and have
seed for next year
left over.

Black rice of summer
you failed us you failed us

it flooded and Nargis the Cyclone
took all of our children--
the fields
are full
of skulls and dead bodies and bloated

Black rice of winter we hate you
we hate you.

Black rice of winter leave me

Don't stick to my thoughts
don't stick to my clothes
don't stick to my being.

Black rice of winter go take
Metta to Paul Celan's mother killed
by a piece of lead.

Now the hour is effectively killed
there are only 30 minutes

Copyright Kyi May Kaung 11-14-2013