Thursday, June 25, 2009

Response to "cheap shot Master of Fine Arts" cheap shot

I usually don't respond, but yes, you misread me -- badly.

My attitude towards MFAs is -- to paraphrase late great John Gardner,

"Only a talent which does not exist at all, cannot be improved by a workshop."

As for the wording, "Now you tell me --"

it's just something I picked up unconsciously from Naomi Lazard's translation of Faiz Ahmed Faiz's poem, in The True Subject.

The "you" is the universal "you" not "you in particular."

Here's the poem, and it's relevant to Iran and Tiananmen and Burma etc --

You tell us what to do.

When we lowered the boat of our resistance
into the river run with pain
how powerful our arms were
how crimson the blood in our veins!
We were sure that after just a few strokes
our boat would enter its haven

That's not how it happened.
Every current was treacherous with unseen maelstroms;
we foundered because the boatmen were unskilled;
nor had the oars been properly tested.

Whatever investigation you conduct
whatever charges you bring
that river is still there; the same boat too.
Now you tell us what can be done.
You tell us how to manage a safe landing.

Italics from original.
Poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, translated by Naomi Lazard, in The True Subject, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

Suu Kyi gets an Obama touch.

June 25, 2009
Suu Kyi gets an Obama touch

WASHINGTON - THE artist behind the iconic image of Barack Obama above the word 'HOPE' is now trying to do the same for Myanmar's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been put on trial by the junta.

Los Angeles artist Shepard Fairey depicted a beaming Ms Suu Kyi with a dove above her heart on top of red rays of light. The phrase 'FREEDOM TO LEAD' appears above.

'I created this portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi to raise awareness of her ongoing house arrest and the oppressive nature of the military regime ruling Burma,' Fairey said, using Myanmar's earlier name.

Ms Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention and is now being held in Yangon's notorious Insein Prison during her trial for a bizarre incident in which an American man swam to her home.

The Nobel Peace laureate faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Prominent US human rights activist Jack Healey said he approached Fairey about making a portrait after seeing his role firing up young people to support Mr Obama's presidential campaign last year. 'I thought he could create an iconic image and do internationally for her what he did nationally for the campaign,' said Mr Healey, head of the Human Rights Action Centre.

'I'm interested in getting that youthful reaction. Few people know where Burma is, they don't know her name - at best they say 'that lady,'' he said. Mr Healey said he was fulfilling a promise to help Ms Suu Kyi when he met her in 1999.

'She is the living symbol in my mind of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If she takes power, immediately torture disappears, 70,000 child soldiers disappear, the drug trade gets knocked off its feet for a while,' he said.

The inspirational portrait contrasts with some photographs of Aung San Suu Kyi to trickle out in recent years. The 64-year-old opposition leader has appeared sullen and frail in some meetings with UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who is returning to Myanmar this week.

Fairey created a poster of Mr Obama tinted in red, white and blue, with the future president staring into the sky above the word 'HOPE.' Fairey has since been engaged in a legal battle with the Associated Press news agency as he based his portrait on one of its photographs of Mr Obama. -- AFP -Straits Times.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Photo essay -- Daw Suu's birthday in Japan -- all photos copyright Nay Tin Myint.

Performance art Chaw Ei Thein.

Another poem "Out of Iran" -- found by David Bonta -

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 07:21:48 -0400
From: Dave Bonta
Subject: Re: After -- Poem from Roofs of Iran

Forough Farrokhzad has a poem that seems appropriate to the current
political moment. This is from Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad,
translated by Sholeh Wolpe

The Wind Will Take Us

Inside my little night, alas,
the wind has a rendezvous with the leaves;
inside my little night, there is fear
and dread of desolation.

Hear the darkness blow like wind?
I watch this prosperity through alien eyes.
I am addicted to my despair.
Hear the darkness blow?

This minute, inside this night,
something's coming to pass. The moon
is troubled and red; clouds
are a procession of mourners waiting
to release tears upon this rooftop,
this rooftop about to crumble, to give way.

A moment,
then, nothing.

Beyond this window, the night quivers,
and the earth once again halts its spin.
From beyond this window, the eyes
of the unknown are on you and me.

May you be green, head to toe
put your hands like a fevered memory in mine
these hands that love you.

And cede your lips
like a life-warmed feeling
to the caress of my lovesick lips.

The wind will one day blow us away.
The wind will blow us away.

Quote of the day -- June 23, 2009.

A mind stretched by a new idea can never go back to its original dimension."

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Shepard Fairey's portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi

Fairey is famous for his campaign portrait of Obama -- for which the photographer, on whose photo his print is based, is suing him, but the photographer is expected to lose.

Since this is a real Shepard Fairey, it's the best of these 3-color portraits that people have been producing lately. None were "bad" artistically, but this is the best -- seems to radiate out powerfully and with hope.

That just shows how art work (e.g. painting) is "better" than photography, though photography itself is an art.

Kyi May Kaung

N. Korean ship bearing arms on way to Burma --

Monday, June 22, 2009

Poem by Marilyn Hacker -- posted with permission

Yahoo! Mail
Re: permission to post poem by Akhmatova
Friday, June 12, 2009 2:44 AM
Marilyn Hacker
Dear Kyi May -- Yes, you may post it on your blog, properly identified. I am very moved that you found it relevant... But it is NOT a poem by Akhmatova, it is a "glosa" that I wrote myself, taking its source in the four lines by Akhmatova, from her poem "Willow," that are quoted at the beginning. It is a poem ABOUT Akhmatova, of course, or someone very like her, and the incidents in the poem are described in her writings, or in biographies and memoirs of her by other people (memorizing her new poems at night with a friend -- here, a young woman named Lydia Chukovskaya, who wote about the experience later-- and then burning the only existent written copy in the ashtray).

The poem was published in the United States in the magazine "New Letters," and will be in my new book, NAMES, to be published by W.W. Norton in November of this year.


On Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 4:34 PM, Kyi May Kaung wrote:

Dear Marilyn,

I know of you through your poetry and through Ram at Rattapallax. You once chose my recording of my poem inspired by Neruda.

I wanted to ask you if I may post this poem by Akhmatova on my blog

It is so like the situation in Burma right now, and young people from Burma read my blog.

I think this poem will give them strength.

Also, what is a GLOSE and a GLOSA.


Kyi May

Date: Wed, 10 Jun 2009 08:32:03 +0200
From: Marilyn Hacker
Subject: here is a Glosa, on four lines from Akhmatova


And I grew up in patterned tranquility
In the cool nursery of the new century.
And the voice of man was not dear to me,
But the voice of the wind I could understand.

Anna Akhmatova
translated by Judith Hemschmeyer

A sibilant wind presaged a latish spring.
Bare birches leaned and whispered over the gravel path.
Only the river ever left. Still, someone would bring
back a new sailor middy to wear in the photograph
of the four of us. "Sit still, stop fidgeting."
--Like the still-leafless trees with their facility
for lyric prologue and its gossipy aftermath.
I liked to make up stories. I liked to sing:
I was encouraged to cultivate that ability.
And I grew up in patterned tranquility.

In the single room, with a greasy stain like a scar
from the gas-fire's fumes, when any guest might be a threat
(and any threat was a guest-- from the past or the future)
at any hour of the night, I would put the tea things out
though there were scrap-leaves of tea, but no sugar,
or a lump or two of sugar but no tea.
Two matches, a hoarded cigarette :
my day's page ashed on its bier in a bed-sitter.
No godmother had presaged such white nights to me
in the cool nursery of the young century.

The human voice distorted itself in speeches,
a rhetoric that locked locks and ticked off losses.
Our words were bare as that stand of winter birches
while poetasters sugared the party bosses'
edicts (the only sugar they could purchase)
with servile metaphor and simile.
The effects were mortal, however complex the causes.
When they beat their child beyond this thin wall, his screeches,
wails and pleas were the gibberish of history,
and the voice of man was not dear to me.

Men and women, I mean. Those high-pitched voices
how I wanted them to shut up. They sound too much
like me. Little machines for evading choices,
little animals, selling their minds for touch.
The young widow's voice is just hers, as she memorizes
the words we read and burn, nights when we read and
burn with the words unsaid, hers and mine, as we watch
and are watched, and the river reflects what spies. Is
the winter trees' rustling a code to the winter land?
But the voice of the wind I could understand.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

After --Poem from the Rooftops of Iran --

That was a powerful poem you sent me
from the roofs of Iran,

I think of Faiz Ahmed Faiz,
whom I first met
on the pages of a Rushdie novel
I would not have known you existed otherwise
reading poetry to stadiums
full of people.

I think of Burma.
I think of Tiananmen.

Now you tell me
which MFA program in America
Master of Fine Arts

Could have produced,
something like this?

The trauma would have had
to come first.

Copyright Kyi May Kaung 2-21-09
You Tube copyright Iranian Poet.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Not true that spdc has "no ideology" by David Tharkabaw -- posted with permission.

What is political ideology?

By definition, an ideology is a set of aims and ideas, especially in politics. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things, as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies, or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to all members of this society.

The main purpose behind an ideology is to offer change in society, and adherence to a set of ideals where conformity already exists, through a normative thought process. Ideologies are systems of abstract thought applied to public matters and thus make this concept central to politics. Implicitly every political tendency entails an ideology whether or not it is propounded as an explicit system of thought.

What is the ideology of the SPDC?

The root of ideology of SPDC leaders goes back to the days of feudalism. Burman (Myanmar) had had three empires. (People may laugh at us when we say Burma had been an empire before the British occupation, because they normally think of an empire as those of Genghis Khan, Alexander the great, the Holy Roman Empire, Austro-Hungarian, Czarist Empire, and the British etc. Of course, those were empires stretching over large areas of land and countries.)

The First Burman Empire was founded by Anawrata (Anurudha), the Second by Bayin Naung (Burin Naung) and the Third and last was by Aung Zay Ya (Alaungpaya). The founders were all warrior kings, or warlords. The last empire was destroyed or transformed by the British into a colonial state, during the time known as the period of colonialism. (Colonialism may be looked upon as the beginning of globalization, which has been continuing ever since, in different forms.)

The SPDC leaders and a sub-stratum of Burman nationalists see themselves as having superior intellect, culture and power of number to unify the disparate ethnic nationalities, under the banners of unification of the country, into an empire. They ignore or fail to realize the fact that the Burman empires of old covered only plains in the middle and lower parts the Irrawaddy valley and Sittang River valley. The empire the SPDC and its cohorts now undertake to build is a former British Burma, including the hill areas with many ethnic nationalities, which have been empowered through modern education and acquired a sense of polity and nationhood. In short, SPDC leaders do not know or ignore the fact that the days of empire building is gone forever. The whole crux of the problems of Burma lies in this fact.

Current Issue

Current issue is of course to fight against the SPDC constitution. It is based on the ideology of military imperialism and chauvinism. (We may call it a fascist/Nazi constitution.) In our ideological struggle, we have to go deeper than attempt to shoot down the constitution or collaborate with the SPDC for gradual change as advocated by development ideologues.

The Impact of Geopolitics

In the days of the Cold War in which the super power camps tried to bury each other's systems, the geopolitics of the West (British, French, West German, and the US etc.) in our part of the globe was containment of communism. The AFPFL split on ground of ideology. U Nu, who was making friends with the likes of Zhou Enlai, Sukarno etc. and an advocate of neutral foreign policy, was viewed with distrust by the West. Though U Nu came back with a landslide victory in 1960, Gen Ne Win was primed to seize power. Ne Win received massive military and financial assistance to fight the communists. He fought also against the ethnic rebels, lumping the rebel groups together with the communists.

By 1975, the rapprochement between US and China bore fruit in the form of secret agreement in which China promised not to export communism and the US not to intervene militarily in South-East Asia. China continued to support BCP until in the early eighties and the West continued to give aid to Ne win in the form of anti-drug assistance. The West, especially the US, had no use for Ne Win after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. However, chauvinism, militarism and feudalism planted by Ne Win had taken firm roots.

Geopolitics of Today

In our part of the globe, geopolitics of today, ideologically, is development. The advocates of this ideology are led by Germany, Denmark, UK and France in the West and Japan in the East. The pressure we are under from these countries is "develop and democracy and human rights will come. Appease the SPDC, lay down arms or stop resistance/opposition and collaborate with the dictatorship. Turn your country quickly into a market. The IMF, ADB and WB will take care of everything."

These countries have NGOs loaded with cash to sweeten their propaganda, line of action and win adherents. The US takes the line of "democracy and human rights first, and development later." Most of us like the line advocated by the US during Bush administration. Obama came up with the idea of engagement and the junta saw it as a success of their strategy and ideology and promptly put Daw Suu on trial.

Fortunately for us, the financial crisis of global proportion has shown that development ideology is not the answer for our problems. We have to continue hammering into the heads of the junta leaders that their imperialism is devastating the country and it will eventually destroy them physically. Strike fear into their hearts. Pressure them by various means as a way to goad them to the negotiation table, for peaceful resolution of the conflict.


David Thkb.

Ideas presented here are those of David Tharkabaw and not necessarily those of this blog.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Child beggers in Rangoon, from Irrawaddy --

It breaks one's heart.

Who do you think is responsible?

Sanctions or the system created by the junta?

Irrawaddy should design a poll around this rather than asking the talking heads.


Which hurt the people of Burma more? Comment left on Irrawaddy site.

Here we go round the sanctions merry go round again.

Which causes more suffering -- sanctions, which some claim are not effective or the military, which is not short of money, but has been taking it all, and working the people like slaves since 1962?

But anyone can try "engagement" if they want.

It is obvious enough when that does not work either, as now, when junta just starts to do whatever it wants.

VOA correspondent goes to see Mrs. Yettaw in Missouri -- in Burmese

VOA correspondent went to see Mrs Yettaw, the wife of the man who swam to Aung San Suu Kyi's house.

Unofficial summary:

The half finished house is unoccupied now since Y. charged all his travel expenses on his credit cards and then went to see Daw Suu, which he had attempted to do once before.

He left the books there the first time, when Daw Suu's maids were too frightened and did not let him in.

His wife told the reporter he was depressed due to the death of his son in a motor cycle accident. (The grave is shown) -- They did not have money for the funeral and friends washed cars to raise money for the service.

She said he had done human rights work in other countries also.

They are Mormons and worship at the Church of Latter Day Saints.

The reporter also talked to the sheriff.

The reporter says -- "These are just ordinary Americans."

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi pages --

Comment I tried to leave on Irrawaddy site --

I agree with you, John Jackson. (That there are some "academics" who waste time and worse criticizing Daw Suu)

I spent my life up to 1997, "being an academic" i.e. studying, but I don't think the purpose of study is to provide fuel for groundless attacks on victims of the regime such as Daw Suu and the NLD.

I spent the last 6 months and 2001 - 2004 helping the NCGUB prepare a democratic transition plan for Burma. It is not true that the democracy movement "has no vision."

Over the course of all this time, I read dozens of reports, some commissioned, some from inside Burma, that pin-pointed the problem.

The junta is the problem.

So called "academics" who deny this fundamental truth cannot be true scholars.

That's why activism is the only answer.

Alas, it has not been in fashion among a certain set. Meanwhile SPDC is more vicious.

As someone wrote recently, "maybe the junta did not get the new engagement memo."

I've been to a zillion conferences where XYZ would come up to me and say "I was just in Rangoon" and then spout some nonsense.

Enough said.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Comment I left on Irrawaddy site after reading that "a lower court is allowing defense witnesses."

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her father Bogyoke Aung San, the founder or post World War II -- Independent Burma. Aung San was assassinated by a political rival before Idependence.

Friends of Daw Suu and Democracy and Burma should keep pushing and pushing and pushing, until she and all the political prisoners are released, (and Democracy is achieved in Burma.) The junta is too clever at tightening and releasing the pressure on "strings" -- more like ropes or chains. Nothing happens in a lower "court" unless decided by Sr.Gen. Than Shwe. Thank you Irrawaddy for doing your part.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Comment I tried to leave on Irrawaddy site -- after reading interview of Khin Ohmar --

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Kachin dress -- from Internet.

Thank you Ohmar, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and everyone who fights for democracy inside and outside Burma.

Daw Suu and all political prisoners should be released unconditionally. Their health should be properly looked after, including allowing them to seek treatment overseas. We all know the generals and their families have special hospitals and clinics and get their health care in places like Singapore.

The democratic opposition had prepared a Transition Plan already with great care, but now the junta's own actions have pushed it further away.

The UN should do more.

The junta by now knows well how to play the PR game, as we saw in 2007's Saffron Revolution and the 2008 non-response to Cyclone Nargis.

We all admire and love Daw Suu, U Win Tin, Min Ko Naing and the 1988 generation dissidents, comedians etc.

The junta can't go on with these Stalinistic type show trials, like those in the late 1920s in the Soviet Union, which killed all the leading intellectuals.

How "educating" as well as sad to live in times like these.


What the UN can't ignore in Burma -- from Washington Post

My archive at IISH, Amsterdam--