Monday, November 23, 2009

Kyi May Kaung's comment left on Irrawaddy site --

Snake's head -- sculpture by Alexander Calder, National Gallery DC -- photo Kyi May Kaung

In response to Dr. Zarni's Beware the Generals' Election --

From William Butler Yeats --

The Circus Animals' Desertion

Now that my ladder's gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.
We have to get back to human rights. The abuses multiply and escalate. A rigged "election" won't change anything.

Kyi May Kaung (Ph.D.)

Gustav Klimt

Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, November 20, 2009

My comment on Mrs. O Blog, on late Joanne Weinstein of Ultimo --

I check out what Mrs. O. is wearing regularly, and I find everything in the best taste, while retaining a sense of occasion and fun, when the occasion calls for it. A feeling of sadness when it's a sad event Mrs. Obama is attending.

Kudos to Mrs. Obama and her fashion and art sense and her mentors who "trained her eye."

As a poet, artist and maker of wearable art myself, I know whereof I speak.

Kyi May Kaung

The well-wedded sculpture and poetry of Mark Behme and JoAnne Growney, by Kyi May Kaung (Ph.D.)

A few months ago I went to a sculpture exhibit by Mark Behme, combined with a poetry reading by JoAnne Growney, at the Friendship Heights Village Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where it seemed to me the poetry and the sculpture went together very well, as my father used to say about lyrics that were “wedded” to the music. At the same time both the sculpture and the poetry were strong enough to stand up well on their own, thank you very much.
I have viewed other exhibits where poetry was displayed together with sculpture through wall-notes.
In this case, after I scanned through the twenty or so small sculptures by Mark Behme, most of carved wood and found objects displayed on a table, JoAnne Growney, who says she is named after her two grandmothers, Josephine and Anna, read her poetry in a careful and respectful manner from a podium.
Growney is known as a “math poet,” using her mathematics knowledge in her elegant poetry. I had met her a few years earlier at one of my own poetry readings. In their team’s process, the sculptures are on loan at Growney’s home, while she writes on her own. Behme works in the basement of his own home in Silver Spring, where he lives with his wife and a couple of small dogs, as well as sculptures he has carved and exchanged with others or had given to him by friends and neighbors.
To write this, I met up with both collaborators at Kefa Café in Silver Spring, MD and interviewed them, then we walked over to visit Mark’s home and studio.
A high point of visiting artists in their home studios, besides seeing how they make their art, is seeing the organic way in which artists live with their creations. Sculptures and furniture made by Behme were seamlessly integrated into the lived-in shadowy ambience of a small fifties cabin, built originally from a Sears do-it-yourself kit, Behme told me. For me it all harks back to a simpler time, such as when I was growing up in Rangoon, Burma, where we did things for ourselves. I also have a home studio where I paint and make papier mache constructions. Some of my favorites that I saw at Mark’s was a hefty side board and wine bottle holder, which he said was the first piece he ever carved. It features two types of wood, maple, his favorite, he said, and vine leaves carved on the front from African purpleheart. The other wow piece to die for was a carving of a nude woman as the backrest for a six foot high chair or throne which had a found iron grate as a seat.
Downstairs in the basement, Behme had his woodworking machines such as lathes behind a dust screen of transparent plastic and does his carving in the outer area. He showed us a guitar he was making, which had a stained purple streak running lengthwise down the right side.

Run with the Dog -- work in progress - front view -- Photograph courtesy of Mark Behme.

All his electric guitars are made from quality components, which he buys from a supplier. As we left, we saw a new box just delivered by the postman. The musical instruments are all working guitars that can be played and have whimsical elements such as faces that only the musician can see as he or she plays. I thought this fantastic.
Growney’s poem Devil’s Music illustrates Behme’s guitar sculpture Nutjob, which features a gleeful devil’s face.

Nutjob -- a carved guitar -- art work and photo copyright Mark Behme

The Devil’s Music

Don’t be all thumbs
but thumb your nose
at those whose rule of thumb
turns all thumbs down at fun—

. . .
JoAnne Growney told me she had worked with different artists, but the art comes first. She reacts to it.
“Truth is hidden from us, but if we try sly tricks we can discover it. Mark’s sculpture is a tool for me. Both of us work alone, then meet and talk about the work. I saw one of Mark’s pieces (I FALL TO PIECES AND I CRY) exhibited at the Pyramid Atlantic storefront on Ellsworth Avenue, took a photo and wrote about it . . .”
The poem Lovely Love accompanies two tabletop size, brightly colored sculptures, Cupcake Boy and Drop-Dead Gorgeous.

Cupcake Boy and Drop Dead Gorgeous -- photo courtesy of Mark Behme

Lovely Love

A beautiful girl and a pretty boy
are a match that’s bound to happen—
for both know how to kiss and tell
. . .
He brags that she’s drop-dead gorgeous;
he’s sweeter than chocolate, she cries.
Helpless voyeurs, we watch when they kiss
to see if they open their eyes.

Another of my favorites, Split Tales, depicts a girl with corded hair, who literally has two parts, dividing
from her waist up. One part is lying down while one is sitting up.

Split Tales -- photo courtesy of Mark Behme

Which Girl Am I?

The girl who’s not forced to divide
into the good girl and the real one
is a lucky one. I was eleven
when I felt a crack begin.
In time I fully split—

At the exhibition and reading, the piece that most appealed to me, maybe because it is darkest and seems to capture the state of the politics of my home country, Burma, is called The Endgame.

The End Game -- sculpture of wood and found objects by Mark Behme -- photo courtesy of Mark Behme.

It shows the top part of the torso of a man curving up from an empty shell casing, and is pierced through and through with a long spiral screw of copper. The man is wearing a helmet.
In chess, as grandmaster Gary Kasparov writes, the end game is when both sides have few pieces left and are at the final stage. Inspired by the sculpture, Growney put together a composite poem of one-liners from her neighbors Elizabeth Behrens, Megan Benson, Talia Benson, Abi Daken, John Daken, Tom Jennings, Ed King, Joan King, Denny Shaw, Ann Taylor and herself.

It’s a grand finale to end this article and like all good art will live forever.

It’s Not Over / It’s Over

It is not over until . . .
It’s not over until the votes are counted.
It’s not over until the treaty is signed.
It’s not over until the end of time, space, wind and rain.
It’s not over until all love is gone.
It’s not over until I say it’s over.

It’s not over until the bullet hits the ground.
It’s not over until the ammunition runs out.
It’s not over until Rumsfeld moves from the Chesapeake to the third circle of Hell.
It’s not over until defense contractors are at peace.
It's not over until the senses shut down and dimensions dissolve.

It is over when . . .

It’s over when the lady says it’s over.
It’s over when fat ladies no longer sing.
It’s over when it’s ten o’clock and we know where our children are.
It’s over when the mirror is clear.
It’s over when clouds darken the sky.

It’s over when the soldier enlists.
It’s over when a land mine takes his legs and the politician slams his fist.
It’s over when rhetoric meets flesh and bone and powder and lead.

It’s over when hope is extinguished and either-ors expire.
It’s over when no poor, young American joins the armed forces to pay for a college education.

To see more of the sculpture of Mark Behme and purchase art work visit his website.

JaAnne Growney's poetry is featured on her website
where you may order copies of her poetry collections.

Kyi May Kaung is an award-winning poet whose poems have been featured in Norton’s Language for a New Century, Amnesty International and The New Internationalist’s Fire in the Soul, The Museum of American Poetics, Counterpunch, Glass, Poet Lore, Rattapallax, Poet's Attic and other publications. She has published two chapbooks, Pelted with Petals: The Burmese Poems and Tibetan Tanka. She is also a professional artist who has had nine international one women shows since 2002. Her 1994 doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania is in Political Economy.

After 25 years Oprah Winfrey announces last season of her talk show -

However, she never involved herself in international issues like Burma and Rwanda, and that's a pity.

Photo essay -- "Dialog" by Kyi May Kaung

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi with US delegation led by Kurt Campbell.

Georgio de Chirico -- Conversation among the Ruins, 1921, National Gallery.
Photo Kyi May Kaung

Giacommetti -- The Queen -- at National Gallery, DC -- photo Kyi May Kaung

Aung San Suu Kyi seeks dialog with Than Shwe -- interview with her lawyer Jared Genser --

informal summary -- need to move from talking about talks to real talks.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Website of US Embassy, Rangoon, Burma.

The Spoof blog -- some funny pieces, some on Burma

Politics and Style Blog

From guest commentator James O'Brien --

re. Irrawaddy article on Burma by Aung Zaw "Climate change in Burma."

We have to be very careful with this, and keep close watch.

Most of the exile groups or personalities are also jumping on the engagement band wagon or gravy train for funding, even for free trips.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been isolated from the world for quite some time, so has the NLD to some extent.

She has asked to see the Sr. Gen. but meanwhile Gen. Than Shwe is going for lessons to Sri Lanka (maybe he wants to learn how they eliminated the Tamil Tigers)

He's saying certain neocolonialists (read western governments) are pressuring Burma.

"Burmese people" is a code word, but it is not equivalent to "the SPDC."

Suu Kyi too may give away too much politically because of course she is negotiating from a position of weakness, not strength. She also is in the end game, cornered and with few moves left and all her chess pieces taken away and imprisoned.

It's a great tragedy to be alive to see all this in Burma.

Pro-trade, anti-sanctions people are jumping for joy.

James O'Brien

Timeline US-China relations, from Washington Post

China close to collapse, says man who first found out abt Enron --

Figures just don't add up to 8.9% growth as China claims, says top investment fund manager, who thinks they are cooking the books.

If so things look bad for USA and also for countries in the region with close ties to China such as Burma


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jews in Burma -- video from VOA

Guest commentator on "Than Shwe grandson attends car show"

Is this the much vaunted "Burmese Culture"
i.e. "Myanmar Culture" that the junta is trying to maintain.

If so Ha Ha Ha -- Sr. General cannot control his own grandson.

BTW, the Burmese grapevine says that T.Shwe won his wife in an army lotto after she was widowed from her first husband.

Isn't that interesting and shows in what high regard Burmese hold their women.


James O'Brien.

DC sniper killed by lethal injection --

Monday, November 09, 2009

An excellent review by Marianne Villaneuva of 2 Burma books

White House says Burma tail will no longer wag ASEAN dog

800+ students move on Capital Hill to prevent genocide in Burma, Darfur etc.

Jim Hoagland -- Dissidents missing from Obama's diplomacy --

Free Burma Ranger who lost his life to malaria while helping other Karen villagers and his daughter -- photo from Free Burma Rangers.

Talking heads at SAIS, DC Burma talk -- photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

This is indeed true and the panels at SAIS on Burma seemed stacked.

It was hard even to find out who was coming and what was going on where.

The Iranian dissidents inside the country must be even more upset than the Burmese.
Kyi May Kaung

Dr. Kyi May Kaung's interview with Dove Magazine -- about Burma's 2010 elections and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's role --

Transcript in Burmese -- on 2010 elections and Aung San Suu Kyi's role. These were only 2 Qs.

I said the 2007 referendum, the spdc constition, the proposed 2010 "election" and sham trials of Daw Suu, Yettaw and now Kyaw Zaw Lwin (Nyi Nyi Aung) are all shams and are part of a preconceived strategy. Since 1990 was never recognized and spdc is in a position of strength, it would be best for pro-democracy parties including NLD not to participate. Of course, that is my personal opinion.

In the meantime the spdc does not have a good record. Human rights abuses have increased, so has the number of political prisoners (and it is waging military campaigns against almost all the ethnic groups.)

On Daw Suu's role in Burmese politics, I said that her role will always be there, whether she is allowed out of her house or not, whether she is physically allowed to participate or not (or whatever she decides.)

I spoke to the reporter shortly after Presdt. Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and I said that but for fact that Nobel prizes are not awarded repeatedly to the same person, by now Daw Suu has done enough to win about 4 Nobel Prizes.

Her role, her spirit and her inspiration will remain whatever happens. By now the Burmese people know well what she stands for and what democracy is.

(This was recorded before the U.S. engagement policy was announced.)

Will be in upcoming print edition of Dove magazine.

Kyi May Kaung

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Cy Twombly

Robert Motherwell -- words and images --

Robert Motherwell's Elegy to the Spanish Republic

Spanish elegy on harp -- beautiful photographs and music --

Environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy

Comment By Kyi May Kaung on new Canadian ambassador to Burma and a "united front" by western governments --

Window cleaner hanging by a thread -- photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

re. article in Irrawaddy Oct 30, 2009, interview of Ambassador Hoffman.

It all depends on the SPDC now -- if they continue to play the game the way they have always done, window dressing while continuing to pound on everyone, post 2010 will be worse than before 2010.

So far the signs are not good, in spite of the sincerity of the western governments and the pro-democracy forces inside and outside.

West should take what internal NGOs say with a grain of salt. Too often I see the attitude "don't talk to us of faults of junta, just let us do our job on the ground."

The problem is micro-economic "solutions" won't change the macro system and it is system change that we need.

The ball is now in the Sr. General's court.

Let's see -- but he continues to pull wool over everyone eyes with talk of "industrialization" -- unfortunately with junta owned investment and companies and slave labor.

Very tiresome.

That said this is an excellent interview in both Qs and As.

Kyi May Kaung

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Open Letter to Kurt Campbell from Burmese Civil Society Organisations --

2 November 2009
To: Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
1. Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State
2. Scot Marciel, Deputy Assistant Secretary, East Asia and Pacific Bureau and Ambassador for ASEAN
3. Larry M. Dinger, U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Burma
Open Letter from Civil Society from Burma and Asia Concerning U.S. Fact-finding Mission and
Ongoing Efforts for Peace and Democracy in Burma
Dear Secretary Campbell,
As civil society representatives from Burma and Asia supportive to the cause of human rights and
democracy in Burma, we want to express our appreciation of the U.S.’s efforts, past and present, to
promote democracy, peace, and national reconciliation in Burma. In your upcoming fact-finding visit to
Burma, and in any future efforts, we urge you to follow the lead of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and other prodemocracy
and ethnic opposition leaders, who continue to express their genuine will for substantive
dialogue, without wavering on the key principles and concerns of the people of Burma. We urge the U.S.
and others in the international community to accept nothing less than the regime’s fulfillment of
key benchmarks before the 2010 elections: the release of Daw Aung San Su Kyi and all political
prisoners, the cessation of hostilities against ethnic groups, and inclusive dialogue, including
review of the 2008 Constitution.
We want to emphasize that the new U.S. policy of pursuing political engagement while maintaining
sanctions is very much in line with the position taken by the National League for Democracy and other
pro-democracy groups. The NLD’s Shwegondaing Declaration as well as the Movement for Democracy
and Rights of Ethnic Nationalities’ Proposal for National Reconciliation are representative of consistent
calls not for isolation of the regime, but for critical political engagement and substantive dialogue. Of
course, any sort of political engagement with a regime like the SPDC is wrought with danger.
As we saw with Senator Jim Webb, naïve attempts at diplomacy—in his case, premature calls for
recognizing the undemocratic 2010 elections and lifting economic sanctions—hold the danger of
emboldening the regime to continue its brutal actions and empty rhetoric, without taking any real steps
towards democratization. We have already observed the dangerous misinterpretation by some key players
in ASEAN that the new U.S. policy aims to follow ASEAN’s highly problematic brand of constructive
engagement. In this key time before the 2010 elections, we urge you to take the path of critical political
engagement, while maintaining pressure on the regime.
Some international observers, particularly Burma’s neighbors, see next year’s elections as an opportunity
for change, but under the rules laid out in the military’s 2008 Constitution, and with the regime’s diehard
measures to silence opposition, the showcase elections will serve only to cloak the regime in false
We reaffirm the U.S.’s priorities for Burma, as stated in your recent congressional testimony, including
“the unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners; an end to conflicts with ethnic
minority groups; accountability of those responsible for human rights violations; and the initiation of a
genuine dialogue among the Burmese government, the democratic opposition, and the ethnic minorities
on a shared vision for the way forward in Burma.”
We urge you to reiterate these priorities to the regime and to governments in the region as critical
benchmarks before the 2010 elections. Without the key benchmarks of (1) the release of Daw Aung San
Suu Kyi and all political prisoners and (2) an end to attacks against ethnic groups and (3) inclusive
dialogue, including a review of the 2008 constitution, the international community cannot accept the result
of the elections as a true expression of the will of Burma’s people.
Your recent testimony suggested that the upcoming trip may also address “initial positive steps” the
regime could take in “areas of mutual benefit” such as counter-narcotics, health, and environmental
protection. Past experience has shown that the SPDC’s so-called attempts at environmental protection
often lead to further human rights abuses and the denial of local and ethnic communities’ rights to the
sustainable management of natural resources. We urge you to keep in mind that these “areas of mutual
benefit” are not isolated concerns, but symptomatic of a regime with no regard for its own people. In
recent months, in a move to reclaim control of its border areas before the elections, the SPDC has
combined both divide-and-rule and scorched earth tactics, resulting in massive displacement of ethnic
civilians and contributing to regional instability. These actions are a continuation of long-held policies,
which have destroyed over 3,300 villages in the ethnic states of Burma in the last ten years.
We support your concerted efforts to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, NLD, and ethnic leaders. We
urge you to meet with them in their offices instead of government “guest houses.” There are many
activists working for the development of democracy, human rights, and environmental protection
based inside Burma and on the border, who can provide valuable information and insight into the
country’s myriad problems. We urge you to meet with representatives from both areas during and
after this trip.
We also want to draw particular attention to the case of American citizen Kyaw Zaw Lwin (a.k.a Nyi
Nyi Aung), who continues to be detained in Insein Prison. We are concerned for his safety due to reports
of torture, and urge you to do all that you can to secure his release.
We continue to seek further opportunities to engage with you and your office in our parallel efforts
towards peace and democracy in Burma.
1. Alternative Asean Network on Burma (Altsean Burma)
2. Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition
3. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
4. Assistant Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
5. Association of Protection for Refugee Children in Burma
6. Backpack Health Workers Team
7. Burma Centre Delhi
8. Burma Information Team
9. Burma Lawyers’ Council
10. Burma Lusei Union
11. Burma Medical Association
12. Burma Partnership
13. Chin Human Rights Organization
14. Chin Students and Youth Federation
15. Chin Youth Association
16. Chin Youth Conference
17. Falam Chin Women Development
18. Forum for Democracy in Burma
19. Foundation for Media Alternatives (Philippines)
20. Free Burma Campaign (Korea)
21. Free Burma Coalition-Philippines
22. Friends of Burma (Chiang Mai)
23. Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma
24. Human Rights Education Institute of Burma
25. Indonesia Solidarity for Burma (Solidaritas Indonesia Untuk Burma)
26. Karen Environmental and Social Action Network
27. Karen State Education Assistance Group
28. Karenni National Progressive Party
29. Mae Tao Clinic
30. Mara Thylia Py (MTP)
31. National League for Democracy-Liberated Area
32. Nationalities Youth Forum
33. Network for Environment and Economic Development (Burma)
34. Nonviolence International Southeast Asia
35. Patriotic War Veterans of Burma
36. People’s Forum on Burma (Japan)
37. Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception- Philippines (SFIC)
38. Shwe Gas Movement
39. Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacy (SAPA) Task Force on ASEAN
40. South East Asian Press Alliance
41. Students and Youth Congress of Burma
42. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines
43. Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma
44. Thai Labor Campaign
45. The Karen Teacher Working Group
46. Task Force on ASEAN and Burma
47. Women’s League of Burma
48. Zanniat Youth Organisation
49. Zomi National Congress
50. Zomi Women’s Union

Ashland OR resident helps children of dump on Burma Thai border

Michelle O will be on Iron Chef!

Secret ingredient -- toasted peanuts in shell -- photo copyright Kyi May Kaung.

Why don't we have the generals from Burma contest the US chefs in Kitchen Stadium?

Let Burmese folks be the judges of what's good food. Aung San Suu Kyi, U Win Tin and U Tin Oo to be special judges.

That way we can see how high tech they are -- can they operate an ice cream machine.

Do they know the international names of dishes? Maybe they do.

James O'Brien

Borderline Cafe and Art Gallery -- Mae Sot, Thailand

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Coco Chanel

No innocent she
might have lived
with a Nazi.

Poem copyright Kyi May Kaung

Henri Matisse -

Constantin Brancusi --

Pablo Picasso

Irrawaddy cartoon -- "Look who's coming to dinner."

US new Burma policy from State Department site

On a light note -- an analysis of Michele O's fashion style --

Photo essay -- prayers for Kyaw Zaw Lwin (Nyi Nyi Aung) US citizen still in jail in Burma --

Offering food to monks -- photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

Presiding monks offered "soon" (rice meal)- Photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

Pathein Halwa made in America. Photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

Sermon time followed by political speeches -- way to go in America -- photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

Older Burmese ladies in America -- photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

Hand mixed salad -- where are your gloves, Baby? Photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

Chicken curry for nan gyi salad -- photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

Cute couple -- photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

Try on my hat! Photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

Monday, November 02, 2009

9 minutes ago -- Will Mr. Campbell be able to break the Ice?

US envoy to meet Aung San Suu Kyi and give public briefing at Chulalongkorn U

Monk's robe offering for Kyaw Zaw Lwin (Nyi Nyi Aung's) birthday -- (still under arrest in Burma and Freedom of all political prisoners. Photo copyright Kyi May Kaung.

Loaded panel? at SAIS on Friday Oct 30, 2009 --,us-envoy-to-meet-aung-san-suu-kyi-on-myanmar.html

"Pragmatism" new in word for U.S. -Burma policy --

There was a whole slurry of pro-engagement closed door meetings etc in DC last week.

New key word "Pragmatism, pragmatism, pragmatism."

Whether it will really be pragmatic or "smart" is anybody's guess.

Word "smart" was in SAIS seminar's title.

"Smart U.S. Policy" -- does it mean old policy "not-smart" and "new" policy "smarter?"

I really doubt it will make any difference.

Jim O'Brien

My archive at IISH, Amsterdam--