Sentence of the Day: Matthew Dessem for SLATE

The piece was about Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, who chose to dis-engage from the world by doing 10 days of vipassana meditation in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar.

  • Over an 18-tweet thread, Dorsey wrote about his experiences during the 10 days of silence, covering everything from a Silicon Valley-fied description of Buddhism (“hack the deepest layer of the mind and re-program it”) to the 117 mosquito bites he got while silently meditating in a cave, which he apparently silently counted, silently photographed, and silently compared to the heartrate data silently recorded by his Apple Watch, which he wore in meditation-friendly airplane mode.

Eeew! Mosquito bites can be so distracting! Couldn’t the meditation center install bug zappers?

Stay tuned.

If Self Had But World Enough and Time

She’d go here:

  • Antarctica, to follow in the foosteps of Ernest Shackleton
  • New Zealand, just because
  • Burma, because she’s always wanted to
  • Vietnam
  • the Nile River
  • Cuba
  • Varanasi
  • Patagonia
  • the Serengeti

It feels good to make a list, doesn’t it?

Stay tuned.

Reading List 2016, Updated

Just finished:  The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, by Thad Carhart (Charming)

Starting: The Piano Tuner, by Daniel Mason: a novel set in Burma

Then:

  • The Piano Player, by Kurt Vonnegut (Nephew’s favorite writer)
  • Road Dogs, by Elmore Leonard (One of self’s favorite writers)
  • The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters (Another of self’s favorite writers)
  • The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

K. M. Kaung’s BLACK RICE: Further Reading

So intense this year has been.  Self is just now picking up the threads of the various novels/novellas she began to read as long as a year ago.

Here’s an excerpt from Kyi May Kaung’s novella Black Rice.

She was a storyteller too, my mother, just like Uncle Kong and Aunt Anouk.  So I always knew that after her tenth failure at the Dufferin Hospital, she was so sad, she turned her face towards the wall, wishing she were dead, tears streaming from her eyes.  Even the jokes of my inebriated father, already tipsy at the afternoon visiting hour, could not make her smile.  Her tenth pregnancy had not ended in a miscarriage but in a live birth.  To keep the pregnancy, she lay in bed almost all the eight months, hardly moving.  On the advice of her doctor, she gave up sex with her husband.  She was so proud of carrying to term and of having a live birth.  And it was a boy, too, she told me.  She said his eyes and nose, and ears that stuck out, were just like mine.  Just like my father’s ears.

Kyi “has been writing fiction since she was a teenager in Rangoon, Burma, and her play Shaman was praised by Edward Albee.  She has won a Fulbright fellowship, a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Award, the William Carlos Williams Award of the Academy of American Poets, and was a Pew Finalist in Fiction twice.  K. M. Kaung’s fiction has appeared in the Wild River Review, the Northern Virginia Review, the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine, and  in Himal Southasia.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Kyi May Kaung: Berlin, 2005

In October 2005, self and a bunch of other Southeast Asian writers were flown to Berlin to give a reading at the House of World Culture as part of a conference called “Sending Signals.”  Musicians, writers, film-makers, and visual artists from Burma, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines were gathered in a hotel at the edge of the Tiergarten.  That was also where self met the writers Linh Dinh and Rattawut Lapcharoensap, and where she met a poet from Burma, Kyi May Kaung.

All these years later, self still keeps in touch with Kyi.

Self once saw an Escalade in the Costco parking lot with the license plate “Myanmar.”  She couldn’t believe it and rushed home to call Kyi.

Her somewhat acerbic response:  “If the license plate was Myanmar then I am 100% sure the car belonged to a member of the ruling party.  They’re the only ones who refer to Burma as Myanmar.”

That was a moment.

In December last year, self asked Kyi if it would be OK to post some of her poetry in this blog.  Kyi sent over six poems.  Self doesn’t know why it took her three whole months to get one of Kyi’s poems posted but here, at last, is one:

Travel warning for Burma — some places may be closed.  Ethnic cleansing going on — in 1962 they called it “cleaning the Augean stables.”

Actually, that wasn’t poetry.  That came from one of Kyi’s tweets.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

MANILA NOIR: “Satan Has Already Bought U” by Lourd De Veyra

DSCN0322

“Do you know what shabu means?  Did you know that each letter means something?” Cesar asked, pressing a clean sheet of aluminum foil between two one-peso coins.

“You mean an acronym,” Franco replied, a dull glint of the strip cruising his vision.

“A what?”

“An acronym.  That’s what you’re trying to say.  Each letter stands for a word.  Like PBA.  Philippine Basketball Association.  Or NBA . . . ”

“I get it.  Exactly.  An acronym.  So . . . you know what shabu means?”

“I didn’t know it meant anything.”

“Satan Has Already Bought You.”

*    *     *     *

The gossip in Bacolod.  So-and-so had a shabu addiction.

Self:  “How can he be hooked on shabu, he doesn’t make any money.  Don’t you need a lot of money to get shabu?”

Self remembers how her cousin Manong Genray scoffed:  “Even ‘sikab‘ drivers get hooked on shabu.”

DSCN0321

Sikab is a bastardization of the words “Tricycle” and “Cab.”  You can take one of these, 5 pesos (11 US cents) a ride.  Cheaper even than riding a jeepney, which is 8 pesos (19 US cents).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

BLACK RICE, a novella by K. M. Kaung

It is soooo hawtt!

Self, remember what you were moaning about only yesterday?  About how chilly it was inside the house?

Must you always need reminding:  BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR ???

Kyi’s novella, Black Rice, arrived in the mail today.  That was quick!  Self only ordered it on Tuesday!

The voice packs a punch.  The reader is immediately immersed in the narrator’s world, Burma during World War II:

. . .  The bricks in the old temples are held together by stucco cement mixed from nothing but lime, sand and boiled sticky rice.

Yet this rice-based cement has held the temples together for hundreds of years.  The monk and the nun fortune-tellers always say:  My name fits my skin color.  My skin color matches my name.  That is necessary for good luck and survival.  In our country these are necessities, like food and drink, like good health.  No one proves that better than the Old Man, Bright Sun himself.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Kyi May Kaung’s “Black Belt”

Toe Winn Latt was General Bright Sun’s son-in-law.  Seinn, Toe’s wife, was the General’s favorite daughter.  She had a degree in geology from Shanghai Normal University, and I guess that helped her with her job in the export sector and at the annual government gem emporium.  The General liked gemologists and gems.

Kyi May Kaung is originally from Burma.  Kyi was at the same conference, “Sending Signals,” sponsored by the House of World Cultures in Berlin, where self met the writer Linh Dinh.

Her story, “Black Belt,” is just out from Himal South Asia Magazine.

Enjoy!

Burma and Western Ignorance/ and the Value of Women’s Presses

Self’s article “Burma and Western Ignorance” is on-line now, at Women=Books, the blog of the most excellent Women’s Review of Books.

Why not consider a gift subscription for the holidays? This is such a fab publication, dear blog readers, and not just because it’s for and about women, but because it’s thought-provoking! And cutting edge!

And while you’re at it, why not consider buying a book from Calyx Press?  Because they are one of the oldest women’s presses in the country, and because they have discovered the following women writers, at a very early stage in their careers, and continue to support women, valiantly, from their tiny office in Corvallis, Oregon :

Chitra Divakaruni  *  Jean Hegland  *  Barbara Kingsolver  *  Ursula K. Le Guin

Not to mention the fact that, self still gets royalty checks for Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila, self’s first book, which Calyx published almost 20 years ago. Truthfully, if not for that book, self doesn’t know what would have happened to her. To her life, she means.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Self’s Review of Two Books on Burma

On-line now, self’s review of two new books about Burma:

  • Justin Wintle’s Aung San Suu Kyi biography, Perfect Hostage
  • San San Tin’s memoir, written with Carolyn Wakeman, No Time For Dreams: Living in Burma Under Military Rule

at the Women’s Review of Books website.

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