Revitalizing the Burmese harp tradition

It’s no surprise that classical performing arts in Burma have seen a steep decline, a process that has undoubtedly been hastened through increased exposure to the rest of the world, combined with growing disinterest and dwindling demand at home. A potential casualty? The Burmese harp. The very future of this national symbol may be at stake.

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New project: Zagabon, a compilation of Burmese proverbs

New project: Zagabon, a compilation of Burmese proverbs

I’ve begun a small side project on Tumblr, called Zagabon, to collect and publish Burmese proverbs and sayings of all kinds, along with English translations and context if necessary. There’s a pretty extensive Burmese proverb website up (, but unfortunately, much of the content is locked out to English speakers. That’s saddening.

The collection can be found at

My mom inspired my own attempt to collect all these sayings. I was raised in a bilingual household–my dad used only English with the children, while my mom used only Burmese, even though they communicate to each other in Burmese. Growing up, I became familiar with a plethora of Burmese sayings, perhaps the one thing I associate most with my mother. During the early years of their marriage, my father started his own form of documentation: Burmese scribbles onto notebooks and memo pads here and there, on the sayings my mom had to offer. So much so, that she began to say “Write it down” after reciting a proverb. This is just (hopefully) a more systematic approach and a continuation of his work.

Also, I’ve taken note at many folks who have an interest in these sayings, both Burmese speakers and non-speakers alike.

I think proverbs truly highlight the beauty of the Burmese language, with its earthy fluid sounds, regular vowel rhymes and mostly monosyllabic vocabulary. But it’s exceedingly difficult to translate the nuances of the Burmese language, so I’ll try my best to render the proverbs as well as I can in English.

I could use some help though–if anybody wants to chip in a proverb or two, feel free to do so in my submit box! (

In the mean time, enjoy.

The art of complacency

com·pla·cen·cy (n) a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.

It often feels futile to write posts on a small-timing blog about the major events in Burma. I feel as if I’m swimming in deep water, unable to hold my breath long enough to surface. I’ve neglected blogging for this reason.

The junta’s complacency, the United Nation’s complacency, the world’s complacency to Burma’s growing internal problems is enough to make anyone lose sight of what Burma needs, good governance that will reform and reconstruct the country’s civil society. We are transfixed by the images of bleeding monks, dead journalists and the infamous picture of Shwedagon Pagoda in the distance, shrouded in tear gas. But these sentiments do not translate to change.

I no longer know whether I should keep with these sporadic updates on Fifty Viss or abandon this pursuit. I will decide in coming days.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. at far right, with his family

Today, January 15, marks the birth date of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., who would be 78 today, were he not assassinated. He, along with countless others, helped to change institutionalized injustice and discrimination that marred America’s image as a land of equality. Although discrimination and racial injustice remain problems today, the civil rights movement helped to end post-bellum laws that segregated Blacks and other ethnic minorities, especially in the South. In the speech “I Have a Dream” (one of my favorites), which Dr. King delivered, he stated

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

He also never showed support for affirmative action (positive discrimination, as called by some), which, in my opinion, unfairly guarantees rights to people of a certain gender or racial background. In the same speech, Dr. King says

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

He wanted people to be judged by who they were as people rather than what they were. Although racism will live on, as long as people fail to look beyond race as a factor, Americans can be sure that institutionalized racism will never once again triumph in the melting pot we call the United States of America.


This will be the one. I have hopped around too long, without staying dedicated to one thing, which in this case, is blogging. I’ve been on Xanga, Livejournal, on and off. But that will end, with this blog. Hopefully.

Aside from that, I keep on reminiscing on the wonderful trip I had last year around this time.

Dog looking toward the Irrawaddy, Pagan, Mandalay Division

It seems like just yesterday that I was in Burma. Actually, exactly one year since I took this photo. I miss the country, the people, the aromas, and the sights. Especially the food and my parents’ friends. Unfortunately, I’m stuck in America, with nothing interesting to do each day, except watch country bumpkins or ghetto gangsters address their infidelities on the Maury Show (too bad I don’t have cable) or sleep.

Ducks Some nice view of the park

But at least I did something slightly interesting this week. My aunt called me up so her family and I could feed the ducks at a local park. Quite interesting to see an array of bird species, all enjoying Chinese bread and popcorn. The park would have been nice if it weren’t for the ongoing construction and the orange tape all across the pond.

It’s two-o-clock now, just about the usual time I go to sleep during school. I will blog each day over the Christmas break. Create a habit, a pattern. Haha.