Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Amazing Story of Prisoner 00235 and His Escape from Burma continued ...

So, imprisoned for nothing, Htein Lin continues to be the artist he is. Word gets around. Another prisoner working in the office manages to get him some enamel paint. When that was gone, Lin used the color dyes used for staining the doormats made in the prison, or color powder left over from a Hindu festival.

Lacking tools, he would often just use his bare hands to apply any medium, though he also found toothpaste and medicine bottle lids, toothbrushes, and cigarette lighters helpful.He realized the long white cotton prison outfits would be useful, and he would buy them from prisoners being released for 10 cigarettes. His family brought him a tarpaulin to sleep on, and he used that to paint on, gradually tearing off strip after strip.

What survives of what he created from all this is amazing. Some paintings provide a striking account of life inside the prison: prisoners shackled, lining up for food, waiting on death row. Some are of mega-themes like the eclipse and the millenium.

Lin hid his paintings in his bedroll until he could smuggle them out with friends or family, often bribing the guards. Not everything survives, because, for example, one warder took the money, opened the paintings, assumed they were elaborate escape maps, and burnt them all.

Not to mention that, after a government purge led to a review of thousands of cases, when he finally got out of prison in November 2004 (for his escape is not from prison, but from danger later), his wife (whom he later divorced) turned out to have sold all the paintings he had done on paper to a scrap paper merchant for recycling!

Still, the work done on the prison uniforms survives, and was to be Lin's key to freedom. But how is still an amazing story ... check in tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Amazing Story of Prisoner 00235 and His Escape From Burma

There is so much horror in the world: Darfur, Iraq, decapitations on video in Germany, the anniversary of 9/11, drug deaths, so much, so much. Maybe that's why I'm also glad occasionally to hear of the flowering of life somewhere, too.

Though I grant you, this one is amazing. I mean, have you ever been reading some novel or other and you hit one fantastic plot twist too many? I've even thrown the book across the room, muttering, or shouting, "Oh, come ooooonnnnn!!"

To be more accurate, I used to do that. Until I'd lived long enough to see that, no matter how amazing the plot turns the novellists come up with, they can't approach real life for weird wonderfulness.

Take the true story of Prisoner 00235 in Burma. Locked up for 6 and a half years in a Burmese military prison.

His crime? None. Just the fact that his name showed up on a list other people thought they might contact.

Born in 1966 in a small village in the north of Burma, Lin knew he wanted to be an artist. But there were no art schools to attend, so he went to University in Rangoon to study law. In the "democracy spring" 0f 1988, in which Aung San Su Kyi emerged as leader, Lin, like many other students, was expelled.

But the internal squabbling in the pro-democracy movement convinced Lin he wanted nothing further to do with politics. He dedicated himself to his art from that point on with his first exhibition in Rangoon in 1996.

Unknown to Lin, in 1998 a letter between two former student colleagues was intercepted, in which they had a list of people to check in with to see if they wanted to be involved.

Simply because his name was on that list, Lin was arrested and, sentenced to seven years, spent the next seven months on death row.

He was still an artist. Many families brought food to their loved ones, and Lin would beg for the plastic bags and the paper labels when they were done eating, and began tracing designs with his fingernails. It was the start of his amazing escape. More tomorrow ...

Friday, September 7, 2007

"Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust" Might Be More Interesting than We Think

From the dust storm pictures above, to the microscopic study of a bit of dust NASA kindly provides below, and in our homes whether we like it or not, we are surrounded by dust. (Perhaps me more than most, after I discovered that my short-sightedness would allow me the simple pleasure of removing my glasses and being unable to see it! Tip, for those of you out there with myopia!)

Anyone addicted to Kim and Aggie, BBC America's "How Clean Is Your House" stars, and their exploration of households heaped with dirt will know, there's a lot of living stuff in there among the dust.

Insects, germs, mites, all collected on Aggie's little Q-tips and sent off to the lab, only for the agar plates and computer files to return with the horrifying truths. "A normal household kitchen counter will have 500 to 1,000 of Bacteria X, yours has 2 billion!" (A true quote, even if I did forget the name of the bacteria!)

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" doesn't sound so good, does it.

But, hold on, once again science comes to the rescue. For they have now discovered that non-organic dust, when held in the form of plasma in zero gravity, can take on the characteristics of living organisms in space.

Huh? Yep. An international panel including the Max Planck Institute in Germany (to whom I have sold books, yay!), the University of Sydney, Australia, and the Russian Academy of Sciences have found that galactic dust can form spontaneously into helixes, and, wait for it, double helixes (the famous pattern of DNA) in space, held together by electromagnetic forces, and that these inorganic creations have memory (contain a code comparable to the genetic information held in organic matter) and the power to reproduce themselves (this code can be transferred to the next generation).

I promise, I am not making this up. And I am grateful to the London Sunday Times and reporter Robert Booth for bringing it to my attention.

Indeed, here in the U.S. the National Research Council, an advisory body to the US government, is recommending NASA begin searching for what it describes as "wierd organisms". (Have they tried their local UU society? Whoops, sorry.) Actually, they are to look for organisms that lack DNA or other molecules found in life on earth.

Professor Greg Morfill of the Max Planck Institute says "The question now is to see if it can evolve to become intelligent." These findings have provoked speculation that the helix could be a common structure that underpins all life, organic and non-organic.

Wow! "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" may be a whole lot more exciting than I thought!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Guess What's In the Picture??

Now here's a question - what do you think is in each of the pictures above?

You probably got the first one OK. It's a carpet. Well, not exactly a carpet as you know it, or get it down at the wholesale warehouse. But it is a fabulous rug.

But now what's the next? Well, yes, it's a rug, too. A fantastic sculpted rug.

And the third? You might just be able to make out the floorboards underneath, and guess, yes, a rug again! Metal, this time, woven throughout.

And the last? A supernova? A fancy dancy ceiling, lots better than flourescent stick-ons? I mean, it can't be, it couldn't be, no, no, no, but it IS - it is a rug!

The latest thing, evidently, in rugs is rugs with LED lights woven into them. Forget the tacky fairy lights hanging over your bed (well, you would want to forget them, wouldn't you?) Here is something else. My new glowing carpet.

Well, not mine, actually, but one fabulous creation among all the others (all the rugs here are from Top Floor Rugs). Gotta love 'em, even if I'm sure I couldn't afford 'em. I know, I know, totally non PC, haven't even considered their carbon loading ... but I still like 'em. Must be the burgeoning fabric artist in me!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Where Have You Been, Juffie Girl???

Hi all! Just back from two weeks in this spectacular scenery ... down the back behind Moab, Utah, in a canyon by the Colorado River. This is the view from the front porch of our cottage. And the quilt photos were taken on the back porch, which is about 10 feet from the Colorado River, with a giant red rock canyon rearing up just past the river into the sky. We're 17 miles into the canyon ... and 17 miles from a cell phone signal because of that ... so blogging was out of the question.

While there I finished my eldest grand-daughter's quilt. She is an animal fanatic, particularly wild animals, and I had found this fabric full of wonderful African animal faces. These were "fussy cut" individually, and set in fabrics with the green of the Serengeti plain grasses in spring, a gentle spotted fabric rather like leopard but much smaller and more delicate, some wonderful big grass stripy fabric, and some weathered gray wrinkly elephant skin-like fabric.

Two pillows made just of the faces went with the quilt, but I moved while photographing them, so they're too blurry for public view.

Now I'm back and the book sales have begun again with a vengeance (shipped 18 today, already have 8 orders for tomorrow) - my quilting bee has got me going on the baby quilt for the next expected grand-child, not to mention several others - church is getting going again (I do need to let this go - I'm finding the energy level can't sustain it along with the rest of my daily life) - and so on and so forth.

My desk is piled with blog materials, so you can expect to hear from me regularly for quite a while from now on! Like it or not!

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