Marine Life

Living creatures under the sea and ocean water are beautiful and diverse as you can see them in the few of my paintings under the theme of “Sea Life” series. I enjoy looking at them and painting them for use in promoting its’ conservation to safeguard the environment. No need really to emphasize that the health of marine lives depends on clean sea water and the healthy ocean environment. Therefore, I am concern to learn from the UN reports that marine lives are in danger not only from ocean pollution but also from being destroyed by human fishing activities and bioprospecting in the deep sea. It is worrisome to learn about the vulnerability of marine lives beyond national jurisdiction particularly in the seamounts, hydro-thermal vents and cold-water coral reefs. The United Nations General Assembly have been discussing biological diversity issues for some time now, and I also know that since 1993, when the Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force, some member states have taken some action, according to international law, in trying to stop the destructive fishing practices that have damaging impacts on marine biodiversity and ecosystem. The sustainable use of genetic resources is another issue of concern to International Community. It is good to know that governments are negotiating the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of these marine resources. This week, the Ninth UN Working Group on Marine Biodiversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction meets at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The expected outcome is to produce recommendations for a decision to be taken at the 69th Session of the General Assembly on the development of a new international instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. I think It is our duty to support this United Nations effort to protect and conserve bio-diversity of marine lives which I think is one of the most important activity in safeguarding the world’s environment.





Melting Ice

We have been warned by scientists and experts that the World’s temperature is rising and that Global Warming is the global crisis facing us. But still there are many skeptics who do not believe in climate change. In 2005, James Balog, the famous National Geographic photographer set out on a photographic mission to the Arctic to capture images as proof that the ice and glacial are really melting because of increase heat in the earth’s environment at an alarmingly fast rate. As a result of this monumental work, we can see with our own eyes what happens to the ice at the North Pole in the documentary film “Chasing Ice”. The film is the most convincing evidence of the Earth’s changing climate. Jerry Bronson and Paula Du Pre Pesman had produced this documentary with James Balog as the main actor. I watched this fantastic 75 minutes documentary film two days ago and was impressed by the beauty of the close-up picture of ice block formations and the movement of the melting glaciers falling into the oceans. It is an incredible nature’s wild image. The photography is not only superb, but also it tells us the frightening message of the danger of changing climate that could flood many places on our earth. It convinces me that climate change is real and that we have to face it together. Everybody should find the time to watch the film and enjoy seeing beauty of ice images that no one has ever seen before until now.

Who Designs Video Games?

You have to look very heard to find one or two female designers of video games. This industry and tech-business are male-dominated world-wide. I feel better today when I read an article by Sarah Jane Stratford in Slate on the subject that has been of my concern for a long time, “Video Games as Applied Design – Without Women”. Stratford noted that there are very few women in designing content, production, and trade of video games. The field is totally male-dominated. We have to find out why this happens. I had spoken to many women in development groups during the past ten years suggesting to them that women, who are interested in changing bad female images in the mass media ( as sex objects, victims of sexual violence, passive spouse of macho men, beast of burden doing double work-load without complaining etc.) should get into this lucrative business. It is shocking that women comprise barely 12 percent of the creative force in video gaming. And that the number is declining. This phenomina reminds me of my experience when working as Regional Information Officer for UNICEF in Asia in the 60s and 70s. Headquarters’ senior staff told me to find two Asian boys to be featured in two children’s photographic-books to be printed by a New York publisher. I sent a letter to New York asking why don’t we choose one boy and one girl instead of two boys. I received a reply from a senior officer of UNICEF that the publisher said that book that focus on girl’s life-experience do not sell well. Therefore, he rejected my suggestion for gender-balance in this project. I had to comply and to go out and photograph two boys: one from Indonesia, one from Thailand: Ketut, Boy Woodcarver of Bali, and Galong, River Boy of Thailand. My experience in this co-production of the two children books shows how important it is that in getting girls and women to be focused by the media required a change of attitudes of not only women but also the decision- makers of the establishments. If we don’t want future video games to be designed and produced mostly by the men, we will have to first, encourage more women and girls to learn this technology, secondly, to create new kind of games that are fun for both boys and girls without male aggression and prejudice against women, and thirdly, find new source of funding from progressive male and female investors and fourthly to convince corporate managers that games produced by women focused on their adventures are as marketable as those of the boys. It is a gigantic task to imagine the impact that this new venture could make in every region of the world.

Intellectual Property

I am happy to join people in all countries to celebrate the 2011 World Intellectual Property Day on April 26. It is important to recognize the vital role of Intellectual Property in economic and social development. I want to use this occasion to express my appreciation of the work of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) a UN Specialized Agency. Intellectual property is a creative expression of the mind . A book, a song, a play, or a painting are intellectual properties. Without the legal protection, inventions of scientists or technologists, and the creativity of writers, artists, composers, photographers, cinematographers are opened to exploitation in the world commercial markets. WIPO work prevent an unauthorized use of the expressions of creative ideas of people around the world, including myself and my work in computer art. Copy Right laws help in preventing my paintings and digital images from being stolen from computer screen for commercial publishing without my authorization. World artists and writers benefit from the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic works. WIPO works to develop Intellectual Property laws and standards and provides global protection services from the headquarters in Geneva, and through the representatives around the world. WIPO staff also help to organize a forum for debates on Intellectual Property issues concerning traditional knowledge, cultural expressions and genetic resources. Paintings and images, whether created by brush, or via computer program, have commercial values and can be used in architectural design or industrial products. I find the WIPO Handbook useful in giving me knowledge of the legal complexity of patents and copy rights questions. WIPO chooses this year’s theme to focus, “Designing the Future”. It is an occasion to underscore the important role and contribution of today’s designers in shaping the future of our world.

Singapore Botanical Gardens

A visit to Singapore Botanical Gardens is best early in the morning. There are many people visiting the Garden at that time along with walkers and joggers doing their morning exercises along the winding roads through rain forest and around beautiful lakes. Under shady trees, a group of Tai Chi and Chi Gong enthusiasts display their skill in ancient Chinese martial arts, while the young ones prefer to do modern dance from recorded musics. The morning air was also fresh with soft cool breeze. I was already impressed of its beauty when I first visited the garden ten years ago. During my last month’s trip, I saw new addition such as the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage in the middle of the Palm Valley as I walked through the rain forest towards the National Orchid Garden, which really is a dream place for orchid lovers. Since I enjoy doing painting of orchids, I took the opportunity to photograph the large varieties of a thousand species of Bulbophylium, Aerides Multiflora, Dendrobium, Paphiopedilum Callosum, and Vanda, for painting on my website. At the Garden, the orchids were artistically displayed between small water falls and bridges in natural settings. Crane Fountain decorated with colorful orchids, was also a new addition. I want to invite everyone to come and visit this largest orchid collection in the world. The Singapore Botanical Gardens, at its present site, was founded by the Agri-horticultural Society in 1859. It was later handed over to the Singapore Government. A lake around the Garden was completed in 1866 to be a home for the swans, imported from Amsterdam. I enjoyed seeing them floating around the water of the lake. There were other people watching them and admiring the swan graceful dance from the seats along the lake sides. There were many beautiful sculptures such as “Swans in flights” and “Girl on Swing” that scattered around the Gardens’ walkway donated by Singaporean artists. The entrance to the garden is through Tanglin Gate/Botany Centre at the junction of Holland and Napier Road. Admission is free to the public. There is a charge of five Singapore dollars for entrance to the National Orchid Garden situated adjacent to the main area of the Botanical Gardens.

X-ray Images of Our Universe

I want to share with you the Paul Kerley’s slideshow of some of the most colorful X-ray images captured by the Chandra Observatory, which orbits the Earth once every 64 hours. It is wonderful for me to see those images it has produced during the last ten years from when the it was first deployed on 23 July 1999 to 23 July 2009. The narration of the slideshow was done by Daren Baskill, an X-ray astronomer at the University of Sussex. One of the most beautiful image is the cat’s eye nebula, with its blue, purple and orange color-mixture. The Chandra Telescope is Nasa’s flagship mission to continue exploring the realms of X-ray astronomy in our Universe.

Treasures of Afghanistan

Anyone interested in ancient arts and history should not miss the exhibition on the Afghanistan Hidden Treasures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. These treasures, some of them dug-up from tombs, have been on tour in the United States since last year, beginning at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, then the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas. I went to see the exhibition on July 8. As I stepped into the hall, I saw a stunning photographs of a beautiful panoramic view of the mountain terrain of Afghanistan, then I watched a documentary film of the Greek architecture from the second century B.C. city of Ai Khanum. The history of the people who live in the country in ancient times and their arts were on displayed in the connecting rooms. I like the normadic gold jewelries of the first century that were excavated from the old city of Tillya Tepe. The background Afghan music played throughout the exhibit hall, had created an atmosphere of actually being in Afghanistan for that moment in time. The display of ancient art treasures, statues, carnelian and turquoise jewelries, gold coins, carved ivory were set up in separate compartments keep secured in a glass-top tables and walls under controlled temperature. The museum organized this exhibition in cooperation with the National Geographic Society, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities grant. I went to Afghanistan for the first time in 1969. I considered myself to be very lucky in having seen the full exhibition of all the historical treasures of Afghanistan that were kept at the National Museum of Kabul before they were destroyed during the civil war. At that time the museum rooms were over flowing with arts and artifacts from Greece, Mongolia, China and India. The National Museum artfully displayed those hand-blown glasses and vases of different shapes in pale blue/green colors that were brought over by Alexander‘s army; silver and gold coins brought over by Bactrian and Mongol merchants when they traveled through the ancient “silk route” crossing the Hindu Kush mountain. I was told then that there were much more priceless materials collected at the Museum than from what I had seen, because there were no space to display them all. The museum, therefore, had to store them in the basement. When the Taliban took control of the government in the late eighties, I was concerned that those precious treasures would be lost forever. Many of them were destroyed when the museum were bombed during the war. But in 2003, the Afghan new government announced to the public that they had found some of the treasures hidden in the vault of Kabul’s Presidential Bank.The staff of the museum had hiden them underground to avoid possible looting and destruction during the fighting. In Bamyan valley, the Sunny Taliban destroyed the two big Buddha statues when they fought with the Shi’it Hazaris people living in the area. The two statues were built by Buddhist monks pilgrims who built meditation chambers by carving the rock on the side of the mountain along side the Buddha statues. Bamyan valley was a crossroads of many cultures in Central Asia from traders to pilgrims. The Taliban wanted to eliminate all forms and influences of other religions and ethnic groups and made Afghanistan an Islamic State. Now, there is a war going on between the NATO force and the Taliban establishments in the rural areas. What I am afraid of is that the modern weapons used could damage historical places shown at the exhibition namely one of the Unesco Cultural Heritage sites, the Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamyan Valley. The exhibition will end on 20 September 2009.

The Beauty Of Saturn

I am glad that we live in a time that I can follow international scientists in the explorations of the Universe by just sitting in front of my computer. The images sent to us from various space missions are spectacular – beautiful beyond description! The most recent images from the Cassini-Huygens, a joint mission of the European Space Agency, the Italian Space Agency and NASA, are those of Saturn, the second largest planet in our Solar System. We can see the planet itself composed of layers of icy rings surrounded by more than 60 moons. Each of the close-up pictures shows us more than its beauty, but all the detailed elements of which Saturn are made. After five years of explorations, scientists have produced us visual evidence that Saturn rings are made of trillions of moving icy particles and that one of Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, has liquid water beneath its surface. When there is an ocean underneath of Saturn moon, scientists says, there is a possibility that life exists there. To celebrate the International Year of Astronomy, the Saturn Exhibit is opened free to the public on 22 June at the Royal Observatory, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. It will continue until the end of August. I am thankful to Kathryn Westcott and Phil Coomes who produced an audio-slideshow: Splendour of Saturn for me to see those Saturn fantastic images without having to travel to England. A virtual exhibit can also be seen in the comfort of our own home. But for those who live in North America, the Saturn exhibit is on now at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington D.C.

Strolling The Highline

I am glad that there is a new park just opened in lower West-side of Manhattan – an usual park created by landscape artists on an elevated railroad track above the meat packing district, between the Southernmost blocks of Chelsea and 20th street. To surprise me, my son took me for a Sunday stroll in Manhattan but he did not tell me where we were going. Just sheer luck, I brought along a camera with me. It was spectacular entry when the elevator door opened. I saw Highline Park for the first time – a park in the sky full of colorful flowers planted between the tracks. This is a gigantic environment and conservation project aimed to rescue the old West-side railway from demolition. It was based on a dream of two men: Robert Hammond and Josh David. They receive funds and other support from over 1,500 people who called themselves “Friends of the High Line”. Mayor Bloomberg and New York City administration joined in this creative endeavor to make the dream come true – making the city livable in a healthy environment. Thanks to them, we have a new place to relax in the middle of the hectic life of New York city. They have succeeded in transforming a broken down railway track into a long smooth path of concrete and wooden planks, with sun deck, amphitheater, long stylized sitting benches. We walked along the path above ground admiring newly planted flowers and trees and grass, artistically grown between the railway tracks and cement planks. Wooden steps are made along the path so that people can sit, zip a drink and eat a boxed lunch while watching sunset on the bank of the Hudson River. The park is opened free to the public but not to bicycles, roller blades, dogs, or cats. It is kept clean for pedestrians only, which I very much appreciated. While strolling, I took several pictures of the plants and flowers shooting up between railway track, the total view of the garden and it’s surrounding city blocks with the street below. Sunday walk in Highline Park on a clear day in Manhattan is a memorable experience for me that I want to share with everyone. I hope that you enjoy seeing some of the pictures that I took last Sunday.