Whoa! Friday already? Wasn't it Friday just last week? Here we are again with another round of wit, wisdom, and wackiness from the blogs on and about Taiwan.
Anarchy in Taiwan's series on Moshing in the Third World comes to an end as he returns from the Philippines.
When we arrived at Anak Bayan, Melona came out of the women's room coughing and said they would give me a three part lecture. Her friend Rhea would teach me the history, while Melona would cover the "problems" and the "solution." Just then Rhea came out of the room and told me she would need some smokes for the lesson. We walked across the street where a vender handed her a pile of Marlboro singles. She dropped some coins in his hand and we returned to the flat. It began raining and the water leaked on to the floor next to me as Rhea began her lesson.
I was going to write a whole entry about Anak Bayan's history of the Philippines from the end of Spanish colonization to the present, but I decided to just write a synopsis of the lecture:
Anarchy in Taiwan also pointed me to this great tale on POTS about Taiwan's greatest rock band ever, a snapshot of the early democracy period after the end of martial law.
the leaky pen, rapidly becoming one of my favorite Taiwan blogs, describes the disillusionment of living in Chungli.
Now, I know, I've come down pretty hard on my surrogate home in this blog lately, but in all seriousness there's a lot about the place that a fella can dislike...besides the way it's history is written. For instance, I've lived here for over a year now and I've yet to find a decent place to eat, which is pretty damn rare for any Taiwanese town. Plus, there's no nightlife aside from a few seedy dives that woulda made good redneck bars back in the states, in places like Georgia or Alabama. Sure, there are what seem to be some nice x-rated KTVs and hooker-filled "barber shops" around--places like "Caesar's" right behind the Jhungli Train Station or the "Golden Lotus" next to the Jhungli City Museum--but those aren't exactly my cup of scotch if you know what I mean.
Come down to Taichung some weekend, tlp! We'll go have a drink downtown with the gang down here.
Several bloggers caught the Canadians being busted in Korea for using fake documents. Freedom Slopes notes:
Korea has taken a strong stand against English teachers with dubious credentials lately . Taiwan however has always taken a liberal attitude towards the English Teaching trade and Taiwan has always had high levels of unqualified teachers. Taiwan does not actively seek out teachers with fake credentials or those teaching outside of their assigened schools as Korea does. I don't think Taiwan even has a proven method of certifying teacher credentials. Just last year there was a story of a South African who was deported, after his taiwanese GF reported his fake credentials, but then he returned and cleared his name in a Taiwanese court. No one had chosen to really scrutinize his documents that he provided. If they had they would have found that the uni he had studied at provided a BA, Masters and Ph.d online for 999$USD.
Perhaps the Taiwanese could take note of the Korean crackdown and at least make an attempt to better enforce the laws here.
There is a verification system, FS. The Ministry maintains a list of accredited foreign schools, and there is supposed to be a check against that somewhere in the system. The brazen South African you refer to I blogged on earlier. I sent letters to all the English newspapers to alert them to the truth, but nobody printed them. Scott Sommers blogged on the Canadians as well, as did Fred Shannon.
Recently I've been coming across some English compositions that have me completely dumbfounded. They contain sentences the likes of which I have never seen--grammatical errors and diction problems that are completely new to me (and I've been teaching EFL writing for over 10 years). I am about 90 percent sure that the students writing these compositions are composing in Chinese, then using some sort of translation program (either online or some software) to translate the compositions into English. As you can probably guess, the compositions that come out of such an approach are sometimes pretty bizarre. I'm not going to quote any student writing here, but I'll copy some text that I plan on showing them tomorrow.
I haven't seen this yet, but it does seem to be a sort of inevitable development.
The Taiwan Chronicles is another convert to the local health system:
This week, I had my first encounter with the Taiwanese health system, and I have to say that I am impressed. I went to see at doctor at 8 p.m. with no appointment, and was seen after about a 20-minute wait. With my government-issued insurance card, the visit cost $150 NT (about $4.50 US) including the prescription, which I was able to obtain from the pharmacy attached to the doctor's office. Between that visit, my current need to also see a dentist, and the recent conversations I've had with other foreigners about their healthcare experiences here (one coworker just had a filling replaced for about $1.50 US), the thought of coming home to the American health system (or lack of one) is quite saddening.
The health system here is great -- for now.
Axis & Allies lovers shouldn't miss Karl's very funny find at the A&A group Caspian Sub:
Jorge: Ok, we do too. We also put a little twist on it. If all of Germany's planes are destroyed then they are able to build the 'Visigoth Catapult'. It allows one infantry to be launched up to 3 spaces away. They fire for a round and then die.
Oleg: Oh, kind of like Kaiten Torpedoes.
Jorge: Kind of, only this is cooler. This is the 'Visigoth Catapult'.
Oleg: Ok. Anything else?
Jorge: Yes. We didn't think there were enough spaces in the board once the Allies get to Germany so we use the Holy Roman Empire expansion map.
Oleg: Fiefdoms of 1157AD or fiefdoms of 1036AD?
Jorge: Man, around here you won't find ANYONE using the fiefdoms of 1157. That map is retarded.........
ROFL. Caspian sub, hosted at Yahoo, has lots of fun stuff, including strategy packs and questions, and house rules that are excellent, aimed at solving the problem of Axis weakness.
I know a scrubbing brush company that needs to find itself a better marketing director. Love the fine print on the package as well: "convenience grasp", "usage do not harm the hand".
David at jujuflop hits the all-important problem of reform of Taiwan's moribund banking sector.
The thing that strikes me about this is that there are currently 12 state-run banks in Taiwan. Note that this is the state after several years of reform (there were about 50 banks 10 years ago). Huge numbers of banks I can understand (one of Taiwan's characteristics is the large number of small companies that continually pop up then disappear and generally help the Taiwanese economy), but what is the possible advantage of huge numbers of state run banks? It goes some way to explain the sad state of Taiwanese banking.
This idea of tate control is an old one in Chinese culture, going all the way back to the old Discourses on Salt and Iron, a first-century BCE text recording debates on whether and how the state should control the iron and salt industries. Nothing has really changed, as today both of those industries are still in state hands in Taiwan, in the form of China Steel and Taiwan Salt. Robert Wade once noted that Taiwan had the highest percentage of state-owned businesses outside the old Soviet bloc. One of the things that makes Taiwan so fascinating is the way it embodies contradictions like crappy and inefficient banking with dynamic economic growth, and massive state ownership of the economy with a vibrant export sector.
Cold Goat Eyes makes his own list of what's special about The Beautiful Isle:
It seems that everyone is making a list these days. Over on Isla Formosa, Dave compiles a selection of the things he doesn't miss about home (Canada), Compass lists 16 things to do in Taichung, and BigEll provides a rundown of his literary morsels over the last six months, including Martell's Booker-winning Life of Pi. Never one to be afraid of jumping on the compilatory (?) bandwagon, I present the Cold Goat Eyed guide to what is good (and not so good) about life here on the island.
One of the things that CGE mentions is of course the plight of western women in Taiwan:
This is a big fat cliche in Taiwan, and the subject has been dissected, probed, prodded, and picked apart more times than a fat Western chick complains about the shallowness and superficiality of the average local girl. However, the facts remain; a) Western guys like Taiwanese girls. b) Western girls do not especially care for Taiwanese guys. c) Taiwanese girls do not especially care for Taiwanese guys. You do the math, as the Americans would say. Here, the balance of sexual power is reversed. Any half-decent dancing-round-her-handbag chick in a London nightclub can be assured of getting picked-up, even if only by an inebriated acne-ridden roofer's mate from Hounslow, but you put the same girl in a Taiwan meatmarket and she will invariably be going home alone.
The Peking Duck hosted another round of discussion of this topic too:
Now that I have your attention... I recently had conversations with no fewer than three separate female Western expats who are living in China or have lived there in the past, and I was struck by one theme that each of them brought up: the difficulty that Western women have dating Chinese men, in sharp contrast to the infamous ease with which Western men date Chinese women.
Again, the scenario each of these friends shared was remarkably similar. Each described her love life in Asia as highly wanting, and each had more or less the same explanation, namely that Asian men in general and Chinese men in particular seem to be afraid of Western women and unwilling to take the risk of asking them out for a date. Two of them said they felt it had to do with the "feminine side" of Chinese men, and the third, when I mentioned this to her, embraced it as truth.
Don't miss the comments as there are many good ones....
Though you won't hear many English-speaking blogs or newspapers talking about it, the Kaohsiung MRT Scandal just won't go away.
Actually, anyone who reads the English newspapers has seen plenty on the scandal. For example, a quick search over at the Taipei Times, the pro-Green English paper, revealed two articles on the 14th and one from the 13th alone (as I have noted before, fact-free analysis is one of the hallmarks of criticism on Taiwan). It is one of the usual run-of-the-mill state-colluding-with-business scandals that infest The Beautiful Island, of the kind that made the KMT, TOS's party, wealthy and powerful. Despite TOS' claims, several English bloggers have commented on it at one time or another. Many of those same bloggers have focused on aspects of the scandal not much mentioned in the KMT charges: the terrible treatment of the overseas laborers. The KMT itself is more interested in using the scandal as a club to attack the DPP, rather than create real change in Taiwan, typical of their visionless style of leadership. They could care less about the workers.
I am sure that the scandal will bring down a minister or two. That happens about every three months in Taiwan, regardless of government. However, it is not a big deal as other DPP screw-ups, and is being pushed by the KMT to divert attention from their move to divest of the assets they looted from Taiwan over the years.
The Forgetful writes on his parents' visit:
They've been here a few days now, and late last night Lady D got the idea to call an old friend of ours who owns a bar up in the Combat Zone and say that we were coming over. That's always only an almost, but not quite, good idea, because it is the Combat Zone, where numerous glorious battles were fought over the local women between the local men and the GIs until they were pulled out in '79. The first bars along lane 32 still send out their escort girls to try to get us into their bars. They always do, and I always wonder why -- they clearly see that we are the kind that come in couples. It's not like I'm going to abandon D to go in and pay through the nose for a watery drink with some escort girl in a tacky bar and hope that she'll make my wildest dreams come true. D already does that.
My aunt and uncle arrive next week. Can't imagine taking them there, though...
The Gentle Rant blogs on those drug-addled Canadian teachers, the source of evil in Taiwan:
Governments and the media love to turn immigrants into scapegoats. In the thirties in America it was the Mexicans and the blacks. Growing up in Calgary, it was the Vietnamese who were vilified. In Vancouver it was the Hong Kong gangs and then the Russians. It's always someone else, never the home team.
Bourdeiu Boy reviews a book on everyone's favorite topic, popular culture in Taiwan:
All of the individual chapters are worthwhile contributions to knowledge of contemporary Taiwan. As a whole, the book suffers to varying degrees from an inconsistent application of social theorizing across each chapter. Chien-juh Gu's piece on Amway in Taiwan offers many remarkable insights into the socio-economic history of the direct selling as it has been "translated" into a Taiwanese social experience, but applies the work of Foucault somewhat programatically to fill out its descriptive analysis. SImilarly, Shuenn-der Yu's chapter on night markets can only acknowledge the broad theoretical categories of space and time, as well as the Taiwan-specific category of xiangtu, within a detailed account of social practices.
Scott Sommers had an interesting post on the Kafkaesque world of Ministry of Education information. It should be taken for granted that information about a university put out either by that university or by any other university must be consumed with a small dose of NaCl.
In the MOE document, Ming Chuan University is listed as having a number of programs taught in English. While it is true that the International College offers a complete degree that can be taken solely in English, I am not so certain about the other programs. I believe they refer to the fact that there are a number of courses in these departments that are offered in English. Some of the courses it refers to may even be specialty classes intended to introduce English technical vocabulary to students. Language teachers would be more likely to call them ESP classes. I teach in the Department of Applied English, and even there, it would be extremely difficult to finish even a graduate degree solely in English.
Impossible to get a degree done in English at our U, unless you want to do an English degree. All you can say about universities here is: promises, promises.
Love Songs (Are for Losers) has some fascinating posts on Being Asian: Mastering the Secret Art of Asian Parents, On Being Asian Part 2, and On Being Asian:
Invariably this was told to me by a white person. What I want to know is, why the hell didn't I know that Asian hair, Asian ears, Asian lactase enzymes are different than other people's? I am Asian, shouldn't I know? What the hell's wrong with me for not knowing? And most importantly, how the hell do random white people know more about the details of Asian physiology than me?
Perhaps instead of that talk your parents are supposed to have with you about sex, they should sit down with their kids and have "So you're Asian" talk and all that this entails.
Don't miss the hellish tale of control freak Asian parents importing their parenting methods to the US:
Speaking of exposes of Asian secrets, I guess a couple Korean women wrote a book about how white people can turn their kids into overachievers. There's an article about them at the New York Times. Since I'm not sure if being a member is required for this article I'm just going to include it here and hope they don't sue me. I'm curious what people think about this article so hopefully some of you comment. I'm still thinking so I'll hold off on my own comments at the moment. You can read the article here and see the book here. As usual, I read about this at www.angryasianman.com.
POTs continues its series on Linda Arrigo, this week covering her participation in the independence movement.
Dissent at this time came from the middle class, which demanded that the state normalize society. And that dissent had a decidedly leftist cast to it. Taiwanese dissidents saw themselves in solidarity with other anti-authoritarian movements internationally. More concretely, this meant that Taiwanese dissidents tended at that time to see themselves as defending universal values of human rights and democracy against the Chiang regime, which they saw as a US client state.
Arrigo's own intense interest in liberation struggles in Latin America grew out of this context. Arrigo wanted the Taiwanese democracy movement to connect US-backed repression in Guatemala or Nicaragua with repression in Taiwan. For Arrigo and many Taiwanese at that time, they were in a global struggle with a US-dominated capitalist order.
Taiwanese nationalism began growing in strength after the Kaohsiung Incident of 1979 - much to the disgust of many old-fashioned pro-China leftists, who eventually left the movement when the goal of Taiwanese independence was formally adopted. While this may have been the beginning of Arrigo's disenchantment with the DPP, she acknowledges that the rise of Taiwanese identity also corresponded to the growing political potency of the democracy movement.
Good reading....and this comment:
Her view is that identity politics have divided Taiwan so badly that substantive discussion of other issues is almost impossible now.
Deserves a much larger treatment....next installment?
The other night, they've got this Taiwanese singer on. She's the one unzipping the guy's pants, in the photo. Her name is Phoebe Huang. She probably sucks. Most Taiwanese singers that make it to television do.
Hmmm...describing a singer as one who sucks in an article on failed fellatio should be some kind of pun crime. The next post on living with road
They're out there, right now. The foreman, I'll give him this: He's a good yeller. He's got one of those voices that ring out like a shot and hit you square between the ears. His voice carries around our building and through the little alleys, sidestreets, lanes and parks our apartment overlooks. It goes over the drone of the machines. It even goes over the forceful poundings and hydraulic whines of the backhoe.
I've often thought it would be a good idea to allow the Taiwanese to arm themselves. I mean with projectile weapons. But, thinking back on how angry I get listening to that foreman and his crew, I realize it's not such a good idea.
Because the Taiwanese aren't such good shots.
Wireless access for all? The ability to stream A片 on your PDA while weaving through traffic on your scooter? Sweet! (Note to self: buy stock in Taiwanese auto insurance companies)
Pinyin News writes of another tribe seeking official recognition in Taiwan:
The Sakizaya people of Taiwan's Hualian County want to be officially recognized as a tribe and registered their application with the government's Council of Indigenous Peoples on Thursday, according to an article in the Taipei Times. Among their claims in support of their application is that they have a separate language from that of the Amis, a tribe they have lived among since the nineteenth century. A few examples of words are given in the final paragraph.
It's good that some of these people are finally beginning to pick up the scattered threads of their identity.
Rank had some good posts this week. His analysis of Ma Ying-jeou's spinelessness is dead on.
One has to wonder about Ma Ying-jeou's willingness to push the envelope to any extent at all. Today, he criticized the Presidential Office for selecting LY President Wang Jin-ping to represent Chen Shui-bian at an APEC summit. In this Chinese-language article, Ma is quoted as saying that you need to do a backroom deal first; then you make the announcement. This comes just a day after Ma and the KMT gave their blessing to Wang's trip (Shortly afterward, Beijing said they opposed Wang's appearance at the APEC summit; Ma found out through KMT-CPC channels that the PO knew Beijing's position before announcing Wang would go to Busan).
Lee Teng-hui and then Chen Shui-bian have been strategically pushing the envelope in various kinds of announcements. The result has been that Beijing no longer reacts strongly to certain kinds of statements and Taiwan has more international leeway. Sure, Wang may never have had a chance to represent Chen, but if you don't try to advance your position, you certainly won't get anywhere. I hope that when Ma is elected president, he won't take such a spineless approach as he seems to be advocating now.
Ma's approach to public policy appears to be: GET BEIJING'S APPROVAL FIRST.
I normally don't round up myself, but this week my Taiwan Invasion Scenario provoked plenty of comments and responses. Don't miss MZT's critique. It's good to see MZT's correction on lift capability, which I didn't realize, and the news that the US carriers will be hanging around here in greater numbers. I may do a reverse scenario of China failing to take Taiwan before the US arrives. Along those lines, Sun Bin has a fantastic post -- as always -- on Taiwan, Google Maps, and Game Theory:
To formulate a "game theory" model, we need to list the options of both players in a 2-dimensional matrix, mainland's options as column entries and Taiwan's row entries. The more the number of options we can contemplate, the larger this matrix is. We then proceed to assign values of each cell in the matrix: option m(x) vs option t(y), based on the result of option x from mainland and option y from Taiwan. A mathematical analysis can then be performed to find out which option (combination, with a probability mix) will generate the maximum value for the palyer (m or t), assuming the opponent is also applying the best strategic option mix available. This is the classical von Neumann model in the normal form. To apply Schelling's theory we need to apply many of these matrices as the follwing "turns" of the game. One may also needs to incorporate the options and responses of the US. The analysis could get immensely complicated.
A great, far-ranging post stuffed with information.
Tea Masters, always full of learned advice:
Of more practical use is this other teaching from Lu Yu: "The water that is from the same region as the tea will be its best fit." It makes sense. The tea leaves will perform best when they are hyydrated with the same water that used to nourrish them.
This explains, among other things, why the tea you drink in the producing region tastes much better than back home. (One time travellers to China should beware! My advice: bring some tea from home so that you can evaluate the change in taste).
Genslay describes an incident with a friend and a motorcycle and an old woman.
We have a supermarket called Taisuco that is right around the corner from our house. The parking lot has these weird cinderblock tiles that shake and rattle when you drive over them and don't come close to lying flat on the ground. An old woman was walking out of the store and tripped on one of the tiles and fell right into Robert's scooter as he was getting off of it to go into the store. The elderly woman fell flat on the ground after knocking Rob's bike over. Everyone ran over to check on the old woman. The mass of people immediately turned on him and accused him of hitting her with his scooter and knocking her to the ground. Luckily Rob knows Chinese and was able to diffuse the situation before anyone called the cops. You see, most people hate foreigners. I know this first hand, as I have been on the receiving end of a "Fuck you" for no apparent reason as two old men drove by me on a scooter. I can only imagine what was said before they half-believed he was telling the truth. I'm sure it went something like this: "Gan ma!?!? Bide-tz Wygorin tzu! Ta ama! Ni pien wa! Pien lun! Gan-nina". Loosely translated, "What the hell are you doing!?!? Stupid foreign pig! She's a grandmother! You're lying to me! Liar! Motherfucker!" I've been told everyone of these things at one point or another, mostly by my students.
Do people here hate foreigners? I've been on the receiving end of revolting commentary from young males shouted out from junior high schools. Don't think it constitutes a social trend though, other than the one of young males being out of control. Might be a good discussion in there somewhere.
Wild at Heart, a local environmental defense organization, blogs on a topic that I noticed was more commonly discused outside of Taiwan than in it: the "gift" of pandas to the island. They provide a comprehensive overview of why this is a really stupid idea:
2) Animal Rights
Taiwan's Shin Kong Group claims it will pay NT$200 million towards the construction of a 5,500 square-meter cement display house in which to put both pandas. According to reports, however, the living space given to the pandas released into the "semi-wild" environment in Sichuan Province in China is 240,000 square meters, and the space given in the "second phase of release" is ten times bigger. In comparison, bringing the pandas to Taiwan means exchanging this chance at increased freedom for a life in a far smaller cage in a subtropical climate for which this species is simply not evolved. In addition, Taiwan will also have to spend NT$40 to 50 million a year on maintaining all kinds of equipment for the artificial feeding of the pandas as well as the maintenance and air conditioning of their confined space. According to research by foreign animal protection groups, the cost of letting animals such as the rhinoceros live in a more spacious and natural environment in the wild is about one-sixteenth of the cost of raising it in captivity.
Hell yes. And let's not forget that one important purpose of Pandas Out of China is to give the authoritarian state across the Straits a cuddly face, a move that has proven to be extremely useful in international diplomacy. Good work, guys. Donations to Wild at Heart can be made here.
Blue Stasis posts on Taiwanese:
Taiwanese was abound. Basically, the only time someone spoke Chinese was to speak me, and they approached it like they were speaking the queens English. The speaker was given time to annunciate, and they tried to speak clearly and slowly. However, it seemed that they were not doing such a performance for me, but rather, Chinese was a big deal. They all spoke Chinese, but they viewed it as a foreign language, much like the restaurant manager.
I think Taiwanese is equivalent to whatever language America's Deep South spoke a truly different language. It is ugly, and bluntly, it sounds uneducated. I could catch words because the people were drunk and spoke slowly, but I could not understand anything.
Yet, I realized later that the people I drank with were all pretty big deals. I kept asking one what his job was. He said he was a "boss" and I said a "boss of what" and the comment just sort of sat there, ike it was unheard. Now I think it was heard, just ignored.
Casey and Molly's missionary blog promises years of great missionary blog comedy:
I must say it is different living in a city of 6,000,000 people, there are so many people and you know in your heart that EVERYONE you see is lost.
Speaking of being lost, Casey: there are no cities in Taiwan with 6,000,000 people. Who's the lost one? Not the people of Taiwan. The arrogance of these people is unbelievable.
Turning to religion of a more life-affirming kind, J&J blog on Yom Kippur service:
We weren't sure what to expect from a Taiwanese Yom Kippur service, especially one that had to meet the needs of all of the Jews in Taiwan. Would it be Orthodox? Would I need a hat? When we arrived for Kol Nidre, the rabbi (a small, older man from Europe who has been in Taiwan for close to 30 years) was reading aloud in English from the prayerbook. When he was satisfied that enough people were present, a lay cantor (a Citibank exec from the U.S.) began the chanting of Kol Nidre. The services were fairly traditional, conducted mostly in Hebrew, and men and women were asked to sit separately (but separated only by a tiny aisle), but the congregation seemed to come from a variety of backgrounds. At the end of the service (which lasted nearly 4 hours!), the rabbi asked everyone to introduce themselves. We went around the room, hearing from Jews from the US, Canada, Israel, South Africa, Venezuela, Spain, and other countries. Some were just passing through Taiwan (a semiconductor expert from Vermont in town for a conference), and others were congregational regulars. The rabbi had a story for nearly everyone in the room—he once met the president of Venezuela, he has a daughter in Florida–which may be why the service was so long! It was pretty astounding to be in a room in Taiwan full of Jews from all over the world. Our Hebrew school teachers were right—if you learn the Hebrew prayers, you can go to a synagogue anywhere in the world and speak the same language.
SHORTS: aemoncannon goes to Gu Guan in the mountains outside of Taichung and returns with a few shots. Poagao treks through the underbrush to modern ruins. IslaFormosa.com blogs on beef noodles. Don't miss the podcasting at Getting a Leg Up and Ugly Expat. Taiwananonymous discusses a documentary on a local gymnastics team. As always, great photos at 35togo, Unplugged, the forgetful's photo gallery, amateur commune, andres, Clarke vs Matt, Cat Piano,T_C at Fotolog, Fotologging Taiwan, Photoactionboy, leftmind, MaMaHuHu (Jackson, you gonna put new stuff up there?), Everything Visible is Empty, Roger in Taiwan, Love Songs (Are for Losers), Photoblogging Taiwan, a better tomorrow, and This Life. Don't miss some fantastic mountain panoramas at Formosa Online. Yuuchiro found some great pics of mountains and water. There's a big list of Taiwan fotologgers at Fotolog.net. Pagebao points to the most recent issue of Sinorama online with articles on Greening Taiwan and on rock-n-roll. Congratulations to Wild at Heart for winning the President's Butterfly Cultural Award for their contributions to Taiwan.
EVENTS OF NOTE: The deadly strain of Bird flu arrived in Taiwan today.
New Blogs on the roll this week: American in Taiwan, Dooley's house, Genslay, my blog (the tale of an swf living in taiwan), Thoughts from Taiwan, Just Danny, and The Matrix Unplugged
[Taiwan] [China] [Taipei]