Friday, October 07, 2005

Friday, October 7th, Taiwan Blog Round Up

Another day, another Taiwan dollar. Today was a particularly busy for me. I went down to Kaohsiung to Fooyin University to attend a conference on English for Specific Purposes and give a paper. Six hours of driving there and back for a seven minute presentation. Fortunately I was able to meet many friends and several old students, including my mentor, Jane Hsieh, a Dean at Fooyin, and the immortal James Steed, whom many here will know, one of my favorite people on the island, and who, rumor has it, taught English to Koxinga way back when. He gave a fantastic presentation on the seemingly unattractive topic of medical article introductions, but then few topics are dull in James' capable hands. The conference was international in scope, with well-known textbook authors Jack C. Richards and Jonathon Hull in attendence, as well as the editor of the Journal of English for Specific Purposes. Fortunately, none of them stuck around for my presentation, and thus the reputation of expat English teachers on Taiwan is still intact.

On to the blogs!

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Typhoon Lungwang fortunately turned out to be largely a dud, leaving us with little more than mist here in Taichung, though it did thrash the east coast a bit. As a result, not many bloggers commented on it...but here's Jonathan Benda and Be@Taiwan, Wandering to Tamshui shows who's the real Dragon King:




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Naruwan Formosa turns up an interesting, if somewhat slanted article on the UN and Taiwan (it ignores the US involvement in the Oil-for-Food scandal, as well as our own much larger scandals in Iraq). However, the article raises a very interesting point:

And lo! Taiwan has blossomed beyond the wildest dreams of the U.N. aidocrats who, bereft of the defunct Oil for Food program, now hope to lavish yet more attention, and earn themselves many more U.N. per diems, in Africa. It's enough to suggest the real secret of success might be to ignore the U.N.

It addition to not "benefiting" from UN programs, Taiwan also was ignored by the World Bank and the IMF, both of which did not get involved in sucking the developing world dry until after aid ended to Taiwan. The real outside key to Taiwan's growth was a massive US aid program that preserved a space for a dynamic small capitalist sector to emerge, privileged access to US markets, and close ties to Japan which was doing the same thing at the same time, helping to pull Taiwan up. Both nations transferred manufacturing and technology to the island. These general trends were outgrowths of the Cold War desire to make Taiwan a showcase. Although it is not often understood, Taiwan's pariah status was probably helpful to its growth.

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A case of Suicide By Blog......a great blog discovery this week: Kaohsiung Pedestrian. This fellow wanders around Kaohsiung with a death wish and a digital camera, taking pictures of people violating traffic and sidewalk regulations. That's right: the blog is nothing but pics of violators, in many cases with license plates blown up so the violators are clearly identified. A blog like this has long been a fantasy of mine -- I once asked the local police whether they would accept pics from me of violators, and they said they would, but I've never had the courage to act on that urge. Here's a sample:



I admire anyone who fights for truth, justice, and the right-of-way, but I greatly fear that some day he's going to capture one black Cefiro too many, and the next day we'll read a story about a persistent blogger found dead in Kaohsiung, impaled on a digital camera. Take care, Kaohsiung Pedestrian!

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David on Formosa blogs on a new book by Aussie China expert Paul Monks, picking up this interesting paragraph from the book:

Not the least of the rumbles that we hear every so often is the rumble of thunder that rolls across the Taiwan Strait. So significant is the question of the fate of Taiwan for the future of China and the whole Asia Pacific world that I have devoted four chapters of the book to it. You will not be particularly surprised, I trust, if I tell you that I call for and assay a quite fundamental rethinking of how this matter should be understood and the dangerous impasse at which it now stands might be transformed. Once again, however, I do not engage in prediction. I simply point out that there are assumptions at work which tend not to be critically examined and which, if revised, could bring into being a future that is waiting to happen – a free Taiwan securely within the orbit of a free China and the abatement of strategic anxieties around the Pacific Rim.

Ah....we can dream.

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Taiwan's Other Side attacks the DPP for education policy....I especially love the falsely dichotomous title: "The wasting away of Taiwan's future...or a clever plan?" Lawrence Eyton once remarked that when viewing the KMT one is often forced to choose between maliciousness and stupidity in understanding KMT behavior. It seems that such dichotomies are basic to KMT thinking about the world -- peasant thinking: authoritarian, conspiratorial, paranoid, anxious, and defensive, looking back to an idealized past....

The students currently in high school and university are perhaps the first sign of what we have to look forward to in Taiwan. I highly encourage all of you to take the time to talk to some people in this age group, despite the increasing discomfort you may experience. They often have a disturbing ignorance about their history and modern-day issues. I've actually been told in earnest that 國父孫中山 Dr. Sun Yat-Sen was the first president of Taiwan (Taiwan was a part of Japan for his entire lifetime), Taiwan fought on the side of the US in WW2 (again TW part of Japan), and 蔣中正 Chiang Kai-Shek was never elected president (he was). Laughs aside, it should be truly embarrassing that foreigners know this country's history better than its own citizens. Students here are capable of memorizing vast amounts of information, so we can't say that they are unable to learn. Somebody made a conscious decision not to teach it to them, and made the information worthless by removing it from their curriculum and exams. I'm fairly uncomfortable about trusting this country's future to those that do not know its past triumphs or mistakes, and you should be too..

While I heartily agree that today's students are grossly ignorant of their past, so were yesterday's crop (memorization of facts is not learning). TOS's take on things is also a bit dramatic: apparently it has to be either incompetence or "conspiracy" if someone attempts to change the educational system to reflect the fact that the education is taking place in Taiwan, not China. More interesting is this criticism from TOS that reflects the Chinese-culture-as-hegemonic-culture paradigm so common among pro-China types, and last seen in the many complaints about Taiwan's "de-Sinicization" from students listening to Li Ao last month in China. As one student put it:

But we are very concerned that the Taiwan authorities are pushing for de-Sinofication. That will have a huge impact on young people, who are the future citizens and political decision-makers in Taiwan. How do you think that cultural Taiwan independence can be opposed? A chasm in culture means a permanent separation.

Similarly, TOS complains:

There is little if any attempt to harmonize or create true cultural diversity that includes the Chinese heritage of this nation.

Without a link to their Chinese heritage, the people of Taiwan will loose the precious sense that they are part of the rise of an ethnic nation, and will instead turn to so-called Taiwanese nationalism.

Apparently the Taiwanese heritage is not "Chinese", an assumption that is shared by all Han observers and participants of the process of establishing a Taiwanese identity for Taiwan, regardless of how they see that identity. The problem seems to be that Chinese culture is not something that everyone who is Han makes. It is something defined in Beijing, and presented as a hegemonic instrument whose purpose is power and control, and in which cultural evolution is a zero-sum game -- if you are growing, it must be because I am receding, a mentality that people who watch local institutional politics will recognize immediately. There is no earthly reason that the Taiwanese cannot be simultaneously Taiwanese in national identity and Chinese in general cultural expression, as France has its own culture yet is also considered Western. But the Chinese themselves seem unable to envision a Chinese big tent in which all the Sinic peoples can find room to grow their own cultures, thereby enriching the greater Chinese culture.

My friend Clyde Warden, one of Taiwan's most insightful observers, often uses the night market to give insight into the way Chinese handle problems in business marketing. Last year we took my inlaws to the Maio-Kow Night Market in Keelung. The old market was a joyous riot of anarchy. The new market, however, is nightmare of control -- my mother-in-law gave a hearty sniff of approval, but I was appalled. The place has been sterilized by the Chinese value of zheng qi (整齊,) into Stepford Vendors, each place exactly the same, with the same colored sign and lettering, inhuman and unergonomic:


Original pic

This value of zheng qi might be translated as "orderliness, neatness", but to the Chinese mind order = identical sameness and difference = anarchy. It is thus easy to see why Taiwanese culture can never be Chinese Culture Plus. It can only be different, since it is not identical, and thus anarchical and inherently rebellious...

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Log election 2008 on your calendar, because big things are happening, as Rank records:

"The 908 Taiwan Nation Movement, a local pro-independence group, announced yesterday that it will mobilize 3 million people to form a human chain around Taiwan on Feb. 28, 2008 to push for passage of a new "Taiwan Nation Constitution."

Wow. This is the first demonstration I've ever heard of that was planned two and a half years in advance.

What will you be doing on Feb. 28, 2008? You'd better figure it out fast, because time's a-wastin'.
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Jerome Keating logs another piece on the history of the Opposition to KMT rule....

When World War II ended, the Taiwanese found themselves divided on where their future lay. Some wanted the right to choose their own destiny, a right that would be granted to all peoples as part of the United Nations Charter. Others rejoiced that they would join the Republic of China (ROC) and participate with their Chinese brothers in a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" as Sun Yat-sen had preached. Unfortunately this illusory hope would be quickly dispelled by the Kuomintang's (KMT) rapacious treatment of the island that led up to the explosion of February 28, 1947. The Taiwanese quickly discovered the meaning of "lip service" and "hypocrisy" as regards Sun Yat-sen's ideal.

Kind of ironic, in light of the recent infighting among DPP insiders over the direction of the party.

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The whole world commented on the Taiwan, Province of China in Google Maps flap. In fact, I didn't run many searches this week because blogs all over the world were flooded with posts on the issue and I got tired of sorting through them. David at jujuflop comments:

Here's the proof that Google are a signed up member of the 'One China' club. I must admit though, that I am rather intrigued to find if you search for '台灣' (i.e. Taiwan in Chinese characters) Google gets a bit confused and suggests 10 different places in Japan.

So, maybe things aren't so cut-and-dried as they might seem. After all, if Google can't decide whether Taiwan is a Chinese province or a Japanese suburb, then what chance have you or I of working it out?


MeiZhongTai served up some comedy:


Now I know you trust Google, but after hearing Taiwan's rebuttal, you will have no choice but to re-recognize their independence:

"It is incorrect to call Taiwan a province of China because we are not," foreign ministry spokesman Michel Lu said.

With reasoning like that, how can you not believe them?


Angry Chinese Blogger posted a long review of the issues. Mutant Frog points out the silliness of a letter writer's position. ESWN laughs at the TSU crowd:

Why pick on Google? There is a more prominent website that Taiwan's government ought to get corrected as indicated near the bottom of this previous post, The Map of China. Where is the backbone? Where won't they hit the streets to demonstrate? Why won't they boycott and condemn the people behind that website? That website is the root of all evil. The day when that website corrects its map, Google, Yahoo! and everybody else will fall in line. Meanwhile, stop wasting everybody's time ...

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Be@Taiwan muses on child raising as a foreigner on The Beautiful Island:

When I think about it, all this grousing could just be a reaction to the realization that I am going to be stuck/stationed in Taiwan for the next decade and change while we wait for our son to learn Chinese. The plan is to move back Stateside when Franklin is ready for Junior High. As horrible as the jr. high and high school experience is in the US for so many people, I can't help but observe that the Taiwanese system is all the worse for students sense of individuality and self-worth.

So, the big question for the next decade is WHERE?

This question is something we all confront sooner or later. The local school system has a great many undesirable features. Yet, if you are in a smaller school, you can carve out some space. We pull my daughter out at noon (she's in fourth grade) so we can work on her homework and English, for example. Many schools are willing to be flexible, and if you are rational and flexible in explaining, you can get what you need.

Of course, you can always move out next to us, Paul! We have a great small school that we like, where there are a couple of mutts like my daughter, including another one in her class.

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the leaky pen blogs pensively and extensively on betel nut girls:

Actually, betelnut girls are a fairly recent phenomenon, and came about only during the early 1990s when the betelnut farming cooperative was beginning to show signs of collapse. In response to the steady drop in their sales, enterprising dealers along the highway started hawking their wares in ever more lavish booths and with ever more beautiful, seductive sales-girls. Now, like porn shops alongside the interstates in America, 24/7 binglang stands are available at most national highway interchanges. The trend continues and betelnuts sales are supposedly above 2.5 million a year to some estimates. More importantly, like KTVs and mahjiang parlors, betelnut girls are already a deeply ingrained part of modern Taiwanese popular, working class culture.

Yes, it's interesting how quickly they came to be representative. As important part of his educational talk, tlp included some pictures of betel nut girls, to help with recognition if you chanced upon one along the road. I'm reproducing it here purely for informational purposes:



The pic actually does have a serious point: there is an inherent visceral reaction to see the girls as exploited because they are half-naked -- as if "sex" and "female" are coincident with "exploitation." Let me gently suggest, however, that a 22 year old girl making NT$60,000 a month showing off a hot body in order to sell intoxicants from a tax-dodging business in which she gets a share of the take, to addicted truck drivers making NT$20,000 a month driving substandard equipment in dangerous traffic conditions, is not the exploited one in that relationship....

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Bourdieu Boy, another blog new to roll this week, posts lots of bricollage on Taiwan:

We are all Taiwanese: Inscribing Boundaries in the Production of Knowledge of Taiwan

Knowledge of Taiwan can be expressed in many different ways and located in many different places. It might be objective scholarly knowledge produced in the academy or personal subjective knowledge articulated by Taiwanese individuals. It might be in "Taiwanese" cultural production, evoking a uniquely "Taiwanese" experience, or news reportage, seeking to summarize, narrativize and hierarchize daily events in Taiwan in accordance with the demands of global and domestic news services.
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The Taiwan blog Port of Call is a regular commentator on All Things Formosan, and this week posted on economic news:

TrendMicro heads the list of Taiwan's most valuable brands again, increasing in value by 14 percent over the last year to US$1.077 billion, and in the process becoming eligible for Business Week's list of the world's top 100 brands. Brands are very intangible things, but TrendMicro's increased visibility can only be good for Taiwan's economy.

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Wandering to Tamshui has his usual slew of good posts....here he discusses the DPP faction fight and its effects....

As if the DPP's worries in the run-up to the December local elections weren't enough, a couple of Young Turks from the party's New Tide Faction have openly advocated drastic reform within the party, triggering yet another round of the internecine fighting that has plagued the DPP since its founding.

Factionalism, the curse of Taiwan politics. Read WtT's corrections of this post...his tales of innovalue, now on part 4, are side-splitting. And of course, A-bian does Lawrence of Arabia is just too much.

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The Forgetful, himself a foreign spouse, blogs on foreign spouses....

Anyway, these free classes apparently apply to all foreign spouses, which I think is significant of something. It indicates that a change is taking place in Taiwanese society, that it is getting more used to foreigners and more likely to accept them, partly thanks to these foreign brides, but also thanks to the hundreds of thousands of Thai and Philippino workers that are here to do work that Taiwanese no longer want to do. I also think it means that Taiwan is beginning to realize that they have to take some responsibility for helping to integrate immigrants they accept, and in the case of workers actively invite, into Taiwanese society.

There's quite a bit of policy out there that recognizes the island's cultural diversity.....

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Speaking of cultural diversity, Jonathan Benda blogs on the F-word. You CAN be sued for directing that at someone....

From today's Liberty Times (自由電子報) comes the story of PHILIP (his name is in all caps throughout the article), a British businessman who got accused by a former employee of "publicly insulting" (公然侮辱) the employee by using the F-word (also all caps--maybe he was shouting) at a meeting. Fortunately for PHILIP, the judge in Taipei declared him not guilty because PHILIP had used the word to describe the employee's watch (the employee was 20 minutes late) and not the employee. Meanwhile, a guard at an apartment building was fined NT$1500 for using the Chinese version of F--K because the court decided he had used it to insult the other party directly. So if you're going to use the word, be careful how you use it!

So I guess I'll have to use frickin' from now on...

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ESWN blogs on Apple Daily and its ongoing quest to do what many believe is impossible: make Taiwan's media even more insane.

For the first six months of the year, Apple Daily led in the newspaper category with 527 illegal advertisements, leaving number 2 Libery Times in the dust with only 47.

How bad is Apple: that's -- about 13 times worse than the competition. Just when you thought Taiwan's media couldn't get any worse.....

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Cold Goat Eyes follows the tropic around the world, and muses....

It is the food that draws me to this line of latitude; some of the best food in the world can be found at 23.5d. Arabic falafel and schwarma, dripping with tachini, hummous and olive oil, beautiful Thai red and green curries, Canton Chinese, tortilla and chilli of Mexico, Indian jalfrezi, and the spicy couscous dishes of Morocco.

Hell yes...I have the same feeling...

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Taiwananonymous, who reviews books (latest review: To Live), this week reviewed the book buying process.

Online book shopping in Taiwan is even more convenient than using amazon.com. I've used www.books.com.tw four times so far without any problems. After placing an order, I receive an email informing me when the books have arrived, then I pick up the books at a nearby 7-11, paying cash. Buying books from China, on the other hand, requires much more effort, so I had not tried until recently. The main problem is that most Mainland retailers do not accept foreign credit cards. Buyers are required to remit Chinese currency to the bank account of the retailer, which is not easy to do for those outside of China. Some sites allow you to remit US dollars, which I might try in the future.

On line shopping is really advanced here. It has saved me many trips taking my wife downtown....

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I habitually troll through Google, Technorati, and Blogwise looking for Taiwan blogs, and always stumble across local missionary blogs and websites, full of unintentional comedy. One site says:

Serving the Lord on the "Island of the Dragon" in the face of Buddhism and Taoism as well as the constant threat of invasion requires your fervent prayers.

"...in the face of Buddhism and Taoism" Whew! Those guys are certainly brave taking on violent, aggressive Buddhism and Taoism! I recommend that the poor family wear Kevlar and travel in separate vehicles..... another missionary blog revealed an revolting arrogance:

Molly and I are getting ready to go to a country that has 22,310,000 of 23,000,000 that are with out hope an without God.

A whole country "without hope". Humility is in short supply among the missionary set......also manifest in this post Scott Sommers commented on in an ongoing discussion about Christian missionaries teaching English in schools in Taiwan (my last post):

SCOTT: .....It's a long blog with a lot of entries, and much of it will probably not be of interest to anyone reading my blog. One post that may interest you, however, is a June 18th post complaining about interference from the MOE with their exploitation of English classes to proselytize in public schools.

We've been plugging away with camp preparations. As a matter of prayer, we just got an email tonight saying that our supervisor wants us to change most of the songs that we have chosen for camp (not to mention, practiced with the other song leaders for the past month). It seems that because our camp is being funded by the Department of Education, we can't have anything officially religious, especially in the camp book, etc. I don't know whether to be more upset with the stupid government or with our local organization for teaming up with the gov't in the first place, but I'm pretty ticked off about the whole thing. I don't really know what specifically to ask prayer for, but just pray as you feel led (and, um, pray for us in discussing it with the Taiwanese people. They're not used to the whole "The department of education can blow it out their ear" approach, and that's all I really feel like telling them right now). We are hoping to get around it by putting the songs on powerpoint instead of the book, but in case that doesn't work, do any of you have suggestions for non-religious songs that we could sing with junior highers? We realized while talking that westerners just don't really do much group singing outside of church, so we are having trouble thinking what on earth we could sing with them.

This morass of disrespect for local ways, local laws, and blatant colonialist attitudes comes courtesy of Hope Klein's Blog Shalom From Taiwan. After she left Taiwan recently Hope emailed me and asked me to take her blog off my list, which I did, the first and only person to do so. Dunno why. Hope went to Moody Bible Institute and graduated with a degree in Jewish studies, and plans to prosyletize among the Jews, who apparently never noticed any mention of Jesus in their holy writings and went right on believing that the Messiah hadn't come. As living reminders of how wrongly the Christians had misinterpreted the Torah they had hijacked, the Jews been suffering ever since (Hope warns at one point that anti-semitism is on the rise in the world. Pardon the question, Hope, but what could be more anti-Semitic than wanting to stamp Judaism out and replace it with Christianity?) AFAIK Moody is unaccredited (website doesn't say anything about it) and thus, she was teaching illegally. Not that the law matters much to this crowd, as we have seen.

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SHORTS: I've blogged from time to time on mad cow, and Mutant Frog points out, as I have, that the US regulations still do not protect consumers. 35togo blogs on Hsinchu and Ching-tsao ake, with a nice pic. a better tomorrow has a fabulous pic of a crab up. MeiZhongTai notes that the Special Budget for the arms purchase was tabled for the 32nd time, along with 17 other pieces of legislation proposed by the DPP, often called 'the ruling party' for reasons that have nothing to do with reality. David at jujuflop blogs on Speaker Wang Jin-pyngs's threat to call the cops on the boxing matches in the legislature. Among the new blogs this week: Fred Shannon and the interesting Slow Food in Taiwan, full of pics and commentary in English and Chinese about food. aemoncannon posts many great pics on their trip to Taichung Port. Look for good pics at andres, amateur commune, Clarke vs Matt -- A Photo Duel, Love Songs (Are for Losers), LeftMind, MaMaHuHu (Taiwan Tiger's old photoblog), T_C at Fotolog, Photoblogging Taiwan, Everything Visible is Empty, and Roger in Taiwan.

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Observation of the week: I look around the Taiwan blogs, and it seems that Taipei is relatively underrepresented. By contrast, lots of Taichung bloggers. Could that be because people up there actually have lives and things to do on the weekends?

4 comments:

Mark said...

Thanks for the rap and for all your good works bringing such a wide range of material together.

bourdieu_boy

FYI said...

What are backlinks and how do I use them?
Backlinks enable you to keep track of other pages on the web that link to your posts.

sam said...

I quite agree with you about the problem is that defining Chinese culture is viewed by many as emanating from Beijing in a top-down fashion. It does seem silly that many are insistent that Taiwan is part of China, yet what comes out of Taiwan is not 'advanced or authentic Chinese culture'

I've been reading a thoughtful blog by a Chinese student in the U.S. He comments on a similar topic regarding the recent banning of Taiwanese/ Hong Kongese forms of Mandarin speech. Check it out here below. Thanks as always for an excellent blog roundup.
http://ming.weblogs.us/archives/63#comments

Michael Turton said...

Thanks!