Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sunday, Feb 12, Taiwan Blog Round Up



Another beautiful Sunday in Februrary, with temps in the high teens and low twenties, and plenty to report as the blogosphere revives from the New Year doldrums....

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P. Kerim Friedman of Keywords, who also blogs at the excellent anthro blog Savage Minds, has an informative post on the history of Taiwan's aborigines at the latter, that also contains a link to Scott Simon's first-rate article at Japan Focus.

The Japanese wanted to prove that they could govern Taiwan more efficiently than the British ruled in India or the Americans in the Philippines. As a result, the Japanese colonial experience in Taiwan was much milder than that in Korea or Mainland China … for the Han Chinese. It is thus possible for many Taiwanese to romanticize this era, as one sees in the rampant Japanese-era nostalgia that is consuming Taiwan. For the Aborigines, however, it was a different story. At the dawn of the twentieth century the mountainous parts of the island where still largely under the control of the Aborigines. The Japanese forcibly took over those areas in a genocidal campaign of violence. There is no record of the number of Aborigine lives lost, but the Japanese recorded 10,000 Japanese dead as a result of what was a largely one-sided battle. Once under Japanese rule, however, schools were set up throughout the region and many Aborigines first gained literacy at schools run by the Japanese police. When missionaries later came into the region (under the KMT), they found it easy to use Japanese language bibles. In the end, Aborigines became some of the most loyal subjects of the Japanese emperor, many even volunteering to serve in the Japanese armed forces during World War II.
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David On Formosa observes that Taiwan is developing certification standards for Chinese Language teachers:

It would be interesting to know whether knowledge of Hanyu Pinyin and simplified characters is necessary to obtain certification. It does seem like a good idea, but unless the standards for certification are set at a high level then it won't achieve much. Demand for Chinese language education will soar over the next few years. Taiwan has a good chance to capture some of that market if it plays its cards right. The recent problems with visa regulations don't inspire much confidence in the MoE or the government to actually achieve this though.

Taiwan is an insular place that is often klutzy at grasping opportunities in the outside world. I share David's trepidation.

David also has two posts on population density in Taiwan, starting here.

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Mutant Frog translates an article that has the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou saying that he isn't anti-Japanese -- he likes sashimi.

Doesn’t the “but, I like sashimi defense” have the same ring to it as, “but I have so many black friends” or “but Jews are so funny”? I’m amazed that this is the best that Ma could come up with.
I'm not so amazed........what's more interesting -- while we're on the "liking Japan" topic -- is that while there is much ado about visits to Yakusuni shrine by ranking Japanese politicians and by local Taiwan politicians (see the Scott Simon article Kerim linked to above), there has been little comment from anyone about the miniature Yakusuni shrine right here in Taichung for the thousands of former Japanese military men who lost their lives and didn't get buried at Yakusuni, the subject of regular visits from the Sino-Japanese Friendship Exchange Spiritual Consolation Group beginning in 2001. Who wrote the "rest in peace at home" plaque for the shrine? None other than Lee Teng-hui.

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David at jujuflop argues that Ma Ying-jeou is Taiwan's Tony Blair:

But here’s the thing that got me thinking, from a news report today about Ma:

Stating that the goal of the KMT’s cross-strait policy is to achieve peace and prosperity for Taiwan, Ma stressed that he will advocate a “third path” for Taiwan - maintaining the status quo while boosting bilateral exchanges and mutual understanding across the strait - apart from the options of independence or unification.

This would set off alarm bells for anyone who’s ever listened to Tony Blair’s obsession with his ‘third way’. What is the ‘third way’? Who knows - but it sounds damn good as an excuse for doing what you want while sounding moderate. This article tries to nail it (about half way down):

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the leaky pen, one of my favorite Taiwan blogs, offers the first in a promising series of posts on stories of local ghosts in Taiwan.

While I was a student at Cheng Chi University, back in the 90s (I can't believe I just said that), there was this old ghost story about the male dorms. According to the tale--told to me by at least one teacher and two fellow Cheng Chi students--the last men's dorm room on the right, at the end of each hall, was "haunted" by a female ghost who would quietly knock twice at the door, then wander in in middle of the night to scare the daylights out of young freshmen. Word had it that the girl-ghost committed suicide after her boyfriend, a Cheng Chi U. student back in the 70s, dumped her. It's said that her lost soul comes back to the university in search of him every night.
Perhaps this problem could be solved if one of you singletons out there agreed to marry the poor girl....

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tlp also blogged on a recent and perceptive article by Rebecca McKinnon:

MacKinnon's argument isn't simply that Google, MSN, and Yahoo "put profits before people"--that goes without saying--they also enforce a kind of "see no evil, hear no evil" policy that's both harmful conducive to the Party bosses' interests. Lu Xun's point was that "Ah Q" was the ideal product of the imperial Chinese state--he was slavish, apathetic, and mindlessly obedient to his masters--except when, Gollum-like, he'd become petty and resentful of their power over him. Yahoo especially has displayed this tendency--"we hated doing it, but we just had to give up those journalists' e-mail accounts to the secret service"--and Google is still in the slavish phases, even though they profess to 'do no evil.'
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The Gentle Rant wants Taiwan's organizations to undergo a rectification of names:

A few days ago I was talking about the naming of Taiwan's sports teams and how the baseball uniforms should follow the example of the ROC passport, and showcase the name Taiwan.

I neglected to mention that the English language newspaper, the Taiwan News, had also done this years ago. When I arrived in 1997 there were two English language newspapers in Taiwan; the China Post and the China News. At the time, I found this a little confusing. That year or the next, the China News became the Taiwan news.
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Jerome Keating offers a wonderful piece of writing on the chimerical positive economic effects of annexing the island to China:

There is no free lunch. Everything has its price tag. The bullying threat of the missiles coupled with the carrot vision of a booming Shanghai seems to be like the offer of an unlimited credit card to some. But, however rich Shanghai may appear and whatever opportunities it offers some, only the naive think that China is Shanghai (along with its surrounding factories) and that there is no price tag.

What price? I want to avoid discussing the obvious and real loss of the values of democracy, free press, freedom of speech, freedom to come and go, freedom of religion etc. etc. These can often be summed up with the saying, "You don't know what you got until it’s gone."

No, I want to simply look at more practical and crass matters that touch the pocket book. Examine three in particular, the quality of health care, the quality of the environment, and the most propitious use of tax dollars.

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Gold's State and Society in the Taiwan Miracle, perhaps the most influential book to come out of the arguments about statism and Taiwan in the early 1980s, gets thoroughly reviewed by Bourdeiu Boy:

In the first instance, Gold’s history is radical because it recovers the importance of state violence, both literal in 2-28 and other acts of repression, and ideological, in the reinvention of Taiwan as Free China by the KMT. As Gold himself recognizes, prevailing accounts of the “miracle economy” of Taiwan had been conservative in their effacement of the repressive state and of social injustice. By accounting for the violent state, Gold is writing Taiwanese history against the state and its interests. In the example of 2-28, one could argue that he is writing a counter-hegemonic history, challenging the event’s erasure by the KMT both within Taiwan and outside of it.

Gold was certainly not the first western scholar to recognize or write about Taiwanese history in a way that at least acknowledged the importance of social conflict. And his text is hardly a Marxist critique of the capitalist oppression of the Taiwanese. Nevertheless, even in the 1990s, his historical emphasis could be contrasted with conservative histories of Taiwan, ones which wrote in accordance with the interests of the state. Ezra Vogel’s well-known but very problematic book, The Four Little Dragons, which was published in 1991 subsequent to Gold’s, makes only a passing reference to the 2-28 Incident, and presents apologia for KMT oppression:

Thanks, BB! I've always hated Vogel and his "conservative" fellow travelers, but was never able to articulate the reasons as well as you did here. Far too many of the statist-oriented works that came out of the '80s were essentially apologetics for KMT rule over Taiwan (even when not necessarily intended that way), especially when viewed in the context of the KMT's use of economic development as source of legitimation for its own authoritarian rule. That sort of writing culminated in Robert Wade's Governing the Market in 1991, reviewed approvingly by the Economist, which accepted the KMT's story of Taiwan growth as its foundation. After that, moving into the 1990s, flexible production became the keyword.

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Jason at Wandering to Tamshui serves the interest of cultural anthropologists everywhere with a transation of a deeply insightful and important piece of writing on the biomechanics of breast enhancement on the Beautiful Isle:

"Many female celebrities who were once considered too "flat" have recently gone through dramatic "growth spurts". What is their secret? Some people generously concede these may be the result of the healing hands of masseuses, while others say it all depends on dietary supplements. As if either of these could induce such radical change! People hoping for a good figure in the new year all should take a look at the tricks used by celebrities like Guo Jing-chun (郭靜純), Yan Shu-ming (嚴淑明), Xiao Qiang (蕭薔), Tian Xin (天心), Lin Chih-ling (林志玲), and Tang Lin (唐林).

It's good to know that there are bloggers out there willing to undertake such work as a public service. I'm sure that every member of both sexes will be thankful.

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A number of Taiwan bloggers wrote on the Muslim Cartoon Crisis. The Foreigner writes in a very long post with some very interesting points:

The more that I read about the subject, the more I realize that the "cartoon controversy" is nothing more than manufactured outrage. Muslims themselves have drawn Mohammed over the ages, and PLENTY of images of him have appeared in the West previously. If Muslims were truly upset about the depiction of Mohammed, then shouldn't they direct their attention first at the books within their own libraries? But I'll talk more about the staged aspect of the situation in a later post.

As a matter of free speech I think it's entirely valid to show the petty nonsense that Muslims are going ape over. You do understand that they're rioting over something that they've never actually seen, don't you? OVER CARTOONS FOR CRISSAKES! It's entirely valid to show the Danish cartoons and allow people to make up their own minds about whether the rioters' actions are justified, or maybe they're just a wee bit out of proportion.

These cartoons offensive? They're child's play. In The Divine Comedy, Dante didn't pussyfoot around, putting some staff in Mohammed's hand and pointlessly standing him in the desert with a donkey behind him. No, he placed Mohammed in the 8th Circle of HELL. And EVERY library in the West has a copy of that, probably with illustrations like this one by Gustav Dore':


It is manufactured outrage -- its purpose being to divert the anger that Muslims should feel at their leaders who keep them in poverty and who limit their rights and freedoms. Jerome Keating writes:

When you get down it, in the final analysis we all live our lives by faith whether we are followers of a particular religious persuasion, agnostics, or atheists.

I normally write on matters concerning Taiwan and its fledgling democracy, but recently the world has seen the fanatical hatred of people of one religious persuasion calling for the deaths of those whom they feel have violated their religious taboos. The scale of such protests and the extremity of its reach demand comment. An elderly Italian priest is killed in Turkey because the perpetrator was angry at Denmark. Riots abound and embassies, buildings, people etc. are attacked for the same reason.

Fanaticism has reared its head in the furor over the Danish cartoons, and I am brought back to words from Eric Hoffer's work The True Believer, Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983) was a self-educated stevedore who could tell it like it is. I have always liked his works, and found them a source for self-examination whenever I personally get feeling fanatical. Some of them are as follows.


I do not agree with the opening line -- I do not live by faith, as I have none in the sense that Keating means it. But I will discuss that in another post. Don't miss the comments on Jerome's piece at The Peking Duck.

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Taiwananonymous blogs on Taiwanese puppet shows that have become cartoons -- with English:

On February 4, the first English adaptation of a Taiwanese hand puppet television series appeared on the Cartoon Network. The series is titled "Wulin Warriors - Legend of the Seven Stars" and began with the pilot episode, "The Saga Begins." This project has been in the works for four years, but with the series finally appearing on television, this news was on heavy rotation on Taiwanese TV over the weekend.

For the English adaptation, music and voices have been re-dubbed, and the series has been re-edited. The series has been adapted to make the plot less complex and to avoid cultural aspects that may be too unfamiliar for young viewers, who are the target audience for the English version of the series. This contrasts with the audience of the series in Taiwan, which seems to be primarily adults and young adults.
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a little piece of me seems to be having bad experiences on the island. Maybe someone would like to stop by and reassure her that things are not as bad as she thinks:

Today I'm returning from taking Kira to the vet. I drive through an intersection and all of a sudden there is a cab stopped in front of me. No signal whatsoever, he didn't even pull over a bit to signify he was going to stop to let people out. No, he just stopped right in the rode. So, I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting him at a good speed. Well, my scooter skidded cause it was just too late. My scooter fell over on me and Kira. Somehow I managed to hold is so that it didn't crush her. At this point I'm on the ground trying to get the scooter off me. At no point has the cabbie gotten out to see what the commotion at the ass of his cab is. His two passengers get out though, and they stand there and stare at me as I struggle. My knee and my hand got pretty scraped up and I cut my leg - its obvious that I'm hurt and shaken up. They do nothing to help me at least get everything off the ground. I make eye contact with them and -get this- they laugh. They laughed in my face. Any control I had left was completely gone and I just began sobbing. They crossed the road. This happened at a major intersection in the city. Not one person bothered to help me or see if I was alright. To me, there's something fucked up about that.

There's a perceptive comment in Watership Down that says that men do not enjoy winter; what they enjoy is feeling that they are proof against it. Sometimes I feel that is the way we longterm expats enjoy Taiwan....Aha! Didn't get me that time, you Formosa you!

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Nick gets a traditional massage:

So I lie down on a table and was nice and relaxed and
comfortable. That lasted for about 3 seconds until the guy started digging into every single knot he could find on my back. He didn't gently massage the knots either, no he went full strength in and seemingly did his best to beat them out of me. Owwwww was it painful. Being the stubborn westerner that I am, I didn't want to give away the ridiculous amount of pain that I was in, so I just clenched my teeth and prayed that I wouldn't die getting a massage.

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The New Hampshire Bushman has a great picture of us at Swenson's on Saturday. I'll have a blogpost up on that and other doings on Saturday soon.......



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SHORTS: Excellent, important discussion about bushibans is still ongoing on Scott Sommers' blog. Poagao has a good time in Kenting (Poagao, your archive links are all busted). MeiZhongtai discusses the new CRS report on China's navy. The Forgetful has reverted to Swedish. The Peking Duck points to a NY Times article on what tourists here should eat, see and do in Taipei. aemoncannon takes great pics on trips to Hualien and Sun Moon Lake. Mesheel spends Chinese New Year in Korea with the snow, instead of sensibly in the south seas like so many bloggers, but gets some great pics. James Rush travels from one end of Taiwan to the other in a string of prose and photos. Don't miss the podcasting at Getting a Leg Up, The Bluesman's Killing Floor, Misadventures in Taiwan, Ugly Expat, and What's Up in Taiwan. As always, great photos at 35togo, Unplugged, the forgetful's photo gallery, the forgetful's photo gallery, amateur commune, andres, Clarke vs Matt, Cat Piano, T_C at Fotolog, battphotos, Fotologging Taiwan, Photoactionboy, leftmind, MaMaHuHu, Everything Visible is Empty, Roger in Taiwan, Love Songs (Are for Losers), Photoblogging Taiwan, Eight Diagrams, Tagging Taichung, and The New Hampshire Bushman in Taiwan and The World.

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New Blogs on the roll









Matt in China
The Montreal Writers' Storm Sewer
Life of Mike
taiwan & beyond
A Raven Crows

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4 comments:

Mark said...

I'm not sure if Taiwanese teachers really need to learn that many simplified characters. I've met several Chinese teachers at US universities who were from Taiwan and only had limited ability to write simplified characters. Since there is still quite a bit of interest in traditional characters, and quite a few students want to learn classics, many universities still teach traditional characters first.

I completely agree about the pinyin, though. If a teacher can't even use standard pinyin, it would be a big, big handicap. Pinyin is already the standard used not only in China, but all over the globe. Besides that, it's extremely easy for Taiwanese people to learn, and it's what's used in ALL of the Chinese learning materials I've seen in western colleges, including those that use traditional characters.

Taiwanonymous said...

Although the puppet show is on the Cartoon Network, I didn't mean to imply that it became a cartoon. It's still that live puppet on puppet action, pared down to half-hour time slots. The Cartoon Network also has some other live action shows and movies planned.

J.B. said...

Regarding the reference to Yasukuni Shrine, soldiers are not "buried" there. It's a shrine, not a cemetary. Soldiers who died fighting for Japan become deities, and are "enshrined" at Yasukuni in the form of written records (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2321.html). This month's Compass also makes the same mistake in its article on the Paochueh Temple in Taichung.
Compass also makes a ridiculous claim that Paochueh Temple is popular with Japanese tourists because it reminds them of the Great Buddha at Kamakura. Having visited both on a number of occasions, I don't see much similarity other than the fact they are both outdoor Buddha statues. See for yourself: http://travel.yahoo.com/p-travelguide-489301-action-pictures-taichung_vacations-i and http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3100.html

Thoth Harris said...

Gee, thanks, Michael, for listing and linking to my blog. I noticed that quite a number of people have been visiting the Montreal Writer's Storm Sewer, so I guess you've helped that become the case.

I'm just a lowly personal blogger, in my opinion, but I am trying to add something, colour, true experience, and maybe show what Taiwan is really like, in my eyes...and, well, wherever I go.

I sure wish Taiwanese people would be willing to go places more, likewise, as I want to. It is partly their family oriented nature that leads them to be reluctant to live in foreign countries, or study, or even just travel for more extensive periods. But it is also more than than, as well. I guess I'll be and have been delving into that a bit.

Anyway, thanks. I will now try to add your site to my blog links.