Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sunday, March 12, 2006, Taiwan Blog Roundup

The Taiwan blogosphere is having the blahs this week, with lots of people AWOL, so I'm shamelessly starting off with a review of the new book Jade Phoenix, which my friend Syd Goldsmith wrote (disclaimer: the author is a friend). It's the first novel from an American that I've seen that is set in Taiwan in the 70s, when big things happened here. David on Formosa tracked down the links, noting that:

Jade Pheonix is a romance novel set in Taiwan. Syd Goldsmith, the book's author, is a former American diplomat who has spent many years living and working in Taiwan.

Dan Bloom has written a review in today's Taipei Times. Michael Turton also has a review on his blog.

You can find out more about the book and where to buy it at the author's website.

The Taipei Times review by the redoubtable Dan Bloom notes:

Jade Phoenix has been described by one reviewer as a "collage of history, politics, mystery and romance." The reviewer, Pat Averbach, director of Chautauqua Writers Center in New York, wrote that she saw Goldsmith's novel as an insightful overview of Taiwan during the 1970s as the US moved towards recognition of Beijing.

Goldsmith said he enjoyed writing the book. "It's a love story and is about Taiwan's history as well," he said. "I've created a Web site for the book, and my publisher's Web site allows Web surfers to read the first chapter online for free."

The amateur novelist said he does not plan to retire and that he remains active with various consulting jobs, adding that he is enjoying being a father to his young chidlren in his 50s and 60s and relishes the time he spends with them. In early March, Goldsmith traveled to the US to visit relatives and friends in New Jersey, in addition to finding time to give several public readings from his novel.

Publishing Jade Phoenix involved his family, too. Goldsmith's sister, who's an artist in the US, designed the cover, and his son Harrison took the author photo that graces the back cover.

"Jade Phoenix is for anyone who wants to know the soul of Taiwan," he said. "If I can help people overseas understand Taiwan a little better through my novel, I will be happy. I don't think it's going to be a bestseller and I didn't write it with that kind of goal. I just wanted to tell a story about Taiwan and if it adds to readers' understanding of this country, I will be happy."

Earthshaking events happening in the legislature, which appears to be suffering from a temporary bout of sanity, according to David at jujuflop:

Yesterday was the first meeting of the Procedure Committee for the next session of the Legislature. Given the recent shouting matches over the NUC, I would have bet good money on this descending into arguments, pushing, shouting and possibly (as before) bloodshed. If fact, it was one of the least confrontational meetings in years.

It seems that someone (Premier Su?) has decided that proposing bills with zero chance of progress is not the way to go and has opened up the possibility of actual progress in the Legislature:

Actual progress in the legislature? Is that clink-clinking sound I hear the crackling of Hell freezing over?

Pro-KMT blogger Taiwan's Other Side notes once again the inane DPP policy of having the national airline invest in its rival:

Mistake? No airline in its right mind would invest in a railroad, but I suppose that it is too much to ask the DPP to admit that it is not only running the national carrier into the ground, but also using it as a slush fund. I’m particularly amused by Transportation Minister 郭瑤琪 Kuo Yao-chi (Guo Yao-Qi), who is conveniently moving to the same 航發會 China Aviation Development Foundation (CADF) that was usurped into making this mind-boggling investment:

..if CADF did not make the investment, the government might have to spend NT$30 million [to buy back the construction].

So they twisted/broke the law to save money incurred from mis-management, and now the lady that ordered this troubling move is moving closer to the money? And here I thought the DPP was actually serious about cleaning up its image. No need for an investigation or hearings here, really.

TOS is probably right that its bad policy for airlines to own railroads, but China Airlines has recently won a major management award -- just last year -- so it can't be claimed that it is being mismanaged and destroyed. Further, it has been making regular purchases of new aircraft and now has one of the younger fleets in the international airlines business. Sadly TOS can't simply stop at being right -- he's got to exaggerate and claim that China Airlines is being run into the "ground." All he had to do was to bring up the organization's website, and there, the first news article will say:

March 3, 2006, Taipei, Taiwan - China Airlines has been ranked number one in the world in an Air Cargo Excellence Award survey published in March by Air Cargo World magazine. Of nearly 50 international carriers, China Airlines was the first, and surpassed many world-famous airlines such as Fedex, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways. This is also the second time for China Airlines to be on the list, and China Airlines was ranked the second in 2005. The survey revealed that the service quality of China Airlines has earned the deep trust of cargo customers.

Yup. Run into the ground, all right. TOS, if you didn't feel it necessary to invent nonsense about your foes, people would take you more seriously as a writer.

London Calling, a new blog from a Taiwanese woman blogging in English, had among its first posts musings on how Taiwanese feel about China -- generating a ton of comments when she was tagged by Peking Duck and Global Voices online:

How a Taiwanese person feels about China?

Well, this question has been following me since I met the first foreign friend or during my one year of study abroad. On one hand, I'm glad that people from other regions in the world would care to probe this controversy between Taiwan and China. But on the other hand, I also get irritated by some folks who generalize the disputes between the straits as "China's domestic matter" and laugh about Taiwanese' reaction towards its hostile neighbour.

So exactly how a Taiwanese person is supposed to feel about China? Don't you share the same language and culture? One can barely differentiate a Taiwanese from a Chinese person from the outer appearances anyways. So what's the big fuss? Let me try to answer in brief what the big fuss is about.

Angry Chinese Blogger writes insightfully on the Taiwan-China-Japan triangle:

In Japan, the 'airing of dirty linen in public', as was done by China in this instance, is considered to be shameful for both sides, as it highlights differences and invokes conflicts. Politically, Japan traditionally refusing to engage unless both sides begin at an equal level, and negotiations are both neutrally toned and in private.

Conversely, it is common in Chinese political circles to publicly admonish an opponent to ensure that you start from a position of strength, and are able to bring the opponents level of face as low as possible by airing their apparent transgressions to a wide audience.

It has been suggested that these two different styles of are one reason why few Sino-Japanese political problems are ever resolved quickly.

Ryan Whalen at Taipei Nights complains about junk mail:

I have nothing personally against the individuals who distribute the junk mail. I have caught them red-handed on a number of occasions cramming useless crap into my mailbox. I hesitate to ask them not to though, as I realize they are just trying to put food on the table, and likely get paid by the piece. That said the sight of endless flyers poking out of my mailbox every time I come home gets my hackles up. And I don't even know how my hackles work, so this is obviously an instictive reaction of some sort. Most likely my junk mail induced anger is an evolutionary artifact originally intended to defend my ancestors from that god-damned monkey who would always come by with sample banana skins from the bananas his tree was producing. Back in the day my ancestors could just beat the crap out of the junk mail monkey until he learned not to come around anymore. These days that sort of behaviour is frowned upon and I await the enactment of a law of some sort to keep the monkeys off my back.

Sean Reilly at the Gentle Rant offers some thoughts on self-mmolation in Taiwan and elsewhere:

Sati is a famous character in Hindu mythology. She fell in love with the God, Shiva, and married him against her father’s wishes. Her father tried to get revenge by not inviting Shiva to a festival. Sati lit herself on fire to get back at her old man, and Shiva got back at him by ripping his head off and replacing it with a goat’s head. In the end Sati was reborn as the daughter of a mountain and continued to hang out with Shiva. Hindu mythology is both dramatic and romantic, and probably shouldn’t be read to children.

Immolation is destruction by fire. What Sati did is known as self-immolation. There are references to this act in early Hindu and Buddhist texts. I became interested in self-immolation after reading a short article in the Taipei Times a few weeks ago. A man doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire in front of the Presidential Palace. I remembered that it wasn’t the first time I had heard about someone doing this in Taiwan. It turns out that Taiwan has a scattered history of self immolation cases; here and abroad, it’s not as rare as one would hope.

A very interesting article originally written for a local magazine. Great work, Sean!

The Mind of Mike has a collection of Taiwan-bashing articles from the Chinese media (China goes brokeback):

If the chinese government had dedicated as much time, energy and expense towards time travel as they have towards harassing Taiwan, I would be living in 1969 right now, compliments of the commies. I sometimes wonder if, late at night, some of China's "illustrious" leaders lie in bed and wonder, what the hell am I doing? Of course I am not going to completely exonerate Chen Shui Bien. He reminds me of the geeky little kid in the playground who runs up and kicks the bully in the nuts. Sure it slows him down for a few minutes, but after school he pounds you into the pavement.

Getting to the reason for my rant, I recently discovered the People's China Daily (I assume they use the word "people" loosely), and while visiting it I was shocked to see the number of front page articles and links bashing Taiwan. Below are a few of them, each with a small excerpt attached just to give you an idea of the well oiled propaganda machine at work.

Scary people. As Brian Mathes noted, you've got to have a strong stomach for cognitive dissonance to live in China.

Big Ell blogs on the dog eat dog world of Taichung.

The article goes on to quote Huang Pi-chu (黃璧珠), head of the Taichung Universal Animal Protection Association. She say that Environmental Protection Agency workers in Taichung are under immense pressure to catch stray dogs. They need to catch 45 dogs a day. The dogs are then kept for a week before they are euthanized unless homes are found. So I am guessing that they are all killed. My math skills are rusty but the article says ti works out 1000 dogs a month or 12 000 dogs a year.

Animal rights advocate Chen Chien-chung (陳憲忠) was pissed and said:
if Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) couldn't even take care of his city's dogs, a case of "panda-eating-panda" might be next.
This nearly made me spit out my cheerios. It is an awesome line referring to the ongoing Panda gate controversy that has been all over the Taiwan Blogoshpere since Lien Chan put on his kneepads in China last year. The best post on Panda Gate was from the Foreigner in Formosa.

Sad. I have three adopted dogs, two rescued, and we have no room for more. Taiwan needs far more stringent laws on dogs and enforcement thereof. Of course, there's hardly a topic where that isn't true....

Jason at Wandering to Tamshui blogs on the DPP election defeat in the by-election in Chiayi:

Following up on a post last month about the continually shifting numbers in the Legislative Yuan, word comes from Jia-yi that the KMT's Jiang Yi-xiong has won the by-election for that city's lone legislative seat, making the KMT the LY's single largest party. Jiang beat the DPP's Chen Li-zhen 42,921 votes to 39,975, giving the KMT its 89th LY seat and most likely a perceived mandate to continue to act like a bunch of assholes instead of carrying out the nation's business. The loss represents another red-hot poker up the butt for the now truly minority DPP, and is an especially harsh blow for Chen Li-zhen herself, who just in December also managed to lose the Jia-yi mayoral election.

Call me cynical, but I'm waiting for the vote buying indictments to come down. What a shame Chen Li-zhen had to lose; she's all energy and brains. Jason says she's politician to watch.

He also discusses the US State Department Human Rights report on Taiwan:

It's that time of year again in Washington, when the wind begins to warm, the cherry blossoms re-appear, the tourists from the midwest once again bear their pale, cellulite-laden legs from underneath cheap "CIA" t-shirts and the unmistakable smell of hypocrisy begins to once more emanate from Foggy Bottom. Yes, the time has come once again for the annual State Department Report on Human Rights, a heavy tome where Guantanamo Orange is something picked by Mexican laborers in Florida, and government wire tapping happens everywhere but here.

The hypocrisy of our government is mind-blowing, and producing slanted reports on human rights here is unsurprising.

Mark at Pinyin News utters a sigh and corrects the NYTimes:

Newspapers and magazines have so much misinformation about Chinese characters that I seldom bother to mention specific instances. But I expect better than this from the New York Times, even though this is but soft news:

The Foreigner from Formosa, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite Taiwan bloggers, lays waste to the completely hopeless pro-KMT China Post:

President Chen recently announced that the enactment of Beijing's Anti-Secession Law last year would be henceforth be commemorated each March 14th as "Anti-Aggression Day*". Now, I'm not sure if there's anything particularly controversial about saying, "I'm in favor of not being invaded." It's kind of like saying you're in favor of motherhood and apple pie. But leave it to the good ol' China Post to come out against it:

The pro-Blue crowd is so great -- they'd rather have missiles pointed at them then support democracy and independence. I wonder if it ever occurs to the pro-China faction that China is just as willing to expend them in its quest to annex Taiwan as it is to murder Taiwanese -- in fact, it treats the two groups exactly the same: fodder. Of course, the difference is that the pro-democracy types aren't cooperating in their own demolition.

Michael at the New Hampshire Bushman (the whole Taiwan blogosphere has only three names: Ryan, Michael, and Mark) pens Today's News In A Perfect World, news that might be written if the international media ever decided to report on the Taiwan conflict from a less China-centered viewpoint:

Ties between China and Japan have deteriorated recently because of rows over energy, history and religious freedom. The friction between the countries originates entirely from China, who is in the process of building an excuse to make war with its closest Asian rival.

Mr Aso made the comment about Taiwan when talking to a parliamentary committee.

"(Taiwan's) democracy is considerably matured and liberal economics is deeply ingrained, so it is a law-abiding country," he said. "In various ways it is a country that shares a sense of values with Japan. Taiwan certainly loves Japan, and we love Taiwan too."

But Tokyo's foreign ministry later denied this was meant to any foreign policy changes toward Taiwan.

"There is no change in Japan's position on the Treaty of Shimonoseki, under which the Qing Dynasty ceded Taiwan to Japan in perpetuity" ," said Keiji Kamei, of the China division in the Foreign Ministry. He went on to add "However, Mr. Aso can say any fucking thing that he wants in the Parliament of his own country, and the Chinese can go fuck themselves if they don't like it. Japanese parliamentary proceedings are strictly an internal affair". Upon hearing the Chinese objections, Aso uttered the now-famous "Li is an asshole" referring to his Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing.

Beijing has complained, and no one expected anything less.

"China strongly protests this crude interference in its internal affairs," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, expressing "surprise that a high-ranking Japanese diplomat would make such remarks". "He didn't have to use his hands like that when calling Mr. Li an 'asshole.' That was uncalled for."

And don't miss his horrible experience having his door locks glued by a local who didn't like where he was parking, and his contemplation of a little payback. "Don't Park", Yet Another "Don't Park" Update, More on "Don't Park".

My friend Daniel from Suitcasing blogs his trip to the nightclub:

A man in an orange t-shirt who started shoving a girl around on the dance floor. He didn't let her get away from him, grabbing her top and pulling her back, or pushing her and making her friend (female) sob. I was a very close at the time, but was reminded of many stories of foreigners getting in big, near fatal brawls in Taiwan nightclubs, and am, as I have mentioned before, quite a physical coward. I went over to the bar to find a bouncer, and Brian explained stuff. Later the chief bouncer appeared, and had a very confusing conversation with me over whether the guy's t-shirt was red or orange, and seemed to be irritated with me because, by then, nothing obvious was happening. The guy and girls spent the rest of the night having fraught, unwilling half-conversations at a table.


Frankly, however, there was little freakery going on. After the billing, both by foreigners and locals, as nightclubs like this being hot beds of inter-racial debauchery, I was expecting a lot more. It was a cool night, with Brian promising to show me the true epicentre of filth and madness, Ladies Night at Carniege's nightclub, some time in the future - but the divide between sweet, bubble tea Taiwanese people and horrific, staying up late beer drinking Taiwanese seemed far less dramatic than I'd been told. In fact, 90% of people in the club seemed to be exactly the same as all the people who say they never go to clubs, with the only difference being that the people in Wax's drink. And as drinking, despite what you may hear, isn't actually that bad, it was a fun but hardly crazy time.

Thanks, Daniel! I'm glad I live in sedate, dog eat dog Taichung. I always wondered what I was missing at the Taipei nightclubs. Nothing, apparently

The ever-practical Fred Shannon blogs on the CELTA program in Thailand, a popular one with expat English teachers here:

I was in Phuket recently and stopped by the new CELTA training centre to speak to some of the trainers and trainees in the program. The training class sizes are a lot smaller than those in Bangkok, with 9 trainees in the current program. This is quiet small compared to the 25 trainees normally enrolled in the Bangkok CELTA programs. I took some photos of the teacher room which I've posted here below.
Fred's posts are always filled with useful and informative comments.

Ryan shakes his head at the apparent uselessness of Taiwan cops:

I pulled up to a red light the other night. I happened to stop beside a police officer on a scooter. I was immediately to his left. It's a long red light.

From behind me an old woman circled around on her scooter and proceeded to barrel through the intersection, despite the red light, and make a left turn. As she entered the intersection, which is blind on the left side, she was very nearly introduced to the road by a police cruiser making its way, legally, through a green light.

Thankfully, the cruiser was able to screech to a halt while the woman calmly finished her highly illegal turn and scooted out of site.

So what happened next? I would like to say that the cop to my right hopped to it and made chase while the cruiser U-turned and put the pedal to the metal in order to ticket such a dangerous driver. I'd like to say that, but alas, it would be a lie.

The cruiser, after having come to a complete and unexpected stop, continued on it's way as if it had simply broke for a stray dog. As for the cop to my right?I turned to him and actually said (without much thought) "What the fuck dude?"

Of course, he probably didn't understand me, but I'm sure he heard me. There's no way he couldn't have. But he made as if I, along with the woman who made the illegal turn, were invisible.

The light didn't turn green for another fifteen seconds. All the while, I, along with several other witnesses to the event stood, absolutely flabberghasted that neither the scooter cop nor the cruiser had done anything to stop this woman.

I spoke to Jeff Martin at the last meet-up in Taipei. Jeff is an anthropologist who has done research on the cops here. He came away with the unusual view that the police are doing the best job they can, given all the problems that they face.

Kelake teaches design at the university and comes back with a few insights:

  • No one has heard of Flickr or Myspace. Some people know about Gmail
  • The students are fiercely loyal to local Taiwan web sites (both applications and communities) regardless of how inferior they are to other sites in their language produced elsewhere
  • This class speaks far more English than the last. Cool
  • I said that technology is an enabler. They say that to be modern we must let technology lead. The sense I get is that they don't really get the idea of balancing customer and business needs. They don't really think about humanizing technology and building things that allow people to do things, with technology allowing that to happen. Pick a platform first then make people use it instead of find out what people need and pick a platform to make it happen.
  • Each year the students seem more "free" - lots of chit chat and far less discipline - almost like a Canadian classroom which is too bad
  • I dislike podiums and lecturing. My idea of class as a conversation bombed - "lets make it like the web - you have the material already - lets start with with an idea and see where it goes" - I'm naive - structure is still king
  • Everyone loves stories and loves to laugh

  • So true...and an interesting insight about technology -- the students experience it as a form of authority -- and in Chinese culture, authority leads.

    HUMOR: The Foreigner from Formosa found this picture of generic pop star Cyndi Wang, noting:

    "Y'see, I don't know if that works for me. For some reason, I've never been much of an antler man."

    SHORTS: The bicycling blog Spinopsys praises Taiwan's bikes. Tom the Redhunter writes on China's ability to take Taiwan (don't miss the comments) and about China-Taiwan military issues. Don't miss the podcasting at Getting a Leg Up, The Bluesman's Killing Floor, Misadventures in Taiwan, Ugly Expat, The Formosa Diaries, 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, Finding the Rabbit, and The New Hampshire Bushman in Taiwan and The World. Also, Waiguoren Project wants your stories.

    New Blogs on the Roll:

  • London Calling
  • The Daily Bubble Tea
  • Taipei Gamer


    Anonymous said...

    Hey, just wanted to let you know I appreciate your blog roundups. And I hope you continue them, so I can continue to read them =).

    Goo Niang said...

    Hi there. It's interesting to see a western person talking about my lovely Taiwan, and I am here, new to, talking about my life in the states. :) Thank you for teaching in Taiwan. Seems like you have a lot of fun there. ;)

    Geoff said...

    The People's Daily reflects the mindless political hysteria of China's attitude to Taiwan.
    I used to be able to get at least some comment published, but now I think I am certain that I am banned.
    Seems like they just cannot take any criticism....unless it is badly written, full of grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and totally venomous.
    Try that for begin with "US hegemonist war dogs....."
    regards, Geoff C

    Michael Turton said...

    LOL. There was a time when "US hegemonist war dogs" wasn't so uncomfortably close to the truth.

    Good to see you on my blog, Geoff C. My wife and are still discussing our ultimate destination......


    Jen said...

    Hello Michael,

    The book "Jde Phoenix" written by your friend is intriguing as I never thought that Taiwan history, messy politics and romance can link together. Your contribution to the Taiwan blogsphere is much appreciated. Please continue to write more.

    Cheers - Jen