Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sunday, March 19, 2006, Taiwan Blog Round Up

Lots of blogging this week on politics, and we'll start with the marches last weekend and this weekend. Thebigyawn found some nice images of the Hitler ad from a previous election. BrianMathes posted on the KMT march:

Everyone I asked said it was not a protest against the DPP, but Chen himself, as he has become the focal point for Taiwanese people unhappy with his governance. I also got a surprising amount of positive comments with regard to America’s influence with regard to the freedom to organize big political protests here in contrast to mainland China. These people may want reunification, but they don’t have any love lost for the PRC government.

What's striking is how everyone here is on message: the pan-Blue march is not against the DPP, but against Chen. Sure, guys. Sometimes I wish the DPP was able to exhibit this level of control over its supporters, but then Taiwan wouldn't be a democracy.....Maddog meanwhile takes the foreign media to task for its inability to get Taiwan right:

Here are the supposed numbers of participants in the rally as reported each of the sources listed above:
* Thousands of protesters rallied in Taipei Saturday to focus attention on what many fear to be threats from mainland China. (Washington Times)

* Tens of thousands of protesters have taken part in a march and rally in Taipei highlighting the threats that Taiwan faces from mainland China. (BBC)

* Tens of thousands of government supporters marched Saturday to protest China's threats against Taiwan and defend President Chen Shui-bian's tough policy on the communist country.[...] Police estimated the crowd at 45,000, while Taiwanese television stations said it was closer to 100,000. (WTOP [via AP])

* Some 100,000 Taiwanese marched through Taipei Saturday to protest against China's threat to retake Taiwan by force if Taipei seeks independence. (New Kerala)

* Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Taipei for a protest march against threats from China. ( [Note: That report was published before the rally had reached its peak.]
Even the relatively reliable FTV reported wildly exaggerated figures. Around 5 PM Saturday, they were reporting "between 170 - 180,000" participants, but after 11 PM, the number reverted to the 100,000 which they had been reporting during the march. I can't tell you if any of those numbers is accurate, but even judging by the images shown by TVBS Saturday afternoon, the numbers surely exceeded 45,000.

STOP_george recently alerted me to another poor article, this one in the LA Times, by David Voss. The international media isn't very good on Taiwan, but the US media is clearly on another planet of Badness. The Foreigner laid up some nice commentary and pics:

And not a KMT flag to be seen. But then, when was the last time the KMT marched to protest ANYTHING that China did? Was it last year, when China passed its anti-secession law? No, the KMT leader's response at that time was to scuttle off to Beijing on a whirlwind appeasement tour.

LOL. He also blogged on the KMT march the week before.

Yes, that's right. That's a KMT rally, with an effigy demonizing Taiwan's president by dressing him in Nazi garb. So, when a political party likens the country's president to Hitler and Osama bin Laden, and one of its less stable followers goes over the edge because he fails to realize that you really meant that in a GOOD WAY, who ya gonna blame?

Why the victim, of course! The president must have faked his own shooting!

One of the big tragedies here is that they never took the assassin alive. Instead, when he realized that police had found the black market dealer who sold him the weapon, he destroyed much of the evidence and committed suicide. The police did manage to wiretap the family afterwards however, and when confronted with some of their incriminating conversations, they decided to 'fess up.

Not, of course, that confessions and evidence will stop the conspiracy mongers. And then there is Jerome Keating's musings on the whole sad affair: March Madness, the 3/19 Assassination Attempt and a Tom Clancy Scenario:

It's that time of year for what is called March Madness in Taiwan. No, that's not Taiwan's equivalent of the USA's NCAA Basketball Tournament. March Madness here is the population's annual subjection to the latest ridiculous theories that those looking for media attention and/or die-hard pan-blue loyalists dream up to explain the March 19, 2004 assassination attempt on President Chen Shui-bian. ...

Taiwan's geology has always fascinated me, and now the Taiwan blogosphere has a geologist studying at NTU, Tarka, to recount it for us. Active Thrust, Tarka's blog, is full of musings on things geological:

so i'm back from the field, safe and sound, despite sitting on the back of a scooter and riding all over the peikang-hsi valley and puli basin. found some cool outcrops and decided that when i finally draft a cross section through this area, the areas where the shui-chang-liu and pai-leng formations are deformed by intense folding will just be shown as squiggley lines... the real pattern of deformation is totally confusing to me. the one thing that is very clear to me is that these rocks have really been through the wringer. actually, an old style laundry wringer is a fairly effective analog for what happens to the deeper rocks of the chinese continental margin as they are accreted into the critical wedge of the taiwanese orogen. sorry for all the lingo, if you don't understand it, google it, that's my best suggestion. in so many words, the westward motion of the pacific-sea-plate is cramming the entire island of taiwan up onto the chinese continental margin. as these rocks are fed into the orogen (read: mountain range) they are over-ridden by the weight of the entire island. the rocks get crunched and rolled and smooshed, sort of like feeding a flat towel into a wringer, and letting it just pile up on the other side. once enough of the overlying rocks have been stripped away by the amazing erosive power of typhoon's rains, the "munched" rock finally reaches the surface. this 'exhumation' of material occurs because surface material is stripped away and more rock has been placed underneath the island... essentially cycling material from deep underground up towards the surface. picture putting the same towel through the same wringer, but then wring out another towel, and let it pile up underneath the previous one. repeat for a while until you have a really big pile of towels and you start taking the dryest ones off the top, though you continue to add towels to the bottom of the pile... eventually you'll see your favorite beach towel you wrung out half an hour ago because you're working your way down through the pile. the cool thing is that the pile never gets any bigger once you start taking the towels off the top... this is referred to as 'steady-state tectonics' (well, not when you're talking about towels, but you get the idea).

Stopped by Accesskaohsiung and saw the announcement for the second issue of a new expatriate magazine for Taiwan. The magazine's ABOUT page informs the reader

Xpat Magazine is all about the foreign community in Taiwan. We want to entertain, give voice to, and help make life easier for foriegners living on this crazy island. To that end we do three things:

1) Xpat offers foriegners a creative outlet where they can be published and, eventually (if the mag ever turns a profit) paid. You can find out how to submit here or by following the submissions link at the top of the page.

2) Xpat is a low-cost entertaining magazine for those of us who are hungry for fresh writing and unique perspectives in this literature starved nation. If you have a business that caters to xpats and are interested in helping us distribute the mag, please email the managing editor.

3) Xpat is compiling a Yellow Pages for foreigners with the phone numbers and addresses of businesses and government offices that provide english-language service. If you'd like to list your business, or suggest a listing, please take a look at our advertising page contact our advertising department.

Right now we are looking for funding for the first issue. If you are a interested in supporting local art and sponsoring the first issue (and, consequently, securing a wicked lifetime advertising discount) please contact our advertising department .

Looks promising, and the first issue looks promising too. Welcome aboard, guys!

A perennial topic on blogs and forums is relationships. Everyone notices that few foreign women have local men as partners, but many foreign men are able to find local women, almost with regard for their attractiveness to women at home. Catherine Daigle, herself dating a local man, comments:

First some history. For those of you who don't know, I'm a white girl. I'm a very very brown white girl, but I'm a white girl. Asia is called "single girl hell" for north american women. I became very interested in this when I got over here.

The short story is, Asia is North American boy heaven. It's not very uncommon to see gorgeous Asian girls, dressed to the nines, hanging off the arm of a guy who wouldn't get a second glance even by the plainest jane back home. They're kind of a commodity over here. Some girls like them because of the "status" it gives them, some girls like them because of the $$$, some girls want the way into North America, and no doubt some girls it's pure attraction and/or love... but probably less than the first few reasons.

I actually feel sorry for some of the guys. If you were looking for a deeper meaningful relationship I think you'd constantly be asking yourself "does she love me for me, or does she love me because of who she thinks I am/what I can give her?". And it's not that some of these guys don't deserve incredible women, I just wonder if they're getting the incredible women for the right reasons. But none of my business I guess.

Anyway, so as you can imagine most foreign guys (meaning non-Taiwanese) do not have a lot of interest in foreign (non-Taiwanese) women. Taiwanese male with white female relationships are even more rare. There are a lot of interesting theories about this, many can be read online. The common ones seem to be:

- the Taiwanese (or even Asian in general) male's perception of us ie that we're loud, easy, outspoken, and overly independent.)
- that Taiwanese males are just too shy.... this stems from lack of confidence in their ability to speak English and confidence issues created by the way they're portrayed in Western media.
- they're unattracted to our shapes. Our facial features, colouring and hair colour are great... even envied.... but what they're fed by their media is even more extreme than what we're fed back home I think. An "attractive" Asian woman (as per sensationalized by their media) is almost pre-pubescent in body shape. Skinny skinny skinny.

Well I like challenges, and not that it was a goal, but I'm very happy to have a very very fantastic boyfriend. Not only does he like me for me (mentally and physically) but he's confident and accepting. And patient, oh so patient! I get stared at a lot in Asia for being foreign but a white girl with an Taiwanese male draws A LOT of attention (even from other foreigners). I tease Han that we're rock stars.

An interesting perspective from the other sex. An American Werewolf in Taiwan had a unique insight:

The last and most important reason I have found knowing Chinese to be a disadvantage is that when I try to speak Chinese to many girls, I have found that I am the one who looks like a dumb-ass, because I am the one struggling with the conversation. After seeing me in the situation, many girls lose respect for me, because I cannot respond to some of their questions immediately. Though, when speaking to the same girls in English, I've found that I am the one with the power and they are the ones struggling. When a man has power, he becomes much more attractive.

It is true that men with power are attractive -- Kissinger once said he got tons of action after he was elevated to high office, and nobody would ever consider him attractive.

A guilty pleasure: Steph at tea masters writing on her new Zhuni Baotai Teapot:

A first blog reader in the USA has received this teapot yesterday. So it's time that I translate its description into English!

This teapot is a perfect fit for Baozhongs and the lightest high mountain Oolongs, or even Oriental Beauty. I hesitated several months before purchasing it (it's my most expensive teapot). Let me explain why it's such a good fit.

1. Baotai means thin walls:
They are very thin. It takes a lot of know-how and time to make. (This explains the price). At the end, this teapot of 15 cl weighs 50 grams, while my other zhuni teapot with a landscape (also 15 cl) weighs 90 grams (these are the weights without the lids). My tests with gaiwans have shown that thin walls are best for oolongs with light, flower fragrances. The thin walls and the high firing temperature (1250 degrees Celcius) give the teapot a high pitched tone when you gently lift and drop the lid.

2. The zhuni clay
This red clay is harder, less porous and finer than other Yixing clays. It's closer to glazed ware, but still keeps the benefits of Yixing clay. It therefore doesn't alter the aromas very much. The pores and the minerals of the clay still do what do best: filtering and improving the taste of the tea.
Zhuni clay has a bigger shrinkage ratio during the firing than other clays, and this means it is harder to make perfectly fitting lids. So mine is a little bit loose, but it has hardly any impact on the tea.


Taiwan Chronicles muses on globalization and her own experience overseas:

On a somewhat related but not-quite-on-topic note, there is another aspect of living in Asia that will become more apparent when I return home and resume my role as an American consumer. I now have a greater connection to the people who are making the products I buy on the Walmart shelves. Granted, I don't know anyone who works in the factories that manufacture my potholders, or the glassware I will need to buy when setting up a new home back in the States, but I do know some of the people who make available the components to my DVD player or the blank CDs I use to burn my illegal downloads. When I buy some of those products back in the States, I now will have a face to go with them, and although it won't be the face of the American worker, it's still a human connection. My feelings on globalization have been unstable for a long time. It's true that the only consistent winners in the globalization game are the corporations who are maximizing their profits by shifting their manufacturing bases from country to country, but the countries themselves can almost be considered to be on the same team. As their workforces become more skilled and thus more expensive, even the most favored nations for cheap labor will eventually lose their advantage and be in the same situation as the US is currently facing. Maybe then we'll have to turn to robots, and humans will be phased out to make room. Maybe not.

Jon Benda blogs Homework and college students:

This news is a little old, but a report in last Saturday's Taiwan News cites a study that found that "[m]ore than half of Taiwan's university freshmen spend less than one hour per day studying outside of the classroom" and "the situation is similar among college seniors".

It's hard to imagine how to judge this news. Students have so much going on in their lives, and spend so much time in the classroom....

There's been an ongoing debate in several of the blogs about English language teaching in Taiwan. Doubting to shuo has the latest salvo in this ongoing debate.

How can this be? Have I decided that I just don’t really want my kids to make efficient progress? Of course, not. All of my teaching decisions (which I have control of) are based on results. Do I think the linguistics community is wrong? No. I’m firmly convinced that mainstream linguists are right; massive comprehensible input is the most important factor in language learning. I wouldn’t go so far as some and say that it’s the only factor, but I do agree that it’s crucial. Extemporaneous speech and cultural study are also very important.

Why do I go on offering explicit pronunciation and grammar corrections in class and assigning 罰寫, then? Isn’t that kind of ignoring my own beliefs about language learning? Well, this is how I see it: too much of the language learning research out there has been on immigrants and on self-motivated learners. I’ve read some of Mason’s extensive reading studies conducted on English majors at Japanese universities, but I’ve seen nothing on unmotivated grade school children studying in buxibans because their parents force them to. If anybody knows of any L2 acquisition research that does fit my current situation, then please fill me in!

Scott Sommers' blog has been hosting a running debate on the effectiveness of English teaching methods in Taiwan.

David at jujuflop and I frequently disagree, probably because David is so much more sensible than I am. Here he lauds a move by Premier Su to quit politics if he can't lower the crime rate, which I panned in Another One Bites the Dust.

This is a good move in so many different ways: Tackling crime is obviously something important for Taiwan, it’s something that affects people directly (as compared to the abstract way the unification/independence arguments have any impact), it’s something which Premier Su actually has some control over, and it attempts to distance him from the topics of eternal Green-Blue bitching.

At the same time as Chen Shui-bian is talking up his grand vision of constitutional reform, which (while I agree with it strongly in principal) is going to go nowhere and get dragged down into the same old independence battles, Su is asking to be judged on his performance fighting crime. As Premier, Su has to support everything the President does - as shown when he spent hours defending Chen’s NUC decision to the legislature, despite having little or no say in the decision to scrap the council. So the best he can do is to make it clear what are his ideas and what are Chen’s.

Of course, the cynical amongst you will be wondering how sincere this promise to withdraw from politics if he fails is. After all, Su promised to (and did) step down as DPP Head to take responsibility for the local election failure of his party - only to be promoted to Premier as a result. Politicians who fall on their sword in Taiwan usually reappear sooner rather than later. There is also the question of how Su wants to be judged:

Meanwhile I thought it was absolutely wrong to threaten to quit politics over something like this. The Taipei Times agreed. I noted:

In one of my favorite adventure tales, Island at the Top of the World, the heroes escape the crazed Viking inhabitants of a remote polar island by venturing into a fumurole that the locals have named the Mouth of Hell. From there they reach the graveyard of the whales, from which they escape to the outside world. The only difference between this tale and that of the Taiwan premiership is that the heroes of the book actually returned to civilization. Taiwan premiers, by contrast, are unable to leave the graveyard.

The Taiwan premiership claimed another victim this week as Primier Su promised to not only lower the crime rate, but leave politics if he doesn't. Is there less oxygen at the elevated altitude of the premiership, or what?

You be the judge.

London Calling was one of a number of blogs that discussed WHO's inclusion of Taiwan in the China avian flu mess, WHO disseminates FALSE bird flu info:

When the deadly avian flu is spreading across the globe, what would you guess is the rule of thumb of disease reporting for WHO officials? I know not everyone in Taiwan feels the immediate threat of bird flu, as insofar Taiwan has not reported any H5N1 cases among either poultry or humans. But please, my fellow people, access to the following link and you'll be shocked by how the Communist China's diplomatic force is clouding over the reality.

Taipei Times' coverage on WHO's misleading health mapping

Although Taiwan does not have any cases of H5N1 infections, it is classified as a H5N1-affected area because the WHO regards Taiwan as a province of China, where both poultry and human bird flu cases have been reported. How sad is that? When Taiwan is fulfilling all the duties as a good global citizen to prevent the spreading of avian flu, the organization which should report ACCURATE (?!) health information to the world has succumbed its sacred mission to the CCP's political demand. One word from Jen to the WHO officials: what you have done is an outright insult to your own authority!

Apart from the sense of urgency that I felt about Taiwan's isolation in the international community, I'm also disappointed about Taiwan's diplomatic system. I know it is a damn hard job to speak up for Taiwan, when most countries in the world simply want to capitalize on both sides. The Taiwan government needs to recruit/cultivate a lot more talents who is not only intelligent enough to maneuver on a negotiation table, but also has the integrity to defend/protect Taiwan's dignity under all pressure and/or seduction of personal interests.

Fortunately WHO corrected this error.

Nostalgiaphile at the leaky pen blogged on Taiwan's Language Wars:

Last month, the internationally renowned poet Yu Guangzhong sharply criticized Taiwan Education Minister Du Zhengsheng for cut-backs in the ratio of literary Chinese ('wen yan wen') to modern, vernacular Chinese (bai hua) in Taiwan's high school curriculum. The uproar began when Minister Du sent out an embarassingly mis-written eulogy (in literary Chinese) for a deceased Taiwanese professor. The document was leaked to the media, who had a field day with the story: "if the Minister of Education himself cannot write 'good Chinese,' what will become of our children's education?," they asked.*

Yu Guangzhong, perhaps the most respected living poet writing in Chinese and a college professor, came aboard with a familiar criticism--Taiwan's youth are falatering in their language abilities. Yu claimed that the ratio between literary to modern Chinese should be returned to the 6:5 ratio it once held, and not left at the paltry 4:5 it currently holds in high schools across the country.

Jerome Keating went wild this week, posting four essays. Where does he find the time to turn out this great stuff?

Taiwan Students, the Country Counts on You
Saturday March 18

In French detective stories when the police are puzzled trying to solve a murder, the inspector always advises, Cherchez la femme, that is, look for the woman. For the French, the most likely motivation for a murder is linked to a woman. In Taiwan politics however, the message is different. To find the motivation that determines most actions heed the advice that Deep Throat gave in the movie version of All the President's Men, Follow the money. ...

March Madness, the 3/19 Assassination Attempt and a Tom Clancy Scenario
Thursday March 16

It's that time of year for what is called March Madness in Taiwan. No, that's not Taiwan's equivalent of the USA's NCAA Basketball Tournament. March Madness here is the population's annual subjection to the latest ridiculous theories that those looking for media attention and/or die-hard pan-blue loyalists dream up to explain the March 19, 2004 assassination attempt on President Chen Shui-bian. ...

Hsu Hsin-liang and John Chiang: a Match Made Somewhere but Where?
Sunday March 12

All politicians face this problem sooner or later. What do they do when time has passed them by; when their ideas are no longer relevant, when they have no supporters? It is a time to bow out gracefully. One would think that if they had any political smarts, they could hear the bell tolling; not so with Hsu Hsin-liang.

Taiwan's Tsunah Foundation: a Tribute to Democracy
Saturday March 11

The defining but also dividing issue in Taiwan politics is its democracy. The specific form it takes, the exact manner of its expression, its economic orientation, are all open for discussion and debate, but the key unavoidable question is whether democracy takes priority or not. Democracy is the true lifeblood of the nation; all other issues and personal agendas should be subordinate to its maintenance and preservation. Unfortunately this is not always so...

Bourdeiu Boy, who is always literate and insightful, posted on the Taiwanese identity, which, like porn, all men know when they see it, but none can define:

Despite the fluidity of the debates, both public, political and academic, in the 1990s, the legitimacy of the notion of a socio-cultural experience which can be labeled as specifically Taiwanese (as distinct from Chinese) has became established and unproblematic, and this has become the key categorical distinction in the political relationship between Taiwan and mainland China.

In these “ever-shifting array of issues and controversies” which are structured by the identity question, a particular feature of Taiwan’s identity debates is a self-conscious and self-reflexive discursive register.

Indeed, the central theme in the discourse of Taiwanese identity after 1987 has been the problematic of Taiwanese identity itself. That is, the key issue of Taiwan’s identity is “Taiwanese identity”.

Ping Hui Liao has identified a specific voice in the articulation of Taiwan’s identity debates in the 1990s, that of the cultural studies-informed academic or activist, created by “expanding transnational network and new educational system of global and "hegemonic" forces, images, codes, styles, and technologies” who have worked to develop what might be called a “post-nationalist” identity discourse in Taiwan.

Big Ell blogs on the Tu Wen-chung, his Taiwaner of the Week:

Either this guy takes his cigarette smuggling seriously or he was just having a nicotine fit. Later on in the article it states that Tu is a non-smoker and was just heping his friends. I am a smoker and think cigarettes are ridiculously inexpensive in Taiwan. I don't normally buy duty free smokes because a pack of Marlboro Lights is only 55 NT$ or about $1.70 US. But Tu Wen-Ching is the kind of guy who helps his friends anyway he can.

Tu Wen-Ching couldn't leave well enough alone. Verbally abusing a customs officer at the airport wasn't enough. He used his political position to exact revenge. It appears that Tu got his buddy, DPP Legislator Yu Cheng-tao (余政道) , to make Lin attend a Finance Committee meeting. At the meeting he publicly humiliated the customs officer again.

ESWN had pics and other info on the case. What stupidity.

Daniel thinks about appearances in Taiwan.

It's different over here. My reading is that for Chinese people, appearance is just one way you relate to other people, like another skill. People will say things like, "You're good looking, so you will easily get a job teaching English", or "Sorry, sorry examiner, I'm just very nervous because you're so handsome". If you, male or female, fit the Chinese idea of a good look for a job, especially as a English teacher, parents will mention this approvingly, like it was a qualification you've passed. One "interesting" moment for me was when a female Chinese friend of mine met an Israeli friend in Kunming and trying to think of a friendly first line, said, "Oh! Daniel said you were very beautiful, and I agree"! Another strange moment was when a school in Kunming who I'd been talking to for ages realised that they wouldn't be able to hire me. The manager looked at me in apology, and cried, "I'm sorry... And you're a very handsome man"!

SHORTS: AccessKaohsiung offers two collections of humor on driving, Top Ten Taiwanese Drivers, and Taiwanese Road Rules. My student Grace blogs on her trip to Ji-ji, a popular Taiwan outing. Report from Taipei blogs on Galleries in Taipei. The Taiwan Chronicles blogs on Admiration for the Vagina Monologues and the women who perform them here. Scott Sommers excerpts a chapter from a Steven Krashen book. Karl at Chewin' in the Chung blogs on a letter sent around to all the African Embassies in China, after some Africans dated a Chinese girl. Mark has fun translating Chinese street names. The Gentle Rant has a great joke about the Chimp. Jason at Wandering to Tamshui rounds up the news in "We have this pamphlet on Great Jewish Sports Stars..."(one of my favorite movies, too). Fred Shannon adds more on NOVA and Australian Teachers, and none of it good. MZT blogs on Chinese missiles again. 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:

Living a woman's bilingual life
Chucks' Little Corner
The Mandate of Heaven

1 comment:

STOP_George said...

In Jerome Keating's post on the 3.19 conspiracy madness, he states:

The Taiwan media of course still eat this up. They have always preferred sensationalism to investigative journalism. It is with this in mind that my friend Billy Bob Terrell came to me with what he feels is the ultimate and absolute explanation of March Madness.

Apparently, the Taiwan media has not only been "eating it up" -- they've helped to cook it.

As I posted earlier, it has been revealed by the Taipei Times that the amateur documentary film-maker that had the "new evidence" had family connections to a TVBS executive in Hong Kong. Apparently, he even had his own office in Taipei.