Sunday, April 02, 2006

Sunday, April 2, 2006, Taiwan Blog Round Up

Another Sunday gone to wherever Sundays go. I'll be blogging on the meet up in Taipei tomorrow, and hopefully I'll have a summary of Jeff Martin's information-packed presentation on the Taiwan the meantime, the Taiwan blogosphere is crackling with good stuff this week.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, what is theft? Over the last month there's been some discussion on the progressive blog DailyKos about mainstream media borrowing from bloggers without crediting them. It looks like there is another case of this at the Taipei Times. Jen at London Calling notes:

Pffff, that's really a lot of words to type... :s Since you've reached this far, I reckon that you have also sensed many of the similarities between my posting on 03/27 and Taipei Times' editorial on 03/30. That's why I was so surprised and kept wondering what could be the reasons behind that. Well, after much analysis and reasoning by deduction when I rested my beautiful head (;oP) on the pillow last night, I thought of three possibilities:

Possibility one: Jen is actually the author of this editorial and she works for Taipei Times. She’s just playing mysterious. And to save time, she expanded her positing on the blog into an editorial as she had to go to a dinner date on Wednesday March 29.

Possibility two: The wise think alike. The author of this editorial and Jen happened to see the same news clip on the same TV channel and felt the urge to express their opinion. They are not only alike in logic but also in their rhetoric and sequence of paragraph structuring.

Possibility three: The author of this editorial saw Jen’s posting on this blog, liked her opinions and decided to “integrate” her ideas into this editorial. But he/she forgot to ask Jen in advance whether she agrees.

Read the whole article, it is hard to disagree, given the many similarities in vocabulary and structure. It's sad, and I hope someone gets disciplined for this. Hard.

Daniel at Suitcasing has been racking up some thoughtful posts lately. Here is one on the common practice of asking students how things have been.

What is going on here? Well, I've talked to a few Taiwanese people about this, why Taiwanese people will say "Nothing special" if you ask them a "What have you done since we last met?" type question - and I believe that a number of things are going on.

Firstly, questions like "How are you?", "How was your week?" are not as straightforward as Americans/British etc people might think. Indeed, there is enough difference between American and British English that I was very confused the first time I worked in the US. People would walk up and ask me things like, "Hi! What you doing?" when I was taking a break, and I would reply, a little nervously, "Nothing"...

A question like "How has your week been?" could surely be answered in dozens of ways, and only a few would "sound right" to a native English speaker. What I think I mean by this is "What was the general character of your week, and if it was different to usual tell me why, but if it wasn't, tell me about something fun and unusual you did during it".

Secondly, there is a belief created from textbooks that "How are you?" should always be answered by, "I'm fine". Clearly, someone long ago confused the most standard response with the only response, and now a billion + people will always say "I'm fine" (In China, it's even worse - "I'm fine thank you, and you"?). Equally, however, there is a range of normal, acceptable responses to "How are you?", especially between relative strangers, and these are perhaps not obvious until they're explained to you.

I do this too, of course. But my advantage is that unlike you guys teaching adult students in bushibans, I can fail the ones that don't answer. Hehehehehehe.

Cold Goat Eyes describes a rant by one of his students, from Japan, about life in Taiwan. And then muses:

Anyway, it was quite a monologue. You should have seen it. Ever since, I have been trying to work out how, exactly, I feel about Taiwan myself, and the truth is that I dont really know yet. I have been here a year and a half, and I still have yet to get a grasp on my true feelings. Back in the UK, I was exactly like her. I would spend dark evenings spitting venonously and inebriatingly at the fucking weather, the corrupt government, the choking, stifling rules and the small-mindedness of the British. I would take trips abroad whenever I got the oppourtunity and I would dread the day when I had to catch a flight back home to stoop beneath the thick low sky and mope about in the drizzling pissing rain. All I know is, that to a drapetomaniac like me, Taiwan is better than the UK in many ways.

The Taipei Kid finds an error:

Tammy Bruce's latest book, The New American Revolution, states that "while Sri Lankans were worrying about living in tents during the monsoon season, Clinton jet-setted to Taipei and the Kelly & Walsh bookstore where it's reported he signed five hundred copies of his biography."

There is no Kelly & Walsh bookstore in Taipei.

Actually, Clinton did sign hundreds of copies of his autobiography in a Taipei 2005. President Clinton was made the UN's Tsunami Rep shortly after the disaster.

The Foreigner on Formosa had some great stuff this week. Here he looks at China's version of the East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere the Greater China Commonwealth.

Read the papers late last night, and saw that the China Post editorialists were proposing an international "Chinese Commonwealth" based on the model of the British Commonwealth. Members would presumably have to have large populations of ethnic Chinese, so places like Singapore and Malaysia might be eligible, along with Taiwan and Communist China. The editorialists have in mind a friendly fraternal organization, and who could possibly object to an innocent little thing like that? Let's hear them out:

This idea has been floated for years. There was a pro-KMT scholar who made a point of flying to Taiwan every year to tell the island how great a commonwealth with China would be.

The Foreigner had another set of great comments on the Affair of the Statues.

There are a few other arguments I've heard in favor of keeping the statues, but I'll have to discuss them in some other post some other time. What we CAN expect is that the KMT will to fight to the last to protect its symbols from Taiwan's independence parties. As I've outlined, I think they'll lose the historical battle as democracy entrenches itself further in Taiwan. But what if democracy doesn't grow stronger? What if the KMT embraces the Chinese Communists, and they manage to pull the country into Beijing's orbit? What would happen to the statues in Chinese Vichy?

I suspect that their fate would be EXACTLY THE SAME. Communists can be relied upon to twist arms to remove images of men who are symbols of resistance to their rule. Statues of such men might someday inspire men to rebel, and that cannot be permitted. Americans may tolerate Confederate monuments on Southern soil, but the Communist Party of China is not nearly so magnanimous.

Given the recent crop of KMT leaders, I don't see the modern KMT offering anything more than token resistance, either. The KMT's recent behavior suggests that they're perfectly willing to sell their souls and jettison their most beloved symbols in order to curry favor with the Communist Party of China. I offer this as but one example.

Ironic, isn't it? When the independence parties want Chiang Kai-Shek statues removed, the KMT deride it as an act of historical vandalism. But should the Communist party of China ever call for their removal, watch how swiftly the KMT hail the move as a pragmatic act of reconciliation!

It was recently announced that Chiang Kai-shek's diaries will be made available. Why is it that I feel they are bound to be more literary invention than historical reality? Jerome Keating has the nod:

On March 31, Stanford University’s Hoover Institution will begin to make its collection of the Chiang Kai-shek diaries available for historical research. The diaries provided first will be those that cover the years 1917 to 1931. These diaries of Chiang Kai-shek as well as later ones of his son Chiang Ching-kuo also on loan to the Institution will unquestionably provide a rich treasure trove to explore. However they will also pose a tremendous challenge to historians and researchers of Chinese history.

There is no question that the diaries will provide an abundant source of much wanted information; anyone interested in the history of modern China and Taiwan will look forward to the insights and perspective they will provide into the happenings and personalities of those tumultuous times.

Yet after the immediate exaltation of knowing that they are available there follows the realization of the difficulties to be encountered in accurately interpreting them. In a variety of ways, diaries always have a secret side of what they do and what they do not reveal.

The fact that Chiang Kai-shek let it be known as early as 1950 that he wanted them preserved indicates they will present how he wanted to be remembered. We are also told that the diaries will be further edited by current family members. Certain names and details will only be available in 2035. While this could be expected for privacy reasons, it does raise the question of how much privacy is needs to be protected especially in matters that happened over fifty years ago where most if not all of the participants are now deceased.

Edited by the family with many details not released? Jerome told me that an American scholar with a long history of tight links to the KMT will be in charge of the project. Right. It will be about as balanced as the media guide for a college football team.

One sad event this week was the exit of a legislator from the DPP, who left with an attack on party politics in Taiwan. Lin Wei-chou's egotistical quitting of the DPP did win plaudits from some quarters. Mutant Frog writes:

United States partisan politics may not have quite yet reached this level of clownishness, but it’s close enough so that I’m disgusted with the whole business. Therefore, I am swearing an oath-if any major partisan politician running in elections for which I am eligible resigns from their party and severs all financial and organizational ties with the party, I will vote for you. I don’t care which party it is that you are leaveing, I don’t care how you feel about the Iraq War, or Medicare, or abortion, or school lunches, or even if you’re a holocaust denyer or a convicted rapist. If you follow the brave lead of Lin Wuei-chou in Taiwan, and tell the Washington based political party establishment to go fuck itself, I, who am not, never have been, and never will be a registered member of any political party, will vote for you.

There's nothing brave about Lin Wei-chou. He is just an egotistical never-was who decided to validate his own self-image by attacking Taiwan's political system. This kind of self-absorbed tirade does nothing for Taiwan—and any assault on the political system simply aids the KMT and China, who benefit from less democracy (explain how Taiwan benefits from having fewer members in parliament from the pro-democracy party?) This is not a revelation, it is simply immaturity, squared -- adults live humbly for causes, adolescents die gloriously for them. Which one is Mr. Lin? What Taiwan needs is people who are positive, not negative, about politics and democracy, to step up and work for the good of the nation. Apparently this legislator isn’t, since his ego was validated by trashing the system. Good riddance, I say, but a sad leave-taking all the same. David at jujuflop also supported Lin, saying he had told it like it is:

I don’t think you’ll find many people disagreeing with his sentiments there. Given that he’s talking common sense, I confidently predict he won’t be reelected in next years legislative elections.

I'll bet both of you a beer that within one year of this writing, Mr Lin joins the KMT.

David on Formosa rounds up a passel of good posts on English Teaching.

There have been a few interesting blogs about English teaching in Taiwan recently. I want to post a few links and comments about them.

At Forumosa ImaniOU laments that no matter how well qualified or experienced you are its tough finding a job in Taiwan if you are black. Doubting to shuo further explored the issue in his post on Non-racist Recruiting. I made some comments there about discrimination against people who aren't from North America. Doubting to shuo then posted some more comments on this issue:

Go read it!

Jason at Wandering to Tamshui blogs on Ghost Money and its economic impact:

What better way to celebrate the return of fresh spring air, cherry blossoms, and horrendous baseball to DC than with a post on Taiwan's spirit money industry? (Yeah, OK, besides appearing at the KMT's U.S. "embassy" here heavily inebriated and sans pants)

A very informative article, don't miss it!

Pinyin News has the lowdown on an important new Chinese character teaching method:

One of Taiwan’s trashy TV variety shows has found a new use for zhuyin fuhao: making a game out of men trying to read zhuyin pasted on the bodies of bouncing, gyrating, bikini-clad models.

This particular segment of the show is called “là mèi zhèngyīn bān” (spicy girls pronunciation class / 辣妹正音班).

Mark, I think the interests of science demand that you try for a spot on the show. Make that sacrifice for knowledge!

Taiwanonymous explains the Asian Sign of Picture Taking:

The verb is bi3 (比), which means to gesture with the hand. That which is gestured is ya (or yeah), which is a declaration of how happy one is or how unbelievably cool the picture will be. The "yeah!" should be exclaimed as if you were an excited but quiet ten-year-old who just learned that he won an award for coolness. It is possible to make a V with your fingers without saying "yeah," but it is not recommended. What do you mean "it's too hard"? Come on, even a baby can do it. Look, the baby is shaming you with his effortless mastery of the victory sign.

Big Ell is starting a new feature called 7 Days Later for news that nearly died of neglect:

I am starting another feature here at Big Ell's Blog called, '7 Days Later.' I am going to try and post about the most interesting stories that I find during the week pertaining to Taiwan. These will be stories that fly under the radar in the Taiwan blogosphere. These stories don't warrant a full post but are stories that need to be told. I also hope to post once a week, but probably won't.

Traveling around Taiwan with GPS, by Joseph Chen, always has excellent posts of local interest. Here he discusses the mangrove forest outside of Taipei, which I had no idea existed.

I really like the mangrove forest park along the MRT line stretching between Tamsui and Zhuwei (竹圍). There are dedicated paths for people on bicycle or by foot so you can really get very close to observe the ecosystem of the preserved mangrove.

The best starting point, however, is from the Hong Shulin MRT Station (紅樹林). Within just a few minutes' walk, you are into the forest.

Watch out closely along the coastal path lining with patches of mangrove. There are lots of fiddler crabs and mudskippers everywhere on the sandy areas. If you are lucky, you may even see a couple of sea birds taking showers by the river.

Amazing. I'll have to do that one of these days.

I've often noted that in conservative Christian writing, the word invariably found nearest to God is me. Here is a missionary woman in Taiwan for whom no amount of me-centeredness is too great: God fixes my refigerator....

Then I thought, well maybe it can be fixed. So, then I worried about how to find a handyman to fix my fridge. I worried about how much that would cost. I worried about how long that would take. I worried about how messy the inside of the fridge was and how embarrssing it would be to let some outsider see it in such a mess.

All of this worry raced into my heart and filled my mind. Then, I came to my study and just prayed a simple prayer, "Lord, can you fix my fridge? I don't have the means to deal with this right now. I need to you take care of this."

I kept checking the non-working fridge every five minutes for about an hour. Still no cold air. I talked to some Taiwanese friends about how to find a handyman. I even searched online for the approximate costs of new fridges and what to look for when buying a new one. I still had a heart that was beating faster than normal and a blood pressure probably higher than it should have been.

I was on my out the door to go ask the security guard downstairs for help in locating a handyman when I stopped by the fridge for one last check. I opened the door to the freezer, peeked inside, and . . . the air came back on!

After over one hour of my frozen foods starting to defrost, my fridge came back on. It was fixed. And a week later is still running like normal. Praise the Lord! He fixed my refridgerator. He answered my cry for help. He cares for me!

The fascinating thing is that people who think that the Creator of 250 billion galaxies, each with 50 billion stars, stopped by to fix their personal refrigerator often complain that atheists are arrogant. There is only one antidote for garbage like this:

“The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” (Richard Dawkins, Sci. Am. 11/95)
Just think: while God was fixing her fridge, thousands upon thousands of human children were suffering slow death by starvation all over the world. It's good to know God has priorities....meanwhile for those of you who prefer your religion seasoned with intelligence and no small amount of wit, Taiwan blogger FideCogitActio offers a mix of brainy posts on faith and a joke or two:

"A man was auditioning for an anchorman job at a leading news network. The producers were happy with him, he spoke clearly, looked good, sounded intellligent. But towards the end of the audition he started winking and smirking and twitching.

"Are you okay?" the TV guys asked. Worried now. "You were doing great until you, uh, started twitching and winking like that."

Oh don't worry," said the anchorman. "It's a small nerve disorder of mine. It's easily treated with a packet of aspirin."

"Really?" asked the news guys.

"Yeah, let me show you," said the anchorman. "I've always got some aspirin with me if this starts up." He reached into his pockets but pulled out packet after packet of condoms. Still looking for the aspirin, the anchorman now had a little pile of condoms on the table.

"Ahem," said the news guys. "I'm afraid we can't hire a... womanizer. We have a good reputation."

"I resent that" yelled the anchorman. "I am a faithful husband, been married twenty years. I'm no womanizer."

"Well how do you explain all the condoms?" they asked.

"Have YOU ever gone into a drug store winking and smirking asking for a pack of aspirin?"

Strange Foreigner blogs on Taiwan culture and alternative medicine:

People say Taiwanese people ain't got no culture. Alls I'm sayin' is, when your gf's getting blood sucked out of her back by a Chinese doctor and there's a gangster with his head on fire next to her; when there's a kungfu master just outside the door whippin' out the mad fan moves, when you're sitting around with said kungfu master drinkin' oolong tea and watchin' 70s kungfu movies while listenin' to "Everybody was kungfu fighting" and your local Chinese doctor is carrying down a business handed to him from generations upon generations of Chinese doctors before him; when you start to meet these people and have these experiences, that's when you start to have to admit that maybe, just maybe, Taiwan and Taiwanese people have a culture beyond "I know how to make a profit by cutting production costs".

Damn right! They also know how to make a profit by lowering quality!

Anarchy in Taiwan, with hard-driven posts bursting with righteous energy, has been blogging on the emerging death squad/security state in the Philippines. But he also posts on the woes of Filipino workers in Taiwan:

The migrants at Wang's Formosa Plastics compound in Mai Liao have been fighting hard in their struggle for the wages guaranteed to them on paper, but skimmed off by FPG and their corrupt brokers. Actually, extorted is probably a better description. On March 16th, Lebria, Lennon Wang from the Chinese Federation of Labor, and representatives from the Migrante Sectoral Party, Asia Pacific Migrants Mission and Taiwan Migrants Forum met with workers and FPG management on Friday March 16th to discuss the workers' demands after a two day strike of Filipino and Thai workers at the plant on March 13 and 14.

At the moment there is a large strike going on in Kaohsiung too....

Doubting to shuo finds writes a great new Chinese number conversion tool.

The primary purpose of this tool is to help foreigners reading online newspapers, who come across big numbers such as 百萬 or 120億. Every number to the left of a 萬 (万) or an 億 (亿) will be interpreted as a number. At this point, Chinese conventions for and omitting trailing s, s, and s are supported, but still in testing. There also is support for a wide variety of input that I haven’t seen in other similar Chinese math tools, though. Here are some examples:...

I think the tool is pretty much what you’d expect. If see buggy behavior, let me know. Tell me what kinds of numbers you come across that are inconvenient to convert and I’ll see if I can add support for them into the tool. Suggestions are welcome.

Western teachers have visa runs, overseas Chinese have conscription runs...

Just came back from a conscription run. My 4 months was up. This trip was pretty interesting, I met new people on this trip. Others that were just like me, overseas Chinese that had to leave every 4 months. So it is possible to do this afterall.

If you have a Taiwanese passport and would like to come back to Taiwan:
1. Stay in a foreign country for longer than 4 years, Or if you hold a permanent residence of another country.
2. Apply for an Overseas Chinese Identification certificate with the OCAC (Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission).
3. Just make sure you leave every 4 months during your stay in Taiwan. Before you can exit Taiwan, remember to get an exit permit (a stamp) on your passport with the Ministry of Interior.

And get this, all you have to do is LEAVE the don't have to enter another country. Yup, thats right. All you have to do is leave Taiwan. You can go to the beautiful international waters! OR go to any airport of your choice WITHOUT entering through immigrations. Yes, thats right, you can just go to HK airport, not go through immigrations and just catch the next plane back to Taiwan! Guess the Taiwan gov just wanted to give us a reason to be able to be excused from the military...

MYSTERIES: The perennial fascination with Hitler in Taiwan was the topic of a pic from Lost in Translation:

How are the Nazi party and the hand signs related? Your guess....

Meanwhile Jason at Wandering to Tamshui blogs on the mysterious commercial involving a foreigner, an aboriginal girl, and a laptop: Abo marketing a-go-go!

HUMOR: Karl at Chewin' in the Chung notes:

It's lunch hour here at the office, and I think I'll go eat at a restaurant near my company. Ya know, the food here in Taiwan is pretty good, but we just don't get the kind of delicious Chinese food that can be found in Western countries. Some of my favorites that I really miss are:

Red date silk tube-shaped container steams frog
Chicken ear an ear jade liquid geng
Benumbed hot Huang fries belly silk

or my all-time favorite snack...

Cowboy Leg Beautiful Pole

Whoa! I Take that last one back! I have never had anything to do with any cowboy's beautiful pole!

SHORTS: Patrick blogs on our visit to Ta-ken: Hubbub at the Daken hub. Mind of Mike feels his way through the recent quake. Gordon Graham at Broken Bulbs notes that Google is opening an R&D facility here. Feli is off to India, my favorite place to travel in. Bring back lots of pics! Kat has started a new blog on cooking in southern Taiwan (what's the difference? More betel nut?). Taiwan Tiger is back after a six month hiatus! And taking the east coast by train. Congratulations to Still That Same Girl From the Bronx....she's expecting! 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.

Wonton Woman

ADDED: New Category for Taiwan Video blog pages. If you have one, send me a link


Kerim Friedman said...

So the Chinese sign says "la cui dang" which is a pun on the word for Nazi, using the character for wax candle instead of "na" 納. Now why they chose to use the literal English and the hand sign is beyond me...

Mark said...

"Doubting to shuo finds a great new Chinese number conversion tool."

Ahem, AHEM... I wrote that tool because I couldn't find any online with all the functionality I wanted.

The Foreigner said...

Regarding "praying for your refrigerator", here's a little satire regarding a recent study on the effects of prayer on human health.

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