Friday, September 23, 2005

Friday, September 23, Blog Round-up

Friday, my day off. Friday, blog round-up day.

Students respond with enthusiasm to my lectures.

It's the second week of school for me. All this week I've been approached by students begging me to let them into this or that class. Like many universities, Chaoyang does not offer enough credits to its students, and not enough elective courses. The result is that students find themselves in courses that they have no interest in or use for, merely to garner enough credits to pass. I hate saying no, especially to students whom I have known and loved for four years, but unfortunately a translation class of 100 is too unwieldy too teach, as I like working with students one on one, and I already have a slew of writing classes...and I am overseeing the internship a busy week that didn't leave me much time to blog. Apologies to all.....

Lots of stuff happening in Taiwan this week, and lots of great posts, food for heart, mind, and soul....

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Scott Sommers offers a great series of posts, some new, some reposts, on the issue of English teachers as economic migrants....

If English teaching is part of an industry, then what does it mean to have a career in this industry?

Teachers in commercial language schools are often complaining that such jobs are dead end. In a sense, this is true. There is very little professional development provided. Raises are few and far between and there is a ceiling at some point. I know of no commercial school that offers a pension plan. This is true even in the schools operated by foreigners who believe that they offer a professional work place.

Scott frequently interacts with some of Taiwan education's most perceptive observers, including Kerim Friedman and Clyde Warden, a longterm expat who happens to be a full professor, and obtained his PHD at a local university. The result is often some very good exchanges....

In this repost, Clyde Warden asked a very good question concerning the connection between my idea of English teachers as economic migrants and culture workers and my belief that there is no overwhelming student preference for foreign teachers. This is a very important question if I intend to pursue these ideas. I have no good answer for Clyde's main problem, but I want to try and explore a point that is repeatedly raised; if students don't overwhelmingly prefer foreign teachers, why are there so many foreign teachers being paid so much money?

The problem is that Scott's explanation doesn't really explain the overwhelming preference for foreign teachers, it simply says that parents and administrators like them, while correctly noting that students have no say (true right through the college level). Why do parents and school administrators like foreign teachers so much? I suspect that the answer lies in the very human preference for authenticity -- foreigners are seen as authentic speakers of English by parents, and school admins know this. The key point is this perception, for school admins will cheerfully hire a non-native speaker of English from Europe, especially if he/she is blond-haired and blue-eyed -- they are quite cynical about the teaching skills of foreigners, and about the need for an actual native speaker English. Authenticity takes many forms -- in addition to being an authentic speaker, the foreigner also is an authentic representative of the globalized future that Taiwan is supposedly moving toward. In Taiwan internationalization is often coterminus with English; everyone here is familiar with the boss who tells them: "we need to internationalize, so.... let's translate the organization website into English!" It is not, however, to be confused with importing best practices from abroad, adopting international standards, strategies, or points of view, and similar. English in reality functions as a fetish doll into which locals stick internationalization pins. The foreigner thus permits the school to bring in that authentic experience of The Foreign, while at the same time carefully encysting it in local cultural sites and practices to ameliorate its impact and structure its meaning for the locals. In my view the role of cram school administrators and textbook authors as definers, interpreters, and gatekeepers of The Foreign in Taiwan is often underappreciated, safely situating the threatening Other in the comprehensible niche of Orientalized Other for local cultural consumption. In that sense the white foreign teacher who does non-threatening things like play games with flashcards and lead children's songs is really no different than the faux aboriginal lives tourists see at the Nine Tribes Cultural Village not far from my house, where locals go to get an authentic experience of the Primitive by watching non-threatening brown people singing and dancing.

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David on Formosa blogs on an article by local expat writer Bill Stimson:

This article by Bill Stimson, a writer living in Taiwan, is about discovering beauty in the mundane and valuing what we have. It offers many insights into Taiwanese attitudes to the environment.

One of the greatest problems facing the modern world today, not just Taiwan, is the environmental crisis. It is rooted in dualistic thinking where the environment is perceived as something external and removed from our everyday life. People will go to great efforts to try and preserve a rainforest on the other side of the world yet attach no value to the wild things that survive in their own backyard.

For those of you in the Taichung area, Bill and his lovely wife, who teaches at my university, run writing workshops.

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Over at jujuflop, David applies Monty Python to the Taiwan independence party experience:

In case you were wondering the 'World United Formosans for Independence' and the 'Taiwan Defence Alliance' should not be confused with pro-formal independence political parties like the Taiwan Solidarity Union (which regularly polls between 5-10% in national elections), the 'Taiwan Independence Party' (which gained 0.3% of the vote in the last election), the 'Peasant Party' (0.4%) or the 'Taiwan Number One Party' (didn't bother standing).

My own experiences working for an independence movement organization indicates that David's insight is not far off...

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ESWN, one of Asia's most stimulating blogs, offered two important pieces of Taiwan-related material this week. The first was an article from The Journalist which purports to analyze the DPP's attempts at participatory democracy, yet another example of the inability of local analysts to write in concrete and robust ways, which I discuss here. The second article is transcript of a long, rambling speech by New Party founder and mainlander maverick Li Ao at Beijing University this week, which veers between clinical insanity and bad comedy. An excerpt:

Let me tell you. There is no such thing. Nobody dares to do that, including Lian Chan. They won't dare do that. So although the term liberalism appeared in Lian Chan's speech here on the speaker's podium of Beijing University, let me tell you that there is no such thing. Many people say that Li Ao is a liberal. You wonder what such a liberal will have to say in a place ruled by the Communists. Will I promote liberalism? Let me tell you, I will promote liberalism but its content is different from what you understand. What is liberalism? From the scholastic point of view, you publish a book and someone else publishes something else, and the academic theories seemed very profound. For me, there is nothing complex about it. There are only two parts to liberalism. One is to week within oneself, and the other is within the constitutional.

Let me tell you a story. Before Taiwan was ruled by the Qing dynasty, it was ruled by Zeng Chenggong. He was a distinguished national hero. Zeng's father surrendered to the Manchurians, but he did not. Zeng's mother was gang-raped by Qing soldiers in Fujian. What did Zeng do when he found out that his mother was gang-raped? Let me tell you. He cut his mother's body open and then used water to cleanse the body. He believed that his mother was soiled after being raped. His mother was soiled. The rape was an action and the soiling was process which can be washed away in order to reduce the pressure and pain inside him.

In the May Fourth era, there was a problem that Hu Xi solved but nobody else could. A Beijing University student said that the sister of a friend was kidnapped and then the unfortunate thing (which I just described) occurred. The question was posed to the philosophers, "How do you explain this?" They could not explain it. Mr. Hu Xi explained, "If a man want to marry this female victim, we ought to respect that man. Actually, there is little difference physiologically for the woman, but there is mental anguish. If the man can break through such emotions, then the man is remarkable and we should respect him."

Just wait until you get to the part about stockings. What cultural reference am I missing?

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Jerome Keating, as always, offers a great piece on the way China's "One China" myth is constructed:

After they conquered the Ming, they continued their conquest of the neighboring countries including Tibet, Mongolia and that of the Uighurs. They also occupied the island of Taiwan to prevent any Ming loyalists safe harbor there. Interestingly enough all of these conquered lands of Tibet, Mongolia, Taiwan, and China etc. now became a part of China and not Manchuria. The Manchus like the Mongolians did not have good spin historians.

Like the Mongolians, the Manchus (not having the required manpower) kept the administrative structures of the countries they had conquered. Like the Mongolians of course, the top men were always Manchus. For the Han Chinese that they were under alien rule was not lost on them. They all had to shave their heads and wear the Manchu queue. Even now, many Chinese still smart at the 'indignity' of any mention of that fact; it was a disruption of the order of the universe as they perceived it. Ironically when they in turn Sinicized lands that they conquered it was different. The Manchu queue requirement was an indignity; but required Sinicization was not. Perhaps someone should ask the Tibetans or other dispossessed subjects about this.

In the same way there are many Chinese who still cannot forgive or forget the humiliation of the Opium wars with England, even though at that time the English were 'humiliating' the Manchu Empire and not China. But, of course in their historians' minds all the countries that the Manchus had conquered had now miraculously become China and not the Manchu Empire.

A point that is often made, but can't be made enough.....

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Big Ell blogs on porn in Taiwan:

I thought I had seen it all until I came to Taiwan. My first housemates in Taichung had bought a porn filter for our local cable package. The filter was an ingenious device that attached to the coaxial cable. It unscrambled two Porn channels. I only remember the Rainbow Channel. Raibow Channel makes the Playboy Channel look like Good TV. Good or God TV is an evangelical Christian Tv Channel in Taiwan. We had full 24/7 access to all the porn four 20 something males desired. Initially I thought it was Taiwanese Porn but my savvy and more worldly roommates clued me into the fact that most of the porn was in fact from Japan. At that point in my life I had trouble discerning a Japanese Porn star from a Taiwanese Porn star or a Korean Porn Star for that matter. I have evolved to the point where I swear the lumber guy at B&Q is my trailer trash cousin.s doppelganger. I never really go into the Japanese porn with all of the crying and subservience, but it was a much better time killer than most of the other programs on TV.

My wife reads this blog, so no comment.

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POTS offers David Frazier's translation of an article on the recent fad of references to Taike, a term that is many years old. Why did it suddenly surface in the media now?

BLUE AND white plastic slippers, chews betel nut, drinks energy drinks, smokes Long Life yellows, anywhere anytime keeps the diao-ga-aa shirt (the Taiwanese wife-beater) rolled up to let the stomach breath. When du lan (pissed off), it's either "Kao bei ah!" ("For crying out loud!"), "Lim bei ah!" ("Your father!"), or "Lim bu ah!" ("Your mother!"). Every sentence begins with the word gan, fuck. At the KTV, he orders up some guang high, Cantonese hard house music, and blows a whistle like crazy. Or maybe the fashion is hip hop, bling-bling. Or maybe at the trance club TeXound - also known as tai ke shuang (台客爽) - he comes after the mei mei, the chicks, with shouts of yo-la! Yo-la! Shake it! Shake it! These are all elements of tai ke style, right? But if all that's true, then what is tai ke?

The article errs at one point:

In the 1960s, people in Taiwan began making comparisons between local Taiwanese and wai sheng ren, recent arrivals from mainland China. That was what first gave rise to a situation of chiang shia, forceful threats. Along with it came ethnic slurs: recent immigrants from China were called "mainlanders" or "Mainland pigs," and they in turn called the Taiwanese "tu tai ke" and "tai ke song," (terms that would compare in American English to "hicks" or "rednecks").

The use of "pigs" to describe mainlanders followed shortly on the first appearance of mainlanders in Taiwan in 1945. Comparisons were made immediately; in fact, it was used to interrogate people threatened by the locals during the 1947 revolt.

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Pinyin News, a very informative blog, points us to the Presbyterian Church and its contribution to Taiwan's language scene and democracy movement.

For many years, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan has been an important voice for human rights in Taiwan, including the right of people to speak and worship in their native language.

Probably the best-established romanization system for writing Taiwanese (Hoklo, Hokkien, Minnan, etc.) is known as the "church system," having been developed by Presbyterian missionaries. Publications are still being issued in this, as I intend to discuss in a later edition of Pinyin News.

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There was a mini-flap over singer Vivian Hsu and a local Taiwan map, blogged on by Freedom Slopes and Wandering to Tamshui. Freedom Slopes observes:

Flipping through the Taiwan news I came across a story about the "Dirty White Slut" taipei map I had blogged about before. I guess someone finally complained to the proper authorities. It's about time.

Wandering to Tamshui takes a properly satirical tone:

So tell me again how Vivian Hsu wearing a shirt that says "SLUT" doesn't beat "Taiwan Touch Your Heart"?

READERS LIVING IN TAIPEI: You might still be able to find this map at any of the big 老外 hotels. Fetch!

I constantly run into this problem with my students: "Doris, do you know what that T-shirt of yours says?" [mute silence] "You mean you didn't look at before you bought it?" Just another case of It-has-English-so-it-must-be-cool.

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Taiwananonymous continues his run of book reviews with one on Sanmao, the revered Taiwanese writer who committed suicide several years ago.

When was the last time you saw an author's photo on a book's spine? If your answer was 'never,' then you have not seen the new editions of Sanmao's complete works. Each of the twenty-six books in the series has a picture of Sanmao, both on the cover and on the spine. This should give you a clue as to Sanmao's popularity. She was a celebrity writer, something than is becoming hard to imagine. Celebrities write books, but rarely does a writer become a celebrity. Sanmao wrote books, newspaper columns, song lyrics, even the screenplay for 'The Chess Master.' Her works have not been translated into English, but she is known to Chinese not only in Taiwan, but throughout the world. She talks about 'China' synonymously with 'Taiwan,' and just as she embraces China in her identity, she has a great number of readers from the Mainland who are attracted by her uniqueness and free-spirited mode of life.

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MeiZhongTai has been sparring with Sun Bin on the issue of Taiwan independence:

Sun Bin, one of the newest additions to my blogroll, has previously posted on why Taiwan should not take actions toward independence. (My reply is here.) Now, he offers a quote from Lao Zi to further explain his point....

Don't miss the article on Don't Belittle the ROC either.

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Rank, an active and witty Taiwan blogger, points out an article that puzzled me too...

After two US defense officials in two days warned Taiwan that it must stand up for its own defense if it wants US assistance with its defense [translation: Taiwan must buy expensive weaponry from US companies], a Taiwanese general has claimed that Taiwan has always planned to fight on its own, and has never included in its combat plans the idea of US military assistance.

General Hu Chen-pu is obviously lying -- and he'd damn well better be. Imagine if US forces arrived in Taiwan to help fend off a Chinese attack only to discover that the Taiwanese had never given a thought to the logistics of such an operation.

Why am I even taking pot shots at such an idiotic statement?

I agree; that's why I didn't blog on this when I might have. Who believes this general anyway, especially since Taiwan-US military contacts have been increasing in recent years? The real issue here, as Rank notes, is the fact that someone felt they could simply spout off at the mouth....

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Perry comments on my cry for quality commentary in the Taiwanese media:

"Is there no intelligent analysis in the Chinese-language media at all" asked Michael Turton in his blog The View from Taiwan today.

I tend to think the answer is in the negative. I've been translating opinion articles for Taipei Times for the past four years, and only on occasion will you find a thought-through article that offers some incisive analysis, or even makes sense.

Like I always say, the lack of quality models in their own everyday media culture explains so much of the way my students write.

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The Human Manifesto is back! And blogging on teacher contract woes...

This week my boss is now trying to renegotiate my contract. Altering my pay so that it is lower. In effect, I pay for the health insurance that they are supposed to pay for. Conversations began two days ago, and today it came to a head for me when they presented the new contract. This new contract would put me in the same salary range as a new teacher who has no teaching experience and who is fresh out of college. I initially refused to sign the new contract but as the day wore on, my boss came to me again, stating that she now 'knows' that she must give me health insurance. Something I told her over two months ago. I let her know that I have several years of experience, provide class supplements at my cost, as well as I have a teaching certification. I don't know what she thought about my response as I had to leave for class and I didn't stay around after work to discuss the matter again.

That's right! It is bigtime illegal not to pay for health insurance! I also love the way they snuck that little $5000 increment onto your contract. Are you sure that's even the contract you signed, or did you sign the second page, and they substituted a different first page?

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Mesheel reminisces about her experiences in the 9/21 quake, with pics.

On the night of 921 I happened to be in Taiwan. I was living in Taiwan during the month of September taking Chinese classes at TLI. This was my second visit to Taipei. I'd visited first in 1990 with my parents, but honestly do not remember much of it as it was rather an exhausting trip. Dad, please correct me, if I’m wrong, but we did Hong Kong, Beijing, Taipei, Tokyo, Seoul in less then 2 weeks, yes? Anyhow, after having lived in Mainland in 1997/1998, a year which killed most of my passion for Chinese culture and language, I though it is time to search for it in Taiwan again.

We were living in Taliao down by Kaohsiung at the time. I woke up, terrified, and attempted to wake up my wife. Her response to being awakened in the wee hours of the morning cannot be printed in a public blog.

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The Taiwan Chronicles writes about those strange stalkers of Taipei:

There are hundreds of stalkers in Taipei. They stalk foreigners, chasing them down with their cars and honking at them repeatedly. Who are these stalkers? They are cabbies!

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The venting at Three Spleens always makes me laugh. This week it's the train ride to anorexia:

here i am on the taipei mrt. it's notoriously clean, yet my train smells like bulimia. must be all the 50-pound high school girls across from me.

one of them whips out her piece of shit hello kitty cell phone. she proceeds to listen to every fucking ringtone stored on it. all her teeny bopper friends think it's the coolest fucking thing in the whole world.


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SHORTS: Karl at Chewin on the Chung blogs on Jeff Gannon, the hapless male prostitute who became a "victim" of the horrible Left. Betel Nut Blogger seems to have disappeared. Taiwan's Other Side offers some rich comedy on Chiang Kai Shek, who is admired by "millions" in Taiwan. Speaking of comedy, don't miss the Wilds of Taiwan's further discoveries in their children's dictionary. Faith's Taiwan has a great set of pics of her light aircraft experience. Great photos at 35togo, a better tomorrow (that wasp kicks ass!), andres, amateur commune, Leftmind, Photoblogging Taiwan, Roger in Taiwan, unplugged, .... and the pics at This Life also seem to be on their way up.....Kelake is back, speaking of 35togo. Me from T@iawan blogs on the visit of a martial arts novelist. And don't miss this blog from a Taiwanese in China dedicated to toilets in China (thanks, asiapundit). TaiwanFashionista has all your fashion in Taiwan news...

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John Naruwan said...

Great blog round-up as ever.
Here is the right link for my "further discoveries in their children's dictionary" post.

T. Destiny in Taiwan said...

Where do you find the time? I'm still trying to get my head wrapped around my school schedule. Thanks for the mention.

Michael Turton said...

Time? I sneaked Friday off this semester...and I used to have a family around here somewhere. Wonder where they went....