Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sunday, March 26, Taiwan Blog Round Up

Today's Round Up is dedicated to Patrick Allard and Mark Wilbur. I finally met Mark today over at Patrick's house outside of Taichung (waaaaaay outside of Taichung). Mark, who runs the great blog Doubting to shuo, is a geek and investor, brainy, articulate, and full of interesting knowledge and ideas. He showed us some great new geek tools (blogged on his site, so go and look). I liked him a lot, mostly because he has less hair than me. In the pic above, that's my wife Juying; me; Mark Wilbur; Amy and her daughter Maya; Patrick, Amy's husband; and their son Isha. That's my crazy son Sebastian sticking his head out of the car. My daughter is taking the picture......


Ordinarily I'd blog this as a SHORT, but I'll be damned if I'll let MeiZhongTai go without a good-bye letter. Yes, MZT is leaving the blogosphere. MZT, I'll miss you very much. You stimulated me, you caught my errors, you taught me. You're a great conversation partner and someday I hope to buy you a beer or three. I hope that life brings you more PHDs, slinky Asian babes, and expensive booze than you can handle! Good luck in all you do, my friend!.

Mark Wilbur, up close and personal.

This week we'll start off again with Mayor Ma Ying-jeou of Taipei, currently touring the US. Ma wants to establish himself as a credible candidate in US eyes, and use that to leverage votes over here. No doubt we'll be subject to a barrage of lies when he gets back and describes the visit. I'll have to spend some time with the Chinese-language media -- after which a shower will be required....

Maddog calls Ma on the stream of lies, evasions and twisting that issued forth from his mouth:

Protruding prominently from Ma's "5 Do's" is this long-dried-out, recently-detached dingleberry:
* ...restart the 1990's Hong Kong cross-strait talks on the basis of the so-called "1992 consensus"
Never mind that KMT con artist Su Chi admitted just over a month ago that the term "1992 consensus" was a fabrication, er, a motherfucking lie. In spite of this, Ma Ying-jeou continues spewing this sort of crap as if everyone else were as ignorant of Su's admission as he appears to be.

As far as the other "4 do's," well, who gives a flying fuck on a rolling doughnut? Coming from the mouth of Ma Ying-jeou, they couldn't possibly be anything but the same old shuck and jive.
I loved the "real and imagined entities" next to his list of tags. David at jujuflop points out that Ma is simply Chen Shui-bian, updated. When you can't beat your opponent, steal his best lines:

One thing that Ma Ying-jeou has been attempting to do is convince the US government that he has a plan for China-Taiwan relations. In the great tradition of Chinese (Sorry - Chinese and Taiwanese) politicians he has come up with a number-word combination which sounds awkward in English: the “Five Do’s”. I haven’t got his original text, but they are (as described here):

  • Lay out a provisional framework for peaceful engagements across the Taiwan Strait
  • Push for the resumption of cross-strait dialogue
  • Seek to improve cross-strait trade and economic relations
  • Promote talks with Beijing concerning Taiwan’s entry into international bodies
  • Promote cross-strait cultural and educational exchanges

Now compare that with this speech given in 2004:

It is my belief that both sides must demonstrate a dedicated commitment to national development, and through consultation, establish a dynamic “peace and stability framework” for interactions; that we must work together to guarantee there will be no unilateral change to the status quo in the Taiwan Strait; and, additionally, we must further promote cultural, economic and trade exchanges–including the three links–for only in so doing can we ensure the welfare of our peoples while fulfilling the expectations of the international community.

Notice the similarities? By my reckoning he’s proposing to do exactly what Chen Shui-bian was proposing when he started his 2nd term - with the exception of negotiation on international representation (although I’m sure Chen would have loved to chat with China about that).

Taiwan's Other Side, the pro-KMT blogger, thought Ma did a stellar job handling the media:

Taipei Times reporter was practically battering Ma with annoying, completely DPP party-line questions - why did he delay the arms deal? If Ma were president how would he deal with the opposition going abroad? I was particularly pleased with how Ma managed these rather mean-spirited questions - he pointed out that it was the DPP administration that delayed the arms bill for the first three years, and then presented the legislation just before the end of the legislative session in an election year to create an issue. Ma also pointed out that there is no confusion on ROC foreign policy when KMT leaders go abroad, and that legislation to stop such visit would also preclude him from visiting the US.

TOS unfortunately regurgitates Ma's lies without any comment on them. Sad. He might have noted that the US did not submit the prices until Dec of 2002, and that the MND took another 18 or so months to process the request. And of course, that it was the KMT that had originally requested the arms. No shit -- the KMT says it is a bad idea for Taiwan to buy the arms it had requested. For twenty years the KMT asks for subs and the US says no -- then the US says yes and suddenly, subs are a bad idea, so bad that the KMT has to block the bill in a procedural committee 45 times. Authoritarian logic, at its finest.

Meanwhile Rank is there blogging on an especially awful piece from the Washington Post:

Ma, by the way, is not admitted to the bar in Taiwan because he could not pass the notoriously difficult bar exam (less than 1 percent of candidates passed in 1970s and 1980s) although he did graduate from National Taiwan University with a degree in law. Chen, Frank Hsieh, and Su Chen-tsang, in contrast, are all admitted lawyers.

His last comment about the US's being gullible is one that I think he should have left unsaid. He tried a similar line with the obviously well-prepped interviewer in his recent BBC interview where he said that the interviewer didn't understand Taiwan's relations with China. Rather than engage in a serious discussion of ideas, Ma is showing a tendency to dismiss foreigners who disagree with him as being gullible or failing to understand the 'impenetrable' mysteries of the east. His English may be fluent, but his mind, Rank fears, is shut tight.

Yep. That's the arrogance of Ma. I think there is a good chance that Ma will sink himself somehow with either his US allies or the Taiwan populace. As another blogger pointed out, Ma's ratings have sunk 22 points in Taipei as it has begun to dawn on everyone there what a great mayor Chen Shui-bian was, and how superficial Ma is. I blogged extensively on the Great White Hope of the KMT with:
There's much to come, including more fawning media stuff, and the election fight. Ma's speeches in Washington were questioned rather more closely, but the softball session at the CFR seemed to signal that Ma will not be challenged by American elites, who either want to give Taiwan to China, or really believe Ma when he talks. He did say that Americans were gullible......

The leaky pen, always a blast, had some great blogging this week. First, Chiang Kai-shek Statues Coming Down, a move which was long overdue:

The graven image of the venerable Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek will no longer greet you as you report for mandatory military service. President Chen has decided that the statues of Chiang which grace all of Taiwan's military 100+ bases will be brought down and stored at an undisclosed location. According to one KMT Party mouthpiece (i.e., The China Post), this is like the destructive dismantling of traditional cultural icons that took place in China during the Great Proletarian Revolution (1966-76). Just as monuments to Confucius were scrapped, so too will images of Chiang, our "Eternal Leader," be tossed on the fire.

It is an outrage that statues of this murderous dictator may still be found. Wandering to Tamshui also blogged on Statues of Limitation:

Yes, yes, and hell yes. For a small island democracy, Taiwan still has an obscene amount of icons idealizing its authoritarian past, most conspicuously in the form of imposing tacky statues like the one sitting in CKS Memorial Hall in Taipei. Ugly reminders of an ugly time, they have as much place in democratic Taiwan as statues of Hitler would in today's Germany. And considering the abuse I've seen visited upon similar statues all over Taiwan (like the CKS statue by the front gate of Taichung's Da-Keng Recreation Park, which got its face hilariously smashed in immediately after the 2000 election.*), I know I'm not alone in saying this.

As for the angry apologists who are loudly complaining today about how the Chiangs are untouchable "historical figures" (歷史人士) and thus aren't subject to changing public attitudes and understanding of the facts surrounding them: Please give it a rest.
Alas, that will never happen.

Mark at Doubting to shuo blogs on non-racist recruiting.

One of the most frustrating things about living in Taiwan (or anywhere as a minority) is all of the racism one sees. One of my good friends when I first showed up, was a black guy. He graduated from a school pretty much equivalent to mine, had good grades, and a degree in linguistics. Neither bŭxíbāns, nor high schools would touch him with a ten-foot pole. Seeing that his work opportunities were so terrible here, he left. Friends have told me not to buy clothes at Hang Ten, because “That’s where Thai people shop.” On one occasion, I was kicked out of my apartment for being white. The landlady wanted to “get rid of the foreigners”, but the Asian-American guy and the Asian-Canadian gal could stay. Stuff like that happens. It’s part of life. Most frustrating of all, is that nearly every Taiwanese person I’ve met is convinced that racism doesn’t exist here; it’s just a “western problem”.

Hahahahaa. "Just a western problem."

The leaky pen also blogs on a real common problem in universities in Taiwan, grade changes:

It was an afternoon meeting, so I prepped myself by drinking lots of strong, black-as-hades coffee to keep alert through the whole 2 hours of bureaucratic back-and-forth. This didn't do much for my nerves, of course, which were already on edge because I was asked to report on the case of one of the part-time instructors "under my command" in the night school. Said instructor, let's call her Cindy, had called me up three days before to explain her situation and say that our Chairman told her to find someone else to "speak for her." She was trying to change the grades of three sophomore English students whose final reports simply got mixed up (and lost) in the semester's-end-crunch. It was a simple case of "oops" really, but Cindy asked me to help her out so I had to try and spin this as an accident or foul-up caused by the computer system. Now, to understand the gravity of the situation you have to know that last semester our President had worked himself into something of a fury over the issue of Grade Changes—finally proclaiming that teachers who change grades would be summarily ineligible for contract renewals and run out of town...Well, kinda. Anyway, Cindy was in deep shit.

Changing grades is such a pain that no one does, which means the innocent get screwed, kids get passed who otherwise might not, and so on.

Kerim blogs on Chinese names:

In Taiwan it is not uncommon for someone to change the character used to write their name as a means of averting a streak of bad luck. Although sometimes people will actually change the pronunciation of their names, more often they will simply find a homophone with a different number of strokes in the character. According to Chinese numerology, the number of strokes is directly tied to one’s fortune.

This, of course, makes life somewhat difficult for beleaguered non-native speakers - especially when trying to do roll call in their class. (I’m working on it, but at present I still have my TA helping with that task.) Even Taiwanese sometimes get confused, and I’ve seen banners for political candidates that supply the phonetic pronunciation for unusual characters....

Kerim also spotted the news that the UN will eliminate the use of traditional characters in its publications in 2008.

Maddog pointed me to this great new blog on Taiwan politics, democracy, and independence, from Taiwanese, Taiwan Today. Lots of good stuff on Taiwan history....

The comment "Birds in Taiwan don't sing, flowers lack fragrance" was made by Prime Minister Li Hung-chang of the Ching Dynasty just before the empire relinquished Taiwan to Japan after the 1894 Sino-Japanese war. The Chinese prime minister went on to say that Taiwanese men on the island were heartless, and the women had no loyalty to their lovers.

Well, it's good to know that nothing has changed. :) We'll be looking forward to more great posts from this blog, whose members include the stunningly beautiful and extremely tasteful cleverClaire. I know this is true because she reads my blog....

The Lost Spaceman blogs on an icky new idea from Taiwan beer: cute beer cans apparently aimed at teens:

In an effort to get the youngsters on the sauce, Taiwan Beer has introduced their new pre-teen friendly packaging for those impressionable young tweens looking for something a little more risque than bubble tea, knee socks and Jolin Tsai.

Why, just look at the effect it has on the cute girl on the left, whose beer goggles are fully defined, no doubt due to a healthy injection of the suds. She certainly looks like she is enjoying her beer. And, naturally, the boy on the right knows exactly what to say to get what he wants. We all know how this scene plays out. Boys will croon and girls will swoon and we will all be engulfed in the loving rainbow of gaiety. There is indeed something about love. A round of happy endings!

In fact, I can't think of a single reason why this can is a BAD idea. Sugary cute cartoons with large heads, subtle use of the heart image, a focus on love and a message to the kids? Who DOESN'T want a beer? Good work, Taiwan Beer!

I think they should put Jolin on the package instead. She's a lot cuter than those people....and she dresses so conservatively, and has her very own English language textbook. So she must be cool....

Taiwanonymous, always ready with a useful review, posted this time on a Chinese language learning program.

One of the challenges of language learning is the law of diminishing returns. At an advanced level, you just don't get as much mileage out of learning fifty new words, or practicing listening for five hours as you did when you were beginning. However, if you want to get to the level where you can understand the Chinese news well enough that you actually enjoy watching it, you'll just have to put in a lot of hours practicing. (At least that's my guess--the results I have achieved using the non-practicing method are less impressive than expected.) So, how to practice?

I think repetition of the same material is more valuable than just listening to streaming radio, and an actual recorded Chinese lesson sounds like the most direct way of learning, so long as the material is interesting. If you search for Japanese language learning podcasts, there are quite a few available, but for Chinese learning, I've only seen one podcast with a significant amount of material, and that's from They recently put up a couple of advanced lessons, so I decided to give it a try.

Chinese language lessons.....I wish I had time.

Fred Shannon blogs on the recent change limiting teacher hours -- as if anyone will pay the slightest attention.

The Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) has anounced that beginning in April, 2006, new regulations will come into effect limiting the number of hours foreign EFL teachers can teach.

Foreign EFL teachers will soon be limited to teaching no more than 32 hours a week. Also, if foreign teachers are teaching at a second school, they must at least teach 6 hours at the second buxiban. However, the total number of hours taught between the 2 schools must not exceed 32 hours a week.

Exceptions will be made for those teachers asked by their schools to cover for substitute classes. However, schools found to in violation of the new regulations will face fines.

Bourdeiu Boy has some bricollage on the closing of the National Unification Council:

It is this question, the issue of self-determination for the Taiwanese, which remains the great unspoken principle in cross-straits relations. There is a tacit assumption that unification is the only plausible long-term outcome, and it will come about as a natural progression in China’s economic and political development in the years to come. While China is currently undemocratic, its rapid economic development will in time lead to political liberalization which will make unification a positive step for the Taiwanese. Critics of the Taiwanese government say its actions only destabilize this trajectory and risk regional security.

However, such a view is an abrogation of a moral position towards Taiwanese democracy and Chinese authoritarianism. The criticisms of Taiwan’s limited and symbolic attempts to maintain its viability as an autonomous and democratic society assume that the Chinese government's political and military threats against Taiwan are somehow a legitimate response to the Taiwanese problem, and do not themselves represent an undermining of the status quo. The popular support in Taiwan itself for the status quo cannot be understood outside of the genuine fear in Taiwan of Chinese military action and a pragmatic belief in the importance of peace and security in the straits.

Whether China becomes democratic will not be the result of economic development, but of the courage and actions of Chinese democracy activists. Just as that activism deserves the support, tacit or explicit, of the international community, so to does the principle of self-determination in the case of Taiwan. Only with self-determination will a genuine long-term peace be secured across the Taiwan Straits.

Preach it, brutha!

Pinyin News blogs on the mysterious letter e in DVD titles:

The cover for the DVD for Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (Dìyù Xīnniáng / 地獄新娘 / “Hell Bride”) has what more me is an arresting usage: the roman letter “e” has been incorporated into a Chinese character.

"Hell Bride?" Yeesh. Think they'll have those characters on the national exam?

A couple of weeks ago the New Hampshire Bushman had a sad encounter with someone who needed to control a parking space. This time Ni Howdy posts a scary tale:

The doorman of my doorstep KTV decided to inform the driver of the blue truck not to park in front of part of his shop. On my way to 711, I heard glass breaking but saw nothing. On my return I heard a hissing sound, but didn't really wonder why. 30 minutes later the truck driver returns screaming 'the things about someones mother'. The driver calls the cops. More shouting. More shouting. Doorman runs down the street screaming "Wo gung ni sue!!" (maybe I'll pay for the damage). So far it is three flat tires and a broken mirror. Cops leave and shop closes... One hour later shop re-opens. Doorman picks up fire extinguisher covers truck in white dust, jumps up and down on truck roof then smashes windshield with fire extinguisher.

It seems like these experiences are just so common.....

The Foreigner on Formosa has a great piece on Lee Jye's revelations that high-ranking military officials wanted to bring down the Chen government...Soft Coups And The Pan-Blue Line Of Silence:

The 2004 presidential election in Taiwan was a precarious time. Just imagine it: President Chen gets shot a day before the election by an unknown assassin. Then we hear he's still alive; the bullet merely grazed him. Lien Chan, his KMT opponent, demands to visit the injured president in hospital, but is rebuffed - probably because the president believes Lien was behind the shooting. Lien then trivializes the crime by telling television reporters that the situation is "not a crisis". The military is mobilized.

The next day, the wounded president wins by a miniscule 30,000 votes.

And things REALLY get hairy after that.

First, the KMT and its allies go ballistic. Didn't their polls tell them their guy was 4-7% ahead? Didn't their newspapers tell them their guy was a shoo-in? Their guy COULDN'T have lost, so they take to the streets. They demand a recount. They demand a do-over. What of the members of the military who didn't get to vote because of the mobilization in the wake of the assassination attempt? Let them vote, and let them vote NOW. Thirty thousand votes - that's all the KMT needs. Just 30,000...

What, the law says we CAN'T do any of those things, at least not immediately? Well then, bend the law - JUST THIS ONCE. President Chen, the KMT DEMANDS that you declare a State of Emergency so that the niceties of the law can be set aside*.

This is a great piece of writing, insightful, well-written, and didactic. Great work, FF.

Naruwan Formosa blogs on the Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights, CA.

On Monday, I took a little visit of the Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights. My mother was at one time a devotee of Master Hsing Yun (星雲法師), although the demands of the secular life have made it difficult for her to spend as much time as she would have liked.

The temple was conceived in the late 1970s, and built throughout the 1980s. It is now a landmark of Hacienda Heights. When the city planning committee had debated it, there had been some opposition, because Buddhism was at the time a novel thing. Now, a decade and a half later, it has become a part of the community, and continues to draw devotees and tourists.

Speaking of religion, The Heavenly Mother Gets GPS! wrote the leaky pen:

Last night Taiwan's patron Goddess, the Taoist deity known as Ma-tsu (媽祖), went off on her annual journey around the island once again, leaving her traditional resting place in Ta-chia (大甲, near Taichung) to circle the island and bless as many people as possible in a whirlwind 8 day tour followed by 10's of thousands of believers. Some will be unable to take time off from work to go get blessed--it's a shame, but for some reason Her birthday is not a holiday in Taiwan--however, for the folks who can't, there's now a solution.

This year, for the first time, you can actually track the Heavenly Mother (天后) using your cellphone. The Zhenlan Gong temple has authorized the installation of a GPS satellite tracking system that allows you, the devout, to pick up any new 3G cellphone, dial a number (available here in Chinese), and see where Ma-tsu is at any time during the next 8 days. This is not lucky in itself, however, but the closer you can get to Her the better (best is when you can lie down in the street and get her ritual palanquin to pass over your head). If you're like me, with a broken Moto, you'll have to watch the news.


HUMOR: The New Hampshire Bushman scores with this classic:

The Miltown Kid scored some betel nut girl dolls. I gotta get some of these:

Although she is wearing rather too much clothing for a real betel nut girl.

SHORTS: Jerome Keating takes a moment from politics to enjoy Shei Pa National Park. Daniel at Suitcasing goes wild on Chinese culture: All the Chinese culture series. The New Hampshire Bushman finds some new Taiwan Wood Culture. 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.


  • Paul's Space

  • Cody and Rob

  • The Nebulon Fry

  • Wei's World

  • just going

  • Taiwan Today


    id_anomaly said...

    >>... the stunningly beautiful and extremely tasteful cleverClaire. I know this is true because she reads my blog....

    so i'm not smart or clever or any of the sort? *laugh*

    Though I haven't done much... Thanks for recommending taiwan-today. Appreciate that.

    Anonymous said...

    I'm glad you like some of my stuff. Belated thank-yous for your March 12th comments, too.

    Anonymous said...

    How was xiao ren guo MT?
    I loved it. I fooled some people with some carefully aimed pictures there.

    good afternoon?

    Michael Turton said...

    My page on it is here.
    Basically I'd say it isn't worth the cost, although the kids will enjoy, it especially the amusements. Bring a swimsuit, there's a swimming area and the massive water slide, always a blast. We're never going back -- it's the kind of thing that is pleasant to do once.


    Michael Turton said...

    so i'm not smart or clever or any of the sort? *laugh*

    But your moniker already announces you are clever, so I decided to fill in with other unmentioned positive attributes.... :)


    Anonymous said...

    I finally migrated to my own domain,
    Latestpost is on parenting. At least that's what the tag says ;)