Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday, April 23, 2006, Taiwan Blog Round Up

Another Sunday. Another week of fabulous experiences and educational encounters. Appropriate to a week that saw two blogger get-togethers, including a big one in Taipei, Patrick asks the question that often goes through our minds. Why blog?

But getting back to my question "Why blog?" I Googled the question and got over 800,000 hits. I also Googled "Why write a diary?", and got 99 hits. It seems I am not alone on this one. I often find myself thinking about something I want to write, but then hesitate for fear that the "wrong people" will read it. I have no illusion as to the readership of this blog, but I don't feel free to really rant about work, family and friends as I would with a diary, for example. Daniel wrote about that in one of his posts. So why? It's part narcissism, part reverse-voyeurism. But as Nebulon Fry states, it's also a quest. So far it has been a selfish thing, and I suppose this will always be elemental. But from the very start, I found a community of interesting and more importantly, interested people. My initial attempts at networking turned into very pleasant, stimulating and rewarding personal meetings, which I look forward to again. But in the back of my mind, I can't help but wonder: is the continuity of fleshy encounters contingent on blogospherical quotas? What if I can't keep up with the bloggy Joneses?

Why blog? Patrick supplies the answer in the form of a quote from a person who wanted to be helpful to others. For me blogging is a form of community building. What is my intended audience? What information or services can provide for them? What value-added can I bring to the stories and events that I comment on? And of course, what shouldn't I blog on?

David blogs on the changes in the visa...

On the 2002 visa the word Taiwan, or even Taipei, doesn't appear anywhere (in Chinese or English). There is only "Republic of China" and "ROC".

The 2006 visa is quite a contrast. At the top of the visa it says "Republic of China (Taiwan)". Although Taiwan is in brackets it is actually written in a larger font size. In the background there are two images of Taipei 101 and a map of Taiwan. There are also the words "Welcome to Taiwan" and "Taipei 101 - the tallest building in the world".

It is actually difficult to figure out what country the 2002 visa is from or to easily confuse it with China (the PRC). There are no such doubts in 2006.

No such doubts? But the President's Office still managed to confuse the PRC and the ROC during the Hu visit...

Scott Sommers blogs on his interview with the Dean of NCKU's Business programs...

In the past, I have written quite critically of business education programs that claim to be bringing accessible education to people of impoverished parts of the world. I have said that there are no unaccredited programs that are any good - or at least I have not seen even one. While these programs are busy taking people's money, there are schools earnestly working at developing programs whose goals and organization will have a real impact on this part of the world. The IMBA at National Cheng Kung University is one of these.

Prior to the Blogger Round Table, I had the chance to speak to the dean of the IMBA program, Dr. Henry Wu. Dean Wu is a graduate of the Kaohsiung Normal University. In addition to a PhD from Oklahoma State University, Dean Wu spent almost 10 years at the China Steel Corporation. He has been teaching at NCKU since 1992 and has been the Dean of the Institute of Management since 2001 (You can find Dr. Wu's Chinese bio here).

Scott's post is full of information about one of the best MBA programs in Taiwan.

This week was the great chili cook-off in Taichung and all hands were ready with their recipes....J-Hole has the history of chili downpat:

That's c-h-i-l-i, no two l's in this word (sorry Illinois). See? Only one sentence and I've already raised some hackles - if I'm doing my job right. Let me see. Tomatoes? Ciao baby. This is chili, not Ragu or even ragout. Beans? Ha! Blasphemous teat-suckling mama's boy. Meat? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full. Truthfully and sadly, though, most people will put either tomatoes or beans in their chili, and the truly evil will use both (even in my beloved Texas). I believe in the Texas Trinity of Fat, Fire and Meat with chary use of other additions. Some will argue that chili came to Texas from the Canary Islands, but most evidence points to the Islanders exporting their Mojo sauce (vinegar, chiles and spices). Whether the addition of meat as the main ingredient was by them or others living in Texas, what we now know as chili was most probably done first in the Lone Star State. The point is not so much as who or where, but what. The absence of tomatoes and beans in early recipes is striking.
Karl reports on the results:

it is with considerable regret that I report to the world that evidently, Texans do not know the first thing about Chili, having crashed and burned in spectacular fashion to the white chicken chili recipe from Minnesota.

VT said that he cooks whenever Bush's ratings fall. Keeps him busy, I'll bet.....

The Bush-Hu Theatrical lasted only a few nights, and the only crowds that came were protesters. Except for the US team's numerous gaffes, the entertainment and educational value of the visit was nil. Shrimpcrackers posted on protesting, and noted that...

Commentary: Despite the indignities suffered by Hu Jintao, I don't think any tops the regular Chinese news broadcasts in which Bush's name is mispronounced to sound like the word "dishonest" and how they made him wear a dark traditional tunic during Bush's first visit (normally reserved for the dead nowadays). But Bush left a day early, promptly from China, without giving any real reasons why, which diplomatically means unsatisfaction.

David at jujuflop and I have been discussing what the KMT's recent internal dissension signifies. I just want to say that knowledgeable Taiwan watchers have written to me privately and said that the analysis on David's blog is world-class. I totally agree. David says:

Well, we clearly have a group of dissatisfied legislators. But the big question is “What will (or can) they do?” Michael Turton has also written on this and thinks it adds up to a crisis for the KMT, but I’m not convinced. Although there are plenty of people who dislike Ma high up in the KMT, there’s not a lot they can do about it. Ma is secure in his job - it’s the legislators who aren’t secure in theirs.
I think if Ma can make it through these elections, implement this system, develop a broad base, outflank the party insiders, nuetralize his rival legislative speaker Wang, and win the election, then -- my fingers will be worn off writing about the meantime I noted:

As David at jujuflop pointed out the other day, Ma has to tread carefully to avoid offending these legislators, so that more of them will return home to the KMT. They are all potential Ma supporters -- as militant pro-Blue politicians they will never permit a Taiwanese to become head of the party or ROC President ever again, after the "betrayal" by the hated Lee Teng-hui, a native Taiwanese who rose to become Chairman and President of the KMT. It just so happens that Wang Jin-pyng, Ma's rival, is a Taiwanese. Ma may have his eye on a legislative majority, but Ma's strategy of catering to their interests may also be aimed at Wang as well.

Whatever happens, the KMT's internal situation, which at the moment looks a lot like I, Claudius, promises to be very interesting...

Pro-KMT blogger Taiwan's Other Side looks at the changes in the Taiwan national ID card....

ROC citizens across Taiwan have been dragged into their district government offices en masse for their new national ID cards. There’s a strange, new symbol of the Republic of China prominent in the background of the actual id, which is conveniently blocked by big SAMPLE letters on the online version of the card. I certainly have never seen it before, and it bears no relationship to any of the ROC symbology that I’ve ever seen.

Poor TOS. Imagine having to look at Taiwan on your ID. Must be traumatic......

nostalgiaphile at the leaky pen blogged on the death of comics in Taiwan:

Last Thursday I went for a walk around this 'student equipment store' (SES) in Jhungli called "Bright South." I have to make up a term for this because we don't have anything like it in the US--a store that sells video games, comic books, backpacks, CDs and DVDs, and student stationary goods. This SES was packed with teens and middle-schoolers and a lively, bustling atmosphere. As usual, I was there looking for some manga to read, so I kinda lolly-gagged around for a couple of hours checking out the recent titles. To my disappointment, there weren't that many, and what's more, I noticed the comics section was the least crowded section of the store. The students were all jammed into the video game section or else looking for erotic DVDs to buy. My wanderings in the SES inspired the following melancholy reflections on the demise Taiwan's comics culture.
Comics. Loved 'em when I was a kid....

Jerome Keating grabs Wendell Minnick's excellent book review of a new book on the China-Taiwan conflict.

What would it take to invade Taiwan? How many troops? What would the United States do? Could Taiwan counter-strike? Would it be a Normandy-style invasion or a surprise decapitation strike?

Grappling with those kinds of questions makes this is a disturbing book. Educated conjecture about ways to destroy a country, particularly one in which you live, makes for chilly reading.

Editor Steve Tsang, an Oxford University scholar, brings together some of the top specialists on the Chinese military for a readable analysis tackling policy framework, China's capacity to use force, and the potential economic costs. In his introduction, Tsang cautions the reader that though many pundits argue that China would refrain from a conflict due to concerns about the economic ramifications, they ignore how the powerful emotional appeal of Chinese nationalism will impact upon how China policy makers deliberate. In addition, the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) increasingly hollow claim to legitimacy, traditionally based on lofty Marxist-Leninist ideology, now relies on a skewed nationalistic vision that redirects the citizenry's anger and frustration from the CCP's inept bureaucracy and corruption towards Taiwan, Japan, and the United States.

Looks very promising...Keating also linked to this excellent column on democracy in China by a former student of his:

Boris Johnson Suggests Another Way to Look at China and Taiwan
Saturday April 22, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Many academics and many journalists go to China and on their return write the perfunctory words on how the PRC is not perfect on human rights, democracy etc. but the government cares for the people, things are improving and the West just does not understand these rulers and their elite. While such writers refrain from being too critical, their caution is understandable. They are conscious of who are the gate-keepers that control their return invitations (all bills paid of course). What is refreshing about Boris Johnson is his disregard on whether he will be invited back to the latest popular feast or not. I quote his writings in entirety so that readers can catch both his humor and critical analysis of his own (British) system. Further however, many of the issues addressed within will be topics of future posts of mine to come. For example, readers can ask the basic question, why are groups like the Falun Gong such a danger and threat to the stability of the government in an autocratic one party state like China but they practice freely with no harassment in the democratic state of Taiwan.

Lots of fun, but living here in Taiwan, I wasn't under any illusions about the difficulty of implementing democracy in China...

Wandering to Tamshui blogs on Taiwanese martian.

Someone on the FAPA listserv sent this set of pictures out this morning, each featuring a word in the "Martian" (火星文) language that the kids in Taiwan seem so crazy for these days, and how to use the word in a sentence.

Taiwan awoke to the "Martian" invasion a couple months ago after it was found that the Ministry of Education tried connecting with the hep chicks and cats of the Instant Messaging Generation by including questions on the meaning of popular IM phrases (later nicknamed "Martian") on a standardized exam. (Cue "Political Shitstorm Concerto in B Major", please).

The questions may have since been replaced, but "Martian" remains a popular way for students to confuse their parents. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I find it faintly annoying that my Taiwanese convenience store chain of choice, FamilyMart/全家便利商店 put these out with the motto "Everyone Spells English" in the lower right corner. Foreign English teachers, beware; your jobs are about to get a whole lot harder.

Well worth a look, if you want to understand what your students are saying! Mark at Pinyin News, always a font of language info, adds:

I’d been working on a post about the cards and miniature magnets given away at Family Mart (Quánjiā / 全家) convenience stores with purchases of at least NT$75 (about US$2). But Jason at Wandering to Tamshui beat me to it yesterday with a post showing all of the cards, so I’ll keep this short.

These are particularly interesting because of the use of Taiwanese as well as several other languages, though everything here is labeled “Yingwen” (English). As Jason wrote, “That faint sound you hear is a thousand foreign English teachers slapping their foreheads in despair.”

The series, labeled Quánmín pīn Yīngwén (全民拼英文), is probably meant to counter rival 7-Eleven’s popular Hello Kitty button series. Although few take on Hello Kitty and live to tell the tale, I think the alphabet cards are doing fairly well.

I had no idea those stupid magnets were so interesting.

Mark at Pinyin News blogs on the declining Chinese skills of local students:

The Taipei City Government has released the results of a Mandarin proficiency exam administered to 31,145 sixth-grade students.

According to the results, more than 40 percent of those tested are unable to use so-called radicals (bùshǒu, 部首) to find Chinese characters in dictionaries. This, of course, comes as no great surprise to me. Ah, for the wisdom of the alphabetical arrangement of the ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary!

Furthermore, the Taipei Times reports that the person in charge of the testing, Datong Elementary School Principal Chen Qin-yin, said that although most students received good grades, the essay test revealed weaknesses in writing ability, including a limited use of adjectives.

Inasmuch as this is a pet project of Mayor Ma, I am suspicious of claims that Mandarin skills are poor. It is too pat, politically.

Daniel blogs on a topic that's been making the rounds...critical thinking skills:

I also think that we underestimate how difficult specific mental skills are. I've given students the kind of group exercises that I've done in corporate interviews and training courses ("Lost in the Desert", "Choose country A, B, C or D for our company's new office"), but if a student finds these hard, well, that shouldn't be surprising if this is how the Bank of England or Deloitte & Touche weeds out candidates (in their first language, too). Interview technique is a skill, looking good in group exercises is a skill, finishing in-tray exercises on time is a skill, and debating is a skill. In fact, aren't they more performance than mental challenge, a way of acting and decision making that one picks up by practice, much like a monkey learning to press buttons - they are not natural powers, and someone in Taiwan might have never needed to perform like that before. I couldn't do them either, when I finished Uni, but a year later, and a lot of graduate job interviews later, I had become pretty slick.

I'm not diving into this.

The New Hampshire Bushman has some excellent airplane window photos of Taiwan...

Cold Goat Eyes blogs on salty language, a particular fondness of mine....

Shit has been fully assimilated into everyday English and carries no real potency anymore, either as a noun (I am going to take a shit), a verb (I like to shit) or an adjective (this movie is shit). Similarly, the great sexual vulgarity fuck is rapidly becoming entwined into the mass lexicon and I fear that in a few years time it will be as powerful and offensive as the quaintly British expression bloody (as in 'bloody hell' or 'bloody awful weather we're having what?'). It will be a lamentable day. The multifunctional versatility of fuck makes it one of the true greats. As an emphasizer or strengthener, it is peerless. It is not merely hot today, nor is it very hot, nor exceptionally hot. It is fucking hot. In it's interjective form it expresses a similar meaning to damn and the verb, to fuck has no adequate synonyms that convey the same strength, implication and connotation. 'To screw' is too casual for my tastes, 'to make love' is too limited to a certain form of sexual intercourse and 'to get laid' too cheap. it is fuck and fuck only that presents that sweaty, dirty act and if it were not a vulgarism then I suspect it would be meaningless and redundant.

That is some fucking great shit, CGE. Hands down, the best ever written on this topic is the chapter on swearing in Paul M. Fussell's Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, which is also the best book written on the war.

SHORTS: A Taiwan independence blog ring. Kerim found a great article on the devastation wrought by the closure of state factories in China. One of Sean Riley's stories makes the paper. The RAND Corporation studies the new Chinese military...(thanks to the Foreigner for that one). Several of us had a ball being presenters at the roundtable at NCKU. Brian Mathes cluses us in on how not to be an Ugly American. 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.

MISSED HOLIDAYS: Ryan speaks for me: In all the hubbub of life I somehow missed Easter yet again. Easter is my own private Polka-Roo. It shows up every year and I conveniently forget it. "I missed it again?"

Me too. Just what I need: a holioday offering more chocolate.Glad it went by without a peep.


Tim Maddog said...

Michael wrote:
- - -
Poor TOS. Imagine having to look at Taiwan on your ID. Must be traumatic.....
- - -

And the name of his blog is Taiwan's Other Side. Now there's some irony.

Anonymous said...

Why do people blog?

There’s no such thing as ‘reverse-voyeurism.’ Sorry, but that smells like a bullsh*t word. As I see it, the main motivating forces are as follows.

1. Boredom. “It's better than television.”
2. The compulsion to share, with anyone who will listen. “Here are my thoughts. Aren't they great?”
3. Self-esteem issues. “Someone pleeeease leave a comment. My site stats will appreciate it. I check them every day.”
4. The need to set the world to rights. “Everyone's got it all wrong. Here's how it is.”

[blog-free since Oct. ‘05]

STOP_George said...


You forgot one extremely important reason...

5. The corporate media is lazy, biased, and basically, full of shit most of the time.

And you're proud to be "blog free"?

The internet is a invaluable tool for rational minds that honour critical thinking. I, for one, am thankful that highly intelligent bloggers like Michael Turton are contributing to this communication revolution.

Anonymous said...

SG, I'm not 'dissing' anyone's blog. I love this blog and I think Michael is doing a fantastic job.

What I am talking about is what motivates the majority of bloggers. Most bloggers aren't even talking about politics anyway; they're talking about their new diet, their crazy cat, their odd neighbour...

Btw, I think your point 5 is covered by my point 4.

I don't feel proud not having a blog, SG. I just don't feel compelled to spend any of my free time maintaining one, is all.

STOP_George said...


O.K. Maybe I over-reacted. But I really get sick of the elite attacking the blogosphere (not saying that your elitist or anything).

Your original post had an air of making blogs appear trite. And I take issue with that overall impression.

It's not so much what people blog about that is important. It is the fact that so many people all over the world can express and argue ideas (in real time) that, before the internet, could never have been even conceived possible.

This free expression in such a large global community is unprecedented and revolutionary. Indeed, governments in the U.S. and China are or have implemented measures to limit this free distribution of information.

And so, when you make this seemingly sarcastic statement, (in my mind) it puts a negative spin to this wonderful communication tool that is currently under attack.

Sorry to be so defensive -- but I think we all should be. This may, in fact, be the "golden age" of the internet. Enjoy it while you can.

Anonymous said...

SG, I agree with what you're saying, although the question you seem to be answering is, "Are blogs a good thing?" rather than the one at hand which is, "Why do people blog?"
They are two different questions.

STOP_George said...

Yes, but with your sarcastic tone in answering "Why do people blog?", I just wanted to address the issue of "Are blogs a good thing?"

I'm glad you agree.

Anonymous said...

Dear, Michael:
Just kill me reading half of english of this article. I was visiting "Schee motocycle diary" and saw your name... one of the foreigner attend 成大IMBA meeting.
"That's my teacher !!"
God ...that's so proud to be your student!
By the way, I won't finish reading! But i'm going to check something your write before!

g said...

re: kids being unable to find dictionary entries using 部首. -- electronic dictionaries have all but eliminated the need for searching for entries using 部首. the exam-givers will just have to get used to that.
re: being unable to find comics in stationery stores. here in Tainan we have lots of manga rental stores. comics in stationery stores are usually limited to two shelves of the newest stuff. for complete editions of older crap, we go to rental stores.

but most of the comics stocked in the rental stores are japanese though. i got the impression leaky pen was looking for Taiwanese comics. in that case, he's pretty much out of luck.
re: the guy in charge of the exam "....said that although most students received good grades, the essay test revealed weaknesses in writing ability, including a limited use of adjectives."

i would think using adjectives sparingly is a good sign rather than a bad sign. christ when i was in high school i stuffed my essays with a lot of adjectives to cover up for the fact that i had no idea what i was writing.

a good writer chooses his/her adjectives/ adverbs well and chooses the right moment to spring them on the reader. it's more effective that way.

unless you're writing Mills and Boon fiction. hehehe. then you could get away with "heaving bosoms" and all that. okay i'll stop now.

that teacher probably never read Stephen King's On Writing. i'm not a super big King fan (except for that short story collection with Shawshank Redemption and the story that was made into Stand by Me), but On Writing is really a good book. King mentioned there that writers should really watch out against overusing adjectives.

Unknown said...

Irony? Taiwan is what's left of the ROC, and you should all be danm proud of it, instead of letting prententious DPP politicians brainwash you into thinking that they created all of this by being part of the same party that once stood for something.

Michael Turton said...

We all know what the ROC on Taiwan stood for, TOS. We've met its victims.