Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Bushman Takes a Wife

This weekend we headed down to the southern port city of Kaohsiung for the wedding of my good friends Chu Hui-chen and Michael J. Klein, alias the Bushman. Had a very good time....married people love to see other people get married. After all, misery loves company....(ka-ching!)

In other cultures, weddings are time for expansive celebrations. People fire off guns, hold parades and processions, dance, sing, have public toasting contests, host drunken brawls, have all-night parties, copulate in public, and compete to see who can sleep with a bridesmaid. I think that if the DPP is really serious about upgrading Taiwan, it can make great progress with the wedding situation here. In fact, I'd say the Taiwan wedding is in desperate need of reform. Perhaps a little brawling and public copulation might be just the ticket to liven them up....

The modern wedding in Taiwan also gives good insight into the "traditional Chinese culture" preserved on Taiwan. You know, that traditional Chinese wedding, in which the bride and groom toast with French champagne, serve chocolates wrapped in tinfoil, get married in a white wedding gown, show slides of themselves, have traditional Chinese technologies like rubber balloons and photographs of the bride and groom, drink imported Japanese whiskey, eat several dishes slathered with the deeply traditional condiment of mayonnaise, play wedding music from 19th century Germany... I could go on. "Traditional Chinese culture" on Taiwan is an ever-shifting amalgam of the old and the new. It's fascinating to see how much it can change, and still have people say: "it's traditional." it's also fascinating to see how elements present in the folk culture of bygone centuries, such as the erotic, are represented in new garb in the modern age, as strippers, to be condemned as a modern innovation....

...but on to our story.

Our tale begins in the central Taiwan town of Wufeng, where I teach at a university. We left the school late in the evening and zoomed down to Kaohsiung, where Michael had reserved a room for us at the swank Ambassador Hotel.

The views out the window were amazing. Here's Kaohsiung, the Love River below us, and the port in the distance, in the early morning as the haze was burning off under a bright rising sun.

Ghostly in the distance, ships load up.

I was the official photographer. There was another guy, some poser, also taking photos, whose every photo was simply a stereotyped image too common to be worth preservation, whereas my shots conveyed the authentic reality of the wedding in a stunningly composed and truly innovative and unique visual record. This is because I was shooting with a Nikon D80, while he was using only a D70. Poor bastard.

Michael with his new family.

Michael and Hui-chen are cool as cucumbers before the ceremony.

I spared no effort to get a shot (pic courtesy of my wife).

KLEIN: "Is there still time to get away?" TURTON: "There's a fire escape next to that window there."

The wedding was a group wedding with over 20 couples getting served that day -- it was a lucky day, and there weddings all over the island. Despite everyone getting married on lucky days, the divorce rate continues to rise. Maybe the fortune tellers are just doing it on purpose -- after all, nobody in a happy marriage goes to see the fortune teller.....(pic courtesy of my son)

Here the magistrate asks Michael and Huichen to take their vows. From my outsider's perspective I thought it was a lot of fun and I was wholly moved. It seemed so reassuringly Taiwanese to have too many people crammed into too small a space, very re nao, each witnessing something private and public at the same time -- the couple getting married with the wife a obviously pregnant, the couple getting married, obviously the groom's second, judging from the teenage daughter's holding up the stepmother's train, the couple getting married with a jovially shouted "Wo yuan yi!" to the traditional question "Do you, John Doe, take.....". The magistrate struck a light but earnest note, abjured the couples to do well by one another, and took her role seriously and positively. My wife and I, who were married in a civil ceremony back in the days when a 386-20 was a fast computer, were carried back to that moment. Other people's weddings cause one to rethink one's own marriage. All I can say is that I am very lucky.....that she hasn't killed me yet.

Exchanging the rings.

Reception time!

A reception like every other reception, all the relatives there, trading gossip over food.

Bride and groom's table.

Mark and I share an evil laugh at the success of our plan...(pic courtesy of my son). talk Michael into singing at the wedding. He's a fantastic singer, and was a huge hit.

Michael and Huichen bid the guests good-bye.

We went back to Taichung in the dead of night, and the next day, went for a hike. My son snapped my wife: sixteen wonderful years. Here's to sixteen more, and sixteen times sixteen.


Anonymous said...

In that suit he looks more like a Blackstone the Magician than a groom. "And now for my next trick, I will make the collection basket disappear." Maaybe it's those gloves.

Raj said...

What was up with those gloves - they reminded me of Japanese bus drivers!

Anonymous said...

I hereby coin a new term: "Traditional Chinese Culture with Taiwanese Characteristics"

Chaon said...

"This is because I was shooting with a Nikon D80, while he was using only a D70."

Dude! That means you've got 10 more D than him!

But wait, the Nikon D90 is soon to be released! I'm going to buy one and then I will have more D than everyone! Ha ha ha ha!

Man, I really drank too much coffee this morning.

maoman said...

Ack! Those gloves! What was he thinking?

MJ Klein said...

thanks for a great article Michael! well written and funny.

i reviewed the video footage and i can clearly hear you setting me up for the karaoke! haha i'll get you!

the gloves are "traditional" Taiwanese. i've seen them at every wedding. the family insisted that i wear them too. small favor to ask, really. it was fun.

Anonymous said...

the bride was beautiful. i loved the wedding dress and how it showed off her shoulders and collarbone. the chinese chipao was stunning too!

Anonymous said...

At least he was wearing both gloves. Better a magician than Michael Jackson.

All joking aside, I think that the gloves make him look like a pimp. Pop that collar MJ!


Andre said...

i'm with ya michael k... i too had to give in to the white gloves at my wedding.

also, great pics michael t.

MJ Klein said...

i read this again after all these years, and i just want to say "thank you again!" Michael. what a great time!