Tuesday, September 30, 2003

A reasonable proposal

The United States has a problem. What is to be done with all those suspected terrorists we are holding down in Cuba beyond the reach of legal process? They can never be released now, because if they didn't hate the US before, we have forced them to.

The reasonable solution is to put them to death. You may ask what crime they have been found guilty of. That's simple. If they aren't actual terrorists, we assume they are Muslims, and they were in a country suspected of harboring terrorists. There is a legal precedent. This is the same crime for which the United States bombed Iraqis in our latest display of overkill. People who inhabited the same country as Saddam were punished by legal sanctions which wrecked their economy and their middle class. Then we bombed their city. Makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it? We can whup the Iraqi Army any day of the week. Never mind that some of the people who got killed in Iraq may have been Christians or Kurds ― close enough. They were present at the scene of the crime, weren't they?

Okay, so that's settled. Now, you talk about executions, you're talking about Dubya's home state, The Lone Star Republic. Since this is going to be done, let it be in style. Putting someone to death requires legal witnesses, but a lot of people get all stressed out by that, and we don't want any unpleasantness for red-blooded Americans.

The solution is simple: have these slimy terrorists put to death at selected university fraternity houses, on Friday nights. If we're spending a billion dollars a week in Iraq to breed enemies, surely the budget can be prodded a bit to provide the legal witnesses ― doing their duty for god and country ― with a few kegs of beer. With a deal like that, the Chief Executive himself might show up, delivered by a fighter jet, so he can show off his codpiece again. But if he shows up, you couldn't lay in pretzels.

Performing executions thusly serves two purposes, each as important as the other. You tighten up security, and drum up some votes: make sure all those frat boys are registered for next fall.

If you really want a show to drive up the ratings and send the voters into a frenzy, bring in California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Terminator to perform the executions. He could ask each terrorist, “Have you immigrated to this country legally? Can you show me a valid visa?” As each one answered No, he could snap their necks with his mighty, masculine arms.

All of this will make tremendous sense to all patriotic Americans. If you don't agree, there must be something wrong with your patriotism, and if you're not careful, you might find yourself as the Guest of Honor at a frat house party some night, if you catch my drift. So let's do it!

Monday, September 29, 2003

If you pass under a fruit tree next time you are in Wulai, keep your head up. You never know what ― or who ― may fall on you.

Bsuy, the Chief's wife, who is approaching 70, was about twenty feet up a fruit tree recently, plucking fruit. She reached too far for a fruit, lost her balance, slipped, and plummeted to the ground. Fortunately, she only bumped her head and her collarbone. She spent a week in the hospital recuperating; they probably had to tie her to the bed in order to make her rest. She is fine now, cheerful and hearty.

But next time your grandmother climbs a tree, do make sure she's got a safety net.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

My good friend Qalux has a dog from the same litter as Tlahuy and Bengax. Aborigines do not share naming customs with flat-land Chinese, so he simply turned his own name around and named her Luqa. His wife, Naluwan, from the Lukai tribe, renamed the dog Heiniu, Mandarin for Black Girl. Like Tlahuy, she takes after her father: black all over, with the Dalmatian spots showing only on her tummy. I am not sure if Naluwan renamed her because didn't want to get the dog confused with her husband, or she thought Luqa sounded too much like Lukai.

Whether you call her Luqa or Heiniu, she has never been spayed, and has been busy producing litter after litter of puppies, which people in the Tribe snap up quickly. Good hunting stock.

For some reason, though, one of the dogs has a stubby little tail. Nobody in the Tribe would dock a dog's tail. It was just born that way. Because of this short little tail, he is called Bru ~~ trill that R, please ~~ meaning Short.

And you know what song comes to mind every time I see him?

You and me and a dog named Bru~~~

Saturday, September 20, 2003

烏來一個小店的老闆 ~~ 平地人 ~~ 僱用一位外勞。

前兩個禮拜的某一天,外勞跟老闆說, “撈半! 那個己器loc ten!”

老闆問,”機器loc ten? 甚麼叫做loc ten?” 外勞語言能力已到了極限,只能指著機器說,’ loc ten! loc ten!” 老闆還是想不透,就把機器拿起來看到底是怎麼一會事,很快就發現, loc ten 是 “漏電” 的意思, 享年三十二歲,嗚呼哀哉,尚饗。

Friday, September 12, 2003

Gun control in Taiwan is strict. Besides police and military, the only people who are allowed to own guns are the Aborigines. They are proud of this privilege, and continue their hunting traditions. Most of the hunting guns are a length of pipe attached to a hand-carved stock. They give the game a sporting chance, because you can never be sure which end of the gun the shot is coming out of. In our village, there are two one-eyed men. They both lost their right eyes while aiming home-made guns that exploded.

At least I think the guns are legal. At any rate, the government probably feels taking them away would cause more trouble than allowing the birds and flying squirrels to take a chance. (No self-respecting Tayal would shoot a boar. They stab those with knives.)

The underworld has a certain amount of firepower, although probably not as much as a typical American high school. Most of what they have is homemade. From time to time, there are swordfights when gangsters feel the need to have it out.

Having lived in Taiwan for so long, after I moved to Wulai I was shocked the first time I came across our county councilman, our mayor, and the Presbyterian minister cleaning their shotguns in preparation for an outing. You just don't see guns in Taiwan.

Usually. Yesterday on my way down to catch the bus to work. I came across a party of tribesmen sitting behind a wall by the road, preparing to go hunting. In addition to 3 or 4 shotguns, they had two newly purchased pellet guns, the kind that use pressurized gas to shoot pellets. They look just like assault rifles, only a bit smaller.

“Come on, you guys,” I yelled, “Iraq is over that way.”

“Speak Tayal, not Mandarin,” Bayes immediately admonished me. The men in the tribe are very persistent about my speaking Tayal. On the one hand, they are proud that this 'Brown-haired Long-nose' (Tayal for foreigner) knows their language. When they have guests from outside and see me walking by, they always throw me a couple easy ones they know I can handle: “Yugan, where are you going?” “I'm going to the city to teach.” On the other hand, these are the people on whom the burden of tribal defense traditionally fell, so they like to make sure who is on which side.

Yekliy pointed to the high-power pylon down the slope. “Bunqet hit the strut on the pylon with the pellet gun. Do you think you can do that?” I have always been a good shot, whether with bow and arrow, slingshot, or whatever. I can't throw to save my life. A ball I toss to first base is as apt to hit the pitcher as the third baseman. But give me something to shoot, and I'm okay.

”Well, let me try. Give me one of those.” So they pumped up one of the pellet guns and we all trooped across the street. I aimed carefully, and hit the strut on my first shot. Knowing the feel, I hit it twice more in quick succession, and casually handed the gun back. “Is that enough?” They were highly satisfied. Yekliy started shooting Vogi's papayas, and I went down to catch the bus.

But what was so funny about the whole thing was, when we stepped out into the road, there just happened to be three or four cars full of sightseers up from Taipei approaching. When they saw a cluster of men bristling with rifles suddenly appear from behind a house, they almost drove off the road! Not the sort of sight they expected to see!

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

East and West
 for Ellen
written in September, 2000

My father never wholeheartedly approved of my living abroad. He always wished I would return to the States, get a tie and a briefcase, and settle down into a 9 to 5 job. In the 15 years I lived in Taipei before he died, he visited Taiwan only once.

To commemorate the voyage, we had a tailor make him a suit, a luxury he could (or would) never afford in the US. He meticulously selected some nice dark blue material. We took it to the tailor. The tailor glanced at Dad a few times, thought a bit, looked at his watch, and said, “Come back next Tuesday.”

Dad burst when we left the shop. “He didn't even measure me!”

“Don't worry, Dad, he's got it down.”

“But will he remember? He didn't write anything down.”

“I don't think he knows how to write. Don't worry, Dad.”

But worry Dad did. He was on pins and needles, fretting about that beautiful piece of cloth, the length and the cut, the shoulders and the crotch.

By next Tuesday, Dad was like a kid on Christmas morning. I warned him that these old-style businesses often had old-style notions about time, and not to be too upset if the suit wasn't ready.

But it was ready. Dad dove into the tiny shop's minuscule fitting room and thrashed about for several minutes. He came out beaming, a face as radiant as Christ's emerging from the tomb. The suit fit like skin.

Never an ebullient man, he thanked the tailor effusively. I told the tailor, “He's been a nervous wreck for days. You didn't take any measurements, and that vexed him.”

The tailor pondered that. He addressed his pin cushion: “In the West, you rely on science and measurements. You have all sorts of instruments to gauge and to measure. I don't know how to use those things; my teacher was illiterate, too. Instead, in China we rely on experience and skill. That's the difference between the East and the West.”