Tuesday, December 28, 2004

It's hard to be a man

...and they criticize the southern Europeans for waving their hands when they talk...: STL

Buses stop at the big Wulai bridge on request. I prefer to wait for the bus there because the scenery is so nice. You can view the surrounding peaks, or peer down into the stream twenty-five meters below.

A pickup drove up, with three young Aborigines from Mangan in the seat, man woman man. The man who was not driving jumped out and called, “Hey, man! Hey friend, you speak English? I speak English very good, you speak?”

“Yeah, I speak a little. How are you?”

“Hey man, I speak English sooooo good, come, come, I teach you, you see this?” He slapped the hood of the pickup. “Caaaaah, this caaaah, you know?”

“Yeah, I know. What's this?” I slapped the lamppost I was leaning against.

“That? Hmm, that, yeah, I know English soooo good, so we no speak English, is okay. Yugan, musa inu?”

“Musa cbaq biru. Iyat ge Inglis su bi?”

The reason for his clowning became evident. The young lady stepped out of the car and she was clearly in a foul mood about something. The driver had tried a bit to cheer her up and then wandered out of range of any explosions.

“She beautiful, no?” Truly, like so many Aborigine women, she was beautiful, so with no hypocrisy, I agreed. “But now she … she …. she 生氣 me, so how can I do? Yugan, English how say生氣? Mad? She mad me, I no want live!” With great dramatic gestures, he launched himself at the railing of the bridge. I thought he would stop there. Ms Angry continued to scowl. The man rolled over the railing. Just as my laughter was turning into alarm, I realized that he was holding onto the railing with one hand. He dangled over the edge of the bridge, twenty five meters over the shallow water. The driver squatted at a safe distance on the far side of the bridge, smoking impassively.

A mournful voice rose over the railing: “She beautiful but she mad so I no want live! Kneiring giri生氣了,我不想活.” That broke her mood and she grudgingly smiled a bit. The man hoisted himself to peek over the railing. She told him, “Tobut su la, 你去死,” but with a sunny smile on her face. Still not safe to come up. Still hanging from the railing, the young man asked, “Is okay? I love you baby okay?” That brought a laugh, which invited him to clamber back onto the bridge. “Hey my friend, I speak English is very good, you know?”

“Yes, I know, you speak English very well, but mwah bus maku, 我先走了,” and waving goodbye, I got on the bus.

Monday, December 27, 2004





Sunday, December 26, 2004

In general, Taiwan's sunrises and sunsets are not that spectacular. I have to confess that I do not have a thorough acquaintance with sunrise, unless the sun wakes me by shining in my eyes. The sun goes down over the ridge behind me a couple hours before dusk, so there’s not much in the way of sunsets. But the moon ~~ the moonscapes in Taiwan are incomparable.

This evening at nightfall it rained hard, harder than usual for winter. Usually it drizzles for weeks at a time in the winter, but not heavy rain like that. Around 8, the moon had risen above the ridge to the east. The clouds were scattering, but there was mist draped on the mountains. The moon, shining from within a circular rainbow behind the clouds, lit up the clouds and mist so they were luminous over the solid black mountains; raindrops on the tree leaves around my house sparkled. The view was mesmerizing as the mist blew across the mountains and flowed by valleys. Eventually, the sky cleared enough for stars to shine. The moonlight was so strong that you could see the valleys and ridges on the mountains. Then wind blew and the sky closed again.

This post is to commemorate an evening of extraordinary beauty.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Dear Scrooge

This not being a Christian land, Taiwan does not celebrate Christmas. What passes should be called X-ma$, because it has nothing to do with Christ and everything to do with Money. The West has produced over a thousand years of lovely Christmas music, and here nothing is heard but Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and similar trash. Fortunately, music is heard only in large stores, X-ma$ being a purely commercial event, so rush out the doors and you are free. It is believed that the proper way to celebrate X-ma$ is with a wild dance party, the louder the better, and to hell with Silent Night. Santa Claus is the man of the day. Last year a hotel featured a bungee jumping Santa Claus. Unfortunately, the cords held.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

This I understand

“Think he's been talking to your mother?” Jesse said.
“Nobody talks to my mom,” Simpson said. “They listen.”

--Robert B Parker, Death in Paradise

Saturday, December 18, 2004

I'm not a scholar, I'm alive.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

In an article discussing the new heart-killer burgers introduced by Carl Jr's and Hardee's, Tim Shea, 43, a magazine publisher from Chicago said, “The fact that they would have the wherewithal to invent a product that could choke a mule is something to be prideful of.” This is a good (or dreadful) example of English that anybody should be ashamed of: be prideful of. Prideful? What's wrong with proud? Sure, we know what's wrong with proud. It's a single syllable word of long and prideful heritage, so of course we have to replace it with a slick two syllable word. Have the wherewithal usually means have the money, so I am not sure what he means here.
The sad thing is that the man who produced this monstrosity of English is a magazine publisher, which implies that he pollutes the environment with this sort of writing. Let's hope his boss fires him so he can learn something about writing!

Monday, December 13, 2004

S came around the curve, spotted me, and raced his motorcycle towards me with his right arm out, a huge smile on his face: "Yugan! I haven't seen you for so long! I met your friend!" He slammed on the brakes, almost on my toes, and we gripped each others’ right hands.

“My friend? Who did you meet?”

“An American. I met him in jail. I said to him, 'I no speak Yin-geh-lee-shee.'”

“You've been in jail?”

“Yes, and I met an American, but we couldn't talk. I asked him, "You know Yugan, he same same you, Ah-mwi-ree-kan, you know?" But he didn't know you.”

”Why was he in jail?”

“He stole a purse. I asked him, 'How long you here?'" S pantomimed handcuffs and a cell door locked shut. "He said, 'Too muns.'”

Sayin lyacing (two months)," I interpreted.

“I thought so. He said, 'Too muns, n I go USA.' I said, 'I Taiwan Indian, woo-woo –wooo,'" He howled and patted his mouth. "I said, 'I Taiwan Indian, like Tayal, Yugan too.'" He beamed at me.

“But what were you in jail for?”

His smile widened. "I cut down somebody's fir," he made a gesture of a trunk as wide as he could encompass. "They caught me, so they locked me up for a couple months.”

“No wonder I haven't seen you for so long. How was it?”

”I enjoyed it, but I'm glad to be out. Yugan! Come drink with us.”

“No, thanks. Why don't you come to my place to sit?”

“Yugan, you don't have any liquor!”

I thumped him with the stick I was carrying. "No I don't, so you can come drink tea.”

“Yugan! I don't like tea, they don't give you any liquor in jail, and I want whiskey! Whiskey!" With a great laugh, he roared off down the road.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A young man stole a set of bagpipes in San Juan Capistrano, California, but got caught when he tried to sell them on Ebay. The thief will be sentenced to community service.

You ask me, stealing the bagpipes WAS a community service.

Friday, December 10, 2004

I am having trouble dealing with this. In the July/August 2004 Atlantic Monthly, Robert Conquest reports that decrees issued by Stalin “resulted in nearly 770,000 executions in 1937-1938. In addition, over the whole of his career, Stalin signed 44,000 individual death sentences.”

I cannot grasp these facts. Stalin was leader of the Soviet Union from 1929 until 1953, for 24 years. 24 years is about 8770 days, which means that if Stalin worked seven days a week, on the average for 24 years every day he sentenced about five people to death. Every day, for 24 years.

Mind you, this is above and beyond the seven hundred seventy thousand people murdered by his orders in 1937 and 1938, citizens of his own country.

I do not even want to be capable of understanding this.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


問: 烏來有三家溫泉館的名子一樣,是哪三家?

答: 沙力達、那山谷、卡沙密亞。

解: 三個名子都是『我家』的意思。沙力達sali ta是泰雅語Kinhakul方言; 那山谷ngasan ku是泰雅語Squliq 方言;卡沙密亞 casa mia 是義大利語. .
{sali, 家;ta,我們}
{ngasan, 家; ku,我的}
{casa=house; mia = my}

Sunday, December 05, 2004

The rain has stopped, and the temperature is a pleasant 11C. After I had lunch and tea, the weather called for a walk. In an unusual switch on the usual order, Yumin was home, Tlahuy and Bengax had departed for parts unknown. I never call my dogs when I go for a hike: they come. This was the first time Yumin and I had set off alone. He could scarcely contain himself. He pranced several steps ahead of me, rushed to my heels, and scampered forward, clearing the way down the jungle with ears flying. Five minutes along the path, Tlahuy silently appeared at my side; even my acute hearing had not detected his approach. Several minutes later, Bengax reported in, touching my left calf with her nose. When they wish, these noisy dogs can race silently through the jungle.

Our walk took us out, up, around, and back down again, about an hour and a half, about 150 meters up and down in altitude. Wulai is such a beautiful place! I've lived here for eight years, and I still marvel daily at the beauty of the scenery ~~ and sigh at the determination of business and government to destroy as much as they can. I found a small cherry tree that had not survived the typhoon, some of the most beautiful cherry wood I have ever seen, so I whacked off the branches and roots and brought it back. I'll figure out something to do with it, so that its beauty may be preserved. It succumbed to the typhoon because its roots were decayed, so it would have died sooner or later anyway.

There was a car parked by the side of the road, no big deal, probably off to somebody's house, or hiking, or birding, or something. In back of the car was a nice piece of wood that had been detached by the typhoon, so I started whacking off the odd branches with my headhunting knife. All of a sudden two startled people sat bolt upright in the car. It was not as empty as I thought. They had found this deserted little side road to take a pleasant Sunday afternoon nap (innocent: they looked like middle-aged husband and wife) when suddenly they get woken up by this guy chopping branches off a tree. I amiably saluted them with my knife, and decided that was not such a good idea, so I just left the wood there and kept going. I can go pick it up some other day. Their expressions were priceless!

I came back pleasantly exercised, so I decided to feed myself a fragrant melon; if for nothing else, the fruit would make Taiwan worth living in. When I had cut that open, I thought, my faithful little companions deserve a snack, too. I got out three treats, and called the dogs, but Yumin? I called, and heard thunkety thunkety thunk thunk thunk, thunketythunkety thunk thunk, the unmistakable sound of a beagle tail being wagged against the inside of a doghouse. He figured his exertions warranted room service….

I had a close call the other day. On Thursday I was seriously considering mopping, but talked myself out of it, which was wise, because when the typhoon came on Friday ~~ A typhoon in December, what is the world coming to! ~~ the humidity and pressure forced water out of the tiles and walls in the bathrooms and kitchen (the only floors that aren't wood), and the wood was slightly damp to the touch, so that would have defeated mopping. So now I know! If a typhoon can come in December, it can come any month of the year, which I will have to take into consideration next time I get the urge to mop.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

這次颱風國際命名Nanmadol,中文譯名"南瑪都," 應該譯"那麼多," 今年颱風那麼多!

Friday, December 03, 2004

市曰,'這有甚麼好看? 煙就是煙,都一樣。’
山曰,'這有甚麼好看? 都一樣。歌唱表演嘛, 流行歌曲旋律都差不多,聽了第一小節就知道下一個樂句,歌詞大同小異,不是我愛妳,就是你不愛我。歌星在前面扭,舞隊在旁邊跳。連續劇嘛,看了第一集大概知道怎麼演,不是"媽!!妳不能死!!",就是"太太!我對不起妳!" 起碼,我的烟有香氣,而且沒有廣告。’

Thursday, December 02, 2004

I wrote this in April, 1999. The situation is even worse now.

軋輅是泰雅族的健兒, 個性開朗、豁達、人緣極佳。 十幾年前結婚時,在新家前種了一棵榕樹。 樹跟主人一樣,茁壯、大方、人見人愛。 但最近鄉公所為了多裝一個路燈,竟無情地把軋輅的榕樹給鋸掉了。


好了,台北縣又少了一棵樹,又怎麼樣? 這沒甚麼稀奇, 是不是小題大做? 問題在於現代人的價值觀。 只計眼前的方便,不慮長久的利益。 孔子說,「 伐一樹, 不以其時, 非孝也。」 因為他瞭解人是靠天地而生存的。 不管科技多發達,如果人不節制貪慾,為了短暫的方便破壞山林,上無以供養父母、下無以養育子女。地球生態早已瀕臨危機,我們如果想生存,必須傾力維護生態,不該一味的「開發」。 難道我們要把台灣所有的自然生態全都毀滅才能覺醒嗎?

台北縣這些年來為了開一些很少人走的路,挖壞了多少山坡地! 為了照亮 這些晚上幾乎沒有人走的路,砍伐了多少樹;燈火通明,浪費這麼多電,核子發電廠只好多蓋幾個。


Tuesday, November 30, 2004

When I came back from the Jingpo gathering on Sunday, Yumin was nowhere to be seen. Sometimes he goes out beagling in the afternoon, but usually knows when I come home and rushes back. At dusk I went out to call him, but nothing, so after dinner, I got a flashlight and walked around calling, but still no beagle. I was getting worried. It was Sunday, and conceivably a sightseer had stolen him. People tell me that when I am not present, agile, wily Yumin is almost impossible to grab hold of, and anybody who took him home would quickly have cause to regret it. All beagles are howlers, and Yumin has those strong mountain lungs. Nonetheless, just last week two little boys in Taipei took their beagle out for a walk, and some bad man kidnapped the beagle, and held it for ransom!

Not much I could do, so I played the recorder instead. About ten, I went out to check, and there he was, squirming gleefully in the doghouse.

He's grounded. I have tied him up by the doghouse for three days, hoping that he will see the error of his ways.

我星期天回來,Yumin不在家,到處找,無迹,各隅喊,無應。半夜他才回來。禁足三天,綁狗屋邊,希望他好好反省一下。 希望不是養精蓄銳,解放後更皮。

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Jingpo (景頗)nationality may not be familiar to everybody now, but in the 19th century the British empire learned what ferocious fighters they are, as did the Japanese during World War II. The Brits know them as the Kachin(卡欽). They're a tribe on the borders of China, Thailand, and Burma. Around 1960, a hundred guerillas were brought to Taiwan to keep them out of trouble. Yesterday I went to their annual gathering. They all bring their swords, so I took along my Tayal headhunting knife (laraw behu).

I arrived about fifteen minutes late. Most of the Jingpo were dressed in modern clothes, but wore turbans, satchels, and swords. Several young people wore traditional outfits, the girls ornamented with silver. They wore very untraditional sneakers. The speakers had already begun. I slipped in and took a seat in the back row, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. Kung, the previous president, spotted me and insisted that I sit on the stage and address the gathering. He picked up my pack with one hand and my left arm with the other and dragged me out of my seat. Most of the audience had turned around to watch: so much for inconspicuous.

I sat next to General Yang, their old commanding officer, who, although not Jingpo, speaks the language. Kung took the microphone: "You all remember our American friend, who attended our gathering before. He wrote articles about us in English." He held up copies of the publications I had sent him. "This is the first time anybody has ever introduced the Jingpo in Taiwan in English." Everybody clapped. So much for inconspicuous. He thrust the microphone in my hands.

"It is an honor to be here today, but I should not be talking. I would like to hear you talk, to hear about your experiences. Thank you.”

Kung and Yang looked at me. “Keep talking.”

"I've finished." Other speakers took the podium. Their talks revolved around two points. The first point can be concisely expressed as, SHUT UP! Each speaker explained very patiently and eloquently that it is polite, civilized, democratic, proper, meet, and right to listen to the person holding the floor, but it didn't seem to have much effect.

It didn't seem to have much effect until they moved to Point Two, which was their extreme dissatisfaction with the current administration. President Chen Shui-bian's administration, obsessed with setting up Taiwan as an independent nation, treats the Taiwan aborigines with harsh contempt, so their curt treatment of the Jingpo should hardly surprise anyone. The Taiwan aborigines were here four thousand years before the first Chinese set foot on the island; the Jingpo came within the last fifty years. The Taiwan aborigines make up a per cent or two of the population. The total number of Yunnan tribesmen in Taiwan, Jingpo + Wa + Dai + Kayin, cannot be more than 500, so the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) administration does not deign to do anything for such a minuscule minority. Somebody was handing out copies of an official statement from the Ministry of the Interior that they refuse to recognize the existence of the Jingpo, because the tribe cannot document their existence to the administration's satisfaction! A speaker pointed out that under the communists, the Jingpo have their own autonomous region, while the DPP feels their existence is beneath notice. One of the men was asked by a DDP candidate, "Why aren't you dead yet?”

A young man, second generation Taiwan-Jingpo, dressed in a traditional outfit, unconsciously pulled his sword out of the scabbard every time the speaker detailed another government insult to Jingpo dignity. There are not many Jingpo in Taiwan, and they are old now, but no matter how friendly they are, these are not people I would rile. Ask SLORC, the Burmese military government, which dreads the Kachin Independence Army.

Finally the speeches were over, and we got down to the serious business of lunch. Eat, chat, toast. Someone handed me a bright red satchel to wear, slung across my chest. As you walk, the silver ornaments jingle and chink. A representative passed out membership address lists, nicely printed in a little booklet with the KIA (Kachin Independence Army) emblem on the cover. The men told me about their villages, far in the mountains of southwestern China, how they fought, and how they came to Taiwan in airplanes. They told me of the years without news from home, during the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, and finally being able to go home again. One man got off the plane, rode on a truck for twenty-four hours, and walked for nine hours to reach his hometown. As soon he stepped onto the streets of home for the first time in over twenty years, he spotted his own brother.

One of the men told me that several months ago he went to Burma and stayed with the KIA. Before I got a chance to ask for details, he was dragged away by the next table for more toasts. The more toasts that were drunk, the more uproarious the men became.

Before long, somebody started banging on the pot drum (a long-stemmed drum common to many nationalities in the mountains of Southeast Asia). The tables were cleared away, and swords were drawn. A few of the men had not brought their own swords, but there were spares on the table. The men display great joy in wearing and handling their swords. This year somebody brought a spear, which was passed from hand to hand with great relish. Several of the men detailed its use for my benefit, but actually, I think they just enjoyed stabbing about with the spear. They examined my Tayal knife with blissful expertise.

The first dance was led by the drum, cymbals, and a gong. The Jingpo lined up single file, follow the leader. For the next dance, Kung led the line. Kung sometimes comes across as officious and somewhat fussy, but as soon as the sword dance started, you could see why he was chosen president, and to this day dominates the new association president. His whole bearing changed. He stopped speaking Mandarin, and began exhorting and regaling the men in Jingpo, singing in a loud, hearty voice. I had never seen this side of him before, but beyond a doubt, this is a man you would follow into battle.

Maybe the Ministry of the Interior should acknowledge their existence just to keep them happy.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

A good line
… Cleveland, the Paris of northeastern Ohio…..
Herbert Gold

Saturday, November 27, 2004


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

好消息,好消息,大家告訴大家!! 我把兩岸問題解決了!

大陸要台灣回歸,李陳呂各想當國父(母),這個緊張局勢,一般美國人非常關心。在美國問起Taiwan 啦China啦,一般老百姓的反應是,"台灣? 我當然知道,我也認為這是一個值得深思熟慮的問題,至於我個人的看法呢,談到台灣嘛,雖然有點辣,而且有時候有些怪味道,不太敢嚐,不過Thai food很特別,很好吃,可是還是中國料理比較好吃,盡管吃了以後一個小時又餓了,而且加很多味精,吃了會頭痛,但是中國菜還是比泰國菜好吃。"

這番言論足以證明,世界輿論認為中國問題很頭痛。 其實這個問題很簡單,台灣跟大陸統一,可是條件是: 台灣是新中國的首都。如果真的堅持的話,就把國號改為:台灣人民共合國。台民幣上畫個台灣藍雀棲息萬里長城上。這樣問題就解決了,皆大歡喜。


Monday, November 22, 2004

It looked like rain, so yesterday at dusk I set fire to a pile of branches, bamboo, and deadwood. Yumin was so impressed and excited by the spectacle that he strolled into the doghouse and feel asleep, belly up, legs sprawled every which direction. Bengax doesn't like fire, especially since bamboo explodes with an alarming pop, so she kept her distance. I sat on a log and gazed into the fire. Loyal Tlahuy came to lie at my feet. Rain fell with dark.

There is a little irrigation ditch behind my place, now used for runoff. When I moved here, there was always water in the ditch, but now spas pipe off the water to heat up for their 'hot springs.' Cool weather has drawn customers, so the water level in the ditch is low. The bottom of the ditch has a layer of black sludge. I decided to scoop some up to put on tree roots and flower pots. My trowel hit something hard: a turtle nestled down for a long rest. Do Not Disturb.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

很久很久以前,一個小村坐落澗溪畔,豁岸峻峭,往返村民戰慄,ㄔ亍陡降,涉溪步步自危,攀藤扶葛而上,甚苦之。 一日天倏變,狂風驟雨,竹折樹仆,一巨樹方巧隕落溪谷上。翌日村夫二人沿樹過溪,稱讚方便未曾有。于是將樹二端以石墊高固定,剪枝修幹,成為全世界第一座橋樑。二夫滿意,稱快而回。

又逾一時,三夫由外地歸村,至岸,赫然橋樑,三夫懌悅,攜手攀橋。在橋上立足互賀,夫甲曰,"哇賽,這個橋好高!" 夫乙曰,”真的好高。" 夫丙語夫甲, "你吐一口痰,我數數看。"呸。"一、二,哇,好高!”

由此綿綿,年年代代,只要男人走過橋,一定要吐痰數高度,幾千年不易,成為男人的本能:遇橋必吐痰,對男人而言,是一股無法抗拒的驅力。 女人是無法了解的。

案: 一派歷史學者認為,人類數數的起源,就是應男人過橋吐痰的需要而產生的,可備一說。

Thursday, November 18, 2004






獸醫說:beagle 不皮不純。

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

15日的post論銀行廣告,Balahu回我一篇. Thanks for the permission to post this!




Tuesday, November 16, 2004

You could hear the bridges from way off. On every bridge were stationed soldiers who shot every branch or spray floating downstream, to foil the Viet Cong who attached explosives to the debris the river swept out of the jungle, in order to explode bridges and disrupt transportation. Many of the ARVN sharpshooters stood at their posts in their underpants, as the Mekong Delta is tropically hot. Some held their M16s casually in one hand, picking off branches with dead eye, never missing from thirty meters. Bullets are a lot cheaper than bridges.

Riding down the Mekong Delta, 1971

Monday, November 15, 2004


薪女性 新主張
結果廣告甚麼呢? 簡易貸款! 欠債哪是美麗新人生?
誠X銀行把女性上班族當笨蛋嗎? 走出廚房上班去,是為了貸款付6%利息把銀行養肥,這是哪一門解放?

備註:  誠X銀行古亭分行辦女性貸款的專員,是男性。

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Isn't progress wonderful?
Joan of Arc got burned at the stake for talking with disembodied voices. Now we'd just assume she was talking on a cell phone.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

You know how in the peat bogs of northern Europe they have found preserved bodies of Neolithic people? They are called bog people, and the definitive study on that is The Bog People by P V Glob.
Hi, what's that you're reading?
The Blog People by P V Gob, no, the Glob People by P B Vlob, no, the Pog Beople by P P Bog, no, no, it's the Bob Gleoble by P V Plob ~~~ look, why don't you just mind your own business!?

Monday, November 08, 2004

In the weeks preceding Halloween, Ebay had auctions not only for Halloween costumes, but Halloween costumes for adults. Halloween costumes for adults?? When people have brains like that, it is small wonder that Bush got reelected.

When I was in kindergarten, for Halloween they had us dress up in our costumes and parade through the school to show the big kids who it is done. I was a goat. Mom sewed a piece of light tan cloth into a rough approximation of a goat, and we made a paper mask for the face. I still vividly remember that she then took two sheets of typing paper from the desk drawer and rolled them into goat's horns! Magic!

I feel sorry for kids whose parents buy them costumes, and have never seen typing paper become goat's horns. They don't know what magic is.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

A friend showed me his new GPS, complete with maps of your present locality, anywhere you go. With a flourish, he turned it on ~~~ and it seems we are just a bit northwest of Denver, Colorado. Interesting. I had thought November in Colorado would be much cooler.

The GPS couldn't have made a mistake, could it!? I mean, those things are digital and electronic, they CAN'T be wrong!! Because it has an LCDisplay, too!

I think I'll stop in on Kathie.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Sunday, October 17, 2004

the present blog excepted, of course

Journalists and other on-the-spot chroniclers make notoriously poor historians, as they often confound the trendy and the significant, confuse the trees with the forest, and miss the long-term changes that take decades to discern.
---Benjamin Schwarz

Friday, October 15, 2004


這是考生的福音,套一句英文, Nothing to it! 除了95%的漢人不認同的原住民外,台灣歷史沒甚麼。請看台灣通史;漢人從福建來霸佔原住民的地;泉州、漳州人相遇,砍砍殺殺,然後聯手對付原住民;潮州人跟來,砍砍殺殺,然後聯手對付原住民;客家人來,砍砍殺殺,然後聯手對付原住民;台灣通史大體如此,很好考。


美國人開拓荒野時,急於立學校教育子女。 Puritans在1620年到New England,沒有房子沒有農田,三餐不繼,氣候寒冷,開墾艱苦,但二、三十年後已經有印書、設立大學。台灣則無此例,所以要在文學、藝術展露頭角有所成就,是在國民政府來台以後才有個訊息的。這樣也減輕考生的壓力。

本國史若限考台澎金馬,我這個綠眼美國人最開心,終於可以抬頭挺胸,因為常常被笑:”美國歷史很短‧”只好把話題轉移: 我們第一個登月球,而且,電燈、棒球、電吉他都是我們發明的! 還有米老鼠也是美國人…美國鼠? 若面對浩浩蕩蕩的中國華夏歷史,不只是矮人一截,是好多截! 可是如果本國史限考台澎金馬,我可以反譏大家: 沒有歷史!!

Monday, October 11, 2004


欲窮千里名 更下一層樓

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Today this blog will be graced by further political commentary by Sister St Eph. Third World readers, especially in the Middle East, will please be aware that this is Democracy in Action, and take notes so you can emulate.
Repeat after me, observing four steady beats to the bar:

Finance, Mini, Sir furry rock.
Finance, Mini, Sir furry rock.
This is from the Town Meeting on health care last night, Kerry and Bush. Presdunt Bush said the phrase. I was caught by the rhythm of it, the clarity of the syllables, and the utter incomprehensibility of the words. Wondered if you'd get it... I had the advantage of context, which didn't help. I actually wrote it down, and puzzled through my original note:
Fi-nance mini-sur furry-ACK
Finance Minister of Iraq
Finance Minister for Iraq?
The key is in the rhythm, emphatic and strong, and the enunciation, clear and precise. I think he rehearsed this phrase. I think someone worked with him, and he memorized it. Then when he was ready to say it, out it came from the memory banks: DUMdum DUMdum DUMdumda DUM!!!!!!!!!

Rating points:
Pretty close! Got the idea of using rhythm, just got it wrong. Got the enunciation clear, just not right. Produced the phrase fairly quickly, just a little hesitation at the start line, but plowed ahead once begun. Moved away from it quickly.

I've been listening to whole debates and entire speeches like this! It involves a lot of radio slapping. It wrenches the brain to hear these people talk. The conten', the verbidge, the consen weazllin an spinnin putre-fax... you don't happen to have one of those Alfred E. Neuman for Presdunt stickers, do you? And what does the "E" stand for, anyway?
Alfred was born in USA and he's 35 or older! Alfred can run! There's a groundswell of advertising to agitate support for an amendment to the constitution. If we remove that silly "born in USA" requirement, Ahnuld could run. He's photogenic and says his lines well.

Note: The E in Alfred E Neuman stands for Electable.

Friday, October 08, 2004

My sister Steph carefully listened to the election debates on the radio. Here is her report.
I'm happy to report, there will be no debate report! I'm listening to the vice-presidential candidates' debate on the radio. So far this has involved a lot of radio-slapping. This is a highly touted debate. (Is there "lowly touted?") Nobody, so far, enunciates. "The noble War on Terr." "Absolooley." "Direck aid." "Inconsissencies." "Sucessfooie carry through." "Terrisss" (the plural). "Consissenny." This is both of them. I'm not cut out for this... Weapons inspekkers. In conjunkin. A sishuashin in wish... By-producks. Contrak. Conflick. The Soddiez. Presdunt. Sev-val things. Both of them talk this way... Adekkit. Patikkelur. Edwards and Kerry are going to do tax cuts and cut the deffcit in haff. Cheney and Bush will drive the deffcit down fiffy percen in the nex five years. Gay mairge is a hot issue.

Thank you for that exclnt repor, Steph. Now, I am going to go publickt with my offer for the WINNER of the 2004 US Presidential Election. I am offering, ABSOLULY FREE, elocution lessons to WHOEVER wins the 2004 US Presidential Election, and ALSO his running mate, AT NO EXRA COST!!! just so long as the winners are Demycrats.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Ah-Pao is a dancer. Wen Hsin is a dancer. I'm not. I've never been a dancer. In junior high I dutifully attended Miss Callisher's ballroom dancing course, but soon was lured by the crushing death dances of martial arts. Dance like Shiva, dance the destruction of heaven and earth. My Serb blood ran quick with kolas in Russian class, but dancing with friends at parties was more a search for doom than celebration or fun. My friends were all heads. At our dances, they would all get thoroughly stoned and dance to frighten the ghosts, no beauty there. I never liked or needed dope. I danced them all to desperation, no beauty there.

Does the raging minotaur dance?

Dancing was not quite proper when I came to Taiwan, and they were doing the foxtrot anyway. I would rather die.

The last time I danced was with the old minister of Ulay church, proper Tayal dancing, fingers firmly attached to earlobes, in the old style. You never see people dance that way any more.

Friday, October 01, 2004

I wrote this in the summer of 2000, when Tlahuy and Bengax were less than a year old.

Sunday I took the dogs to the stream. We swam and climbed upstream. We reached a rock in the middle of the stream. I climbed up, but the puppies couldn't. They were in the water, trying to get up, so when I was stable, I reached down and dragged Bengax up by her ... by her ... what do you call those, by her front shoulders? Anyway, I dragged her up. She frisked around the rock. Then I reached down for Tlahuy, still in the water clawing the rock. When he saw me reach down for him, he looked at me with an expression of total devotion and trust: he knew that no matter what, he is safe in my hands.

It takes courage to love.

Thursday, September 30, 2004


A month's dreary drizzle suddenly cleared to produce a dazzling Sunday. The mountains rimming Taipei basin were clear and shining in their spring greenery, enhanced by the rain. As the noon bus to Wulai reached the outskirts of the city, a man and his son got on. Judging from his hands and look, the father was most likely a machinist, making a living among the shrieking lathes and drills of some crowded little workshop as a radio added to the din. He was of slightly less than medium height, hard and wiry, with teeth stained and corroded by betel. He worked hard, with few luxuries and little leisure. Today was different, though. He had scrubbed his hands and face and put on his slippers and his best pants (the ones with few noticeable grease stains) and was out for a holiday with his son. His son was a bit taller than the father, in his second or third year of junior high school, probably one of his last years of schooling before he got a job like his father's.

Father and son beamed with happiness and excitement. The father announced to the bus driver, "We want to go to Wulai."

"Fine," said the bus driver, reasonably enough.

"How much is the fare?"

"33 for you, 17 for your son."

The father stood a moment in thought. His face cleared as he said, "Fifty all together." The bus driver nodded. The father fished in his jacket pocket and drew out a plastic bag with a fistful of coins. One, two, three, four, five 10NT coins makes fifty, which he carefully deposited in the slot. The driver handed him tickets, which father and son examined carefully. Their eyes were shining as they put the tickets in their pockets.

"We're going to Wulai," said the son.

"We can see the waterfall," said the father, "and take the cable car, and even watch the aborigines dance." Both turned their heads to the bus driver, clearly an aborigine.

The son nudged his father, looking curiously, but shyly, at a Westerner chatting lazily with the driver. "No, that was just after they got married, so it would have been only about two years ago," he was saying. The boy may never have seen a foreigner from so close up before.

They sat down, forward and back, and glued their noses to the windows. Wulai has some of the most superb mountains in an island noted for scenic beauty. Thick vegetation hides the practically vertical flanks of the mountains that rise sheer from the river bed, not high, but mighty, powerful for all that they rise only several hundred feet. A vigorous river winds next to the road.

They swayed with the bus making its way towards its destination. At one turn, the father and son suddenly looked at each other.

"Fishing," the father breathed, grinning.

"Fishing," his son repeated, as one who has been granted a glimpse of another realm.

The bus finally reached Wulai. The father and son were the last to leave the bus before the foreigner, still chatting with the driver. The father carefully asked, "What time is the last bus back to the city?"

"9:30," answered the driver. "There's one every half hour between 5 and 9:30.”

"Which way is the waterfall?”

"That way," pointed the driver. "If you’re not in any hurry to get back to the city, be sure to stick around, because tonight we're having a show, Aborigine Night.”

The father and son were radiant. The driver continued, "Do you know Gao Liyen, the famous pop singer?”

"Of course!" they both protested.

"She's a member of our tribe, and she's coming back to sing tonight, right there on that stage they're putting up now in the plaza. You can watch the show for free. All the best singers in the tribe will be performing, and there will be fireworks, too.”

Their joy was complete. Thanking the bus driver, father and son strolled leisurely off towards the waterfall, creating memories that some day, when the boy is an old man with grandchildren and great-grandchildren of his own, he will cherish. That was the day he visited Wulai with his father.

+++  
written in 1997

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I wrote this a couple years ago. I regret to report that I haven't seen him for some time now.

Taipei's southern edge is Hsindien (New Store); beyond that, mountains, east to Pinglin, south to Wulai. To enter the mountains, the two main roads out of Taipei converge in NewStore at Bitan, Green Lake, a scenic spot that was, thirty years ago, the edge of civilization, home to a few temples and a scattering of residents. Now the area is built up, and graced by the presence of a nut. A wonderful nut, but nonetheless, a nut, a great favorite of the busdrivers.

He loves to direct traffic. He appears at the intersection from time to time, especially on busy days when there is a lot of traffic to direct, with a string of whistles. He is apt to stuff three or four into his mouth at the same time as he stands at the intersection and directs traffic. And how he directs traffic! Influenced perhaps by martial arts and Chinese opera, many traffic directors in Taiwan are given to graceful gestures which can be delightful to watch, but none can come near the expressiveness and creativity of The Nut. As is the problem with so much modern art, the viewer can only watch in uncomprehending wonder, as he waves his arms, flaps his fingers, twists his elbows, and works his shoulders in a manner that an orchestra conductor would do well to emulate. Evan (Bus #390) and I were struck speechless by his beautiful bobbing wave of the hand. We speculate that this can mean nothing but "Beach ahead; surf's up!" That must be what it means, because he followed it with hula motions: beach, see? Never mind that the nearest shore is seventy kilometers ahead across a treacherous mountain road.

Old-timers pause to admire his gesticulations and then drive on. New-comers generally try to follow his directions, something a trapeze artist would find strenuous, much less someone confined within a humble Toyota. When he has traffic snarled, the real police come and chase him away. He runs around to the back of the subway terminal until they go away. Then, resurrected and triumphant, he appears once again at his post, for the further befuddlement of traffic.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004




Monday, September 27, 2004

I came to Taiwan from Saigon when I was 18. On my first day, in the International House, I met Roger, who knew everything about twentieth century Chinese warlords. That was the beginning of a friendship that continues to this day.

After a year in the I House, Roger and I found an apartment nearby. To fill the other room and help with the rent, we rounded up Del Weeks, a slim, dark haired American with a slight stoop. Del had been in Viet Nam, and spoke excellent Viet Namese. I would occasionally practice with him, but my Viet Namese was nowhere near as good as his.

After a couple months living together, once when Del and I were shooting the breeze, the subject of Tet 1968 came up. That was when the Viet Namese communists made their great push to overthrow the Republic of Viet Nam. They laid waste to Hue, Viet Nam's ancient capital and cultural center. Communists do not like people who think for themselves, so they targeted the many universities of Hue. They had lists prepared of professors and student leaders, and buried them alive. Koreans were captured; the communists wired their hands behind their backs and threw them into the river. Only one foreigner, a legendary figure, survived the slaughter.

The Viet Cong also entered Saigon and caused great damage. My neighbors used to point out to me the spot where the Viet Cong killed a Swiss doctor because he had been doing humanitarian work among the poor. They tied his hands behind his back, dragged him to an empty lot, threw him to the ground, and slit his throat. That lot is built up now, but I can still point out the exact spot.

In the quiet of our apartment on Hsinsheng Street in Taipei, over two steaming mugs of tea, I asked Del, "You were in Viet Nam in Tet of 1968, weren't you?”

"Yeah,” he replied, quietly, his eyes far away.

"Where were you?”


"Hue?" I sat up in my chair, realization dawning on me. I had never thought about it, but Del fit the descriptions to a T. "Was that you!?"

"Me? I was in Hue through the 1968 Tet Offensive.”

I had heard the story a dozen times in Viet Nam, but I asked him to tell me again, to hear it from his own lips.

Del had moved to Hue in 1967. He is a likable guy, speaks fluent Viet Namese, and with his dark hair, dark eyes, and medium height slim figure, doesn't oppress timorous people with his westerness. He roomed in a Viet Namese neighborhood, and made many friends.

When the Tet Offensive began, his neighbors, fearing for his safety, hid him in their own house, in a tiny loft under the roof. He brought along a Filipino friend. The neighbors slipped them food. Del spent most of his time lying on his stomach. He could peek out through the air vent to see the street below.

Soon the Viet Cong came looking for Del. Even though the whole neighborhood was in on the secret, everybody played dumb. "Nguoi my? (the American?) He ran away before the fighting came. We haven't seen him since then."

The cadres came back the next day, again asking for Del, but again the neighbors played dumb. The third time, the cadres came with loudspeakers, threatening dire reprisals for the whole neighborhood if Del was being sheltered by any one of them. They came again and again, searching houses, but never found Del's hideout. They trooped through the neighborhood wielding severed heads, and promised worse for anyone who knew where Del was but didn't report him to the Viet Cong. Over the loudspeakers, they bragged about what they would do with Del when they found him: they would cut off his head and put it in his stomach. Hidden Del secretly listened carefully.

By the fourth day, the Filipino's nerves had cracked. Del tussled with him, but he insisted that he could escape through the darkness of night. He urged Del to run, saying that it was only a matter of time before they were found. Del trusted to his neighbors. He stayed on his stomach near the vent, hidden in the tiny loft.

The next morning, the cadres showed a new trophy: the mutilated head of the Filipino. He had not disclosed where he had hidden. The communists were furious. The neighbors held firm.

Then the cadres stopped coming to threaten the people. American and ARVN troops reentered the ancient city, fighting step for step. A company of American Marines was picking its way through the rubble when a tattered figure emerged from a doorway and staggered towards them. The man on point swung his M16 towards him, preparing to shoot; he looked, looked again, his mouth dropped open, and in sheer astonishment he stuttered, “You're.... you're American!” The man collapsed in their arms and was taken to safety. Del's ordeal was over, and quickly passed into the legends of the war. He is the only foreigner known to have survived the Tet Offensive of 1968 in Hue.

Del was surprised to learn that I had heard the story many times. He was unaware that anybody remembered his nightmare. Of course his version contained many details I had never heard before. We nursed our tea until it cooled, and then retired to our rooms.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

There was a terrible crash outside. When I went out to investigate, Yumin came prancing over, ears flapping, tail wagging, SOOOO happy to see me! He bounded around in delight. A pile of curing wood had fallen over, no harm done. I could barely put it back in place because of beagle exuberance. He kept bouncing back and forth between my legs, brushing against my arms and licking my face as I bent over to pick things up, and in general showing me how absolutely elated he was to see me, and OF COURSE the fallen wood pile had nothing to do with a beagle, oh no never, of course not. Tlahuy and Bengax watched from a distance. As things got straightened out, suddenly Yumin detected some threat on the outer perimeter, and rushed off boldly, barking fiercely, to protect us from all mischief.

Friday, September 24, 2004

附近溫泉館移植兩棵杉、一棵肖楠,結果都種死掉了。樹歪在那兒,等著倒踏腐朽。可惜,尤其那棵肖楠;圍一拱,高兩丈有餘,于是乎,我決定跟他們要。不認識老闆,但kneiring Masa 在那裡上班。 幾次路過,沒機會進去,不然就是外頭工人說老闆不在。幾個月了。

不能等太久。上禮拜提早出門,打算找老闆或留言。快到時,Ciwan 開車下山,叫我坐他便車。好吧,因緣如此,隨緣。上了車。

"Yugan, musa su inu?”
"Tsbaq biru. Nanu sa? Mswa tama simu qani?" 你們怎麼在這裡?
"裡面消毒,不能進去。Hangaw ta la.”
"甚麼事? Yugan.”
"他就是老闆," 她指旁邊坐的一個打領帶的男的,"你問他。”

老闆說可以。我決定,如果平怡她們不來的話,早上鋸。平怡果然有事,但是半夜下大雨,我想,不妙。睡醒,還在下,又過半小時就停了。我拎著鋸子、開山刀,走後門沿小徑,從 Tetuq 家旁下去,鋸好,滿頭大汗,暫放兩棵杉在路側,走原路扛肖楠回來。Tetuq 家旁一塊地,政府一直想開一條路,說實話,沒有這個必要,加上地主不肯蓋章。 地主不肯蓋章,十年前政府不管他,索性就在那兒挖了一條路。地主不悅,就在路中概了一棟鐵皮屋;畢竟是他的地。一、兩個禮拜前,政府又偷偷地鋪了柏油,到鐵皮屋為止。


今天下午下山,發現那塊地地主火大了,昨天下午用籬笆把地圍起來了,截了Tetuq 家旁的'新路'、與我扛肖楠的小徑。

我們常說 "隨緣,該是你的,跑不掉,不該是你的,留不住。" 我們相信這個道理呢,或用這句安慰自己?



Monday, September 20, 2004

I am going to tell you something that will cause you to turn green with envy and to admire me immensely. Last Wednesday I posted a note bragging about my teaching skills: a student slept through more than two and a half hours of my three hour class. I know wish to inform you of a further advance in my expertise. Just now, I was chatting with Chiaoyi on MSN, and ~~ prepare yourself ~~ she fell asleep in the middle of our chat.

If I get any better, I'll have people falling asleep in the middle of my emails and …. hey, come on, wake up!

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Not the least of the joys of living in Wulai is watching the eagles. We have a good number of them, large, majestic birds with wings that stretch six feet. I never tire of watching them soar over the mountains, towering and swooping with the wind.

Today is a beautiful fall day, with a high blue ceiling, wispy white cirrus, and billowing puffy cumulus. As I sat eating lunch in the hammock, an eagle lifted from a tree in the slope to the north, circled the house a few times, and, with a sharp cry, flew straight across the valley, covering a kilometer in about a minute.

I whistled my imitation of its cry. It ignored me. Eagles always do. Even before I moved to Wulai, I always whistled back at eagles, and they have always ignored me. Now, I am not a very good whistler, but I have been working on this for a dozen years, so I should think I can do a reasonable imitation of an eagle's cry. They call back and forth between themselves, and always ignore land-bound me, whistling futilely below them.

In a burst of enlightenment, today I realized why:..... they can't hear me.... I am not a very good whistler, and even on a good day, I doubt my whistle could be heard more than twenty or thirty meters away, and here I am, whistling away at these glorious eagles soaring a hundred meters overhead.

That is, anyway, the comfort I have found for myself. Maybe the call I have spent so many years perfecting means, in eagle speak, "There's that guy again, ignore him.”

Friday, September 17, 2004

The Dogs of War
This morning when I took out the trash, I spotted a large dog about twenty paces in back of us. Fearless Yumin immediately charged. He ran so fast his whole body, from front feet to back, was like one straight line, he ran so fast even fleetfooted Bengax was left behind. Tlahuy stayed by me, bristling. The problem is, there was other dogs from that pack down around the bend, and Yumin and Bengax charged straight into them. There was a terrific clamor. Tlahuy left my side and raced down into the fray, which ended the war immediately; I have yet to see any dog or combination of dogs that can stand up to Tlahuy when he is protecting me or Bengax.

I rushed down. Tlahuy hurried to my side. Bengax looked sort of shocked, and ran up the stairs back home.

The dog pack had disappeared entirely. There were not even any stragglers in sight. But Yumin was nowhere in sight, either. I went down to the road and called him, but he was gone. I searched around the bushes, and inspected the road for blood, but there was nothing to be seen. Tlahuy stayed close by my side, never more than two steps from me, my own private SWAT team.

After a few minutes, I gave up and headed home, up the stairs. There were drops of blood on the steps. I ran up. More and more blood. When I got to my property, I heard Yumin roaring. I have never heard him barking like that. He was furious, racing back and forth and barking in rage. As soon as he saw me, he raced over to me. Bengax was standing on the back porch, waiting for me with imploring eyes. It was then that I realized she had a bad cut on her back left leg. I held her and inspected the gash, which was clean, about 6 centimeters long. Evidently, Yumin had chased the other dogs away, then circled around to escort Bengax home. Then he was holding down the fort, racing back and forth, protecting Bengax, issuing bloody challenges to all comers. There were none.

I phoned Lilly, the vet, and described the wound. She said, "Don't worry about it, put some iodine on it, it'll be okay… do you have iodine?”

"No, but I'll pick some up tonight.”

"It's nothing to worry about. Bengax craves attention. If it had been Yumin, you wouldn't even know about it.”

And indeed, an hour later, I discovered that Yumin also had a small wound on his back leg.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

My teaching skills are getting better and better. This morning I taught 3 hours. I began at 9:10. By 9:20, a guy in the back row was already fast asleep. He woke up around 10:20. I called a ten minute break at 10:30. He was asleep again by 10:45, and slept until 11:20. He dozed off again at 11:30, and was still sleeping soundly when I left the classroom at 12.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

For various reasons, I had class on Wednesday morning two weeks in a row, the first time I've taught on weekday mornings for a couple years. But this entailed leaving the house at 7:15, ugh.

Walking past the Tribe, I came across Ulin, who is already in junior high now, and two little grade school girls, slowly making their way to Wulai Primary and Junior High School. Some aborigine women are extremely beautiful, and these two little girls are sure to be heartbreakers in another ten or fifteen years. Now they are giggling, sparkling, semi-wild mountain girls, dawdling on their way to class in their school uniforms, blue skirts and white shirts. Smiles and laughter, white teeth, huge dark eyes, long black braids, skinny arms and legs, squirming and wriggling like beagles.

Obviously when you are on your way to school, there is no need to be quick about it. They were wandering back and forth across road, looking at the mountains as if they had never seen mountains before, inspecting the clouds and the birds, jumping, skipping, laughing, circling hither and yon. They saw me coming. "YUGAN! Where are you going?"

"I am going to teach. Are you going to school?"

"Yes, we are third graders now," one of them piped up proudly.

"What time does school begin?"


"You have only 45 minutes, can you get there in time?" For me, it's a fifteen minute walk from the Tribe to the School. At the rate they were going, I doubted they would get there before New Year's. I told them I had to go catch a bus, so I was going to go on ahead, and encouraged them to get a move on.

The road there makes a big S turn. When I reached the turning, I looked back and didn't see any of them. I sighed, figuring they must have found something to fool around with, and kept hurrying down.

When I neared the part of the road that bends back right below the Tribe, I heard giggling in the trees above the supporting wall, and plop! Ulin dropped over the wall, which is a good two meters tall. Then she turned and held her arms out for the two little ones, who gleefully ignored her and launched themselves off the top of the wall. They had taken a shortcut, down the steep edge of the mountain there. They could barely contain themselves. "Yugan! We beat you! We won!"

"Just be careful you don't kill yourselves, jumping like that." Together we headed down the stairs there. Ulin walked with me, two steps at a time, and the little ones blasted off as fast as they could. "Hey, hey, laxi takuy!" I called, don't fall!

When we reached the road again, I told them to go straight to school, listen to the teacher, and study hard, and, waving furiously, we parted ways.

Soon a motorcycle ridden by three fourth grade boys came uphill. As soon as they saw me, the three boys yelled YUGAN! and three right hands stretched out. I held out my right hand and we slapped each others' palms as they went by while I shouted, "Wrong way! Turn around and go to school!"

I sighed and kept walking. Pretty soon I heard my name shouted again with great hilarity, and watched the same motorcycle come weaving down the road at me. It seems the second little boy had taken advantage of the driver's raised arms to start tickling him, so the little boy on back started tickling the one in the middle. They were giggling and laughing like goblins, having a grand time, as the motorcycle dipped from one side to the other. “GO TO SCHOOL!” Old spoilsport Yugan. At least this time they were headed in the right direction, if they survived the trip.

I caught the 7:45 bus. The driver pretended astonishment: "Yugan! Is something wrong? What are you doing on the bus at this hour?" I sat in front and we chatted idly.

As we approached the next village, the road makes a sharp turn around a ridge and enters the next valley. I told the driver, "Hey, look at that, that wasn't like that yesterday." The face of the opposing mountain was gone. We had heavy rains during the last typhoon, which saturated the land. That slope is too steep to be habitable. There was a good sized landslide during Typhoon Nari a few years ago, in which we got about six feet of rain, and now a larger wedge had slid ~~~ then we realized that the valley was full of dust, and that all traffic had stopped. The landslide had occurred moments before we got there. They had all gotten out of their cars to watch or left their motorcyles by the road. The people watching were frozen in place with their mouths open, awe-struck by the stupefying power of the landslide.

Have you ever seen or heard a landslide? One moment the mountain is there, and the next moment a section sloughs off with a tremendous rumble, the cracking of trees and smashing of rocks. We had not heard it because we were on the other side of the ridge. The face that fell was a good fifty meters across, and a hundred meters from top to bottom. This is probably the largest landslide in Wulai in living memory.

Monday, September 06, 2004

史記 趙世家 一句可為環保人士座右銘:
仁者愛萬物 智者備禍于未形
不仁不智 何以為國?

Sunday, September 05, 2004


Friday, September 03, 2004


Thursday, September 02, 2004

You know what I'm afraid of? They are going to have this great 'intelligence breakthrough' and capture Osama bin Laden about two weeks before the election.
They can't be that cynical. Can they?

Monday, August 30, 2004

I grew up reading science fiction. I wished I could travel beyond the reaches of the galaxy to see the wonders of the heavens.

Then I realized, what could be more beautiful than the mountains of earth? Than a tree? Search the ends of the universe to find any thing as beautiful as a white cloud billowing against a summer sky.

Friday I stood on the bridge waiting for the bus, watching the typhoon fed water of the stream swirl and twirl beneath me, endlessly whirling and spinning in thick grey brown patterns. A pure white egret flew downstream a few feet above the water, made a wide circle across the face of the stream, and continued its flight.

Saturday, August 28, 2004


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

It's one of those typhoon-a-week summers. I'm sitting here watching the trees slash back and forth like windshield wipers, admiring the sheets of rain, and happy that classes were canceled today, because I had a full schedule. I am dry and comfortable, and have a nice pot of hot tea.

This is not Florida, thank you. We have what would be to Floridians a very strange habit: we prepare for typhoons before they strike, to minimize damage. Yesterday I took my mountain knife and chopped some bamboo that might whip the gutter off my roof. In the middle of the night, I realized I had forgotten to clear the power line, but did not worry about it too much. Last year a typhoon knocked the giant bamboo right onto the power line and it was okay, and this year there is nothing nearly as heavy. However, after I got up this morning, I took my mountain knife, a saw, and a length of nylon webbing to go clear the power line. In this weather, it's simplest just to go barefoot, because if you don't want your rainboots to fill – slosh, slosh, slosh – you have to wear rainpants, which are hot and cumbersome, so for me, it's barefoot, shorts, tanktop, raincoat, and I'm ready to go.

There was a branch brushing the line, but I couldn't reach it, so I prepared to throw the webbing over it to pull it in. Problem was, what to use for a weight? Aha! I tied it through the eye on the handle of the saw, tossed that, and after four or five tries, snagged the branch and pulled it in. It was then that I realized that a sharp saw might not have been the best choice of weights. However, I succeeded, with all my fingers intact, and spent the next hour or so hacking branches and vines. The dogs did their best to get in the way.

Now we are all relaxed and dry. I put some cardboard on the back porch for them to lie on. They are lined up, three curls, tail to nose, waiting out the typhoon. So far so good.

Friday, August 20, 2004

A Tayal married a lady from the Vunun, a neighboring tribe, mostly in Taiwan's central mountains. She knew enough Tayal to get along when she moved in with her husband, so her yaki (mother-in-law) could communicate with her new ina' (daughter-in-law).

The mother-in-law called out to her, "Ina'! Time to eat!" The family was astonished to see the bride burst into tears and rush out of the house. By the time her husband caught up with her, she was halfway down the road.

Explanation: In Vunun, Ina' means "Get out of here!"

Saturday, August 14, 2004


福臨門餐廳大做婚晏廣告,附加英文標語,大寫白字:Would you merry me?
Marry, merry, 差不多嘛。再過幾個月就會出現很多Marry Christmas,祝你與聖誕節結婚。

福臨門餐廳的英譯Fu Lin Men縱使準確,卻不貼切。畢竟做婚晏生意,應該譯Fooling Men。

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The day is so beautiful that I ate lunch sitting in the hammock-chair on the second floor porch.

My eye was attracted by an eagle rising above a distant ridge, a black mite against the white summer clouds, only about half the size of a period on this screen. It towered until it caught the higher winds, and sailed off in back of Wulai Peak.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Wulai's hot springs bubble up on the bank at Punko and at Tbaqsiso. Spa entrepreneurs – almost exclusively outside investors – suck so much water from Tbabsiso that the bank threatened to collapse, so the local government had to spend a considerable amount of tax money to shore up the road that goes by there. This has cut off the old path from the road down to the stream, a pretty steep drop of over twenty meters.

Democracy in action: a new path has been put in, by person or persons unknown. Somehow large hunks of cement curb were hauled in and stacked on both sides of the safety wall by the road, providing a stile of sorts. Then the path zigzags down. The slope is too steep for anything but the narrowest steps, so a safety rope has been rigged up on the in-side. Your outer side is exposed. Clutch the manila rope as you descend, but watch your step. The steps were made by banging in segments of rebar, against which were set old tiles; then the backside was filled with earth. The tiles stick up an inch or two over the 'step,' so lift your feet high. Don't trip. It’s almost straight down, especially in the part where the outer side has caved in and been shored up with sandbags. Of course, if you trip over the tile there and go down the sandbags, you'll probably bounce off the metal stairs just by the stream and land in the water. Maybe. Parts of you might.

Every time I go down those stairs, I imagine American lawyers looking and salivating.

Friday, August 06, 2004

On July 14, I posted a short sketch of Hozin's adventures with Apin's motorcycle. He hurt his right leg, but was otherwise unscathed after driving it into the stream.

The other day, Tokan borrowed Yagi's car to go get a bite to eat. Next door, Hozin was getting drunk, so to keep him from driving, Tasiy drove his (Hozin's) car away and hid it. Soon Hozin came out and couldn't find his car, but "Never mind, there is Yagi's car, and he certainly won't mind my borrowing it." So he got in and drove off before Tokan realized what was happening.

Now, Hozin had hurt his right leg, so he couldn't step on the gas pedal, but he managed both the gas pedal and the brake with his left foot. He discovered a problem just as he reached the curve at Tbaqsiso: Yagi's car is a stick shift. He immediately was faced with an urgent problem: choose between the clutch and the brake. He chose the clutch, and, as the car sailed off the road, he reflected that the brake would have been a better choice.

He swam to the bank, but someone had seen the car sink and phoned the police. This was obviously an outsider's doing. Someone from Wulai would have seen that it was Hozin swimming to the shore, and known not to worry. Not to worry too much.
Wulai police used to be mostly Tayal, but now they have Han Chinese policemen, because things were getting too cozy. A Han policeman it was who hauled the dripping Hozin into the police station and started shouting at him.

"Shout all you like," said Hozin, "Wait until my two big brothers get here. You know they are both policemen, and they both outrank you.”

In a moment the brothers arrived, and asked why their little brother was in handcuffs. The Han policeman explained, "He drove a car into the stream." Whereupon the brothers started beating Hozin: "You disgrace our ancestors!”

When they finished beating him, the Han police told Hozin, "If I see you driving again, I will beat you again."

So this story probably stops here.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Aborigines are still seething over Vice President Lu Hsiulien's racist remarks (posted on this blog July 17).

Outside the Aborigine community there has been no hue and cry for her removal – people in Taiwan have become inured to rudeness and arrogance from politicians nowadays. They are used to the Administration's noises and promises, which mean nothing.

Members of her party, the Democratic Progressive Party, have defended her remarks. President Chen Shuibian suggested that she apologize; she refuses to apologize. Apparently, insulting disadvantaged minorities struck by natural disasters does not seem improper to her. She is, after all, a rich, powerful politician, so she feels little to fear from the Aborigines, who she regards as a bunch of savages. (Fortunately, she has not gone as far as my acquaintance H, a hardline DPP Taiwan Independence backer, who advocates genocide: "The best thing we can do with the aborigines is wipe them all out, exterminate the race.") She has, however, retracted her statement about the negritoes, and is now trying to ignore the whole incident.

The aborigines have not been ignoring it. If you want to make instant friends with a Taiwan aborigine these days, any tribe, just say, “I hate the DPP, and I think Vice President Lu should be recalled.”

The aborigines are trying to institute dialogue with the Vice President. She told them to emigrate to South America if they don't like the DPP. Now the Aborigines say, “Okay, Vice President, first you find a husband in South America and move there. Then we will all follow you.” She has yet to respond to this proposal. (VP Lu has never been married.)

This proposal has also occasioned some discussion among the Tribes. “The Republic of China's diplomatic relations are few and tenuous. If Vice President Lu did manage to find someone in South America to marry her, wouldn't that spell the end of the ROC's good reputation throughout the region? They would hate us forever.”

Also, continued reflection has led to a tempering of certain rash statements the aborigines made in the heat of the moment. In a saber-rattling mood, some of the Tribes reminded people of the Aborigine tradition of headhunting, mostly among the Tayal tribe. However, the Tayal now say they will not remove Vice President Lu's head, because “it's too ugly.”

Monday, August 02, 2004

A Thought

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Referring to the Internet, Jay Bookman says sometimes "communication displaces community."

Friday, July 23, 2004

Old habits die hard?
Old habits hardly die!

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

最近臺灣兩件事讓我非常難過。 其一、呂秀蓮污辱原住民。 她講的話,一個正常人想都不會想,更何況說出口。縱使說出口,有一絲惻隱之心的人也不會在山民飽受災難時說。現在山上最熱門的話題是罵呂秀蓮、罵民進黨、罵那幾個不吭聲的民進黨籍阿美族立委。原住民說,民進黨平常沒有為他們做任何事,很多『政績』對他們不利,然後副總統如此落井下石,怎能忍受?一位泰雅說,"副總統剛上任時,不住政府給她配的房子,另外租一棟月租四十七萬元的房子,錢是我們納稅人出的,還花了不知道多少錢幫她裝潢;住了一年又不住。她是大官,可以亂講話,不怕沒地方住。我們呢? 四十七萬,我全家大小可以生活一年!!"

其二、呂秀蓮污辱災民,平地人隔岸觀火,沒甚麼反應,政要亂講話,司空見慣:這是一個健康的政治環境嗎? 為什麼副總統仗勢凌人,大家袖手旁觀?這事若發生在歐美,她早已下台;不等受害者街頭抗議,自己政黨早就把她拉下台了,以免破壞形象。在此地同黨不但不譴責,反而辯護。很顯然執政黨眼中原住民只是用來撬大兩岸距離的棋子;假如稍有利用價值,姑且留著它吧。

好啦,臺灣政客亂講話,只顧鬥權不顧民權,不是一兩天的事。 臺灣大官離國際水準還差一大段距離,大家心知肚明。真正讓我難過的是老百姓默許大官狂言亂語、民眾對政壇人事的態度已淪為看笑話。民主民主呀,老百姓應該是主人,應該主動。不知是臺灣政壇要算太早呢? 或者已經太晚了。

無論如何,中正機場國門到處寫Naluwan、貼原住民照片,事實證明太虛偽。應該全部撕下來。 可以換上"第一家庭密友羅太太" 的照片。

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Taiwan was hard hit by a typhoon earlier this month. It just stayed and dumped water on us, creating disastrous landslides in the mountainous center of Taiwan. Over fifty people were killed, mostly Aborigines. Many people are homeless.
Faced with all this suffering, Vice President Lu Hsiulien announced that it serves those people right to die in landslides; the government should not do anything to help them, because they brought it down upon themselves by building roads and deforesting the mountains. (I am not supplying word for word translations of what she said, but this is all accurate.) The Vice President also pointed out that since she walks with a cane, the local people should be grateful that she went to all the trouble of visiting their disaster area, because, she says, she suffered from walking around there.
The Aborigines were not very happy with this unsympathetic announcement. They pointed out that the Aborigines are not the ones profiting from the destruction of the mountains; the money behind all this all flows into Han Chinese pockets, not theirs.
In response, the Vice President said, If you don't like it, why don't you just leave? You can go live in South America, or find some place in Central America like Nicaragua or San Salvador, nobody is asking you to stay here. (I swear I am not making this up.)
You can imagine that the Aborigines, trying to pick up the rubble of their destroyed villages, were angry with Vice President Lu. They exclaimed that they are the original inhabitants of Taiwan, having been here for six thousand years, so why should they have to leave their ancient homeland? (The main Han Chinese migration to Taiwan began in the 19th century.)
Vice President replied, You call yourselves aborigines, but you're not anything, you're not the original inhabitants of all. The original inhabitants of Taiwan were the negritoes, and they're extinct, they've all died, all gone, so you people who calls yourselves Aborigines are nothing, and you have no special claims to land or to anything.
The negritoes she refers to are mentioned in some tribal myths. Although there are still some negritoes in the Philippines, as far as I know there is no sure archaeological, anthropological, or genetic evidence that negritoes ever lived in Taiwan, while ample evidence proves that the ancestors of today's aborigines reached Taiwan six thousand years ago. No artifact or site has ever been solidly linked to black pygmies, and the time reference in the tribal myths does not specify who reached Taiwan first. In any event, this is not the sort of statement you would expect from a Vice President when disadvantaged minorities in her country are being wiped out by a natural disaster.
Needless to say, the Aborigines are furious. Friday groups from several tribes gathered in front of the Presidential Office, where Vice President Lu was having a meeting. She ignored their requests to explain her remarks to them, preferring to let her racist, unfeeling statements stand. The Aborigines are now reminding people that they have a tradition of headhunting. However, Vice President Lu has made it clear that she spits on their traditions, and that to her they are just a bunch of subhuman savages whom Taiwan would be better off without.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Hera’ Cmyan na Tayan, cyux gaga, talagay sqliq na. Mwah mahoni, mgwas utux. Mwah ciwan weya, qutux likuy ru sazing kneiring, kwara ptsal. Bsiq ini bkita ptsal, sunun balay.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The government has never really gone out of its way to encourage Tayal traditions, which may sound nasty and ethnocentric and politically incorrect until you remember that the epicenter of Tayal traditions rested squarely on headhunting. Governments tend to get a bit finicky about having headhunters in the backyard, so they went along with the Christian missionaries who told the aborigines that their superstitions would land them in hell.

Now everything is all sanitized and Disney, so a couple years ago, the reviled mayor Mila Watan got the idea of having a sacrifice to the ancestors and turning it into a tourist photo opportunity, bringing in the press. The village was furious, and Mila Watan died before the year was out, “because the ancestors were mad at him.” They don't want a bunch of Han Chinese gawking at their sacrifice.

A lotus grows out of mud; the seed had been planted. The tribespeople decided that they wanted to have sacrifices for their ancestors, and the minister and the church can go to helllllllp themselves. Last year, with no publicity, the ceremony was held on the Wulai athletic field. The only outsiders were an invited anthropologist and the camera crew they hired to film the whole event. Somewhere they even found a shaman to officiate. (When my computer crashed, I lost all my photos from last year's sacrifice. If any of you have those, please send me copies! I promise I will be better about backing up files!)

Last night as I was walking home after pottery class, Agogo pulled up beside me. “Yugan! Get in the car!.... do you know we are having the ancestral sacrifice tomorrow?”
“No, I hadn't heard anything about it.”
“It's just Wulai village, Shawye started it.”
“So the other villages aren't coming this time.”
“We will do it properly. We will sacrifice a wild boar and offer it to the ancestors. You have to come!”
This year the sacrifice was held off in the mountains, a distance from the village and from outsider's eyes. “There will be buses leaving the village at 8. It is just half a day. You can bring your dogs on the bus. Be sure to come!”
“Are you going?”
“Of course. Not that I really care that much about those two slices of boar meat – although I do care about those two slices of boar meat, talagay blaq niqun! (delicious!), the main thing is to show our respect for our ancestors and our tribe.”

I was not so enthusiastic about watching them knife the boar. I figured I would wake up when I woke up, and if didn't catch the bus, I could walk there. The place he mentioned is somewhere out by Lomankobu, and by the time I walked there, the meat should be cooked.
Exactly where, I wasn't sure, but there's a checkpoint there for cars entering the mountain, and Ahsiung, the policeman, would be able to tell me.

As usual, at sunrise I still had my brains scrambled in my pillow, so I missed the bus. Around 9:30 I left the house with the dogs. We walked down to the village, out past the school, and off into the beautiful, steep mountains. About an hour later, I reached the checkpoint. A bunch of picnickers, hikers, and mountain bicyclists were busy filling out forms (they want to make sure that those who enter the mountains make it back out again). When Ahsiung saw me approaching, he gave me a big salute: “Yugan! Are you going to the sacrifice?”
“Yes, but I'm not sure where it is.”
“Oh, it's not far, keep going and by a qesu tree you will see motorcycles and cars from the Tribe. Right there you'll see the path.” (note: there are a million qesu trees in Wulai.)
“Okay, sounds good. Not far, you say?”
“No, it's not far.”
“I'm walking.”
“Just keep going, you'll get there.”
“How far is it?”
“Not more than ten kilometers.”
“Ten kilometers? By the time I get there, everybody will have finished eating and be ready to go home.”
“No, because they won't be finished drinking yet. Go on, Yugan, ten kilometers is not far, you can get there before long.”

To make a long story short, I cut a long walk short. This explains why I missed the village's sacrifice this year. I wandered around the area of the checkpoint for a while, and decided to turn back. I comforted myself and the dogs by going swimming wherever the stream was convenient to the road.
I have to ask around. This was the village's sacrifice, so there may be others for all the Wulai villages together.

Next year, I'll take the bus.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Living in a village where everybody knows everybody else makes economy of words practicable.

On my way down to the city this afternoon, I saw Apin by the side of the road, astride Qalux's motorcycle, busily punching a number into his cell phone.

“Apin, what's up? Yesterday you were driving Yagi's taxi, and today you are riding Qalux's motorcycle.” Indeed, he even had Qalux's little son, fearless Qosun, with him.

“My motorcycle fell into the stream.”

“How did that happen?”

“I lent it to Hozin.”

“Understood.” I continued on my way. Hozin is a notorious drunkard, but there are no wakes in Wulai now, so he must have survived the plunge. If something as trivial as careening off a road into a stream would kill Hozin, he would have died years ago.

In a few minutes, Apin passed me. “Where are you going?”


I caught up with him a few minutes later as I passed the store. “Is the motorcycle still in the stream?”

“No, yesterday I got a crane.” So that explains why I saw Meina, Hanna's brother, driving his truck with the crane up the road yesterday.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

President Bush has defended his decision to invade Iraq. “Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we were right to go into Iraq, we removed a declared enemy of America who had the capability of producing weapons of mass murder and could have passed that capability to terrorists bent on acquiring them. In the world after September the 11th, that was a risk we could not afford to take."

According to that logic, Reagan should have attacked the Soviet Union, and Nixon should have attacked the People's Republic of China.

They had the capability of producing weapons of mass murder, so we attacked them. This reminds me of the ruler during the Warring States period (3rd century BC, sorry, I'm too lazy to look up just who it was) who passed a law severely punishing anybody who simply had the capability for producing liquor; you didn't have to actually produce any liquor, but if you had the vats and whatnot (which were common farm devices), you were guilty. One day he was standing on his palace wall with his advisors when an old lady and a little boy walked by. One of the advisors said, “Quickly, go arrest them for adultery!” The ruler said, “But they haven't done anything.” The advisor said, “No, but they have the capability for adultery; the equipment is all there.”

The difference being that the ruler in our story, being an intelligent man, revoked his idiotic law, rather than continuing to defend it with his stiff neck.

Sunday, July 11, 2004




L is a super-orthodox far right wing DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) diehard. He pines for the good old times when sons obeyed their fathers, and when women obeyed their husbands and stayed in their place. In his mind, if Japan had won World War II, the world would be a much better place, Taiwan a garden of delight. He insists that the KMT (Kuomintang, Nationalist Party) has never done anything good for Taiwan. Everything that is wrong with Taiwan is the fault of the KMT. Nothing the KMT ever did was right; nothing the DPP ever did was wrong. When DPP officials turned out to be even more corrupt than their KMT predecessors, L's explanation was simple: “They didn't want to take the money, but the KMT forced them to. It isn't their fault.” You get the idea: the DPP is his religion.

Or was? The other day he told me,“Over the years I have spent a great deal of time, effort, and money for the DPP. From local officials up, I always campaigned hard, ever since even before the DPP was founded. Earlier this year, almost every night I took people out to dinner, expensive dinners with good food, so they would vote for Chen Shuibian so we would have a DPP president and a DPP administration.

“It doesn't make any difference. It doesn't matter who is in office. They are all rotten. It doesn't matter what party they are. They just want power and money. They don't care about the people. It doesn't matter whether they are Minnan or mainlander. They don't care about the people, they just want to fight for their own power and money. Every single one of them is corrupt, even the DDP. They are all rotten.”

Kind of scary.

Monday, July 05, 2004

My Life's Plan and Ambitions
Central to my life's plan is this baby. Please go to
and watch the film. Neat! I want one! I want one!

So, I am going to go buy a lottery ticket. When I win the lottery, I will buy one of these one-seaters. The next six months will be devoted to playing with it and getting airsick.

Then I will declare war on Palau, or maybe the Seychelles. Some little country like that will (A) not have the firepower to beat my one-seater, and (B) be more than eager to obey anybody who has one: Coooooool!

When I have conquered Palau, or maybe the Seychelles, or even Tuvalu or Kyrgyzstan, I will declare myself Beloved Leader for Life and Minister of Air Defense. On selected days I will take selected constituents up for a joyride, thereby assuring their devotion and loyalty. If you're really nice to me, I'll invite you along too.

Friday, July 02, 2004

You will not find John or Mary in any book or teaching material I edit or write. These are so trite that I am done with them, and always substitute other names, variety being the spice of life.

All things in moderation: if you want to bust a gut on some of the names people come up with for their poor kids, http://www.notwithoutmyhandbag.com/babynames/ is the place to visit.

It seems that some people name kids after where they were conceived: god help any poor kid whose parents honeymooned in Pumpkin Center, Louisiana! Keep your parents AWAY from Hot Coffee, Mississippi or Two Egg, Florida. If your parents had a good time in Spot, Tennessee, you probably grew up wondering why so many people wanted to play fetch with you. Wouldn't be much better for kids whose parents visited England, either. What if they booked hotel rooms in Frisby On The Wreake, Leicestershire, Fattahead, Aberdeenshire, or Spital In The Street, Lincolnshire?

Angela T. told me about some dopeheads who decided to name their kid after the place they conceived them, so they named their daughter Shenandoah Valley. The problem was, they had twins, so ~~ sit down, take a deep breath, this is gruesome ~~ they named the other girl Country Dreaming. Now as much as I wonder if they parents knew that Shenandoah is the name of an Indian chief, a man's name, I mourn for the other little girl, because Shenandoah Valley goes by Shenan (not Shannon), so can you imagine what poor Country Dreaming gets called?

Oh my oh my

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Francy phoned. “Hi, Yugan, what are you up to?”

“I'm cleaning my porch.”

Pause. “….. you're what?”

“I'm cleaning my porch. I've got water and detergent and a brush and I'm cleaning the porch.”

Long pause. “Yugan, are you all right?”

“Sure, I'm fine.”

“Tell me, Yugan, has something happened?”

“No, everything is fine.”

“You're sure you're fine?”

“I'm sure I'm fine.”

“And you're washing your porch?”

“That's right.”

I could hear Francy starting to sob. She calmed herself and said, ”Really, Yugan, if something has happened and you want to talk about it, I'm right here for you.”

“No, I'm fine, really. The porch was dirty, so I decided to clean it.”

Pause. “…. The porch was dirty so you decided to clean it?”

“That's right.”

“And you're fine, you haven't gotten sunstroke or heatstroke and everything is okay?” she asked cautiously.


Francy pulled herself together. “Okay then, Yugan. Come by my office after you finish and I'll give you the keys so you can clean my balcony, too.”

Monday, June 21, 2004


The Hsintien Stream 新店溪 leaves the mountains at Chingtan/Green Pond 青潭 where it turns left, or east and flows into the Taipei plain at the edge of the city, at Pitan, Bluegreen Pond 碧潭. The north bank of Bluegreen Pond is flat, with the edge of mountains a short distance away. The south bank is hilly, with cliffs hidden in the lush vegetation.

At Bluegreen Pond, the stream widens to about fifty meters across. This is a favorite scenic and recreation spot for Taipei residents, so there is a row of shops on the north, or city, bank. This is where my pottery teacher is located. Friday I got there for class early, so I strolled upstream to the ferry, certainly the last manual (unmotorized) ferry in the Taipei area. A teenaged girl was pushing the oar to ferry across her sole passenger, a middle aged man who chatted with her as she pushed and twisted the oar; it simply can't be as easy as she made it look. Then she picked up an old lady and her grandchild and headed back, backing out and turning her twelve meter boat with a few efficient motions.

I could hear a drum. Tuesday is the Dragon Boat Festival. For thousands of years, boat races have been held on 端午節the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, and Bluegreen Pond has been the site of dragon boat races for decades. Two crews were practicing rowing their long boats; since this is just practice, the dragon heads have not been affixed on the boats. On Tuesday, before the races are held, the boats will be resplendent with dragon heads, and their eyes will be ceremoniously painted in. Yesterday was just practice, though. The rowers shouted cadence to the drum and their stokes as they whisked their boats through the evening mist rising off the river and flowing down from the south bank jungle.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

昨晚興致勃勃地到中正紀念堂國家音樂廳去聽陳孟亨女士直笛演奏會。 應有盡有,Bach 、Telemann 、Vivaldi都到齊了。小提琴、中提琴、大提琴、鍵盤(時大鍵琴,偶管風琴)伴奏直笛。潦響美妙,渾厚扎實,只覺得場地太大: chamber music嘛!台上最穩的是大提琴。後來與巴洛克長笛演奏Telemann,也效Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet,四個直笛吹 Bach 的 Fugue,心滿意足。

下半場就不同了。 先看四個小男生上台,準備電吉他、爵士鼓、鍵盤。他們穿白褲、蘋果綠無袖大領襯衫,土氣十足(鍵盤手還帶上墨鏡…),陳女士穿著鑲亮片的禮服,在大管風琴前演奏起爵士樂,實在不倫不類。我想到爵士樂,不會想到電吉他,更不會想到直笛。觀眾面面相覷,再來是東張西望,繼以俏俏地往太平門逃脫。很可惜。


Saturday, June 12, 2004

I'm back from the family reunion. I was amazed with the openness and honesty with which everybody dealt with family issues. Made me feel honored to be a member of this nutty family.

But by Tuesday, when we had a big meal at Aunt Helen's, things were winding down. Uncle Ted and cousin Connie had gone back to the east coast, and Mom and Steph were leaving the next day. Shortly after dark (9 PM in northern Colorado), there was a terrific hail storm. And do you know why?

Hail, hail, the gang's all here!

Thursday, June 03, 2004

I've got a great idea. This evening I start out on a twelve hour flight across the Pacific. But what to do on such a long flight? I know! I'll spend the whole time practicing making fax machine noises! With all that practice, I should be pretty good by the time I get there, so that means I can entertain all the passengers around me on the fourteen hour flight back!

PS: please remember that I want to be cremated.
(supposing, that is, that the other passengers
leave enough of me to cremate)

Wednesday, June 02, 2004


鋼琴、小提琴,學琴的人那麼多,還有長笛、豎笛,在臺灣學過樂器的人實在很多,少則音樂有些基礎,進而頗有成就,大有人在。 然後呢,要『休閒』就拿起卡拉OK麥克風,叫的像難產中受百般折磨的產婦,音感全無,只有力求聲大音長。花那麼多心血培養的音樂素養到哪兒去了?? 真搞不懂。

難道教育只是一個形而已嗎?教育理應薰陶身心氣質;若身心氣質沒薰陶,教育到底在作啥? 真搞不懂。

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Are cellists careless, forgetful, or just newsworthy? That article about the LA philharmonic: one of their cellists has a Stradivarius cello worth US3.5 million (!). So one day recently he went home, opened his front door, and left his 3.5 million dollar cello sitting on the porch (!!). Next thing he knew somebody was carrying it away on a bicycle.

A few days later a lady found it by a dumpster. She was going to ask her boyfriend to cut it up to make a CD shelf out of it, but fortunately, he recognized it as the cello everybody was looking for.

Can you imagine? A 3.5 million dollar CD shelf? No, I mean, can you imagine being so careless?

But a couple years ago Yoyo Ma left his cello in a taxi in New York. How can you do that? It's not like it was a piccolo and it slipped out of your pocket or something, a cello is a large instrument, something you'd think you'd notice if you left it in a taxi.

Of course it was a cheapo cello, only one million US, which may explain his negligence. But still, hey, you can get a LOT of recorders for one million NT, much less US!!

Thursday, May 20, 2004

From The Anatomy of fascism, by Robert O Paxton: a mobilizing passion of facism is "the belief that one's group is a victim, a sentiment that justifies any action, without legal or moral limits, against its enemies, both internal and external."

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

As punishment for my sin of not backing up my files, last week a virus destroyed my hard disk. If you have not heard from me, I am not ignoring you, my entire e-address book is gone with the wind, so you're going to have to write to me. My apologies.

My apologies? Hull, my sniveling tears.

I have firewalls and anti-virus, but the virus still got through. "A warning by me take," and remember to back up your files.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

When I first came to Taiwan, I lived in the International House. The most popular American there was Nick, cheerful, handsome, easy going, everybody's friend. After dinner one evening, we were all gathered in the lounge as usual when Nick came in, the first time we saw him wearing shorts. His arrival was greeted with shocked gasps, because he was on crutches, and had only one leg. It turned out that some years before, he had been working in Hawaii. He was helping dislodge a fishing boat (ironically, from Taiwan) that had gotten stuck on a sandbar. A cable snapped and took off his left leg at the knee. Nick got an artificial leg and learned to use it so well that even I House people who went out dancing with him were not aware that he was all plastic from one knee down. This discovery made a stir, and then we forgot about it.

About a year later, after I had moved into an apartment on Hsinsheng with Roger and Jerome, somebody from the I House looked me up at school with the news that Bill's mother had sent him a football from the States so they were having a game on the Shih Ta field, want to come along? I detest spectator sports and competitive sports, but if you have a football and just enjoy playing the game, it's a lot of fun, so I closed my books and headed for the field. The whole I House crew was there, so we managed to put together two teams. We took off our jackets and played in our street clothes, very impromptu. None of us were serious players, so it was fun.

This was in about 1973. Foreigners were very scarce in Taiwan then. Before long we attracted a large crowd of kids who had never seen a dozen Americans together at the same time. Plus, we were running around playing this unintelligible game that to this day is never seen anywhere in Taiwan but on a television screen. The kids were fascinated, especially when they had the chance to go after an out of bounds ball, try to catch it as it bounced, and toss it back to us. Exotic goings-on, to be sure.

Then Doug passed the ball to Nick, who had to reach far for it. Just as he went way off balance and touched the ball, Dan came running up behind him and nudged him, so Nick fell hard. He fell so hard that he bounced and his leg came off and slipped out of his pants. The crowd of children held their breath for a moment, gave an earsplitting shriek of horror, and disappeared as fast as they could run. Within a few seconds, there was not a child to be seen. They were probably all huddling in their closets at home by the time Nick got his leg attached.

But the poor kids. Can you imagine this kid racing home screeching: Ma, Ma, I was watching the big-noses playing a game, and their legs come off!
Nonsense, stop your nonsense!!
No, really, I was at the Shih Ta field, and these foreign devils were playing a game with a pointed ball.
A pointed ball? What's the matter with you? Everybody knows a ball is round!
No, really, Ma, listen to me! They were playing a game with a pointed ball, and one of them fell, and his leg came off, it came right out of his pants, I saw it!
Stop that nonsense!
Ma, it's real!
Oh, heavens, put your jacket back on, I'm taking you to the sorcerer to have your frightened spirit called home. I have no idea what could have put such strange notions in your poor little head.
But Ma!!
Hush, hush, baby, let's go.

Probably caused psychological scars that persist to this day. Sure did put the damper on our game. It just sort of petered out after that, and I haven't played football since.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Earthday is over
今早上坡傳來我最恨的聲音: 鋸樹聲。 聽到木裂聲,往上看,一棵十公尺高的相思樹倒地。 是不是有人盜伐樹,上去看看。Patu拎著鍊鋸爬上一棵更大的相思樹開始鋸,那一棵相思樹很粗,我兩手抱不起來。 我問他為什麼要鋸,原來是鄉公所派他們來,因為這些樹擋路旁櫻的光線,所以砍了。

Silan 搖頭歎息說,”這棵相思樹是我祖父種的,那個時候我爸還小,少說也有六十年。”
Patu說,”沒辦法,鄉公所說遊客要看的是櫻花。”Patu無奈。這項工作很困難,且極危險。Patu 又要開工程車又要鋸樹,一天工資八百元。

很諷刺的是,大樹殞命是在地球日的第二天清晨。難道鄉公所不知道生物多樣性的重要嗎? 只有遊客要看的樹才容許成長,管它生態不生態。




Thursday, April 22, 2004


這個點子的確不錯,但有些不足之處。 第一,美國人嘛,到時候一定會笑,不夠肅穆,我們要的是孝子,不是笑子。 第二,美國人要價高,而且囉嗦,甚麼健保啦、休假啦,我說美國人太麻煩,不如招募東歐人來的實在:白俄、烏克蘭人那一類的。斯拉夫人看起來夠外國(就是這個問題,所以不考慮用泰國人、菲律賓人)。前蘇聯的遺民窮哈哈的,一天發幾個馬鈴薯、幾包香煙、一些零用錢,就感激不已,哪會想到甚麼健保休假?加上、臺灣中南部炎熱的氣候,他們受不了;每一個人量身訂製羊毛黑袍子~像海青~為孝團制服,跟隨靈車扶柩幾步,一個一個地中暑,倒下去口吐白沫,跟家屬朋友解釋為哀慟氣絕,你說效果有多好就有多好,紅包滿天飛。如果喪家加錢的話,孝團裡身材最好的孝女激動到撕裂自己的衣服(撕裂的情形依紅包而斟酌)。 



Sunday, April 11, 2004

阿寶曰: 獨居男子廚房太乾淨,才恐怖。

Sunday, April 04, 2004

A historical note from my mother:
“I remember when Charles Lindbergh flew into Dodge City. Everybody was out where he was going to land and we mistook the first star for his plane, until it was obvious it was a star. The landing field ― no airport ― was a pasture and people lit it with their cars' headlights. We waited and waited and finally, he got there, got out, and was tall and lanky, greeted by the mayor, etc. ― he went away with them after being introduced to & greeted by the crowd and then we all went home, thrilled and exalted.”

That would have been sometime in the late 1920s.

Friday, April 02, 2004

I wrote this about two years ago, about another election.
Yagi Hakaw

Were I running for local office and found my candidacy endorsed by my good friend Yagi Hakaw, I would rush with glistening forehead to thrust gobs of large denomination bills into his stubby hands, beseeching him to root for my rivals. Yagi's support is the kiss of death for a local candidate, a staggering blow, barely to be survived, for a candidate in a larger election.

On the one hand, Yagi has an uncanny ability to pick losers. You want to know who's going to lose the next election, ask Yagi who he's voting for. You want to find out how many votes his candidate got in the last election, look at the bottom of the election results, the very last place.

On the other hand, Yagi's means of showing support practically guarantees opposite results. During the years he was driving a Wulai-Taipei bus, he won votes for all the other parties along the entire 25 kilometer line by his continued, vociferous, forceful support of the Democratic Progressive Party.

Yagi is a wonderful friend, but simply cannot handle a position of the slightest authority. I attribute this to his first job. Freshly graduated from junior high, he was, as were so many Aborigine boys, taken off to sea. This was the first time he had ever left his village in the mountains of Taiwan. He worked a fishing boat for six years, six years on a boat far from the Tribe, far from the mountains, far out at sea on a boat the size of a bus. He isn't sure where his boat was, somewhere in the Pacific, probably stopping in South American ports, because he speaks some Spanish. He was bilked six years of hard labor. He was fed, but every penny of his pay was swindled by various dodges. He escaped wage slavery only by being drafted.

My theory is that the main authority figure, the captain, imprinted on Yagi's soul during these formative years. He handles every position of authority as a tyrannical fishing boat captain, far from shore, would deal with potentially mutinous Aborigines. If ever some passenger, wittingly or not, might drop one coin short in the cash box, Yagi would stop the bus and demand, long and loud, that this thief not try to take advantage of an Aborigine and bilk the bus company, and pay in full. Taiwan may be modern and commercial, but this is still China, and such direct confrontation is frowned upon.

As luck would have it, Yagi's route goes by a government old folks’ home. The old folks, retired civil servants and soldiers, love to ride the bus to the city to buy a head of lettuce, pester doctors, pick up medicine, get a breath of city air, and see the sights. Let some old codger clamber into the bus with less than gymnastic alacrity, and Yagi would immediately begin blistering the paint: “Can't you hurry!? You're going to drive me insane, I don't have a schedule? How long do you want me to wait for you?”

The bus company concocted an excuse to fire him. Perhaps the boss, a DPP backer, also wanted to save some votes for his party.

Loyalties on the edge of tribal and city life are confused. A couple years ago, the government passed legislation requiring all motorcycle riders to wear crash helmets. In Wulai this was taken to imply, 'unless we are riding around the village.' Then one day the Provincial Chief of Police paid a visit to Wulai. He hit the ceiling when he saw a girl driving a motorcycle without a crash helmet. Of course nobody told him that she was a Wulai police officer's little daughter, at nine years old already half way to legal age to get a motorcycle license. To enforce the law, an officer was chosen, an outsider fresh out of police academy. Soon people opened their mail boxes to find fines attached to photos of themselves, from the back, showing license plates and no helmets. Fury! A compromise was reached. The hapless officer was posted far away, but people were asked to remember their helmets, sometimes, and for god's sakes, when the high mucky-mucks come, don't let the grade-schoolers drive motorcycles.

The bus company requires that expired passes be confiscated. The police sent word to the drivers: Yayut lives in the city where her husband works, and she has about thirty rides left on last year's pass, so let it slide. This request provoked several injured responses: I have never punched her ticket before, why would I start with this year's? She is, after all, a Tayal, one of the Tribe, if our boss wants her ticket punched, let him come punch it himself.

Like many Aborigines, Yagi's first loyalty is to Tribe, not Party. Two old men (Han Chinese, flat-landers, not Aborigines)
got on his bus one time before an election, loudly proclaiming in the Minnan dialect that the DPP was sure to win and then the Taiwanese people would stand up, yes sir! Yagi drove silently for about ten minutes, and suddenly bellowed, “Then you 'Taiwanese' can all go back to your goddamned home in the Chinese mainland and leave us Aborigines in peace!!” The old timers slipped off the bus at the next stop.

The unfortunate fact is that Yagi actually has a very sweet side, no matter what people along the route believe. A friend has only to ask, and his help is unstinting. Somebody started peddling an old Aborigine dish, bamboo rice: an instant hit with the tourists who flock to Wulai to enjoy the mountains, the waterfall, and the hot springs. Business boomed. Yagi opened up a stand with his mother and wife, adding banana rice. They produced the best bamboo rice in the Tribe, hands down, no doubt. His rice was so delicious that he was getting all the business. The neighbors complained: you're making all the money, nobody's coming to our stands any more. The accommodating Yagi voluntarily closed down his stand in order not to reduce his neighbors' income.

Now his cousin is running for office. For his election headquarters, the cousin has taken over Yagi's house, downhill from me. This strategic choice shows Yagi's craftsmanship, because we are out on the edge of the village, far enough away that everybody can beg off dropping by the headquarters with the excuse that I wasn't going that way. For his election fight song, he has chosen Naluwan (the word is the Taiwan Aborigine equivalent of Aloha). It consists mostly of a piercing female voice singing one monotonous line over and over
My home is at Naluwaaaaaaaaan~
A song of very high irritation quotient, especially when you hear it repeated all afternoon. He has cranked up the speaker so the people in the village can hear it. They can probably hear it on the moon. Things do not bode well for Yagi's cousin.

Of course not all of Yagi's candidates lose. He backed the winner by default in the last presidential election, Chen Shuibian of the DPP. Yagi celebrated Inauguration Day with the rest of the Tribe's tiny DPP contingent by formally quitting the Party. Then he got roaring drunk. I could hear him howling and crying late into the night.

Postscript: The day after the election, I was shooting the breeze with Abus. To nobody's surprise, Yagi's cousin polled 40 votes out of the thousand votes in Wulai, landing solidly in last place, even behind the Lukai tribesman who for some reason thought he might win some votes. Are you kidding? Running for office in Tayal tribal land all dressed up in a Lukai outfit for your campaign photo?

I laughed that even the Lukai got more votes than Yagi's candidate. Abus, who takes things literally, bristled. “Me? If I ran for office, and Yagi showed up to support me, I'd get my head-hunting knife and chop him up!”

Great minds think alike.