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。