Monday, October 31, 2005

President Bush said, "The best way to honor the sacrifice of our fallen troops is to complete the mission and lay the foundation of peace by spreading freedom." In other words, the best way to honor the sacrifice of our fallen troops is to get more of them killed. I don't get it.

An average of 15 American troops are killed every week, and double that number of Iraqis, because a bunch of Saudis murdered 3,000 Americans in the World Trade Center.

Will Bush quit when he's killed 3,000 Americans too?
An Australian heroin smuggler has been sentenced to death in Singapore, prompting complaints that the sentence is 'too hideous,' and calls for 'humane treatment.' I am very sorry, but with all due respect, I would like to ask if selling heroin is not hideous; if selling heroin for people to shoot up their veins and destroy their health, their future, their families, their society, and their dignity as human beings is 'humane treatment.' Amitabha.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

In woodcarving class, I had roughed out the double headed hundred-pacer snake, so I figured I could start carving the details, and decided to start with the eyes. Let's see, the eyes should go about here… I selected a round chisel and soon had the eyes fashioned.

Just then, Teacher Saguliu came over to see how I was doing. He looked at my carving aghast. "You should have told me you were going to do the eyes!”


"You should have told me before you did the eyes!”

Personally, I thought the eyes were pretty good. Teacher was sputtering. He finally found words. "That's not how you carve the eyes on a hundred-pacer!”

"No?" I thought they were okay. Teacher struggled with his feelings. "No! Those aren't hundred pacer eyes, those are TADPOLE EYES!" He shook his head, glaring at my carving of the Paiwan totem like a US Marine looking at a picture of the American bald eagle in a pink miniskirt licking a lollipop. "Tadpole eyes! Those aren't hundred pacer eyes! … Yugan, take them out, do them over."

It was my turn to be aghast. "Take them out? How can I do that?”

Teacher relaxed a bit. "You've forgotten that a hundred pacer has an upturned snout, so the face goes like this anyway," he said, making a concave curve with his hand.

This was beyond my ability. I silently handed Teacher the mallet and chisel. Bang, bang, bang, he swiftly (and merrily) removed the offending eyes and reshaped the head with a few expert whacks of the mallet. "See, Brother, the eyes go here and here, on the side of the head, and they are oval, not round." He quickly roughed out one eye with a small chisel. "Now do the others. You can't have tadpole eyes on a hundred pacer!”

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The realm of superstrings is so small that light does not exist there. Be they wave, be they particle, the photons of light are too large to exist there.

I speculate on phenomena analogous to light that we are far too small to be aware of.

How could a being of superstring size contemplate the marvels of sight?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Yesterday I took my new camera to the speech contest. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out all the functions, so I goofed up some really good shots. However, here is one that has its own qualities. One of the ladies in a wheelchair was being wheeled out as the kids marched back to class. Their line swayed over to touch her and wave at her.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Speech! Speech!
Today Wulai Elementary School held its Tayal Speech Contest. In addition to encouraging the aborigine kids to speak their ancestral language, the principal invited several old ladies to show the youngsters the proper way to do it.
Six old ladies came to sing and dance. Fifty little kids watched, and clapped along. Two of the ladies are confined to wheelchairs, so their dancing was confined to waving their arms. Half of them sang melodic songs, the other half the ancient chant-like songs. One lady forgot her lines halfway through her song. The others laughed so hard they cried.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

a nice photo I took in February. (you couldn't post photos in these blogs then, or if you could, it was beyond my level of technical competence.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

雖然已經不是國定價日,但是還是祝大家 Happy光復節,good riddance 日本帝國主義統治者。六十年了。怎麼不放燄火?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

We are all building a culture together, and it is one with a remarkably consistent message. From the shady groves of our elite universities to the Hollywood offices of Interscope Records, a chorus of powerful voices is telling us that men don't need to stand by their women and children anymore. Male rappers delight in this notion because there is sexual power to be gained by impregnating many women. Feminists like it because it allows them to enjoy the delights of being a mother without the hassles of being a wife.

The ramifications of this new attitude are going to be grave. Belittle men's responsibilities to their families, raise boys to believe that fatherhood is not a worthy aspiration, and the people who will suffer are women and children. For the past forty years women have been insisting that they be able to enjoy the same sexual freedoms as men (You go, girl!), and to become single mothers by choice (ditto!). Surprise, surprise: men have been more than happy to comply. Someday American women may realize that the great achievement of civilization wasn't Erica Jong's zipless fuck of yesteryear. It was convincing men that they had an obligation to contain their sexual energies within marriage and to support – economically and emotionally – the children they created in that marriage. You go, June Cleaver!
-Caitlin Flanagan, Boys will be Boys, The Atlantic Monthly, November 2005, page 162

Saturday, October 22, 2005

another snappy slogan
From North Korea (of course):
“Let us trim our hair in accordance with Socialist lifestyle.”

Makes you want to rush to Pyongyang, doesn’t it?

Friday, October 21, 2005

An antique seller on Ebay has a very catchy slogan:

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I have never made any pretension that I could understand what is buzzing around in the exalted cranium of His Travesty George Dubya Bush. He accuses the Islamic radicals of trying to 'intimidate the world.' And pray tell me, what was Shock and Awe designed to do? He sends the National Guard to shoot Iraqis because the Suadi bin Laden is a terrorist hiding somehwere in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The National Guard is, naturally, unavailable to help in Lousiana, but that doesn't matter because neither is he. He sends billions of dollars to Mars but won't let people cross a bridge to escape flooded New Orleans. He cuts taxes. Who benefits from his tax cuts? 97% of these tax cuts go to people making over US$200,000 a year, and 54% to people making over a million dollars annually: not the types you see huddling in the Superbowl, slogging through ankle-deep urine as the roof rips off. Since these tax cuts will save those rich people something like US$150 billion over the first ten years, there won't be much money for things like Medicaid, and a lot of the health care for victims of Katrina will be cut by those compassionate conservative Republicans. Saudi Arabia is doing little to discourage their current slave trade in prostitutes, child prostitutes, and forced laborers, but President Bush decided to look the other way, apparently because he believes Saudi Arabia to be our allies in fighting terrorism, regardless of where those 9/11 hijackers came from, and regardless of how little the Sauds have done to crack down on Al Qaeda. I guess he looks back to precedent: they used to have slaves in Texas, didn't they? So wouldn't be banning slavery in our beloved Saudi Arabia be playing a double standard? The man who won his second term on a ‘moral vote’ disregards the Geneva Convention and condones the torturing of prisoners. Now he is complaining that the investigations into his wrongdoings and the uproar over his inappropriate Supreme Court nomination are "background noise, a lot of chatter," complicating the work of his administration. That's like blaming a policeman for pulling you over for doing 120mph in a 35 mph zone.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

how come I'm not surprised they're both Northwestern?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005



Monday, October 17, 2005

Taiwan has the most gorgeous moonscapes imaginable. The full moon, still hidden behind the ridge, lit up a column of cloud so that it shined like a lightbulb against the dark sky. Then the moon climbed out, a soft light against the black mountains and sky. I sat on the porch roof, eating my dinner and enjoying the fall cool. Then I started wondering, is there something wrong with my eyes? The moon doesn't look round. The lower right hand corner looks sort of flattened out. I soon realized: eclipse.

The eclipse was partial. It lasted only from about 7 until after 8, and was never really noticeable, although all the neighborhood dogs started barking about the time I noticed the effect. Of course they always bark, so that might not have been why. Maybe just general dogginess. I felt privileged to see an eclipse that I imagine very few people noticed. The moon is not so important against city lights, and at that time, most people were transfixed by their televisions anyway.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

feeling crabby?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Traditionally the Tayal are weavers, producing practically indestructible cloth (women) and equally indestructible baskets (men). They have produced little pottery and no woodcarving.

The town hall arranged for the first ever wood carving class for the Wulai Tayal. They invited a teacher from the Paiwan tribe, at the other end of the island, Taiwan;s woodcarvers par excellence*. Of course I signed up, and our first lesson was today. Lucky me.

Seven people showed up. It seems that one specification for the class is that you ought to have Temu in your name, because we had Yoyung Temu, Temu Heyong, and Yasa Temu. (Where was Temu Hakaw?) Lalung was there too. About a year ago, he came down from the mountains, where he spent three or four years hunting, come down once a month or so to buy rice. I expect the best carving to come from Temu Heyong and Lalung.

Each participant was issued ten unsharpened chisels, a canvas bag to hold them, a wooden mallet, paper and pen, and a board to carve. The board is about five or six centimeters thick, 50 wide, and two meters long. It weighs about 35 kilograms. Ok, for those who don't know metric, that means it's about 3 fingers thick, and I could lie comfortably on it, with space for a watermelon at my feet. The board is about half my weight. The cost of the materials is hardly covered by the nominal registration fee; the town hall made up the difference: an advantage of being part of a disadvantaged minority. (You have to be a registered resident of Wulai to take the course, and technically, it is restricted to Aborigines, unless you really want to join.)

Our teacher, Saguliu Jiagun, looks like a typical Paiwan, has a short beard and hair that reaches his shoulder. He is laconic, or perhaps just shy. He first gave a short speech, explaining that we were going to study woodcarving; carving may be relief or three dimensional, the difference being that anything with a hole all the way through it is three dimensional; there are old and new styles of Paiwan carving; there are three kinds of chisels; you carve this way (whack whack whack);
first you have to sharpen your chisels. We trooped outside to learn how to sharpen the chisels. "You hold the chisel this way….. not this way…. and you do this….” Each statement was followed by a five second pause and a demonstration. "Here is how you do this…… not this way….. here is how you do this….. who will volunteer to demonstrate what I just showed you?" Yasa Temu stepped forward and started stropping away. Temu Yoyong explained to Teacher, "We call him Wulai Picasso, because Yasa is the only painter in Wulai." Teacher accepted this pronouncement in silence. Somebody goofed: instead of dozen whetstones, we were supplied with only four, three fine and one coarse. When Yasa had worked for a while, Teacher said, "These whetstones are too fine….. you should each sharpen all ten of your chisels, but because of these whetstones, just sharpen one of each kind."

Four men went to work on the whetstones. The rest of us wandered inside. Teacher told us to plan our carving. He handed us a sheath of pictures of Tayal in traditional dress. "Carve something like these, they are your tribesmen…. You may want to draw a picture on paper first…. There is paper for you." Lalung and Temu Heyong took paper and pen in hand, probably for the first time in a decade, and grimly set to work, like grade schoolers taking a particularly difficult math test. Teacher approached one of the boards. "….we need chalk to draw on the boards…." The other day I unthinkingly carried a piece of chalk out of class and dropped it in my backpack, for lack of anything better to do with it. I fished it out and handed it to Teacher, who began roughing a sketch on a board. Naluwan, from the Town Hall, was dispatched to lift a box of chalk from Wulai Elementary. Teacher demonstrated how to clear out chips with a compressor-powered chisel.

Yasa finished sharpening a chisel, and came indoors. He immediately set to work on his board. He roughed out a sketch in moments, and started chiseling. He hadn't sharpened his chisel properly, so in a short while, he put it down and attacked his board with the power chisel. Teacher looked on without saying anything, but ignored him from then on. I took over Yasa's whetstone, and then got a turn on the rough whetstone, so within an hour I had the three main chisels ready to carve. Yasa was halfway through his carving by this time. Temu Heyong called me over and very proudly showed me his drawing: Lalung in traditional dress, headhunting tattoos and all. Temu had difficulty with the nose. It meandered all over Lalung's face. I praised his work, but privately thought it would be impossibly difficult to carve. Teacher silently took the drawing, and sketched out the basic ideas on a board for him: "Carve it that way."

"Teacher, may I borrow your Paiwan hundred-pacers?" I asked. The Paiwan totem is the poisonous hundred pacer snake. He was pleased by the idea, so I sketched a standing Tayal man with a Paiwan hundred pacer coiled over his head. Teacher helped me sketch the head-hunting knife. I put chisel to wood.

All too soon, it was 11:30. Although class runs until 5, I had to teach in the city at 2, so with great reluctance, I packed my tools and took my leave. When I left, I was surprised to find that I felt like I had had a good morning's exercise. Woodcarving is more strenuous than it looks.

* Par excellence is a French term of such abstruse significance that any attempt at translation into English is futile, leaving me no choice but to display my erudition by reverting to the original French. For you pathetic, uncouth troglodytes who do not read French, allow me to condescendingly inform you that the phrase means par excellence.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Gnash your teeth
Imagine if, in advance of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of trucks had been waiting with water and ice and medicine and other supplies. Imagine if 4,000 National Guardsmen and an equal number of emergency aid workers from around the country had been moved into place, and five million meals had been ready to serve. Imagine if scores of mobile satellite-communications stations had been prepared to move in instantly, ensuring that rescuers could talk to one another….

Actually, this requires no imagination: it is exactly what the Bush administration did a year ago when Florida braced for Hurricane Frances. Of course the circumstances were very special: it was two months before the presidential election, and Florida's twenty-seven electoral votes were hanging in the balance. It is hardly surprising that Washington ensured the success of 'the largest response to a natural disaster we've ever had in this country.' The president himself passed out water bottles to Floridians driven from their homes.
-Richard Clarke, Things Left Undone, The Atlantic Monthly, November 2005 p37

Thursday, October 13, 2005


汽車廣告有個好例子:九人座是男人對家庭永遠鬥陣的保證。鬼扯蛋嘛!稍微用幾個腦細胞就知道這是nonsense。為什麼是永遠?五億年後還有這台九人座嗎? 有甚麼保證? 說不定買了後座寬敞的車是方便男人拈花惹草。可是現代人被訓練得服服貼貼的,毫無主見;一定很多人看到廣告詞就決定買一台九人座。九人座:老公 + 老婆 = 二人,現在有幾家生七個孩子?誰管它! 廣告這樣寫,我們趕快去買吧!! 有空位?沒關係,多生幾個就恰恰好。

「個性」是現今廣告業者的最愛。買這件大量生產的商品來表現你的獨特個性! 今天看到一個廣告:

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

「他前一陣子到烏來,想看看我們的山找畫的靈感。我遇到他在 tataq na balang qasa,跟他聊起來,請他到 ngasal ku, maniq mami, 很開心他啦。他說是他第一次交原住民朋友,我叫他常常來烏來tama cisal啦,mosay啦。後來他送我一副他的畫。」
「balay bi?」
「balay. 那副畫我放在家裡看了幾天,後來拿去丟掉了。Muling syuq.」
「Muling syug? Nanu sa?」
「Yaqeh kitay bi. 他說他畫鵝在水池,鵝也不像鵝,水池也不像水池,留它幹嘛?垃圾車來的時候,我把它丟掉了。留它幹嘛?」

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


不管。先把崇洋節列為國定假日。崇洋節如果講中國話(國語、閩南語、客家語、任何方言),要罰。連姓名都要洋化;例如總統陳水扁先生要叫 Mr Bean。家裡的筷子用一條綠布封起來,用餐要拿刀叉,最好吃漢堡。嚴禁吃麵、飯等。開車一定要遵守交通規則(這一項最難)。進到家裡要穿鞋子,不可以脫! 入門脫鞋原是中國傳統,所以要摒除。回家也不准換舒適的便服,上班的衣服要穿到睡覺才脫,而且不可以睡覺前洗澡,規定要等早上起床後。也可以效法歐洲人,乾脆不洗澡算了。
真心愛臺灣的人把頭髮染成金髮、戴上綠隱形眼鏡 (不可以戴『藍』!!!小心被批鬥!),最好把血都抽出來換洋血,去中國化!

順便廢除農曆年,因為英文叫 Chinese New Year. 改「譴華節」,祖先牌位列出來,歷代祖先痛罵,因為幾乎都是外省人。要這樣罵:「可惡的外省人來臺灣幹嘛!?好好的臺灣,都是外省人搞壞了!」如果罵累了,原住民很樂意幫忙。

備註: Mr Bean在歐美頗有名氣。




Monday, October 10, 2005

Today is Double Ten, the 94th anniversary of the beginning of the revolution that ended the Chinese monarchy (nominally, and for now, anyway) and established the Republic of China.

I am not for any political party. In my view, asking a politician to be honest goes against the nature of the beast. If the people are well fed, well clothed, have decent houses, are well educated and reasonably content, that is a good government.

I believe that by 1990, the situation in Taiwan was like that. The economy was strong, people had money in their pockets for more than just the next meal, and everything was running smoothly for the vast majority of people here. People had stopped caring what dialect you spoke at home, or what province your ancestors were buried in. The feeling was especially strong around Double Ten. There were big parades in the morning and fireworks in the evening. Lights were hung all around the President's Office. Crowds of people visited in the evening to admire the lights and their accomplishments. The feeling of pride and achievement was palpable.

The problem arose that some ambitious politicians were not eating enough pork. They decided they had to do something to make people dissatisfied.

Come Double Ten, 1991, the opposition (I forget, was the Democratic Progressive Party organized yet then?) announced plans to disrupt the parade past the President's Office, with promises of violence. In response, the whole area around the Parade route was cordoned off with barbed wire. At the time, Merica, where I teach, was in three buildings (後來都重建。現在南陽街襄陽街角那棟大樓,本來是一棟八層樓的;美加租二樓到五樓,旁邊有一棟四層樓的,是美加的,現在美加大樓是原來老舊的房子,像兔窩。) The demarcation line ran right through the middle, so when I came out of class at ten, I walked out of the cordoned area, past the barbed wire. The MPs on duty were obviously embarrassed as we all trooped through their little gate. You could leave, but not enter without the proper papers.

The problem was I lived inside the cordon, a kilometer away, by the parade route. I had brought identification. I got on my bike and pedaled homeward, turning, as usual down 紹興南路 (那時才打通沒很久), where I approached a gate back through the cordon. Dismounting my bike well before I reached the gate, I pulled my ID out of my bookbag and presented it to the MPs. They ascertained that my address showed I did live within the cordon, so, apologizing for the nuisance, they opened the gate and let me through.

It was very quiet that night, no traffic on the street. The next morning I went out with the neighbors to watch the tanks go by. Everybody cheered the soldiers, trying to make up for the thin number of spectators. The politicians ruined everybody's holiday, but what do they care? They're in power now.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

He's not a nuisance, he's my brotherrrrrrrrrr~~

Saturday, October 08, 2005

sunset one day last month

Friday, October 07, 2005

living room

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Tloyal Tlahuy.

alert Tlahuy.
The news says President Bush insists that Harriet Miers is the nation's best-qualified candidate and assured skeptical conservatives that his lawyer-turned-Supreme Court nominee shares his judicial philosophy and always will. "I've known her long enough to know she's not going to change, that 20 years from now she will be the same person with the same judicial philosophy she has today," Bush said. "She'll have more experience. She'll have been a judge, but nevertheless the philosophy won't change."
This may be the best reason I have heard to keep her out of the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

This morning when I opened the front door, I found I had a little guest.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I am proud of the iron discipline I have inculcated on Yumin. Here is a genuine, unretouched photograph of his lightning reaction after I called him for the fourth time.

Any disinterested observer will note that he is very definitely looking at me, responding to my call. And only the fourth call!

For a beagle, that is iron discipline.
laterally projecting prominence of the pelvis, laterally projecting prominence of the pelvis, HOORAY! for Cousin Steve.

Yesterday I belittled Americans for not being metric, and queried why front yard is two words, but backyard one.

Steve asked, If the US goes metric, does that mean we have to call them the front meter and backmeter?

It's in the genes.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The typhoon knocked a branch off the 茄苳tree in my front yard. Here is a caterpillar I found munching on the leaves just now. Without stretching too much, it's 10 cm long.
When you see a caterpillar like this, you say Mr Caterpillar, sir, would you care for some more leaves?

I don't know what kind of butterfly this will become. An aircraft carrier, I suspect.

For you benighted folks who don't know metric yet (shame! shame!) 10 cm is about four inches.

Query: how come backyard is one word but front yard is two?
surprising discovery
You may end up tracking blood all over the place if you trim your toenails with wire cutters.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The season's 19th typhoon is leaving. We had lots of wind. The highest gale force is 17. The east coast got force 17+, which probably means they have to buy new gauges again.
Mountains protect. Here we got only force 8 or 9, but it was impressive, the strongest winds we've had since I moved here, I believe. Thin shafts of bamboo were shorn off clean. A lot of tree branches got broken; not old wormy stuff but vigorous growing branches that were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The old wormy stuff all got knocked off earlier in the summer. A branch the size of my calf got wrenched off the 茄苳tree I planted out front. I was thinking, that's sturdy wood, what does it take to rip that off the trunk? The wind shook my house, which fortunately is well built.
They really shouldn't name typhoons Dragon King. or Elephant God.
I should clarify: bamboo is resilient. Thick bamboo may split due to the weight of its leaves, but thin bamboo is so springy that it is very difficult to snap. You can whip it, leaves and all, and it won't break.

This morning I stood on the second floor porch watching the rain go like this:
It fell, then the wind blew it into my porch and up.
For some reason, a pigeon was out, and it was flying like this:
And very fast, too! The wind was tossing it up and down like a rubber ball in a child's game. The poor pigeon must have been getting airsick!
Ever see a pigeon barf?
A strange green butterfly flew past me, circled around, hovered, came back, went forward. Strange, I had never seen a butterfly like that. When it suddenly shot upward, I realized that it was a sprig with a couple leaves on it.

So the wind was impressive, roaring back and forth, but there wasn't much rain. Wulai got only about 10 inches this afternoon, very little in the morning. I spent over an hour working outdoors this morning without a raincoat, and my clothes were pretty dry when I came in.

Tlahuy and Yumin spent the whole time sleeping in their doghouse. Smart dogs!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

We've got another typhoon, number 19 this season, the third in the last month that has been bigger than Katrina. If they occur in the Atlantic, they're called hurricanes, if they occur in the Pacific, they're called typhoons. Typhoon comes from the Chinese 颱風tai-fung, which is of obscure origin, but probably means 'winds (fung) coming from Taiwan (Taiwan),' since most of them hit us. That's why we handle them so well.

It's relative. Hurricane Rita caused trouble in the American South with 8 or 9 inches of rain. At the same time, a little hurricane passing south of Taiwan – I didn't even pay attention to the name – brought 25 inches (640mm) of rain to Wulai; buses ran as regular, schools held class, no big deal. There was a problem in some places with Typhoon Nali, which brought over four feet of rain, but not in Wulai, and Taipei city was okay too, just wet. If Taipei got an inch of snow, that would cause utter havoc, and I seriously think that five degrees below freezing would bring down the government. Buildings are constructed to withstand typhoons and earthquakes, but not freezing temperatures. Water pipes would burst. A lot of walls are so saturated with water that if they froze, they would probably crumble. Everybody would freak out. I can't imagine what traffic would be like. Think of hordes of frenzied race horses on ice skates.

Interesting bit of trivia: Taipei has tall buildings, including the world's tallest, the 101, but that's not my trivia. Here it is: earthquakes are not as deadly to tall buildings as typhoons are. We get both. An earthquake jiggles and shakes, pretty much from one direction, for at most a minute or two. A typhoon can blow at full strength on the whole building for twenty four hours or more.
Had both today, as a matter of fact. There was a little earthquake this afternoon.
All in all, I'm just as happy I'm not up on the 92nd storey today.

Here in the mountains, we are protected from the worst winds, which on the coast are so strong they destroy the measuring equipment. That's why we handle typhoons so well: everything that can be blown away was blown away years ago. Signs are better made now, so they rarely fly down streets any more. That's comforting. They must use better acrylic, too, because 30 years ago, after a good typhoon, the streets would be covered with fragments of pulverized signs, but that doesn't happen any more. Fine with me. Not with the people who make signs. They used to love typhoons.

This typhoon is a bit strange. Meteorologists named it 龍王Lungwang, not a very good name: Dragon King. Dragons bring rain. Not too much, please. It's almost on the coast, but we haven't had much rain or wind. Instead, we have thunder and lightning, which usually don't go with typhoons. Satellite photos show it is tight, with a long plume reaching almost to the Aleutian Islands. More like a tadpole than a dragon.