Saturday, December 31, 2005

I handed my purchase to the lady behind the counter. She looked vaguely confused, as if she couldn't understand why I would thrust merchandise at her. She looked around. The barcode scanner seemed to invoke memories. With some hesitance, she picked that up and pointed it, and eventually managed to scan the barcode. I gave her money with bated breath, wondering if she were up to the challenge. She popped open the cash register and looked at the till in mild befuddlement. From her expression, she had never seen US coins before. Slowly, consulting the cash register at every moment, she procured two dimes and a nickel for me. A quarter would have been beyond her capacity. I was roiling with impatience, but I dared not utter a word, for fear it would derail her and we would have to start all over from the top. Next came the ordeal of finding a plastic bag, and placing my goods in that. But there are three sizes of bags!

In Taiwan, a clerk will ring up your purchase while she is bagging the previous customer's goods and answering a third person’s questions. As often as not, she will be chatting on her cell phone all the while.

If you are used to check-out service in Taiwan, American clerks can be a trial.
Taipei is noisy, but it's just noise: people don't care that much if their motors are loud, if there is a backhoe tearing down a building, if someone has left a tv blasting away. It's unintentional.
New York is noisy, but it's invasive: a driver honking to get a move on, a policeman shouting at you to get a move on, a boom box invading your space. It's intentional.

Friday, December 30, 2005

a ride in a horse-drawn carriage is more romantic when the horse is downwind.

"I am so happy to see you take a picture with the bulls. I am Assyrian. I come here all the time to see the bulls. They always make me happy. But I always touch the bulls. They tell me, Don't touch! But I say, These are mine, maybe this man you see here is my great uncle!”
In the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Apparently Americans are enamored of raccoons. Young ladies paint black circles around their eyes before they go to prowl the mall.

Just simply couldn't wait...
a little fire to start things off.
「我出生在仰光,Rangoon。1969年排華,就離開了。如果那個時候到臺灣就好了,可是我們到中國大陸。那個時候是文革,所有學校都關了。因為文革,我們都沒有念書,天天打籃球、上街遊行。後來到香港,已經十八歲了,沒書念。在香港工作八年。我來美國是偷渡,從加拿大進來,所以我沒有文化,I have no education,我書只讀了四年。」

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

LIU has a new 材燒anagama kiln.
Anti\劉安悌 and Eileen.
Yuki is inside the kiln,排窯.

Yuki Hokama

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

P F Chang's Chinese Bistro stands unique among the thousands of Chinese restaurants I have eaten in. The reception crew at the door was composed of two blondes and a black. The waiters and waitresses were mostly blonds with a few black people, the busboys all spoke Spanish, and in fact, Ling was the only oriental face in the whole place. I am sure we were the only people speaking Chinese at all. When we were shown to our seats, Ling pointed out that the boss couldn't possibly be Chinese, because the two gigantic horse statues decorating the dining area both had their heads down. (Later inquiry confirmed her suspicion; the boss is said to be American.) First time I have ever seen a wine list on a menu in a Chinese restaurant, or a list of pies and cakes for dessert. Ah yes, the traditional old Chinese apple pie… The 麻婆豆腐 looked and tasted like none I have ever eaten elsewhere: broccoli and dofu. This?

No bowls for the rice, just a plate. Chopsticks came with knife and fork. The lady at the next table, a supercilious expression under an ornate hairdo, swiftly shoveled her chopsticks into her purse. The waiter demanded them back, tapping on the table and insisting, "Where are the chopsticks?" Supercilious shook her head and looked away; husband looked embarrassed. Plastic chopsticks, for crying out loud!

It should be named P F Chang's American Bizarre.

Aboard the good ship P T Barnum,
from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to
Port Jefferson, Long Island.

with Ann, Sidney, Jean, and Eben, as Thor very carefully encircles us in his leash.

Sitting on the floor, Zach very casually places both feet behind his head, smiles contentedly, then looks at me with a puzzled expression and says, "I understand some people can't do this."

crowding Zoe off her chair.
Ann generously gave us her bedroom and backbreakingly comfortable feather bed to sleep in. At around 5 or 6, well before light, I became aware of a presence in the room. The wind was up. The bedroom door, which I had shut, was open, and there was something in the room, moving back and forth. I lifted my head from the pillow. A white blob was floating around the room about a meter off the ground. Nothing else was visible in the predawn dark: ectoplasm? the Ghost of Christmas Past? I dared not stir. I heard a slight sound: scritch scritch. The blob floated back and forth.

Fortunately, Ann had told me that sometimes she puts a cone on Thor's head to keep him from licking that sore on his front leg. He is not allowed upstairs, but high wind frightens him, so he seeks solace from Ann, whose bed we were occupying.

Without waking Ling, I crawled out of bed and tried to eject Thor. He was happy for the attention, but dug in his feet and refused to budge. I stood outside the door whispering, Thor! Thor! trying to lure him away. Ann, sleeping with Zoe, heard me and trundled downstairs with Thor, telling him to stay put.

He was back upstairs in ten minutes, but I had the door firmly shut.

Monday, December 26, 2005

We did a snow dance, but all we got was a little drizzle.

Amy brought Spencer and Avery.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Thor shows off the trophy he won when he chased that fat guy.

I was disappointed that it didn't snow, but at least we had a good Christmas Day snowball fight at Sticks and Stones, Tim's place.
Ann, Connecticut.

A Philosophical Rumination on Christmas

Everybody knows that if you are naughty, you get coal in your Christmas stocking. But have you ever pondered the significance of that lump of coal, or rather, its utilitarian value? See, coal is a hard substance. Placed in a stocking, it can be swung like a sap to make a very effective close-range weapon. If you use that to bludgeon the good kiddies, who have kept their noses clean and have not honed their fighting skills, you can take their gifts from them, so you get more, rather than less, Christmas loot than your peers.

Ho, ho, splat!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Cousins Ann and Eben,
and, of course, dear old Thor.

Christmas Eva at Ann's, Trumbull, Connecticut.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Just a few degrees above freezing: lovely weather for the beach!
Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

For the first time in 25 years, the transit workers in New York have gone on strike. I suspect they may have done this in honor of my visit.

With no subways, Ling and I bravely decided to drive into New York. Plans! We had great plans! We'll go to Central Park! Then we'll go to the MOM! Then SoHo for a look at the scene there, followed by dinner in Little Italy, and a romp to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas lights! Merry plans! What did Robert Browning say?

We got to the city in good time. We quickly discovered how much New Yorkers love to honk their horns. Traffic was moving like ocean sediment. Ocean sediment, that is, with blaring horns. We switched lithely from this one way street to the next. Look! There's Fifth Avenue! Let's park! What? $18.95 for a half hour parking? Let's not park! More heavy traffic. Look! There's Madison Avenue! Let's park and take a look. No place to park. Look! There's Penn Station! Let's park and take a look! No place to park. Look! There's Madison Square Garden! Let's stay in the car and look! Look! There's more heavy traffic! Let's go to SoHo instead! Good idea! Where's SoHo? More one way streets, more ocean sediment, more honking horns. We gradually made our way across town, when suddenly, we saw a vision more miraculous than the star leading the wise men: a parking space! Ling quickly slipped the car into the space and we happily fed the meter quarters. I asked the man in the lock shop by the parking space how to get to SoHo. "Walk," he suggested helpfully, "You can go four blocks up this way to Hudson, then turn left on Hudson until you reach the Fountain of Youth, and turn right at Shangrila, and it's just past the unicorn stables.” Those weren't his exact words, but they might just as well have been. We kept an eye on the time, lest our parking meter die, but we did not reach SoHo. BUT! Our trip was not in vain! We DID manage to find a McDonald's so we could borrow the bathroom.

What a sense of accomplishment we bathed in as we happily munched on our fries. Thus invigorated, we launched forth again, and after battling traffic for only another hour, we did manage to find SoHo. After a happy trip through SoHo, we headed home. We circled the streets for an hour until we finally found the entrance to the bridge that would lead us to Long Island. Through some trickery, the exit led us off onto darkened streets. We could see the bridge receding into the distance behind and above us as we battled our way through a maze of one way streets.

Now I am going to say something that no New Yorkers will believe, but which I swear is the absolute truth. At a gas station I asked a taxi driver how to get to Long Island, and he could actually speak English!

There goes my reputation for truth and honesty, but I swear a taxi driver spoke good English and told me how to get on the road to Long Island. So after only two and a half hours circling through cordons of one way streets and honking drivers, we actually found ourselves on the expressway speeding cheerfully to the expressway to Long Island… so cheerfully, in fact, that we flew by our exit without noticing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I stuffed my feet into my shoes a month ago to remove a poisonous snake from my back door, just in case the snake bolted towards my feet. The last time I had worn shoes before that was, oh, two or three years ago, when I wore my shoes to class for novelty's sake.

I took my shoes out of the closet in preparation for the big trip to New York – SNOW! Before sunrise this morning I put them on. I was pleased that I remembered how to tie the laces. I walked down to the road where my taxi picked me up at 4:50 and deposited me at the airport. After a speedy check-in, I happened to notice the sole was working off the big toe of the right shoe. Walking through Immigration, I left a trail of crumbling black plastic behind me, like Hansel and Gretel walking through the forest. By the time my passport was stamped, my soles were flapping, and by the time I reached the duty free shops, my right sole had fallen off entirely.

Hello, do you sell shoes?

No, but we can give you some tape.

The nice people gave me a fat role of tape, so I wrapped it around and around my shoes. Hardly elegant, but sturdy. In the Hong Kong airport, I spotted a store selling shoes. I wandered in. The clerk gave me a quick one-over, sniffed, and hid her head in her inventory, willing me to disappear: who let this hobo into the airport?

They let me onto the flight, though, and we commenced on the second longest commercial flight in the world: Hong Kong to New York, in nearly 16 hours. I shed black plastic all over the floor. Hardly elegant, but the tape wrapping my shoes together lasted long enough to get me around to the other side of the world. First thing I did when Ling picked me up at JFK was say, Let's go buy me some new shoes!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Monday, December 19, 2005







Sunday, December 18, 2005

Qalux跟長子Qoyaw說,"Kwara laqi musa 補習;Soro補理化、Ciana補鋼琴、Iba補英文,你呢,Qoyaw,你想不想去補甚麼?”

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A true story
「嗯,那個…我呢,我已經考過 GR二啦!」

Friday, December 16, 2005



Thursday, December 15, 2005

陶維極說,管它的! A ta lahuy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

unclear on the concept
To commemorate the 65th birthday of Bruce Lee, a statue of him was unveiled in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, a city that has been ravaged by war. Why Bruce Lee, why Bosnia-Herzegovina, you might well ask. Lee is supposed to symbolize unity for the Roman Catholic Croats and the Muslim Bosnians, who have been at each others' throats for generations.

The bronze statue shows Lee as you think of him: Beatles haircut, head slightly down, wide cat stance, no shirt(get a load of them abs!), left hand out with fingers splayed, right hand choking way up on numchuks held in that ridiculous armpit grip. The whole message is, don't tread on me, or I'll whale you! Stand down, you turd, or you won't live to regret crossing me.

As a Buddhist Serbian-American, I would like to ask my Croatian and Bosnian brethren, how on earth is this supposed to symbolize peace and unity?

What I suggest is they robe the statue in a white habit and rename it Mother Teresa of Calcutta. They can saw the chain off the numchuks and make it a candle. At the very least, since she was Macedonian, that'll give the Croats and Bosnians an enemy to unify against.

Left, the statue of Bruce Lee.
Right, the improved statue of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Monday, December 12, 2005

You've got to hand it to the Germans, they are nothing if not thorough.
Recently a 34 year old lady in Zuelp Ich, Germany (love that name! Zuelp Ich!!) had spiders in a hedge by her garage, which of course will not do in a well ordered Teutonic household. She got a can of hairspray and a cigarette lighter, and attempted to achieve a Final Solution, but the hairspray did not fry all the unwelcome arachnids, so she tried to ignite them individually with the lighter. She very efficiently torched not only the spiders, but also the hedge they were on, which was by this time saturated with inflammable hairspray. She tried to douse the hedge fire with a hose, but instead, her house caught on fire and burned down. A police spokesman said, "The family have had to look for somewhere else to stay. The spiders are gone, though. That problem was solved."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

"Hi there, neighbor, shouldn't you be hibernating by now?"
"I'm on my way, I'm on my way."

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Friday, December 09, 2005

修行的重點是甚麼? 觀照起心動念。行住坐臥、日常、非常、生老病死、林林總總事,洞察自心的動機,了了分明,才是修行。

Thursday, December 08, 2005

a genuine ghost story
一個人傍晚回家,轉到自家住的路上,赫然看到,前面有大頭鬼!! 大頭鬼沉重的步伐,一步一步在金瓜石陡峭的道路往下走,看得一清二楚,鐵定不是幻象!!身體跟一般人一樣,可是整個頭是白的,沒有頭髮沒有耳朵,就是一顆非常非常大的頭!!比西瓜還大的頭!儼然大頭鬼!!太恐怖!! 大頭鬼一直往前走,這位先生沒辦法,躡足潛蹤在後面跟,深怕大頭鬼轉進自己家裡…好險,過門不入! 趕快竄進去把門反鎖,堆桌椅櫃櫥擋住門,然後到祖先牌位前拼命磕頭,嚇得他太太不知道先生重了甚麼邪,放聲大哭。先生跟她講大頭鬼,太太趕緊把兒女抱過來,一家大小縮在佛桌下,徹夜不敢睡也不敢出來。





Wednesday, December 07, 2005




Tuesday, December 06, 2005

bits of Taipei history
In 1971, just before I came, they knocked down the row of houses in the middle of 信義Road. The military's nickname for 新生南路 was Canal Street, because of the璢公canal running down the middle. In those days, there were four groups of foreigners in Taiwan; the military, some highly obnoxious missionaries, a few businessmen, and a small number learning Chinese. The first three groups kept together. They were hostile and suspicious of us in the fourth group.

The largest group of students was in the International House: 國際學舍:舊址在現在大安公園,北臺最醜的觀音像後面。 Largest group, maybe 20 people all told. We did not associate with the snobs in the Stanford program. What is now the AIT, the American Institute in Taiwan/美國在臺協會used to be a sort of plush unit of the US forces here, the Military Advisory Group,Taiwan 美軍顧問團, MAGT in military talk, so we feckless residents of the I House down the street named it Maggot.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Yugan, 有沒有看到那個胖子?
我們叫他 Masaw.
Tayal ga?
Ini Tayal. 他是閩南人,不是泰雅。
Nanu sa? Ini pongan ku lalu Masaw.
Aw, 這是老一代的人給他取的名字,叫 Masaw的人不大好。他是賣豬肉的,二三十年前開車到烏來,看到Tayal就硬把豬肉半斤一斤往手上送,說,沒錢沒關係,我明後天再來收。Yugan,你了解Tayal的個性,他這樣硬塞豬肉,Tayal就sayux,收下,結果欠錢。看到他來要躲起來,不想拿他的豬肉。那個時代的Tayal哪有錢還債?欠的錢可能很多,可是根本沒有錢,一個月的生活費只有幾百塊,他的豬肉很貴,所以只好躲他。老一代的人給他取名Masaw,聽到這個名字就知道這個人不老實,離他遠一點。
Aw, Qalux, 我很高興當初Tali Watan給我取的是Yugan,不是Masaw。

Sunday, December 04, 2005

If I romanticized democracy more, it would have been a moving sight. Amongst the mountains circling Tampya village, a tent was a hive of activity, for the Tampya poll was placed on a flat spot with a spectacular view up, down, and all around. The Aborigines walked, rode motorcycles, or drove up to cast their votes.

Yesterday during the voting, the weather held. It started pouring minutes after I returned home from class shortly before midnight, and the temperature fell with the rain. I dragged myself out of bed before daybreak because I had to go teach a special class this morning. At the big Wulai bridge, a row of Tayal stood in yellow plastic throwaway raincoats and red vests with their candidate, who won a seat in yesterday's election. They were out there to thank voters as they passed. The flaw in the plan was that with the cold rain, there was nobody afoot at the ungodly hour of 7: only them and me.

They grew animated as I approached: somebody to wave to! Finally! One of the men shouted, "Yugan! Ziboq balai, hzaq na! Musa su inu?"

"Musa mtbaq kman.”

The exchange alerted everybody to the presence of a living, breathing person they could actually wave to! Wow! Action! The man next to him started waving, and shouted in English, "Sank you! Sank you varrrrrrrrrry mahchee!" with a terrific trill on the R. Aborigines love to trill Rs so much that sometimes when they speak Mandarin, they change Ls to Rs just to trill them. I waved back as I plodded through that big puddle at the head of the bridge (~in flip flops: a sure way to wake up.)

The whole line of them started waving both arms and jumping up and down, shouting "Sank you varrrrrrry mahchee," even though they know as well as I that, being an American citizen, I don't vote in local elections. They were standing by the road to thank people, so by gum they were going to thank! Soon they tired of thanking me and started shouting "I lahv you!" Gone was the bedraggled, dispirited demeanor of five minutes before. They jumped and waved and shouted. I felt I had done my bit for democracy.

Saturday, December 03, 2005



Friday, December 02, 2005

「你自己看。」把書傳過來。翻開來看,真是好笑。裡面的道理,彷彿是神心不穩的高中女生寫的,可是最好笑的是照片。一張一張很明顯是double exposure相片,都是西裝筆挺的油頭粉面的宋七力,但這個重複曝光的照片,是用來證明他能分身,變出化身來。我笑到快哭出來了。


Thursday, December 01, 2005

因此也了解一個道理。秦漢印璽字勁難效,也是如此。 Friday 補記。