Friday, September 30, 2005

I may be reading too much into this, projecting.

It's been eight months since Bengax died, and Yumin still spends time at her graveside. I often see him sitting there looking at where she is buried.

Of course he may just feel that that piece of ground is more comfortable, and I am just projecting. But they were great playmates. Tlahuy is too dignified for such childish horseplay (dogplay?), but silly sappy Bengax would race back and forth with him, ready for a tussle any time of the day or night. He followed her everywhere, even when she growled at him, and stole his food. The time Bengax was injured in a dogfight, Yumin chased away the enemy and protected her, challenging anybody to come near her until I came. I have never heard him roaring like that since. While she recuperated, pesky Yumin stayed patiently by her side, watching over her, licking her wounds, making sure those wild dogs didn't come anywhere near her. Not that she repaid his kindness with any gratitude. When she could walk again, she was so mean to him that I couldn't help thinking of the term ‘bitch’.…. Yumin doted on her none the less.

As I write this, Yumin is lying by Bengax's grave quietly, as if he remembers her.
this is the last photo I have of the three dogs together.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

When I was in high school, from time to time we would get ice cream at a little place off Hollywood Boulevard. The lady who worked there was middle aged and had a funny accent I couldn't place, not German, but something like that. She was gentle: always pleasant and smiling, never raucous but nothing could take the cheer off her face.

One day she was wearing short sleeves and we could see the numbers tattooed inside her left forearm.

We cried because she had no tears left.

This is what perplexes me about Israel. If nobody else, the Jews should understand suffering and the need for compassion for displaced minorities. Little compassion has Israel shown the Palestinians! Rather, they seem to delight in finally taking the upper hand and making others suffer as they have.

Jews are 'the chosen people.' Jehovah always encouraged them to slaughter their neighbors.

But still….

Wednesday, September 28, 2005





Happy Birthday, Confucius!

Monday, September 26, 2005

A man in the Tribe who lost his ability to speak because he got a fever when he was 6. He went to sleep on a rock by the stream after he went swimming with some friends, and when his temperature soared, his parents didn't have money to take him to a doctor. He has never been able to speak since then. He explained this all to me through gestures and mimicry. He's about 40 now, a very, very nice guy, and he loves to give people (me) rides on his motorcycle.

Problem is…

Not that he drives fast or anything, but he has his own style. The most memorable ride I got from him was 4 or 5 years ago. I was coming home one rainy night, got off the bus at the bridge. He had been out drinking, and was very happy to give me a ride on his motorcycle, especially since I had an umbrella, and he was getting wet. He pulled the umbrella down in front of him, like a windshield. He held the bottom rim of the umbrella below the handlebars with one hand and drove with the other. How could he drive that way, you may ask? Easy, by following the yellow line, sort of. I watched it weave back and forth. Occasionally headlights would light up the umbrella and we'd hear frantic honking, from cars coming the other way. Of course since this is Taiwan nobody slammed on the brakes, they just dodged. One passed us on our right. I decided not to worry. My idea was, if I'm going to die, I may as well enjoy it. God protects fools, and we got home safely. I was soaked, because the umbrella was up in front where it didn't do any good, but it was an experience.

The reason this comes to mind is that I got another ride from him the other night. It wasn't raining, and he was sober, so we managed to get all the way back without falling over more than once, which is pretty good.




Sunday, September 25, 2005


Saturday, September 24, 2005

Four or five years ago, over 80% of the laptops in the world were Made in Taiwan. Thursday, Taiwan's very last laptop production line closed down. The authorities say it doesn't matter. Yes, but what are we going to eat?

Maybe we can shriek "I love Taiwan" until our bellies are full.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Please look at your calendar and note that today is the Autumnal Equinox. In addition to other celebrations, let us raise our voices and sing the traditional autumnal equinox song, sung to the tune of Greensleeves*.

Oh, when Mary Queen of Scots was young and beautiful,
One day her Maid In Waiting to her these words did say,
Oh my lady, when I was young and beautiful,
One day my true love brought to me a piece of cheese,
A piece of cheese hey diddley trum trum hey diddley trum trum,
A piece of cheese,
But it fell on the ground and got all dirty.
And Mary Queen of Scots these words did unto her Maid In Waiting address:
How much do you think I care?
Rum tiddley trum trum, How much do you think I care?
And her Maid in Waiting replied,
Not much.

Oh, when Mary Queen of Scots was young and beautiful,
One day her Maid In Waiting to her these words did say,
Oh my lady, Today is the Autumnal Equinox,
Which means that the daylight and nighttime are of equal length, due to perturbations in the axis of the earth as it orbits the sun on its annual voyage at a speed of one hundred thousand kilometers an hour,
As it orbits the sun on its annual voyage at a speed of one hundred thousand kilometers an hour hey diddley trum trum hey diddley trum trum,
As it orbits the sun on its annual voyage at a speed of one hundred thousand kilometers an hour,
And Mary Queen of Scots these words did unto her Maid In Waiting address:
How much do you think I care?
Rum tiddley trum trum, How much do you think I care?
And her Maid in Waiting replied,
Not much.

Oh, when Mary Queen of Scots was young and beautiful,
One day she did to her Maid In Waiting these words say,
Since I am a queen so young and beautiful,
How come you never call me Your Majesty? Huh?,
How come you never call me Your Majesty hey diddley trum trum hey diddley trum trum,
You never call me Your Majesty.
And the Maid in Waiting did unto Mary Queen of Scots with these words reply,
I would, but it would ruin the meter of these verses,
I would but rum tiddley trum trum it would ruin the meter of these verses.
And Mary Queen of Scots replied,
Not much.


No wonder she was able to meet the executioner with such composure.

* Let this be a challenge to you.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Maybe it's time to learn how to drive.

Actually, I did learn how to drive once. In California, to graduate from high school, you had to learn how to swim and how to drive (the law may be the same now, I don't know.) Whether or not you knew how to add and subtract, who signed the Declaration of Independence, the difference between a molecule and an atom, or what the Gettysburg Address was about, these were not required for graduation, but if you could not drive or swim, you could not graduate. This sort of education may have something to do with how the current governor got elected. Or Reagan.

Along through the smog came the first Earthday. An awakening: cars make smog! Pasadena High was only a mile from the mountains, but you usually couldn't see them at all. As a friend said, "We may as well be going to school in Ohio!" The smog in LA in those days was lethal, but nobody wanted to stop driving. I figured, somebody has to do something about it, and I would be a likely candidate to start from. I hadn't learned 捨我其誰 yet, but I knew the principle. For a high school boy in LA, not driving was social suicide. I didn't bother to take the test for a driver's license. Less acceptable than burning your draft card, and more defiant. I got a bicycle.

Now bikes are cool, but you have to understand, in those days, in LA riding a bike meant you didn't want any friends. Fortunately, I took up martial arts years before most Americans had even heard of karate (nobody called it martial arts then). My teacher, Mr Ed Parker, being Hawaiian, simply loved to fight, so our style was noted for macabre murder and mayhem even by other karate people – beat you to a pulp as artistically as possible, and don't forget what a good time you're having. Enjoy!

The best fighters at Pasadena High tried me out even before the driving thing came up, but for me, they weren't a challenge. I spent my time out of school getting beaten by Steve Saunders, Mike Pick, people like that, some high school thug wasn't going to slow me down a bit. Word got out that I was bored trashing the school's best fighters. That saved me a lot of trouble, especially when I pedaled to school. Otherwise, I would probably have been beaten up for not driving.

As it was, kids from the school would drive by me on my bike and curse at me or throw things. I wasn't going to go to jail for that. I let it slide.

In the middle of my 12th grade I left the country anyway, and went to Viet Nam. Then I came to Taiwan, which has excellent public transportation, even before the subway, and nothing's far away, anyway. When I went to the mountains, I hitchhiked. I got around without learning how to drive.

Not knowing how to drive is not without its dangers. Steph picked me up at the airport on a visit to San Francisco. Driving up those circular counterclockwise exit ramps, she explained that she had to work, but she would let me use the car. Without thinking, I said, "Thanks, but I don't know how to drive." She was so astonished that she turned to gawk at me, a grown man who doesn't know how to drive; not such a good idea with the steering wheel in her hands, and we almost went out the right side of the ramp.

That was ten, fifteen years ago, but I still don't know how to drive. It might be a convenient skill.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Wulai is the Romanization of the Chinese transliteration of the Tayal Ulay. The word means hot spring. Ten years ago, nobody in Taipei believed you if you told them there are hot springs by the stream in Wulai, but five years ago, hot springs became fashionable … really hot … so our village has been invaded by investors out to make a quick buck in the spa business. So many spas sprung up, pumping hot spring water out of the stream bank, that Huanshan Rd, which goes above, started to crumble. At considerable public expense, and benefiting only the businesses, embankments were installed to shore up the slope between the stream and the road.

Although Ulay is Tayal land, a small number of Han Chinese (平地人) have lived here for years. They constructed a small shrine to the earth god, 土地公. Aborigines are mostly Christian, partly because the missionaries couldn't convert anybody else in Taiwan, partly to emphasize their difference from Han society, partly so they can look down on the Chinese as superstitious heathens, damned to hellfire.

The shrine was demolished during the building of the embankment, and now has been rebuilt, ten times larger, a full fledged Chinese temple in Aborigine land, a symbol of encroaching sinification. Today is the consecration and formal opening of the temple. As I went past on the way to the bus, the mediums and sorcerers, musicians and acolytes, and crowds of incense burning worshippers lined the road. The Tayal are not happy. Who does this land belong to?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005




Monday, September 19, 2005

Many English language publications make use of the famous old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." You've seen it a dozen times, right?

Slight problem here. I am familiar with over three thousand years of Chinese literature, and have never come across anything even remotely similar. I'm not even sure how you could say that in Chinese. "Interesting" is almost impossible to translate precisely, because the Chinese equivalents ~ 有意思、有趣 ~ have connotations of amusing, entertaining.

Another one bites the dust, like the famous old Chinese saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words," which was invented by an American adman in the 1920s. And don't even talk to me about how Coca Cola was transliterated to read "Bite the wax tadpole." Pure rubbish.

Sunday, September 18, 2005






I would like to remind one and all of the imminence of two important holidays.

The first is today Sunday, September 18: the Moon Festival. The Moon will be full, so be sure to go out and admire it, preferably with tea and mooncakes.

The Moon Festival is my favorite holiday of the year. It's not for any political or religious beliefs, it's just a time to enjoy the beauty of a full moon. And eat moon cakes.
(it also means summer is over, and I can sweat less.)

The second important holiday follows immediately, on September 19: Talk Like a Pirate Day. For those of you who do not know the ins and outs of the significant philosophical underpinnings of this day, please growl ARRGH AVAST ME HEARTY and click on

Arrgh! Happy Mooncakes, you scurvy dog!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

An interesting headline:
UN Urges Afghans to Vote Amidst Violence
Fine, but if there's no violence to be found, may they vote anyway?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

John Ellis Bush, 21, the nephew of President Bush and son of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, was arrested in Austin, Texas, for public intoxication and resisting arrest. The governor's daughter, Noelle Bush, was arrested in January 2002 on a drug charge.

hey, let's elect this guy president! we've had such good times with Dubya, I bet Jeb'd be GREAT!~

Note: I seem to be writing a lot about the Bushes lately. Outrage, I suppose. Bush is alienating international allies with his policies at a time when the armed forces have their hands full with Iraq. Now we show the world that we can't even rescue our own people. If you were a strategist from a hostile nation, what conclusions would you reach, based on the president's performance? If you were a terrorist, what plans would you make?

However, I would like to commend President Bush for his contribution to the spread of the English language. Worldwide, the famous words are recited from memory:
I think I need a bathroom break. Would that be a problem?
Read that out loud. The man shows definite literary talent.
I think I need a bathroom break. Would that be a problem?
It sings.

Oh, and singing. If I am not subtle enough in my views of Our Exalted President, allow me to direct you to

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

You know what? I suspect that Katrina might have saved the US. Without this tragedy, policy seemed to be racing straight towards a greater tragedy: war in Iran. Maybe this will reign in the galloping Texas Ranger before he leads us over a cliff.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I mentioned that about six months ago I read an article that predicted almost exactly what happened to New Orleans in Katrina. Tim sent another one, from the October 2004 National Geographic, with the comment that "The damage from Katrina could have been minimized for a tiny fraction of the funds that are being wasted in Iraq."
President Bush said that nobody foresaw this event. He's too busy riding his bike to read National Geographic.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Kaway shot off a roll of film, and her camera started rewinding automatically. Yumin was captivated by the strange whirring. He had never heard such a sound before.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The other day somebody was telling me his god is omnipotent and quoting that "he gave his only begotten son" twaddle at me.

-- Please, don't insult my intelligence. If he were an omnipotent god, why would he have only one son? Cheapskate. Is that all we're worth to him? If he were omnipotent, he could give three thousand sons, one for each victim of 9/11, or eight thousand sons, one for each victim of Katrina, or two hundred thirty thousand sons, one for each tsunami victim, or eight hundred thousand sons, one for each victim of Rwandan genocide, or forty million sons, one for each Soviet who died in World War Two. Or better yet, if he were omnipotent, he wouldn't put us through all that in the first place. Don’t give me that 'only begotten son' nonsense. What kind of skinflint do you make your god?

- the lord works in mysterious ways, that surpasseth all understanding.

-- that's doublethink.

-- I don't know what doublethink is.

-- Yes you do.

-- the lord works in mysterious ways, that surpasseth all understanding.

-- each life lost is a precious lesson about impermanence and suffering.

-- you need faith. The lord is omnipotent. You can never hope to understand his mysterious ways.

-- Yes, yes, absolutely. Amitabha.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

ridiculous bordering on the sublime
Biographies of the Various Immortals records that Shangchiu Tzechin of Shang Town was seventy years old but had never married and looked very young. His hobbies were playing the yu instrument and herding pigs.
孫綽 Sun Cho, of the Eastern Chin Dynasty wrote a poem with the immortal lines:
What was he herding?
Certainly not genuine pigs!

and went on to hint that they were dragons in disguise.
說文家字从二豕。Home is where the pigs are.
Oh give me a home
Where the porkers do roam ~~~

Friday, September 09, 2005

FEMA under Brown's management inappropriately gave away $30 million in disaster relief funds to people in the Miami, Florida, area even though they were not affected by Hurricane Frances, which made landfall more than 100 miles away.
This may be so, but don't forget, without those Florida votes, Bush wouldn't be president.
"I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?" said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Wednesday, September 07, 2005


中醫說,人老先從足上起。腿鬆軟才是健康。向來西方人腳僵硬。清朝洋人來華,中國人看他們走路、坐的樣子,以為他們沒有膝蓋:太平天國軍訓,將洋兵推倒為先,因為無膝,一蹶不起 ─ 爬不起來。這幾年看登山報導,怪事:嶺上野外圍營火,每一個健行、登山客坐塑膠椅,還有靠手呢!阿拉斯加曠野、聖母峰,離不開塑膠椅。誰要扛椅上山?幹嘛不坐地上石上就好了?因為腿太硬,沒高椅不能坐。強壯登山高手回歸大自然,一定要帶椅子去才能坐好,你說奇怪不奇怪?

Monday, September 05, 2005


Sunday, September 04, 2005

As Apache men and women advance further along the trail of wisdom, their composure continues to deepen. Increasingly quiet and self-possessed, they rarely show signs of fear or alarm. More and more magnanimous, they seldom get angry or upset. And more than ever they are watchful and observant. Their minds, resilient and steady at last, are very nearly smooth, and it shows in obvious ways.

-- Keith H Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Please tell me

What I want to know is, since when did America become such a nation of whiners?

Ok, so a levee broke and New Orleans got wet. What did you expect? They cut the budget for levee maintenance because of all the expenses the troops are racking up in Iraq. The money has to come from somewhere. It's not like the government is rolling in the stuff, especially since they hatcheted taxes for the richest ten per cent of our citizens. But surely those rich people earned a little consideration, didn't they? You don't see those people lolling around on rooftops waiting for a helicopter to come rescue them at government expense, no sirree, so that should count for something.

And let's face it, who lives in New Orleans? The city is two thirds black. See? They're not all in jail (yet), and some of them still have the right to vote. Problem is, everybody knows how African Americans vote. What do you expect a Republican president from Texas to do for them?

Who does Jesse Jackson think he is, saying "We deserve better leadership"? We've got the best president money can buy. He did interrupt his five week vacation, after all, some time after the corpses of American citizens rotting on the streets started to reek. He even put down that guitar he was strumming while the Gulf Coast was drowning (let's not hear a word about Nero). You should just be happy Our Exalted Leader didn't show up in his flight suit, the one with the cod piece. Although he was on vacation, he was under severe stress due to having That Woman trying to see him. Her son died in Iraq. Does that make him a hero or something? If he had been anybody, he would have sat out the war in the Texas National Guard, or someplace safe. Surely you can't expect the President to talk to everybody whose kid got killed in Iraq. How much time would that leave him for golf?

All this griping that people weren' evacuated. The prisoners got evacuated, shackles and all. And those were mostly black people, so let's not have any more of this unpatriotic talk about racism. Maybe we can fly some choppers back from Iraq to pick people off rooftops. They've been up there fix, six days now, they should be getting comfortable, just hold on a while longer. No more whining. Look at the corpses floating past, and think how lucky you are to have a nice rooftop to hunker down on.

Our Illustrious Leader George W Bush said, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." For years experts have been predicting exactly what happened – they must be real unpatriotic sickos who hate America. Those are the kind of weirdos who want The Glorious Commander in Chief to sign the Kyoto Protocol and Land Mine Treaty, and don't want drilling for oil in nature preserves. Like those traitors who squawked when Our Gracious Leader said it's okay to pollute those salmon streams. It's only fish, for crying out loud. Big deal. Who's the President listen to, a bunch of pointy heads who probably voted for Kerry, or his business buddies who donated a bunch of money (and beer) (no pretzels, thanks) to his campaigns?

The liberal press is wetting its pants because people in New Orleans are shooting at rescue planes. So what? That's what people in New Orleans do, that's what gives the city the flavor Our Incomparable Leader George W Bush so fondly recalled when he stood amidst the devastation and reminisced about coming to New Orleans years ago and enjoying himself "occasionally too much" (such a sensitive man!). Tell me what day of the year there is no gunfire in New Orleans. They've got all these choppers flying around for targets; no red-blooded American could resist exercising our god-given right to bear arms and indulge in a little target practice. Tell me what's wrong with a little gunfire. Ask the NRA what's wrong with a little gunfire. Charlton Heston loves guns, and he's a man who played Moses! Keep that in mind!

And I don't want to hear any more of this nonsense that the government isn't doing its best. They are sending in the best in the world. The National Guard being deployed in New Orleans is just back from Iraq. Just listen to what Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco said: "These troops are battle-tested. They have M-16s and are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and I expect they will." How's that for gutsy? She's cheering for soldiers to shoot the people who voted her into office. I bet Osama bin Forgotten is quaking in his turban!

Of course they had better be careful about who they shoot, because some of the local good guys have, mmmm, have gotten into the spirit of things. Police Chief Eddie Compass admitted even his own officers take food and water from stores. But as Kanye West said, you have to understand the difference. If they're white, they're hungry so they're trying to find something to eat. If they're black, they're looting: ready, aim, fire!

Don't you worry about a thing, no bellyaching, no whimpering, and NO aspersions on the character of Our Gracious Sovereign, His Majesty George W Bush, because he is not at fault! He said, "The response is not acceptable," clearly indicating that this is not his responsibility. The buck stops somewhere else nowadays, Harry.

But really, we shouldn't spend any more tax money on New Orleans. We've got dozens of cities, one more, one less, big difference. That money should be spent to good purpose, meaning the war in Iraq. Nobody told those people to live in New Orleans, so they should take responsibility for their decisions, like patriotic Americans. The administration really ought to privatize the rescue and rebuilding. I bet Vice President Cheney could find us a good deal on that.

Here is a photo of Our Noble Leader George Nero Bush strumming on a guitar in San Diego on August 30.

You can almost hear him singing:
There was a place in New Orleans
It's now a sunken swamp
It's been the ruin of many poor blacks,
Not me, thank god, I'm rich.

Friday, September 02, 2005

I love satellite photos. Look, there we are, that little green island over on the left about to be engulfed by a typhoon that's even bigger and badder than Katrina, that's Taiwan. But this typhoon isn't coming, we had one the same size just the other day, thank you, so Japan gets this one.

Chances are you won't hear about either of these typhoons, because they don't cause that much damage. Partly because we get lots of typhoons, big and small, every summer, and partly because – okay, this is a novel idea, I admit, so prepare yourself – they don't build cities below sea level. Ha ha ha, isn't that something?

But even if these typhoons did devastate cities, how much looting would there be? I predict, the same as in the last several dozen typhoons, the same as after the tsunami which killed 230,000 people: zilch, nada, squat, none.

America, America, listen to a Sri Lankan, Sajeewa Chinthaka, 36: "After the tsunami our people, even the ones who lost everything, wanted to help the others who were suffering. Not a single tourist caught in the tsunami was mugged. Now with all this happening in the U.S. we can easily see where the civilized part of the world's population is."

Thursday, September 01, 2005

It should surprise no-one that New Orleans, located below sea level, got flooded in a storm surge. It should surprise no-one that New Orleans, where they used to train military medics for battle because of the abundance of gunshot wounds, approaches anarchy. But has anybody commented on the irony of some of our troops being sent to Iraq to spread democracy through the gun barrel, while some of our troops are rushed to one of our own cities to reinstate social harmony with orders to shoot to kill? What a glorious example of democratic society for all those uncivilized Ay-rabs to emulate. But this is not a shining city on a hill; this is a sinister city in a morass.

Maybe we really should take a moment to ask where the American dream leads, before we force it on others.

Here is what St Eph wrote:
News reports forecasted that Katrina would be a Force 5 storm. It wasn't as big as expected, that's all I know, plus I'm up to here in every horrible thing the networks can drag out; dead bodies SLAP RADIO OFF! Please pass the tea?

Well doesn't that make me cold and unfeeling. We're supposed to grieve along with the anchor-person... buy the products in the commercial... be appalled at the horrors... listen to the next commercial... then we all change gears with the "on a lighter note" story.

Like what, that makes it all go away? That's cold and unfeeling! How long should we care about these people, stricken by catastrophe, every detail lovingly dredged up for public consumption (full face photo of relatives wailing in grief a plus)~ I think the punctuation there is a question mark~ the answer is, until the media drops it? Oh, until the fund-raiser is over?!
The National Guard is being deployed in New Orleans after recent duty in Iraq. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said "These troops are battle-tested. They have M-16s and are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and I expect they will."