Sunday, December 31, 2006

A swarm of several bees visited my front door this morning. By the time I thought about filming it, most of them had passed. This is the tail end of the swarm. Happy new year, little buddies.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

In Portugal, it's against the law to pee in the ocean.
I appreciate the effort, but I really wonder how they enforce that one.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Recently I have seen some shoe ads that tickle me. They advertise A Truly Natural Look, Natural Shoes, footwear that gets you close to nature, and so forth. Shell out your dough and you too can enjoy nature with expensive shoes that (please read this part in an appropriately excited voice, like the advertisers write it) breathe and dry easily!

I have a pair of natural footwear that fits me perfectly. They breathe and dry easily, too. They are all-terrain and all-weather, and have great traction. (see photo).

To be honest, I should qualify all-weather: all-weather in Wulai. They work great in sunshine, in typhoons, and all year round, but the coldest it gets here is about 2C. I have tried them out on snow, but I'm not acclimated for that, so I kept it up only about half an hour. I plan to be in Boston this winter, so my thoughts turned to my feet.

Last year when I went to New York wearing my shoes, they disintegrated at the check-in counter, for lack of use (please see this blog for December 21, 2005). To avoid a replay, I dug out my hiking boots for a trial walk to make sure they still worked. I hadn't worn them for five or six years, so my worries were justified.

I made my trial hike late at night, lest I frighten a neighbor. If they saw me shod, they would probably call for an ambulance. With headlamp attached and dogs scampering, I set out through the bamboo. Now this is very interesting, because the slight path is ill-defined; very quickly I lost the trail. That had never happened to me. I think that before, when I went out at night, my feet recognized the trail and kept me on it. Ensconced in shoes, my feet were cut off from their surroundings, and eyesight alone was insufficient for me to find the path.

Walking in hiking boots, I realized how much I have come to depend on my bare feet. Barefoot, I know the texture of the ground I am walking on, its temperature, dryness or wetness, rocks, leaves, soil, bamboo, what have you. Walking shod, I felt removed from the environment.

Also, I had trouble with slipping. These are good Italian hiking boots with Vibram soles, but bare feet conform to the surface of the ground, so you have a large surface stuck onto the ground. Your toes can take advantage of slight lumps, and the sole hugs whatever is down there. The hiking boots are stiff, so I slipped in places I had never slipped barefoot.

Walking over prickly stubble, I suppose I could go faster in hiking boots than barefoot. But speed is rarely a consideration when I am in the mountains. I prefer to hike with my eyes, ears, nose, and feet wide open.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

In Which Sister Visits a Brand New Library

The man in the library turned and asked pleasantly, "Are you OK?" I replied, "Yes. Fortunately," with, I hope, an equally pleasant expression. "Thank you," I added (pleasantly), as I regained my seat.

When he first turned to look, I like to think I wasn't lying flat on the floor. Scrambling limberly to my feet, more likely? Whose idea was it, to put these lightweight chairs on rollers?

this was written by my sister St Eph. I would like to answer the question she poses in the last sentence: she met him already, and had a short but pleasant conversation with him.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

let dogs be dogs
Love is confusing. What do you love for? or rather, what makes you love? Is love understanding, or control?

Consider the love of pets. One of the most asinine clips I've seen on youtube (and there is LOTS of competition) was, unfortunately, filmed right here in Taiwan. Somebody took her golden retriever to Tansui 淡水, and tied the poor animal up right next to the water, sort of like Tantalus and the spring. The dog got free and leapt into the water. The lady shrieked and some fool jumped into the water to 'rescue' it. The poor dog must have been thinking, "$#@%!! I finally got into the water and this &**#@ jerk pulls me back out!"

If you don't know that a golden retriever loves water like squirrels love trees, you shouldn't have one. Last summer I saw someone walking a golden retriever in the rain, and the poor dog was decked out in rain gear. It's a good thing golden retrievers have mild tempers, or else it would have bitten the idiot. I know I felt like biting him.

Notice both examples so far are golden retrievers. There are a lot of them in Taipei. Now think: Taipei is crowded, so there's not much space for these big, lively dogs to stretch their legs out and run and go swimming. If you really loved the dog, you certainly wouldn't raise one in Taipei's compact apartments!

A beagle is another dog that doesn't belong in an apartment. A few weeks ago I saw a beagle being walked, and because the temperature had plummeted to about 22C, the person wrapped the poor beagle up in an coat. If you don't know beagles have strong resistance to cold, you shouldn't own one. You ought to understand your pet.

People seem to own pets for the pleasure of being able to dominate their animal completely, not for the pleasure of letting a dog be a dog.

Not just dogs. We want all of our animals to be Disney-sweet. Cute bears, adorable tigers, sweet hippos, cuddly wolves. Better it would be to respect their natures.

Earlier this month at Sea World in San Diego, a killer whale dragged a trainer to the bottom of the pool. Fortunately the trainer escaped intact, but now the authorities are investigating "why a 5,000 pound killer whale injured a veteran trainer." Excuse me? This is a killer whale, a =||killer||= whale, and the authorities are investigating why it injured somebody? What did they expect it to do, give the trainer a hug and discuss post-feminism, snuff bottles, and string theory? Their time would be better spent investigating why there was anything left of the trainer but buttons and fur.

"During the summer tourist season, the killer whale show is often performed seven times daily." Maybe the killer whale was just sick of the stupid act: I swear, if they make me shoot straight from the water toward suspended cameras one more time, just ONE MORE TIME, I swear I'm going to KILL somebody!!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Ho, ho, YIKES!
In 1982, the members of the Truth Tabernacle in South Carolina hanged a Santa Claus, in protest to the pagan origins of Christmas celebrations. This is an excellent idea worth copying and propagating. Wouldn't that be jolly? A Santa lynched on every lamppost.

You could even sing about it:
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light,
From now on that stupid Santa,
Will be out of sight.
Through the years we put up with enough,
If the fates allow,
Hang a fake Santa upon the highest bough ~~~~
And have yourself a merry Constitution Day now!

Merry Constitution Day. Lynch a Santa for Christ!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

This morning I heard an eagle perched in a tree near my house calling back and forth with an eagle on high. I'd never heard anything like that.

I tried my best to record it. Be patient.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Jacques Barzun is a writer I hold in highest esteem, from all angles. Several years ago, I bought his Dawn to Decadence, 500 Years of Western Cultural Life. I put it on the shelf to mellow until an appropriate time.

Today I started. Before I even finished the Prologue, I read this paragraph:

"Culture – what a word! …. Now it is a piece of all-purpose jargon that covers a hodge-podge of overlapping things. People speak and write about the culture of almost any segment of society: the counterculture, to begin with, and the many subcultures: ethnic cultures, corporate cultures, teenage culture, and popular culture. An editorial in the New York Times discusses the culture of the city's police department, and an article in the travel section distinguishes the culture of plane travel from the bus culture. One a par with these, recall the split between the 'two cultures' of science and the humanities, which is to be deplored – like the man-and-wife 'culture clash,' which causes divorce. Artists feel the lure – no, the duty – of joining an adversary culture; for the artist is by nature 'the enemy of his culture,' just as he is (on another page of the same journal) 'a product of his culture.' In education, the latest fad is multiculturalism, and in entertainment the highest praise goes to a 'cross-cultural event.' On the world scene, the experts warn of the culture wars that are brewing."

Wonderful stuff! And on the very next page I found something to disagree with. What are margins for, if not to scribble in? Eight hundred pages. I feel like I have sat down to a magnificent feast.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Early in his career, Arnold Steinhardt, first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet, played a Bach adagio for Pablo Casals === if you don't know Pablo Casals was the greatest cellist ever, I'm not sure what to say to you. My first reaction was, maybe you shouldn't be reading this blog. Then I thought, no, maybe you should be studying every word. Anyway.

When Steinhardt finished, Casals said, "Good, very good." Pause. Then He told a story (hey, if Christians can capitalize He for Jehovah, Casals deserves at least as much). Decades earlier at a restaurant in Budapest, a Gypsy violinist approached Casals, bowed, and played the same Bach adagio better than Casals had ever heard it played. Casals said, "He did not know how one should or should not play Bach, and so he simply played freely and from the heart. You play intelligently and with spirit. Now let yourself go."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

From an article about aging techniques to make furniture look like an antique:
"To create flyspecks, dip an old toothbrush in black ink. Carefully rub a toothpick across the bristles to splatter paint for that speckled look."

If I were to spend my time carefully rubbing a toothpick across toothbrush bristles to make something look like it had flyspecks, I would consider myself depraved.
You probably didn't notice the transubstantiation of ink to paint, either. Read that quote again.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006




Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Much talk has been devoted recently to the building of a fence along the border between the US and Mexico, to keep out illegal immigrants.

I think this is a lousy idea, simply because I do not think it is fair that the little guy should always be the one to suffer. People say there are so many illegal aliens that something has to be done. Ok, fine. Enact laws: for every day's work done by an illegal alien, the person in the firm making the most money has to serve two days in jail with drug dealers and gangsters, wearing an orange jump suit; if that person can prove that he is a proxy for someone making even more money, he is free and that person puts on the orange jump suit. So say a company has ten illegal aliens working on Tuesday: the CEO serves twenty days in jail.

How many job opportunities would exist to lure these poor people north?

Of course Dubya would never permit such a law to pass, but you have to admit, that would solve the problem overnight, and the little guy would, eventually, wind up with a better deal than he's got now.

Illegal aliens enter the US for jobs, and because they are illegal, they are exploited. If the aliens were not there, the jobs would still exist, so the employers would have to either raise pay for local labor, or find legal ways to hire aliens; such ways would be subject to legal scrutiny, and no matter how cynically you deem legal scrutiny, it is better than none at all.

So let's not waste money on a border fence. Let's see some of those CEOs in orange jumpsuits!

Monday, December 18, 2006



Sunday, December 17, 2006

Some Jews and Christians say it is perfectly all right to kill animals to eat because only human beings have souls, so since animals don't have souls, their suffering and death are of no account. One recent pope proclaimed that when you kick a dog, its yelp signifies no more than the shriek of a machine; don't forget, popes are infallible, so he can't be wrong. Oh sure.

When Jehovah so loved the world that he decided to drown everybody, he found that of all these jerks he created in his own image, only Noah was a just man, righteous and blameless, so he decided not to drown Noah. Wasn't that nice of him? Ok, so Noah lives. Then what? Jehovah told Noah to build an ark and rescue all of the animals. Just the animals, not the plants or the minerals. Not even mushrooms.

If animals had no souls, why bother? The ark teaches that Jehovah thought animals were as worth saving as Noah, and more worth saving than the rest of humanity, so they must not only have souls, but righteous, blameless souls that are just, and more worth saving that 99% of humanity.

So go ahead and enjoy your steak. Surely you are more saintly than Noah.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

contempt of court


Friday, December 15, 2006














Thursday, December 14, 2006



Wednesday, December 13, 2006

is it my eyes or my mind?
just now on Word, I was surprised to see that I had a font called Anal. Oh, Arial….

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

On Thanksgiving, President Bush phoned members of the Armed Forces serving in Iraq. That strikes me as unbelievably callous. I can't imagine how the conversations went.

"Hi, this is your President, you know, the guy who started this war you are stuck in. I really messed up the whole situation there, and you're the ones who clean it up. Isn't that a riot? Bet you didn't know you'd end up fighting in somebody else's civil war when you signed up for the national guard, did you? That'll teach you to be more careful about signing contracts.

"Yeah, yeah, I know there was no good reason to attack Iraq, but don't forget how they treated my daddy. He won his war and that jerk Saddam kept on being president. I couldn't let that go on. And anyway, what's the fun of being president if you can't have a war? My daddy had a war, so I should get one too. Mine is bigger than his, too! And it's going to last longer than all the other American wars put together! And besides, look at all the oil. Not to mention all those lush, rich contracts my buddies are winning. Boy, they're really raking it in, hand over fist. Say, I hear you guys have to spend a bundle of your own money for better equipment than the stuff our contractors hand out. I guess your pay doesn't go very far, does it? You ought to have a rich daddy, like me.

"So today is Thanksgiving and we're chewing on the bird here with friends and family. Yeah, too bad you aren't home. You're over there getting shot at. Tough luck. Hey, if you were on the ball, you wouldn't even be in the war zone. Look how my daddy kept me safe from the fighting in Viet Nam, and I even had a great time learning how to fly, on the taxpayers' dime, when some idiots were fighting and dying in those jungles. Either they had some weird ideas about patriotism or their daddies weren't rich enough.

"But don't let it get you down, you know, we compensate your families pretty well when you get killed, and who knows, you may even survive. They're doing wonders with prosthetics now. Well, they should, look at all the practice we're giving them. But if you do buy the farm, first tell your mother not to get on my case, all right? Ugh, that lady last year, and when I was on vacation, too! How inconsiderate can you get? If everybody followed me around just because her kid got killed in my war, I'd have thousands of them after me. Some people are really insensitive, aren't they?

"Well, it's been nice talking to you and all that, but it's time for the next course, so I'm going to run now, and leave you to the insurgency. Have a good one!"

Monday, December 11, 2006

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.
H L Mencken

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Saturday, December 09, 2006

在新店遇到幾個部落的小朋友。一個烏來國中男生看到我,說,嗷, Yugan!旁邊一個烏來國小女生看了,想了一下,說,嗷,我知道,你就是那個狗的那個。

That's me, 就是那個狗!

Friday, December 08, 2006

What one person takes for granted may astonish another.

The other day, an acquaintance casually mentioned the tv program she had watched while she ate breakfast.

"What? You watched television at breakfast?" The idea that someone would watch television before she left for school astonished me.

Further discussion. I explained that I have never lived in a house with a television. That astonished her.

42% of Americans eat dinner in front of the television every day! Isn't that astonishing?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Chang and I went to fetch Yulaw home, as he was too drunk to return unassisted. Yulaw is one of Wulai's best singers. Perhaps in honor of my support, when we had stuffed him into the backseat, he launched into Feelings. He began in English, Feelings, nothing more than feelings, teadroz rolling don on my fez ~~ he fizzled out and fudged a few lines: feelings lie aaa nedda goz you bay n feelings lie aaa medda gabyagininma haaaaaat. He muddled along in like fashion for a few more lines, and suddenly burst out with qnag nnaq txaina xi 冰箱, which is Tayal for "eat as much as you like and put the leftovers in the refrigerator." I was awestruck. It fit the meter perfectly, and flowed very naturally into the song. Of course, it didn't do a lot for the sentiment of lost feelings, but when he pulled out that soulful 冰箱~~~~~ (a borrowing from Mandarin, as there is no word in Tayal for refrigerator), I knew I was listening to a master.

Sinkang的bus右側燈壞了,所以跑了最後一趟把車子送保養廠,不載客,車上只有一個乘客, Yugan是也。車上兄弟兩個,無外人,他就唱歌。歌聲很好,可是唱的是一般流行歌。我聽了一陣,終于不耐煩說,Sinkang, iyat pongan mkwas mukan, 不想聽這種,唱泰雅歌吧。他誤會了,同一首歌用泰雅語重唱,邊唱邊編歌詞。我說,Sinkang,唱泰雅歌,泰雅歌茁壯,不要唱平地人的歌;平地人的歌娘娘腔,沒有氣勢,在山上唱這個幹啥?Sinkang不解,我索性放聲唱了Stenka Razin的第一段(Stenka Razin是俄羅斯Cossack族民間英雄,十七世紀起義造反)。Sinkang聽了就開竅了,說,Yugan,這首歌很雄偉、很威武。我說,沒錯,所以Sinkang以後不要再唱那種平地人的娘娘歌,不適合男人唱。保養廠已經到了,我下車說,Sinkang,我以後再教你唱,歌詞隨便你編。

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Quleh's mournful eyes were full of nostalgia.

"Yugan, did you know I can speak Spanish? Yugan, in Spanish, Mister is Senor, Mrs is Senora, a senorita is a young lady, and you can say chica, and in Spanish to say Thank you, you say…. you say… you say something else.

"Yugan, not many Aborigines can speak Spanish, but I can speak Spanish because I worked on a fishing boat, and we fished in the Atlantic. We sold our fish to Japan for sashimi. The Japanese say Taiwan's fishermen are seigai ichiban! That means, the best in the world.

"Our fishing boat went to Uruguay. The people in Uruguay speak Spanish. They are very friendly, they are nice people, Yugan. I met a pretty girl, she was very pretty, her hair was like this and her figure was like this, and she said 'I love you.’

"She gave me her address, so the next day I went to her house to visit her. I wanted to take her a gift, Yugan, so I went to the captain and said, 'Captain, a senorita said to me, "I love you." Today I am going to her house and I want to take her a gift. Captain, may I take her a fish?' Captain said, 'Yes, Quleh, you may take her a fish. Choose a fish, and I will charge you for labor only, and take it out of your wages.’

"So I went to the freezer, Yugan, and found the best fish in the freezer for her. Yugan, Taiwan fishermen are very good, the Japanese say Taiwan fishermen are the best in the world, so the freezer was full of good fish. I chose the best one for her. It was a sailfish and weighed about 300 pounds.

"So I took the sailfish and got a taxi. The sailfish was very big, Yugan, it was this big, and it was very heavy, but there were a couple other Tayal tribesmen on the boat and they helped me put the sailfish in the taxi.

"First we had to go through Customs. The man in Customs said, 'Where are you taking this big fish?' I said, 'A senorita said, "I love you," so I am taking this fish to her for a gift.' The Customs man said, 'You have to pay duty on this fish.' I took a ten dollar bill, ten dollars US, and put it in his pocket. He smiled at me and said, 'Have a good time with your senorita.’

"The taxi took me to the senorita's home, but Yugan, it was a big sailfish, it weighed about three hundred pounds, so I could not get it out of the taxi by myself. The senorita came and with her father and her mother and her brothers and sisters, we pulled the sailfish out of the taxi and took it into her house.

"Then her father and mother started sawing the sailfish, because it was very big. But it was frozen solid, Yugan, so it was very difficult to saw. Her brothers and sisters held the fish and her father and mother sawed it with a saw, but the sailfish was frozen as hard as a brick, so it was very hard to saw.

"Her father and her mother were very happy. They told me, 'Don't go back to Taiwan, stay in Uruguay.' I said, 'I have to go back to Taiwan.' Yugan, I had not done my military service yet, so I had to come back.

"Two days later our boat went to sea again. Then we went to Capetown and to India and then we came back to Taiwan. When I came back I was drafted into the army, and after I got out of the army, I never went to sea again, so I never went back to Uruguay to see my senorita.”

Quleh heaved a sigh and thought for a moment, his eyes far away. "I wonder how they cooked the sailfish.”

I excused myself and left. The image of the ardent Tayal swain taking a frozen 300 pound sailfish to present to his lady love was too much for me. I wanted to tell him, "Quleh, you could have taken her a red, red rose.”

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Monday, December 04, 2006

天主徒很喜歡看天主釘在十字架上痛苦的樣子:甚麼心態,我不了解。不然就是祂老人家開膛示心。天主受苦,教徒叫作passion、the passion of Christ。

「百香果」是譯音:譯的很漂亮。名字本來是菲律賓的教徒取的,因為他們認為百香果剖開,很像耶穌的那棵心,所以叫passion fruit>>>百香果。

從前百香果很難買,因為沒有人種,只有野生種。說也奇怪,有百香果在,蛇就喜歡來。所以以前只有原住民敢採,只有原住民賣,只有一個季節。我第一次看到百香果,三十幾年前在羅東菜市場外面,一位ptasan rqyas na weya Tayal(紋面泰雅長老)腳邊放一紙箱,裡頭的果都很小,可是很快賣完了。當時一般臺北人不知道有這個水果,臺北買不到;沒有國語名字,宜蘭閩南語叫「番仔木瓜」。


Sunday, December 03, 2006

In a review of Blood Money in the LA Times Book Review, Boston U Professor Andrew J Bacevich said, "Could it be that the so-called global war on terror is in actuality little more than a scheme to bilk the taxpayer and loot the resources of those we claim to liberate?"

As of October 31 of this year, 2,818 American soldiers had died in combat in Iraq. Before long, Bush will have killed more Americans than bin Laden.

The war costs US$250 million a day. Every day. Six or seven months of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are equal to 35 years of cancer funding. So if you figure in the Americans who die from cancer because of retarded research, he has killed a lot more than bin Laden.

Hail to the Chief.

Saturday, December 02, 2006







Lately there has been some hoopla about hosting the Olympics in Taipei in 2020. Yeah, you probably wonder what they've been smoking, too.

Just for the sake of discussion, let's ignore the practical impossibility of Chinese Taipei's hosting the games.

Hasn't anybody noticed the climate in Taipei? If they really had the Olympics here, in any events that weren't rained out, the athletes who weren't flattened by the humidity would suffer heat stroke long before they finished their events. Summer is typhoon season, and during typhoon season, a typhoon every week is not unusual. How are you going to carry on extended athletic events in this kind of climate?

Never mind that, I am dead set against having the Olympics here, for two main reasons. First, are there no pressing problems in Taiwan that should take priority over ultra-expensive athletic events? Second, who benefits and who suffers? I guarantee the middle and lower classes will only suffer, and not benefit in any way. Simply put, we don't have the stadiums for Olympic events, so they have to be built. Where would they build them? Do you think they would tear down rich people's expensive houses to make space for the stadiums?

Either that, or they will destroy more of Taiwan's natural beauty to replace with ugly stadiums. I always marvel at the eagerness of people who shout "Love Taiwan" to destroy this beautiful island.

Putting up large stadiums would be a huge undertaking, far beyond the reach of the small and medium businesses. The firms that won contracts would be Big Business; in other words, consolidating more riches among a few mega-companies. In order to keep down costs and win the bidding, the big companies would hire Thai and Filipino labor to build the stadiums. Please tell me how this benefits the little guy. (Of course, the DPP administration has never shown great willingness to do much for the little guy.)

The Olympics have generally been held to the detriment of the little guy, in any country. I fail to understand why we should spend great gobs of public money to satisfy the vanity and ambition of political hacks, and to feed the greed of the fat cats.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Thursday, November 30, 2006

An epitaph on the tomb of the Emperor Babur (d 1530) in Kabul lists the eight fundamental qualities for a ruler:
Lofty judgment, noble ambition, the art of victory, the art of government, the art of conferring prosperity upon his people, the talent of ruling mildly the people, the ability to win the hearts of his soldiers, love of justice.

Good criteria for any leader in any age.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006



我與山 =:包括一切土石草木蟲獸:= 的相處是和平共存。我敬重天地,而不肯怕天地,因為怕是對立。與天地對立幹甚麼?我們也是天地的一份子。太多次,蛇可以把我咬死卻沒有;太多次,山可以把我跌死卻沒有;太多次,石可以把我壓死卻沒有。我感激山放過我。己所不欲,勿施于天地萬物。

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Jingpo, or Kachin, celebrate Shapawng Yawng Manau 豐年祭 every year. The dancing is lead by the jai wa, a shaman bard who recites prayers and mantras. Nobody may dance until he begins, but once he has begun, the dancing may continue for days without stop.

At some celebrations, thousands of Jingpo attend. "The manau can be large or small," says former Taiwan Jingpo Association President Zit Hkun Chang Sau 台灣景頗族同鄉會前任會長孔大發先生. Here he performs the manau dance, and this is as small as it gets: one Jingpo. He did not bring his own sword, so I lent him a Tayal headhunting knife. I have recorded the dance, songs, and speeches, which I am now uploading onto

Monday, November 27, 2006

Some of the most savage fighting of World War II occurred when the Japanese advance towards India was blocked in Burma. "We Kachin, the British, and the Americans did all the fighting. As soon as the Japanese attacked, all the Burmese ran home and hid in their toilets." If the Japanese had broken through to the resources of India, the war would have ended differently, and life today would be much less comfortable for the rest of us.

The Kachin, or Jingpo, are justifiably proud of their record. "We are born to carry swords. The British were impressed when they ran into us in the 19th century, because even if we retreated, we put up a stiff fight as we retreated. It seems we are born knowing how to fight. That is why a Kachin was chosen as the chief of Queen Victoria's bodyguard during the 19th century. We are calm under fire, and we survive.

"Lazum wan Bau took a shot in the stomach once, and his intestines were spilling out. He just tied himself up with his shirt and kept fighting.

"Once when I was 20 years old, I was on point. We ran into a communist ambush. Just as I came to the top of a hill, I spotted two sentries who were waiting for us. I shot them both immediately, and without thinking fell flat on the ground. The other soldiers in my unit started to run when the communists opened fire, and four were killed. Bullets went through my pants leg, right above the knee, but I came out without a scratch. Nobody trained me to do that, I just knew that as soon as I killed the sentries, I had to fall flat. I don't know how I knew it, I knew it because I am Kachin.

"In our unit, there were three Kachin. We fought guerilla warfare for several years. The other soldiers were not Kachin, and as they got killed, new men replaced them. After several years of fighting, the only soldiers left from the original muster were us three Kachin. We were the only ones who survived, and all three of us survived. It seems we are born knowing how to fight. We are born to carry swords.”

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Jingpo / Kachin of Burma and Southwestern China have three main types of songs: munau, or harvest celebration 豐年祭 songs, ceremonial songs, and love songs. 台灣景頗族同鄉會前任會長孔大發先生 former Taiwan Jingpo Association President Zit Hkun Chang Sau sang a love song (which is, I suspect, his favorite, and most well practiced style) at the annual meeting of the Jingpo in Taiwan; I have posted that at Today when he and Lazum Wan Bau/金國光先生visited Wulai, he sang the other two styles, and performed the munau dance. I filmed them and am posting them on youtube, but that takes time.

In this clip, he sings a ceremonial song in the A Zi Ni dialect of Jingpo景頗語小山話, his native language. He has an excellent voice; this recording does not do him justice. This is新店樂成 a song sung in celebration, such as for a new house. Yung wang zige 永往直歌 in Azini, n ta di shang ai in Jihpaw.

Because of size limits, I had to record the song in 3 parts. This is the first part. For the other two parts, please go to

Friday, November 24, 2006






Thursday, November 23, 2006

Congratulate me on my superhuman restraint.
The other day I took my friends from California to see the sights in Wulai. As we neared Rahaw, the next village into the mountains, somebody pointed out a pleasant looking house and said, "Look what a nice job they've done with the tiles on that house.”

I managed to keep from saying, "Yes, but you have to remember, this is a Tayal village.”

I didn't want to get pushed out of the moving car.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Here's a pretty quandary. Compare these.

A, in his memoirs, Chef Justice Earl Warren wrote that Eisenhower told him, concerning integration, that Southerners "are not bad people. All they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in school alongside some big overgrown Negroes.”

B, in Seeds of Change , Henry Hobhouse said, "The behavioral problem of slavery, serfdom, and free workers is one of the relationship between master and man. For the noble, an air of hereditary superiority was an essential from early childhood. For superiority to have validity, it is necessary that the dependents should be made to feel inferior at all times. It is to this factor, as necessary in feudalism as in slave societies, that we may ascribe white male attitudes to gender and race.”

West Africans were chosen as slaves because they inherited immunity to malaria, which wiped out all others who attempted to inhabit the fertile Gulf Coast and Caribbean islands. Once that was established, slave labor produced rich profits, so the slave owners needed some way to justify themselves, to "blunt men's minds to this monstrous aberration," as Hobhouse puts it.

I am not singling out Ike; he was moderate, and worked to desegregate, but his statement typifies a mindset. What I am interested in here is not particularly racialism per se, but that some people feel that their embedded viewpoints (on any topic) are the outcome of logical thought, while actually, those viewpoints are the result of dishonest rationalization (dishonest in the sense of not dealing honestly with one's own motives).

How careful we are to hide from ourselves!

………now, what did I write this for?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Monday, November 20, 2006

洪武明太祖,韃靼/Tatar叫Tonguz Khan豬可汗。猜是因為明朝姓朱。如同毛澤東與朱德征服中國大陸,口諺殺豬拔毛。

Saturday, November 18, 2006



Thursday, November 16, 2006

Obesity has become so prevalent in the United States that astronomical differences are now being measured in heavy years, light years having disappeared under a rising tide of American fat.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006





Monday, November 13, 2006

台灣景頗族同鄉會前任會長金國光先生 Mr Lazum Wan Bau, former President of the Taiwan Jingpo Association has asked me to publish this open letter on my blog.
2006.10.18 wun pawng JingHPaw ma ni A myit Hkrum Zut Hpwang, anhte Gaw, (Ka Chn Re), anhte gaw, Jing Hpaw mung Gaw Li ya n na Yuwai re jiwoi ni re, ai. 1961 Lining e anhte Jinghpaw ma ni, Tai Wan desa wasai, daishi Jing Hpaw mani, Lining myi Kaw ki LangLang Jing Hpaw ma myit hkrumzput hpawng hpawng gaai, Bai n na mantan Lingai myigaw, mu nau mu nau gaai, nam BatLi Gaw mu nau, mu nau gaai, nam Bat mu Sum gaw BuGa na Jing Hpaw ma a htwang Bau n en hku n na, n dakana Hpai saw a ai Hawng Raw dum n na Htawng ka ka gaai. Anhte muwa mung nna waai numroi mu ngashi mu sum re ai, yagaw ma ni Hte yawng raiyang (100 E 3) Re.
(ngai a ede re si) Mr Kinku Kon (Lazum Wan Bau), 481 Chung Shin Road, Chung Li Lung Tan, Tao Yuan, Taiwan 325 ROC
(fon nam bat) 886 3 4705407

Since I do not know the language, I am hoping I have not made too many typos. I believe I have deciphered that last line: fon nam bat.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I received a great honor today. At the annual gathering of the Jingpo (Kachin), the台灣景頗族同鄉會Taiwan Jingpo Association presented me with a 匾額/wooden plaque which says:
閻光明 同贈
Spreading Jingpo Culture
Presented by the Taiwan Jingpo Assocation
to Mr G B Talovich
There is a small number of Jingpo, or Kachin, in Taiwan; first, second, and third generations, only about a hundred all told, what ex-Association President孔大發 Kung Dafa calls a mini-minority. Here前任會長金國光先生 former Association President Lazum Wan Bau addresses the gathering in the Jingpo tongue, of which there are three main dialects.
前任會長孔大發先生 former Association President Kung Dafa sings a Jingpo love song.
Jingpo Association President 會長張珊先生 dances to the beat of his own drum.
For further articles about the Taiwan Jingpo Association, please read entries on this blog for April 15, 2006, November 27, 2005, and November 29, 2004.

A jolly time was had by all.
I have posted photos of the event on . For more videos, please visit

Saturday, November 11, 2006

up and up
I haven't updated my blog for several days because I have been uploading clips onto youtube. That took a long time. The quality is not great, because I took these with my digital camera, but they give you a good idea. I have a sampling on my post for November 7. If you'd like to see all of them, please go to

Hope you enjoy them!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

This evening there was a dance performance hosted by Wulai dance troupes with guest performers from 中國西南民族大學 The Southwestern University of Ethnic Nationalities of China.

The show began at 7. I arrived at the theater right at 7, only to be turned back: "People have been coming in since 5:30, there's not even standing room." A moment after I had been turned back, three young Tayal from Tampya, the next village, met the same fate. "We've come a long way to see this, how can you turn us away?”
We put our heads together. This theater, a private company that puts on shows for tourists, just opened a few weeks ago. Hey, you know, there's that other stairway around in back, yeah, but it's all blocked up with boulders, well, what are we waiting for? We climbed up over the boulders, across a little plank that led across the gap to the construction (don't look down), and found ourselves just around the corner from the theater door. But that door was being watched too, so we went in through the fire exit.

The theater was packed, but space was made for us in the corner up in the very back of the theater, just as the show began. The first act was the local Mhaway Su Dance Troupe 麻懷素舞蹈團. They performed traditional Tayal dance steps in a modern manner; a very good combination of the old and the new. The dancing burst with energy. By the middle of the dance, the men’s upper bodies were glistening with sweat.
The next performer was from SWU, a famous 哈薩克Hasak singer accompanied by four male dancers. The singer sang operatic style, and the dancers danced like modern dancers anywhere. This set the tone for the evening. The Tayal dances were powerful to the point of savagery, the SWU dancers polished and sophisticated. When the Tayal dancers finished, the men looked like they were ready to go out headhunting; when the SWU male dancers finished, especially the set of four, they looked like they were ready to jump into a hot tub together.

Back further in the mountains at the far southern end of Wulai Township is the village of Mangan福山. If you count Principal, Teachers, and all of the students, Mangan Elementary School boasts a grand total of 32 souls. The entire 2nd through 6th grade clambered onto the stage for their performance. They took their places and prepared to dance a modern representation of Tayal weaving, which was vital to the culture. They took their places and waited for the music to start. They took their places and waited for the music to start… their teacher came on stage and said, "I'm sorry, but has anybody seen our music? We can't find out CD…" The kids waited for the music to start.
The teacher said, "Sayux balay, we haven't found our CD yet, so in the meantime, I will sing a song for you." She sang 泰雅搗米歌a Tayal rice-pounding song, "But you have to accompany me!" she told the audience, so everybody started clapping, with many singing along, shouting, and cheering. The kids from Mangan waited patiently.
Finally the music was found and the kids performed a charming weaving dance. Then they portrayed hunters, but we couldn't figure out if they speared a monkey or a boar.
Southwestern took the stage next. They performed a 維吾爾Uighur dance, although I never knew Uighur traditional dress for women included gold lame high heels. Chao assures me that Uighurs dance in heels, but gold lame? No wonder one of the dancers fell over. The audience was respectfully quiet. When the Tayal dancers goofed, the audience erupted in shouts and cheers. Overall, the audience was cheerful and boisterous, calling out to the performers, making loud comments, cheering, and clapping with gusto. The audience appeared to be almost solely Tayal.

This was followed by a bizarre Tibetan dance that began with five young men leaping out onstage and singing a few lines of rap. The Tayal laughed at this act, laughed at, as in derision. The singer pulled off a series of good stomps that brought some admiration, but for the most part, the audience’s reaction was, What is this all about? Weird!

Overall, the Southwestern troupe's dances were so polished and sophisticated that they had no ethnic flavor at all. The vestiges of Soviet instruction were obvious. The pantomime in which the passel of youths ogle the saucy damsel, I saw that years ago in a Yugoslav production, again years later in a Cossack production, and again onstage in Wulai by the Southwestern troupe; identical, except for the costumes. In the way circus audiences want to see seals balance balls on their noses, the PRC ideal seems to be that the ethnic minorities are reduced to colorful costumes and a few traditional movements; circus audiences don't want to see seals acting like seals, and the Powers That Be don't want these minorities to act like minorities. Behave according to our expectations and standards.

The Tayal were getting bored and leaving. I got a seat. "Aw, Yugan, you've come." Silan climbed in over the railing, and took a seat in front of me, in the front row. We patiently watched musical performances, including another operatic singer. It didn't sound much different from any other operatic singing you have heard, except for the language.
Next was a skit of gaga na Tayal/ traditional Tayal life. Stage right, two boys pounded rice. Stage center, a woman made thread for cloth. (Technical foul: that was Baize, and she's 鄒Tsou tribe. But we'll let it pass. Her kids are half Tayal.) Stage left, a girl practiced her weaving sitting on the ground pressing the qungu/loom with her feet. The mhoni/wise old lady, or witch, inspected her weaving and declared it satisfactory. She then began matas/the tattooing ceremony. The girl was wrapped in the cloth she wove and the mhoni began tattooing her face. Only when a youth's face had been tattooed was a young man or woman eligible for marriage.
The Japanese stamped out facial tattoos during their Occupation of Taiwan, but even today the Tayal baq gaga are very careful about observing traditions. Before the dancing started, the announcer very cautiously announced that the adult dancers had tattoos drawn on their faces, but not to worry, ini ptasan liquy, the children are underage, so tattoos have not been drawn on their faces. That would offend the ancestors.

The very dramatic, very solemn beginning of Southwestern's production of Alilang was interrupted by a loud shriek. Silan spotted Pasang heading through the darkness for the exit, right in front of us, and the temptation was too strong for a bored Tayal to resist. Silan's hand snaked out of the darkness and took Pasang by the throat. eeeeYYYaaaaaaAAA! Fortunately, the dancers probably took it for some sort of cheer.

The last Tayal act was Wulai Jr High, and their performance was the most traditional. It began with a cutout of a boulder. A boy crouching behind the boulder shot off a party popper. Then he and a girl came out, peered around, and walked off hand in hand. This enacted the Tayal creation myth, the boulder being Pinsbkan.

The show ended with a faux-Tibetan number, a la Soviet ballet, by Southwestern. It was a rousing number, their best of the whole evening, although definitely not what you think of when you picture Tibet. My memory card was full by then, so I captured that only in my memory, not my camera.

What was left of the audience dispersed. Very quickly a consensus was reached: the Tayal performance was far superior to Southwestern's, and this conclusion was reached after objective contemplation and soul-searching lasting anywhere up to four or five seconds. Everybody agreed: the Southwestern troupe was fancy, but they can't dance as well as Tayal.

I spotted Abus and he told me to get in his car, he'd drop me off on the way home. His daughter World was sleepy, so she didn't jump up and down on my head. Abus sang along to Naluwan on the CD player. He turned it off when the song finished and said, "Yugan, what do you think? Didn't the Tayal dance better?”


"And their costumes. The Tayal outfits were better, too. Theirs didn't look authentic.”

"That's for sure.”

Abus gave a very satisfied nod. "Yugan, Tayal are still the best performers. Nobody can sing or dance like we can." Now that is what I call a good, disinterested, objective judgment.

Monday, November 06, 2006

phpah na agyaq

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Rest assured that the Bush administration is doing all it can to protect you from terrorism: your tax money at work!

A US$200,000 Homeland Security anti-terrorism grant has paid for 60 surveillance cameras to guarantee the security of Dillingham, Alaska. Dillingham is 300 miles from Anchorage and has a population of 2,400 persons, but no roads linking it to anywhere else.

Take that, Taliban! Be afraid! Be very afraid! Know that if you ever try to take over Dillingham, Alaska, your every movement will be watched by surveillance cameras! Osama and his buddy Saddam must be quaking at the very thought.

What would be even more daunting than taking over Dillingham, Alaska, would be the prospect of even finding it.

Friday, November 03, 2006

On the spur of the moment I decided to loop around back on my way into the house. Up near the ditch, a boar's jaw was lying on the ground, in perfect condition. It hadn't been chewed on. There was no sign of the rest of the boar or any indication of how it got there. Just a flawless jawbone.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I happened to see a newspaper ad:
Mr T's Rule #17
Don't procrastinate, fool!
You'll get in a rut always sittin' on your butt.

All very well and good, although who the REAL Mr T is may be open to debate. The only reason I bring this up is, this marvelous gem of poetry appears in an advertisement for a television series. Watching television means always sittin' on your butt.

Of course, watching television blurs your mind so much you don't even notice these contradictions.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


野薑是俗名;學名「穗花山奈」,亦名山奈、蝴蝶薑、薑花;英文名為ginger lily、white butterfly ginger lily、white ginger。巴西山奈成患;原是黑奴從非洲帶來種,以葉為牀。


Tuesday, October 31, 2006




Horrid Halloween.

Isn't it strange that people say Happy Halloween? That's not the spirit of the season at all! It should be

Monday, October 30, 2006

The wonders of the Internet! Dutch and Indonesian zookeepers are working to develop ape-proof computer monitors. Once that is accomplished, they hope to start an on-line dating service…. for orangutans. Orangutans in different zoos will be able to get to know each other, and if they are compatible, the zookeepers will arrange dates.

If that inarticulate Irishman you've been ogling on your online dating service looks like he really needs a shave, maybe you'd better check your URL.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

"… a videotape of an Army psychology program run at Fort Bliss using military police officers. The psychologists divided all the guards working one of our military prisons into two groups. One group of officers was assigned the role of temporary inmates; the others remained prison guards. The real reason for this test was not revealed.

"What army psychiatrists were actually attempting to determine was how the act of granting complete power to one group over another might escalate both groups toward extreme violence. The MPs who were to remain guards were only told that the military was evaluating escape possibilities … and to be especially vigilant. The guards pretending to be inmates were told to resist authority and to look for any possible way to break out.

"What transpired was amazing. The guards assigned to the role of prisoners didn't like being inmates. They had done nothing wrong. But their old friends were now hazing them, walking down the prison tiers ringing their batons across the bars, keeping them awake all night so they would be too tired to attempt anything. The men under lockdown became angrier, the captor guards more aggressive. After a week, sporadic incidents of violence broke out between men who had only a few days before been close friends. In the second week, the army called off the test because a violent fight broke out between the two groups, which almost resulted in the death of a guard.

"The lesson of this video was that absolute power without oversight can quickly morph into murderous rage. By the same token, complete loss of power, without appeal, can escalate behavior to exactly the same place.”
-- Stephen J Cannell, Cold Hit

Sounds like the Cultural Revolution.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

My mother's comments on her 88th birthday:
"A lot of old people spend all their time complaining about being old. You can't expect to be as active at 66 as you were at 16, that's ridiculous. You have to be thankful for what you've got.

"Being realistically thankful is an important part of life.

"Look at the world today. I eat well every day, I have a nice house to live in, I have clean clothes to wear, I walk 2 or 3 miles every day, and I still have my own job. I can stand on my own two feet. I am so fortunate! Think of all the suffering in the world today! Feeling fortunate makes you feel better.”

Happy birthday, Mom.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Last time I went through Hong Kong, I bought four kinds of rare tea. The Peace Monkey King太平猴魁 has a pleasant, but not exactly tea-like taste. Silver Ears銀耳 from Szechwan四川, tastes much like Dragon Well龍井, but is slightly sour. Longevity Eyebrows壽眉 makes an excellent after-meal drink, cleaning your intestines and helping digestion. But Furry Peak毛峰 in a porcelain pot gives a sour bitter flavor, and in a pottery pot tastes exactly like urine. Blech.

When Chan wrote that he was coming from Hong Kong to visit us, I wrote and asked him to buy me some more Peace Monkey King, and see if he could find me some Furry Tip毛尖, a tea I had heard of but never seen. He brought me a splendid bag of Peace Monkey King, and told me, I couldn't find Furry Tip, but I found something close. A tip is like a peak, right? Well, I've got you some tea called Furry Peak.

Bless you, Chan, it took me almost two years to gag down that bag of Furry Peak. Most of it I foisted off on unsuspecting guests, explaining while I made it that Furry Peak is a rare, hard to buy tea (true) sold at great cost here in Taipei (also true – but nobody ever buys it twice), and then, with the air of bestowing a singular honor, I would let the poor sucker have the whole potful.

This spring Chan had another vacation that he couldn't see spending in Hong Kong. I'm coming to Taiwan, he wrote, is there anything I can buy you? Yes, I wrote, see if you can pick up some tea like Sparrow Tongue雀舌 or Common Waterears普洱, anything, anything, but you'd better be sure not to get me more Furry Peak!

Chan came, and cheerily presented me with a nice big sack of Furry Peak. I smiled, a bit crookedly perhaps, and clenched my teeth.

It came out that he had read my injunction, but forgotten the 'not.’

God wants me to drink Furry Peak, I determined. But how can there be any tea outside India and Japan that tastes so wretched? It must be the way I'm making it. So I began to experiment, using different pots, different cups, different water temperatures, different steeping times. To no avail. The only time I thought I was making some progress, I had washed the tea leaves in cold water, put them in an old glazed pot, poured in warm water, and almost immediately poured it out into a white cup. Mmm, better, better, now we’re getting someplace. But I had to be honest with myself. I say it's better because it has no taste at all. Try again. Steep a while longer. Now that's much better, I said, probing my gums with my tongue, it actually has a sweetish taste that is really quite pleasing. But then I realized that the sweetish taste which is really quite pleasing was actually the residue of the sugar-loaded red bean soup that had followed lunch. No use, I despaired, I will poison myself with this damned tea before I have learned how to make it.

Actually, though, I think one of two things will happen.

Either it will turn out that there is no way to make this stuff potable, and that it is such a rare tea for the simple reason that no-one in his right mind would want to buy it.

Or it will turn out that, once the trick of preparation has been discovered, it will be exquisite beyond comprehension, and that it is so rare because of the difficulty of coaxing such magnificence from a tea plant.

In which case I will probably never be able to buy it again.

Written in 1982
Epilogue, 2006
Several years after I wrote that I found out that my friend the gourmet, Mr Chou from Jianghsi 江西周大哥, had watched his grandfather and granduncles make Furry Peak, and he remembered how they made it. They used a fine 景德鎮 porcelain pot, poured in water only about 70C, and steeped the tea for "a stick of incense.”

"A stick of incense? You're kidding!”

"Oh, in my hometown, our incense is short and thin, so a stick is only about fifteen minutes.”

So I got out my finest porcelain pot, heated the water to only about 70C, and under Chou's careful supervision steeped the Furry Peak for about fifteen minutes.

Chou affirmed that it tasted just like the FP his grandfather made, but it still wasn't very good. I'll stick with 文山包種 green tea from Pinglin, a couple ridges over the mountains to the northeast.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


//The first time my mother ever saw a foreigner, she was scared, because she thought you foreigners' eyes are transparent. She has always been curious about that. You Western people have transparent eyes, can you see anything?

\\Oh no, you've found us out! Actually I rely on sounds.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Steph went to a Paul Simon concert recently. First, I would like to ask, what's this about the Stones? I mean, come on! Why not the Dave Clark Five. Ok, I've got that out of my system. This is what she wrote:

It was great, had a wonderful time enjoying every minute of concert! There's a, what shall I say, a gentleness? about Paul Simon. The Stones were FABULOUS DARLING!! They were over the top, and stayed there, and I may have mentioned a time or ten that seeing (hearing) Mick Jagger gave me new respect for The Vocalist, various operas notwithstanding. They don't hype the Stones as The Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band for nothing.

But Paul Simon, ah. Different. Going 95 miles an hour? No strain, no breaking rocks; just a gentle, peaceful wave. Piece of Cake! 95? Easy. The music just pouring out. This calm-type guy did have TWO complete drum set-ups. Just to show he knows what he's doing, all right! He played the old songs like a man who is older now. More feeling, less effort. As if ~ the Stones show that they've still "got it," and better than ever. Paul Simon plays "Sound of Silence" or "Bridge Over Troubled Water," without Garfunkle's vocals ~ with the "plain old" Paul Simon vocals, not trying to be Art Garfunkle, just singing the song, and playing, nothing to prove? As if, "of COURSE he's better, he's older now"... instead of, "he's older, but still good"...

I told Erin that the "places where the ragged people go" had a lot more anger back then, breaking away from (scorned by) the Rock Hudson - Doris Day world, and the way he sang it Friday night had the memory of that, and the feeling and talent. Plus, he was singing as the age he is now, with the understanding and experience he has now, and the memory of then; and the FABULOUS DARLING MUSIC! was even better, imagine that, having matured into complete freshness! ~ with "world music" rhythms, dazzling instruments and 2 drum sets. They were knocking them down and tearing the place up, but no destruction. It's like the ocean doesn't "HAVE TO" rage to be mighty.

We were in the 5th row from the stage at the Greek Theater (outdoor amphitheater) at Berkeley, WOW!!! At the end, we all had our hands up, standing and clapping. Paul Simon had his hands up to, kind of waving to the crowd. He made a pointing-finger and pointed to someone, paused, nodded, then turned and pointed to us. We had our hands up already, clapping. I pointed back to him, and he nodded, then turned and waved so gently to the crowd. We were all clapping like crazy. It was the end of the third or fourth curtain call. If I knew how to scream, I would've joined in the screaming and whistling. Erin was calling, "WOOOOOOOO!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

After that, we were slowly jostling out with the crowd, and I found myself passing a young woman a row up. I recognized the profile of her wild, kinky hair. It was in a number of points. Earlier, she had leaped into the little space in front of the stage and begun dancing, with a lot of arms and the points of her hair, in silhouette, waving like dark flames.

As she bent forward to gather her things, I bent toward her and said quietly, "Beautiful dancing." She started to look up and say thank you, but then she felt my acknowledgement was a recognition of her gift, not a compliment. She was young. Slender, muscular, much smaller than I had thought. Australian Aborigine body-type? Anyway, she felt me intuitively, that was so cool. We spent a small moment with our foreheads barely touched together. A small moment of stillness holding for a heartbeat, then sweeping on in the natural movement of the crowd.

Monday, October 23, 2006

In Cleveland recently, two girls, aged 12 and 13, ran away from home. They caught a bus for Minneapolis. One of the girls brought along her dog, Bambi. She told the driver Bambi was a guide dog. Once they got on the bus, they expressed their exuberance in their freedom by stuffing Bambi with junk food. All that junk food made Bambi so flatulent that havoc ensued: it really raised a stink. There was such a commotion on the bus about Bambi's proclamations that police were required to restore peace and order (order: Bambi supplied the odor). That's when the officers discovered the girls were runaways.

Who says I don't keep up on world events?

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Saturday, October 21, 2006

The US and the ROC are both afflicted with disastrous presidents. The US may be able to undo the damage Bush is doing; I am beginning to worry the ROC may not be able to undo the damage Bean is doing.

President Bean, AKA Chen Shui Bian, has admitted to taking money illegally, explaining that he used it for "secret diplomacy." At least he didn't say if he told us where he spent the money he'd have to kill us. Because of this and other allegations of corruption and incompetence, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets calling for him to step down. His response has been 不看不聽 don't look, don't listen, to pretend that the demonstrations do not exist. Hardly how a mature statesman would deal with the situation.

The other day college students knelt on the pavement in front of his office, begging him to see them and explain his outlook to them. They're lucky they didn't get arrested. Of course President Bean refused to see them. Recently he said, "I am the president elected by the people, so the people are supposed to respect me/我是民選的總統,人民應該尊重我。" Whether or not he was elected by the people remains open to debate. Even if the last election was honest, which is highly disputable, he did not win a majority of the votes. He squeaked in with around forty per cent.

Regardless of that, Bean has it backward. Because he is the president elected by the people, he is duty bound to respect the people. Not necessarily obey, but respect, absolutely. It has to work both ways. Little respect has he shown the people!

He has gotten himself into this fix through confidence that he could fool all of the people all of the time. He should have known better. He should have known that all eyes would be on his act as Mr Clean. Many in his own party support him for the good of the party, regarding him disdainfully as nothing more than a pretty face that brings in votes.

But he couldn't stay clean. He could have stepped down at the end of his second term with his reputation intact, as a president who didn't do anything but at least didn't leave any unmanageable messes. Instead he has sullied his own reputation, the reputation of his party, and the reputation of all of Taiwan. Some legacy.

Another massive demonstration was held on October 10, the national holiday commemorating the revolution that ended the Ching dynasty. Bean took the microphone and said, "大家意見這麼多:Everybody has so many opinions, from now on we may not celebrate the national holiday anymore." How's that for the spirit of democracy and freedom of speech?

So Taiwan's got a 3 year old in the president's office, and hundreds of thousands of people have hit the streets to express their dissatisfaction. What are the people of the United States doing while Bush tramples on the Constitution and American political traditions?

When I say the students were lucky they didn't get arrested, I refer to Bean's tenure as mayor of Taipei. During one particular DPP demonstration, hundreds of demonstrators from his party filled Kuanchien Street, the street over from Merica, where I teach. They brought traffic to a standstill, intimidated passersby, vandalized public property, turned over trashcans, spray-painted slogans on office windows, signs, cars, motorcycles, sidewalks, and the street, and practically deafened everybody with their roaring amplifiers: a pretty typical DPP demonstration, actually (I witnessed almost every one of them). Mayor Bean smiled and said the people were exercising their right of free speech.

A couple days later, three or four teachers wanted to call Mayor Bean's attention to education; I forget just what the issue was. Since he was too busy to see them, they knelt in front of his office, pleading for his attention. Mayor Bean had the police arrest the teachers and threw the book at them: obstructing traffic, creating a nuisance, disorderly conduct, obstructing government business, and so forth and so on. So I think the students got off pretty lightly.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I finally did it!
Every day the dogs sing. I can't figure out what motivates them, but from time to time, Tlahuy starts a low, rhythmic howling. Then Yumin starts baying, and Byajing joins in with yips and yodels. They are obviously harmonizing, and every time is different. They sing maybe four or five times a day. Their enjoyment in their singing is obvious. 唱是他們很大的享受,不是狗號唳,是很祥和的歌唱。A set of dogs uphill has even taken it up, too.

Today I finally succeeded in filming their performance.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The weather was so nice I made tea outdoors. 鐵觀音.
When I opened the front door this morning, Byajing was chewing happily – and noisily – on a plastic bottle they had found. Tlahuy came over to me to have his head patted. Byajing put down her bottle and came over to muscle in and get some attention. Tlahuy gave me a significant look, walked over, picked up the plastic bottle, and started chewing furiously. Byajing instantly left me to reclaim her bottle, and Tlahuy came back, wagging his tail cheerfully, to have his head patted where we left off.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006






臺灣是寶島,從來沒有經過大風大浪。也希望臺灣永遠不要有大風大浪,除了颱風以外。世界上還有甚麼地方像臺灣這麼幸福?但正因為如此,很多沒有切身經驗的人不能了解波折所留下的心態、創傷、想法、顧忌。從民國元年到二十八年,光是四川省就經歷了四百七十五起大規模內亂;小亂不計數。八年抗戰,殘暴無人性的日本軍閥終于打敗了,不再蹂躪無辜的百姓。好景不長;抗戰時,殘暴無人性的毛澤東讓蔣中正孤軍與日本軍奮鬥,保衛國家,毛留在後方養精蓄銳,不出手,等勝利後,蔣的部隊筋疲力竭時,毛才出軍蹂躪無辜的百姓,建立他的專制無理的帝國。百花齊放、三面紅旗 、文革,各種亂局接踵而至,堅守臺灣的軍人留在大陸的家眷,幾十年沒有音訊。怎麼能忍受?









Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Monday, October 16, 2006

Last night as I was playing the recorder, I decided I really needed a walk. After I swabbed out the instrument, I strapped on my headhunting knife, clapped on my rattan cap, got a flashlight, and made my way with difficulty out through the bamboo to the path. With difficulty because my dogs were flinging themselves about my feet: oh boy a hike, a hike, a hike in the middle of the night!

I took the path up to the road above where I stood choosing uphill or downhill. Yumin chose for me. He raced off the road straight up the mountainside into the darkness. A moment later Tlahuy and Byajing followed him. Nothing unusual, but then suddenly Yumin started yelping frantically. Tlahuy and Byajing plunged down to my side, peered up into the darkness where Yumin continued to thrash and yip, and rushed back up. My first thought was that he had gotten himself snared in somebody's trap. Usually when he yelps, it's because he's excited by finding prey or a wild dog, but I didn't want to take the chance of him strangling while I stood by. I called and called, but he didn't come to me: well, at least that's normal. Wishing I had brought the headlamp instead of a flashlight, I followed his yelps up the extremely steep slope.

Tlahuy and Byajing raced back and forth. Yumin was nowhere to be seen, and of course did not return my calls. I reached a spot where I could barely move forward. Thick bamboo barred my way. I could scarcely find space to plant my feet. Whether or not I had enough purchase to hack, that would have been difficult holding a flashlight. Yumin's yelping and thrashing continued, but he had moved across the slope, so he wasn't ensnared, and anyway it dawned on me that nobody would place a trap on such a steep slope.

I figured, he’s still yelping, he's okay, and carefully made my way back down the slope. Good heavens, I wouldn't want to climb that in the daytime, and here I was clutching a flashlight trying to find a way down. This is what you should expect when you have a beagle.

I reached the road just as Yumin came down another way, totally unperturbed. Maybe he was happy I joined him on his jaunt. We walked along the road, enjoying the darkness and the quiet. The quiet was soon disturbed by the growling of a motorcycle, no, motorcycles. Motorcycles were coming down the road slowly, making their way through the pitch black night: sightseers going home, they don't know the road.

Conversation was not my goal in hiking, so as the motorcycles approached, I stood off by the side of the road in the darkness where they would pass right by me without even knowing I was there.

We all know what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men. I didn't notice that the place I chose for my inconspicuous lurking was on the outside of a sharp turn, so every motorcycle's headlights lit upon a panorama of three dogs and a guy with a headhunting knife, all motionless in the darkness out in the middle of nowhere, a kilometer or more from anyplace you would expect to see someone. They gawked.

That must have given them something to talk about when they got back to the city!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

When Running Dogs Want to Speak
During the Cultural Revolution, China was unknown and unknowable. Foreigners were not permitted in the country unless they were fools and communists (but I repeat myself). Ping pong diplomacy opened things up, and then Tricky Dick went. Shortly after Nixon's visit, a group of Canadian students were permitted to go to Beijing to learn Chinese, Canada never having raised communist hackles by displaying any principles. What a hullabaloo there was! Newspapers around the world reported how these young people were entering the forbidden People's Republic where they would take Chinese language lessons, and probably bond with the masses of laboring soldiers, mechanics, and farmers. And joy of joys, if they minded their ps and qs, they might even get to meet the Great Helmsman, the Shining Star of the East, Chairman Mao himself! It was in all the papers, Time, Newsweek, and probably on radio and television news everywhere. Reporters put on Mao hats to express their solidarity with the masses of laboring soldiers, mechanics, and farmers.

What was not reported was, a year later all the Canadian students were studying Chinese in Taiwan. Their admission had been excellent propaganda, but the Cultural Revolution was still going on. They told me that they learned all the slogans, but nothing practical. They were locked in their dorms when they were not learning how to recite propaganda in Chinese, so they really needed to know nothing practical. They never got anywhere near an unguarded laboring soldier, etc. One student told me, "We can hold a demonstration all by ourselves. We can all say The Running Dogs of American Imperialism are Criminals Meriting Ten Thousand Deaths, but not one of us knows how to read a menu or ask the way to the bathroom.”

So they all dumped the program and came to Taiwan to learn Chinese. But none of the newspapers, news magazines, radio stations, or television news broadcasts reported that. There's never been any need to express your solidarity with the masses of laboring soldiers, mechanics, and farmers in Taiwan, because you can just go out and talk to them. Not very newsworthy.

美帝走狗罪該萬死. That's how you say The Running Dogs blah blah 10,000. Just in case you need it at a demonstration.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Golden Oldies





崇洋譴華、疏典忘祖的政府領導下,只要有外文,必定勝中文,縱使四不像的「外文」也好。內湖「豪華氣派」的「綠之湖」建築廣告標Lake De Green,請問這是哪一種語言?文法有點像法文,可是法文的「綠之湖」是Lac Vert(不必加de,何況de通常不大寫;不過,臺灣遇到外文亂大寫是慣例);英文的「綠之湖」是Green Lake,如果牽強做作,可以寫Lake of Green,可是真搞不清楚Lake De Green是甚文…沒關係!只要不是中文就駭苦辣死!!


你說這種教育觀念健康嗎?這家叫作I'm ladder,連名字都不合英文文法;廣告片以兒童歌唱結尾,他們唱的是生日歌吧,但唱的像hebby busdeh do you,如果花一大筆錢讓小孩學這麼破的英文,要想一想,補習班老闆推廣英文教育,增加收入,家長還有甚麼好抱怨的呢?



Foreigner: Excuse me, Sir, can you speak English?
老歌班畢業生先哼幾個音,然後振耳欲聾唱: Only you~~~~ can take my heart away! Only you~~~~~~~
Foreigner: Umm, well, yes sir, you have a good voice, it's really very loud, but you see, I'm lost, and I don't know the way back to my hotel.
歌生: Oh Carol, I am but a foooool!
F: That's very nice, sir, but you see~~
歌生: Joani, Joani, please don't cry, you'll forget me by and by!
F: Sir, excuse me, could you stop singing for a moment?
歌生: I'm saving all my kisses just for you!!
Foreigner: Excuse me, Sir, can you speak English?
老歌生不慌不張,先學貓王彈吉他的姿勢,再學貓王屁股扭一扭腿抖一抖,抓著無形的麥克風唱:My blue suede shoes!



Friday, October 13, 2006

Bill Watterson, who did Calvin and Hobbes, comes from Chagrin Falls, Ohio. No wonder. Chagrin Falls? If you come from a place with a name like that, you need a sense of humor.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

And do you remember the time we almost shot Dad with the arrow?

One pleasant weekend afternoon when I was about ten, my brother Peter and I got out the bow and arrows for some archery. We shot at this clump of banana trees growing outside the dining room, because they were a good thick, impenetrable mass. Did you know? Banana trees are not very solid. I forget who shot first, but I have a feeling I am the guilty party. We watched in amazement ::: 說時慢,那時快::: it takes longer to tell than to happen:: as the arrow shot RIGHT THROUGH the banana trees, then SPLING and SCREEEEECH!! Dad came roaring out the side door, WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME???? He had been sitting at the table, and when we went to look at the scene of the crime, the arrow was lodged, stuck halfway through the pane of glass, pointing right at where he had been sitting……

Wednesday, October 11, 2006





"If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
General George S Patton\巴頓將軍

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


> 國慶是甚麼時候?
< 十月十號。
> ……(白目)….我說,國慶星期幾?
< 喔….星期一吧。

Monday, October 09, 2006

Recently I have seen t-shirts that say
Think of that! A world without strangers. Wouldn't that be awful? The whole world ironed out, no more kinks, no more quirks, everybody predictable, 7/11 on every corner, McDonalds on every block, a Toyota on every street, pro wrestling on cable tv in every home.

It's bad enough already. In the early 19th century, an Ohioan was discernible from a Hoosier at a glance. Now you can barely tell Russian pop music from Indonesian pop music, and the musicians all dress alike: the standard reckless rebel who dares to express his individuality by conforming docilely to universal expectations.

What an awful world it would be if you never met someone whose customs rubbed you the wrong way, or seemed impossibly weird. A world in which everybody had the same ideas, all the same habits, and you never met someone you couldn't figure out, all the bizarre diversity of humanity reduced to sterile, stagnant clones, so that there were no strangers. How could we survive without difference of customs? outlooks?

What a dreary world it would be if everybody could speak the same language. A world without strangers, what kind of ideal is that? It sounds like a threat to me.

What an awful world it would be if you never met a man you didn't like.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

From Cancer Ward, by Solzhenitsyn
Epicurus has once observed that a fool, if offered eternity, would not know what to do with it….

Compulsory loudspeakers, for some reason generally regarded in our country as a sign of cultural breadth, are on the contrary a sign of cultural backwardness and an encouragement to intellectual laziness….The permanent mutter – information you hadn't asked for alternating with music you hadn't chosen (and quite unrelated to the mood you happened to be in) – was a theft of time, a diffusion and an entropy of the spirit, convenient and agreeable to the inert but intolerable to those with initiative. Epicurus's fool with eternity in hand would probably find listening to the radio the only way to bear it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

>可是還是有一個人受傷 了。所以後來討論,這次幸好沒出大事,萬一出人命怎麼辦?所以決定把火車停開了,後來鐵軌挖掉了,現在沒有了。

Friday, October 06, 2006


Today is my favorite holiday on any calendar: 中秋節, the Moon Festival. Only the Chinese would have a holiday that is not to glorify any religion or great ego or patriotism, and has no more utilitarian value than to enjoy the full moon.

And eat. In China, everything is seen as a good reason to eat. In recent years the custom has arisen in Taiwan to barbecue and gorge as you watch the moon. Be that as it may, there's another great attraction (for me) to the Moon Festival: mooooon cakes, yummy rummy.

A further attraction: the Mid Autumn Moon Festival means that summer is over, and cooler weather is on the way. Cooler is a relative term. Usually it's around 17C in Wulai on the big night. Typically it is cloudy at dusk and moonrise for this holiday. The moon peeks out from behind the clouds at around 8:30, and at 9, just about when all the sightseers have gone back to the city, the moon shines brightly. But you really can't have a moon festival without some clouds to play with the moon.

One year it poured on the great night. Some of my friends, confined to their dorm by the gale, cut a circle out of white paper, stuck it up on the wall, and ate their moon cakes beneath their own private moon. Good enough.
photo courtesy of Chao

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Something I learned in Tae Kwon Do: some people have such powerful side kicks/側踢 that you can't block them. If you root your stance and put up a strong block, they'll just break your arms. What you want to do in a situation like that is take the kick on your forearms and float with it. If you catch it at the right angle, and the kick is powerful enough, you can spin around and use his power to launch a reverse roundhouse (後旋踢). Otherwise, float with it and be prepared to come back the instant you set down, and dog help you if you stumble. You're safest if you never even give the opponent a chance to kick.

A lot of life is like that.

Writing this reminds me of the time someone fighting in a tournament around 1969 fouled on Joe Lewis, which was definitely not a good move. (Joe Lewis was a Marine bodybuilder who picked up karate when he was stationed in Okinawa, and returned to the US to become a champion fighter and famous bad boy.) Lewis kicked him with his famous side kick; the guy blocked it, the kick broke his arm and pushed the bones into his ribs.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Here's something most people probably don't know. Freshly cut cherry wood has a rich, sweet smell.

Yesterday I took the dogs out for a little hike. Coming home, I saw that one of the roadside cherry trees had been culled and thrown by the road to return to the earth. Some of the wood still looked nice, so I chopped off a section to bring home. When I got home, I put it inside for the time being. This piece has an unusually strong smell. Now the whole house is full of that rich smell.





我選過年爬山還有一個原因:雪。大年初一早上睡醒的時候,室內溫度零下五度。過癮。只有一個問題:鞋子。我腳大,到今天在臺灣買鞋子不容易買,何況三十年前。我在萬華的tsa la chi(我不會寫:小偷市場,在YMCA附近。據說是小偷脫手的地方)買了一雙軍鞋,充當登山鞋。鞋子的貨源只怕不是小偷,是騙子,因為好像是冒牌貨。還不到排雲山莊,一腳的鞋跟開始脫落。釘子刺到腳,我找了一片石頭塞進去,還可以,可是走久了要鏟雪。那個腳有點冷。









Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Not only had her family not brought Agniya up to believe in God, but in the past when one had been obliged to go to church her mother and grandmother did not go, did not observe the fasts, did not take Communion, snubbed the priests, and always ridiculed religion because it had accepted serfdom so easily. Her grandmother, mother, and aunt had their own creed: always be on the side of those who were oppressed, arrested, pursued, and persecuted by the authorities. Her grandmother had evidently been known by all the "People's Will" revolutionaries because she gave them refuge in her home and helped them in whatever way she could. Her daughters took after her and hid fugitive Social Revolutionaries and Social Democrats. And little Agniya was always on the side of the rabbit that was being hunted, of the horse that was being whipped. As she grew up, this came to mean, to the surprise of her elders, that she was for the church because it was being persecuted.

Whether she came thereby to believe in god or forced herself to believe, in any case she insisted that it would now be ignoble to avoid church, and to her mother's and her grandmother's horror she began to attend services and little by little came to care about them.
--- The First Circle, Chapter 23, The Church of St John the Baptist

Monday, October 02, 2006






Sunday, October 01, 2006

The other day I finished rereading The First Circle ~~do I have to annotate that it was written by Solzhenitsyn? And that Hamlet was written by Shakespeare?

I suppose I read The First Circle twice by the time I was 25, and at least twice since, but it's been years since the last time I read it. What surprised me reading it this time was howmuch I learned from Solzhenitsyn.

In his best work, Solzhenitsyn doesn't tell you: this is what to believe. Especially in The First Circle, his characters argue many standpoints, and each life portrays its own standpoint. The reader weighs everything.

I have been very lucky. I remember when Solzhenitsyn was first being translated into English; I devoured all his early works as soon as they were available, although I sort of bogged down by 1919 and The Gulag Archipelago.

My major in college was Chinese Lit (師大國文). Our teachers did not bother with trying to attract students with appealing course lists: almost everything was required. Take this, it's good for you. But we learned from the giants of China, in philosophy, in literature, in etymology and phonology, in calligraphy, and in history. Even if we never became giants, we stood on their shoulders and looked at life and at the universe.

Our teachers told us, We do not read literature or philosophy from the Ming or Ching periods (in other words, anything written after about the 14th century) because it is still too new. It hasn't passed the test of time. You can read it yourselves, you don't need guidance, you can handle the material by yourselves. But in class, our courses concern those works which have stood up to the scrutiny of many generations, and which you may have difficulty studying unassisted.

I suppose if I had taken a less rigorous major, I could have earned credits in Movie Criticism or Studies in Contemporary Advertising Strategies, and I would not have had such a workout.