Saturday, June 30, 2007

The other night something was bumping against the screen. It was a mantis, about the size of my index finger. There are a lot of mantises around here; this one is large, but not one of the really big ones. The little ones are only about half a centimeter long.

This morning I noticed Tlahuy looking at something on the ground, he bit at it, and pulled back. Amazing: when Tlahuy charges, nothing stops him. I looked and a mantis ~ maybe the same one trying to get through my screen, maybe its relative, but the same size ~ was in fighting stance and had stopped Tlahuy. Tlahuy has chased away a menacing Tibetan mastiff and scattered a whole pack of hunting dogs. This is the first time I have ever seen him stopped, and I was suitably impressed. I think the mantis scratched his nose or something, enough to give him pause… before he went at it with his paws. I called Tlahuy to halt, hoping to get a photo of the brave mantis facing down the dog. As I reached for the camera, Tlahuy glanced at me, and at that moment, the mantis leapt into the underbrush. Not just brave, but smart, too.

No wonder the mantis has won such admiration for its bravery. 古諸侯軾螳螂,以勵士志。

I wasn't able to get a photo of Tlahuy and the mantis, so I will borrow this one from because the mantis is in the exact same stance, and about the same size.

Friday, June 29, 2007





place: a lane in New Store, on the outskirts of Taipei

time: 9:45 Friday evening

cast: a man, about 40 years old, squatting outside the closed door of an apartment building, smoking and talking to himself.

script: So what, I got home a bit late from work, I am the head of the household, aren’t I?....

Thursday, June 28, 2007









Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Why, the English churchman William Newburgh contemplates, does the Muslim hate the Christian so? “It was and is the luxury and greed of our Christian world, displayed in our feasting and drunkenness, that has made the Muslims hate us, for they glory in their frugality.”

This timely comment on current affairs was written in the twelfth century.

Monday, June 25, 2007

a lawyer joke

Wanna hear a lawyer joke?






You’ll have to pay him five hundred bucks.


Public Service Announcement from Wandering In Wulai:

Slapping your computer may cause it to malfunction.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Emma asked Chao about racial discrimination in Taiwan, and Chao asked me: an interesting question.

Austronesian南島語系 speakers, the Aborigines, first came to Taiwan from Southwestern China about 6,000 years ago; Chinese speakers (Han Chinese, who speak Sino-Tibetan藏漢語系 Chinese), came in the last three or four hundred years. The Han are composed of speakers of various Minnan (閩南Fujien) dialects and Hakka客家 dialects, most of whom arrived in the last two hundred years, and the speakers of other dialects, who arrived after World War II when Mao’s rampage made life in mainland China hell. Politics be damned, there are negligible cultural differences between the various Han groups, but huge differences between the Chinese Han and the Taiwanese aborigines.

The Aborigines were once divided into two categories, the raw (生番, uncivilized) savages and the cooked (熟番, civilized) savages: long before Levi-Strauss. Now generally the division is made between the Flat Land tribes and the Mountain tribes. The Flat Land Tribes (平埔, called Pepo in early Western accounts) have all but disappeared, assimilated into Han society. The Mountain tribes maintain their languages and much of their customs.

Most foreign visitors to Taiwan cannot tell the difference between Aborigine and Han features, just as most Han are surprised to learn that an experienced eye can tell the tribes apart. For this reason, racial divisions are not so distinct as in American or Australian society, with mainstream blond hair, blue eyes and light skin, compared to black hair, black eyes, and dark skin.

Also, Western society in general, and Christianity in particular, places great emphasis on dichotomies: god against devil, good against bad. Christianity and Marxism alike thrive on confrontations and conflicts: you’re either a believer or a heathen, a party member or an enemy of the people. For millennia, China has dealt with invaders by absorbing them. Chinese abhor face to face confrontations; religious and philosophical thought deals with connections and relations more than Western analyses.

(Speaking very generally and theoretically, I suspect that the various contents of the Chinese psyche may be better integrated than the typical Western psyche, which would be why the West expects dichotomies while Chinese consider unity the natural condition.)

However, China has always been ethnocentric and looked down on unassimilated foreigners not for racial reasons, but because they are uncivilized. As such, one barbarian is the same as another. Writing about his travels in 1857, the Englishman Robert Swinhoe writes that Taiwan Chinese “kept plaguing me with (words from Aborigine languages), wondering why I did not understand. They said that surely all foreigners were of the same origin, and ought naturally to speak the same language…. the Chinese language is badly provided with terms for outsiders, or people who do not wear tails (queues, pigtails) and acknowledge Manchu (Ching dynasty) rule, and having but the one word Fan(, savage), they apply it to all and everything foreign.” (Fan is considered a pejorative now. Westerners are not even called 洋鬼 foreign devils anymore, now we are 外國人 outer-land-people, foreigners, or less respectfully 老外 old outer, or among uneducated Minnan, the mildly offensive 阿凸仔, the one with the nose sticking out.)

The aborigines in Taiwan strongly resisted Chinese incursion; aborigine hunters against Chinese farmers, the aborigines, being more warlike, held their own until the Japanese Occupation of Taiwan (1895 to 1945) when the Japanese Imperial Army subdued the aborigines after decades of fighting, while giving the Chinese better weapons.

The last tribe to give up headhunting were the Tayal, for whom headhunting was a religious duty. A Tayal man would not go to heaven after death if he had never brought heads home to watch over the fields. The Japanese finally put an end to Tayal headhunting in about 1930, but encouraged it when many Tayal were used by the Imperial Army as commandos in the Pacific Theater in WWII. Tayal still speak fondly of headhunting.

For these and various reasons, the Chinese did not look down on Aborigines so much for racial reasons, as for cultural reasons, and from fear and unfamiliarity.

When the KMT took Taiwan back from Japan at the end of WWII, they immediately gave Aborigines the vote and seats in the legislatures (Indians did not get the vote in the US until the 1920s, and in Australia until about 1975); aborigines were trained as police and in the armed services. Before the Civil Rights movement, Blacks were discouraged from voting in the American South, and kept in inferior schools. Nothing like this has happened in Taiwan, aside from generally poorer schools in remote mountains, a problem of geography rather than intent. Special inducements were provided to encourage Aborigines, both male and female, to continue their education; China has always had great faith in education. There was no official discrimination against Aborigines. Rather, they were encouraged, but not forced, to join mainstream Han society. Intermarriage is common and considered a good thing.

The great Olympic gold medalist, K C Yang, the Iron Man of Asia亞洲鐵人楊傳廣, was an Aborigine from the eastern coast, and Chi Cheng紀政, another gold medalist, is also Aborigine. Taiwan first began sewing up the Little League World Series in about 1969 with an aborigine team from the east coast.

What discrimination existed was mostly among the Chinese who arrived before WWII and Mao’s takeover of China. Now, the aborigines accuse the current DPP administration of discrimination, and have a mutually hostile relationship with the Taiwan Independence movement, because Aborigines feel they are the only people qualified to talk about an independent Taiwan. Maybe for this reason, hard-line TI people do not deal with aborigines gently. Aside from the Minnan TI fringe, any social discrimination is fading away. In city grade schools, aborigine kids are admired and considered to be good singers and athletes.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

a pleasant conversation

Rounding a corner in a quiet alley in New Store, I came face to face with a little boy, about six years old. He looked up and examined me for a moment, then pronounced, “Hello.”

“Hello,” I replied.

He thought a moment and said, “You too cat dog yellow good, bye bye.” He was speaking English with me.

I said, “Yes, you too, thank you, bye bye,” and we each went our own way.

Friday, June 22, 2007

overheard on the bus from Wulai to the city

中年釣客: 妳今天又出來走走。
烏來再進去福山溪裡有鳟魚,是養鳟場流出來的。現在烏來封溪, 不能釣,可是我以前到下盆那裡有一條小路下去,我以前在那裡釣過魚。有個段崖在那裡。可是我沒有釣到魚。


Thursday, June 21, 2007





Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Geography quiz: in what part of North America is the local currency the euro, and not the Almighty Dollar or the Canadian dollar?

Let me be specific: the area I’m talking about is North America, north of the Rio Grande, not the Caribbean or anything.

Well, sure, that’s easy, the answer is, in France, of course. Right, France, capital Paris, that France.

Actually, it was only last night that I found out that France still rules part of North America: three little islands off Newfoundland called Saint Pierre et Miquelon. They sing the Mar-Sales as their national anthem and are as much a part of France as Nice or Lions. I don’t know about you, but I was quite surprised to learn that.

You learn something every day. If you’re interested, you can read more about that here:

I love Flickr. They even have a photo group in which I suspect you can find photos of every inch of the islands: not very big islands, and from the looks of it, maybe four trees all told.

Hot diggety, this blog is chock full of useful information!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

In addition to being Dragon Boat Day, this is also the anniversary of the Magna Carta, which the barons forced King John to sign on June 19, 1215, ensuring rights and the power of the law. This precious document was the basis for many further advances in English democracy, and for the American Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights.

But how did the contemporary Pope like the Magna Carta when it was issued? He said it was “not only shameful and base but also illegal and unjust. We refuse to overlook such shameless presumption which dishonors the Apostolic See, injures the king’s right, shames the English nation, and endangers the crusade.” He promised to excommunicate anybody who observed the great charter.

Unfortunately, in his heart of hearts, Our Exalted Leader His Travesty King Dubya probably sides with King John and the Pope on this one. As for me, I prefer Ben Franklin’s stance: “In free governments the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns.” Hurray for old Ben!

Happy 端午節!
Go stand an egg.

Monday, June 18, 2007

On June 11 at the national airport in DC, a mother pushing a toddler in a stroller committed the unforgivable offence of carrying a cup of water for her infant. An alert TSA agent quickly halted this monster before she could bring civilization to its knees. If you have flown through the US recently, you should know how dangerous a cup of water is, and how vigilantly the authorities have to guard against anybody carrying a beverage onto a plane! It could spell the end of the American Way of Life, not to mention Motherhood and Apple Pie. Who knows what havoc could have ensued if Monica Emmerson had boarded a jet with water for her son in that cup!

Do you hate the TSA? Do you think they are rude, inefficient, ineffective, and go out of their way to make your trip unpleasant? Yes, they may never stop any terrorists or criminals, but remember that they proved that they are capable of making life hell for a mother pushing an infant in a stroller! As if traveling with an infant wasn’t hell already.

<<<<<<--- >>>>>>

If you haven’t read the story about how the fearless TSA defeated this nefarious plan to carry water onto a flight, please go to

As that article shows, the TSA is ready to insult passengers to ensure the depletion of your traveling enjoyment and safety. They have posted videos of the incident at

in which you can see with your own eyes how they brought the infamous Monica Emmerson to her knees! Yes, you can watch her down on the floor swabbing up the water she spilled as the TSA agents stand by. They probably don’t have janitors in airports anymore; they can put the money to better use shooting up Iraq if the TSA can get passengers to mop the airport for them.

<<<<<<--- >>>>>>

In my experience, the TSA staff are dedicated to making travel inconvenient and disagreeable. Read all about it on my post for February 26, 2007 on this blog.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A barely civilized savage was spotted making his way through the jungle around Pinsknus and Yayaw in Uray during a rainstorm this afternoon. The poor benighted creature has practically lost the use of language, sputtering a few simple phrases over and over: “喝茶!喝茶!… study hard…. study hard….” and something that sounds like “Ciao.” Authorities have released him in the care of three dogs which accompanied him as he trekked mindlessly through the rainforest.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

An interesting article from Reuters today:

The Miss Spain beauty contest has changed its rules to allow mothers to compete after its decision to dethrone a 22-year-old beauty queen when it emerged she had a child met with national outrage in February.

Angela Bustillo, who has a toddler son, won the title of Miss Cantabria, a region on Spain's northern coast, in January but organizers disqualified her citing rules that contestants cannot have children.

The decision sparked widespread outrage in the Spanish press and expressions of support for the dethroned queen from feminist organizations to the head of the Cantabrian local government.

A good point. Of course it does no good to bother too much with ‘reason’ concerning beauty contests, but who says only young, heavily-made up women with big curves, big hair, and big mouths are beautiful? A woman at 40 or 60 can be much more beautiful and 耐看. The problem there is that this beauty is a glow from inner resources, not just eye candy you plop into bed and forget about afterwards.

In Taiwan they laud Model Mothers (or at least, they used to. Let me state clearly that I haven’t paid attention to the news for many years). The problem here is that the Model Mother is generally someone who has dragged ten or twelve little souls into this turbulent, over-populated world. I would say a Model Mother is one who raises her child to be considerate, mild, and a constructive citizen: quality over quantity.

Friday, June 15, 2007





Wednesday, June 13, 2007

We all know that we ought to learn the lessons of history, but history’s bag of tricks is so endless that lessons are apt to come to naught.

During WWII, when America’s might brought us to the forefront, the British mishandling of the attack on Gallipoli forced them to ally themselves with capricious Arab idealists. A casualty in Gallipoli was the lover of Gertrude Bell, who never married but devoted herself to Arab politics, and eventually with those Arabs created Iraq, which is now poised to bring the United States crashing down under its own weight.

During the 1970s, when the contest between the US and the USSR looked too close to call, the obliteration of the Republic of China was a foregone conclusion. Who would possibly have imagined that by the dawn of the 21st century, the Soviet Union would be a fading memory and that Free China would still be free?

Through his regime’s bumbling, corruption, and fantasizing, the DPP’s President Bean, for all his talk about Taiwan independence, is the most likely candidate to bring an end to Taiwan’s autonomy.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Translation Exercise: Pearls of Chinese Wisdom


英譯:If you don’t throw chickens while you talk, three sentences will be far too salty.

Sunday, June 10, 2007








Saturday, June 09, 2007

Foreign visitor’s comment on 101: “It may not always be the world’s tallest building, but it will always be the world’s ugliest.”

Actually, I don’t think the design is so ugly. There’s only so much you can do with a long thin vertical. It sticks up all by itself out there, like a chopstick stuck in a plate of tofu. To me, it’s not so much ugly as ridiculous. In Taiwan, especially with Presidents Lee Tenghui and Bean Chen in charge, people very definitely feel that we’ve gone way downhill since the glory days. Now we’re so desperate to assert ourselves that we make a building so unsuited to its environment that geologists warn that it causes earthquakes, as though Taiwan itself is unwilling to accept it.

A short man wearing built-up heels is still short. But at least the arcade on the first couple stories is pleasant, if expensive.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Recently I have been revealing startling details about the Roswell aliens’ plots to conquer the world (please see this blog, June 2, June 7). I have now received a document from an undisclosed source that verifies my accusations, and proves that the plot is much farther advanced than we suggested.

I would like to point out that my reference is entirely 100% reliable, because I received this in email, over the Internet, so that proves that it must be true.

Mere Coincidence?
> >
> >
> > Many will recall that, on July 8, 1947, witnesses
> > claimed an unidentified object, with five aliens aboard, crashed onto a
> > sheep and cattle ranch just
> > outside Roswell, New Mexico. This is a well-known
> > incident many say has long been covered up by the United States Air Force and the federal government.
> >
> > However, what you may NOT know, is that in the month of
> > March 1948, exactly nine months later, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney,
> > Donald Rumsfeld, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Condoleezza Rice, and Dan
> > Quayle were all born.
> >
> >
> > See what happens when aliens breed with sheep?
> >
>This information may clear up a lot of questions.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I can't explain this.

This year there are a lot of leeches. I have no idea why, but this year the number of leeches has risen far above anything I have seen before. The weather isn't particularly rainier than before, so that wouldn't account for it.

Could it have something to do with global warming?

Actually, no. The leeches are in league with the peanuts (this blog, June 2), and they are moving into position for conquest. Be prepared! Get your saltshaker ready!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Long ago a diver told me that during World War II, Japanese soldiers on troop transport ships wrapped long red cloths around their waists. The cloths were about ten meters long. If the ship was sunk and the sailors had to swim, they would unwind the cloth and let it trail behind them as they swam. The theory was that a shark doesn’t have very good eyesight; it would swim alongside to measure itself against the swimmer, who was perceived to be monstrous, over ten meters long; the shark would not attack something so much larger than itself. The color red was supposed to help repel sharks.

I don’t know how well this worked, and personally have no desire to try it out, but the Japanese do have a lot of experience at sea, so there may be something to it.

The diver also told me about a Japanese troop ship sunk between Korea and Japan. Some of the survivors swam a whole day, and attributed their escape from sharks to their long cloths.

You may go ahead and test it if you please, but not me, no thanks.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I found a draft I wrote around 1990. Days gone by.

Several years ago, I had a freelance job translating Chinese movie subtitles into English.

I did the English subtitles for those forgettable Chinese films you regretted paying the price of admission for, from Flute in the Mist/霧裡的笛聲, so artistic that it could barely move, and just laid on the floor and moaned and then disappeared from the theaters forever after its third day, to Liao T’ienting, the Chinese Robin Hood / 中國羅賓漢,廖添丁, which began with the patriotic decision to assassinate the Japanese crown prince, and ended abruptly halfway through a
tangle of infighting amongst Taiwanese gangsters.

My pay was 5NT a line (about 12 cents US at the time). If there were too many words, the audience would see only the actors’ eyebrows, so each sentence or phrase had to be squeezed into 58 spaces for letters, punctuation, and spaces. Even now I sometimes catch myself counting letters when I write.

58 spaces required some ingenuity, but then, no Chinese movie would be complete without the entire cast’s repeating “Hurry up!” or “Come eat!” And Chinese are so polite! NT$5 for each and every “Thank you.” Yes indeed!

An average movie was about 600 lines, which I could knock off in about five hours. I should mention that I got the job because I’m about the fastest translator in the business. I started on a portable typewriter and earned enough to buy an electronic typewriter and even learned how to touch type. Once you’ve done a couple dozen of these, your typing improves.

I read an article about some American teenager movie (Zarb?) being translated into French; it seems the translators (notice the plural!) watched the movie 25 times before they did their translating. They must have been getting paid a lot more than I was! French and English, English and French, how hard can that be? Maybe they chose an auspicious day and sacrificed a goat when they finally began translating, I don’t know, but one of my conditions was that they could never ask me to watch the movies – translating them was bad enough.

My speed also meant that I got all the rush jobs. My man would appear just before midnight with a big wad of paper, Can you give me this tomorrow morning?

And the scripts I’ve done! This was before Chinese computers got popular, and almost nobody knew how to type Chinese, so the scripts were all scrawled out longhand, blue ink on white paper with green blocks for the characters, with Arabic numerals in red giving the line number. But as often as not, what they would give me was photocopies of the script, so the red numbers became black, too. Or photocopies of photocopies, which my man pulled out of his hip pocket after he rode over on his motorcycle, unless he had held the script over his head in the rain. I still shudder to think of it.

We didn’t even have faxes in those days. If they found some lines that had been missing, or got edited back into the final cut, the typist would phone me up, read me the lines, and I would laboriously spell it out for her: C, the third letter; O, the round one; M, two humps; E, a vertical with three horizontal lines ~~ no, no, not 王, the English letter E, okay, follow the E with a space, then the next word begins with another E, the same letter, yes, that’s ok, then followed by A, the first letter, and then a T, as in Taiwan, you know the one that looks like 丁 as in 甲乙丙丁; then a comma, the kind with a tail, another space and the third word, begins with an F, you know like an E but only two lines up on top; then an R, it’s round on top and has two legs, the letter before S, no, no, there’s no S in this word, I mean in … never mind, you know the R? ok, let’s keep going, you’ve got an F and an R, right? then an I, that’s a vertical line with a dot on top, then another E, we’ve got a lot of those, then an N, that’s just one hump, and then a D, the fourth letter, then you put down a period. I kid you not. How well do you think you could write Chinese if I were trying to talk you through it over the phone?

Once Chang came and picked up my translation, they turned it over to a typist to retype for the camera. I’m not a very good proofreader myself, so my translations must have had typos, but at least I know English. You may have gathered from my narrative of spelling the words, a knowledge of English was not part of the typist’s job description.

But the job at times brought a sense of achievement. My proudest accomplishment was in a comedy when the slapstick heroine called the hero 科學怪豬/Scientific Weird Pig; it was funny, in context. Now we all know that Frankenstein in Chinese is 科學怪人/Scientific Weird Man. But how to translate this? drum roll please:: Frankenswine.

You may applaud.

Oh, and I also translated A Kind Mother’s Tears/ 慈母淚, and then there was The Thousand Year Old Ginseng King / 千年參王, the thrilling story about how Thousand Mile Eyes / 千里眼 and Windward Ears / 順風耳 rescue the Thousand Year Old Ginseng King, who was being chased over hill and dale by goblins who wanted to feed him to their ailing chief. But of course you already saw those, didn’t you.

Didn’t you?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

An old photo somebody sent: a profession you don’t see anymore, the牽豬哥 Pig Man. He would walk his stud pig to farms requiring piglets. Not exactly at the top of the social ladder, but a long time ago, there were a lot in Taiwan. Not any more.

I treasure Roger’s masterpiece, 牽豬哥 (Pig Man, 1977), certainly the finest painting of a Pig Man I have ever seen. Roger worked very hard on placing the mole in exactly the right spot on the pig’s face, and explained to me that you can’t have a proper pig without a mole, and that the mole has to be just the right spot. This is the criterion by which noted art critics and art historians worldwide judge whether or not a painting is a masterpiece: has the artist placed the mole on the pig’s face properly? Of vital importance, that.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

I am allergic to peanuts. If I eat peanuts, my throat tightens and I have trouble breathing. 豆花、糉子裡的花生可以吃,也許因為已經煮爛了嗎?不知。When I was growing up, peanut allergies were very rare, I knew only a couple other kids with the same allergy. It wasn't until I grew up that I found someone older than me with the same allergy: Jimmy Carter's brother, of all people!

Now peanut allergies are more common and more severe. I have read that people with severe allergies go into shock if someone who has eaten a peanut breathes on them. You may have seen those notices on cookie wrappers that say, The machines in our factory are used to process peanuts, or something like that, even when the product itself has no peanuts in it. in cases of severe peanut allergies, a little smudge of leftover peanut in the machine could be enough to do the poor kid in.

Isn't that strange? An allergy that apparently didn't exist a hundred years ago is becoming more rampant, and it seems nobody knows why.

Actually, I know why, and I'll tell you now: it's those aliens from Roswell. Before their ship went down, they programmed peanuts to do this, to soften up Earth people, because genetically aliens are a type of peanut. This way, when the Mother Ship arrives, all of earth will be at their mercy.

What proof do I have of this? About as much as anybody has about anything to do with Roswell. And you can't say my take on the events makes any less sense than theirs.

If you still doubt, allow me to point out that PEANUT is an anagram for A NET UP, which proves that a trap is being laid from the stars! BEWARE!!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Wulai is subtropical rainforest, so this house was designed with that in mind. It is important to have dry places where you can sit and enjoy the rain. You need good eaves to shield you from the rain, but not so long that they will act like wings in a typhoon and fly off with the roof.

A day may start with bright sunshine and rain buckets at lunch. It’s wet, no doubt. Especially in winter, clothes don’t dry on the line, they mold, so you need a fire or a dryer (that’s catchy: a fire or a dryer. You could practically sing that, A fire or a dryer, a fire or a dryer, oh my baby~~) When there’s sunshine I may put some articles that dry slowly out on the railing, but precious little sunshine appears in the winter.

Yesterday morning was sunny, but after lunch thunder was followed by drenching rain. It rained so hard that it drowned out the cicadas, and they are loud. I sat very happily on the front doorstep, enjoying the sound and smell of the cooling rain, thinking how lucky I am to be able to enjoy this without getting soaked, and that if I pleased I could even more up to the second floor porch where OMIDOG MY JACKET!! I had washed my jacket days ago, it wasn’t drying, so this morning I draped it over the railing to get some sunshine. And forgot about it. I leapt to my feet and raced upstairs. Fortunately, our builder designed the eaves well, so my jacket was still dry. Good thing I hadn’t placed it out on the roof.