Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nominally I went to Pasadena High, but actually I spent all my time and energy studying 武 Kenpo under Mr Ed Parker. Pasadena was his home studio, so a lot of the best martial artists of the time would stop in. Whenever I could, I sparred with them. I can say truthfully that I have been beaten by some of the finest martial artists of the twentieth century; it was very instructive and I learned a lot. Talk about the school of hard knocks!

One of Mr Parker's black belts was a man with hands like lightning, Mr Steve Sanders (I understand that he has changed his name to Mr Steve Muhammad, but that was after I left the States). He had his own studio in Inglewood, but he would stop in from time to time, and I would drag him out on the mats, where he would proceed to tear me to pieces until I tired him out. I don't think I ever hit him, but he would patiently thrash me until finally he would smile and say, "That's enough for today! You've worn me out!" I've always had good stamina.

BTW: I suspect one reason I get so impatient with basketball players who strut and swagger is that I spent my teens with men who could kill someone barehanded in a moment, and every one of them was humble and mild.

One move Kenpo fighters love is the back-knuckle 反拳, but a lot of people from the less subtle styles (Japanese, Okinawan) don't think it has any power. Mr Sanders won tournament after tournament, but in one tournament, when he threw a perfect back-knuckle at his opponent’s head, the referee shook his head and said, "No power."

About a week later, when I was, as usual, at the studio, Mr Parker came out of his office roaring with laughter. He told us that Mr Sanders had come out of a supermarket with a bag full of groceries in his left arm when he was accosted by two muggers. He threw a back-knuckle at the first and he dropped like a damp towel. The other was about to run off when Mr Sanders picked a soda pop bottle out of his grocery bag, flipped it at the back of his head, and dropped him too. Then he ran to a payphone and called Mr Parker: "Ed, Ed, do you remember that referee who said my back-knuckle didn't have any power? Well, it does, it works!"

When Mr Parker had heard the circumstances, he asked, "Very good, Steve, but have you phoned the police?"

"Oh…. Yeah, how about that? I guess I should…."

Reading back, I realize I have called him Mr Sanders through sheer force of habit. Okay, change all those to Mr Muhhamad. For Mr Muhammad’s site, please go here:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From time to time in the stream or on the beach you can find bricks worn down to pebbles. A brick had been fired and hard enough to build towering structures, but a few decades in the water is enough to wear it down to a shapeless rock.

Slippery sloppy mud flows and gathers and settles. Sometimes when you poke and probe, you can find a compacted center. In a million years that compacted center will be solid adamantine rock.

Time plays tricks on us all.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Today is my mother’s 90th birthday. Although her memory is not so great, she is in good health, walks a lot, and has better teeth than I do. Long may she wave!
This photo of her was taken when she was eight and a half months old. She looks a bit different now.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


澂看他可憐,就說,「甚麼寶?能不能讓我看看?」 藏人便從衣服裏摸出一個小布袋,打開來,拿出一顆天珠,給澂看。










Saturday, October 25, 2008

Today the DPP, the right-wing Taiwan Independence party, held a march to remind people that they are still around after the drubbing they took in the last couple of elections. Typical DPP staging: the march of the old folks, grandpappy and grandmaw bussed up from central and southern Taiwan for a day marching through the city waving banners until they get fed. I would estimate the average age of the marchers to be well over 60.

This was not a Taipei event; DPP events never are. Afterwards, in the cram-packed Taipei subway station, only a handful of DPP supporters and flag-carriers were to be seen among the thousands of people streaming by ignoring them. Wulai taxi drivers are looking forward to making a lot of money tomorrow. In the words of one, "They always bring the old folks out for a day in the mountains after they have finished their march. Otherwise, why would anybody want to join a DPP demonstration?" This may be a version of the trickle-down effect.

Precious little money is left to trickle down after President Chen's rapacious tenure in office. With help from some friends, I have been trying to figure out how much public money he is accused of putting into his own pockets: something over a billion dollars US. You can see what kept him busy for his eight years in office.

His actions have split his own party, so they were all sort of hoping that he would be arrested before the big event. President Chen was hoping for the chance to play the great martyr; he has been delivering farewells, saying that he is going to be a political prisoner. Arrest for corruption does not count as being a political prisoner. The opposing factions of his party wanted him out of the way so he wouldn't embarrass them.

Chen made it to the march and tried to stir up feelings against anybody trying to settle down tensions across the Taiwan Straits. He said that if Taiwan's chairman to the talks showed up, "Anybody can grab him." As inured as we are to Chen's irresponsible, self-serving ploys, this was, IMHO, going too far, stepping beyond the bounds of legality.

In a throwback to KMT slogans, the DPP is also calling the people to arms against the "communist bandits." This is a dangerous path to follow, now that the KMT is calming tensions with the PRC. If PRC tourists were to be attacked in Taiwan, that would give the PRC a legitimate excuse to 'liberate' Taiwan by force. But then, years ago there was speculation that the DPP might be a communist puppet.

Many people are highly amused by the DPP's virulent anti-communist marching, since the DPP's creed is, Everything is the KMT's fault, the KMT never did anything right. But if anti-communism is proper, certainly they should recognize that the greatest anti-communist ever was none other than Chiang Kai Shek!

Oh well. The DPP is not noted for being capable of calm contemplation. Or irony or humor.

Thursday, October 23, 2008



Wednesday, October 22, 2008


到了松山國際機場,抽號排隊驗行李(不得挑選你要的海關檢查員,抽號指定),偏偏我抽到的似是最凶的一個。我前面一對五六十歲的美國夫妻,看起來老實善良,可是不幸被發現行李箱裡有一顆柳丁。海關抓出來看,橫眉豎目吼,"You cannot bring fruit into the Republic of China!!"逕把柳丁往地上摜;栁丁「虧~」一聲在地上粉身碎骨,老夫妻臉色蒼白,後面闖關的我只差沒叫一聲「救命~~~!」我想,我的學業、我的前途,完了。












Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When the communists conquered the Republic of Viet Nam, my mother left Saigon for her health. A close friend of ours, a TCN we will call SJ, came to Taiwan. A TCN was a Third Country National, not a national of the host country RVN (South Viet Nam), and not a national of the US: a TCN. SJ planned to go on to the US to employ his industry once he could secure a visa.

For a visa he went to the US consulate in Taipei, then housed in a modest complex on 南京東路 Nanjing Road. This was in the days when the US recognized that that the Republic of China, now confined to Taiwan and a scattering of other small islands, was the legitimate successor of Dr Sun Yat Sen's revolution which ended the Ching Dynasty, so we had a US Embassy (near North Gate, since torn down and replaced with the tax building), an American ambassador (who lived in the Official Residence on 中山北路 Chungshan N Road, now a movie theater), and the consulate just mentioned. Inside the consulate they even had real live consuls, including one we will call Mr Lesley Persons. Mr Persons was a wiry, fiery carrot-top, trained in the best traditions of the US Foreign Service, who took every visa application as a personal affront, made sure that the applicant knew how important Mr Persons was, how much of his valuable time your petty application was wasting, and how unworthy you were of his attention. As I said, a man who embodied the spirit and soul of the US Foreign Service.

When our poor TCN, SJ, who although not exactly a huddled mass was nonetheless ravaged by war and defeat and seeking a new life in the US, submitted his application for a visa to the US, Mr Persons attacked the case with his usual acidic vigor. He scrutinized every jot and tittle and demanded more documents, more proof, more signatures, more, more!

Nothing we did satisfied him. Our agony dragged on for weeks. Nothing was happening on SJ's visa when my mother wrote to ask why SJ was not yet in the Uncle Sam Land, so I wrote back explaining the situation.

We made a few more fruitless trips to the consulate during the next week, humbling ourselves before His Majesty Lord Lesley Persons' sneers and arrogance. Then one day when I was at home recuperating from the previous day's encounter, the phone rang, and a sweet voice asked gently in English if he could speak to Mr Talovich.

"Speaking," I said, "Who’s calling, please?"

"This is Consul Persons from the US Consulate, we have processed your friend SJ's visa already and it is ready for you whenever you can find to do us the honor of stopping by."

I almost said, "Hey man, I don't do dope so this can't be me hallucinating, what on earth have you been shooting?" but restrained myself. I thought it might be a prank call, but consulting SJ, we decided to gird ourselves for mockery and go see what was happening at the Consulate.

As soon as we announced ourselves, Consul Persons rushed to the counter and in most polite tones and attitude requested our presence, if it so pleased us. SJ and I looked at each other, but after all, an ogre that wishes to learn civility is to be encouraged. Within minutes, Consul Persons was stamping SJ's visa in his passport and fondly telling us what a pleasure it had been to serve us and he certainly hoped there were no misunderstandings concerning the stringent requirements placed by his superiors in Washington and that he was just following orders and sincerely wished us joy and happiness and ….. in his pile of documents I noticed a telegram with a red border. While Consul Persons was going for his best pen to sign the visa, I nudged the telegram a bit and read


Mind boggling, I left the Consulate with SJ and his spanking new visa. Once out in the sunlight, we looked at each other and said, "Did that really happen? Are we awake? Was that actually Consul Persons?" I told SJ about the telegram. "Kiss? A telegram from Kiss himself?" For sure. We looked again. The visa was good, and satisfied the US Immigration officer in Honolulu when SJ landed there a week later.

I asked Mom how she did it. She smiled and said, "Oh you know, I know people, we just pulled a couple strings." That’s the only explanation she ever gave me.

Monday, October 20, 2008











Thursday, October 16, 2008


屈原 九章 悲回風


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wulai's first cherry blossoms of the season are out.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Red China was closed off to the world during the Cultural Revolution, with the doors locked and barred against the United States. Considering the historical background, I have never been able to figure that out. If anybody, China’s greatest grievances were against British imperialism, treachery, and inhumanity. However, by the time Mao established the People’s Republic, breaking away from the Republic of China (now Taiwan), the sun had set on the British empire, while America stood strong.

In 1971, a US ping pong team was in Japan for a world championship when they were invited to visit China. The visit was arranged, cracking open the door enough for President Tricky Dick Nixon, the commie baiter and commie hater, to make a glorious progression to mainland China. This was the opening of China, and is called ping pong diplomacy.

Now a minor difficulty for the PRC, and a huge predicament for the ROC, is how to deal with each other. Mao, Chiang Kai Shek, Ike, Kennedy, Nixon, and everybody else agreed that there could not be two Chinas. The ROC is the legitimate successor of sovereignty, but the PRC has the land, the people, and the power, so who cares about legitimacy? Taiwan is dependent on the PRC in many ways; talks of Taiwan independence are pipe dreams, mostly from the far right who pine for the Japanese warlords. Be realistic: Taiwan cannot break away from the PRC. But how can rapprochement be realized?

I suggest that the endgame has already begun, starting with something close to the heart of Taiwan: tea. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Min dialect speakers have always been the most dedicated tea connoisseurs. During the Cultural Revolution, tea was considered decadent and many tea farmers in Fujian were forced to stop growing tea. At the same time, the economy of Taiwan was taking off; if there’s one thing all Chinese love, it’s eating, so with more money and leisure, cuisine in Taiwan developed rapidly. Over the past thirty years, tea making has been advanced, refined, and improved. Very truthfully I say that the world’s best tea is in Taiwan.

Since the thaw between the PRC and the ROC, Taiwan tea farmers, technicians, merchants, and investors have been working in the PRC to improve their skill, raise their standards, and in many cases to teach them techniques they either lost during Mao’s reign or never knew.

It should come as no surprise to learn that Western journalists don’t delve very deeply into Asian affairs. Last year a bubble burst that, as far as I know, was totally ignored in the West: the Puer bubble.

普洱 Puer (puerh, boli) is a tea grown in Yunnan (southwestern China), pressed into disks, and aged, the longer the better. Poorly prepared, Puer tastes like moldy kangaroo tail soup, but properly aged and brewed, the complexity and delicacy of the tea is unparalleled. Years ago, the market for Puer was not strong. Perhaps the main outlet was Hong Kong, where the disks were stored for decades in warehouses. Facing an uncertain future with the return of HK to the PRC, in 1997 tea merchants there sold their stock in bulk to tea-loving Taiwan, where the climate is ideal for aging Puer.

With the economy of the PRC on the rise, Chinese there have taken up tea drinking in earnest again, and a lot of the tea in Taiwan is sold there at very good prices. Good prices: when I started drinking Puer, in about 1980, a four-ounce disk aged thirty years might have sold for about US$25; now a thirty year old disk can go for US$3,000, or more. In the last several years, speculators realized that there are profits to be made by stowing away a pile of Puer and sitting on it.

In 2006 and 2007, the market for new tea went crazy; new tea usually sold for low prices, but with speculators moving into the market, prices would treble and quadruple within weeks. Fortunately the bubble burst. (But did anybody in the West hear it?)

However, it is interesting to note that tea magazines (yes, there are magazines dealing entirely with tea, particularly puer) carry ads from the PRC and the ROC; articles are written about and by tea experts on both sides of the Strait, with no notice taken of political barriers. (Malaysia is also a strong new contender, tea there being promoted by the many Malaysian Chinese who were educated in Taiwan. Note: many Malaysian Chinese speak Min dialects, too.) As far as the tea world cares, there is no important fissure between the shores of the Taiwan Straits; how could politics possibly be more important than tea?

This bears watching. A political stalemate might well be ended by tea diplomacy. After all, how could politics possibly be more important than tea?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Finally some people in the West are learning to make tea properly. Making tea properly means Chinese style, assuming, that is, that you want to drink tea, not entangle yourself in interminable Japanese ceremony for the purpose of downing a tepid cup of unpalatable liquid. Chinese style tea means southern style; tea has always been made best by 閩 Min dialect speakers, in other words the people of Fujien province and Taiwan, as well as parts of northern Guangdung / Canton. For the last generation, the best tea has indubitably been in Taiwan. As a dedicated tea freak, I feel a few words are in order concerning tea pots.

A good pot is essential for making good tea. The best pottery teapots come from 宜興 Yihsing / Yixing with some good pots from 汕頭Shantou Swatow; for porcelain, of course 景德鎮 Chingteh / Jingde, the home of porcelain, and 龍泉 Lungchuan is also good. The Hsiaofang Kiln 蔡曉芳曉芳窯 in Taipei makes some of the best porcelain of the last thousand years. But overall, especially for Puer, what the tea freak wants is Yihsing. This is what I discuss now.

A good pot can be used for centuries, but care must be taken to nurture it. Okay, let’s start with your basics: never drop your pot. Duh. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me explain that one reason Yihsing pots are so good is the clay; other pots you have to prepare for the first brew, but an Yihsing pot is good from the first time you put leaves in it. Of course it gets better and better with use, but here are some tips to make your Yihsing pot even better.

First and foremost (after never dropping it), keep your pot away from all oil, grease, detergent, and soap. Usually when I am finished making tea, I let the pot cool off entirely before emptying it. Even if I am dumping the tea leaves hot, I shake the pot upside down and probe with my fingers ~ you’d be surprised how inured your fingers can get to hot temperatures ~ but I personally do not like those pointy stabbers and hooks you can get for cleaning out your pot. They may scar the inside of the pot. Scalded skin grows back; enough said.

If you let your pot cool off before emptying it, don’t wait too long. Here in Taiwan, with high humidity (usually over 70% where I live, ideal for nurturing Puer), in the summer the leaves can mold the second day, and you never want tea leaves moldering in your pot!

Usually I turn a drying pot upside down so you don’t get residue of water or anything on the bottom of the pot. Pay attention to ventilation, especially in more humid climates.

When I get a new pot, I often have a pretty good idea of what kind of tea it will do best with. I may use the new pot to make a variety of teas, until I find the one tea that it excels in. Then I use that pot for no other kind of tea.

Yihsing pots get better with use because the pores in the clay absorb the essence of the tea. This also produces a delightful sheen on the outside of the pot. To encourage this sheen, when the pot is hot (full or empty) burnish it lightly with a wet cotton cloth or towel. No synthetics here, please; the exception being a pot that has accumulated years of gunk. You can wipe that gunk right off with a wet Mr Clean Magic Eraser, or a melamine sponge, which do not damage the surface of the pot.

When you have used the pot a couple dozen times, the wet cotton cloth will bring out a nice sheen. If that is still not enough, apply a dry horsehair brush. Pig bristle brushes are okay, but synthetic brushes should be avoided. Waxing a pot is beneath contempt.

Under normal conditions, you never scrub the inside of a pot. I have a dentist’s pick, tweezers, and mirror for cleaning the spout from the inside, especially a 蜂巢 web, when necessary. Use delicately.

A properly maintained pot will last much longer than you or me. My oldest pot was made in about 1650; I use it regularly. However, closely examine the clay of an older pot, because some pots over about a hundred years old get persnickety. For example, I have a 汕頭 Swatow pot about 120+ years old; because of the condition of the clay, if I haven’t used it for a while, I first pour warm water in to let it ‘wake up,’ rather than shocking it right off with boiling water.

Happy tea!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

There are musicians who define instruments: Casals the cello, Brain the French horn, Segovia the guitar, and for the recorder, my favorite instrument of all, Michala Petri.

All good things come to he who waits. I have been listening to Petri’s CDs for years, figuring that sooner or later she would turn up in Taiwan. At long last, this evening she performed in the National Concert Hall, her first performance in Taiwan in 22 years. Okay, I was busy last time she came. Her performance left nothing to be desired; even though my taste runs solely to Baroque, even her other pieces were really more than one could ask of a mere mortal. A memorable evening. I figure that if I practice hard enough, maybe in about seven hundred years I can play like that too.

Friday, October 10, 2008






Thursday, October 09, 2008






至于其它相關的問題,請click here:::




Wednesday, October 08, 2008

“It is written all over the sky that nothing is permanent.”

Dawn Powell

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Now you know the difference between the candidates.

Hobo on street corner: Vote for McCain. Get nuclear rockets shot up your ass and eat moose burgers all day!

--W 3rd & MacDougal St
Overheard by: Matt
On www.overheardinnewyork.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

People listen to what they want to hear. For decades, study after study has proved that eating meat is bad for your health, that eating meat causes cancer, heart disease, and all sorts of other diseases. Eating meat is ecologically disastrous; if you want to do something to help combat global warming, don’t eat meat. In one ear and out the other.

In the late 1980s, French researchers (apparently funded by French wine producers) attributed the lower incidence of heart disease among French people to consumption of large amounts of red wine. When this was announced in the US under the guise of a scientific finding in November 1991, sales of red wine immediately increased 45%.

忠言逆耳. Don’t tell me what I need to hear, tell me what I want to hear.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

overheard in downtown Taipei

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

In August 1971, my friend Do Quy Toan 杜貴璇先生 was going to DaLat and invited me to join him. Of course I jumped at the chance. Da Lat is a very beautiful place in the central highlands of south Viet Nam, with a beneficent climate and relaxing climate of soft mountains, pines, lakes, and waterfalls. The French had built many villas there, but since the French were gone, the villas had been taken over by Viet Namese of all persuasions. It was said that high-ranking communists liked to vacation in Da Lat, too, so there was not supposed to be fighting in the town, unless they really had to. It was a Viet Namese show, so the American armed forces were banned.

I flew up to Da Lat on Air Nuoc Mam, and stayed for several days. Aside from almost getting kidnapped by the Viet Cong, I had a great time. I wandered as far as my feet could take me, and that’s pretty far. I walked out to the waterfalls, and past the torched French churches (communists aren’t fond of religious imperialism). I loved to walk around the lakes.

It was while walking around a lake one day that I saw something near a helipad that surprised me: a couple American soldiers. There weren’t supposed to be any there, so I went over to investigate.

If I was surprised to see them, they were more surprised to see me. I explained that I was on a vacation from delivering pizzas for my uncle have you tried any of our pizzas famous Tri 9 pizzas the best in the whole war would you like to order a couple hundred for your firebase? and asked them how they happened to be in Da Lat. They too knew they weren’t supposed to be there, but under certain circumstances some soldiers were allowed to change choppers there, for transfer into more remote parts of the country. They weren’t allowed to go into the city; they weren’t even allowed to leave the helipad.

I noticed something startling: both men had gold bracelets. Now, everybody knew that the Montangard (aborigine) soldiers were absolutely insanely brave, so usually everybody let them fight by themselves. On very rare occasions, an extremely brave American soldier might be placed with a Montangard troop. If such an American wished to throw away his life or something, he might even walk point. For such extreme bravery, the Montangard awarded any American who walked point with a handmade gold bracelet.

Both of these soldiers had not just one, but several such bracelets. I knew I was in the presence of some very, very brave men. I chatted with them until their chopper was ready to take them out of peaceful Da Lat and dump them into the war. Before they left, I asked if I could take their photograph, and wished them good luck.

I never knew their names, but I still wish them good luck, wherever they may or may not be