Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
We will miss him sorely.
It's hard to imagine what a different world Wulai was when he was a boy. The men of his father's generation were headhunters; Dali was of the first generation not to win a tattoo for his face by bringing home heads. Taiwan was occupied by Japanese warlords until he was in his early teens. The first airplane flew over Wulai when Dali was in grade school (click here:::). Once a week a supply truck came to the village, the only motor vehicle on the road, and there were no paved roads anywhere near Wulai. Because of the power station, a few of the Japanese offices had electricity, but nobody else. Some of the Tayal went to 新店 (Hsintien, on the outskirts of Taipei) once a year to buy things. What is now a half hour bus ride to Hsintien was a morning's hike; now crowded with high-rises, Hsintien was then a small farming village (no paved roads there, either). Wulai had a population of about 250, almost entirely Tayal aborigines, most of whom had never been out of the mountains.
Dali saw immense changes during his long, productive life. He excelled in school and got much more education than most people in Taiwan then, especially aborigines, so he was chosen as a leader. He served as Headman of Wulai Village, County Councilman, and Wulai Township Mayor, among other posts. (also: click here::)
Times were different when he took office, so he often had to use his fists to make his point with old headhunters and soldiers back from serving in the front lines of the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII. He was notorious for his hard work and exacting standards. He earned respect both within the tribe and beyond.
He was devoted to his tribe and his village, and worked for decades to help the Tayal and improve their lives. People remember him as a hard, principled, trustworthy man.
As for me, without Dali's help, I would not have the chance to live in Wulai.
Yaba, talakay sunun su Yugan ru Sabiy, ngihuy inlungan simu. Mhwaysu su balay. Amitabha.
Friday, June 26, 2009
I have played this off and on for months. Once I broke 13 seconds, but usually I get wiped out between 11 and 12 seconds. The other day I broke 12 seconds, and was so proud that I showed the site to Chao.
She tried it on her computer. Within a minute, I heard, "Oh, how nice, 14 seconds." 14 seconds?? A fluke, to be sure.
A few moments later, she asked me to look at her computer screen again: 14.587 seconds. Beginner's luck, it won't last.
Seconds later, she brightly announced, "Oh, that's nice, 15 seconds."
I asked her to turn off the game and do something serious, more befitting an adult.
Try it yourself and see. But please, if you break 12 seconds, just keep it to yourself, okay? I don't need to know about that.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
After dinner, the evening's speaker was presented: the Chinese guest. He rose and gave an eloquent speech in flawless English. When he was finished, he sat down, smiled to his American dinner partner, and asked, "Likee speechee?"
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
Sure enough, Yumin was barking at a snake under some taro leaves. I tried to keep Yumin off it, or at least get him to quiet down. I did not permit Byajing to attack from the rear, either. Tlahuy, wise old doggie, did not see any point in bothering the snake.
The snake is a 臭青公 King rat snake, Elaphe carinata, over two meters long. Sorry, I didn't drag it out to measure it. But this is where the story gets interesting.
As its name implies, the 臭青公 King rat snake, or Stink rat snake, is named for its smell. When provoked, it acts like a skunk. This everybody knows.
However, 乾爸達利‧瓦旦 Dali Watan told me years ago that there are two kinds of臭青公. When provoked, most let off a terrible smell; in Tayal, these are called qimunix. But there is another kind which, when provoked, does not put out a stench, but rather hisses and swells itself up; in Tayal, these are called qor.
In these clips, you can hear nothing but Yumin, me, and the cicadas, but the snake was hissing and swelling, but it did not let out the odor; it was a qor.
Now, I have never seen this difference in behavior noted in any books or reference materials, but the Tayal (aborigine) language differentiates between these snakes, based on their behavior (assuming one is not a subspecies of the other). The sad thing is, most young Tayal just call this a qosun, the 錦蛇 striped tailed rat snake, elaphe taeniura, and the words qor and qimunix have fallen out of use.
Semantics aside, I couldn't get Yumin to stop barking. Finally I had to pick him up and carry him home bodily. He's not a light beagle.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
= Yugan, the Tsou鄒 tribe thinks they are great hunters, but do you know that's not the truth?
+ It's not?
= No, of course, how could it be the truth? The only great hunters are we 布農族 Bunun hunters.
+ Oh, I believe you, I believe you.
= No, it's true! But the Tsou tribe, they do not know how to hunt at all.
= No, absolutely not! But they never brush their teeth, you see. All Tsou tribesmen are dirty.
+ What's that got to do with it?
= You see, when they aim at a squirrel, they point their gun at the squirrel, and they concentrate so hard that their mouth falls open. Then the squirrel sees those two dirty yellow buck teeth, and thinks, Oh, look, there are two kernels of corn there for me to eat! And the squirrel scampers up the barrel of the gun to eat the corn, and the Tsou catch them that way.
+ Oh really.
= Absolutely! You see, the Tsou don't know how to hunt at all. That's how they do it.
+ Oh, I believe you, I believe you.
photo: Bunun hunters, early 20th century
Thursday, June 18, 2009
= That's a nice necklace you have on. Is it Paiwan排灣?
+ It's actually Lukai魯凱, but Paiwan, Lukai, they're just about the same.
= But not many Lukai do this kind of work.
+ Yugan, there's not much difference between the Lukai and the Paiwan tribes. The Paiwan sneer at the Lukai and say, You are really swarthy! The Lukai sneer back at the Paiwan and say, You are even swarthier!
= But the Lukai have bigger eyes.
+ Yugan, that's the truth! The Lukai have such big eyes that they can see in the dark.
= Their eyes collect light better?
+ Yes, that is so. The Lukai say they are great hunters, but do you know the story behind it? When we Amis or the Paiwan or the Tayal go into the mountains to hunt, we have to track down game, it's very difficult, but for the Lukai, it's different.
= How so?
+ The Lukai go into the mountains at night, and their eyes are so big, they're like lights shining in the darkness. The flying squirrels see the light and are so dazzled that they fall out of the trees and die. The deer see the light and are so dazzled that they run into trees and kill themselves. The boars see the light and are so dazzled that they run into boulders and break their necks. So you see, Yugan, the Lukai are not really great hunters, it's just that their eyes are so big, and shine so brightly in the darkness of night, that all they have to do is go pick up the dead animals.
= So that's the story behind their hunting.
+ It is! Of course, I'm not prejudiced.
= Of course not, because it's the truth.
+ The absolute truth! You know, Yugan, that even though I am Amis, my wife is Lukai, just like Qalux's wife Naluwan, she's from the Lukai tribe too. One time I was visiting my wife's tribe. It was night. I was sitting outdoors. I heard a strange sound coming towards me. It went kwiiii kakkakak kwiiii kakkakak and it was coming closer and closer, kwiiii kakkakak! I saw two lights shining in the darkness, coming closer and closer to me! I thought, Is this a human being, or is it something inhuman or supernatural? The lights came closer! And Yugan, do you know what it was?
= I have no idea.
+ It was my father-in-law coming home drunk! He had been out drinking with his buddies and he was so drunk that he put on the wrong flip-flops. He had a plastic flip-flop on one foot and a wooden one on the other, so he was making this strange noise as he walked, kwiiii kakkakak kwiiii kakkakak! And he's Lukai, so he has these HUGE eyes, and they were shining in the darkness and frightening me! I really didn't know if it was a human being or a ghost! But it was my father-in-law!
= I see!
+ But of course I'm not prejudiced.
= Of course not, because it's the truth.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
I don't know the ins and outs, but this could be a face-saving deal. The Kachin, Karen, and other groups have fought the junta to a standstill, and this may be a way to grant them autonomy without admitting that they have earned their independence. If they could defeat the ethnic armies, the junta would never negotiate with them; but decades of fighting have proved that the junta can't subjugate their minorities.
I hope this turns out well. The civil war in Sri Lanka is finally over. With luck, Burma will enjoy peace too. And then prosperity.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
One thing I believe this site has proved conclusively. They ask, Are vegetarians more intelligent? If you look through this site, you will answer with a resounding YES!!
Friday, June 12, 2009
The last job in the world I would want would be a miner. I cannot imagine making my living by crawling into the earth and waiting for it to fall in on my head. I express my great respect and sympathy for all miners by using mined products as sparingly as possible.
Pit mining murders miners, strip mining murders the earth. But it turns out that there is a type of mining worse than either of these: mountaintop removal coal mining.
The US Environmental Protection Agency defines mountaintop removal:
"Mountaintop removal/valley fill is a mining practice where the tops of mountains are removed, exposing the seams of coal. Mountaintop removal can involve removing 500 feet or more of the summit to get at buried seams of coal. The earth from the mountaintop is then dumped in the neighboring valleys."
The process is the stuff of dreams for heroes like Ronald Reagan or Dubya: first the mining company clears all the plants and wildlife from the mountaintop, then they blast off the top couple hundred meters of mountain with explosives, dig the coal out with automated machinery that keeps people and jobs off the worksite, dump the waste all over the nearby environment, process the coal, and smile all the way to the bank.
By 2003, coal company permit maps show that they had destroyed 700,000 acres: 284,000 hectares. How big is that? 700,000 acres (love these online conversion machines) is 1093 mi² = 2830.87km2 which doesn’t help me a whit more than it does you. For a comparison that I, at least, can understand, the台北基隆都會區 Taipei Keelung metropolitan area is 2,457.1253 square kilometers, so the mining companies confess to devastating an area larger than Taipei and Keelung together. Too big.
That does not include the nearby valleys and downstream ecosystems buried and annihilated, or unreported damage. Way too big.
Does that bother you? Start here: I love mountains
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Monday, June 08, 2009
First, why a great place? Three reasons. Taiwan has a lot of mainstream Buddhists who are 素/su vegetarians. That means no animal products whatsoever, and none of the 葷fetid vegetables: onions, garlic, leeks, scallions. For more on this, please see this post, and you may want to read this post::: The second reason is that for decades, Taiwan has been gourmet paradise, albeit unsung. Taiwan is home to over twenty million finicky eaters who demand the best cuisine, and thousands of restaurants working hard to provide that. The third reason is that Taiwan has a wide variety of luscious fruits and delicious vegetables. I remember reading somewhere that Taipei's markets usually stock an average of eighty varieties of fruit and vegetables. Average. And that doesn't begin to tell you how good everything tastes. Climate, soil, Chinese farming techniques developed over millennia, plus demanding consumers.
Why do I say it just get better? Read this:::: the Department of Health has announced strict new labeling standards for vegetarian food, violation of which may result in fines up to NT$200,000 (about US$6,100). Including 葷/fetid vegetables (see above) or dead animals in vegetarian food may result in fines of up to NT$300,000 (over US$9,000), and if the crime is repeated within a year, the producer's license will be revoked.
So if you want to eat well, come to Taiwan!
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Saturday, June 06, 2009
This morning I was working outdoors near a kyumin茄苳 tree I planted years ago. Yumin walked up to the tree, sniffed, lifted his leg, and whoosh. A moment later, Tlahuy walked up to the tree, sniffed, lifted his leg, and whoosh. A moment later, Byajing walked up to the tree, sniffed, lifted her leg, and whoosh…. Mmm, Byajing dear… that’s not ladylike…
Friday, June 05, 2009
Ok, so if they had stuck with a simple transliteration, Ming De or Mingteh, all would have been fine, but some genius got the bright idea of trying to make it sound like English: Minder…
Also, in Australia, minder means minda, which is an insult school children use to mean idiot, retard.
So shut up and eat your vegetables, or else, pinhead!
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Before the beginning of the 19th century, British imperialists found they could make a killing (literally) if they grew opium in India and sold it in China. On June 3, 1839, the mandarin 林則徐/Lin Tzehsu confiscated British opium and started burning the stock. It took forty days to burn all of it, which gives you an idea of the amount of drugs the British were selling. The British, who constantly assure us of their superior ethics and higher morals, responded to the Chinese burning of their stash by sending an army and instigating the Opium War.
Now June 3 is celebrated (or ignored) as 禁煙節/ Opium Suppression Day, and is also a day to remind everybody of the dangers of smoking.
Today is 170 years since Mandarin Lin started burning the British exploiters' opium. Now is a good day to resist ruining your health by smoking American exploiters' tobacco.