Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Polanski is a movie director I had a certain sympathy for, after the Mason gang murdered his pregnant wife. But sympathy goes only so far, not so far as rape or pedophilia. Polanski has lived in France for many years as a fugitive from justice, evading sentencing for raping a 13 year old girl. He was arrested when he left France and went to Switzerland. The French government has protested his arrest.

Double standards, says I. I cannot imagine the French government speaking up for a low-paid, uneducated, unknown African accused of any crime. Polanski should not be above the law just because he is a rich movie maker. It is hard to believe that France is such a perfect society that the government can find no more productive outlets for their efforts than protecting a rapist and pedophile. I can't believe that they have no more pressing issues to deal with.

Unless I am severely mistaken, Polanski is a Polish name. According to Reuters, Poland has approved a law making castration mandatory for pedophiles. Maybe Mr Polanski would like to visit the homeland of his ancestors?

Monday, September 28, 2009

My father, the son of Serbian immigrants, was raised in Donora, a Pennsylvania steel town where Slavs were looked down on. Slavs did the backbreaking hard work in the steel mills, that's all, and never got a chance to be promoted to higher jobs. When World War II started, Dad joined the Army, partly for patriotism (and what Serb would miss a chance to shoot a German?), partly to get out of Donora.

To his great regret, Dad had taken shorthand classes in high school, and since more men could shoot guns than take shorthand, Dad never got to go to the front. He served as Eisenhower's personal secretary in the Pentagon, and eventually earned promotion to officer. After the war, Dad was back in Donora on a visit. One of the steel mill managers shook his hand and said, "Pete, come back to the mill and we'll make you a foreman" -- an unheard-of honor for a Slav. Dad told him, "You can go to hell, I'm going to college!"

I think this was Dad's finest moment, and it reminds me of a story of my own. When I was a college freshman, I spent my Winter vacation (in January 1972) in Saigon. The ceasefire intended to end the Viet Nam War had just begun. I met a boat captain, a tough, burly hardhat about 50. He was bidding for a contract to take out the mines the US military had planted in Haiphong harbor. He needed men. This was a rare, historic opportunity, and a great adventure. I told him I was considering taking a semester off from school to join his crew. I'll never forget this rough captain shaking his head, chopping the air, saying, "Go to school! Go to school!"

He was right. In the world today, how many people have college degrees? One per cent. One out of every hundred people in the world today has a college degree. This privilege should be shouldered with honor and respect; a privilege entails a responsibility not to abuse that privilege.

Before I started my college studies (師大國文, Chinese Lit, NTNU) I went for a hike. In the mountains I encountered a Sadeq - Tayal tribesman about my age. He spoke good Mandarin, and was obviously intelligent, alert, curious. He asked about my plans. I told him that after I went back to the city I would start college. He sorrowfully, enviously told me that he wanted to continue his education, but he was too poor; his family needed what he could contribute through his meager income.

Recently I heard of an advisor in an American college saying that all he remembered from his college days were the part time jobs he held down. What a waste! What a shame! You have plenty of opportunity to work after you get out of school, take my word for it, but how many opportunities do you get to think, to learn, or to study great works of literature, art, science, or philosophy? Four years you have the opportunity to learn, to ponder great issues, to expand your imagination, to see through other people's eyes, and to squander it on football, beer, or karaoke? Self-respect alone should be enough to make the choice, to have confidence that your potential extends farther than stupid frivolity. Fun is fun, but there should be more to human potential than that.

Another frivolous abuse of the privilege to study is to fritter it away on trivial pursuits. Once I read a review of a book researching the life of a minor hanger-on to a group of minor beatniks in about 1959. Think of how much education it takes to produce someone who is capable of doing research. And to squander it on some make-work topic like THAT? Shame!

IMHO, learning and thinking are among the greatest human joys. 學而時習之,不亦樂乎? There are countless interesting ideas to play with, immeasurable concepts to intrigue and beguile your mind, infinite thoughts to pursue. What could be more fun?

So everybody join me now as we sing Happy Birthday to Confucius. 孟子說,「周雖舊邦,其命惟新’,文王之謂也」其亦夫子之謂耶。「仰之彌高,鑽之彌堅;瞻之在前,忽焉在後。夫子循循然善誘人,博我以文,約我以禮。欲罷不能,既竭吾才,如有所立卓爾。雖欲從之,末由也已。」

Today, Confucius's Birthday, take a moment to express your gratitude mentally to all of your teachers. Nothing on this earth is more wonderful than the human capacity to learn.
"America believes in education: the average professor earns more money in a year than a professional athlete earns in a whole week." - Evan Esar

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How nice. Science has finally verified that human bodies glow. Click here and here.

Aren't they a bit slow? Chinese have talked about that since before the Roman Empire existed, but hey, everybody knows science was invented by Galileo and Newton, in EUROPE, so what could the Chinese possibly contribute?

Talk about Aura photography (pioneered by Nicolas Telsa in 1891), talk about Kirlian photography, you're a nut, you're New Age, and some Professional Skeptic will jump on your case (~but of course, professional skeptics serve their egos and prejudices, not the pursuit of knowledge). They can't now, because Scientists have Verified this. Woweezowiee.

But, better late than never, I suppose.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cecilia Lindqvist林西莉著古琴的故事(2006):「幾十年前所有的琴都用絲弦,但八0年代以後,愈來愈多人開始使用有很多優點的剛絲弦或尼龍弦。…音色大大不同。…最受損失的是泛音,用絲弦時泛音顯然要長一些。對于古琴音樂而論,正是以泛音的音色繚繞為特點。」





Wednesday, September 23, 2009

a rainbow of dancers
Originally uploaded by Yugan Dali


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Of course President Obama has much on his mind, but I can't help feeling a certain disappointment that he has not gotten his priorities straight. He failed to remind the nation and the world that September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Therefore, I take it upon myself to announce this noteworthy, august event, to remind you, why is this day different from all other days? Because this is the day, my hearties, ye' talk like a fire-breathing, rough and ready pirate, and look sharp, be sprightly about it, or it's under the keel with ye', ARRGH!

here and here

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back in the days when you had your choice between Hitler and Stalin, Chiang Kai Shek invited German drillmasters to train the ragtag recruits who were trying to repel the sadistic Japanese imperialists who were killing, raping, and pillaging China.

Some of these drillmasters stayed in China through the war, and afterwards declined to return to Germany in their Nazi uniforms, so they stayed put. When Mao conquered the mainland, these drillmasters figured, correctly probably, that German drillmasters, no matter how tepid or ardent their love for Hitler and the Nazis, would not fare well under a totalitarian communist regime, so when CKS moved to Taiwan, they packed their bags and moved too.

A drillmaster is, after all, a sort of teacher, and Chinese tradition pays profound respect to teachers, so the retired drillmasters were given homes and small stipends. There were only a few, and I never heard of any training ROC forces after the move to Taiwan, but there were a few of these old Nazis around Taipei; I would guess they have all died by now.

An old German soldier lived on 信義路 not far from where I lived in the early 70s. People said he lived quietly, modestly, harmlessly, and was a voracious reader, spending his last years among piles of books.

On the other end of the spectrum was an old Nazi living on 陽明山 Yangming Mountain, on the northern edge of Taipei. In the late 70s, Dave responded to an ad for a room for rent to foreigners only, and found himself renting a room from an elderly German with a heavy accent (in English; no Chinese).

The house was of a type almost extinct, 日本平房 wooden houses built during the Japanese Occupation of Taiwan to house the occupiers. They were built in Japanese style with Western windows and outer doors. When the Japanese surrendered, the houses were taken over and, very sensibly, kept in use, until they finally succumbed to age, termites, rot, typhoons that flew off with roof tiles, and sky-high land prices that made the land they stood on far too valuable for a one storey dwelling.
If you didn't mind the mosquitoes or rats, and the mold didn't bother you, they were quite pleasant to live in. I sought them out, and lived in three or four. So when Dave saw that the address on the ad led him to a Japanese wooden house, he was pleased, paid his rent to the old German promptly, and moved in without further ado.

At the crack of dawn the next morning, Dave was startled awake by a terrific racket. Crawling out of his room to investigate, he was alarmed to see his landlord, dressed in a complete Nazi uniform, wearing boots and goose-stepping up and down the hallway of the little house, screaming "Sieg Heil!" as he snapped off Nazi rigid-arm salutes. This went on for an hour, and was continued without break every morning that Dave stayed in the house, which was not long.

Understand that part of the shock was the idea of wearing shoes indoors. No civilized person enters a house shod, much less a wooden house! Dave said the floors banged like snare drums.

The landlord's only other passion in life was his chickens. He raised dozens of chickens in cages behind the house, and over and over again he explained to Dave that "These are good chickens, and you see why? Every one of them is WHITE, jah! White is the superior color! I will NOT HAVE chickens of any other color! No black chickens for me! I KILL the black chicken!! No red chicken, no brown chicken, only WHITE chickens, because WHITE is the superior color, jah! All mine chickens are WHITE, and ONLY WHITE, PURE WHITE!!”

Dave moved out after about ten days. He didn't have much money, but he couldn’t stand to stay in that house for a day longer than it took him to find other lodgings. "I'm no Jew, but for crying out loud I just couldn't stand that old freak!" He vowed revenge. He promised himself that one night he would sneak back to the house and spray-paint all the chickens some non-Aryan color. I suggested green. Dave thought that was a pretty good idea, and delighted himself by visualizing, over and over again, how horrified Herr Nazi would be to wake up one morning and discover that all his pure white chickens had turned green overnight. Dave would imitate a heavy Cherman accent, "Mine CHICKENS! Mine chickens zey haff turnt green, vat hass happened to mine VITE chickens, jah?" Unfortunately, Dave was a man of words, not action. I volunteered to buy the paint and go help spray; what self-respecting Serbian-American would pass up a chance to spray a Nazi's chickens green? But Dave contented himself with thinking how mortified old Herr Nazi would be to discover that his chickens were green, and nothing ever came of it. Too bad.

Saturday, September 12, 2009





Thursday, September 10, 2009



Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I can't let this date go by without some notice ~ 090909 ~ hurrah for nines.

Can you stand the excitement?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Far be it from me to pretend I know (or care) anything about economics. Nonetheless, I was heartened to read the World Economic Forum's global competitiveness report, in which Taiwan ranks 12th globally, up from 17th last year, right above the UK and below Hong Kong. South Korea ranks 19th, the PRC 29th, and Serbia 93rd. Actually pretty interesting.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Overheard on the bus: 烏來線

釣客,站在公車司機後面:「前面的那一班是誰開的?我去年買的手機用了沒多久就掉了。很奇怪,為甚麼沒有人養白鷺鷥?你們公司有一台車,車牌123。我剛看到摩托車號碼345。你知道嗎?英文的「西瓜」是water melon。我過法院的時候,看到法官出來,可是沒看到犯人。現在晚霞沒有以前好看,可能是季節。你看誰比較厲害,馬祖或者超人?我頭髮前幾天剪過。如果你眼睛閉起來,有沒有辦法把車子開到臺北?現在星期天的遊客比以前多。很多老人走路用拐杖,可是我阿姨戴隱形眼鏡。你有沒有被性騷擾過?年輕人的字寫的不漂亮。聽說魏xx的車子今天保養,可是林xx今天休假。聽奧辦的很大,可是我一直搞不清楚,到底是誰參加比賽?聽障的人看得見嗎?是不是全部都連在一起?聽不見,那麼他們看得到嗎?熱天喝汽水很舒服,可是有人比較喜歡喝酒。你公車上有人心臟病發作的話,你怎麼辦?新店市公所的前一站是檳榔路,可是捷運沒有檳榔路的站。我站在你後面受不了。我下車。」




Fisherman, standing right in back of bus driver: “Who's driving the bus in front of you? Last year I bought a cell phone but before long I lost it. I wonder why nobody raises egrets. Your bus company has a bus with 123 on the license plate, and I just saw a motorcycle with 345 on its plate. Do you know how to say 'hsi kwa' in English? 'Water melon.' I went by the courthouse and saw judges coming out, but I didn't see any criminals. The clouds at sunset aren't as pretty as they used to be, maybe it's the season. Who do you think would win in a fight, Matzu (the goddess of sailors) or Superman? I got a haircut a few days ago. If you shut your eyes, could you drive all the way in to Taipei? There are more passengers on Sundays now. A lot of people walk with canes, but my aunt has contact lenses. Have you ever been sexually harassed? Young people can't write good calligraphy. I hear Wei's bus is in the garage for maintenance today, but Lin has the day off. The Deaf Olympics are really big, but I can't figure out, who is participating in them? Can deaf people see? Is everything all connected? If they can't hear, can they see? Drinking soda pop on a hot day feels great, but some people like liquor. What would you do if somebody had a heart attack on your bus? The bus stop before Hsintien City Hall is Betel Road, but the subway doesn't stop there. Standing in back of you is really uncomfortable. I'm getting off here."
Fisherman gets off bus.
Driver: "I feel dizzy."

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A lot of gesturing in Taipei these days. We are hosting the Deaf Olympics, so you see a lot of sign languages around. On my way to class, we were a bit early, so we sat in Dunkin' Donuts for some coffee and donuts. This is the Dunkin' Donuts across 忠孝西路 from Taipei Main Station. It turns out that many teams are lodging in the hotel next door. As I watched Russian athletes board their bus, and the Cuban team came back to the hotel, I couldn't help wonder at the changes.

When I was in college, I used to catch busses only a few steps from where I sat drinking coffee: a few steps, 35 years, and a million ways different. The building the Dunkin' Donuts is in was still many years in the future; when it was built, at 22 storeys, it was by far the tallest building in Taiwan, and people just off the train used to stand and gawk at it. In the early 70s, few buildings in Taiwan were over a dozen storeys. Where I waited 在騎樓下for the bus, a row of one and two storey buildings housed small stores, noodle shops, and odds and ends. The Cultural Revolution was still going on, so the slogan was 反共抗俄 Fight the Communists and Resist the Russians! Precious little chance of any Russian athletes coming to Taiwan then!

And it goes without saying that there was no Dunkin' Donuts then. That has just come to Taiwan in the last couple years, long after Reagan forced the gates open for Mickey D, American tobacco, and American liquor, which the government had not allowed, in order to protect the people's health. Mickey D, that is, not Dunkin' Donuts!!

Times have changed, and I wish the Russian team great success in the Deaf Olympics, although I have to say I hope the Cuban baseball team loses to Taiwan.



Thursday, September 03, 2009

For about 35 of the past 40 years, I have slept on tatami. In college, every time I moved to a new place I just plunked my two tatami on the floor, instant bed. Cheap, comfortable, good for your back, don't take up unnecessary space, easy to move. With care, tatami last for decades. Just don't let them get moldy, but if they do wear out, since they are mostly straw, they are highly biodegradable. Or use them as an archery target.

Last summer we were too busy to put the tatami out in the sun, and this July and August were very busy too. Last weekend, under the witheringly hot sun, looking at the weather forecast, I thought, great, sunny all next week. Even though we were busy from Thursday through Tuesday, I thought, no problem, look at the forecast, I can put them out under the strong sun Wednesday for several days, which should do the trick.

Ha ha.

Wednesday I woke up to bright sunshine. As I prepared to pull up the tatami, I noticed some clouds forming, and thought, never mind, a few clouds won't hurt.

By the time I got all eight tatami out onto the porch roof, the sun was obscured by a thick layer of clouds, but never mind, they were skimming along quickly.

Yes indeed, they were skimming along quickly, pulling along the really dark clouds behind them. At noon, I pulled the tatami back in off the roof just in time to avoid a shower. All afternoon, sunshine followed by rain sunshine rain sunshine rain. I put the tatami back down on the bedroom floor.

This morning was bright and sunny. The moment I thought, "Maybe I can sun the tatami," clouds gathered. Is there some message here?
An hour ago, the sun was shining merrily as the rain was pelting down gleefully. Which reminds me of the old English folk saying, "If it rains while the sun is shining, the devil is beating his wife with a leg of mutton." (no I did not make this up, I found it years ago in a Japanese book of Useful English Proverbs.) It doesn't make sense to me, which may be the point: sunshine rain doesn't make sense.

But there are compensations. Just now the full moon rose behind a limpid veil of mist. Happy中元.