Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I am teaching 霖霖 how to shoot. He is learning quickly. We were winding down, his last batch of arrows. Just before he shot the last arrow, I noticed that his left hand was in the wrong position, but before I could correct him, he let fly. The arrow flew over the target, high over the hedge, and into the ravine. I heard it hit a rock. Not a problem, because these are target points, so they're not very sharp to begin with, and if I hear what the arrow hits, I have a better chance of finding it in the jungle down there.

I searched the ravine, but couldn't find it. Funny, I lined up the trajectory and looked everywhere, but it was just gone. That happens. Reminding myself to get fluorescent shafts next time, I called off the search, because it was about time for our guests to leave.

After I saw them off, I thought I'd give the ravine another quick search, coming from below this time instead of above. Within a few minutes, I found the missing arrow resting beside a rock, under a bush. Not only that, but in the bush next to the rock, I also found two other arrows I had given up for lost weeks ago. What's more, I realized that during my earlier search I had been within arm's reach of all three arrows, but hadn't been able to see them because of the undergrowth.

Sometimes when you have a problem, you just have to approach it from another angle.

Ooooh, that’s deep!

Sunday, December 27, 2009








Friday, December 25, 2009



The Tayal had no metallurgy. Any metals were traded from the Chinese. A highly treasured bride-price gift was the limuq, or copper wok. In the highly symbolic imagery of Tayal lmuhu poetry, the limuq stood for a brother-in-law, probably because of its role in marriage negotiations.

Now that metal is easily obtained, old limuq are no longer treasured or even kept. Those who still have them often use them to feed chickens or dogs.

But once upon a time, a now misshapen limuq was bright and shiny, the centerpiece of wedding festivities. Maybe for years afterwards it reminded the aging couple of the happy event. Years pass, people die, and a new generation sees nothing more than a tatty, stained old wok, useful for nothing more than feeding animals. But in its day, it was glorious.

limuq collected by Watan Kahat
This one was cast brass; here he points out a thick part which 吳宗霖Gong-maker Wu patched for him.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

How the past comes back to haunt us!

When I taught at the Language Center/語言測驗訓練中心 in the late 1970s, we had a teacher named Dennis, Irish from South Boston. Dennis had trained for the priesthood, but evidently did not have the vocation, because he ended up teaching English in Taipei, and was visible from miles away. The reason was that tailors were cheap in those days, so Dennis would find the most outrageous, outlandishly loud cloth for his clothes. We always used to joke that his tailor had to wear welding goggles when he was making Dennis's clothes.

One day an advertising agency asked the Language Center for help in enlisting some "native foreigners," as we were called, for a photo shoot. We were supposed to pose as a wild rock 'n roll band playing, wearing appropriately wild clothing. I enlisted Bill, Michael, and George, but ever since I read 墨子, my taste in clothing has always been more subdued than wild: colors at least. I asked Dennis for help, and he very kindly lent me a shirt, one he wore for funerals, court engagements, and other such quiet, formal occasions.

We gathered for the photo shoot. The advertising agency especially imported a photographer from Japan. We took up our instruments: Michael on the saxophone, Bill on the drums, George and I on the guitar. Bill was the only one of us who could actually play the instrument in our hands, but it was a still shot, not a sound clip. We lined up, lights, action.. fizzle. The photographer looked perplexed. Lights, actions… fizzle… the photographer came over and held a light meter up to Dennis’s shirt, shaking his head as he watched the needle go crazy. He sighed heavily, rolled his eyes towards heaven, fiddled with the lights and his filters, and finally completed the shot.

The poster gained us a certain notoriety in Taipei in those days, and I had to explain many, many times that that was NOT MY SHIRT!
I thought the past was gone and buried, until recently I got in touch with Bill again after many decades, and found that he still had a copy of the infamous poster. I reproduce it here in sign of my sincerity to be honest about my past.

And don't forget, that was NOT MY SHIRT!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009





I am not a horseman in the Light Brigade: mine is not to do or die, mine is but to wonder why.

Deng Xiaoping was nobody's fool. He was a master at enduring setbacks and delaying gratification, he was capable of taking a long view on events, he led China towards a freer society. Why, then, did he call in the tanks at Tienanmen?

Perhaps it was a panic reaction. When the Cultural Revolution was getting out of hand, and the Red Guards were starting to rampage, Chairman Mao sent Deng and Liu Shaoqi to Beijing settle things down. It soon became apparent that the Red Guards (almost entirely students, high school students at first) were set up by Mao to bring down Deng and Liu, who were both tortured. Liu was then the leader of government, but the Red Guards tortured him to death. Nobody knows how many died during the Cultural Revolution, but certainly tens of millions at least, and China was set back a generation.

Twenty some years down the road, when Deng was the leader of the government, the students took to the streets. Maybe Deng panicked and thought that ensuing havoc would kill millions more and set back all the progress he had so painfully made.

I am not excusing Deng and I am not excoriating him. I simply wonder why.

Thursday, December 17, 2009





Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The blogosphere has been just that little bit less contaminated lately, as I have been busy preparing teaching material for my new course which I am starting in January (聽說如意) and haven't had time to write.

But I have been alert. I recently collected this great quote:


"If one person is about 1.5 meters tall, two people would be three hundred meters."

Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

You just gotta love bureaucrats. Obama promised government transparency and openness, right? So they are having a workshop on openness. Only catch is, it's closed to the public.

Read all about it::here:::

Sunday, December 06, 2009


本局新聞稿 (98年12月新聞稿)


Thursday, December 03, 2009




Wednesday, December 02, 2009

1PM ...Well, I Don't Mean It in a Sexually Harassing Way, Sir...
Trainee: This customer is mad because we won't cover an accident that happened before he was insured with us. He won't stop yelling!
Trainer: Ha! He's gonna have to suck eggs on that one! Sucks for him. But seriously, go through the facts and dates with him and explain why we won't cover it. Stay calm and apologize. You can do this!
Trainee, to customer: Thank you for holding. This... uh... Okay. My manager says you have to suck eggs, I'm sorry.

Riverview Parkway, San Diego
via Overheard in the Office, Nov 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A violent killer sentenced to 95 years in prison in Arkansas has allegedly killed four Seattle policeman. What, you ask, why wasn't he in prison in Arkansas? We need the Republicans to stop all these left-wing shenanigans, these bleeding-heart liberals who aren't tough enough to take pride in law and order!

Softly, softly. The convict was pardoned by the governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, once Republican contender for the presidential nomination.

But all is well: On Sunday, Huckabee issued this statement on his Web site: "Should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington state."

Isn't that beautiful? As we say in Chinese, 推得很乾淨, he pushed that one away from himself very cleanly. It’s not Huckabee's fault he pardoned a deranged violent criminal, it's the fault of the criminal justice system, and not just in Arkansas, but in Washington state too!

Pardon me while I vomit.