Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Stranger Things Happen #2 or Edison's Visit

You'll have to excuse the number of posts today, but since I can't go outside, I don't really have much else to do. Anyway, I never really talked much about Edison's visit, although he assures me that I have a lot of interesting stories from the visit.

On our way to meet my friend Daniel, as we were leaving the MRT station, we come upon this old man whose legs have apparently given out and a younger woman, who I thought might be his daughter but who later turned out to be a stranger like us, was helping him up the stairs. I don't know what happened but it took all three of us, and most of Edison's upper body strength to get him into the cab. The woman hopped into the cab with him to make sure that he got home alright. I can only imagine the hell he caught from his wife/daughter/daughter-in-law though. Damn.

Also, Edison ate an incredible amount when he was here. I'm suprised he didn't gain back all 8 pounds he lost in Shanghai.

Stranger Things Happen

So yesterday, I decided to go for a walk before the typhoon hit. There are apparently two big ones coming so I haven't worked for two days, it would be cooler to have two days off if I could go outside and also still get paid. Unfortunately it doesn't really work that way. Anyway as I was walking up to Zhongzheng gongyuan this woman stops me and starts talking to me. At first (because I had my headphones on) I didn't hear what she was saying so I just started speaking Chinese. Then she said "Nihonjin?" (Japanese?) and so I said, "Yes! Well, sort of." anyway it turns out she spoke some English so I just took her where she wanted to go. She told me that I look very Japanese, which of course is completely at odds with all the Taiwanese people who have told me that I don't look Japanese at all but look Chinese. Maybe I should rip off Nien and start keeping a list.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


So, I've been here for over two months now. So it seems as good a time as any to Evaluate, with a capital E what I've been doing since I've been here. Overall, I like Taiwan a lot, I think I'll stay for a year and maybe for longer, maybe even till I'm fluent. However, I'll wait until winter's over to see whether that really holds true. I hear winter can be really tough on foreigners and also that it gets really cold because everything is made of concrete and there's no heating.

There's a lot to like, cheap food, the access to Asian movies and music that I could only dream of in the states, speaking Chinese, being able to live quite well on 20 hours a week, although I'd like to work more.
I've met people here who complain a lot about the crowds in Taiwan and the inability to see a tree. Although these are things I notice, they don't seem to bother me as much as they do other people.

There are things I don't like, the fact that I can't find any clothes that satisfy all three of the following criteria
1. fit me
2. are in a color I would wear
3. don't have writing on them.

I usually have to settle for one of the three. The fact that women who are 30 still act and are proud of still acting like 18 year olds. The fact that there's still nothing to do in the town where I live. The foreigners. Quite frankly, I'm really tired of hearing "The Taiwanese can't make good bread. The Taiwanese are so rude. Taiwan is so crowded. People in Taiwan never travel." all the motherfucking time. Daniel once said something that I think is quite true, that most foreigners here don't seem to be having a really good time. Most of them seem to be here because they don't really have much going on for them back home, and a lot of them don't seem to have any desire to interact with or get to know Chinese/Taiwanese culture.

Just one more thing. Today, I went up to the top of Zhongzheng park which is on a hill and sat on the edge of the railing looking down on the city. If you would have told me 3 years ago that I would one day be sitting on a steep railing in a park in Taiwan listening to Chinese pop music, I would have told you you were insane.

M8-80 or more interminable stories from Teaching English

I'm pretty sure I haven't talked directly about my M8-80 class. Anyway they're a little like my Triumvirate of Terror class only about 7. They're all quite smart for the most part, but they're too smart and easily bored. Whenever I give them a spelling quiz one of the little boys will say, "Teacher, so easy!" However, they also have little fear of me and usually only the threat of homework times one, or my personal favorite 5 days worth of homework times 20 and the Chinese, which elicted a squeak from them last time, gets them to behave.

Their final is coming up although I'm guessing they'll all be fine. We finished a little earlier, and since the people here never ring the bell at the exact time, I finished my lesson with about 4 minutes to spare. So for lack of anything else for them to do, I had them stand in a line by the door. All of a sudden all the boys said "Teacher, paper, scissors, stone!" and so for three long long long minutes, I played paper scissors stone with a group of 7 year olds usually 4 of them at the same time. It's longer than it sounds, trust me.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Learning Chinese the fun way

So, as those of you who read my blog regularly know (hi mom, hi Helen), I've been listening to a lot of Chinese pop. Recently though I bought a CD, mostly out of curiousity. CD's here are much more lavishly packaged since as Edison pointed out, there's so much pirating that they have to make it really nice. Due to an agreement with one of my friends, I started translating the songs for her into English and I have to say that it's a really good way to learn Chinese. Because I'm lazy I'll try to listen to the song to find out what a character that I don't know sounds like and then just look up the pinyin. Which means that you improve your listening. Also, listening to a CD is much more fun than listening to dialogues from textbooks which means once you know what it means it gets sort of reinforced every time you listen to it. Also you pick up some odd and sometimes useful vocabulary.

feng- crazy
dizhonghai-Mediterranean Ocean
guangdieji-CD-Rom player
caishichang-vegetable market

Saturday, August 27, 2005

5566 Part 2

While my friend Edison was here, he got part of their hit song "Haojiubujian" stuck in their head. As he said, "Maybe that song would have been acceptable, except that I saw their stupid music video."

However just today when I was in the record store, their video was playing on the TV and about 10 girls were gathered around it watching enthusiastically. No accounting for taste.

Apparently in one of my coworker's classes there's a girl who will just write notes in class all the time. The only way to get her to stop is to ask her "Are you writing love letters to 5566?" Then she'll blush and put it away. Hell, if someone accused me of that I'd be embarrassed too.


I've never been a fan of boy bands. But I have to say that Asian boy bands are the worst. They often dress in things like turquoise, chartreuse, or gold lame in outfits that all match. Also, most of them aren't boys any more, most of them look to be pushing 30 at least.

However, the band 5566 takes the cake. Dressed in matching outfits of gold and white they Riverdance on stage with a bunch of girls. It's really the most horrible video I've ever seen. Also the song is super up beat and there's another section where the group does good deeds in the community while dancing. For example when a little boy drops a bunch of his pencils one of the group members magically appears and dances into the foreground and helps him pick them up. However I think in real life the little boy would probably be thinking "Stop dancing around and help me already, you crazy fucker."

I have been translating pop songs though. I think it helps my Chinese a lot because before looking up a character, I will listen to what it sounds like on the song. It's nice to be working with written Chinese, although it's sort of embarassing how long it takes me to get through them and how the grammar of these songs sometimes perplexes me.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Weird Things Happen to Me all the Time #3

Today for dinner I went to this booth that sells green onion pancakes, which they put egg and sometimes lettuce on. Anyway right when I got there the vendor mysteriously disappeared for about 10 minutes. I was waiting when I hear someone say, "Laoban" which is what you call your landlord or a food vendor. I guess this woman thought I was the booth owner. So I just said "Bushi wo de." It's not mine. She asked where he was and I said I didn't know. We both had a good laugh over it though.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Laoshu ai de ni

I don't remember if I mentioned that there's a rat in my apartment. Anyway the landlord put out poison and it looks like it finally succumbed after a couple weeks. So when I came out of my room a couple days ago, there was a dead rat lying on the floor. Anyway, I was going to leave it at least until after I took a shower, but my friend, Edison, took it upon himself to move it, with a bag and some assorted papers, because as he said "I don't want to TOUCH it."

Anyway, as he started to roll it into the bag it started to move.
Edison: "It's SLEEPING?? GET into the bag, fool!"

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Edison Chen the American Dragon

So, part of the reason, besides the lack of internet access in my apartment, for no updates, although I update way more than all of you, is because my friend from high school, "Edison Chen" came to visit me on Saturday. I'll probably write more about the stuff I've seen in the last couple days. This is mainly a list for me to remember stuff before it's lost in the cracks of my memory.

1. The old man in the MRT
2. Shilin Night Market
3. eating
4. walking
5. the summer party
6. The Contemporary Art Museum

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Ghost Month Parade #2

Since I don't have pictures of the Ghost Month, my SLR has no flash, here's a link to my former roommate's site who also was there, some of those things I saw, the floats and stuff, some of the other stuff I didn't. But anyway if you guys (hi mom) are interested in what some of this stuff looks like, you can see some of it here.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Ghost Month Parade

Yesterday, apparently was the culmination of the Ghost Month, which meant I had the day off because all evening classes were canceled because no one would actually be able to get to the school. I've decided I'm not really a parade person. There were quite a few floats that seemed to combine many things, Chinese opera, Buddhist chants, old men in Rotary Club outfits (I didn't even know there was a Rotary club in Taiwan, those guys get around), scantily clad young teenage girls, disco music, candy, flashing lights, children performing various stunts, such as one guy who was jumping rope while sitting on the ground, brass bands and other things. Unfortunately, I get sort of bored standing in one place so I sort of walked around and saw various parts of it. There was also a rock band, however they were surrounded by these older geeky guys, and at first I couldn't figure out why. Then I took a closer look and there was a big Democratic Progressive Party sign.

From the frying pan to the fire

At the risk of provoking more controversy, here's something else I think is cool, it tracks depictions of interracial marriage, adoption, and mixed race people. I haven't looked at it in depth but the articles seem quite interesting.


This comic that I'm reading is really weird. So this kid who's a top student in his class acquires this "Deathnote" from a god of death who comes to the human world because he's bored. Actually I think a slightly better if less catchy translation would be Death Notebook. Anyway, if you write the name of a person and think of this person's face within 40 seconds they will die. So, rather unlike what I think the hero of a series should do, he starts writing in it. The first couple people that he kills, it doesn't seem so bad. The first one is some guy who he sees on TV holding children hostage, and the second one is this biker guy who is harassing a girl on the street. However, he decides that from now on, he's going to write down the names of those who he sees on the news commit crimes. Therefore, he concludes people will be afraid to commit crimes and the world will be a better place.

After a while people catch on, and so an international meeting is held with some secret operative known as L, who no one has ever seen. L vows to expose this mysterious mass murderer and our hero, Yue or Moon, which I think is Tsuki or Zuki in Japanese, becomes enraged and vows to expose and kill L instead. Frankly it seems a terrifying premise that a cold, clinical 17 year old boy has the power to kill us all, but it's interesting and I find myself looking forward to reading it. There are large chunks of it that I still don't understand, but I feel like I do pretty well in comparison to how much I get out of reading say, Song poetry without a dictionary.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Something I Think Is Cool #3

This article on the politics of Anglicizing your name. Courtesies of angryasianman.

Tales of Teaching English #4

Today was Wednesday, my busiest of days with K8-83. At one point, I had them split into groups and so one half of them faced the board and had to explain to their partner what the word on the board meant without saying the word. So one of the groups was made up of Wendy and Willy, and apparently there must be something going on with them, because when I said, "Wendy, turn so you're facing Willy." The entire class started giggling. At which point I was going to say, "My god, what are you, twelve?" until I realized that the majority of this class is in fact twelve, at which point I quickly changed the end of the sentence to "ten."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

My incredible reading ability

I have discovered the limits of my reading ability. I can read little boy's comic books, the 80 NT manga fairly easily, even if there are characters I don't know. In English they probably take me about 30 minutes to read cover to cover, but in Chinese, I'm barely through the first section.

The first one I tried, Naruto is all about ninjas and magic, which some people at Reed (Stacey and Michelle) had showed me in English. So as an experiment I bought one that I had never read before to see if I was actually reading or just remembering the plot from Naruto.

This one, Deathnote, seems to be about a teenage boy who is incredibly smart and comes upon some Death God's book where if you write someone's name in the book and visualize their face they will die in 40 seconds. The Death God also follows him around, but naturally only this guy can see him. I don't know if this one was translated into English, I mainly picked it because I thought the art was cool. Perhaps Laurel is right and I am secretly a goth.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Stories from Teaching English #3

Today I did something that about three months ago I'm sure I wouldn't have thought possible, I corralled a horde of unruly children back inside the classroom simply by using my voice. Bright kids are the worst, they're entirely too smart for their own good and they can't sit still. The class I taught today is full of incredibly smart children and they are sometimes impossible to control. However, I'm gradually teaching them to fear me. My god, what have I become?

The class I teach on Saturday is full of 14 year olds. Mostly they are pretty good. One girl in particular, Nikki is very funny. She's quite smart although I'm pretty sure she doesn't study as much as she should, but she always draws pictures on her papers, sometimes of me and the TA. Anyway, she also has no fear of me, she's quite interested in the fact that I have two piercings in one ear and none in the other. Although she told me her friend has seven. One game that I did with them involved betting, and by the end of the game, Nikki had won almost everyone's money. It's nice to see a teenage girl with some spunk, most of them are so quiet and it's impossible to get them to talk, even the smart ones. Especially the smart ones. The boys inevitably end up talking more and therefore getting a lot more attention than the girls even though they act out more as well.

Pictures #5 or the last one I promise

An incidental note, if you want to see these pictures in more detail, just click on them. Also these are sort of in reverse chronological order, next time I'll do better, I promise.

A view from Zhongzheng Gongyuan

Kids playing.

Pictures #4

A snail!

In the park, there are these concrete triangles that are big enough to sit in. This is one of them. (I'm sitting in it while taking the picture.)

These seem relatively self-explanatory.

Pictures #3

What's a park without graffiti? Frankly, this graffiti seems much happier than graffiti in the States.

A balloon!

Another view from the "I hate people" Park, see below.

When I eat lunch I often get a box lunch and then go eat in what I call the "I hate people" park, which is really on top of some plaza where as far as I can tell, middle school students hang out. At night the park is full of tragically hip people, but at around noon no one is there and the breeze from the harbor is nice.

A poster I found amusing, and some guy's head.

Pictures #2

One of the roads near the harbor/train/bus area.

An alley close to where I live, off Aisan Road, the main road.

The Statue of Liberty again! There's something going on here I think.

A picture of what my boss calls a haunted house, although at the time I just thought the building was old and looked kind of cool. He also might have not been telling me the truth, he's like that sometimes.

Another picture of the area around the Taibei Main Train Station


This is next to my school, aka a picture of the building where I live.

This is a picture of a man riding around in a electric chariot near Taibei 101, I don't know what he was doing.

A picture of Taibei 101, the tallest building in the world, well, part of it anyway.

The Statue of Liberty, symbol of freedom, democracy, and capitalism.

A picture of the Taibei main train station

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Other observations

Things and people there seem to be a lot of in Taiwan
Pregnant women
young boys with white hair, a lot of white hair
benighted children whose parents dress them exactly alike
couples who dress in matching shirts and pants
teenage cliques who dress almost exactly the same

Misc. observations
What look like coffee shops are often hipper than thou actual honest to god restaurants.
Starbucks is omnipresent in Taibei, however it is also accompanied by some shameless clones, Latte, Tomson, and Barista Coffee, all of whome definitely channel the Starbucks decor and logo.

Taibei Again

This is possibly the first time since I came to Taiwan that I have had such a busy social life. I made a new friend yesterday, this sounds like elementary school, but sometimes it is. Ellen, who is a South African Chinese woman at the school. We're both vegetarian so we had lunch and then walked up to Zhongzheng park and had a good talk. Under the influence of typhoons off the coast, it was incredibly windy. Walking back down the hill, the winds felt so strong that I almost thought they could support my body and they would actually blow me away.

Anyway, she invited me to go with her adult class to TGI Friday's in Taibei. It's apparently an incredibly fancy restaurant in Taibei, as opposed to being a working middle class restaurant in America filled with screaming children. I missed them in Jilong so I found it eventually and it was definitely an experience. Two of the boys ate all the lettuce and guacamole and sour cream on dares, their friends, girlfriends, and other people helpfully adding ketchup, pepper, salt, and sugar to them. There were two rounds the second with everything on celery sticks. Truly this is a wonderful place.

After that I ended up hanging out with Daniel and his friend Stacey, a Taiwanese woman who lives in Jilong. We ate out at a Korean restaurant and then Stacey and I headed back to Jilong where we ended up talking for a couple hours about this and that. I have a hard time understanding her Chinese, I think she uses a lot of harder words and figures of speech, but it's better for me to get used to other people talking.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Dangers of Internet Cafes

After being in one, I can't say that it surprises me

Weird Things Happen to me all the time #2

Today my roommate and I went to a Thai restaurant. The food was pretty good if somewhat pricey. However the waiter, although the fact that my Chinese is way better than my roommate's and also the fact that Rodger is visibly a white guy and I am not, refused to talk to me and only addressed his comments to Rodger and in fact when the food was brought, put it closer to Rodger's place and not mine. Rodger told me that this was not uncommon of his experiences in China, but it's the first time I've experienced it anywhere, ever.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Long conversations

I'm gradually becoming more familiar with this place. In the last week, I have had 3 long and somewhat in depth conversations. One of which was totally in Chinese, one was me speaking Chinese, and the other was in good old English. Due to the Ghost Festival, which seems to reach its peak next week, Jilong is beautiful at night because they've put up all sorts of lanterns and outdoor lights, they're what we call Christmas lights, but they're not for Christmas. Anyway, my former roommate and I walked up to Zhongzheng Park and sat on the swings and discussed weird things about our respective jobs. It's been windy and sort of cool, so I've heard that there might be two typhoons on the way.

On the weekend, Shuqin invited me upstairs and we had a long discussion about the family situation, as well as marriage in Taiwan and a daughter-in-law's role in the family. I asked her if Taiwanese women generally got married twice and she said that they could but people would say bad things about her. She also said that some husband will help their wives with children but some won't and that her husband, as I have observed, does not. However, she said that she was also lucky because they were generally good people.

I also had dinner again with my TA Ann, in which I think I talked for about an hour in Chinese about Asian Americans and the term FOB, as well as the availability of peaches in Washington, why Western Washington doesn't get much snow, the difference between snow and hail. I also got to talk her to talk about Christianity and her beliefs about it.

I'm not sure whether my Chinese is getting better or whether I'm just more willing to talk. For example, I tried mostly unsuccessfully to explain the concept of Native Americans to Ann. Here's what I remember of what I said, "Bai ren lai Meiguo yiqian, tamen zhuzai Meiguo." Before white people came to America, they lived in America." This didn't get it across, so I said "Zai Taiwan, you yixie de ren, bushi huaren. Huaren lai Taiwan yiqian tamen zhuzai Taiwan." In Taiwan there are people who aren't Chinese, before the Chinese came to Taiwan, they lived in Taiwan." This seemed to get it across a little better. Most useful word learned yesterday, gaibian or change.

Zai Taiwan wo gaibian hen duo.

The Taipei Times

So apparently there are a couple English language papers in Taiwan. One of which, which we get at the office is the Taipei Times. One of my coworkers was absolutely thunderstruck with hilarity because an article on Lovers' Day in Taiwan featured a picture of these high class cakes however, each of them had a chocolate mounted on top which depicted amorous couples in a variety of different positions most of which could be clearly seen on the front page of this paper.

I don't know how long this link will last so view it while you can.

The Saddest Ride in the World

It's something that I've been meaning to mention for a long time but kept forgetting. In the night market, they set up this little ride with little cars that's probably all of 5 feet long and these dazed looking children ride around and around on this slow moving little ride past all these toys that the vendors are probably hoping that they will buy, with balloon animals on their heads.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Words I have learned since coming to Taiwan

Heidao (Hei-black) (Dao as in Daodejing)- Gangster
Guaiguai (qiguai de guai)- weird
Fangdong (Fangzi de fang, Dongxi de dong)- Landlord
Suibian (don't know the characters) whatever you want to do
Dou keyi both or all are ok
Gai correct as in correct homework
Lihai terribly good, awesome, advanced
Xiguan- I'm not really sure what it means, ok, tolerable
Baixiang guo-passion fruit
Jiandan- simple

Strange Coincidences

So I went to Taibei again this afternoon and met my friend who lives in Taibei. We had lunch in the area around Shida University, which seems pretty cool, much more student-like than Ximending (curse you, Lonely Planet). We then wandered around in the heat talking about things. In the course of the conversation, Alice Wu's film Saving Face came up. My friend revealed that when she and her now ex-girlfriend went to New York they ran into a woman on the plane who they ended up sharing a cab with. The cabdriver got lost and they were stuck in traffic at 1 in the morning in an area that you don't want to be in. The driver decided to cut off some gangsters in a pimped out ride. I honestly don't know how he manages to survive in New York. They then got out of the car and started threatening the driver and beating the shit out of the taxi. Eventually they managed to get away, and the woman in the cab was Alice Wu, who made the most successful Asian American film of the year, not that that's hard. Anyway, Saving Face was a film that combined several aspects of my identity with one of my greatest hatreds, romantic comedies.

Weird Things I have seen #5

A taxi which was clearly some teenager's souped up street racing car on the side.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Disoccidented #4

In Taiwan, there are people who apparently get paid some pittance to stand on street corners or other frequented places and try to hand you leaflets for something or other. Most of the time I try to avoid them, but every now and again I get sort of guilty and take one, just in case these people are getting paid by the number of leaflets they can unload on people. While I was in Taibei, I was handed this newsletter about practicing your English. This is certainly one thing that I don't need.

Also while eating at Mickey D's, Vincent, Shuqin's husband revealed that workers at McDonalds in Taiwan get paid $80 an hour. In reference I get paid $550 an hour to teach children which is approximately $9.30 American. You couldn't even pay talking chipmunks to work for that amount.


For the first time since I was six, I went into a McDonalds. I think I had about the same thing I had the last time I went. A strawberry milkshake and some fries, and like the last time I went, I had an upset stomach afterwards. Other than that, the McDonalds in Jilong is quite fancy. It has 4 stories. 3 for seating and one for ordering and food getting. It's pretty crazy on the first floor with children running around and screaming. However, I will say that McDonalds has some very nice bathrooms and they are incredibly clean. In fact, I think I'd rather hang out in the bathrooms than hang out in McDonalds.

It's Taiwan's Father's Day today. So the people upstairs gave me some cake. I'm not entirely sure why, since I'm not really a father or anything. Anyway, I've started taking pictures with my camera and my roommate tells me that for an extra 100 NT you can get them burned onto a CD. If I do do that, perhaps I'll figure out how to upload them onto here so you can see what I see. I'll have to finish the roll although this weekend I took about 15. Only 20 more to go. Most of those were in Taibei taken with my incredibly unhip SLR camera.

Weird Things I have seen #4

A boxed set of what is apparently the "Keanu Reeves wears a trenchcoat" oeuvre which is all three Matrix movies and an unrelated (but thematically related!) film, Constantine.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Clothing woes

I've sworn off the dryer for now because I've found that it ages my clothes by 10 years every time I use it. Have you ever had one of your T-shirts pill? I sure hadn't. Apparently I just needed a dryer with the strength of a 60 watt lightbulb to make this magic happen.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Words that aren't real but they should be

My boss today kept saying "Country pumpkins" and after a while I realized he had gotten the saying "Country bumpkins" a little wrong. But I think that "country pumpkins" is cuter.

Seven Swords (Qi jian)

Yesterday, or the day before technically, I went out for dinner and a movie with my roommates. One of whom moved out today. Dinner was good and filling. The movie we saw was Tsui Hark's Seven Swords. It's a martial arts movie, based as most wuxia novels are, on the Qing dynasty. In the film the emperor issued an edict against practitioners of martial arts. The film follows the exploits of a general referred to as Fire-Wind and his lieutenants who behead entire villages including women and children in order to earn the most amount per head. The conflict centers around the fate of one village which is attacked by Fire-Wind. Disobeying the head man, a young woman Wu Yuanyin and a young man Han, escape with a former torturer who is now repenting of his sins and who had arrived with news of Fire-Wind's arrival, but was about to be condemned to death. They leave in order to seek help from Tianshan or Mount Heaven. They come back with magical swords and companions making up the Seven Swords of the film.

The characterization of the movie could have used some work. Many of the characters's stories are only briefly touched upon so it makes it difficult to distinguish between them. Also there are many love triangles which are strangely interconnected and besides the 7 Swords there are other characters such as the Headman's daughter, and Fire-Wind's liberated Korean slave girl, Luzhu. There were also some more intriguing characters that I wished we could have seen more of, such as Fire-Wind's evil and powerful lieutenant. There are actually quite a few women in the film, besides Yuanyin who is the Seven Swords' "token girl." I thought her story was an interesting one and it would have also been nice if there had been more about her. In many ways she sets the events of the film in motion by saving the old man in the first place and then convincing Han and her best friend to help her rescue him. The main narrative opens with her crying after murdering one of Fire-Wind's men and ends with her firmly choosing the "Jianghu" society and becoming a fearsome hero herself.

Apparently this movie was supposed to be 4 hours long, which I think would definitely have been justified in order to do these characters justice. The beginning in particular was a little rushed since it's not quite clear how they get to Tianshan or how they get convince those who live on Tianshan to help them. The relationships and even identities of all the Seven Swords are never quite clear sometimes. It would have been nice to at least cleared that up.

However, these things aside, I enjoyed the movie. The fight scenes are spectacular and often very beautiful. It was clearly shot with a fairly high budget because the costumes and special effects are mostly good. Possibly one of the more coherent subplots is Wu Yuanyin and Han's metamorphosis from country bumpkins to heroes which is pretty clear by the end. Although there were a lot of gaps in its logic to my mind, I was willing to be carried along by the internal logic in the film. It ends up making sense even if I would have appreciated the information much earlier. In the end it still has the desired effect which is fine by me. The different characters not being developed isn't very important because we already know what the characters stand for anyway. The story was fairly exciting and interesting and above all, entertaining. I'll probably enjoy it more when I can see it again and try to keep all the characters straight. In any case it was fun.

For a meta experience you can read my now former roommate's review of the same movie that we saw in the same place at the same time.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Titles of my posts that are allusions to other things

This is mainly for my own amusement rather than anyone else's.

New World Water- "New World Water" by Mos Def
Nobody...So?- "Nobody...So?" in "Locas in Love" by Jaime Hernandez
Wish you were here? - a line from a story whose title I can't remember at the moment in Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
One Thing Leading To Another- the title of a collection of short stories by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Jilong Gothic

Today is a typhoon day, so we don't have classes today. This morning Shuqin invited me upstairs to eat breakfast and afterwards we ended up getting into a conversation about religion. I asked her if she had been Christian as a child when she mentioned that her mother was "baibai" I don't know what that means, I'm guessing a believer of spirits of some sort. Anyway, she mentioned that her older brother had been very sick for unexplained reasons and that a fortune teller told her mother that it was because a bunch of ghosts wanted him to come live with them. So she talked to Jeremiah (her husband's brother) who suggested taking him to church to see if that would make him better, which apparently it did. She said that after that, she and Vincent started going to church. Although she said that according to her brother's personality he does not go to church. She also said that her parents are fairly tolerant of her Christianity although other people don't want their children to be Christian because it is a foreigner's religion.

She also mentioned that for three days she was not herself, she would talk to people that she knew and she didn't recognize them, she wouldn't eat or drink anything. She says that she doesn't remember anything about that time. My roommate mentioned that he had heard another teacher who lived there at the time say that there was an exorcism of some kind when he lived there. Apparently her father wanted her to see a doctor but instead she was cured through the power of Christianity. I'm not entirely sure exactly how. But she said that after seeing and experiencing these things herself she became a Christian.

She asked me whether in America I had heard of things like that. And I explained about some of my grandparents' religious or mystical experiences and also mentioned a story my mother told me about my great-grandfather who while fishing out by the volcano in Hawaii saw a woman walking over the lava fields all dressed in white, and when he looked back she had disappeared. He thought he had seen Pele the goddess of the volcano.

She asked me if I believed in this type of things. And I'm not really sure. Certainly an experience like hers which was witnessed by other members of the family and other people can't be denied as something unusual and alarming. I certainly can't explain it myself.

Speaking of ghosts, the Ghost month is in the process of going on right now. I guess the Gates of the Underworld will open pretty soon. Actually they have something sort of similar in Japan when the ghosts come back to visit the living. In the Japanese American community though it only lasts one day and it's called Bon Odori or Obon. There's lots of dancing and candle lighting types of things that I remember. I bet this is totally different than what they do in Japan now.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

My Life as a Mime

I've found that both in teaching and outside, in order to make myself understood, I have to mime various actions, movements or activities and now I do it sort of unconciously. I have become a mime.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

K8-83 is my favorite class of all time

Yesterday, I completed the Triumvirate of Terror by sending Loud Tony out into the hall. Other than that the kids are fantastic. I guess they just seem more enthusiastic about learning. I found out that they are all 12 more or less. When we did an exercise they were quiet for about 15 minutes and it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. I guess I like that they ask questions and if they don't understand I don't have to drag it out of them. I think I'm also getting better at explaining things to people who don't speak English that well yet.

A few more anecdotes, although I'm sure they're not really amusing to anyone except me. If you don't like them, don't read them.

Me: When I write my friends in America e-mail, I write about this class the most.
The class: MSN or Yahoo?
Me (unable to explain gmail): MSN.
The class: Ah! and one of them explained to me: MSN is good.

Willy's sentence for the word smart. "Smart Andy does his homework before he goes to school." There are two Andy's in the class Andy Wu or Loud Andy and Andy Chou or Quiet Andy.

Me: Willy, who is Smart Andy? Loud Andy or Quiet Andy?
Willy gesturing at Quiet Andy's chair at which point Loud Andy gets up and starts wrestling with him.
Willy: Teacher, I did not say. I did not say it.

Weird Things Happen To Me All The Time #1

Today as I was walking down the street for lunch, some woman stopped me and tried to get me to go to a special store, where I think what she was saying was that they could fix the scars or marks on my face. First I said "Wo shi waiguoren, wo bu dong." (I am a foreigner, I don't understand.) She didn't give up though, she just started touching my face pointing out what needed to be fixed. Finally I said "Wo yinggai qu gongzuo." (I'm sorry I have to go to work.) at which point she finally left me alone.

Are Taiwanese women between the ages of 30-50 in a conspiracy to make me self conscious about my appearance, because if so, IT'S WORKING.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

One Thing Leading To Another

You know those times that you go out for something really simple and then one thing just sort of happens after another? Yesterday, while having a conversation with my roommate about tourist vs. traveller mentality, the kids from downstairs came over. I'd had sort of a bad day, and I had just drunk the last of my water, so I suggested that I needed to buy water and perhaps we could continue the conversation on the way. This ended up with both of us wandering around Jilong at night talking, then one of my roommate's coworkers called and we met her at the McDonalds. She took us up to this place which is sort of like a park by the bus station which I've never been to before and we ended up talking until midnight. His coworker seems really cool and it was interesting to talk to her, she spoke to me mostly in Chinese, most of which I understood, which is always a plus for me.

The Glasses Man

So after being the only person at Reed who didn't wear glasses or contacts at some point in time, I now have glasses which I bought for 15oo NT and man can I see clearly! I also got a haircut. The women at the salon didn't approve of my hair, and also didn't approve of me cutting it short again, thank god for Shuqin, who I come to appreciate more and more every day. While getting tested for my glasses, I got a lecture from the glasses man about why I should wear my glasses every day all the time, because (if you really want to know) one of my eyes is near sighted and the other one is normal. The Glasses Man demonstrated that this was a bad thing by hopping on one leg and saying "If you are crossing the street, and one of your legs is shorter than the other, you can't cross the street!"

Monday, August 01, 2005

Disoccidented #3

Another thing I've noticed is in certain music videos, Europe and white people are featured pretty prominently. What kind of gets me is they're used for the same sort of exoticism that Eastern stuff is used for in the West. However, at the same time, Europe seems to equal this sort of sophistication that I don't really think that "Oriental" stuff really does in the West. What's particularly interesting to me is that most of the ones I've seen tend to conjure up this sort of dark gothic fairy tale thing with castles and masked balls and Renaissance paintings, I don't know what I would have expected, cowboys? astronauts? blonde people on the beach?


Yesterday, one of my coworkers asked me if I had heard any good jokes. Apparently he's in the market for them. It made me realize it's been a while since I've heard a good one. So if you've heard any good jokes tell 'em to me.

When I am sick, I watch TV

After I came back from Taibei, I got sort of sick. What ended up happening was I sat down to eat and watch TV, since no one was at home all weekend. I was so tired that I ended up sitting there for about 6 hours too tired to move. After this experience here are some of my observations.

There's one Jay Zhou/Chou/Chow/whatever video for "Jiandan Ai" in which he approaches a young girl in a park and offers her candy. Now this girl looks like she's about 14, and so the whole thing is a little weird and slightly disturbing. Particularly the candy.

There are certain performers that seem sort of like "The Chinese (insert American pop star here)" There's this Japanese guy who seems like The Asian Justin Timberlake, there's even The Chinese Avril Lavigne. I wonder how conscious this imitation is. I mean to some Chinese executives sit around in a room somewhere and say, "Ok, Avril Lavigne is popular in America, so let's find some Chinese girl and dress her up and have her sing songs about "Being Herself."? Or is it just osmosis, as music is picked up here and simply starts a similar trend?

Despite that I wouldn't say that American pop and Taiwanese pop are exactly the same. For example, even the stuff that gets picked up here and played ad nauseum is the more squeaky clean, and let's be honest, white stuff. The Backstreet Boys over Nelly, the Black Eyed Peas, Coldplay, and some British boy band called Blue. Equally there's some stuff that it really popular here that I'm guessing would never fly in the States. I'd say that concepts of masculinity here, although this is something of a sweeping generalization, are quite different. There are a couple male singers who would be considered pretty effeminate in the states. Also, many boys wear pink or sometimes chartreuse.