Friday, September 30, 2005

More pictures

A mural by the "playground," and come to think of it another representation of the Statue of Liberty.

The view from where I live now, or one of the views.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


I'm starting to get the feeling that the further you walk in a certain direction the sketchier this place gets. Anyway, this is the "playground" I was talking about.

But then about a minute away is this garden. This isn't all of it, but I can't fit it all in one frame. I'm missing the tree and the third bird cage I think. But you get the idea.

I'm kind of like a yuppie but without the money

so parhaps against my better judgement (since I have to pay rent in two days) however I get paid on Thursday, so I think it'll be alright. I bought a digital camera today. I've been working most of the day, so I didn't get much time to play around with it. I'm still getting used to the pause before the camera actually takes the picture. So the first pictures I took were all blurry. The ones that are actually sort of okay aren't particularly cheerful or informative, those may have to wait until daylight. Although it's cool to be able to take pictures at night.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


There seems to be some sort of stigma attatched to women who aren't married. I'm not sure if there's the same stigma attatched to men or whether they just get more leeway. But there seems to be an accompanying feeling that these older women are jealous of younger women because they CAN get married and so they act badly towards younger women. This is frequently offered as an explanation of why people are rude, another woman will say to me, "You know she isn't married?" as if this explains everything. I'm not sure if this is just Jilong smalltownism or a general thing, but all in all it can be a little weird.

Things I think are cool

Today instead of walking to my house, I decided to explore a little bit more of the area in which I live. I don't remember if I mentioned before but I moved recently. To a different part of Jilong but typical Taiwan it's only about a 10-12 minute walk from where I used to live but it looks completely different. My building is directly across from a train line and I live about a 45 second walk from a commuter train station. Also typical Taiwan, due to the ever-present security cameras the building seems quite safe and it's not particularly sketchy. There's a stream that runs by my house, although by stream I mean something that seems to be similar to the branch of the LA River that used to run through my neighborhood in LA. By LA River, I mean a canal that for all intents and purposes acts as a sewer. However there are things living in it, I discovered. There's a school of fish that live in it and a water bird of some kind which hunts in it.

I haven't explored much around the area but taking the train back one day I did start to wonder what the area is like and so today rather than going right home I walked a little farther along my street and found not one but two awesome things. I'm going to try to take some pictures when I buy a camera having DESTROYED my old one and a precious roll of film in an act of unbelieveable stupidity. Anyway until then I'll try to describe them.

The first thing is a garden that someone has created set into the train platform. The train actually runs about a story above the street so there's this tall blue wall that makes up one side of my street. Anyway someone has set a tree, and millions of plants and birdcages into the wall. It's really beautiful and amazing. Hopefully it will still look cool tomorrow.

The other thing that I found was also sort of awesome but in a different sort of way. As I kept walking I saw this sort of tiled courtyard. Literally it's just a square of tiled concrete with walls. On these walls are giant panels of graffiti and swearwords, I think. Mostly in English. However the sign says, 龍門區兒童樂園 or Longmen District's Children's Playground or Happy Garden litterally. My feelings were, "Well, fuck, if this is a playground what else is there to do but cover the place with graffiti."

Food for Thought or City of Angels Part 2

A couple things I thought were interesting. How immigrants in Los Angeles are bypassing English and just speaking each other's languages. You can read it here. Yet another reason why is awesome.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

City of Angels

A recent exchange between myself and one of my coworkers who just got back from China.

A: And there was this little boy in a park just pissing away with no shame at all.
Me: Just like in Los Angeles.
A: But it was all in the open and there were millions of people around.
Me: Just like in Los Angeles.

There are times when I wonder whether being born in a large, densely populated city where you can't drink the water or breathe the air and where people are known for being assholes is one of the reasons why the environment which seems to bother so many other foreigners here doesn't seem to bother me much. In fact I can breathe much better here than I could in Los Angeles.

Although one thing that Katrina showed us I think was that parts of the US are really similar to a third world country and (surprise surprise) the color of their skin is mostly the same.

Monday, September 26, 2005

An observation

There are some days when you want to go out and experience life. And then there are days when you just want to sit at home and watch movie previews on the internet and eat crackers.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Yesterday, I was talking to a friend of mine about religion and Mormons came up. There are quite a few Mormons around for some reason. Mostly I think they're here on mission. Anyway, my friend asked me, "Are they gay?" I assured her that they were most certainly not gay. And she said, "Really, because it's always 2 men together. And the way that they dress makes them seem like they're gay." I'm now really tempted to find some Mormons and tell them that many Taiwanese people, because apparently it's not just my friend, think that they are gay. Primarily because of the way that they dress.

Things I have seen

Today, I must have seen 王力宏 on various things at least 8 times. He's much more prevalent in Taibei for some reason. I've also seen Jolin, 周傑倫,and Stephanie Sun at least 5 times. Celebrities are so omnipresent here that sometimes I have a hard time figuring which is their primary hat. Is Kelly Chen a model who acts and sings. Or a singer who models and acts? Also, I've been surprised at how many celebrities are from different places. Chinese people who are ABCs, or from Singapore or Malaysia and other places.

Also many music videos seem to be doubling as cell phone commercials or other things. In fact, many artists seem to have done music videos for video games. So the primary make-up of the video will be scenes with elves from Warcraft or Everquest but in between there will be scenes of JJ Lin or Jay Chou dancing, sometimes in a beanie and baggy jeans in a castle (Jay) or in some labyrinth in a cape (JJ). These to me are the weirdest, because these two parts have nothing to do with each other, but then again, there's no really logical way to insert Jay Chou or JJ Lin into Everquest.

Also, many little girls here seem to have their hair incredibly elaborately braided and decorated until they look like cartoon characters. It must take their moms years to do this.

This may be influenced by where I work but I think I've seen more pregnant women in the three months I've been here than I have in the time I lived in Portland. And they say the birthrate is going down here.

Finally, the weirdest thing I saw today was a couple taking wedding pictures on the stairs of a museum while not two feet away a homeless man was sleeping on the stairs.

Random Quiz

I posted earlier about Jay Chou's possible quest to conquer the West. I want to ask a question of all 5 people who read this regularly.

What do you think his first US/English language CD title would be if he were to make one?

Saturday, September 24, 2005


There are very few vegetarian restaurants in Jilong. This is a sample of a conversation I had with a Chinese teacher.

A: So you are a vegetarian.
Me: Mostly.
A: How do you eat here?
Me: I just don't ask a lot of questions.
A: But everything has meat in it.
Me: I just ask for no meat or just get noodles.
A: But they're all cooked with meat.
Me: I just don't ask a lot of questions.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Trashing Days

One thing that sucks about living alone is that you have to take out your own garbage. The garbage truck comes by and everyone runs out and takes their garbage and recycling out to the truck. The truck also plays Fur Elise piercingly loud so you can always know figure out when it's close by. However, in my neighborhood, it comes by around 2:30 and then again around 7. However, since I teach at 5 generally, I need to be at school around 3 or so to start to prepare so it means the trash doesn't get taken out much. To avoid ant/roach/what have you infestations I try to eat at home as little as possible. This is pretty easy since my "home" is a dorm room like room with a large bathroom and a free TV and cable. Also a very large bed and a refrigerator. So I can't really cook anything.

However, there are times when I feel like my life has reached a new low. Such as eating standing up under a railing while walking home so I could throw my garbage away on the road and not have to take it home.

It's a good example in some ways of how family oriented that Taiwan seems some times. Most people live with their extended family and if you ask most people in Jilong if they are from Jilong and their parents were born here they say "Yes." I daresay that would be less true in a bigger place like Taibei, but I would say it would be rare for a place of comparable size in America. It also means most people still live at home so finding affordable places to live for one person is more difficult. I suspect even my room with its large bed is meant for two people to live in. Although I suspect they would just kill each other in the end. And of course, I have no grandma at home to help me take out the trash.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

And sometimes there's just nothing to say

A friend of mine told me about a conversation with a coworker. They were talking about Taiwanese culture and then all of a sudden the coworker says, "But what does this all have to do with Confucious."

Really, sometimes there's just nothing to say.

New "friends"

Wednesday is my favorite day, because the classes that I teach are really fun and I get off of work at 7 rather than 9. In what seems to be becoming a usual thing, Willy one of the kids I teach, (the one that said "Chotto mate!") comes during the 10 minute break and talks to me. I think he doesn't have a lot of friends in the class or something. His English is quite good, so I just asked him about his day and why he always seems about to sleep in class. Which is because he goes to school, comes to Kejian and then goes to another cram school I think. I also asked him who his friends were in the class and found out that Loud and Quiet Andy are ok in his opinion but that he doesn't like Tim.

Also, there's a dog that is chained up outside a building near where I am, and when I go by, I scratch its head. Now it knows me, and so it wags its tail. I'm not equating Willy with the dog in any way, but as much as I like Taiwan this place and particularly this workplace can be really lonely and it's nice to be able to be friendly with someone once in a while.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Commercials I would like to see

One in which 王力宏becomes fat and ugly after all the MacDonalds that he's eaten during his commercials.

Also, a follow up to the unspeakably annoying commercial in which this woman's teeth are so white that they shine after using 黑人or Black Person toothpaste, in which she's on a date and her teeth literally blind her date. Thereby showing that having freakishly white teeth will actually make your life miserable.


中秋節 just passed and I sort of feel like 月餅 are a little bit like fruitcakes. Because today everyone was just giving them away. Some kid who I don't even know had a big bag and was trying to give them to all the teachers. Maybe his mom told him he couldn't come home until the bag was empty.

This thing called an meme

I'm not sure what it is exactly but it was provided to me by Mr. D. And I thought, what better way to celebrate getting the Internet than by copying someone else's clever idea.

5 Books You Think Are Great
1. Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link. It's a collection of short stories which sort of combine surrealism, fantasy, and Nancy Drew. It sounds really pretentious and it could be but it works.
2. Babel-17 by Samuel Delany. A science fiction novel from the 70s that's really about poetry and language. Also really sounds super pretentious but it works, although as my mom once commented, "Samuel Delany is too smart for his own good."
3. Love and Rockets, particularly the books by Jaime Hernandez. Love and Rockets is this comic book series that has been put out since the 80s by two brothers Jaime and Gilberto Hernandez. Jaime's half of the series is about Maggie and Hopey, two Latina (more or less) girls growing up in Southern California. The series has grown up with them and they're both in their 30s or maybe 40s now and are trying to figure out what the hell they're doing. However, they're almost perpetually in a state of limbo. I've found this increasingly appropriate since leaving school.
4. Same Difference and Other Stories by Derek Kirk Kim. Another comic book. The main story, Same Difference in particular is really good, about two friends and their roadtrip. Both characters are people that I wish I knew.
5. All short stories done by Sylvia Townsend Warner. She's sort of forgotten now, but she's an English writer, a generation behind Virginia Woolf. She wrote these fantastic sharp edged short stories. They aren't necessarily really showy but they all have a bite to them and the best ones are hilarious and yet quite true. Also, Lolly Willowes, her first novel is quite fantastic too.

5 Alleged Pieces of Wisdom that You Would Like to Share
1. In the end, no one else is living your life for you, so you should do what you want to do, not what other people tell you you should do or what you think they would tell you to do if you ask.
2. Stupider people than you have lived their lives and been fine. So you'll be fine.
3. People make their own reality and in the end, you make the reality you want or deserve.
4. If you write things on the internet, people, including and especially your friends will read them.
5. Telling someone who is unhappy that they should smile more never makes anyone smile, it just makes them want to punch you.

5 Places You Would Like to Revisit
1. Los Angeles where I was born although not raised. I'm not sure I would like it anymore but it would be fun to try.
2. Hawaii, my other motherland. I'd like to learn to speak pidgin and eat manapua
3. Paris and London sans American relations
4. San Francisco and not be a "tourist"
5. Portland just because I liked it so much.

5 Turnoffs in other people
1. People who "like" Asians in that way. I just think it's fucked up, enough said.
2. People who have clearly spent a long time thinking up a self-important motto for themselves such as "I'm a zagger. When other people zig, I zag." or "The sun never sets on cool."
3. Girls who say "I'm sorry I'm such a mess today," when it's quite clear they're really not talking to you.
4. People who say something begining with the phrase, "I'm not a racist but..." That kind of sentence NEVER ends well.
5. People who wax rhapsodic about the experiences they've had in third world countries and the mystical connection they had with the people.

5 Things that Were Probably Invented By the Devil
1. Active Listening, the way in which people are trained to pretend to listen like they care. Favorite MO for PR and HR departments all over the world.
2. Cockroaches
3. SPAM and telemarketers, essentially the same thing
4. Christmas card newsletters
5. Family reunions

I now have the Internet

for all five of you who read this or still do.
More later, I've got to go eat.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Things I think are interesting

In Bosnia, they plan to erect a statue of Bruce Lee as a symbol of unity. You can read about it here

Also, in this article, Jay Chou vows to become the Jet Li of music and break into Western music.

Looking at Jet Li's "cinematic career" in America I don't know if he should say that. With such gems as Romeo Must Die, Cradle 2 The Grave, The One, Kiss of the Dragon, and now Unleashed, I'm not sure if I would really call that success. As much as I like some of these movies (and I do) it's not like Jet Li's a very respected actor over here, the biggest hit he's had is when he went back to China (like everyone tells us to do, whether we have in fact been to China in the first place) and made Hero. In fact, that's what Ang Lee had to do too, funny that.

Anyway, I thought the article was interesting. Personally, I don't know if it's possible for an Asian star to break into the Western market. Although certainly several have tried, Coco Lee and Utada Hikaru come to mind. But somehow, they always seem to carry the aura of FOBness with them and it just doesn't work. Even more so, if they sing in English, then it becomes a "Look an Asian person is singing in English." Myself, I don't know if I'd even want Jay Chou to try to make it over here, I might end up feeling embarrassed for him the way I did for Jin. And Jin's Chinese American. It may even come down to marketing although my inside source in marketing may perhaps tell me differently. How would they possibly market the King of Pop in Asia who doesn't speak English?

I am willing to bet anyone 100 US dollars that if Jay Chou does make an album in America with an American label that the title will contain the word Dragon.

Potatonet again

After wasting 50 kuai on an attempt to connect to a wireless network, I'm back in Potatonet internet cafe for a while folks. At least until I figure out (i.e. ask someone) how to get the internet in my apartment.

Moving was relatively painless although hot and tiring and I'm happy to be there and to have a window again. I've almost finished a roll of film, so when I have the internet and my own computer I'll upload some more pictures. Hopefully most of them will turn out.

The problem with internet cafes I find is that because they time you, I get kind of self conscious and don't know what to do or write when I'm here and then I have great ideas as soon as I'm gone.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


So I also teach junior high school kids and one of them, Henry, is by far the strongest personality and his English is quite good. Anyway, I saw him peering into another classroom last week and I asked him why and he said "Teacher, there are pretty girls in that class."

This week, my TA Bob told him
"Henry, don't be a peeping Henry."
after consulting their electronic dictionary, Henry very indignantly said "No, I ADMIRE girls, I don't peep at them."
I explained that usually someone that looks at girls is called a "Peeping Tom" at which point Bob said, "Or in your case, a Peeping Henry."

Actually the whole class generally gives Bob a hard time, once he came to school with a shirt with a bar code on it, and the whole class kept asking him, "Bob 你賣多少?" Pretty much after that he decided to quit. Anyway, I mentioned that they would probably be sad that he was leaving since they like him to translate for them. He replied (half) kidding I think, "Just tell them that I hate them."


since I've been here, I've eaten a fair amount of food and there are a couple brief observations that I want to make. For one thing, there are several originally "Western" foods that I think the Taiwanese have perfected.
The tomato- there is actually a lot of tomato dishes in Taiwan, some are Western but some are sort of a mixture.
The waffle or crepe- usually filled to red bean or something suitably Asian, these are kind of awesome but only if they are fresh

Also a heads up for those of you who care, since I'm moving it may be a while till I get an internet connection in my home so updates may become a bit sparser. Also, Mom and Dad, stop calling my home phone since I won't live there anymore.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

My various lives

So, in order to rent the place that I'm going to rent, I get to have an elaborate secret life. For one thing, I stop being a 老外 (foreigner) and start being Chinese. I'm not even an ABC but a student from Taiwan who has studied in America for a long time (an explanation of why my Chinese is so bad). I also have my diploma from an American university (which is true). I use an American passport because I'm teaching English and it's therefore more useful than my Taiwanese passport (but I do have a Taiwanese passport). My mother and father are Taiwanese but they live in America. I'm here to absorb some Taiwanese culture. I'm also my friend's distant relative. And an added layer if the landlord asks why my last name on my ARC is a little long for a Chinese person's, (this was my concern) I'm supposed to say that my dad is Japanese but my mom is Taiwanese.

At this rate, I'm going to forget that I'm Japanese.

Odds and Ends

Words seen that I have learned in pop songs
輕鬆-relax, also the name of another FIR-esque band called Relax One or 輕鬆玩

數- mathematics

王力宏sightings- 2

also I predict moving houses soon in my future, perhaps oh, Monday. My friend S and I went out looking for rooms today and found one. It seems pretty quiet or quieter than what I've got now. It has its own bathroom and free cable. I'm slightly worried that it's going to be a little lonely living by myself, but I guess I'll see.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Yet more stories from Teaching English

so today was K8-83's party day, which is the day after the final, generally characterized by 2 hours of review games. Usually I gather this is something of a chore, because you have to think of millions of games with no lesson to plan around.

Anyway, since this class is so young and smart, you just have to give them a push and they go off by themselves. They are still my favorite class of all time, just a few more reasons why

1. One of the activities I had them do was a survey game where they ask other students what they like to do. Loud Andy, otherwise known as Andy Wu, was pestering Willy when Willy bursts out with "Chotto mate!"

2. Tina, the loudest girl in the class, came up and poked my tattoo for seriously about 2 minutes. Finally I asked her, "Are you done?" and she said "No, teacher, one more time!" and poked it again.

3. At the end of class, I told them they could ask me questions for 5 minutes. This involved among other things, an explanation of the difference between Washington State, and Washington DC, several graphic reenactments of Lincoln's assassination most of which were done by Willy who remains one of my favorite students. A request for me to name all of the presidents on Mount Rushmore, and probably some other stuff I'm forgetting.

王力宏 sightings: 1

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

On being "an analytical machine"

So, despite being out of school for a couple months, I still find it hard to shake off the feeling of academic analytical thinking and given the detachment of being a foreigner in another country, it's hard to avoid seeing everything as a cultural text. Curse you, Peter Steinberger.

Anyway, I've been listening to some Chinese pop, and although I'm by no means well versed in it at this point, I did come across a new CD by 王力宏 called 心中的日月. In English on the CD cover is a blurb of which I'll quote parts of it.

"1. Though Chinese presence grows in the global community, the world's understanding of Chinese people, pop culture and music still lags behind. As much as we hate to admit it, we are still faced with age-old stereotypes and unjust prejudices that need addressing.

2. Chinese pop music does not have a strong enough sonic identity. Instead of being purely karaoke driven, instead of covering or imitating other countries' popular songs, we can focus on developing our own sound, drawing from the rich resources that abound in Chinese culture.

Then, I coined the term "chinked-out". Derived from the historically derogatory racial slur "chink", used to put-down Chinese people, "chinked-out" repossesses the word, turns its negative connotations upside-down , and uses them as material to fuel the new sound if this music. The term describes an effort to create a sound that is international, and at the same time, Chinese. In this album, I decided to implement some of China's most precious and untapped resources, the musics of its "shao shu min zu" (少數民族) , or ethnic minorities, concentrating on the regions of Yunan, Shangri-la, Tibet, Xinjiang and Mongolia. This is NOT one those "world music" CD's. It's an R&B/hip-hop album that creates a new vibe the whole world can identify as being Chinese."

When I first read this I was pretty excited. The whole concept seems unexpectedly complex for a pop music CD. Also there's a lot I can get behind in the concept, and at least he seems to acknowledge racism towards Chinese people that people here seem to be largely unaware of. Although perhaps it's just the people I've met. However, this concept of repossessing and redefining Chinese pop music as uniquely Chinese seems problematic given that 王力宏 takes trips to the periphery of what is considered "China" and "Chinese" to find this uniquely Chinese sound.

Also after listening to the CD, 王力宏 himself uses sounds that are clearly based in Western music and hip hop. Much of his music sounds at least to my ear almost indistinguishable at times from American R&B which isn't such a bad thing per se but on an album that claims to be an attempt to reinvent Chinese pop music it does seem a bit odd.

Anyway, like I said, I'm hardly an expert, these are just some initial impressions of mine. I'm more interested in what other, more knowledgeable people think of this. Or hell, just other people in general.

Learning Chinese The Fun Way #3

Yet more proof that translating pop songs is helping my Chinese. More characters I have seen walking around on the street
魔- demon

Monday, September 05, 2005


So most of you probably aren't aware of or perhaps even care about 王力宏 or Wang Lihong/Leehom. Besides being a successful musician and songwriter for other people, he apparently promotes everything. I see more pictures of him than I do of Jolin whether it's some picture of him plastered across 10 stories of a skyscraper eating a McDonalds hamburger or a cut out of him hawking scooters or even coming across some movie that he starred in with Aaron Kwok. So from now on, I'm keeping track of just how many pictures I see of 王力宏.

Today's 王力宏 sightings: 6

Sunday, September 04, 2005


I asked a friend of mine why I got so many stares in Taibei when I spoke English on the street and she said that perhaps they thought I was trying to show off by speaking English to show how good it was.

Also a while ago a friend of mine told me that one of the people in our office is called Butterfly by the other teachers because she only goes out with foreign men and likes to show off by speaking English all the time.

The tension between Westerners and Taiwanese people is mostly kept under the surface but it's times like this when it breaks out. Clearly there's some sort of sense of exclusively dating Westerners means that you are putting on airs or pretending to be something that you're not. I'm not sure if I would go so far as to say people feel that Westerners are superior. Certainly most of the expats I've met here are hardly what I'd call gods among men but still there seems to be a power dynamic of some kind. Interestingly at least from my perspective it seems like much of this is directed at Taiwanese people who "put on airs" by speaking lots of English and not Westerners themselves. So maybe it's not really a Western-Chinese thing, but more of a cultural thing or even a social thing. I'm not really sure what I think of all this. It's just some thoughts for now.

Hurricane Katrina

Anyway, even cut off as I am here, I've been hearing about New Orleans. For those of you who are interested, I felt like this pretty much summed up what I felt about the subject, and also provided me with some food for thought.

Learning Chinese the Fun Way #2

I mentioned before that I've been trying to work out pop songs lyrics to improve my Chinese until I can afford to take classes. Anyway, I actually think it's been helping. Today, I saw several characters that I learned about from pop songs. Namely, 免費 or free, and 木乃伊 or mummy. Also the day before, I used another word, 盲or blind. So I think my vocabulary is improving. Thank you, JJ Lin.

Also this is an open plea for help if you know how to type Chinese on an American PC. I've installed the Chinese typing things I just don't know how to use any of the systems that I've installed. The Mac one was so easy you just typed in the pinyin and you got the characters. But these, sometimes I type things and there are characters but I don't know how to get from to the one I want. Help!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

我不夠白 (I'm not white enough)

One thing I've noticed about Taiwan is the (partial) obsession with white skin among women. Many women here carry umbrellas and wear long sleeves and gloves when they go outside. Also, there are often these freaky skin whitener commercials on TV where some woman will magically put some stuff on her face and come out looking both whiter and Photoshopped. Personally, I think that this is sort of creepy. Also, the thing is there's not an appreciable difference between women who wear long sleeves and carry umbrellas and women who don't which makes me wonder sometimes why they bother.

Friday, September 02, 2005

"Diaoness Unlimited" or Edison's Visit #3

my own pictures of Edison's visit will have to wait until I get to the end of the roll and get around to developing it and putting it on the internet. Until then, here's a few, courtesy of the man himself. I'm still not buying the whole "We look related." thing maybe people are right and all Asians do look alike.
Edison and the "real" Edison. I think Edison's vacant expression makes the resemblance a little more striking.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Separated at birth?

Also on the subject of Edison's stay, while he was here, we met up with a Taiwanese friend of mine who asked us if we were related. It's sort of funny since Edison often gets mistaken for being Japanese and I'm always told I look Chinese. Anyway, I guess it just goes to show you never can tell. Or that I have a twin brother that my parents (or one of my parents) never told me about.