Monday, October 31, 2005

If you want to read into it

A coworker requested that I make up a quick story about myself, a rabbit, a bridge, and a key. So I said that while crossing the bridge I saw a rabbit which ran into the bridge and killed itself, while it floated down the river I followed it and found a narrow, golden key.

Apparently the bridge is supposed to represent what I am going through right now, the key is my wealth, and the rabbit is the person that I love. Feel free to interpret it how you like, however, y'all best hope that I don't love you.

On Being An American in Taiwan

In Asian American studies, they teach you to think that there's this system set up in the world with white people at the top and other people, namely people of color, in solidarity at the bottom. Although I sometimes question this world view, coming to another part of the world, particularly one in which people who at least look like me are in the majority.

I would say that Asians in Asia, compared with Asians in America care much less about white people. However at the same time, the nervousness that many Taiwanese people seem to have about speaking English, or occasionally interacting with white people seems very different than the attitude Americans have when dealing with foreigners in their country.

There's something that's sort of stuck with me, which is a comment someone made about a TA at my school, which is that she likes to show off her English by talking to other Taiwanese people on her cell phone in English. The implication to me was that the speaker thought that this girl thought she was better than everyone else because she spoke good English.

In some ways this reminds me of home, because it seems a similar sentiment to when someone would talk about a haole-fied cousin, or when one of my classmates would use the term "banana" or "twinkie" to describe someone else. It was the same feeling of "He or she thinks they're better than us." Better than of course meaning white. It's not the same here. Westerners and white people are curiousities here rather than a genuine presence, so the feeling is different, but there are definitely times when I feel the difference. That despite everything, I sometimes get the feeling that Taiwanese feel like they have to defer to Westerners because Westerners at the end of the day are better than they are.

For example, when a bunch of white Westerners sit down in some place and start talking in English, paying me no attention because they think I'm Taiwanese. I'm not saying that it's not an honest mistake but at the same time, we're all Westerners in a foreign country, but there's something that separates them from me. Even though we occupy the same space, they don't feel like they have to acknowledge me, assuming I can't speak English Also, honestly, in dealing with Taiwanese people, I lose the edge that some Westerners have simply by making Taiwanese people nervous by their presence. Myself, I don't really inspire fear in the same way.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Humiliating jobs


Sorry for the blurry picture but this sight was just too good to pass up. It's nice to know that people under 25 working humiliating and undoubtedly lowpaying jobs is something that crosses national boundaries. Notice I took this picture from the back to preserve their dignity or what's left of it anyway.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Evil Geniuses

I'm now familiar enough with the Taiwanese transportation system to read on the bus again, so I've found a new way to read comics in my spare time. Needless to say that this means I'm back into Deathnote again, and about a third of the way through Volume 2. 月 has now moved on from killing criminals to killing FBI agents and the detective L is still on his tail. There's some added plot development with a mysterious woman dressed in black, and further developments in the Deathnote. It's surprisingly suspenseful although the two main characters don't really interact at all, but they are also shown to be remarkably similar. 月 is just getting more and more evil, even showing up to watch the people he kills die in person. The art is still very good, and it communicates the difference in personality between the two characters.

Speaking of little geniuses, I have a little kid in one of my classes named Lee. He's very cute and although he's not the best student, he's getting better. Generally he's quite quiet but also mischeveous. Every now and again, I'll hear him saying "Hee, hee, hee." in a small voice and rather than drawing pictures, he takes his pen apart and puts it back together again.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Kids are weird

I have this one little kid named Tony who is incredibly cute, he has really big eyes and he's missing his two front teeth which makes him even cuter. However usually then he opens his mouth and says, "The teacher is a pig."

Also, more evidence that I'm related to Nien, I had a moderately successful day with my nightmare class getting them to list celebrities that they know. One of them was Edison Chen. Eventually we ran out of boys and no girl wanted to be Edison. Eventually some wiseass in the class said, "The teacher is Edison Chen." I think they just meant I look very masculine.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Jay Chou and the American Cultural Imaginary

As most of you know, I watch a lot of MTV, also most of Jay Chou's CDs or other people's CDs for that matter come with some sort of bonus VCD with music videos on them. Needless to say I've been watching a lot of music videos, or as they seem to call them here, MVs.

One thing that sort of struck me about Jay Chou's music videos is that he frequently makes movie-like videos that seem to be about events or people that are central to the American cultural experience, such as the Vietnam War, or the mafia, or even American kungfu martial arts movies.

In 最後的戰役 's music video, it's especially weird to watch an Asian man seemingly participating in the Vietnam war, but what's even weirder is that the heros are both Asian. In some ways, it seems to reflect the difference of my own perspective and that of the people around me. To Jay Chou, it wouldn't really be weird because he's not Vietnamese and my guess is that he probably doesn't see the whole Pan-Asian unity thing that I see. At the same, while the music video does seem to fetishize Americans, particularly white and black men, they are really just a cosmetic or exotic feature of the video, the two heroes of the video are Jay himself (naturally) and another Asian guy.

While in 以父之名, there's just a flimsy flashback to show Jay as an Italian mafioso. Actually the plot of the whole thing makes me wonder whether the makers of Unleashed listen to a lot of Jay. It's just weird, there's a whole room full of white people and then there's some Chinese guy there with them, no explanation whatsoever. It's also interesting to me that Jay Chou chooses these very American cinematic subjects to base his music videos on. In some ways, it seems like he's placing himself in the American Cultural Imaginary (for lack of a less pompous word, sorry).

Recently Mr. Chou released a new music video for his new CD, which looks suspiciously like Hero, the film by Zhang Yimou, which opens a whole new can of worms, but that will have to wait for another time.

However, I do sort of wonder, why do academics study the films of 蔡明亮 who no one even watches when they could write papers on Jay Chou's music videos?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Yet more stories from Teaching English

Yesterday I asked my class (it should be obvious to most readers of this blog which class this is) what the teacher before me was like. I wasn't really expecting the wealth of responses that this got.
"She yelled a lot. She said we were bad. She said we were crazy and she was a crazy teacher." And then, "She really liked John. (John was the dimmest bulb in this class, he failed K8 and is repeating it again.) If John got a B-, she would say 'John, good job!'" I'm not sure if the scorn in this statement translated into scorn for John or not.

On the subject of people named John, one of my fellow teachers passed by this boy and said "Hello John." he didn't answer and she said, "You say, 'I'm fine, thank you.'" Later he came into the office and he gave her the most indescribable look and said to his teacher in Chinese, "She called me "John" and forced me to say, "I'm fine thank you." His name is Justin.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Golden Horses

So I found out that the Golden Horse Awards are going to be held in this town in a couple weeks time. Where exactly they're going to put it I'm not quite sure. But it means that Stephen Chow, Jay Chou, Andy Lau, etc. etc. will be coming to this grimy city. Hell, maybe I'll even go out and watch and take pictures of other people taking pictures.

Imports

So, thanks to angryasianman.com, I read this article about grad students accusing Yale of discriminating against Chinese students on the basis of their English speaking. It's always been something that I disliked about the American academy which judges scholars on the basis of their English rather than their research. At the same time, I can sympathize if students who are paying good money to go to Yale can't understand their TA. I also wonder about worldwide scholarship in a world where American universities are the richest and most prestigious and they put such an emphasis on English speaking.


On a similar topic, I've been interested in the topic of outsourcing and perhaps one day I'll get to research this but until then, I have this blog right? I read this article about tutoring in America being outsourced to India. Outsourcing seems to me a little fucked up, but the ultimate outcome of the HB-1 visa, which allowed American companies to import brown people for a while and then send them back when they would demand more money. Now they don't even have to bring them to the country, they'll talk to people on the phone while still at home.

Taiwanese men

I've been told by many foreigners that they consider Taiwanese men very feminine and personally I just don't see it. Possibly it's the wearing of pink by a lot of men that gives that impression, but most men and boys I met don't seem very girly to me. I would say that maybe there are different cultural ideals. I doubt that JJ Lin or Huang Yida would make it really big in America at least, because both of them do (to me) give the impression of being somewhat effeminate. But at the same time, this works out for them since both of them are quite successful here. If I was feeling in an academic mood, I might relate this back to traditional models of masculinity in traditional Chinese literature, but I won't.

At the same time, the other thing that this is sometimes used by people as a reason why Western men date Taiwanese women, (i.e. Taiwanese men are too girly and so Taiwanese women don't want to date them). I think this is patently not true simply by the non-scientific evidence that every time I go to a park at night there's some Taiwanese couple making out. I think Taiwanese women like Taiwanese men fine.

I've asked some Taiwanese people about this and their response generally seems to be either that the Taiwanese girls that date Western men are ugly and Taiwanese men wouldn't want to date them anyway, or that the Taiwanese girls that date Western men are really wild and Taiwanese men wouldn't want to date them anyway.

I am short

You know what sucks? When Taiwanese twelve year olds are taller than you. Most of the high school boys are taller than me. But yesterday, I was teaching some ten to twelve year olds and I called one of the boys over and the other kids started laughing and said, "Bob is taller than the teacher." Needless to say, I am really short.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Frivolously

I found out in 7-11, Jay Chou will be releasing a new CD soon, apparently called November's Chopin. I know that Jay is generally super cool, or as Nien would say, diao, but the velour get-up that they've been pushing really doesn't work for me. As for the music, I'll have to wait and see.

Take Care of My Cat

While in Ximending, I bought a DVD on a whim and also remembering a very positive review at LoveHKFilm.com. I saw it last night and it's really good. I remember it making the Asian film festival circuit a couple years back, but I don't know if that came to anything (i.e. a DVD release in the States). However the DVD I bought even had English subtitles and everything.

Perhaps one of the reasons I liked it was because the theme of the film is something that seems directly applicable to myself and various friends that I know. I think most people are inclined to like films that they can relate to. Anyway, enough about me, the film centers around a group of friends from high school in Korea. Or rather where they're at a year after graduating. Where they're at, however, really isn't anywhere. All of them are struggling, either stuck in dead end jobs or completely unemployed.

The film mainly centers around three of the five. The other two are twins, and like twins in many movies, they essentially function as one entity. One of them, who reminds me of a cousin of mine, is very beautiful but manipulative. You get the sense that this is hiding deeper issues in her personal life, but the viewer is left to fill in the blanks themselves. She's working in a very stressful and high profile job, although she's stuck in an entry level position seemingly for good. The second one still works for her father although she fantasizes about becoming a sailor and travelling forever. She's the most sympathetic, and the most concerned with the friends' shared past and keeping in contact. The third character is wrestling with being an orphan, incredibly poor, as well as living with her senile grandparents. She also seems to be possibly going insane, withdrawing from everyone and also borrowing sums of money from people and not paying it back.

The plot's too complex to go into and frankly I won't bore you with the details. But what I liked about it was that very few friendship movies accurately depict how friendships are strained or changed by the passage of time. Or they end with a celebration of friendship to overcome the obstacles of circumstances or old bitterness. However, I would guess most people don't find that true in their own experiences. At the end of Take Care of My Cat, not all the friends are still together. The film also does a good job of depicting the stresses that put pressure on these friendships, economic, social or otherwise. Although these girls started out at more or less the same place in the beginning of the film, it's clear that through the choices that they made that they have become very different people. Not that it's all bleak though, Take Care of My Cat also does celebrate friendship and the ending of the film is cautiously upbeat.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Existential Crisis #1

So I've found that I have an interesting dilemma. For some reason, possibly the famed Taiwanese pollution or something, my eyes are constantly really irritated here. And when they get really irritated, my eyes start watering like crazy. It's really irksome because sometimes I'll start tearing up in public, on the bus, on the street, in the middle of talking to a friend, or once in the classroom. I actually had to leave and rinse my eyes before I could go back inside and teach.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A short anecdote from the life of a twelve year old

On Wednesday, as I'm giving my class the spelling quiz, I hear Willy saying to Tim quite audibly.
"Tim, you're ok. You're OKAY." (Kids hear use, Ok for finished or done.) as Tim is enthusiastically using Willy's white-out. "Tim, you're OK. It's very expensive." It's nice to know mooching lives on in the younger generation.

Random Poll

What type of food would you consider to be the most spicy? Mexican, Thai, Korean, something else?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mastering the Secret Art of Asian Parents

My own thoughts on the post below, given the wealth of responses is this. That there are Asian parents who are super strict and push their kids to succeed is undeniable. Anyone growing up in an area with some Asians in it probably knows someone whose parents were like this. This wasn't my experience but then, my parents aren't Asian. Probably parental pressure and expectation does play a large role in the high representation of Asian and Asian Americans in Ivy League schools and UCs. As well as probably math and Key Club. The other explanation is that we're just genetically that way, and that is both untrue (hell, look at me, clearly this isn't true) and also opens a whole other eugenical can of worms that I don't really want to get into right now.

That said, I do object to someone deciding this is a secret technique that other people can learn. Asians in America seem to be known for many exotic arts. The arts of making Chinese fortune cookies, kung fu, meditation, yoga, feng shui etc etc. All these "skills" have been marketed as "Secret Arts" at one point or other. So what the sisters Kim have done is really just change something else that's perceived as different about Asians and marketing it like the newest diet. For one thing, this would seem to make us seem even more different. ie "Let's raise our kids the way those people raise them so Billy and Sally can keep up with the super Asians." doesn't seem to be doing much good to Asian Americans at all. Just my two cents.

Monday, October 17, 2005

On Being Asian part 2

Speaking of exposes of Asian secrets, I guess a couple Korean women wrote a book about how white people can turn their kids into overachievers. There's an article about them at the New York Times. Since I'm not sure if being a member is required for this article I'm just going to include it here and hope they don't sue me. I'm curious what people think about this article so hopefully some of you comment. I'm still thinking so I'll hold off on my own comments at the moment. You can read the article here and see the book here. As usual, I read about this at www.angryasianman.com.


WHEN they were growing up, Dr. Soo Kim Abboud and Jane Kim used to sit, like many children, in the shopping cart next to the candy racks at the checkout line and wail loudly, hoping that their humiliated mother or father would cave in and shush them with a Snickers bar.
But their parents, who were hard-working middle-class immigrants from Korea, had other ideas. Eventually they set a rule: Read one book from the library this week, receive one candy bar the next. Looking back on it, the sisters are not complaining. Instead, in "Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers - and How You Can Too" (Berkley), to be published Nov. 1, they applaud their parents' coercions. "We read the book, and we got the candy," said Dr. Abboud, 32, who is a surgeon and clinical assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania medical school. "We didn't go without."
In "Top of the Class" the Kim sisters advise parents who want successful children to raise them just as the Kims did - in strict households in which parents spend hours every day educating their children, where access to pop culture is limited, and where children are taught that their failures reflect poorly on the family.
But while this approach is common in many Asian countries and among many immigrant groups in the United States, it runs counter to an American culture that celebrates if not venerates self-expression and the freedom of youth. (This is, after all, the country that invented the teenager.) And some educators believe such a single-minded focus on achievement can be harmful. "Often I will see Asian-American kids become lost when they get to the university," said Kyeyoung Park, an associate professor of anthropology and Asian studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, who teaches many first-generation Asian students. "They feel disoriented, because they realize they've been sheltered and the world is not as their parents said it was."
Still, the sisters insist that in an age in which competition to succeed has never been greater and American parents are spending thousands of dollars on tutors and counseling for their children, traditional Asian methods are proven to work. They note that students of Asian descent make up about 25 percent of undergraduates at top universities like Stanford and Penn (and 41 percent at the University of California, Berkeley), even though Asians are less than 4 percent of the population, and that as of 2002 Asian-Americans had a median household income about $10,000 higher than the national average.
Part of their motivation for writing the book, the sisters say, was to counter the assumption that Asian students perform better simply because they are smarter. "My sister and I are not exceptionally gifted," said Dr. Abboud. "We're O.K. This is something anyone can do. It doesn't take a lot of money or private schools just to get kids learning on a daily basis."
As children the Kims were not learning on a daily basis, but an hourly one. One daughter's C-minus in biology could cast shame upon them all, so the Kim family reviewed each report card as a group in order to strategize about how each child could address weaknesses. The Kim parents also insisted their daughters come straight home to study after school instead of hanging out with friends (whom they could see on weekends only), and limited each girl to one hour of television a week and 15 minutes on the phone a day.
Every night the girls would complete hours of homework assigned by teachers and then do more lessons with their parents. Even artistic pursuits were approached with achievement in mind. Both girls played the piano and won several prizes.
"Our parents viewed competition as a necessary and unavoidable part of life," explained Ms. Kim, 29, who has a law degree from Temple University and works as an immigration specialist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "They wanted us to embrace, not fear, it."
Dr. Abboud and Ms. Kim, who were educated in public high schools, believe that Asian-Americans succeed in part because Asian parents are willing to sacrifice their own leisure time to micromanage their children's educational progress. While neither woman has children - Dr. Abboud is married to an orthopedic surgeon, Ms. Kim is single - they don't hold back from prescribing parenting advice. "It's tough, because parents are so much more busy now," Dr. Abboud acknowledged. "Not many could do the three hours of teaching that we had. Even we couldn't do that. But you can still do 45 minutes."
They are less understanding about what they view to be a particularly pernicious form of American overindulgence. "Too many parents now are into positive reinforcement for everything," explained Dr. Abboud. "In America people are so scared about doing anything that might negatively impact their children that they applaud every little thing they do. In Asia they expect both effort and results."
Both Kim sisters recall struggling at times with their parents' discipline and expectations. Dr. Abboud said she felt alienated and lonely at times during high school in Raleigh, N.C., and Ms. Kim, who was more gregarious and rebellious, initially wanted to be a writer. Her parents gave her a year after college to pursue it, but after Ms. Kim's efforts to find a job at a magazine foundered, she agreed to go to law school. Today she is happy she did. "American parents will say, 'Do whatever makes you happy, even if the talent isn't there,' " Ms. Kim said. "You need a reality check."
The Kim parents moved from South Korea to Los Angeles in 1971 so Mr. Kim could study computer science at the University of Southern California and pursue a more comfortable life in this country. Mr. Kim, who had been a math teacher in Korea, arrived in the United States with only a few hundred dollars and went to work as a janitor for a time to make ends meet before eventually finding work as a network manager in telecommunications. His wife, Dae Kim, worked 14-hour days as a seamstress before Soo was born.
For immigrants like the Kim parents, pursuing a life organized around the single principle of career achievement makes a certain sense because their children will be rewarded by better lives. Still, the relentless pressure to succeed can backfire. Peter A. Spevak, a psychologist who runs the Center for Applied Motivation in Rockville, Md., where he strives to help patients build career success, says that children who are pushed too hard may eventually prosper but can end up being "very frustrated" adults who feel like they "missed their own childhood."
"They can become a successful attorney," Dr. Spevak said, "but there's an emptiness to them."
The authors themselves acknowledge that Asian career values can be hazardous to one's health if taken to an extreme degree, as in Japan, where pressures to excel in an exam-focused educational system have been linked with high dropout rates, social withdrawal and suicide. "That's one stereotype we don't want to perpetuate," said Dr. Abboud, who said rules of the house should be strict but not oppressive.
Without even considering the psychic costs, American readers might find the book's narrow definition of success myopic in a country with such a vast plate of career options to sample from. Even some first-generation Asian-Americans do.
One such person is Minya Oh, a host for the New York radio station Hot 97 who goes by the on-air name Miss Info. Ms. Oh grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where her Korean-born parents owned a toy store. Like the Kims, the Oh parents pushed their daughter relentlessly and hoped that the academic intensity found at the nearby University of Chicago would rub off on her. They tirelessly attempted to steer her toward a career as an architect, she said, even though she had no interest in math or buildings.
Unfortunately for her parents, it was the rap music she heard around the neighborhood, not the hushed conversation on the campus, that made Ms. Oh prick up her ears. Her parents, she said, were gravely concerned when she decided to pursue her love of hip-hop as a career. They still are. After a decade of writing for magazines and appearing on radio and television, Ms. Oh still must endure her mother's reminders that it is not too late for, say, law school. The needling still rankles Ms. Oh, who said she considers herself a rebel against the old-world Asian success ethic.
But she is not sure her voice would be heard daily by 2.2 million listeners without it.
"Even when you rebel as a Korean-American child, you can only rebel so much," Ms. Oh said. "You have no option of absolutely falling off the overachiever wagon and being a schlump."

Sunday, October 16, 2005

On being Asian

In America, I frequently found people telling me various things.
"Asian hair is different and therefore more difficult to cut than white hair."
"90% of Asians are lactose intolerant, so you'd better watch how much milk you drink."
"Asians produce more earwax than other people." etc etc.

Invariably this was told to me by a white person. What I want to know is, why the hell didn't I know that Asian hair, Asian ears, Asian lactase enzymes are different than other people's? I am Asian, shouldn't I know? What the hell's wrong with me for not knowing? And most importantly, how the hell do random white people know more about the details of Asian physiology than me?

Perhaps instead of that talk your parents are supposed to have with you about sex, they should sit down with their kids and have "So you're Asian" talk and all that this entails.

Things People in Jilong Probably Know Me As

1. That girl that leaves her bag in different places (i.e. the bank, McDonalds)
2. That girl who always comes to our stall and orders
a) something but requests no meat
b) 10 dumplings (十個鍋貼)
c) That girl that always hangs out with foreigners who can't speak English
d) That girl that comes to our restaurant, says about two words and usually pays in bill form
e) Is that person a boy or a girl?
f) That girl that comes by our bakery and orders black coffee

A full day


One day in which my day was actually very busy, and mostly with social engagements. I went with my friend Stacy to the 樂華夜市 in 永和. Yonghe is a part of Taibei country but it's a seperate city. It seems slightly more relaxed than downtown Taibei. The night market is quite big and apparently is getting more famous. I also met Stacy's friend and had a long conversation about Chinese literature and Taiwanese cinema. I also met up with a language exchange partner. All in all, it was a really good day, good practice for my Chinese although it's also humbling because I still have such a long way to go until I'm fluent.

I also was shown a bookstore by Stacy where I could buy Edward Said in English if I wanted to, and Rey Chow, and Foucault. Instead, I bought Harry Potter 6. I'm not sure what this says about me, but I think it says something.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Principles or dumplings?

After getting food poisoning from a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant, I've just decided not to ask questions about what's in my food. I don't go out of my way to eat meat. But I also really like dumplings and almost all of them have meat in them. So I've just decided once again not to ask questions.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Reader Poll (For all three of you)

So I met a couple new people and they asked me to help them pick English names. One requested a "not girly" name and the other one said she really didn't care just as long as it wasn't Tina, Michelle, Wendy, Patty, Angel, Cindy or the 7 other commonly given English names here. I've been looking but short of going through a name book I think I haven't really come up with great ones. If you have a suggestion or preferably 5, please post it here.

Disgusting things

There's a sort of indescribable feeling of swatting a giant mosquito in your room and finding upon impact that it's full of blood and this blood is most likely your own.

Navel Gazing

I got my first gift from a student today. Elin from one of my classes gave me some candy. Wednesday is probably my favorite day because the classes are much easier to teach and it's kind of fun. Also of course, my K9-83 class is then, which is always a lot of fun. Master William once again came and talked to me for most of the break. I actually don't think I can put what he says on here just because at the end of the day, it's probably told to me in confidence or something like it. Hopefully he doesn't become an asshole in a couple months. Looking back at some of my earlier entries it's interesting to see how my perceptions of students and even my job have changed. I never really thought of this blog as a record but I suppose it kind of is.

I'm definitely approaching the four month mark soon. This place is sometimes quite hard, sometimes quite cool. I guess when I got here I never thought this is quite where I would be. (I'll avoid the fortune cookie wisdom of saying that where you think you're going to be is never where you are, although this is also true). And where am I? In some apartment by a train station by myself. With some friends although not very many, the ability to talk for 3 or 4 hours mostly in Chinese, earning a living by playing with and teaching children, watching MTV, owning a digital camera. I certainly never thought I would have weekly conversations with a 12 year old Taiwanese boy or that I would enjoy them. I never thought children would even like me. As it is, smartass little girls and quiet boys like me. Thinking about it of course this makes a lot of sense.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Long Threatened Ramble On Asian Pop Part 2

Recently I bought a copy of Kim Ki-duk's 3-Iron or by it's Chinese title 空室情人。It doesn't have English subtitles but that's ok because the two main characters don't talk. And most of what the other characters have to say you get the general gist of anyway. I really like this movie because in some ways it takes one of my bad habits to the logical extreme. I really like to walk by people's windows at night and people who are dumb and leave their lights on and their curtains undrawn let people like me look into their houses. I like looking mainly because it gives you the sense of getting a brief look into other people's lives. I also realize this makes me kind of creepy.

The first main character in the film, as I mentioned takes this to the next level and breaks into the houses of people on vacation, wears their clothes, eats their food, fixes their broken appliances, and essentially lives their life. He also takes pictures of himself next to their family photographs. However in one house he breaks into it's not empty there's a former model who's married to an abusive businessman. She doesn't talk either. In fact after he goes about his normal routine of fixing things and taking pictures, she stalks him around her own house. Eventually the two of them go off together, not before he almost kills her husband using a golf balls and a golf club. Actually golf is a major theme in this film, every guy seems to have one and golf strangely enough becomes a symbol of aggression and violence. By the end of the film, the two have them have figured out how to not exist at all, or rather exist where people aren't looking.

The acting in the film has to be really good because in the majority of the film no one talks, and it is. The two lead actors communicate their characters' emotions without saying anything. We're never completely told what either of their deals are, or how they ended up where they are but enough is given that I was satisfied anyway.

On a completely different subject, I've found that many Taiwanese people that I have met here don't like Asian movies, perhaps in a similar way to how I don't really like Hollywood movies. Some of them like European movies but a lot of them like Hollywood movies. Makes me wonder whether I like Asian movies just because on some level they're exotic to me. Or whether in fact, they're just better. I like to think it's the latter.

Also there seem to be different levels of acceptability attatched to various pop stars. For example it's ok to like Leehom 王力宏 and JJ 林俊傑 but many people to whom I've mentioned that I listen to Jay 周傑倫 's music visibly recoil in horror. Apparently it's his public persona, which frankly I haven't been exposed to because I don't understand news broadcasts at all. My private student says Leehom is better because he writes his own stuff, but he writes just as much as Jay, so I can't really figure it out. Perhaps his association with "the youth?" Maybe he's on the level of Jolin 蔡依琳。Really can someone resolve this for me? On the bottom you've got 5566, Energy, K-One, Tension, and maybe the Twins. Hell, even my 12 year old students know Energy wears stupid clothes.

Things I Think Are Cool

I've recently discovered the San Francisco Chronicle's Asian Pop column which combines my love of things Asian American and my love of Asian Pop culture. One thing that I really like is this 4 part piece where Jeff Yang goes and visits Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

There Are More Things In Heaven and Earth, Horatio



Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Like an iced dessert flavored with flying fish roe and shrimp.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Happy (Frickin') National Holiday

For those of you not in Taiwan, today is Taiwan's National Holiday aka Independence Day. People on the Mainland get a whole week, Taiwanese people only get a day. I'm suppressing a sarcastic comment about winners and losers right now. Those of you who are aware of the outcome of the KMT vs. CCP conflict can fill in the blanks for yourselves. I seem to be celebrating National Holiday by getting sick. This sickness seems to manifest itself by making me fall asleep uncontrollably any time I sit down or lie down for a second. This is particularly inconvenient for me when I am wearing glasses. Fortunately I haven't broken them yet. It also involves the unique experiences of waking up with various pains in various places because I have fallen asleep on a remote control, a CD case, Gao Xinglian's Soul Mountain, my cell phone, or my hand. This also means that I haven't done anything productive today.

"Perhaps I'll translate some song lyrics and you know, work on my Chinese." "Perhaps I'll wash some clothes so I'll have something to wear tomorrow." "Perhaps I'll return my friend's phone call." Two or three hours later, the windows are strangely dark and Wang Leehom's "Not Your Average Thug" is playing on my computer. And it always is. And somehow I feel even more out of it than before. It's been an odd couple of days.

On a brighter note, I met a couple pretty cool people today. Hopefully I'll see them again. It did my Chinese some good probably. Anyway this is more of an apology to those of you whom I've been flaking out on, I'll be back to my usual sarcastic self soon I promise.

Over and out.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Long Threatened Ramble About Asian Pop

Since the last time I made stupid observations about Asian pop, I have discovered several things. I have preferences. For example, I will quite happily listen to JJ Lin (林俊傑) or Jay Chou (周傑倫)but I cannot listen to 5566. A friend of mine burned me their latest album, saying that it might help me connect with my students. I've decided that we can connect in other ways, also I don't know if my students would respect me more if I ostentatiously dropped the names of 5566 songs either.

I have noticed that artists like JJ Lin or Jay Chou seem to move between R&B and hip hop, and occasionally rock and roll in a way that I think most American hip hop artists wouldn't do. However, I have been listening to 王力宏's music and there's this one part where he sings in English about how he "still has love for the ghetto." Yeah, Alexander Wang, Michigan represent. I actually started giggling on the street. Furthermore, his final track on the album starts off talking about something that he really likes and finally he says in Chinese, "I really like...MacDonald's." I almost fell over, which would have been bad because I was sitting on the railing of a cliff overlooking the city.

The man with the walkman.

Way back in the day, I believe I mentioned a man that stands around in public in Jilong wearing headphones and singing in Japanese in a high falsetto voice. I think he's something of a regular in Jilong. Because I've seen him standing other places downtown also singing. Yesterday, as I was coming home, I saw him dressed in a camoflage jumpsuit walking and singing.

In some ways I admire him, it takes a certain amount of courage to be that weird all the time. I wonder what his mother thinks?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Culture Shock

Yesterday, my friend took me over to the Sacred Heart (yes, there's a Catholic School in Jilong) unofficial foreigner diner and there were probably about 20 white people there, most of them with blue eyes and blonde hair and I experienced the most profound culture shock I hardly knew what to do.

More pictures #2









































Thursday, October 06, 2005

More pictures


Are people even interested in these pictures? Because, if not, I'll stop posting them and just send them to my mom. They're a pain in the ass to upload. I'm still not taking particularly good pictures, going from my SLR to this, I sort of feel like I skipped a level and am desperately trying to figure out what all the buttons do. Until then, this is as good as it's going to get.











Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Been Feeling Down Lately

I've come to several conclusions about my job.
1. I don't enjoy yelling at small children, or even large children. Hell, I don't enjoy yelling at anyone on a regular basis.
2. Yelling at children and making them upset makes me feel like a bad person. Perhaps I should start worrying when it doesn't make me feel like a bad person, but until then, it still does make me feel like shit when it does happen, even when, in my opinion it's deserved.
3. On a reverse note, children can also be assholes. This shouldn't surprise anyone. Most people, in my opinion (the loveless cynic) are assholes. Children really aren't that much more innocent in general or nice than adults. This makes them much more interesting than they're made out to be. However the fact remains, many of them are assholes.
4. not job related but still true, I've realized I'll probably never see either of my grandparents again and that they'll most likely die before I go back to America. As a general rule, I don't talk about personal things here, so enough said.

On a lighter note, yesterday was K9-83 day, which is always a highlight of my day. After begging me in a way that can only be described as piteously for a couple minutes to look over their vocabulary before the quiz, which I sort of gave them. It's one of those balancing acts between wanting to be a nice person in the face of five 12 year olds saying, "Please, PLEASE!" in a heartrending way, and trying to be professional and not be manipulated because, well, see item 3 above.

Afterwards, Willy, during the break, told me. "Last week, my father was very angry because I got 70 on my quiz, so he hit me. No, not hit me. He made me write out the words 10 times." I also asked him where he goes after class, and he said, "To another school to study Chinese." people here often say that kids born after 1983 are really selfish and spoiled, but I would say that some kids here work really hard.

Finally, one of the words I had to teach was energy. Energy is also the name of a boy band here. The sentence patterns I had to teach was So and so wants something. They have to do something. The final sentence we did was K9-83 wants Energy, K-One, 5566, Tsai Jolin, the Twins, and Jay. We have to buy their CDs, DVDs, MVs, and T-shirts. Also at some point I asked Tina if she was a member of 5566 because she kept tapping her feet, in a similar manner to their lame, lame, lame music video. Her friend Lucy retorted, "No, teacher. She is 2266."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Corpse Bride (地獄新娘) or Review City

a couple nights ago, I went out and saw The Corpse Bride with some friends. It's incredibly short for a Hollywood, it was probably a little more than an hour. When I was little my favorite movie was Beatlejuice, which depending on how well you know me, tells you something or nothing about me. Anyway, for those 5 other people who are still jonesing for their Edward Gorey fix after his untimely death, The Corpse Bride is definitely for you.

Despite Tim Burton being vaguely weird and slightly Victorian on his own, I suspect that a lot of the plot, world, and visuals of the Corpse Bride owe a lot to Edward Gorey. The characters with their spindly bodies, pale faces and giant eyes. The largely monochrome color palatte of the movie. The names, Victor VanDort and Victoria Everglot in their vaguely non-specific European setting. This type of pan-European world seems largely to be created by Americans, and reminds me of the same overall tone of "A Series of Unfortunate Events."

Anyway, the movie looks good and is certainly entertaining. However, the plot's pretty slight. I guessed the "twist" in the plot within the first 30 minutes of the movie using Laurel's "Why is this person in the film?" rule. Possibly the animators might want to consider making the sillouette of the villain look a little less strikingly like the villain since this is supposed to be a surprise.

For those of you who have put up with this incoherent rambling, thank you. I'll soon just return to rambling about Asian pop. Don't worry, or maybe start worrying, whichever floats your boat.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Marrying Buddha

A while ago I read Wei Hui (of Shanghai Baby or 上海寶貝 fame)'s book recently translated into English, Marrying Buddha. For whose of you who knew me at the time, you may remember that I didn't much like Shanghai Baby when I read it and that I complained about it constantly while I was reading it and also when I was analyzing it for my junior qualifying examination. (What a dumb idea that was).

Anyway, while Marrying Buddha is a bit better than Shanghai Baby, mostly because many of the embarrassing, and explicit-to-the-point-of-ruining-any-intended-erotic-effect sex scenes have been toned down. Possibly because the translation is better. However, since I know the translator, I may be a bit biased. Similar to the career of another "Chinese woman writer" sensation, Amy Tan, Marrying Buddha tells almost the exact same story as Shanghai Baby. Where the same protagonist is caught between two men, one more "Oriental" and spiritual, and also somewhat impotent. And the ruthless, carnal "Western" guy with whom she just has a lot of sex.

Of course, because Wei Hui constantly describes herself as incredibly beautiful and talented as well as being very successful, this all seems perfectly natural. She also employs similar devices as before. She describes a "modern Chinese lifestyle" while also throwing in some Orientalist bones. Spirituality, complete with mystical islands (and monks!), as well as some fashionable bisexuality and a transgendered "best friend."

Marrying Buddha follows the plot of Shanghai Baby almost exactly. Ending once again with the "heroine" losing both men and ending more or less inconclusively, and anticlimatically. As you have no doubt concluded if you are still reading, I did not really like Marrying Buddha. In order to like this book, you'd probably have to like Wei Hui simply for the fact that she spends so much frickin' time talking about herself. She's still not a very good writer, I don't really dig the Eastern impotent man, Western hypersexual man thing. This is made slightly more bearable than Shanghai Baby simply because the super offensive Nazi analogies have been cut out. However, slightly less bad still doesn't make something good. Wei Hui didn't have much to say in the first place, and she's ultimately just repeating herself here. I'm predicting that this book will be less successful than Shanghai Baby. If only because "Asian female writers" are almost always one hit wonders. If there is a third book, which hopefully there's not. Hopefully she'll have figured out something else to write about.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A curious object lesson

just a random recommendation to whoever's out there. If for some reason you are possessed with the desire to fiddle with the toolbar at the bottom of your screen on your computer to try to turn off programs to make your computer run faster. I would recommend against turning the touchpad off on your laptop if you don't have a mouse because then you have to use your arrow keys and try to attempt a system restore without any way to use your cursor. Not that this happened to me or anything. Just saying.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Graffiti



Graffiti isn't very common here so I was surprised when I saw these.

















Someone has a sense of humor.



















I think this may be a politician, but I'm not sure.