The reflected world
Often eyes too shy to meet face to face gaze off into a reflected world. There, in the alternate reality on the other side of the window pane, as the train passes underground, there: we see eye to eye.
Often eyes too shy to meet face to face gaze off into a reflected world. There, in the alternate reality on the other side of the window pane, as the train passes underground, there: we see eye to eye.
Who knew as the idea hit me on my approach to the Xinbeitou station that there really is something called scribblism? See Scribblism: art and practice of the scribble. Way cool site.
I spend a lot of time on this site going back and forth between writing about Taiwanese politics and American politics, between attempting to capture what people I meet here think about their society and what I am thinking, feeling, seeing, dreaming, smelling, hearing, and doing on any given day--between subjective and objective, personal and global, the past, present, and future. That is partly the nature of blogs (though many bloggers confine their discussions within specific frames), but probably more a reflection of my own manner of scribbling. So, hopefully, those of you who were attracted to this site because of an interest in Taiwan's situation won't be put off by a post on America's situation, or vice versa. Likewise, it is not my intention to scare away people who have liked some of my posts that transmitted the words of random strangers on the streets of Taipei with posts that described memories from my childhood--ones to which only my parents could relate. I guess I am also one of those random strangers lurking in Taipei's lanes and alleyways.
Yesterday, on the metro I met a monk from Nepal (probably Tibetan). He told me he came to Taiwan 8 years ago to learn martial arts. He lives at a temple near Taoyuan, where a monk teaches him the Shaolin way. I didn't ask him if his master came from Shaolin temple in China. There wasn't much time to talk. Soon after we started chatting, we arrived at Yuanshan. Both of us got off, said a few more words, shook hands, and went our separate ways. Should have given him my business card. Silly me.
1. Taiwan presidential election: Ma Ying-jeou expected to win (?)
Michael has an important post critiquing a Washington policy paper on Taiwan. It might be difficult to read for those who are pro-China at all costs as I once was:
Taiwan is a headache for the foreign policy Establishment since its ornery democracy that insists on an independence of its own interferes with smooth relations with China (translation: Big Profits), and thus, much of the writing that comes out of Establishment institutions on Taiwan consists of attempts to find a language and a stance that rationalizes the writer's cognitive dissonance as he, usually a decent human being, discusses how democratic Taiwan can best be betrayed to Communist China. Often this involves blaming Taiwan for being "provocative," thus inviting the reader to subconsciously adopt the point of view that Taiwan is an obstreporous child in need of discipline, and deserves its fate. Reading such stuff, one is reminded of Jan Masaryk's visit to Downing Street after the infamous surrender at Munich, where he told Chamberlain and Halifax: "If you have sacrificed my nation to preserve the peace of the world, I will be the first to applaud you. But if not, gentlemen, God help your souls."My own personal wish is to see an open and thriving China (not just economically)--one that can accept the co-existence of a prospering but independent Taiwan. When China can do that, it will truly live up to the greatness that is its potential, and will be a model for the world.
I must have walked by it a million times (well maybe not that many) as I window-shopped in Shilin. It looked like a store selling toilet bowls. But tonight, after purchasing a Kung-pao chicken pizza (and eating it), I walk past this "shop" on my way back to the metro. I looked inside and there were a lot of people sitting on the bowls; they were at tables; they were eating. No, this was not a toilet bowl shop; it was a restaurant and all of the seats were toilet bowls. Perhaps (and this is pure speculation) the place doubles as a bathroom supply store. I'll have to obtain some pictures. Stay tuned...
David Sirota responds to the New York Times review of his book, Hostile Takeover, and in the process arrives at the systemic problem in American media/politics:
That, my friends, is the fault line that is driving everything in today's politics: a battle between the people inside the Establishment whose careers rely on protecting the status quo and the vast majority of Americans who have been locked out of their own political and media debate. Of course, you don't hear that in our current political discourse - everything is always ramrodded into a debate between Democrats and Republicans, red and blue, liberals and conservatives. That's deliberate - the Establishment wants the public to think this battle is about everything OTHER than the struggle between those with power who want to preserve the status quo, and those without power who want democratic control of their country. Because if this fault line is actually brought to the front and talked about, it means a direct challenge to the powers that be.
You can see how frightened the Establishment is in how the elites treat anyone who dares highlight this fault line.
In the book world, books like Hostile Takeover, Crashing the Gates, How Would A Patriot Act?, Lapdogs and others are movement books that represent the desires, aspirations and centrist political positions of the vast majority of Americans. Books like The Good Fight and The World is Flat, on the other hand, are books that not only represent the status quo Establishment, but go out of their way to attack the nerve of those outside the Washington Beltway who want serious change. Not surprisingly, the Establishment aggressively pushes the latter in its corporate media channels, and attacks or suppresses coverage of the former.
In the electoral arena, Washington pundits and incumbent politicians are out in force breathlessly berating Connecticut voters that are backing primary candidate Ned Lamont in his challenge to incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman (D). The Establishment is outraged that voters would have the chutzpah to believe that elections should be, well, elections - and not coronations for Senators who think they are royalty and think they can sell out their constituents with no consequences.
Even in the policy arena, this Ordinary Americans vs. Establishment s power struggle is occurring. On one side, you see millions of newly engaged citizens involving themselves in Internet activism, union organizing, and political campaigns that take on the status quo and push a policy agenda that represents the vast majority of Americans. You see courageous politicians take principled stands on specific policies that the Establishment has tried to preserve for years.
On the other side, there are organizations like the Democratic Leadership Council, which is holding its "national conversation" in Denver this weekend. The group purports to represent America's political "center" but on issue after issue after issue, the organization and its highest-profile leaders have gone on record advocating for extremist national security, trade and economic policies well outside the mainstream of American public opinion. These policies, undoubtedly influenced by the group's big corporate donors, have helped destroy America's middle class and weaken America's security. The group, of course, purports to represent ordinary Americans. But they can't hide even the farcical nature of that assertion. As just one example, the Rocky Mountain News reports the DLC's supposedly "national conversation" runs "through Monday at the Hyatt Regency hotel and is not open to the public." And now the group is pitching stories to reporters trying to openly position themselves as the counterweight to grassroots political organizing and activism.
The New York Times and other Establishment media try to make everything about one party or another, and about one election or another. But what is clear - and what is frightening them and their friends at their elite cocktail party gatherings - is the realization that a movement is being built that transcends both parties and any one election. This is a movement that sees the principles of standing up for the little guy and the ideology that puts regular people first not as a threat, but as a necessity to rebuilding the foundations this country was built on - foundations that are now under a vicious assault by those in the Establishment.
There is a fascinating documentary on the Taiwan Art Channel about former Taiwanese President, Lee Teng-hui, and the democracy movement in Taiwan. Unfortunately, I can't understand much of it since it is mostly in Taiwanese. Looks like the eighties and nineties (before I came) was an exciting period in Taipei and elsewhere in this island nation. But, then again, what period hasn't been (including now)?
Lee Teng-hui, during his term as president, supported the Taiwanese localization movement. The Taiwanese localization movement has its roots in the home rule groups founded during the Japanese era and sought to put emphasis on Taiwan as the center of people's lives as opposed Mainland China or Japan. During the Chiang regime, China was promoted as the center of an ideology that would build a Chinese national outlook in a people who had once considered themselves Japanese subjects. Under this ideology, Taiwan was seen as a place for mainlanders to resent as they waited for the re-conquest of the Maoist mainland. Taiwan was often relegated to a backwater province of China in the KMT-supported history books. People were discouraged from studying Taiwan and old customs were to be replaced by "Chinese" customs. Lee, conversely, sought to turn Taiwan into a center rather than an appendage, a shift that was widely supported in Taiwan. However, he has stated that his actions were also based on the premise that a Chinese identity and a Taiwanese identity are ultimately incompatible, a notion that is very controversial on the island, even among supporters of localization.
Lee presided over the democratization of Taiwanese society and government in the late-1980s and early-1990s. During his presidency, Lee was followed by persistent suspicions that he secretly supported Taiwan independence and that he was intentionally sabotaging the Kuomintang. The former suspicion was proven true by Lee's behavior after his Presidency, which led to his expulsion from the Kuomintang and subsequently becoming the spiritual leader of the strongly pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union.
For those of you who haven't been following Bush's mishaps on the world stage and for those who have, SF Gate columnist, Mark Morford, has the definitive piece: "Bush Gropes, Planet Cringes Knead a German chancellor, banter dumbly, reveal global ignorance. It's Dubya abroad!" He sums it all up:
So now we know.
I mean, we sort of thought we knew, before, what kind of guy George W. Bush is, essentially our very own inept, inarticulate ex-alcoholic ex-frat-guy failed-businessman pseudo-leader who famously appeals to the most God-fearin' and least educated and least attuned among us because he is, well, one of them.
We thought we had him pegged: Just a casual and aw-shucks sort of walkin', talkin', war-happy embarrassment to the country who was rumored to be a Genuinely Nice Guy in person but who, when he traveled abroad, nevertheless caused the entire nation to pre-emptively cringe in preparation for all sorts of imminent humiliations and lots of hilarious-yet-excruciating new material for "The Collected Bushisms."
But every so often we get a glimpse of just a little more. Or, rather, less. Of what lies just beneath that carefully controlled sheen of White House spin, what happens when Dubya is away from his handlers and his prefab scripts. We get a hint of just what fuels that clueless amble, that Chosen One bumble, that graceless and decidedly dorky sort of approach to everything from ordering a Diet Coke to comprehending Middle East chaos.
Witness, won't you, the latest in a huge pile of embarrassing Bush-on-tape moments. (Warning: Not for the faint of intellect.)
Here he is, the leader of the Free World, fresh off being caught on a live microphone at the Group of Eight summit meeting muttering to his favorite poodle Tony Blair, using his bestest Texas-boy shtick, that if them gul-dang Syrians would just tell Hezbollah to knock this s-- off, everything would be dandy ...
Here is the president of the most powerful nation on the planet, fresh from an awkward smackdown by Vladimir Putin on Bush's failed war in Iraq, muttering to Blair and Chinese President Hu Jintao, actually more amazed and confounded by the fact that Jintao's flight home takes about as long as Bush's to Washington ...
(Bush: "You eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country. Takes him eight hours to fly home ... Russia's big and so is China. Yo Blair, what're you doing? Are you leaving?" Ah, dumb-guy banter. Makes you feel proud all over, no?)
And now, the icing on the giant cake o' domestic torture. Here is Dubya, strolling speedily into a G-8 summit meeting where powerful, intent world leaders are already gathered to discuss, presumably, serious issues of the day, walking straight up to a seated German Chancellor Angela Merkel and giving her a weird, unsolicited shoulder rub from behind, before dashing to his seat. Oh yes he did.
The pictures, the video reveal all. Merkel reacts accordingly, is instantly creeped out, cringes and shrugs Bush away with a look of surprised revulsion. Read on...
It was inevitably the case that as a child, whenever one of those mega-boxes of crayons was placed in front of me and next to a blank sheet of white paper, I would reach for a random color and begin scribbling. I liked the way different colors mixed together in an expanding flow of chaos. However, I had no sense of how to fix this chaos into an orderly pattern, though the more I scribble the more a pattern seemed to emerge on its own.
Via Mcjoan at Dailykos, Washington Post reporter, Walter Pincus writes:
A new element of courage in journalism would be for editors and reporters to decide not to cover the President's statements when he -- or any public figure -- repeats essentially what he or she has said before. The Bush team also has brought forward another totally PR gimmick: The President stands before a background that highlights the key words of his daily message. This tactic serves only to reinforce that what's going on is public relations -- not governing. Journalistic courage should include the refusal to publish in a newspaper or carry on a TV or radio news show any statements made by the President or any other government official that are designed solely as a public relations tool, offering no new or valuable information to the public.This should be true in any so-called free society where truth is valued over PR.
Pink Floyd - Live At Pompeii - Echoes (part 1)
Yes, Syd Barrett, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd has died. This means a lot to me since Pink Floyd was my favorite band from high school through college and beyond. Even now, when I hear Pink Floyd songs I am moved in a very very particular way. It all started when my sister gave me her warped copy of "Dark Side of the Moon" (post-Barrett). It took me awhile, but it gradually replaced Def Leppard to become my most listened to album and band. First I got hooked on "Money" and then the rest of the album followed, which led me to many other Floyd discoveries.
Barrett co-founded Pink Floyd in 1965 with David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright, and wrote many of the band's early songs. The group's jazz-infused rock made them darlings of the London psychedelic scene, and the 1967 album "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" — largely written by Barrett, who also played guitar — was a commercial and critical hit.Floyd fans already caught it; the rest of you are in the dark. The article does not include Roger Waters as one of the founding members, and nowhere even mentions his name. Instead, David Gilmour is both one of the founding members and Syd's replacement. This is a shame.
However, Barrett suffered from mental instability, exacerbated by his use of LSD. His behavior grew increasingly erratic, and he left the group in 1968 — five years before the release of Pink Floyd's most popular album, "Dark Side of the Moon." He was replaced by David Gilmour.
Roger Keith Barrett was born Jan. 6, 1946, in Cambridge, England, where his father was a university lecturer in pathology. He was drawn to jazz and blues early on, playing ukulele and later switching to guitar, and he hung out in music clubs. He took his nickname from a old Cambridge jazz drummer he knew, Sid Barrett, and used a "y" for effect.It also has the nitty gritty on Syd's life after he left the band. Kind of tragic:
Mr. Barrett was an indifferent art student in London when he joined his high school friend Waters in a rock band that included Mason and Wright. Mr. Barrett wrote many of the group's early songs, inspired mostly by prodigious drug use and an astronomical atlas he carried everywhere.
He also renamed the band, formerly the Screaming Abdabs, after two obscure American bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd "Dipper Boy" Council.
After brief hospitalization, Mr. Barrett was cared for by his mother, and he rarely left home. After his mother died in 1991, his health worsened, and his eyesight began to fail. He enjoyed gardening, however, and was said to be skillful at stuffing peppers.The revised AP article adds this fascinating tidbit about Syd's later years:
He spent much of the rest of his life living quietly in his hometown of Cambridge, England, and reverting to his real name, Roger Barrett.
He was a familiar figure, often seen cycling or walking to the corner store, but rarely spoke to the fans and journalists who sought him out over the years.
I just noticed this informative article at Asia Times Online by Hisane Masaki on Chairman--I mean--Mayor Ma's trip to Japan, as well as Japan's position in the middle of the cross-strait conflict:
In stark contrast with its withering ties with communist-ruled China, Japan's relations with Taiwan, a capitalist democracy, have been in full bloom in recent years. In the absence of diplomatic ties, Japan still imposes strict restrictions on high-level official contacts with Taiwan.
At the same time, economic and cultural exchanges between Japan and Taiwan have expanded. After Japan dropped visa requirements for Taiwanese visitors last year, the two countries exchanged a record 2.5 million visitors. Taiwan is currently Japan's fourth largest trading partner. The 345-kilometer Taiwan High Speed Line using the Japanese Shinkansen bullet train technology system is under construction between Taipei and Kaohsiung and is due for completion later this year. The project is widely seen as a symbol of Japan-Taiwan friendship.
As such, many Taiwanese are said to harbor pro-Japanese sentiments. Some Taiwanese even think that Japan's 1895-1945 colonial rule in the region has contributed to the island's current economic prosperity through the universities, roads and other infrastructure the Japanese left behind. According to a recent survey by the Taiwanese business magazine Global Review, Japan topped the list of countries that Taiwanese would prefer to emigrate, travel or think is the "greatest". Former President Lee was staunchly pro-Japan and even defended Koizumi's Yasukuni visits.
However, not everyone in Taiwan shares those favorable sentiments, including elements inside the KMT which favor closer ties with Beijing. Earlier this year, the KMT fumed when Japanese and Taiwanese groups jointly erected a monument in a Taipei suburb honoring thousands of indigenous Taiwanese who died while fighting for the Japanese Imperial Army in Southeast Asia. Most of the monument was ordered dismantled by local KMT officials a few weeks later. Ma reportedly described the incident as a good example of the emotions that could be unleashed if embracing Japan goes too far. Taiwanese who revel in the Japanese colonial period are still "brainwashed," he said.
Ambivalent Maybe--that humble lover of words and symbols--of Lumpenlogogracy summed up my own personal ideal better than I ever could when he said he got the impression from reading my blog of: "a sublime state of laid-back fascination." While I can't say I have reached any sublime state, I am definitely content with the direction my life has taken, and this city ceaselessly offers fascinating experiences to feed my imagination. I guess I am laid-back by nature (part of it is cultivated), and am at my best when I can see wonder in the world, though I also have my mood-swings, yearnings, and short-comings, as well as moments that are filled with boredom, loneliness, melancholy, and other negative feelings (these moments have been diminishing however). To make a long story short, what you read here is real, though of course not complete. I have done nothing intentional on the level of a million little pieces to enhance this blog--that is, nothing beyond the creative use of words to share my experience with the world. I yam what I yam.
Michael has a fascinating post on James Soong's involvement in some of Taiwan's not-so-nice recent events:
It is sobering to recall that the man responsible for coordinating the KMT's campaign to deflect the massive publicity hit they took from that killing was none other than James Soong, last seen at a sit-in about the integrity of the government outside the Presidential Office.
Australian Labor Party MP, Michael Danby, has some words that are similar to what I said in my post below:
Let me now say something about Australia and China. My political party, the Australian Labor Party, while in government established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic in 1972 and greatly expanded Australia's economic relations with China.
Those were both correct decisions. Reform in China will not be brought about by trying to isolate China or by refusing to trade with it. China is entitled to be treated with diplomatic respect, and must be allowed to trade like any other country. Experience elsewhere shows that the more prosperous a country becomes through trade, the greater will be the pressure for further economic reform and then for political reform. China and Australia have a strong and mutually beneficial economic relationship, and that is a natural and positive development.
We must be careful, however, not to allow a desire to maintain and develop good economic relations with China to lead to a policy of appeasement. If you appease dictators, they only demand more. If you stand up to dictators on matters of principle, they retreat.
My fear is that the current Australian government has gone too far in the direction of appeasement of China, and has adopted what I call a policy of "pre-emptive kow tow." We have seen this in the repeated hints by the Foreign Minister that if there is a confrontation between the US and China in the Taiwan Straits, Australia will not come to the assistance of the US and Taiwan. We have seen it also in the refusal of the government to take a stand for persecuted Chinese dissidents, editors and writers, substituting instead a "human rights dialogue" designed to empty the issue of human rights in China of all real meaning and urgency.
Why is the Australian government behaving in this way? Apparently they believe that the best way to preserve our economic relationship with China is to go to any lengths to avoid offending its government. The current government apparently believes that if they offend China by criticizing its human rights record China will stop buying our raw materials and the huge inflow of Chinese money will dry up, with dire consequences for Australia.
This is, of course, nonsense. It is perfectly possible for democratic countries to have a "two-track" policy with China. On the one hand, a healthy economic relationship based on mutual self-interest. On the other hand, a political relationship based on courteous but frank statements of difference when this is necessary.
To suggest that China will risk damaging its own vital economic interests by seeking to withdraw from its economic relationships with Western countries and other democracies is highly unrealistic.
When I was traveling on the mainland with Eyvi back in October and November of last year, one thing I noticed was a generally negative attitude towards America, Americans, and most importantly, Bush, who is known there as "Little Bush," and whose name in Chinese, "Xiao Bushi," sounds to me like "Xiao Bullshit." This was in stark contrast to the first time I was there, when it seemed like everyone wanted to go to America.
in luoyang the taxi drivers lectured us about american politics, i.e. the war in iraq and our president. in fact, as soon as we reached henan province, every random stranger we had contact with said something about iraq and the president--all said "war is meaningless;" all said "little bush loves war; little bush is a bad person;"While I agree with this notion of the wrongheadedness of Bush Iraq policy and his bullying tactics, I also find it ironic, considering that many Taiwanese interpret China's bullying of Taiwan on the world stage in the same way.
The administration of US President George W. Bush on Thursday came out in opposition to a measure passed by the US House of Representatives that would lift a series of curbs on contacts between US and Taiwan officials, arguing that the measure would hurt the president's ability to conduct its foreign policy.People of Taiwan, you can't trust George Bush. He is not thinking in your best interests, nor for that matter, in the interests of the Chinese people. As an editorial in the Taipei Times says:
The statement came as the House gave final approval to the measure, by overwhelmingly passing the government agency funding bill -- to which the Taiwan measure was attached as an amendment -- by a 393-23 vote.
The bill now goes to the Senate for more deliberation. Both chambers have to agree to the Taiwan provision, and the president has to sign the bill with the measure intact, for it to become law.
But Taiwan is, nonetheless, entitled to something: some reminder of why the US can be trusted, some reward for cooperating with the US in maintaining regional stability, some encouragement that at the end of the day the powers that be will stand up for those in need. Of late, the State Department and other pro-China agencies have offered none of these comforts and this is beginning to panic supporters at home and abroad. Add a long-term campaign against weapons purchases by the pan-blue camp and you have a recipe for thorough demoralization -- just what the Chinese doctor ordered.Bush talks a lot about freedom and democracy, but when push comes to shove, he has other interests in mind. Remember, Taiwan's democratically-elected president was prevented from landing in Alaska, while the leader of the opposition party was allowed to freely travel about influential American circles.
It's high time that pro-China forces in Washington were reminded in practical terms that Taiwan is not Cuba -- and that the fundamental freedoms of Taiwanese should be reflected in the ability of their unofficial representatives in the US to speak to who they want, when they want.
For a long time, I've thought that the Hollywood blockbuster is the contemporary version (at least one) of what was in earlier times, the religious spectacle, but popularized and secularized (sometimes), and then packaged with the label, "entertainment." It is life extraordinary. It is the reality where anything is possible, and there is usually a moral to the story.
Pedersen said Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who introduced Superman in 1938 in a comic book, were Jews who were inspired by the Old Testament story of Moses and the supernatural golem character from Jewish folklore. (Author Michael Chabon made much of these similarities in his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.")
The Christian allusions are recent innovations that compromise the integrity of the Superman myth, she said.
"This does not need to be a consistent cultural form from its beginning to its present, but something has to be maintained," Pedersen said.
"Superman Returns" director Bryan Singer said the notion of Superman as a messianic figure is simply another case of contemporary storytelling borrowing from ancient motifs.
Singer, who is Jewish, said his neighbors' Christianity played a powerful role in the community where he grew up.
"These allegories are part of how you're raised. They find their way into your work," he said. "They become ingrained in your storytelling, in the same way that the origin story of Superman is very much the story of Moses."
It's unlikely that studio executives, conscious of the size of the Christian audiences that were coaxed into theaters by the biblical echoes in "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," would discourage religious associations.
"The way in which the Christian population can get behind a movie that they can agree with is a huge push financially," said Skelton, who also distributes Bible-study kits that draw scriptural lessons from classic television episodes. "It's a smart move in terms of attracting an audience."
At the same time, Superman is fixed firmly enough in popular secular culture so that the religious accents are unlikely to alienate a mainstream audience, said Craig Detweiler, who directs the film-studies program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.
"Just like Jesus, in some ways (Superman) transcends parities and politics and can not be co-opted to serve the narrow interests of others," he said. "That could be one reason why studios aren't afraid to let Superman go that way, toward the religious." (Read whole article)