To a God Unknown

Michael gets ready to do Jimi (pictured above)

I went down to see my friends playing in a "To a God Unknown" gig last week.
The band played at the Wall, which is a venue in Gong Guan 公館 (about a fifteen minute walk from my place in Mucha 木柵). The band has definitely evolved since I saw them play last. They used to stick to three guitars and the drums. On Wednesday, they were one guitar (bass), drums, a singer-sampler (an idea the band adamantly rejected in the past) and a guy on a Mac. Rafe, the boyish and jocular leader of To a God Unknown, was absent as he was stranded on Lanyu Island 蘭嶼 (also called by some Orchid Island). Actually, he was stranded there for ten days on account of all flights in and out of the island being suspended because of the string of typhoons passing through the region. His parents, here for a vacation from the U.K., were stranded alongside Rafe, his wife and son. They made their escape on Thursday, which is a good thing because a category five typhoon is laying waste to Taiwan as I write. I just saw on the local news at lunch time that most of the transportation around the island has been shut down. That surely must go for Lanyu.

BTW, Michael Turton has pointed out a missionary blog:
This is a fascinating example of how some missionaries, in all their excitement, can misread a local culture. In Taiwan, people do not normally get involved in other people's families or business this way.


Activists Rappel down Great Wall

Six "foreign" activists from "Students for Free Tibet" rappelled the Great Wall and unfurled the banner "One World One Dream Free Tibet 2008" yesterday:


According to the clip, posted yesterday, the activists' whereabouts are unknown. Today, they popped up in H.K. (probably deported), which is lucky for them as the hundreds of protesters that were rounded up in Tibet last week are still in jail.

I picked up this quote off NPR, from the Vice President of the Beijing Olympic Games Organizing Committee Jiang Xiaoyu: "We welcome the international media to report objectively and fairly on our preparations, and to offer constructive criticism of our shortcomings," Jiang said. "But we oppose politicizing the games, as that is not in keeping with the Olympic spirit."

This is pretty interesting, considering China's controversial positioning of Taiwan on the Olympic torch route (the torch goes from Japan to Vietnam and then back to Taiwan before entering Hong Kong) has pissed people off here in Taiwan. Many Tibetans are upset about how the torch route is being used to reinforce a notion that Tibet is part of China. The torch will actually go to the top of Mt. Everest sometime during all the madness.


Happy Father's Day

In Taiwan, Father's Day is every year on August 8th. In Chinese, both "the number eight" and "father" are pronounced "ba". I'm not sure how long the holiday has been around here. Taiwan has imported several Western holidays, and I'm guessing this is one of them.

I wonder if I'm getting anything material for Father's Day.

Chiayi's High Speed Rail Station

Besides the Taipei and Panchiao (板橋) stops, I think all of Taiwan's high speed rail (HSR) stations must be situated in the countryside. In Chiayi (嘉義), the station is about a 25-minute drive from the city. A lot of people have complained how "inconvenient" this is. I don't know how they would've ever put in these big stations, with the massive parking lots (by Taiwan's terms) and great views, in the cities.


I Took the HSR to Chiayi

The high speed rail station in Chiayi, Taiwan. Tickets from Taipei to Chiayi (which is toward the south of Taiwan, cost NT$1080 (about US$35). The trip takes a bit over an hour.

The the high speed rail rolls into the station at Chiayi, Taiwan. High speed is just under 300 km/hr. I have heard that it was originally quite a bit faster. It was then realized that faster speeds could actually blow the windows out at the fabulously beautiful stations. (Perhaps it's an urban myth - the trains are decelerating or accelerating when they're anywhere close to a station.)


Scott Sommers Censors Me on Blog - Talk about Hogging the Last Word

The weirdest thing happened to me tonight - I was censored on Scott Sommer's Taiwan Weblog. I was questioning whether or not "trained teachers" were actually doing a better job than, as he put it, "untrained native-speaker teachers that are ubiquitous in Taiwan's commercial language market".


This is what Scott wrote about me: "Patrick in all honesty, this is not forumosa.com or Dave's ESL Cafe. Ranting about your prejudices against teachers and then saying 'I spent my life in school, and I know..." may cut it at the Brass Monkey. But here on a blog devoted to education, it's...well...a little inappropriate. So please, if don't have anything more than a variation on the theme of 'teachers are all bums', there are places to post where this appears to be more than trolling.'

Thinking I should have a right to respond, I put up this response on his blog: "I'm not calling all teachers bums. In fact, I'm standing up for them, especially 'untrained teachers' as they might hold an academic degree that is more meaningful than the kind of degree a 'trained teacher' holds.

I am offering a different point of view. Where you see 'trained teacher', many of us see 'someone willing to waste a couple of years writing a thesis that isn't really academic or because they don't understand that they have other options'.

You're the one that is ranting. Once you peel the soft science clutter off your writing, it isn't more than just a little common sense."

I thought wrong, because Scott deleted the darned thing. He says I'm trolling and that I'm prejudiced, but he won't let me respond. Since he's censoring my response on his blog, I'll make one here.


Taiwan, China?

I received an invite to UBC's Alumni organization here in Taiwan. They asked me if I'd be willing to attend their function in Taiwan. As they were offering free food and entertainment, I said "sure, count on me." Then I tried to fill out the registration. When I scrolled down to give my country as part of my address, they only offered Taiwan, China. I tried to correct it, but was unsuccessful. I sent a letter to the President of Taiwan's office. This was the response I received:

Dear Mr. Cowsill,

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your July 19, 2007 emails, addressed to President Chen and Vice President Lu respectively, kindly informing us that Taiwan was mistakenly referred to as “Taiwan, China” by the University of British Columbia (UBC) Alumni Association.

In spite of Taiwan’s de facto status as an independent and sovereign nation, many in the world have downgraded us as a part of China in the face of Chinese hegemony. Because of this, as President Chen said recently, it is right that we forthrightly apply for WHO and UN membership under the name of “Taiwan,” which is certain to win the unanimous support from our 23 million people.

We appreciate your friendship and thoughtfulness in bringing this matter to our attention. On behalf of President Chen and Vice President Lu, we send you our best wishes.

Sincerely yours,

Office of the President

After Tiananmen, UBC erected a "Goddess of Democracy" outside of its Student Union Building to commemorate the thousands killed in June, 1989. This point seems to be lost on UBC's Alumni Organization. If anyone wishes to contact them, please write: Mari Takeda at mtakeda@exchange.ubc.ca

The organization is www.alumni.ubc.ca/events/ubcbound