8/16/2008

I'm Calling It Aboriginal Taipei

Every time my wife hears Chinese Taipei, I think she's going throw the TV out the window. Since when is Taipei Chinese and what about the rest of the country?

I noticed a trend today when I was getting my Internet sports fix. CNN/Sports Illustrated ran with this headline: "US softball shuts out Taiwan 7-0". No Chinese Taipei stuff. And Yahoo put it like this: "US shuts out Taiwan 7-0". At ESPN, the medal counter is also calling Taiwan, uh, well...Taiwan, with Chinese Taipei in parentheses: http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/summer08/medals
If you go to the official Website of the Olympics out of Beijing, Taiwan is not listed at all. There is a place, however, called Chinese Taipei.

The blog In Claudia Jean's Eyes has brought up an interesting point in a post called: "China's Olympic dirty trick against Taiwan" (she's also not using Chinese Taipei). According to this writer, Taiwan was set up to lose. On Thursday, Taiwan had to play in the last time slot against Japan, a very tough opponent. The next day, they were scheduled in the earliest slot, against China. This is the only time a team has had back-to-backers like this, and look who benefits: http://claudiajean.wordpress.com/2008/08/11/taiwan-baseball-olympics/

I don't know how sympathetic I am though. Actually, I don't really like this Taiwan baseball team. Why? I don't think they've displayed very good sportsmanship; they are ungracious when they lose, and full of excuses. They complained about the strike zone in the China game. The umpire was from Panama, not China. Then, they bitched about their own second baseman making mistakes and their own relief pitcher being "too cautious". What does that mean anyway? He doesn't throw enough balls or wild pitches? They complained about the new, extra innings rule, where runners are automatically inserted at first and second base to start the inning, claiming, "we weren't used to it". Do they mean that half an inning later the Chinese were, and that's how they won? Or, are they admitting they did not practice for this scenario. They've also complained that their best players are in America. Every team except Cuba, China and the Netherlands is facing this problem.

This is the same team that got into a brawl a little while back with the Canadian Olympic team in Douliu (斗六), Taiwan. The brawl, which cleared both benches, was sparked by the fallout from a home plate collision between Canadian base runner James VanOnstrand and Taiwanese catcher Yeh Chen-chang. As VanOnstrand was walking away, the catcher threw the ball at him, hitting him in the back. The Taiwan Journal reports Yeh flipped it at the Canadian, but my colleague who was watching the game says it was an overhand throw:
http://taiwanjournal.nat.gov.tw/ct.asp?xItem=30686&CtNode=122 My colleague also says that fans at the game started throwing garbage at the Canadians. Later, when the Taiwanese TV media picked up the story, it was neither flip nor throw. They simply showed the Canadian bullies pounding on their Taiwanese hosts.

This is how the piece in the Taiwan Journal ends: "Even though Taiwan enjoyed home-field advantage, many supporters were not optimistic about the team's chances, especially when Hung announced his final lineup composed of many young and inexperienced players. But equipped with burning ambition and guided by Hung's astute tactics, the team of unproven youngsters eventually obtained respect both at home and abroad by making the public's wish of going to the upcoming Olympics come true."

Hung's astute tactics? Hung is the manager; the guy that blames his players, by name, in the media for losing games. He is the guy that was badly out-managed in the China game. He's the guy that did not prepare his team for the new rules, and who did not notice the glitch in the schedule until it was way too late to do anything about it.

The Canadian media doesn't really sing Hung's praises. But they do say the brawl galvanized the Canadians in a tight game, one which they came from behind to win.

Final comments: I don't think that the Taiwan team should be using scheduling as an excuse for losing. I mean, come on, baseball isn't that tiring (unless you're a pitcher). Players sit or stand around for 95 percent of the game. That is why Major League teams are able to play 162 games a season, averaging six a week. The players should go look at Michael Phelps if they want to understand tiring. This guy Mao from Keelung that was in the Taipei Times today summed it up beautifully: "It's just like in history. Last night we lost to [former colonial power] Japan and today we lost to the communist bandits."

8/12/2008

Taipei Signs


One of my colleagues asked me why I was taking a picture of this sign. "Because I enjoy the irony - it's an invitation to suicide," I answered. Right of way means nothing in Taiwan. There isn't even an expression in Chinese to capture the essence of its meaning. But I know that this sign is simply a PR stunt. The local government figures it makes Taipei look international so they waste money putting it up. I already know what they're going to say when some tourist takes it at face value and gets creamed crossing the street: "My god, those foreigners are pushy. This is NOT America!"

I showed it to a few distant family members over a father's day dinner and they insisted that the city is cracking down. My sister-in-law has even seen a police officer on the news threatening that he'll be writing drivers up in Hsih Men Ting (西門町) if they drive around like nutcases without any regard for pedestrians. In particular, he's had it with weaving.

I have never, personally speaking, seen a driver get a ticket for crashing through a crosswalk, not once. I've never seen a driver in Taiwan catch it from the cops for endangering pedestrians. Nope. But it has been explained to me why drivers disregard people outside their vehicles. This is the first explanation, "look around, guy, and see you're in Taiwan. We change when we drive overseas". Second, "car owners in Taiwan are aristocrats. Cyclists and scooterists are proletariat. Commuters are peasants." Simply get out of the way or get crushed beneath my wheels.
ओने ऑफ़ माय coll

This ad would probably be for tzong tze, an oily rice wrapped up in different sorts of leaves. Tzong-tze's a staple during Dragon Boat Festival, although a lot of Taiwanese people like to eat them year-round. The restaurant has been written up in a lot of Taiwan's 'round town mags and papers. I'm not a big tzong tze eater (although they do sometimes hit the spot, especially if they're caked with hot sauce and you've got a couple of cold beers to wash them down). But this sign works/is working on me. I want tzong-tse.

8/05/2008

Li Ao's Cell


Above is Li Ao's Cell, I think maybe from the early 1980s


We went to visit the Calaboose Jail for political prisoners in Jing Mei (or, depending on who you're talking to, Hsin Tien), Taiwan last week. Originally a school for military law, Calaboose was taken over by the Taiwan Garrison Command (Taiwan's secret police during martial law) in the 1960s.

The jail has housed many well-known political prisoners, including writers such as Bo Yang (柏楊), The Ugly Chinaman (醜陋的中國人), and Li Ao (李敖). It had two courthouses, an execution ground and profitable laundry. (Political prisoners were rewarded for their hard work in the laundry by being allowed to watch a communal TV at dinner. They washed everything from police uniforms to Chiang Ching-kuo's underwear.)


Calaboose - My daughter's down the hall checking it out




The sign above reads "fair and not corrupt" and was on the side of the Military Court, established by the Garrison Command in 1967. The courthouse was built by the Garrison's engineering unit, which was made up of political prisoners, and financed by the sale of property confiscated from these same individuals. Trials at the Military Court were said to have been conducted swiftly, with verdicts that were often based on the word of the accuser. Appeals were possible, but also risky as lighter sentences could be stiffened or even turned into the death penalty at the whim of a single judge. Before-and-after shots of the political prisoners executed by order of this court are now shown inside as part of a video display. Needless to say, it just goes on and on.

The First Court, built in 1977, is parallel to the Military Court. The eight individuals blamed for Kaohsiung Incident (高雄事件), when Taiwanese took to the streets to protest martial law, were also tried and convicted inside. They were Huang Hsin-chien (黃信介), Shih Ming-teh (施明德), Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文), Lin Yi-hsiung (林義雄), Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), Chen Chu (陳菊) and Lin Hung-shen (李勝雄). These guys, and their lawyers, including Chen Shui-bien (陳水扁), Su tseng-cheng (蘇貞昌) and Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), became the who's who for the democratization movement in Taiwan and later the DPP government, the first non-KMT government in 55 years.


BTW, the jail also housed Wang Shi-ling (汪希苓), the person Taiwan pinned the murder of the writer Henry Liu on. The museum claims Liu was an American, but I remember reading that he had a green card. Anyway, this was enough for the US to put some heat on the Chiang. Liu, who lived in Sacramento, California, was just finishing off a book on Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). When Liu couldn't be enticed by bribery, Chiang's youngest son Alex ordered the hit through his gangster buddies in the Bamboo Union. I think it's fair to say that the son was operating on his own initiative, though, even if he did receive help later on in covering it up. Alex had his hands in all kinds of unsavory business. He died young; and people have written that it probably had something to with drugs.

Instead of getting a cell, Wang got his own place, a kind of Taiwanese villa with several rooms, a front yard, kitchen, etc. from which his wife could come and go. A few years later, he was transferred to more scenic place on Yangming Mtn. I don't know how the story ends. I think maybe he was pardoned for health reasons.

We went on a Sunday and were the only visitors. My wife figures either people are not interested right now in the general mood of denial that has slipped over the island or they're afraid of it. Anyway, here is address: 台灣人權景美園區 地址: 台北縣新店市復興路131號 or Taiwan Human Rights Memorial (Taiwanese People's Empowerment Jingmei Garden) at 131 Fuhsing Road, Hsin Tien, Taipei. Phone: (02) 2218-2436: http://www.thrm.org.tw/en/

8/02/2008

Bali, Taiwan


I've been to Bali (八里) several times in past couple of months. I rode out there twice on my bicycle and then visited with my wife, daughter and wife's cousin. The main attraction in Bali is the Shihsanhang Museum of Archaeology (十三行博物館), which focuses on the local Aboriginal people and has a Paiwan Aboriginal (排灣) exhibit running right now. As much as I enjoyed getting the history of the Shihsanhang people and also a rundown of more recent developments, after contact with the first the Chinese (contact seems to go back 2,000 years - there are some Warring-states coins being displayed to back this up) and later the Spanish and Dutch, I think I'm most impressed by the spectacular architecture of the building itself: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick_cowsill/2663744108/
I took down a dateline of the area while I was in the museum. It is as follows:
1712 The Ching establishes a military outpost in Bali.
1731 The Bali Prefecture is established, making the port the first governmental, economic, military and sea transport area in Taiwan.
(Actually, the Spanish established Fort Santiago just across the Danshui River in 1626. The Dutch took this over in 1641. I guess this doesn't count though because they're not Chinese. I was also interested by the date, which comes right on the heels of the Zhu Yi-gui revolt, when the Taiwanese managed to kick Ching soldiers out of Taiwan for six months.)
1790 The Ching designates Bali as the official port link to Fuzhou. "With Bali a stepping-stone between China and Taiwan, Bali town becomes a bustling center."
1840 The Bali harbor, which like so many other harbors in Taiwan, begins to silt up. (I'm not sure how they specifically come up with 1840, but there it is.)
1858 Danshui and not Bali is named as one of the treaty ports in the Tianjin Treaty. Bali becomes more and more obscure over the next 150 years.


I took this shot on the ferry from Danshui to Bali. If you get there early enough, you won't have trouble loading your bike on board. You can also swipe your Taipei MRT Go Card to cover the fee. We had to pay for our 1.3 year-old-daughter though. The fare-taker told me it was for insurance reasons.

Cycling has been exploding in popularity in Taiwan. There are so many people out that one cannot ride the river routes on the weekends without encountering traffic jams like this one, especially at the far western ends, near Danshui and here in Bali. I've heard that if you want to buy a bike right now, especially a good fold-up one or something tier II and above you'll be waiting at least six months. Demand is that great. People looking to unload one of those editions can get pretty much full value for what they paid. My friend Eric, for instance, sold this one the first day he put it on Yahoo Auctions. He recovered 95 percent of the original cost: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericdiep/467982730/in/set-72157600106691045/

*******
On another note, there has been a lot of speculation on whether Vince Weiguang Li is of Chinese or Taiwanese descent. He's the person from Edmonton, Canada that murdered that poor kid riding the bus in Manitoba, Canada. The name gives us a pretty good clue that he is, as do the photos. Forumosa is featuring a nasty thread right now on this topic: http://forumosa.com/taiwan/viewtopic.php?p=883263&sid=eb86674914ab68c26b02155671ba183d
For example, one guy says: "Oh good, he's not white. That means the CBC et al can't blame the systemic racism of mainstream (read white) Canadian society. It's probably all America's doing anyway, damn you George Bush!" I wonder what this means. Or: "OK, just saw a bigger photo, and noted the name. He's definitely Asian. What a relief!" Where's the relief? Somebody was brutally murdered. Try to explain it this way - the murderer looks and sounds Asian - to the people that cared about the victim.

I've spent a lot of time in Canada. People who come from out-groups will hear it on a daily basis in Canada.