12/18/2012

Omelets at The Hammer


I know I promised to stop with The Hammer posts. But my wife is so beautiful that I can't help myself. This is it for a while. Here's our last shameless address link: No. 14 - Lane 9, Wanhua Road, Yonghe, New Taipei City / 新北市永和區文化路9巷14號.

12/16/2012

Upstairs at The Hammer


Upstairs at The Hammer

My friend Doug http://www.thecyclingcanadian.com/ was sitting at the bar of my new restaurant when he noticed people were passing by, peering in and moving along. He figured this was partially due to the fact we haven't advertised or clearly indicated our upstairs seating. Downstairs, we only have a bar and one table. Doug said I should put some photos out front to point out that we do indeed have seating on the second floor. 

I finally got around to taking him up on the suggestion, pasting three photos (one is above) to my chalkboard out front. About thirty minutes after doing so, a woman asked me if the room was for rent. She was thinking about moving in!



My friend Igor sent me this photo (above). I am not sure what is going on. Something is going to get smashed though. Perhaps they're melting the items / relics down.

I'll get back to my normal blogging soon -- I just need to find the time. I am thinking about writing on Taiwan, 1898, in the next little while.

12/02/2012

Jin Village



My friend Vincent (the Vinster) Stoia has just finished his first novel. It will be published on January 1. It's a horror story that takes place in China. I don't want to give away too much though. There's a blurb at Amazon: http://goo.gl/9z2zw. The timetable for the Chinese version is still being worked out.

Stoia used to live in Taichung. He's Taipei-based now.

11/16/2012

Renovations on The Hammer

I'll put up a couple from shots from my wife's iPhone covering renovations at the The Hammer: No. 14 - Lane 9, Wanhua Road, Younghe, New Taipei City / 新台北市 永和區文化路  9巷 14號. 

We're still missing a lot of stuff, but have decided to open on Saturday, November 17 nonetheless. The slowness of the process is driving me crazy; for example, we haven't been able to find certain ingredients even though we know they are out there in Taiwan. We don't have a sign either. Our bar stools make people look like midgets (need some new ones, I suppose) and our Blue Jay pictures have yet to arrive. Still, I am happy with the overall progress; some of it has gone really well. 

The bar.

Another view of the bar at The Hammer.

11/14/2012

The Hammer


We're probably going to open our new restaurant, The Hammer, this Saturday: No. 14 - Lane 9, Wanhua Road, Yonghe, New Taipei City / 新北市永和區文化路9巷14號. Things have been going a bit slower than expected. Plus we have logistics to work out, for example, what beers to order. Having said that, the beer guy on our case has been good ranging on great. For example, when we expressed interest in ordering San Miguel on tap, he promised us 24 mugs gratis. The food distributors have done a good job as well. They keep giving us stuff, and promise delivery one day after we order, specific to our time. 


I've thrown up a couple of shots on how the renovation has been going. Although slow, we are still pleased with the final result. The Hammer is situated in Yonghe, just over the Hsin Tien (新店) River. It's right next to the Dingxi (頂溪) MRT Station, slightly tucked into a lane. 

11/07/2012

The Pianist


This is one of the most powerful scenes from my favorite movie of the last decade: The Pianist. Directed by Roman Polanski, the film follows a section of the life of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish piano player persecuted during the Second World War after his country was invaded by Germany. The scene recounts an encounter Szpilman had with a Nazi officer; it seems to have turned out favorably for him. The officer, affected by his inspired playing of Chopin (and other things, I suppose), fed and clothed Szpilman until the end of the war. 

It's going to say something like embedded disabled. Just click through to YouTube.

10/10/2012

Our Restaurant


Shufang and I have decided to open a restaurant here in Taipei: The Hammer, No. 14-Lane 9, Wanhua Rd., Yonghe, New Taipei City / 新北市永和區文化路9巷14號. We have already rented the place, in Yonghe. It's still a mess; it'll need a bit of renovation.


This is the upstairs. More renovation in store. The idea is to soft open in early November (evenings and weekends). We'll keep the menu fairly simple: Italian and Mexican, brunch on the weekends, and a selection of spirits. There are still a ton of issues to clear up. We'll have to see how it goes.


This is the ceiling upstairs. It's probably coming out. Underneath is an A-frame, which looks promising. The renovator who came to place a bid this evening agreed it was tacky, but warned of higher electricity bills should we decide to take the plunge. I think it has to come out though; it's more like an office and kind of ugly. 

10/05/2012

Bus Driver Gets Laugh over Old Man Stuck in Door



My wife sent this picture to my gmail account. She explained she and our daughter were riding the bus pictured above on Monday at around 10:45 a.m. when a couple of elderly passengers boarded. They were having trouble coping as the bus had suddenly lurched into traffic. The old man, who was bringing up the rear, unfortunately got caught in the door. The other riders started to shout for the driver to stop, but the driver simply carried on his way. My wife noticed the bus driver was laughing and felt the intent carried a hint of malice.

My wife called the bus company to complain. She pointed out the bus had a camera. "Check the video feed," she said. "You'll know exactly what I'm talking about. It happened between 10:40 to 11:00." To her surprise, the customer rep. asked her:

"Was he a relative of yours?" Translation: a.) What business is this of yours? b.) Why do you care?

My wife said, "Everyone on the bus saw it! What are you talking about?"

I have a couple of questions of my own: a.) Do you think the customer rep. plans to follow up? b.) Has he ever considered that people have it in them to care and do their part as citizens, or does everyone who calls his office simply represent a new form of annoyance?

******

Speaking of traffic, I had an enlightening experience of my own a couple of weeks ago. I had overslept my afternoon nap and was now bustling off to my daughter's preschool to retrieve her. I came to a crosswalk and was waiting for the cars coming the other way to pass before completing my path over it. As the pack sped by, I wiped the sleep out of my eyes. Then, the last driver in the group decided to lean into the horn of his or her black SUV and give me a blast to scare the shit of me for good measure. After the cars had passed, I walked to the other side. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little put off. Why'd the driver have to honk at me. Clearly, I didn't mean to go anywhere, witness the other cars I had just patiently waited for to get on by. Plus, I was standing in a crosswalk. I turned just to say to myself "Come on, what gives?" and noticed the black SUV stranded at a red light 100 meters down the road. I just couldn't resist.

When I got to the SUV, I could see the outlines of two people, the driver and his or her passenger. So I knocked on their window to get them to roll it down. When nothing occurred, I tried again, with more vigor. The window came down.

"Why were you honking at me?" I asked. "What gives?" Inside, I could see one passenger, a skinny, tired out office sort in a shirt and tie waking up from a nap, and the driver, a tightly wound youngish female at the wheel, also professionally dressed. "Why were you honking at me? What did I do?" I asked.

The skinny, worn out passenger had either seen it all or had been quickly filled in as the driver saw me coming up on her entrapped SUV: "You were trying to cross on a crosswalk, but there were no traffic lights. You must stop for cars to pass when there's a crosswalk and no traffic lights."

"The hell I was. I was standing still. If I had tried to get over, I wouldn't be here scolding you. BTW, why would there be a crosswalk for pedestrians if pedestrians couldn't use it?"

"That's the law," he said. "You're a foreigner. Your country is different with different laws." Just to get things straight, I never once told him I was a foreigner. I never once told him that Taiwan wasn't my country. He grabbed that right out of his racist ass. Plus, I doubt he believed a word he was saying. The individual at the wheel just left him out to dry. Several minutes prior, she was leaning into her horn with all the indignation and hatred she could muster. When confronted, she lacked the balls to turn and look me in the face, let alone say a single word in her defense. What a piece of work.

I'm going to close with this. I count myself in the majority when I say I don't know Taiwan's traffic laws. But why would the city of Taipei put in a crosswalk (without traffic lights) if pedestrians didn't have the right of way? The common sense of it tells me that the SUVers were full of crap. And even if such a moronic law exists, making crosswalks a redundant waste of city resources, they were still dishonest.

9/29/2012

If You Could Read My Mind


My buddy Igor keeps firing Russian folk songs at me via Facebook. He was wondering if I could do the same. I was tempted to do the usual, see Bob Dylan, REM, or Neil Young. Then I remembered this song by Gordon Lightfoot, and was pleasantly surprised to find a great recent rendering on the Internet.

Message from India


I received this letter from Delhi, India. I'm going to post it up. I remember Eric, from France, in Taiwan for a short while. I put up a link to the photo album he mentions; there are some great shots. If memory serves, Eric has been teaching for a non-profit organization in India. He had been cycling by the Hsin Tien (新店) River and was trapped under Huanzhong (華中) Bridge in a sudden rainstorm. I was there with some Taiwanese friends, drinking Taiwan Beer and eating stinky tofu. We invited him to join us. The picture above is from his link. Both my wife and I are interested in what Tsai Ing-wen, whom he brings up, has to say about the issues as well:

I don't know if you remember me. A rainy summer afternoon, taking cover under a bridge, you shared a beer with me, more than a year ago. I hope you are fine. I am still living in South India. I still owe you a beer! 

I was in Delhi last week to work on the 'Auroville Festival', a one-week event showcasing Auroville to the capital in the India International Centre, and while I was on duty, Dr Tsai Ing-wen who was visiting India gave a talk in Delhi. I could not attend as the venue was quite far from the place where I was on duty (IIC). Around noon, a friend working at the Taiwanese Embassy calls me and tells me that the venue has been shifted to IIC!!! So I managed to sit in the room where five former Indian ambassadors were sitting, all ears to what Dr Tsai had to say. She is a simple and intelligent woman, easy to access. She was accompanied by Antonio Chiang. They gave a very interesting talk on "China-Taiwan relations: a DPP perspective"

I must say that I appreciate reading your blog. You may have seen this photo album on Picasa, it is going viral! Posted around September 24, the pictures have got something like 70,000 views now. The guy is a good photographer. Judging from the number of views in a few days, I believe that a photo exhibition in Taipei should be organised. 

Hey, today is teacher's day and as your blog has taught me a thing or two, so

Happy teachers day! 

9/23/2012

Monga Train Station Hotel


Another great picture from the Formosa Vintage Museum Cafe. This is the Monga Train Station Hotel (日本明治時代民國前艋舺火車站前霧__旅館). I left a blank space for a character I don't know. I think it's ㄨ in the second tone, but it's not showing up in my Chinese typing program.

According to discussion, the Monga Rail Station was finished in 1901 right around where the Hoping (和平) Hospital is today. It could have taken the place of an older station built during the Ching Dynasty (a line from Keelung to Hsinchu was completed in 1891). I'm also guessing the money for its construction came out of 28,800,000 yen budget passed by the Imperial Diet in Tokyo in 1899. Work on a island-wide train network commenced in April, 1899, four years into the Japanese colonial era. 

9/09/2012

Red House (現紅樓)


I came across this in one of my Facebook groups, Formosa Vintage Museum Cafe to be exact. I posted something on the Red House before. In my opinion, it's one of Taipei's prettiest, and most historic, buildings. Unfortunately, the propaganda our government uses to explain the place continues to be exhibited inside: http://goo.gl/Eq5rN

9/03/2012

Nazi Gold Caps? You've Got to Be Kidding



I took this shot at the Huashan Culture Center (華山創意文化園區) yesterday in Taipei. I have been told before in making such posts I am a.) a boring individual b.) humorless c) both. I don't see the humor in the pic above. Nazi Gold? Is it the name of a new band? Nazi Gold makes me think of Jewish people and the Holocaust. Not that I'm against thinking about the Holocaust. If you go to Israel, pretty much the first thing anyone asks you is if you've been to the Holocaust Museum. In putting Nazi Gold on baseball caps, where there is no context, something strange is going on as the message is probably meant for the head of some swaggering moron who has no idea about what is on his head. Selling these "Nazi Gold" caps is screwed up for many reasons. I could do a reason a day for the next month. 

I told the vendor the caps made me uncomfortable. She said sorry and put them away. Ten minutes later this one (above pic) was out again, so I took a picture. I was thinking it would be better for when I figured out who to complain to. To my surprise, the vendor started to follow me and even became aggressive. I told her the caps would undoubtedly make people think of what happened during World War II. At first, she apologized. She said she had no idea. She also said that a foreigner sold her the caps; therefore, she believed they had to be okay. When I shrugged and continued on my way, she tried to grab my phone. Then she said she'd have security detain me. For what, I don't know. I shrugged again. 

When I got to the sidewalk, the vendor became more emphatic, stepping right in front of me to block my way. Then she started jabbing me in the chest, calling me a troublemaker and lousy father. "Are you Jewish?" she angrily asked. Ha! Boom! So she did understand the caps could make people wince and the reason too. Actually, I heard her friend say the first time I complained

"Foreigners always complain about those caps." 

My wife and I were wondering why the vendor would lose her cool and go to such lengths over a photograph. My wife thinks that she doesn't really understand what she's doing. I, for reasons already given, am not buying that. I think the vendor has been taking flak for selling the hats -- more than she supposes she deserves -- and has finally had enough. That could be the reason she exploded yesterday. But that also gets me thinking about why she would endure. The hats must sell well enough to make it seem worthwhile.

I wonder who I should complain to about this? Huashan Culture Park? The city? 

8/04/2012

No Chinese Taipei Here

They didn't say Taiwanese Beijing for the no. 2 team either! A good day for two countries of Asia on the political name-game front in London. This comes to us from the UK Guardian online site, home to one of Great Britain's finest papers.

8/02/2012

Chuang Chih-yuan: Taiwan Table Tennis Hero


We watched Wang Hao (王皓) of China (above) take out Taiwan's Chuang Chih-yuan (莊智淵) in the Olympic semifinals for men's singles in table tennis tonight. It was the furthest a Taiwanese male has ever advanced in Olympic table tennis competition. He's still up for the bronze medal against Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov tomorrow. 

Chuang won the first game and was up double break in the third game, but couldn't hold on. We had the feeling if he had taken that one, the outcome would have been in Chuang's favor. The final result was 11-9, 2-11, 9-11, 6-11 and 9-11. 

The Chinese coach probably burnt more calories than Wang, putting on a Diego Maradona-esque display. He was constantly out of his chair to cheer, which was entertaining. He also clapped for Chuang on good points and was humble in victory. 

My wife was a bit put off by the commentary though, especially when Chuang was described as a lightweight fighting a heavyweight. She said it was rude. I saw it more as "you can only find so many things to say about table tennis."

Treasure Hill

 Treasure Hill Community

I ride by Treasure Hill (寶藏嚴) on my bike regularly. It's about a twenty-minute jaunt from my place in Wanhua (萬華). Treasure Hill is a community on the banks to the Hsin Tien (新店) River, near Gongguan (公館). You can't reach it by bus and no roads go past as it's situated inside the flood plain, beyond the city gates. That's why lots of people in Taipei are unaware of its existence.

Treasure Hill was created sixty years ago by Chinese refugees, folks who escaped China during the 1940s. Once in Gongguan, they were just supposed to man a machine gun embankment. Since they didn't have anywhere to live, they started to squat on the land behind it, creating Treasure Hill. The squatters allowed some of their buddies from China to move in and soon they had a community. I don't really want to paint that rosy of a picture though. Whenever one encounters a group such as this in Taiwan, one has to ask: "Were any of these people involved in the killing of Taiwanese people during the 2-28 Massacre?" For anyone that doesn't know, the massacre took place in 1947 and facilitated the liquidation of Taiwan's governing and intellectual classes so that the incoming Chinese refugees could obtain a foothold. It was carried out by soldiers who came to Taiwan from China during the 1940s. One is also reminded of Chiang Kai-shek's pay policy in the early years: thirty percent comes from me, seventy percent comes from what you can rummage up or forage from the local population. It stands to reason the original residents, or at least some among them, of Treasure Hill thieved from, bullied and possibly even murdered their hosts here in Taiwan. One could quite similarly extend the discussion to White Terror, as it has been pointed out to me.

Treasure Hill is a collection of small homes, stacked up on top of each other, propped up by and built into the hill behind it. Long after the machine guns had rusted away, Treasure Hill remained. Over the years, it faded from the concept of Taipei to eventually fall off the radar. It was rediscovered in the nineties, with Chen Shui-bien's, then mayor of Taipei, push to evict squatters. I've asked locals about Chen's effort. They will usually side with the squatters, saying something like, "they were poor and had nowhere to go." Even my wife believes this and she has no use for Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese invasion or the nonsense that has been going on with the Sinification of Taiwan since. I see it a different way. The squatters put up a big fuss and were pretty adamant about not going anywhere. Did they ever say "thank you" to Taipei for being allowed to live rent free for forty years? Taipei wasn't even asking for forty years in back rent, just that they got off the land that didn't belong to them.

To me, the most impressive thing about Treasure Hill is how it looks, especially from the front. The streets are quaint as well. There has been a movement to turn the community into art galleries and places for tourists to go. So now we can stroll around inside and see some pretty mundane art exhibitions packed into small spaces. There are art students and volunteers running about. Around the edges, we see traces of Treasure Hill as it once was: house numbers and a few old people inside windows. There are also signs indicating residents and their real homes (not to be mistaken with the galleries and cafes, so stay out!). When we were were at Treasure Hill last week, the art students and volunteers had a couple of kiddie-based exhibits going, which were lame and very cramped.

Street and ramp of Treasure Hill

  View outside of Treasure Hill, from where I ride my bike. I really enjoy riding through here, especially at night.

7/24/2012

Hualien Fruit Harvest

The people doing the harvest on this Hualien (花蓮) street (below) told me it was breadfruit, but it looks more like durian. Well, maybe it's overripe breadfruit -- I'm no expert, but breadfruit seems to be smaller if not harder. It's not this juicy. 

I googled breadfruit and got the following at wiki: "Ancestors of the Polynesians found the [breadfruit] trees growing in the northwest New Guinea area 3,500 years ago. They gave up the rice cultivation they brought with them from Taiwan and raised breadfruit wherever they went in the Pacific (except Easter and New Zealand, which were too cold)."

If this is correct, breadfruit was then, ironically, introduced to Taiwan by the Dutch after they got it off the ancestors of the Taiwanese. I don't think there were any breadfruit in Taiwan before the Dutch. Here's Reverend George Canadidius' (the pioneer missionary) description of Taiwan's agriculture from 1624: "Three kinds of fruit are cultivated -- of which the first is called ptingh, the second quach, and the third taraun, which is very much like our millet -- besides two kinds of vegetable somewhat resembling our Dutch beans, with three kinds of bulb which they use instead of bread, so that if bread, rice, or other fruits were wanting, they could subsist entirely on these bulbs. The island also produces ginger, sugar-cane and melons [I don't think breadfruit counts as a melon though], but the people plant just sufficient for their wants. Bananas, cocoa-nuts and pinang are found in great abundance, with some other kinds of fruit which are not of great importance, and the names of which I am unable to pronounce in our language. This is all that their fields and gardens produce for sustaining their bodies."

In later reports, the Dutch also later claimed they introduced breadfruit, along with other crops, to Taiwan. The word for breadfruit in Dutch is breadfruit. Someone on a previous post told me that the Aboriginal word for breadfruit is bat-chit-l'ut 八支律 , which sounds like a transliteration for breadfruit. If the aboriginal people had breadfruit prior to 1624, they most certainly would have had their own name for it. Who knows? Maybe this is the word an aboriginal tribe unfamiliar with breadfruit adopted later on. But it seems unlikely, especially if we consider Taiwan's small size or trade, that an important crop would remain undetected by certain groups.  

7/21/2012

Anvil a Taipei Hit

Anvil rocks the Huashan Culture Park (華山1914創意文化園區) in Taipei, Taiwan 


Besides Casablanca, a couple of Iranian flicks, The Thin Blue Line and Tangled, my friend Doug, an avid film-goer, hates pretty much every story ever put to film. So when he said "Patrick, you have got to see the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil," I knew it was going to be a good one. If Doug says a film is "worth seeing," that translates to "it's a masterpiece for the ages!"

The documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil begins at a Quickening of heavy metal bands in Japan: "In the summer of 1984, some of the biggest rock bands in the world toured Japan. Scorpions. Whitesnake. Bon Jovi. All of these bands went on to sell millions of records. All except one... Anvil." 

Lars Ulrich (Metallica): "When Anvil first showed up on the scene, it was like fuck! This is cool. This is a statement, like literally these guys are going to turn the music world upside down."

Scott Ian (Anthrax): "Seeing them was like a challenge to us. If we can't be better than that, then we might as well just go home."

Lemmy (Motorhead): "They were a great band. Yeah, I've always liked Anvil. They've got my vote."

Slash (Guns 'n' Roses): "Anvil was one of those bands that just put on this amazing live performance. Lips, the singer, used to come out with this bondage harness on, and he used to come out with his like dildo and play his flying v. I mean he was just complete insanity and that is why it was such a huge turn-on for us kids. It was like something we had never seen before."

Tom Araya (Slayer): "They were thrash, man."

Johnny Z (manager, Metallica, Anthrax, Anvil): "There was a certain sound that came from [Metal on Metal] that has become the basic formula for any heavy metal album made today." 

You get the picture. Anvil was supposed to be big. They should have been big. The fact that all these heavyweights would have anything to do with the documentary speaks to the appreciation that exists / existed for Anvil. So, what happened? 

Slash: They should have made it a lot bigger. I don't really understand the reason why. Sometimes, life deals you a tough deck. They never really got the respect that they deserved after a while because as big as an influence as they had on everyone, everybody just sort of ripped them off, and left them for dead."

*****

The documentary cuts to Canada in the midst of winter. Anvil's lead singer Steve "Lips" Kudlow is running delivery for a catering outfit near Toronto. Normally one to look on the bright side, he tries to sell us on the company he works for as he drives his mini van through the streets of some suburban nightmare, taking us from school to school to drop off pizzas and shepherd's pie, his long locks flattened beneath a tuque and breath fogging up the windshield. Lips still dreams of making it big. He believes it will happen too. The problem is this: the world has most likely passed him and his heavy metal by. And we as viewers know it; I mean, when was the last time a heavy metal band was hitting the charts? Lips is in his fifties now. Like his peers (above), he should be enjoying the mansions, the swimming pools and the Lamborghinis in the driveway, living some sort of drunken and sloppy rock 'n' roll middle-aged life instead of breaking his back at a crappy job that can't pay much more than minimum wage. His optimism will become the theme of Anvil! The Story of Anvil. It is sincere, and it is contagious. 

For me, the story of Lips and Anvil covers new territory. In 1984, I was a teenager, but I didn't listen to heavy metal. I was into bands like The Cure, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Waterboys, The Dead Milkmen, The Smiths, The The, REM, Violent Femmes and what have you. In other words, I was shaped by a different scene and, unlike other viewers and fans, do not have a nostalgic reaction to Anvil! The Story of Anvil. The documentary speaks to me simply for what the band has been going through recently. I'll give one example before moving on to Anvil's appearance in Taipei in early July.

In the middle of the documentary, the band gets a phone call from Tiziana Arrigoni, a booking agent in Europe; she's definitely Eastern European, I'm guessing Russian or Albanian. Tiziana wants to bring Anvil over for a five-week tour. After an email or two, maybe a phone call, the band drops everything and heads for the Swedish Rock Festival in Solvesborg, Sweden. "Heavy metal is a serious culture in Europe," explains Lips. "This is the stronghold. That is why it will never, ever go away. Sweden Rock Festival, here we are." The concert goes well; they meet up with the Scorpions, do promos for radio stations ("You are listening to 1020 Hard Rock Stockholm!"), etc., but we get a foreshadowing of what is about to unfold, starting with the band being stranded in the Solvesborg Train Station. "People bought tickets from that festival to get on that train, and now it's sold out," says Lips.

"This is a problem," agrees Tiziana, the booking agent who forgot to book train tickets. The fans go home. Anvil stays put.

"Until we become a real commodity, this is what you deal with," continues Lips, putting things in perspective. Next up are Lorca, Belgium and Helsinki, which go off without a hitch. Eastern Europe is a different story. Man oh man, we're talking night and day. At Zagreb, Krakow and Budepest, Anvil is now playing to a handful of people in cellar pubs. The Budapest gig, for example, can't include more than seven or eight diners occupying a couple of restaurant booths. Clearly, the band could use a bit of promotion. The downward spiral of disappointment culminates in Prague, when Anvil gets lost and shows up a couple of hours late to the gig. The venue, yet another restaurant, still puts them on stage, but the evening closes out with Lips shadowing a waiter as he serves tables, repeatedly asking to get paid. Tizania is in over her head and starting to freak. Lips is threatening to kick the manager's "fucking teeth in." After a few more gigs, the band heads back to Canada. Economically, the last five weeks have have been a write off. Is there a lesson to be learned? Here's Lips, back at the catering company: "Things went drastically wrong. But at least there was a tour for things to go wrong on . . . I'm grateful. I don't regret a minute of it."

*****

The day after watching Anvil! The Story of Anvil, I happened to read in a local paper that Anvil would be playing Taipei three days hence as part of the Canada Day festivities. Besides giving a performance, the band was scheduled to appear at a screening of the documentary. Inspired by what I have just described, I looked up Lips' email address and wrote him. I wanted to ask him a few questions and just reach out. When he replied, he said he'd put me on the guest list for the show. 

The Anvil concert, staged at Huashan Culture Park (華山1914創意文化園區) July 1 had a good turn out. I'm really bad with judging numbers of people. Having said that, I'll throw out 500-ish in terms of an audience (the venue could have been full if there had been chairs). The show itself was great. The band enjoyed playing and burned a lot of calories in their excitement. Between songs, Lips engaged the audience. He was sweet, funny and sincere.

As stated, I'm no expert on the genre, but was happy to be part of it. I did manage to get some questions to Lips. He said he'd been expecting to see me at the concert. I knew he was tired after the long flight and two long, long days, so I didn't want to pester him at the end of it all. I also had my five-year-old in tow. Finally, I emailed him again: 

Me: (obligatory Taiwan question): What did you think of Taiwan?
Lips: I thought it was an amazing place. The people were extremely friendly and a super audience. We had a great time and hope that next time we'll do some sight seeing.

Me: Did you try any Taiwanese food?
Lips: Yes we did and it was fantastic.

Me: Did you see any of the sites at all?
Lips: Only as we drove back and forth from the hotel . . . we didn't have time.

Me: You guys are rocking now, but how did you manage to stay together during the lean years?
Lips: With hope and optimism. 

Me: It's just the two of you now [original band members Robb Reiner and Steve Kudlow]. What has become of the other band members from the eighties?
Lips: They became disheartened, they lost hope and gave up. They found new lives outside music. As far as I know none have gone onto continuing music as a career.

Me: In the documentary about your band, a producer at EMI declined you because he said, "you don't fit the landscape." How do you feel about that?
Lips: I don't take it seriously. The reality that heavy metal is a timeless genre of music and never goes away or out of style.

Me: Could he have a point (#3)? Or do you have a younger audience as well?
Lips: Without a doubt our audience is from 6 years old to 80 years old. We have seen entire families show up. For the most part we are considered new as the majority had never heard us before. The largest part of our crowd is 16 to 30 which is prominently a new young audience.

I should point out that I was unfamiliar with the band prior to seeing the documentary. I took my five-year-old to the concert and she loved it. After a few minutes, she was making beast horns with her hands and rocking away. 

Me: Are you worried that your audiences are nostalgia-driven?
Lips: Anvil is one of the few original metal bands relevant today. Considering the biggest bands like Iron Maiden are the same age as well as Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer. Most members . . . if not all were born in the early 1950s. This might be true if none of us were recording but all have relevant new recording out at least every two years. Nostalgia would be if all these bands first recorded songs and only toured for that reason.

Me: How has your music evolved?
Lips: I don't believe evolved is the correct term. Bands write songs as they move through their lives. The music can be better or worse but generally remains the same in its sound. This is because it is always the same musicians writing. Writing is a natural process that you don't necessarily get better with time. Some do but most don't as they didn't have enough musical vocabulary to keep it interesting.

Me: Does it need to evolve?
Lips: I don't believe a band needs to evolve as much as come up with new exciting things derived from the same thing they have always done.

Me: Who's your favorite singer or band going right now?
Lips: I honestly don't have any favorites of things going right now.

Me: The documentary goes into talking about how Anvil influenced other bands (Metallica, Slayer, Guns 'n' Roses, etc.). What bands or singers influenced Anvil then?
Lips: Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Grand Funk, The Cream, Jimi Hendrix, UFO, Scorpions, Ted Nugent as well as what ever guitar oriented rock and hard rock from the 70s.

Me: Do you see yourself back in Taiwan?
Lips: We certainly hope we can return . . . We definitely want to!!

Me: What kind of impression will Taiwan leave on you?
Lips: We were left with the impression that Taiwan is a peaceful, safe and beautiful place that we want to come back to.

Me: What interested me was the position you took after coming back from Europe (in the documentary). It was a disappointment from an economic viewpoint, but you were upbeat. Why? Well, most people just grind through life; you had just come back from a five-week experience most people will never have. In my opinion, it's something to think about.
Lips: 99% of life is being there!! No tour? No tour in the movie wouldn't have made much of a movie, would have it? I would not have the experience, the memories and, believe it or NOT, fun!! The reality is we didn't turn a profit in money . . . we broke even and in the end it cost nothing but our time to do it.  The overwhelming positive aspect is that we were seen and that we got to play and travel all over Europe and at the same time got to show the entire world just how we did it. From my perspective there is not disappointment, only pure success. When other musicians are watching from their sofa they only wish they were me on the road . . . no matter what that is . . .


Fans coalesce at Huashan Culture Park (華山1914創意文化園區) for Anvil

6/28/2012

鄭州路 Zheng Zhou Road


鄭州路 Zheng Zhou Road, originally uploaded by Patrick Cowsill.
They've gone and given me my own road. In our family, we normally spell 鄭 "Cheng" though. That's how it is on our passports as well (issued by the same government that came up with the the Zheng spelling).

I'm not going to say anything to the government because it was a generous gesture and I am, needless to say, most appreciative.

6/22/2012

Yes Ma'am: A Lot of Water under the Bridge



After watching my clip of Henry V:  http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.tw/2012/04/blog-post.html, an old, old friend said I ought to put up more favored movie clips. He said he has watched Prince Hal giving those great old lines a half a dozen times since I brought it to his attention.

So, I think I will. Why not? This blog exists, as stated previously in the mandate, for the amusement of the blog author. In my opinion, this is the best movie ever made. "Leave him alone, Miss Elsa. You're bad luck to him." 

6/20/2012

Spy Fever: The Keelung Incident

Had you visited Keelung (基隆), Taiwan in 1936, you most probably would have been subjected to making the acquaintance of one of these fellows (Japanese officials), and then bumped into them again, and again, and probably again (or at least colleagues of theirs). I got the pic from taipeimarc: http://www.taipics.com/


I have been meaning to write about the Keelung Incident (基隆事件) for a while. I'll put up some background first. I wrote this stuff before for something not related to my blog; I'll just repost it here to save some time. Then I'll bring up what went happened in Keelung in 1936:

On April 11, 1935, the captain of the Dutch tanker the Juno became the first Westerner in Taiwan in the lead up to the Second World War to be charged with espionage. After steering the ship, chartered by the Asiatic Petroleum Company, into the restricted waters off the Pescadores (澎湖), the captain was detained by Taiwan's Water Police. In his defense, he claimed his ship had been blown off course by a typhoon. He had had no choice but to set sail for the restricted ports of the Pescadores. Spurred on by a new brand of anti-foreign sentiment in Taiwan, officials roundly declared the captain of the Juno a liar and guilty, had him jailed and ultimately fined. Four days later, when a yacht called The Flying Dutchman, manned by a Russian, American and German, mosied into Keelung to get out of the rain, its crew was likewise arrested. That the American aboard was a lieutenant in the US navy did not help matters. In all, the three men spent two weeks in jail before being released with a fine of 200 yen. Both instances were unusual. In the past, the Japanese (and Taiwanese) had not usually made it a practice to detain the captains or crews of ship brought to Taiwan as a result of poor weather (in the twentieth century, that is). Now, within the space of two weeks, a precedent had been set.

The cases of the Juno and The Flying Dutchman showed how the colonial government was shifting to an increasingly protective, perhaps paranoid, stance: "For some years to come it is safe to say that any foreign vessel making unauthorized entrance into any but the four open ports of Keelung, Tamsui, Anping and Takao will find itself involved in considerable trouble," wrote the British Consul at Tamsui. Still, these were seen as diplomatic rows, based on Japan's exit or, depending on how we look at things, expulsion from the League of Nations and the world did not take them very seriously. In retrospect, we can see a hint of how Japan would conduct foreign affairs out of Taiwan. They were looking to shield secrets and put the locals on alert. As the Taiwanese followed along in the newspapers, on how their island was being besieged by foreign devils, etc., they were asking themselves: "Since when has Taiwan ever been overrun by Westerners?" Some knew the answer: twice, maybe three times in the history of the country.

An atmosphere of unease permeated Taiwanese society, a general feeling ramped up by the erratic behavior of the authorities. Average Taiwanese were trying to figure out the rules, where they could and could not go, with whom they could speak, how they might walk, what they might say, what time they needed to be in their homes and so forth so as not to provoke their increasingly sensitive rulers. According to one witness living in the Wanhua District (萬華區) of Taipei, "It was better to avoid them. You never knew what would set them off. Plus you just got fined for things you didn't know about." But fear mongering was paying dividends in making the ship as tight as a drum. Taiwanese were on the defensive: "We avoided Westerners because that was the way to stay out of trouble -- everybody did so," said the Wanhuaian. 

On June 26, 1935, the new British Consul C.H. Archer coined the expression "spy fever" for Taiwan in a confidential report back to London to explain the form of hysteria being whipped up by the colonial government. In the witch-hunt for spies, the most natural target was Westerners. "The foreign resident community of all sexes and ages, excluding Chinese, numbers less than a hundred [there were from 37,000 to 48,000 Chinese, mostly laborers, here], and the climate offers them little inducement to travel more than they must. Consequently, the sight of a foreigner in most districts remains a rarity; any individual who is eccentric enough to indulge in frequent week-end excursions is liable to excite suspicion, and no foreign resident of discretion takes an extended tour outside his usual beat without first informing the Government of his program and invoking suspicion," he wrote. 

*****


Press articles attacking foreign residents and travellers in general, and foreign consuls in particular as accredited spies, have continued during this year . . . The anti-foreign feeling sedulously fostered by eighteen months' intensive preaching on the dangers of espionage had its inevitable sequel in the Keelung Incident.  -- C.H. Arthur, January 17, 1937

Here's how the Keelung Incident (基隆事件) unfolded:

1. Three British warships pull in at Keelung in October 1936; some crew members are detained after the ships' captains refuse to pay for a tow
2. The crew members are brought into the police station in Keelung for questioning
3. An officer intercedes and is, in the words of the British Consul, insulted
4. Upon gaining the crew members' discharge, it is discovered one detainee now has a compound fracture of the jaw
5. The British Consul in Tamsui protests. A "full inquiry" is conducted. It is concluded there are no broken jaws around here
6. The visit of Sir Charles Little's, Commander-in-chief in China, visit to Taiwan is postponed
7. Another Japanese enquiry reaffirms the previous verdict; clearly, the Brits are making up this stuff about the jaw 
8. Japanese diplomats are called in to explain in London. "Very restrained publicity" occurs there  
9. In response to #8, spokesmen in Tokyo and Taipei bring "vehement counter-charges." It seems everyone on board the three ships had been drunk. The behavior of the crew, especially to go around getting their jaws broken and the like, "proved gross deficiencies in discipline"


According to the British Consul C.H. Archer, the underlying cause of the "disgraceful affair" was that naval officers had been seen taking photographs from on board the ships. Cameras really seemed to have annoyed the Japanese. Prior to reporting on the Keelung Incident, the consul touched on this aspect of their personalities or training: "The position [on foreigners] has been aggravated by the new regulations issued during the summer, prohibiting photography from the air and from "high places." It is no longer safe for the foreigner to use a camera at all, except for portraiture within the home; and any with a taste for mountain walks need to step very warily indeed."

The wrap-up for the Keelung Incident isn't clear. I suspect the British kept a stiff upper lip, got the heck out, let it go and tried to keep a distance. The Russians, annoyed by similar instances, started to pick off Japanese ships near their waters as a way of fighting back. The US pretty much, from what I can tell, ignored spy fever. People back home didn't have much use for what is going on elsewhere and you have to realize this sense of being tuned out was only heightened by the Great Depression and a policy of international isolationism.

Getting back to the prohibition on cameras: can you imagine transporting some of the more hard-core Japanese (and Taiwanese) officials seventy-five years into the future? The Internet, especially Facebook, Flickr and Google Maps, would have caused an aneurysm or two. 

6/18/2012

Wanhua Storage


Wanhua Storage, originally uploaded by Patrick Cowsill.
A Tree overgrows the back sheds of an old military complex in Wanhua 萬化的 Youth Park (青年公園), Taiwan. During the Japanese colonial era (1895-1945), the park along with neighboring Nanjichang Market (南機場), which means South Airport Market, was the site of Taipei's airport. I grabbed this shot last Friday night on my iPhone, on my way to said market. 

6/05/2012

Taiwan History


HM Cheng and James Baron, originally uploaded by Patrick Cowsill.
HM Cheng http://goo.gl/UhfGJ and James Baron http://goo.gl/4UCUF.

5/23/2012

Naturalization Process in Taiwan

Let us know how Taiwan Immigration has served you by pressing the appropriate button. 


I went to get my ID squared last week at Taiwan Immigration. I found a feedback machine and poster (above) at the counter where I received service. I decided to put up the shots I took on my iPhone because I have been told the service of our government employees leaves much to be desired. Obviously, the government has heard pretty much the same and has decided to do something about it. At the end of the day, I'm afraid we still have a long way to go. The service is good; the underlying concepts of that service leave much to be desired. I'll get to that in a moment.

In the meantime, I have to say my clerk at Taiwan Immigration, Ms. Lin, was friendly and helpful. When I told her I was curious about naturalization, she made some calls. I was then directed to a second counter for the details. This is something I could see myself looking for online someday, so I'll post what I came away with. Returning to Ms. Lin: I asked her about the feedback machine and she told me I was entitled to press the button that best represented the level of service I was receiving. I wanted to know if officials got a bonus for positive presses: "No," she answered, "but we can get our picture up on the wall for 'Official of the Month.'" I am also guessing a lot of negative presses can lead to, if nothing else, a pretty good finger wagging by someone further up the chain of command.

Before I left Taiwan Immigration, I was given an informative booklet entitled New Hometown New Life: Handbook of Living Information in Taiwan for Foreign Spouses. Here's the "Flow chart of naturalization application" I found inside. It entails the steps you must take to officially become Taiwanese. A complete description is included:

1. Marriage Registration
2. Applying for Resident Visa
3. Applying for Alien Resident Certificate
4. Applying for "R.O.C. Naturalization Candidature Certificate" (with more than 3 years of legal residence and at least 183 days per year dated back from the day of application)
5. Applying for renounciation of one's original application
6. Applying for Alien Permanent Resident Certificate in the R.O.C. (Applicants have to reside for a certain period of time: for one year without departure from the day of naturalization; for two years and more than 270 days per year; for five years and more than 183 days per year) [In other words, get ready to stay put.]
7. Applying for Household Registration Certificate and obtaining ID Card

In other words,

1. Apply for "R.O.C. Naturalization Candidature Certificate"
Agencies-in-charge: Local Household Registration Office near one's domestic residence
Required Documents:
(1) Applying for "R.O.C. Naturalization Candidature Certificate" (two color photographs of the same size of that on ID cards taken less than one year)
(2) A valid Alien Residence Certificate or Alien Permanent Resident Certificate
(3) A foreigner's Certificate of Residence (proving consecutive days of stay) [Hard to say what this is; you'll probably have to get some sort of print-out from Taiwan Immigration)
(4) Proof of properties or professional skills ensuring one can be self-sufficient
(5) To naturalize in the R.O.C., one must achieve the standard of basic ability and understand the basic rights and duties of citizenship. [Pretty vague -- if you are married to a local, you are entitled to seventy-two hours of free Chinese classes which gets you the basic ability part. Taiwan's constitution is straightforward. Read it you will you understand that it is routinely ignored in this country just as constitutions are routinely ignored in other places around the world. The duties of citizenship  probably come down to what you value. If you are male and under thirty-five, you are probably looking at close to a year in the military though.] One must have one of the documents below:
- Study certificate issued by Taiwan-based private or public schools for more than one year
- Study certificate in classes that are conducted by the government or organizations entrusted by the government for 72 hours
- Passing naturalization examination with the score of 60 percent and above
(6) Household Certificate transcript with marriage registration (Applicants do not have to submit this item since the Household Registration Office would check it.)
(7) Certificate fees: NT$220 (please make the postal money order payable to the Ministry of the Interior.)

2. Renounciation of the nationality of the country of origin
Agencies-in-charge: The government of the country of origin or its embassy in the R.O.C. or any representative organizations authorized by the countries of origin

3. Applying for naturalization
Agencies-in-charge: Local Household Registration Office near one's domestic residence
Required documents:
(1) An application form of R.O.C. Naturalization (two color photographs of ID Card size taken within the past year)
(2) Certificate of stateless [if you are stateless, who issues this?] renounciation of the country of origin, or documents certified by agencies of foreign affairs to be true (Chinese translation copy is required and documents need to be certified by the R.O.C. Embassies, Consulates, Trade Offices abroad [not in Taiwan] and re-examined by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
(3) A valid Alien Residence Certificate or Alien Permanent Residence Certificate
(4) Foreign Residence Certificate (The duration of residence should be continuous without any disruption) ["should" probably reads must]
(5) Proof of properties or professional skills ensuring one can be self sufficient (Those who have Permanent Resident Certificate or R.O.C. Naturalization Candidature Certificate are exempt from this requirement during naturalization application.)
(6) To naturalize to the R.O.C., the applicant should pass the basic language ability test and have knowledge about the legal rights and duties of R.O.C. citizens.
Required Documents: (Those who have Permanent Resident Certificate or R.O.C. Naturalization Candidature Certificate are exempt from the requirement.)
- Study certificate issued by Taiwan-based private or public schools for more than one year
- Study certificate in classes that are conducted by the government or organizations entrusted by the government for 72 hours
- Passing naturalization examination with the score of 60 percent and above
(7) Household Certificate transcript with marriage registration (Applicants do not have to submit this item since the Household Registration Office would check it.)
(8) Certificate fees: NT$1,000 ([p]lease make the postal money order payable to the Ministry of the Interior.)

4. Apply for Taiwan Resident Certificate
Agencies-in-charge: local service center of National Immigration Agency, Ministry of the Interior near one's domestic residence
Required documents:
(1) An Alien Residence Certificate application form (including one photograph of the ID Card photo size and taken within the past two year). [no s and period now outside the parenthesis]
(2) One duplicate copy of the citizenship certificate (Such as naturalization permit of a list of nationalities issued by the Ministry of the Interior. The original copy will be returned) [no period at all]
(3) Certificate fees [not given]

5. Apply for Alien Permanent Resident Certificate
Agencies-in-charge: local service center of National Immigration. Ministry of the Interior near one's domestic residence
Required documents:
(1) An Alien Permanent Resident Resident Application form (including one photograph with the same size of that of ID Card and taken within the past two year)
(2) Taiwan Resident Card
(3) Taiwan-native spouse's Household Certificate or R.O.C. ID Card (The original copy will be returned and this does not apply to divorced couples)
(4) A qualified health examination certificate issued in the past 3 months
(5) Other relevant certificates and documents, such as an original and a duplicate copy of the Household Certificate of the owner of the resident address (the original copy will be returned), an original and a duplicate copy of the leasing contract (the original copy will be returned), and others
(6) A stamped and self-addressed envelope of registered mail with the receiver's name, address, zip code and telephone number
(7) Certificate fees

6. Apply for Household Registration and ID Card
Agencies-in-charge: Local Household Registration Office near one's domestic residence
Required documents:
(1) The Certificate of "Sefflement" sent by National Immigration Agency, Ministry of the Interior for notifying Household Registration.
(2) A Household Certificate (No need for independent household, but one has to show ownership certificate of the house or other relevant documents.)
(3) One photograph
(4) First-time ID Card applicants need to pay NT$50. Applicants can get their ID Cards after completing the household registration.

Whew! Once you've got all of that straight, there are still a few things to consider.

First off, New Hometown New Life: Handbook of Living Information in Taiwan for Foreign Spouses suggests the following: "Other than the relationship between the husband and the wife, newly-wed couples need to have a good relationship with parents, sisters-in-law and neighbors. Daughters-in-law should respect parents-in-law and treat them as their own parents. Parents-in-law expect filial piety, such as children taking care of, providing money to and maintaining a connection with parents-in-law. Getting along with sisters-in-law and making a peaceful family are most people's expectation of family."

There is no mention of the sons-in-law and their duty. It is as if this work assumes that Taiwanese women do not also marry people from other countries. Needless to say, Taiwanese women do marry from outside the realm. These women work, pay taxes and are citizens. Their concerns should be addressed; this booklet is also on their dime. That they are ignored is problematic and probably speaks to outdated concepts in the face of the transnational world we now live in.

Here's some more: "Therefore, good relationship between parents and teachers may help children adapt to campus lives. Foreign spouses can speak their native languages at home with children [they can bloody well speak their native languages in public too, even if twits in high places think otherwise] while telling stories or illustrated books [or non-illustrated books -- their kids ought to have the same powers of imagination as other kids], or teaching folklore songs in their native dialects. This helps children learn about the culture of their mothers' countries of origin. This not only brings parents-children relationship closer, but also widen children's global horizons."

I don't even know where to start with this sort of b.s. I'm a foreign spouse. I usually speak my native language at home because my wife has demanded it. She figures that if our offspring is bi- or multilingual, this will give her the leg up. My wife cares about our child having  a well-rounded sense of identity; our child is Taiwanese and also not Taiwanese. I should point out when I read stories or illustrated books, or teach folklore songs (Mickey Mouse Club or Paul Bunyan, I suppose), this does nothing in terms of my child learning "about the the culture of their mother's countries [or country] of origin" because, simply put, her mother is Taiwanese. 

To me, there is something going on here that rings of male chauvinism. Ten years ago, Taiwanese women married to men from other countries hit the streets to demand equal rights for their offspring. At that time, the government was incapable of comprehending of their kids as locals: Taiwanese men married to women from other countries could confer citizenship on their children; Taiwanese women married to men from different countries could not. Thankfully, the laws came under scrutiny and were changed.  

Government officials in Taiwan are said to be educated. Wouldn't an educated person have at least some grip on what is going on? Taiwanese women can marry whomever they chose. Those that do exercise this right normally contribute to this society and deserve to be served just like anyone else. New Hometown New Life: Handbook of Living Information in Taiwan for Foreign Spouses is riddled with troublesome advice; I have brought up a couple of brain farts, but could go on all day. It's late and I'm tired, so I'll leave off with the above for the time being. 

5/09/2012

The Playgrounds Are for Kids

Translation: "This stuff is for children only." The sign next to the playground reads, just in case there can be any doubt, "Stay off the apparatus if you are over thirty kilograms."


I have repeatedly written about teenagers invading the playgrounds around my home in Wanhua (萬華), Taipei. Most evenings, they show up around eight and take over. They occupy the swings, throw parties in the tree houses and castles, toss garbage all over the place and do whatever else they can to piss the rest of us (meaning tax-paying adults) off. I'm going to meander a bit now to talk about something from the memory chest because I want to color in the dissatisfaction some of us have with what is going on. Then I'll tell you about something I saw tonight. 

There are lots of parents in the playgrounds at around eight o'clock playing with their kids. Unfortunately, their young ones can only use the apparatus partially, if at all, because the teenagers already have the beat on them. Parents are also intimidated for some reason and are not ashamed to admit it. Instead of doing anything about this, they play catch on the inline skating rink, look for sticks and rocks to collect or gather up the flowers their children pluck from the bushes near the playgrounds they'd much rather be playing on. There are public signs that tell people the playgrounds are for those thirty kilograms or less -- lots of signs. The signs also read "no smoking" or "no loud and obnoxious behavior." The problem is this: the rules are not enforced.

I have had lots of run-ins with the hooligan wannabes, and they are well documented on this blog. The last time I had more than my fair share of grief was two years ago. When my daughter and I arrived at Youth Park (青年公年), across the street from our home in Wanhua (萬華), we discovered a rusty bicycle plopped in the middle of the playground. "Daddy!" said my daughter, "that is dangerous!" She had a point. 

The bike was twisted up, with the front wheel turned underneath the frame. I imagined the rider jumping off it and letting it land where it may. It now lay directly in front of the swings, so I picked it up and set it off to the side of the playground. No sooner had I turned around to locate my daughter than a foul-mouthed male teenager was in my face. He wasn't much of a specimen -- I'm guessing around sixty to sixty-five kilograms of skin and bone -- but he was leader of his gang based on his verve:

"Hey, that's my bike!" he shouted. He decided to add "man" in English.

"Then what are you doing leaving it like this?" I asked. "I guarantee you a kid will get hurt before the evening is out." Instead of apologizing or having a single glance around at how his careless behavior was affecting his community, Joe Cool (I'll refer to him as JC from now on) asked:

"Do you want to fight?"

Did I want to fight? LOL. A fight with him would have lasted until I decided to stop dropping bombs, so I said, 

"Uh, yeah. I do." After JC had slunk off, I had this thought: why would you challenge a guy you didn't want to fight? 

Anyway, I need to get on to what happened tonight, so I'll wrap this up. About an hour later, when my three-year-old daughter and I were leaving, I heard JC getting tough again for his friends, trying to show he wasn't thick-skinned after all: "Fuck you!" he shouted after us. "Asshole!" Instead of making a left for home, we went right and walked about 20 feet to the local police station to file a complaint. Just before the cops escorted JC out of the park, he explained, "He's a foreigner. I just wanted to talk to him." 

Since then, JC and I have kind of patched things up. Whenever we bump into each other, we let bygones be bygones. He's still making the other parents miserable. But when I repeatedly take the piss out of him for having nothing better to do than slide on park slides with his park-based posse or compete to see who can swing the highest, he takes it. 

It is worth pointing out that I am getting to know JC fairly well now. He's bright, but his smarts probably won't take him far. Even though he's now seventeen, he still doesn't take school seriously. Obviously, his parents don't have the time of day for him. That's why he can spend evening after evening in the park. Having said that, all I ever wanted to do was go to the park and play with my kid. 

Why the f^%k should I have ever had had to put up with this, or even waste a single sweat drop on these wanks?

*****

Basically, JC represents the last run-in I've had with playground invaders. Since then, I have learned to ignore them in the same as I do a fly buzzing around the living room. I'll make a lazy swat if it gets around my ears, but that's about it. These last few weeks my wife and I have been running our daughter to 2-28 Park in the evenings because it is close to her preschool. Yesterday, our daughter wanted to play on the swings, but they were occupied by a couple of lovebird teenagers. My daughter asked them if she could swing. The girl-half simply ignored her while the guy smiled on. Neither budged. So I asked her: "Did you see the sign? It says you have be thirty kilograms or less to use the swings." 

"Sorry," she said, getting off.

"If she were sorry," my wife later said, "why did she ignore Ahleena?"

But the story doesn't end there. A while later, we were at the swings again (picture below). Two girls from Taipei's First Girls' School (北一女) -- these are the best students in the country -- and a man were using the east swing when a cop showed up and pointed to the characters painted on the frame (picture above): "These are for children to use." The words had been about a couple of inches from their noses the whole time (don't tell me these kids and the man don't read). The officer took their IDs and booked them. Then he pointed at the Presidential Office and said: "That is where President Ma is. Have some respect." If he had simply pointed at the parents with kids on the playground and said, "These people have children. This apparatus is for them; you're too big for it / it can't take your weight, etc.," I'm sure that would have sufficed but, I admit, lacked the drama and righteousness. Tonight, on the very same swings, a similar incident took place. Only this time, a cop took a picture of the offender with his cell phone as well. Her figure was accentuated by the mini-skirt and low-cut top she had on. 

I asked tonight's hero, Officer Lin, about when the cops'd get around to clearing out the riff raff at Wanhua's Youth Park but was informed I shouldn't worry about it so much. 


These parallel bars in Taipei's 2-28 Park were broken by people much too heavy to be swinging on them swinging on them.

Translation: "They're broken."

Swing set where the two Taipei's First Girls' School (北一女) and man were booked.