Monday, September 25, 2006

We're All Just a Bunch of Fruit

My dear friend Brandi sent this one to me last month, and I decided I liked it so much that it deserved a place here.

Women are like apples on trees. The best ones are at the top of the tree. Most men don't want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead, they sometimes take the apples from the ground that aren't as good, but easy to get. The apples at the top think something is wrong with them, when in reality they're amazing. They just have to wait for the right man to come along, the one who is brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree. Share this with women who are good apples, even those who have already been picked.

Men are like a fine wine. They begin as grapes, and it's up to women to stomp the shit out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with.

Happy stomping, those of you who have grapes. And for those of you who are still hanging around the top of the tree, be thankful. You could be rotting into a sodden mush on the ground, within easy reach of some sour grape.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cops: Taipei

The police in Taipei drive around with the lights on the tops of their cars constantly turned on, revolving red and blue. I've often wondered just how they actually get offenders to stop when they wish them to. Now Johnny Neihu, the funniest writer at the Taipei Times, has cleared up some of the mystery.

Stop! Or I'll shoot you hesitantly

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Nag, nag, nag

Awright, awright. I'll write something! I've been getting a little nagging from friends who haven't seen anything new here in awhile. Sorry, but on top of still teaching English every day, I haven't had much excitement in my life to write about! But I can muster up a little bit now.

Best this is that this week, due to a visit from Singaporean friend, David, I got to have dinner with some of my favorite people: Natari, Charlene, Dino, Carrie, and another friend who must remain un-named for the time being. The bonus guest was Dino's son, Alex, who is here visiting from California. Nice kid, 18 years old, looks so much like his dad (despite the bleached blonde hair), and has eyelashes so long and thick that women everywhere (including Carried) were trying to figure out how to steal them. I won't be posting any photos of Alex, because I don't think it's a good idea to put the children of stars into the public eye, but here's a cute pic of David with Dino. Dino is demonstrating how he copes with frustration.

David is a huge fan of Dino's and is currently studying drumming. He was able to pick up a few tips from Dino during our evening out. He also scored a pair of Dino's drumsticks, the ones he used during the Singapore concert at the beginning of the month. As you see, Dino must have suffered a lot of frustration to leave the sticks in this condition!

After eating a little bit at Din Tai Feng, famous for their xiao long bao, we moved over to one of the whackiest restaurants I've ever seen: Indian Jurassic Park. You have to check out the photos of this place: Indian Jurassic Restaurant

It was a very noisy place, and rather smoky, but lots of fun. We had some tasty food there, including fried rice, deep-fried squid, Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞), some clams in a yummy sauce (炒海瓜子), some veggie (空心菜), and some fish. The fish was beautifully presented that I had to take a photo. If you can work your way through the Chinese at the above link, you can see some photos of other food. We of course also had beer.

I was happy to have some time to spend chatting with Dino's son. He was a little jet lagged, so he wasn't too lively, but he seemed to be enjoying himself. We share some of the same heritage, American Indian and Italian. And we've both lived in Wyoming, him in Laramie and me in Cheyenne. He's not too interested in becoming a drummer, but he might want to be an equestrian veterinarian when he grows up. He just graduated from high school, and now he's trying to figure out what he should study in college.

Anyway, that's about the only really fun thing I've done. My Korean friend, Kayun, has begun studying English with me and is coming twice a week. After class sometimes we watch movies, which is fun, especially now that I have the new Pioneer DVD player and surround-sound system. This week we watched a great Korean movie called "Welcome to Dongmakgol." A big thank-you to Cheryl for passing that one along to me. And last week I finally got to see "Old Boy," a movie I've had for over a year and a half but never watched. It was just as intense as all the reviews had said.

Let's see, what else? Well, my friend/student, Aaron, left for his year of study in the UK. His family invited me to a goodbye dinner, and the food was excellent. His mom and dad are both fantastic cooks, and I really appreciated them asking me to join the rest of the family that evening. I'm going to miss Aaron, and I hope he adapts well to life in England. At the end he said he really didn't want to go, but it was too late to change his mind.

I've started trading English lessons for Chinese ones. Ye Ying, one of the teachers who had been at CLD while I was there, is planning on going to Holland to study Chinese culture. Personally, I think that's a bit weird, going to a European country for Asian studies, but she said the school is famous for it's courses. She wants to improve her English, and my Chinese has been regressing, so we're doing a trade. It will be good for me to get back into the study habit before I start at Shi Da in December.

I'll be heading back to Singapore on October 2 for a three-day, four-night stay. I spent some time yesterday online making a list of places I want to see, and I'll mostly be alone on my journeys. But, that's how I like it! I was able to find a very inexpensive hotel (only $156US for four nights), so I won't be spending too much. However, I am a little miffed that I didn't know earlier that Wu Bai & China Blue would be in Macau for a show on 9/30, because I would have gone there instead! Dammit, they never make these announcements early enough. Also, my friend Maddy from Florida will be in Hong Kong while I'm in Singapore! Again, had she told me sooner, I would have gone back to Hong Kong so I could see her. Rats rats rats!

I've completely avoided discussing the political situation here in Taiwan, because I really do hate politics and politicians. I'll briefly say that a bunch of people who have their heads up their collective ass are currently doing a sit-in protest to try to convince the president, Chen Shui Bian, to step down. They're all riled up because of alleged corruption. I think they should read this informative editorial in the Taipei Times: Taiwan's Color-Coded View of Corruption

If I have to choose between two evils, I'll take the lesser, and Ah Bian certainly qualifies as that. No, he's not perfect, but he at least wants Taiwan to be an independent, democrat country, while the Kuomintang would rather give it back to China and lose all the freedom we have. Idiots. And I can't even begin to explain how incredibly stupid Taiwan's vice president is. Root around in the editorial archives of the Times for some interesting stuff, if you have the time.

I'm done now. I have to prepare for my afternoon class now. I'll try to be better about posting, but no promises!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Unimportant Notes

Just a few things I think about and then forget to write about, so I'm finally doing it.

1. I'm making more money in interest now than when I moved here, even though I've spent a lot of money. This confuses me. However, it also pleases me, so I hope it continues.

2. Despite the extremely warm summer and my being at home far more than I was last year and hence using the air conditioner much more, my electric bill for July and August was only $1849NT, or about $56US. Can't complain.

3. I'm buying a new DVD player and a surround sound system. My treasured Malata all-region DVD player began having issues and refuses to play a DVD all the way to the end. So, I decided to go ahead and buy a new one that is bundled with a home theater sound system. I'm tired of listening to Wu Bai concerts through the lousy TV speakers.

4. I finally sold my little refrigerator this week. Did I mention I'd bought a new, larger one? Can't remember. But I did, because I wanted a freezer that I could actually put things into.

5. My Sunday student canceled our classes for the month of September because she's a wedding consultant and has too much going on. Bye-bye $225US. Crap on a rope. Guess this month I'm not making any money, since the guy I've been teaching three days a week is leaving for the UK.

6. Charlene passed along the great news that ABS will be performing on October 7. Coolio, since I'll be back from the next trip to Singapore on October 6. Let's hope they don't change the date to the 6th, because rushing from the airport to the club would be a pain in the ass.

7. The Demons from Hell upstairs have been suspiciously quiet lately. I think perhaps they've started going to school and now are forced to spend their evenings doing homework rather than screaming and pounding and running back and forth. Either that or their parents finally cracked and killed the both of 'em.

That's all, folks.

Singapore Rocks to Wu Bai & China Blue

Let me begin by saying that I understand why a discount airline is called a discount airline. I flew Jetstar Asia to Singapore because the price was right. That price did not include a meal. Oh no, if I wanted food, I had to pay for my meal (and beverage), and no food not purchased on the plane was allowed to be consumed.

Fine, then, I'll buy it. I hadn't eaten since around 1:00 p.m. on Friday, and it was now coming up on 8:00 p.m., and I was starved. The food cart starts down the aisle, not far from me, because I'm in row 8. I can smell it, and I'm getting hungrier by the minute. There were three choices on the menu: Egg Noodle with Seaweed Roll and Mixed Vegetables, Fried Rice with Chicken Teriyaki and Sauteed Vegetables, and Nasi Rampai with Sambal Fish and Sayur Lodeh. The last item was completely incomprehensible to me, and the seaweed roll put me off the first, so chicken teriyaki it would be. The cart reached the row in front of me. Suddenly, the plane began bucking as it hit turbulence, and the captain ordered the crew to return to their seats. The cart was whisked away. Nooooo!!!! I'm so hungry!!!! Finally, after 10 or 15 minutes, the cart returns, and it's my turn. "I'll have the chicken teriyaki." The pretty, perky flight attendant made a little moue. "Oh dear, I'm so sorry, but we're out of that." Huh? How is this possible? I'm in row 8 for crying out loud! "Uh, fine, then I guess I'll have the fish thing." Again with the moue. "Oh dearie me, so sorry, I've just given the last one to my colleague. We have egg noodle with seaweed roll." "Well, what exactly is that?" "It's egg noodle with seaweed roll." "Never mind, can I just buy some nuts and some water?" I'm not gonna pay $5.00 US for something that sounds yucky. If they served it free, I'd try it, but I'm NOT paying for it.

The nuts didn't go far, and about an hour and a half before landing, the cart came around again. "Would you like to purchase a beverage?" a different perky, pretty girl asked. "Food?" I said hopefully, hoping to score some cookies. "Oh, gosh, gee, I'm so sorry, there is none." And then, as the cart returned to the front, at a speed only slightly slower than the speed of light, I heard the guy who was pushing it saying under his breath, "Drinks? Snacks? Drinks? Snacks?" but before my brain had a chance to say, "Hey...wait a minute, snacks is food!" the cart was gone. WTF? Stupid perky flight attendant doesn't know that nuts, candy bars, and cookies are in the FOOD group?

So, I landed in Singapore ready to chew on the arm of the person in front of me at immigration. Luckily they're quite speedy there, and I was into the baggage check area in no time, grabbing my bag and going out into the mob of waiting people, wondering how the hell I'd find Tona and Lee Ying. I only had to look around for a couple of minutes, though, before spotting them, and the first words out of my mouth were "FEED ME NOW!" We jumped into the car, where David had been waiting for us, and off we went for my first taste of Singapore food. That food was prata with chicken curry, and it was sheer heaven. The restaurant was Muslim Indian, I believe, and was quite crowded even at midnight. I managed not to faint away while we waited for the food. After the meal we drove to Tona and David's place (check out the nice view from their living room window), dropping Lee Ying at her stop on the way, and then hit the sack.

Saturday Tona and David took me for breakfast to a place that serves pork rib soup, known in Singapore at Bak Kut Teh. This is a marvelous broth with lots of roasted garlic and strips of lean pork, along with some sort of green veggie. They told me this is one of Wu Bai's favorite things to eat in Singapore (and this is a photo of his favorite shop), and I see why. I ended up buying some of the do-it-yourself seasoning packets at the grocery store to use here at home. After breakfast we drove around, with Tona pointing out various sites to me. We stopped briefly in Chinatown and walked around, but it was pretty hot, and Tona is five months pregnant and tires easily, so we didn't push it. We went to a shopping mall to meet Angela and Takasan for just a little while, and we went around to some used bookstores but didn't find anything good. Then later in the afternoon we collected Lee Ying and went to dinner for another Singapore specialty, Hai Nan Chicken Rice (along with some fried tofu and veggies and beer for me). The chicken is cooked in a seasoned broth and then allowed to cool, and the rice is cooked in the broth, the special seasoning giving the rice a great flavor. A light soy sauce is poured on the chicken, which is on a bed of cucumbers when it's served. Very yummy, and I bought the fixings for that, too.

After dinner it was off to the concert venue, picking up Lee Yang on the way, where we met up with Angela, Lilian, and the other Singapore fans, most of whom I didn't know (and my memory sucks, so I don't even remember everyone's names). We didn't have to wait outside long before they let us in, and we found our seats pretty close to the front. The front four rows had not even been available to the public for purchase, all reserved for special folks. Too bad, because those folks didn't even bother to stand up during the show. Lame arseholes. Why don't they let the real fans have the good seats?

The first part of the concert was Zhang Zhen Yue and Free Night, along with guest MC Hotdog. I don't mind their music, especially "Wo Ai Tai Mei" and the "oh Mama, wo yao qian" song, but ZZY was a bit down that evening. Not surprising since a couple weeks before his girlfriend (or close friend, depending on the source) committed suicide. It's a wonder he was performing at all. The crowd was rather subdued, and it was obvious that most of us were there for Wu Bai & China Blue.

And then the real fun began, with Da Mao hitting the stage and sitting at his keyboards, and then Wu Bai coming on for the opening number, Summer Night Wind. The rest of the concert was typical Wu Bai & China Blue, great performances, Wu Bai forgetting song lyrics (he blew White Dove soooo badly!), and Dino cutting up in the back while DJ eTurn was spinning his records - Dino was pretending to spin his cymbals. The crowd was mostly standing (and that's a no-no in Singapore), at least where we were (except for those fuddy-duddies in the front rows), and we were all singing at the top of our lungs and waving our light sticks. This concert was like a combination of the Love Power tour of 2004 and the Li Hai concert of last year, a good mix, a lot of favorite songs that I can sing along with. Doesn't matter how many times I hear the same songs in concert, I still love 'em.

The show was too short, of course, and the finale was Wu Bai & China Blue together with ZZY's band and MC Hotdog, a fun song, one I'm not familiar with. Then it was over, and we left. We hung around in front for awhile, then walked over toward the car. We noticed some fans waiting at the back, so we drifted over that way, saw some of ZZY's band come out, then Dino, Da Mao, and Xiao Zhu walked out the back door. I yelled Dino's name, he looked around and saw me, then came over to the barricade, shaking hands with fans and signing autographs. Finally Wu Bai and wife, along with other staff members, came out and boarded the little bus that would take them back to the hotel. We waved as they went by, but I'm not sure if anyone waved back, because I was just noticing that Miss Chen wouldn't even look our way and acknowledge our presence. Hmph.

Sunday the guys flew home, and Lilian and Angela went to the airport to see them off. They got to get their photos with Wu Bai and say a few words. I just can't make myself chase after the guy, you know? I mean, going to the show is one thing, but showing up at airports or hotels just feels wrong for me. If it had just been Dino, Da Mao, and Xiao Zhu, I would have gone, though, because they're just down-to-earth cool guys.

Sunday I went off with Lee Ying to meet Angela, Lilian, Eileen, and Li Yan for lunch, which we had at a shopping mall. I've been online buddies with Li Yan for about six years, and this was the first time I'd gotten to meet her face to face. We all hung around chatting a bit, then Lilian, Li Yan, and I headed off on our own. All we did was go to Carrefour at that mall and hit a couple of DVD shops. Then Lilian drove me to the airport so I could meet up with Tona, who was dropping David off for his flight (he works for Singapore Airlines). Tona and I went for dinner, choosing satay, both chicken and beef. Another yummy food! Then we went to a grocery store and ended up finding a book exhibition that had some great deals on used books (I bought four). We were pretty tired, so we just went back to Tona's and kicked back, watching a bit of TV (did you know there's a restaurant in Australia that's a Clydesdale-drawn carriage? check it out, and talking.

Monday morning I was up bright and early, packing all my stuff, and Tona dropped me off at the airport around 11:00. We wanted more pork rib soup for breakfast, but the place was closed, so we decided to wait for next time. I grabbed some sushi at the airport. I was seated in row 2 this time, and I was able to actually get the chicken teriyaki. Too bad, because it was simply awful, half cold and really tasteless. Next month when I go back I'll definitely stuff myself at the airport before boarding the plane!

Landed at almost 6:00 p.m., got on the bus back to Taipei at 6:25, finally hit home a little after 8:00, tired but happy. Now I'm just waiting for the new CD to be released and more concerts!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Life's a bitch......and then you marry one

Let us hope these words do not prove true for our little Hiyoshi. Remember I said he and Lisa were getting married in November? Well, it seems Hiyoshi didn't tell the whole truth. They're getting married tomorrow, one day before he leaves to go back to Japan. It's the civil ceremony, to be sure, but every bit as binding as that big party they'll have in November. I can't help but feel that Lisa felt the need to get those chains on him before he was far enough away from the influence of raging hormones to actually think clearly about what he's doing.

He was still saying today that 1) he didn't know if he loved her 2) he also didn't understand why she would want to marry a man who had never said "I love you and 3) he was worried that she wouldn't be able to adapt to life in Japan

Oh boy.....

I'll be back later with a report on the Singapore trip, but that requires some time at the computer, and this was a brief newscast ;)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Kafka on the Shore

From "Kafka on the Shore" by Haruki Murakami, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel

"That's it," Oshima says. He taps his temple lightly with the eraser end of the pencil. "But there's one thing I want you to remember, Kafka. Those are exactly the kind of people who murdered Miss Saeki's childhood sweetheart. Narrow minds devoid of imagination. Intolerance, theories cut off from reality, empty terminology, usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the things that really frighten me. What I absolutely fear and loathe. Of course it's important to know what's right and what's wrong. Individual errors in judgment can usually be corrected. As long as you have the courage to admit mistakes, things can be turned around. But intolerant, narrow minds with no imagination are like parasites that transform the host, change form, and continue to thrive. They're a lost cause, and I don't want anyone like that coming in here."

Oshima points at the stacks with the tip of his pencil. What he means, of course, is the entire library.

"I wish I could just laugh off people like that, but I can't."

I picked up this book because I'd read before that this Japanese author was Wu Bai's favorite. The price was right (and that's always a deciding factor here in Taiwan, where English books are so expensive), so I figured what the heck. I am completely inept at writing book reviews, and all I'm able to say is that this book is a marvelous tale, full of awakenings and insight, and I'm so glad I bought it. Murakami's other books are now on my list.

Prior to the above-quoted passage, Oshima mentions that these sort of people are those that T. S. Eliot called hollow men. ".....people who have no imagination.......People who fill up that lack of imagination with heartless bits of straw, not even aware of what they're doing. Callous people who throw a lot of empty words at you, trying to force you to do what you don't want to." I thought of Bush when I read all of this, and his entire administration. Parasites that transform the host, indeed, hollow men who lack imagination. And like Oshima, I wish I could just laugh them off.....and I, too, am frightened.