Sunday, March 22, 2009
On a cool spring eve, March 15th, 2009, a bat, crippled and wistful, clung to the Space Shuttle Discovery as it was thrust toward the great beyond. Goodbye and godspeed, my magnificent Spacebat.
Bereft of his ability to fly and with nowhere to go, a courageous bat climbed aboard our Discovery with stars in his weak little eyes. The launch commenced, and Spacebat trembled as his frail mammalian body was gently pushed skyward. For the last time, he felt the primal joy of flight; for the first, the indescribable feeling of ascending toward his dream—a place far away from piercing screeches and crowded caves, stretching forever into fathomless blackness.
Whether he was consumed in the exhaust flames or frozen solid in the stratosphere is of no concern. We know that Spacebat died, but his dream will live on in all of us.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
11 years later, however, I find myself in the midst of another pop culture phenomenon: Cape No. 7, the total body experience. Cape No. 7 is a Taiwanese movie that combines the three things Taiwanese people love most: love stories, pop music, and discussions of national identity. The plot involves two story lines--one between a Japanese man and a Taiwanese woman at the end of the Japanese colonization period, and a present-day love story between a Taiwanese postman and a Japanese concert organizer. Both take place in Hengchun Township, a provincial, beachy area at the southermost part of the island.
The local response to this movie has been nothing short of fanaticism. I have co-workers who have seen it at least four times. Earlier this year, the local news reported that the Hengchun County Post Office received thousands of love letters from movie fans sent to the fabled address, Cape No. 7. Discussing the movie is the equivalent of talking about food or the weather. Everyone likes it, no one argues, we all save face and go home happy. Singing either of the hit songs from the movie (if you're a foreigner, that is) is a guaranteed, no-fail recipe for making Taiwanese friends, especially if you sing it at a KTV (that's Karaoke TV, pan- Asia's favorite weekend hangout.)
Hengchun Township has tried (successfully) to capitalize on Cape No. 7 Fantacism by putting together a Cape No. 7 Tour, where crazed Taiwanese people of all ages drive around Hengchun taking photos at all the sites where the movie was filmed. Hengchun looks exactly like any other provincial area of Taiwan, except with a nicer beach. Just like everywhere else that's not Taipei or Kaohsiung, there are weather-worn houses, stray dogs, lots of scooters and the faint-but-ubiquitous stench of fish. Yet, in spite of its ordinariness, people flocked to Hengchun to take photos of themselves at what appear to be the most mundane sites on the island including but not limited to 7/11, a random house where the main character lived or a shabby old alley. All the postmen trying to deliver mail got mobbed by tourists demanding to get a photo with themselves and a real Hengchun postman.
The following slideshow is from my fellow Fulbrighter Billy and I's trip to Hengchun with his host family and a few of my co-workers. Do you see the mobs of teenagers? Do you understand why they're so excited? Do you see why I'm confused?
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Today, however, one of my little mutes decided to say "I like cake!" during class today, making my heart take a little leap. This was, of course, tempered by the fact that another child cried for the entire class period after being asked to say the same thing.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
You can't make this shit up. I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing.
You've read the book, attended the seminars and pondered the accumulation of surplus value – now see the musical.
Chinese producers are attempting to transform Das Kapital from a hefty treatise on political economy into a popular stage show, complete with catchy tunes and nifty footwork.
Whether Karl Marx would approve of his masterwork being served up as entertainment for China's new bourgeoisie is a matter of speculation. But the director He Nian – best known for his stage adaptation of a martial-arts spoof – has promised to unite elements from Broadway musicals and Las Vegas shows in a hip, interesting and educational play featuring a live band, singing and dancing.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
I accompanied my 70-year-old host parents to a luncheon celebrating the 90th birthday of their priest hoping something absurd would happen, like the birthday celebration actually turning into a secret Jews for Jesus concert. Instead, I got nothing. No exorcisms, no conspiracy theories, not even weird outfits old people think they can get away with wearing but actually can't. NOTHING.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
It's also worth checking out Chinese coverage of the Dalai Lama's speech. Here's a teaser from Xinhua, China's main news agency:
Commentary: For whom is Tibet a "hell on earth"?
www.chinaview.cn 2009-03-10 22:28:56 Print
By Xinhua Writer Zhou Yan
LHASA, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Tuesday is a special date for Tibetans. For the 2.8 million residents in the southwest China autonomous region, it marks 50 years since feudal serfdom was abolished; but for the 14th Dalai Lama and his "government-in-exile," it marks five decades of futile attempts at independence.....
In a speech to mark the 50th anniversary of his exile, the Dalai Lama abruptly shook off his pacifist outlook and smiles to give some gibberish far below the intelligence of the "spiritual leader" himself, and poles apart from truth.
Monday, March 9, 2009
But I take back all the bile--thanks to Sexy Beijing for showing us all how sweet Valentine's Day is in China!
What if she had kept them? Would she keep them in the fridge? In the common room for everyone to enjoy? As a paperweight on her desk?
This episode puts a whole new spin on the "When in Taiwan, do as the Taiwanese do" philosophy.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
on the island. At least one of the schools that host Fulbright English Teaching Assistants has a "Creativity Center" (oh, the irony of building a center for creativity is not lost on me) where either a bunch of teachers plan events to encourage kids to be creative or kids go to be creative, though it's unclear which of these options is actually the purpose of the center. One of my co-workers is apparently working towards a masters degree in "Creativity Studies," but his failure to explain what that actually means makes me suspect that Creativity is some sort of meaningless buzzword in the Taiwanese education field, sort of like "green" or "all-natural" in the United States.