Thursday, November 30, 2017

The best cli-fi novels of 2017

American novelist Amitav Ghosh stirred literary circles up recently with his rebuke to “realist” modes of writing. Where, he asked, is all the fiction about climate change?

Well, it turns out that the answer is ''cli-fi,'' aka climate fiction, which Ghosh was aware of at the time of his writing and even mentioned in his book about climate change, The Great Denouement.  

Genre writing has been exploring the possible futures of climate change for many years, and 2017’s best cli-fi novels engage in powerful and varied ways with precisely that subject. For a list of these novels, check with the cli-fi category in the search windows at and and at the news links at

Paul McAuley, author of cli-fi novel ''AUSTRAL''

Paul McAuley, author of ''AUSTRAL''

SYNOPSIS: The world is still warming, sea levels are still rising, and the Antarctic Peninsula is home to Earth’s newest nation, with life quickened by ecopoets spreading across valleys and fjords exposed by the retreat of the ice. Austral Morales Ferrado, a child of the last generation of ecopoets, is a husky: an edited person adapted to the unforgiving climate of the far south, feared and despised by most of its population.

American novelist Amitav Ghosh stirred literary circles up recently with his rebuke to “realist” modes of writing. Where, he asked, is all the fiction about climate change?

Well, it turns out that the answer is ''cli-fi,'' aka climate fiction, which Ghosh was aware of at the time of his writing and even mentioned in his book about climate change, The Great Denouement.

Genre writing has been exploring the possible futures of climate change for many years, and 2017’s three best novels engage in powerful and varied ways with precisely that subject. Kim Stanley Robinson is the unofficial laureate of future climatology, and his cli-fi novel titled New York 2140 (Orbit), a multilayered cli-fi novel set in a flooded Big Apple, is by any standard an enormous achievement. It is as much a reflection on how we might fit climate change into fiction as it is a detailed, scientifically literate representation of its possible consequences.
Just as rich, though much tighter in narrative focus, is Paul McAuley’s superb cli-fi novel titled  Austral (Gollancz), set in a powerfully realised near‑future Antarctica transformed by global warming.

Why Lost Ice Means Lost Hope for an Inuit Village, a very good and important piece of reporting by NYT James Reston Reporting Fellow intern Livia Albeck-Ripka

RE: From The New York Times:
''Reporters Get New Datelines So They Won’t Seem Out of Place''
The Times is changing how it shows where articles were written, hoping to more clearly convey that “we are on the scene around the world.”

Why Lost Ice Means Lost Hope for an Inuit Village

[Very well-reported and researched by James Reston Reporting Fellow for the New York Times Livia Albeck-Ripka]


Leaning over the handlebars with one knee up on the seat, Derrick Pottle commanded his snowmobile between rocks and sheets of gray sea ice before stopping suddenly at the mouth of a bay.
“It’s open,” Mr. Pottle said, turning off his machine. Ten yards away, the ice had cracked and opened a dark hole in the water that made it impossible to drive across the inlet.
It was Jan. 7, 2017 (when the reporter was not a New York Times employee and paid for the trip through her own funds or a generous un-named media sponsor) unusually late in the season for Mr. Pottle’s first trip to his winter cabin — a few hours drive by snowmobile from his hometown, Rigolet — over what should have been more than 60 miles of frozen trails and solid ice.


[When a New York Times article has an unvetted ''dateline'' that reads  ON SEA ICE NEAR RIGOLET, Labrador —  with a sentence that reads ''that made it impossible to drive across the inlet. It was Jan. 7, unusually late in the season for Mr. Pottle’s first trip to his cabin'' ....does this mean the article was researched and reported and that the reporter was there in Canada on January 7, 2017 (hint, the reporter WAS THERE on that date) and made the toe-touch for the dateline in that time period...OR that the article which was published on November 27 in the NYT was using a quote and research from a trip to Rigolet in January 2017 when the reporter was NOT YET a staff intern at the NYT and was using old file material masquerarding as a current NEW NEWS STORY when in fact at the time of January 7, the reporter was NOT a NYT reporter at all, not even freelance NYT reporter. So in this case, what does the DATELINE mean in November 2017? Did the reporter make a new toe-touch in November for the story and was the reporter using old  information and quotes from older material when that reporter was NOT a NYT reporter? Where does the line be drawn between real datelines and faux datelines and could a bief editor's note or author's note explaining that the early part of the article was researched in January when the reporter was not working for the NYT and who later after being hired by the TImes did some additional research and gathered new quotes from experts for a VERY GOOD NEWS ARTICLE that will stand the test of time. So there is is newsroom Journalism 101 question here about DATELINES and OLD QUOTES from before a reporter was hired by the TIMES.

Your take on this?]


Congratulations to Labrador Institute Director Ashlee Cunsolo and her colleagues in Rigolet, LI Postdoctoral Fellow Robert Way, and LI Research Associate Nat Pollock for their research being featured in the The New York Times today. Great coverage!

Back in January 2017, an amazing freelance journalist, Livia Albeck-Ripka, who was not yet employed as a James Reston Fellowship intern by the New York Times,. her current employer, travelled to Rigolet, Nunatsiavut on her own dime or under the sponsorship of an unnamed and uncredit media outlet to learn about the ways in which climate change is impacting ...Inuit lives, livelihoods, culture, and mental wellness. She spent later last months after returning to NYC researching and writing a great article for her current gig at the NYT, and is now sharing story in the The New York Times. And it is illustrated beautifully by Heather Campbell.
Congratulations to Derrick Pottle (Wendy Pottle), Robert Way, Glenn Albrecht, Harlie Eva Pottle, and Laurence Kirmayer -- it's an honour to be featured alongside you all.
And Nat Pollock, there is a link to your AJPH article.
See More

SEE JACK SCHAFER's take  a few years ago on this topic:

What is a dateline?
First, you have to know what a dateline is -- and what it is not.
The dateline of a news story has important information -- it indicates the city the journalist was in when he or she reported on the story. It also indicates the date the story was filed.
However, the dateline does not indicate the place of publication. For example, an article that was published in a US-based newspaper, website, or TV network was produced in the US for an audience of Americans. It can thus be considered to have the US as its place of publication -- regardless of the dateline. (See example, right).

Dateline - Wikipedia

Toe Touching

Rick Bragg's "Dateline Toe-Touch"

A New York Times writer gets gets caught cutting corners.


and TIME magazine controversy over a dateline with Laurie Goodstein


toe-touch - A Way with Words

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

“氣候小說”看小說認識氣候變遷 TAIWAN NEWS - PRESS RELEASE CONTACT Dan Bloom at



草根影響力新視野 2017/11/15 10:08(2小時前)
草根影響力新視野  喬依絲編譯
Cli-Fi源自於“climate fiction”,意指“氣候小說”,它是由國籍記者 丹布隆 [Dan Bloom in Chiayi City] [] [我就這樣哈上了台灣] 所創造的新術語。這些小說內容雖然都是虛構的,但有趣的是,Cli-Fi a.ka. ''climate fiction'' website 小說通常以可信的方式呈現出真實的科學,能讓讀者了解到真正氣候變遷的科學層面,也因此Cli-Fi小說變成了實用又好玩的教學工具。Cli-Fi小說不乏一些十分著名的作家,例如Paolo Bacigalupi以及Margaret Atwood等。如果您目前不熟悉這種新穎氣候小說類型,也許很快就會跟上,甚至愛上它們喔。

什麼樣的Cli-Fi小說才值得推薦呢? 專門研究氣候監測和可再生能源發電的John Abraham博士則認為,優質的Cli-Fi小說必須具有真實的科學基礎,再者,故事內容必須引人入勝。優質的Cli-Fi小說可以幫助讀者了解未來的氣候走向,或是目前的氣候影響。例如,當地球溫度持續上升,那麼未來幾十年後,世界將變得如何? 農業、沿海區域居民、國際關係等又會受到什麼樣的影響呢? 這些原本很難想像的情景,透過小說的劇情描述,可以讓讀者彷彿身歷其境,對於氣候問題將更能有所感受。

以最近Ashley Shelby所寫關於南極的Cli-Fi著作,書中一位藝術家Cooper Gosling在國家科學基金會的資助下,前往南極的一個研究站點,與研究人員及船員住在一起,進行繪畫創作。透過作者生動的描述,讀者們可以感覺彷彿跟著這位藝術家主人翁待在冰天雪地裡,與同事們擠在一起。


這本書深得John Abraham博士的喜愛,平常博士的生活總是圍繞在科學研究、家庭、孩子、工作之間,忙得沒有閒情逸致靜下心來閱讀虛構小說,但這本書卻是博士十年來第一本不想放下的杜撰小說。書中的幽默內容深具吸引力,同時輕易引導讀者進入科學家的工作領域,值得讚賞的是,故事中的科學內容十分精確,可以讓讀者們輕鬆地一邊看小說、一邊學習到真正的科學知識,而這就是Cli-Fi小說的價值所在。

Reference :
CliFi – A new way to talk about climate change

Monday, November 13, 2017

Over the past decade The Cli-Fi Report has been inspiring many kinds of creatives: filmmakers, poster curators, product commissioners, book collectors, music video producers, academics, editorial arguments, opeds, novelists and film makers.

Over the past decade The Cli-Fi Report has been inspiring many kinds of creatives: filmmakers, poster curators, product commissioners, book collectors, music video producers, editorial arguments, opeds, academics, novelists and film makers.
And The Cli-Fi Report has always been in the pursuit of the same goal – to use creativity in its many forms to take on climate change: by asking people to be more aware of AGW in their own lives, by holding companies, governments or institutions to account and by shedding light on the unsustainable norms of modern life.

The Cli-Fi Report is built on the generosity of hundreds of novelists, film directors, designers, filmmakers, writers, Wikipedia coders and many other brilliant creatives who have given their time to the cli-fi cause. In turn, we want to bring that same spirit of generosity to you, our readers, because the only way that creativity can help save the planet is if people see it. So, with the launch of our new website at The Cli-Fi Report, generously set up for us by some IT people in California and Taiwan, we are building a world here.

Find something that means something to you and take it, and do something with it, we want you to have it.  

Write a novel, make a movie, compose a song, write the lyrics, create a poem, write a play.

Creativity and 'Cli-Fi' in an Evolving World

Creativity and 'Cli-Fi' in an Evolving World

What we do at THE CLI-FI REPORT

Welcome to What we do at THE CLI-FI REPORT, a public service for the planet that uses creativity to tackle climate change.
Founded in the first part of the 21st Century, THE CLI-FI REPORT, has spent the last decade working with a global community of creatives to help produce and market cli-fi novels and movies in English-speaking countries and beyond.

What we do at THE CLI-FI REPORT has inspired more than 25 million people to live more sustainably and dream of a better future.

But with no solution to climate change getting any closer, and with the consequences of that looming ever larger, more needs to be done. Enter THE CLI-FI REPORT

We need to roll up our sleeves and take issue with modern life, challenging all the assumptions and behaviours that lead us to make Earth-unfriendly choices so often.

So that’s what what we do at THE CLI-FI REPORT and there's more to come.

What we do at THE CLI-FI REPORT is to take on the unsustainable status quo, putting the most damaging industries, institutions and traditions in our sights and offering imaginative solutions in their place. Novelists and movie directors are responding. Literary critics, too.

Our goal is to make sustainable choices as desirable as unsustainable ones through compelling creative that is researched rigorously, argued originally and made vivid through powerful novels that speak to readers, films that speak to movie fans and ideas that point to the future.

By looking at life a little differently – at its culture, or behaviour or politics – and offering thoughtful, provocative alternatives, what we do at THE CLI-FI REPORT empowers everyone to live a little more aware of where things stand every day.
Who we are
YOU! WE are YOU!

Read our latest links and see what we do at THE CLI-FI REPORT

Welcome to the gadfly world of cli-fi literary theorist Daniel Halevi Bloom, who does PR for the rising genre and monitors and use (and misuse) in the culture-at-large

This post is currently under construction as it is being written on Asteroid CO2/7/1949. Check back for more updates in the near future. In the meantime, before the Climapocalypse gets underway, check out the Cli-Fi Report at for a quick glimpse of the cli-fi world...

Cli-fi: A Glimpse into the Growing Genre - reposted from the BookBrowse Blog

BookBrowse Blog

Midnight at the Electric

In Midnight at the Electric, it is the year 2065, and teenager Adri is part of a carefully selected group departing Earth forever to live on Mars. Although the story takes place less than 50 years from now, massive planetary destruction has already taken place. As Adri puts it early on, "there's no Miami and hardly any Bangladesh and no polar bears…and they're paying billions of dollars to start a colony on Mars because humans need an exit strategy."

Considered as a standalone indie genre of it own, and not as a subgenre of sci-fi, ''cli-fi'' highlights climate change and its potential ramifications. Although books exploring man-made climate change date back to the '70s, it was only in April 20, 2013 that radio network NPR's  Angela Evancie coined the term "cli-fi." Now, less than decade later, dozens of books fall under the definition of cli-fi, and the genre has seen an explosion in popularity.

What potential does cli-fi have, outside of regular fiction? Like many great works of fiction, cli-fi can be an effective way to offer critiques on society, and the potential destination society is traveling toward. However, many believe that ''climate fiction'' is more powerful than that.

As Sarah Stankorb wrote in an unfact-checked and journalistically sloppy article for Good, cli-fi  makes "the unthinkable more proximate, or even intimate. It lets us into the truth of climate change in a new way, and it provides a new space where we can interrogate the forces that define our culture and changing world" (2016).

Intimacy may be an important word to focus on, here. Data released from the Yale Program on Climate Communication in 2016 shows that while nearly 60% of participants believed that global warming will harm people in the US, only 40% believed that it will hurt them, personally. This shows a lack of connection between the dangers of global warming and individuals' own futures within a world of climate change. But if climate fiction can connect people to the characters who are actually experiencing the devastations of global warming impact events, the audience may feel more empathetic and aware of these dangers. This is especially important in today's political landscape, in a world where the US withdrew from the Paris Agreement in June 2017, and where the setting of Midnight at the Electric seems more likely than not.

So, where does the future of cli-fi lie? With the recent surge in popularity, it is extending beyond books. The subject is being taught at educational institutions like Cambridge, Vanderbilt, and New York University, according to cli-fi literary theorist Dan Bloom; and in an article for The Atlantic, J.K. Ullrich explains how the genre is bringing out real-life change, with the fusion of science, STEM, and cli-fi.

According to Ullrich, cli-fi can help interest students in the sciences, and spark practical responses in reaction to related happenings across the globe. While Midnight at the Electric doesn't focus exclusively on the worrying phenomenon, the greater the number of books that explore potential impacts of AGW, the greater the attention that will hopefully be paid to this global issue.

This article first ran as the "Beyond the Book" feature for Jodi Lynn Anderson's Midnight at the Electric. Every time BookBrowse reviews a book we go "beyond the book" to explore a related topic, such as this article by Erin Szczechowski. Most of these articles are only available to our members, but at any given time, a sampling can be found on our homepage and, from time to time, we reprint one in this blog.

Read any good ‘cli-fi’ recently? This new-ish genre of fiction is an example of cultural response to existential challenges in our changing climate ...

Read any good ‘cli-fi’ recently? This new-ish genre of fiction is an example of cultural response to existential challenges in our changing climate ...

See The Cli-Fi Report at

Sunday, November 12, 2017

'' I LOVE TAIWAN TRAINS'' and other stories about life in Taiwan from the colorful perspective of a Western traveller


Paris marked the "age of the train" with popular train culture show

I always buy three newspapers when I travel by train, the three English newspapers published in taiwan, that is. That way, once the train is moving through the countryside, I can read read read, and catch up on the news! i often feel that train rides for me are part of my professional life as a writer and reporter, because I always need to "catch up on the news." What better way than to spend four hours travelling between Chiayi and Taipie on a summer or winter afternoon, and reading my three favorite newspapers! I am sure you read the newspapers every day, but maybe you missed a special article about trains in France that appeared in the newspapers here in Taiwan last June. In the Taipei Times, it was titled "French Train Expo Draws Crowds." If you missed that news article, let me tell you some background information now: Last May and June 2003, France hosted a month-long open-air exposition on the history of train travel, and actually, I had planned on going to see the show in Paris for a week at the end of May -- on a airplane flight from Taipei to Paris. But I decided not to go because of the ongoing SARS crisis that was still impacting Taiwan. I stayed in Chiayi City and began writing this book! So while I did not travel to France to visit the train expo, I did "watch on the sidelines," that is to say, I read everything I could about the event on the Internet, and while I was not there in person, I felt as if I was there "in cyberspace," as a cyberspace visitor. The train fair was a good idea, good for the economy in PAris, good for train culture in Europe and good for tourism. Perhaps someday a similar train fair can be organized in downtown Taipei, in front of the Presidential Office, or near the CKS Memorial Hall -- or even near the Taipei Train Station area -- as a way of promoting tourism and train culture at the same time. What Taiwan needs is someone like the Frenchman named Gad Weil, who calls himself "an event designer" and was responsible for organizing the month long train show in Paris last year. The French people love trains, of course, and train culture is a big part of French daily life. And last June, on June 1, as part of the train expo in Paris, a handful of lucky people jumped aboard one of the French Railways sleekest and most modern high-speed trains on the famous Champs Elysees avenue. The powerful highspeed train gracefully rumbled down the 1.5 km rail track that had been laid down especially for the fair. And over 250,000 people turned out to see the train moving slowly down the avenue that hot, sunny afternoon, according to news reports I read on the Internet the next day. It was a strange sight, because while the highspeed train is capable of going 300kph, on that day it went just 3kph and took 30 minutes to complete each 1.5km journey for the tourists and train fans. The track was laid down overnight, for just one day. ANd the next day, the track and the train were gone. But not before thousands of people had a chance to see the sight, in person, on TV, in newspapers and on the Internet, and for one bright day in the history of the modern world "train culture" was at the front and center of the French stage. Imagine if some planners in Taiwan could do the same thing for train culture here! Imagine a sleek and beautiful highspeed train moving down some special tracks in front of the Presidential Office area in downtown Taipei, bringing in thousands of local people and tourists to view the show! it's a great idea and I hope that someone reading my book will undertake to do it someday. The French newspapers reported: "An avenue in Paris normally teeming with motor vehicles was, on Sunday, the preserve of pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers and one real-life, full-scale train. The three carriages, with a locomotive at either end, travelled the 1.5 km distance from the Place de la Concorde to a point near the Arc de Triomphe at a leisurely pace." In addition to the June 1 spectacle of a train moving down the historic Champs Elysees, there were other events at the month long fair. There were Futuristic and historic trains on display, including one dating back to 1852. Also lining the Champs-Elysees in May and June last year were early steam engines, a presidential Pullman suite, a cattle truck like those used for transport to the Nazi death camps, and the latest TGV fast train with interiors by fashion designer Christian Lacroix. The French certainly do love their trains. And as someone who certainly does love train travel, too, I hope that more and more Taiwanese people will come to love (and cherish) their trains, too. Yes, Taiwan is a good train country, full of scenic train routes and friendly train conductors! Many young people in Taiwan look toward Japan or the USA as being "cool and fashionable", and it's true, Japan and the USA are interesting countries with interesting cultures. But Taiwan is a great country, too, and it has its own unique culture, and train culture is part of it, and Taiwanese young people should also look deeply into their own country and feel proud to be Taiwanese! {I wrote that in my first book, and I wrote that same thing in my second book, and I will write that again in my fourth book, even as I write it here once again in my third book in Taiwan: "Taiwan is a great country, and it has its own unique culture, and Taiwanese young people should also look deeply into their own country and feel proud to be Taiwanese!") [Note to readers: After every book has been published I have received many emails from readers saying, basically: "Thank you, Dan Bloom, for loving Taiwan. Thank you for loving my country as much as you do and for writing your books about why you love Taiwan. You are right, Dan Bloom, we Taiwanese should love our country more! Thank you for reminding us of that!"] The month-long show in Paris was created to celebrate 150 years of the French railway. It was a public relations success and certainly the kind of train show that Taiwan can put on someday in the future. The show ran from May 17 to June 15, and was the latest idea of events designer Gad Weil, who filled the Champs-Elysees with airoplanes in 1998, and in 1990 transformed it into a giant wheatfield in a promotion for French agriculture. "The aim is to get some contact with our customers and show them the past and the future of French railway," a public relations spokesman told a French TV reporter. As well as being a magnet for tourists and nightclub-goers, the eight-lane Champs-Elysees attracts large crowds every year for the July 14 Bastille Day military parade and for the last lap of the Tour de France cycle race. Antique trains taken from the national railway museum and parked along the avenue included the heavyweight Buddicom St Pierre, which was built in 1844, as well as the 1852 Crampton steam-engine that used to run between Paris and Strasbourg at 120km an hour. The "Capital Train Exhibition" featured 28 trains, including an 1829 steam engine. Prototypes for the next generation of France's famous TGV express trains were also on show, as well as a "tram-train" designed to run on both railway lines and urban tramways and due to come into operation in 2005. Many volunteers helped with the show on June 1, when the highspeed train moved down the Champs Elysees. Their job was to move with the train and keep the track clear of the crowds. One old man, 80 years old, told CNN on TV that he was proud to be taking part in the show as a volunteer and said: "I never thought I'd ever see anything like this, on the Champs-Elysees! This is fantastic, nothing like this will ever happen again in France!" Maybe nothing like that will ever happen again in France, but if planners and tourism officials in Taiwan get together, form a committee and start making plans now for a "Taiwan Train Exposition" in Taipei in, say, the year 2010 -- it could happen here, too. ================== ================== Taking your pet dog on a train in taiwan is possible! If you want to take a dog or a cat or a pet bird on the trains in Taiwan, it is possible. But you must put the animals in a cage and they must be placed in a special baggage car that is reserved for motorcycles, mail and other kinds of rail shipments. You cannot take a dog on the train with you, and have him sit on the seat next to you! Impossible! I mention this item of dog news in relationship to trains, because I want to talk about how books about dogs have recently become popular in Taiwan. and I think it is a good thing. Dogs make good pets, and as more and more Taiwanese keep dogs as pets, it's good for the national lifestyle. Dogs are man's best friends. Cats and pet birds, too. Recently, photo book collections and nonfiction books about dogs have been quietly growing in popularity in Taiwan, with several books imported and translated from the USA and Japan, according to publishing industry sources in Taipei. Several bookshops around the island have planned fairs exclusively around dog-related books, and some stores have enlarged the shelf-space allocated to displaying these books. An employee at one book publisher said, "Many people are seeking affection and peace of mind through dogs, at a time when they are being inundated by gloomy topics including SARS and Iraq and the long-continuing economic recession." In Japan, for example, the Sanseido book shop in Tokyo has increased its stock of dog books from 150 to 300 recently. Similarly, major bookstores in Taipei have also doubled the number of dog books they sell to around 80 titles, and have reportedly seen sales of the books rise by 20 percent compared to last year. One book that has been translated into Chinese for the Taiwan market and done well here has been reprinted three times already. The nonfiction story "Shokuin kaigi ni deta Kuro," written by 80-year-old Kaizo Fujioka, tells the tale of a guard dog at Matsumotofukashi High School in Nagano Prefecture. Set over 12 years from 1960, the story portrays the dog's interactions with the students and staff, even to the point where the dog becomes registered on the school staff list. The book has sold 50,000 copies islandwide and will be made into a film in Japan soon and then released here in Taiwan as well. Fujioka, who previously taught at the school, says: "Amid all the cheerless news, I think the heartwarming stories and innocent expressions of animals, including Tama-chan the seal, are gaining great popularity." Another book from Japan that has been translated into Chinese for the Taiwan market is "Modoken kuiru no issho," written by Kengo Ishiguro and published by Bungei Shunju Co. It tells the story of the interaction between a guide dog and people and has sold over 500,000 copies in Japan in the past two years. Ishiguro, 43, says: "Nowadays it's difficult to form trusting relationships with other people. However, animals will return 100 percent of the affection you show them. I think many people are seeking, through their pets, to reaffirm these ties that are slipping away." Do you own a dog? Did you ever have a dog as a household pet? I did. A very long time ago, when I was a little boy of 5 years old growing up in America, my family had a small pet dog. His name was Delta. I loved Delta the way a litte boy loves a pet: with all my heart. Delta was more than just a dog to me. Delta was my friend, my confidante, my adviser, my consultant, my psychiatrist, my "brother." Yes, I loved Delta so much. I would often "talk" to Delta, just me and him together sitting on the stairs on my parents' house, and I would tell Delta all my personal problems about school and family. Delta would listen, bark, nod his head or shake his head, depending on his mood, and then he would "speak" back to me in "dog talk" and explain to me the mysteries of family life and school work! DElta was a great dog, a smart dog, a kind and loving dog, and my best friend! One day, when I was six years old, Delta disappeared from our home. I ask my mother where Delta was and she said: "Delta has died. We took her to the hospital last night and she is dead now!" I cried for a week, for a month, for a very long time, and even now, as i reach middle-age, I still shed a tear now and then in memory of my first animal friend, the great and wonderful Delta! I am sure that if you have pet dog or cat or bird, you love them too. Animals have an important part to play in the lives of human beings, and here in Taiwan, too, as pets and friends and households buddies. "You cannot bring your dog on the train with you in Taiwan," a railway worker named Mr Chen told me at the Chiayi train station recently, when I wanted to bring my dog "Senaga" with me on a trip to Pintung. "Pets are not allowed in the passenger carriages. I am sorry." "So how can I bring Senaga to visit his first owner Miss Dong in Pintung?" I asked. "You must bring Senaga in a cage to the bagage deparment in the shipping department of the train station, and then you must sign some documents and pay a fee for shipping the dog to Pingtung. And you must ride on the same train as the dog, in order to make sure everything is okay, when the train arrives in Pintung," Mr Chen explained to me. So a few weeks later, after I called Miss Dong and told her that I was going to bring Senega with me to visit her in Pintung, we boarded a train from Chiayi to Pintung, passing through Kaohsiung, of course, and when we arrived in Pintung, Senaga was so happy to see his first owner Miss Dong (and she was so happy to see Senaga face to face after a very long absence!) that all I could do was watch and shed a happy misty tear or two for the two happy beings -- a happy dog and a happy woman! I was just a witness, and I wrote the episode down in my notebook. Yes, dogs are wonderful pets, and Senaga, who now lives in my CHiayi apartment with me and my house-mate Tino, is one of the best. He looks like this: PHOTO HERE! If you have a story about your pet, please email me and tell me. I love to hear pet stories. Just send your email in Chinese or English to: ============== ============= Model railroads can be a lot of fun for kids and adults! In America, where young people and adults like to pursue hobbies related to trains, such as building and running model railroads in their homes orschools, there is a national association called the National Model RailRoad Association and this group calls the hobby of model railroading "the World's Greatest Hobby." When I was a child growing up in Boston, I had simple hobbies, like stamp colleting and coin collecting, and I never became a model railroad hobbyist. But I often saw model railroads at stores and at schools, and I always admired the way the miniature trains ran on the miniature tracks. At the Pei Men Station in CHIAYI CIty, there is a small miniature railroad exhibit set up in the lobby of the station where you can see a small toy train going around in circles as it runs along a miniature tracks that looks like the Alishan railroad track. I've often stood inside the station, which is near my home, and watched the small Alishan hobby train go around and around. It must be the small boy inside me that still gets excited about trains! Last year, when I attended the Taipei International Book Exhibition in the World Trade Center, I visited a book booth set up by a publisher in taipei that publishes many books about trains and train culture. Inside the book booth, there was a miniature train set up on a small track and one of the workers at the booth was running the train for people to watch. I stopped at this booth and asked the manager if I could run the small train for a while, just to try it out. He said, sure, no problem. So there I was, a make-believe train conductor at the book fair running a small miniature back and forth on its track. I felt like a little boy again, a big little boy, and I was happy. I was very happy! Trains make me happy. In America, model railroads are popular and it;s a popular hobby for young and old alike. The website for the National Model Railroads Association in the USA says that you should become a "model railroader" or join a club -- here in Taiwan, too -- if: 1. You like trains. 2. You have built, are building, or would like to build a model railroad in your home or school. 3. You need information and advice about trains or train culture. 4. You have information and talents that you would like to share with others around the country or around the world and who share your interest in trains. The National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) in the USA is the largest organization in the world devoted to the development, promotion, and enjoyment of the hobby of model railroading. The NMRA was founded in the USA in 1935 in order to provide a service to the hobby of model railroading. I'd like to introduce Taiwanese readers to model railroading. But one thing you need to know is that a model railroad takes space, time, and money. So you need space in your home or school to pursue this hobby. You will also need plenty of leisure time or spare time. And you will need some money to get started, too. Here are ten tips to get started as a model railroad hobbyist in Taiwan: 1. Read. No single magazine article can cover every aspect of modeling in enough depth to give a beginner the background to build a model railroad. Fortunately there are many books that go into detail on track planning, scenery, wiring, and other topics. If you become interested in real railroads, there are thousands of books that cover specific railroads, locomotives, freight and passenger cars, and other particulars. The Internet can also be useful for your research about how to get start in model railroading. 2. Start small. It's easy to get caught up in thinking that you need to have a large layout to have fun in the hobby, but that's not the case. 3. Visit a hobby shop in Taipei, Taichung, Hsinchu or Kaohsiung. Browsing through a well-stocked shop will give you many ideas. You'll see the wide range of products available in the various scales, including structures and detail items as well as the trains themselves. You'll be able to see models of trains from several eras in many road names and paint schemes, which will help you determine if you'd like to model a specific railroad, era, or area. Talking to a knowledgeable clerk and other hobbyists will provide more ideas and guidance. 4. Design your own train set. If you haven't acquired a train set, consider putting your own together. An oval of track with a couple of turnouts and a few extra track sections will allow you to experiment with various track arrangements. 5. Get the trains off of the floor. It can be fun to run trains on the floor, but carpeting and scale model trains don't go together. Carpet fuzz and cat hair can damage locomotive mechanisms, and it's too easy to step on miniature trains left on the floor. If you want the trains to operate well, get them onto a table or board. This also makes it easier to try various track arrangements as well as add structures, signs, and other details. 6. Stay active. Don't just dream or get caught sitting in your armchair waiting for the perfect space for a layout -- do something! Regardless of the space you have available you can put together a freight car or structure kit for a future layout. Also, if your first efforts aren't what you'd hoped for, try again. As with any physical activity, many model railroading skills take time and practice to become proficient. 7. Start with a published track plan. If you're beginning to plan your first "real" layout, start with a plan from a book or magazine. Keep things simple at first: a loop of track (to allow continuous running) and a few sidings and spurs will provide lots of action. 8. Get a basic tool kit. If you plan to do much modeling, you'll need a few tools that you might not already have. Basic tools include a hobby knife, a set of jeweler's screwdrivers, needlenose pliers, needle files, fine tweezers, and a scale rule. 9. Try adding some Taiwan scenery. More than anything else, scenery turns a group of toys into a realistic scene, so it's worth the effort. 10. Have fun. Remember one of the main reasons to have a hobby is have fun, and the only person you have to really please is yourself. There are several clubs at universities and high schools around Taiwan that focus on trains and model railroads. If you cannot find a club or group near your home, check the Internet and I am sure you will find some people who want to share their love of trains with you. Imagine this: in your home or office, you have constructed a miniature train version of the Chiayi train station, or the Alishan train station, or the Taipei to Ilan route, or the Hualien to Taitung route, maybe even the Hsinchu to Neiwan route. There are many scenes and routes to choose from in taiwan. And of course, the best thing is to travel by train as much as possible and seek out new routes and new adventures every time you go somewhere by train. Model railraoding is a fun hobby, of course, but the best thing is the "real thing" -- that is to say, get on a train today and start travelling! ===================== ======================

Sunday newspaper column turns foreign writer into Sunday newspaper column turns foreign writer into Taipei city fan! Two years ago, when I was asked by a local Chinese-language newspaper in Taipei , the Liberty TImes, to write a bi-weekly column titled "A Foreigner's View of Taipei," -- LAO WEI KAN TAIPEI -- I said yes because I wanted to reach a local audience in their own language. Readers would be Taipei residents, people born and raised here, and it would be interesting to communicate with them in Chinese (the articles were translated for me by the newspaper). -- DAN BLOOM In my newspaper column titled LAO WEI KAN TAIPEI I wrote about the things tha I liked in Taipei, the places I enjoyed visiting and various people I encountered on my daily adventures in the capital city. I discussed why I liked to eat stinky dofu and fried crickets, why I enjoyed visiting Daoist shrines and Buddhist temples and found Taiwan's religious culture to be just as interesting and profound as Western religious myths and legends. And at the end of each column, I printed my email address and invited readers to write to me in either Chinese or English. The reason was simple: I wanted to know how my viewpoints were perceived by Taipei residents and I considered the feedback part of the column-writing process. It was a fun assignment, writing the 12 columns that eventually found their way into print, and the feedback turned out to be invaluable. For example, when I wrote one column about how some Taiwanese friends turned me on to stinky tofu at the Shihlin Night Market when I first landed on the island five years ago, several readers said they were "astonished" to learn that a foreigner actually liked stinky tofu and didn't take the normal "I can't stand this smell or taste" attitude that so many overseas visitors seemed to profess. One e-mail said, in part: "It is comforting to hear a foreigner speak in positive tones about chou-dofu, since what I usually hear from my foreign friends in that the dish is unspeakably atrocious. Thank you for having an open mind about different foods in different cultures. I believe this is a good way to deal with stinky dofu, although of course, it is not for everyone -- even some Taiwanese don't particularly like it." When, in another column, I wrote that I liked living in Taipei and found the city to be alive and exciting, a reader sent me an e-mail that read, in part: "It's nice to know that a foreigner acutally enjoys living in Taipei, despite all the major urban problems we have here, such as air pollution and traffic congestion and noise and garbage and crowded sidewalks. When a foreigner says he really likes living in Taipei and finds it to be a kind of 'urban paradise' -- as you wrote last Sunday in your column -- it gives me more confidence and pride in my own native city. Thanks, and I hope you continue to enjoy living in this great city!" In one column I mentioned that my apartment was in a quaint section of town called "Little Tokyo," where a small grid of narrow streets and alleys turned the neighborhood along Linsen North Road into a picturesque and romantic area after the sun went down. Several readers wrote to me to say that they had never visited "Little Tokyo" and had been warned by their parents not to go there at night in particular, since it had the reputation in earlier days of being a red-light district full of bar girls and gangsters. "Now, however, having read your column in the local paper, I feel I want to visit 'Little Tokyo' myself and look around," said one e-mail response. "It's funny that it takes a foreigner to tell me about a new place in my own native city that is full of energy and romance, but since you say it is now safe to walk around 'Little Tokyo' at night (or any other time of day), I plan to go there next weekend with some friends. I think many people in Taipei have heard of that neighborhood, but have been afraid to go there because of all the old stories. Your point of view, and focus on the positive aspects of that little neighborhood, was refreshing." One letter I received in response to my series of columns came from a Taipei dentist named Derek Chen who had studied dentistry in Boston at Tufts University and had practiced there for 15 years before returning to Taiwan. He wrote: "I see you are from Boston so I want to tell you that I surely love Boston, too. Of course, I also like Taipei, even though many people here badmouth it. I was educated in Boston and graduated from Tufts Dental School in 1985. Then I spent the next 11 years practicing dentistry in Massachusetts, until 1996 when I relocated to Taipei and continued my dental practice here. I'd like to say two things here: first, thank you for giving a fair, unbiased opinion about Taiwan in your Sunday columns, and second, it is so nice to get to know someone in print from Boston, a beautiful city where I stayed almost 15 years." And then Dr. Chen added: "By the way, are you related by any chance to a dentist in Boston named Dr. Henry Bloom?" I wrote back to him by e-mail and told him that no, I was not related to Dr. Henry Bloom of Boston. Many of the e-mails I received by readers of my column told me that reading about a foreigner who took a positive view of Taipei life, accentuating the good points and refusing to dwell on the negative things, made them feel more proud of their city. Such letters in turn made me better understand that foreigners who come here to live and work and spend much of their time complaining and whining about Taipie life end up giving local residents the impression that Taipei is an ugly, overcrowded city with substandard services. When a foreigner comes out and says that he or she actually likes living in Taipei and finds the city stimulating and exciting, many local residents are surprised since they often hear only complaints and whining from their foreign friends. Writing the column gave me a new insight into how Taipei residents see their own city, and I treasured the e-mail feedback I got every two weeks. Although my column-writing days are over, I have saved the e-mails I received in a special file marked "Long Live Taipei." I hope to add to it soon. Yes, I find Taipei to be a great international city with a unique atmosphere worth championing both at home and abroad. Okay, maybe I am wearing rose-colored glasses, what's wrong with that?

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DAN BLOOM SNG TAIWAN (new book chapters) Air raid drills always make me think about war! When I ride the trains in Taiwan, there is plenty of time to nap and daydream. But sometimes I think about serious things, too. For example... Whenever there is an air raid drill in Taiwan, I am reminded very dramatically of the very real threat of a future military attack by mainland China against the small island nation of Taiwan. In the USA, of course, we don't experience these air raid drills, so when I first came to Taiwan in 1996 and experienced my first air raid drill here I was very very surprised. I was especially surprised and shocked because I didn't know what was happening at first when I heard the loud sirens in Chiayi City telling everyone to stop driving their cars and motorcycles and get off the roads. For a moment, in the beginning, I thought it was a real military attack from China! I began sweating and I became afraid, nervous. "O my God," I said to myself. "What is happeneing here?" Now of course I have experienced many air raid drills in Taiwan, when I lived in Taipie and Taoyuan and now in Chiayi too. When the newspapers report "The hustle and bustle of Taipei City streets and traffic were cleared and silence pervads the city during the thirty-minute annual air raid drill" I remember vividly that first air raid drill I ever experienced in Taiwan, six years ago. I am still not really used to them! But I know they are important and they make me think of how fragile life is on this island, with a big angry neighbor like communist CHINA on the mainland often making threats against this free, democratic country! Sometimes I hate CHINA! And yes, if CHINA ever attacks Taiwan, I will stay here and fight the Chinese Communists, too. I will defend Taiwan, too. I hate communism! I love freedom! The annual air raid exercises are a normal event for most Taiwanese since the air raid drills have a long history dating back to 1978. But for many foreign residents, -- Dan Bloom too!!! -- the air raid drills are a rare experience. Some foreigners even panic and think that another big earthquake has occured somewhere on the island. "I didn't know why the trains were on hold for thirty minutes, and I had thought it might be another earthquake that's happened. It was a sudden event, and I saw most people hesitating for a moment trying to gauge what's going on, but later they were all obedient to the instructions, " a Swiss student studying Chinese in Taipei, told a newspaper reporter recently when he experienced his first air raid drill in Taiwan a few years ago. "I have never seen an air raid exercise like this in my country where police officers and rescue workers are all mobilized in the practice," he said . He added, however, that similar exercises held in Switzerland would be for occurrences such as a nuclear accident or fire-fighting drills. An American citizen from California, who had also been held in the MRT station because of the temporary service stoppage, told a newspaper reporter that "in the United States, we might have an air raid drill or nuclear accident exercise, but they don't shut everything down like that, and suspend motor vehicle driving. They might just do the horn to alarm people. I also wondered if it was an earthquake that caused everything to stop." The drill is geared to bolster the public's anti-war response capabilities for a possible air raid, according to the government. Air raid drills have been held regularly in Taiwan since 1978. For me, whenever I hear those air-raid sirens blasting noisily in the midafternoon air, I immediately think that the Chinese army is sending missiles over to attack Taiwan, and I become momentarily scared. yes, it's true. But I will tell you one thing: if China ever does attack taiwan, I will stay here and fight with you! I will not return to the USA or go to safe place. If China attacks Taiwan, I will help defend Taiwan, too. Even though I am not taiwanese, I will defend this country against those communist mind-controlled jerks! YES! ============================ =============================== tAIPEI High school holds wedding-themed graduation CEREMONY One part of railroad culture in Taiwan is that couples getting married often pose for photographs for their wedding book in front of famous train stations or along romantic train tracks in Hsinchu, CHiayi, Tainan or Kaohsiung. I have often been riding my bicycle in Chiayi on a summer afternoon when suddenly I am surprise to see a camera crew photographing a handsome young man and a beautiful young woman alongside the Pei Men Station train tracks in Chiayi. yes, train and train tracks are romantic parts of our culture, in the USA, in Taiwan, all around the world. These thougts lead me to this story: I read in the newspaper recently that Yungchun Senior High School in Taipei held a very unusual kind of graduation ceremony for its graduating seniors. It is the kind of news story that puts a smile on my face and I think you will enjoying hearing about this unqiue graduation ceremony ,too. High school is a very important time period in a person's life, and this is just as true in Amercia as in Taiwan. When we are the age of high school students, we are at a time in life when our brains are full of creative thoughts and important ideas. It is when we become adults and start making our dreams come true. So social commentators have even asked: "Is there life after high school?" Since high school is that time of life when we first start dreaming about our future lives and the kind of work we will do. It is also the time in life when some of us first fall in love, when we make very good friends with our classmatese that can last a life and when he meet teachers who often have deep impact on our lives. Yes, for me, too, high school days in Boston was the first time I fell in love (her name was Barbara), the first time I began thinking seriously about becomign a writer and the time when I had some very good teachers in classes such as world history, literature and social relations in society. The seniors at Yungchun Senior High School in Taipei recently celebrated their graduation with a ceremony that had a wedding theme! Yes, the principal of the school, Principal Chu Tsan-huang, had a very creative idea: to hold a graduation ceremony that was like a wedding. In the center of the graduation ceremony hall, there was a large "double happiness" sign, something always found at weddings. Principal Chu Tsan-huang wore a traditional Chinese long robe and jacket, playing the role of "Mandarin Chu." The students who were graduating were excited by the unique ceremony and will probably remember it for the rest of their lives. It was not the usual BORING graduation ceremony that many high schools offer. It was full of creativity and imagination and high spirits. With the same emotions as if he was giving his daughter away in marriage, Principal Chu Tsan-huang expressed the hope that he was delivering his 673 graduating seniors to the front gates of their universities. Principal Chu Tsan-huang told students and parents at the ceremony that Yungchun High School had already made plans to place 91 of its graduates in universities, either by special recommendation or application. This will, he said, give these students some activities to do in the coming months, and on the other hand he hopes they will bring good fortune to the other graduates, and let them "hit the top of the charts" in the placement tests in July. That way, "happiness will be heaped on top of happiness," Principal Chu Tsan-huang said. As the ceremony began, several "matchmakers," each representing a different classroom, led the students into the auditorium. The students, dressed as brides and grooms, accepted the congratulations of Principal Chu Tsan-huang. Cloth hangings decorated with lucky Chinese characters hung from the two sides of the stage; one said, "May you be happy to the end of your days" and the other had "Fly high for 10,000 years." Principal Chu Tsan-huang should get a special award from the government for using his imagination in such a useful way. The students had a wonderful day , with wonderful memories, and their parents also had fun at the ceremony, too. This kind of gradaution ceremony makes education more interesting. Is there life after high school? Yes, there is -- a wonderful, fascinating amazing life! ANd thanks fo Principal Chu Tsan-huang, 673 Taiwanese high school graduates have a memory that will last a lifetime. Long live Principal Chu Tsan-huang in Taipei! ANd I hope other principals around the island will use their creativity and imaginations in the future, too. ==================== ==================== 6. I want to make a proposal to add more hours to the day in Taiwan! Time is very important to most people in Taiwan, and there is even a popular saying that "time is money." THis is also true in America: "time is money!" In every modern country, people feel that time is imporant and that they don't have enough time. So I have a proposal, which I would like to make here. Perhaps the Ministry of TRansportation and Communications of the ROC government can use my idea. i hope so! I proposed this idea to the US government also, about 10 years ago. The US government is still studying my proposal and has not made a decision yet. My proposal is this: instead of using a clock that measures time in 24 hours per day, with each hour lasting for 60 minutes .... there are therefore 1,440 minutes in each day .... I propose that Taiwan create a new way to measure time by using a new clock that divides the day into 32 hours, with each hour lasting for 45 minutes instead of 60 minutes. In this way, people in Taiwan would have MORE hours each day to work, to sleep, and to play, to read books and go to the movies. And time will go by quicker, too, since each hour will only have 45 minutes in it! I call this way of measuring time the "Dan Bloom Global Time-Adding Clock" and I have already patented the idea with the US Patent AGency in Washington DC. I hope Taiwan will use my idea to give people more time each day. Of course, watchmakers in Japan and Switzerland will have to create new watches and clocks, but that is an easy thing to do. The important thing is to give people around the world, and especially in Taiwan, more time each day by creating a 32-hour day. Just imagine how much more work you can get done every day, and how much more time you have to play and sleep every day, too! I have already heard some feedback about my wonderful proposal. The editor of a newspaper in Taipei wrote to me after I proposed my idea in a letter to the editor: "dear Dan Bloom, You are a genius! I read in the newspapers here in Taiwan last year that you are a distant cousin to ALbert Einstein, and it's true, you look like him with your grey hair and receding hairline on top of your high forehead, and your nose and your eyes reseemble Einstein too. But even more important, you are a genius DAN BLOOM! Just like Einstein, you are intersting in solving the problems of time! And your idea to create a way of measuring time that divides the day into 32 45-minute hours, instead of just 24 60-minute hours, is marvelous! I hope that the taiwan government agencies will listen to your proposal and create such a clock soon. Even I myself, as the editor of a daily entertainment newspaper in Taiepi, I don't have enough time in the day to do all the things I want to do. Your new proposal is perfect for Taiwan and good for the humanity! I support you 100% and wish you good luck in selling your idea to the the United Nations and the 195 busy countries of the world!" Sincerely, C.C. Lin Taipei ======================== ========================= 50 Japanese words that are popular in Taiwan: take the quiz and see if you know any of these words!!! I lived in Japan for 5 years from 1991-1996, where I worked for a large English newspaper company as an editor. I enjoyed my life and my work in Tokyo and had a wonderful time there, and made many friends with Japanese people there. Japan is a very interesting country, yes! Since coming to Taiwan in 1996, I want to tell you something interesting: I speak japaense every day here! Yes, every day I speak at least a few words of Japanese adn sometimes many words of japanese. When I speak to old people in Taiwan, we often have a conversation in Japanese, since I cannot speak Chinese very well yet and they cannot speak English very well. But with japanese, we have a common language. SO I find that speaking Japanese is very useful and convenient in Taiwan, for a foreigner like me. I might even say that Japanese is the unofficial second language of this country , with teenagers saying "konichiwa" and "chotto matte" and the old folks remembering the "sumimasen" and "arrigato gozaimashita" of the past. From school kids to college students, from pop singers to grandparents, certain Japanese words and phrases have become a part of the Taiwan soundscape, repeated again and again on TV ads for food products, mobile phones and motor scooters -- voice-overs, dubbed dialogues, subtitles on the little screen. Slip in the occasional Japanese phrase in a Taiwanese pop song and you've got a likely hit on your hands: "watashi, anata, aisheteru, kimochi, koibito." It's cool, it's fashionable, it's "nihongo." Here is an informal list of Japanese words and phrases that I have compiled and that I feel are used every day in Taiwan by young people and old people. There are more words, and if you know them, please tell me by email. These words have a permanent place in Taiwanese hearts and minds. Memorize the list below and you'll be ready to fly to Osaka or Tokyo tomorrow -- or even a short trip to "Little Tokyo" in Taipei on Linsen North Road where you'll be able to converse with piano bar hostesses, aging ojians, sushi chefs and Taiwanese romantics. Here is Dan Bloom's list of useful Japanese words and phrases for Taiwan people: chotto matte [CHINESE TRANSLATION HERE] sumimasen " otosan okasan arigato sayonara oshibori onigiri wasabi sake tempura oden toraku ohaiyo hai ichiban kirei kimochi kimochi walui autobai office lady takoyaki tako sushi sashimi kaban kanban CM atama shoto atama congree bakayaro! kawaii karaoke nakashi sokka genki ojisan obasan mama-san kukei massaji sensei AV tatami oishii, neh gomenasai okanjo shabu-shabu teppanyaki nigiri sushi watashi anata wakaranai toraku Do you know any more interesting Japanese words that are used here in Taiwan almost every day? If you do, please tell me in an email at: Arrigato! ========================= ========================= ================= ================= Warning: movie seats can harm your health? Some day, if the people who plan and design Taiwan's trains see things in a positive way, there will be small movie screens installed on the back seaets of train seats all across taiwan, and travellers will be able to watch popular movies, both taiwan movies and foreign films, from the comfort of their train seats... Is this a good idea? yes it is. And it brings me to this story, which I want to tell you now: First there was the news that long commerical airplane flights can cause some people to die from what has been called the "econony class syndrome" -- sitting too long in an uncomfortable airplane seat with little leg room and cramped conditions. Now comes a new warning that could impact the way we watch movies in Taiwan: movie seats may be dangerous to your health! Yes, Diane Burns, a teacher's aide in Australia who was unaware that movie theater seats there retracted, has won a legal case against Hoyts cinemas in Sydney after hurting herself during a trip to the movies. According to legal experts, the win could force cinemas, theaters, sports stadiums and even the National Theater at CKS Memorial Hall to warn the Taiwan public of the possible dangers of their seating systems. I am not making this up. The story appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald a while back and has been making the email rounds internationally. Described by the newspaper as "not a regular filmgoer", Burns won a legal appeal for a negligence lawsuit against Hoyts Cinemas in a judgement handed down in February. The teacher's aide had been on an outing to a cinema with two disabled children and another teacher in March 1997. While sitting down in the cinema, the that Burns she was caring for became rowdy. What to do? Burns said she got up to calm him down, unaware, she claims, that her seat retracted after she left it. When she went to sit back down she crashed with the seat's metal support structure and injured her tailbone and lower spine. Oops! Lawsuit time! In the original ruling in February 2000, a judge said that cinema seats were not inherently dangerous and that it was not unreasonable for the cinema chain to expect customers to be aware that they retracted. And the absence of warning signs was irrelevant, the judge ruled. In addition, an expert called at the trial noted there were no Australian standards covering movie theater design, but that seats were normally in the upright position and were used for easy access. However, in the appeal ruling, a new judge said that Burns might have acted differently had she first "been warned of the dangers associated with the retraction of the seats." Got that, movie patrons? There's more. "The display of a warning to patrons in the foyer before entering the cinema and in the cinema was a simple matter," the judge said, even suggesting that the sign might say: "Take care. Seats retract automatically. Ensure your seat is down before you sit." While the exact monetary value of the ruling is still being worked out in the Australian courts, the impact of Burns' legal victory could have repercussions worldwide, where movie seats often retract automatically, too. Even here in Taiwan. So don't worry about people talking on cellphones or noshing on noisy cellophane-wrapped food while you're watching your favorite new movie at the local multiplex here in taiwan. Just make sure your seat is down when you get up -- and up when you sit down =============== =================== New Chiayi RR station pocket park makes heading for Alishan more fun Call it public art meets white cobblestone sidewalks, and throw in pinch of Taiwan's early Japan-era railroad history for nostalgia buffs. Yes, Pei Men Station in southern Chiayi City has had an artistic facelift designed by a team of creative urban planners, and travellers headed by train to Alishan on the famous narrow-guage railway now have a new jumping off point to prepare for their day trip to the mountains. Come early before your little red train (it's only four quaint coaches long, folks, with an engine sometimes pushing you or pulling you) departs and enjoy the local sights, stroll around the grounds of the nearby public library with its spacious reading room with English newspapers and magazines readily available, nosh on some local delicacies at an adjacent food court or just sit in the shade and contemplate where you are headed. Alishan, of course, is a fabled local legend, a travel destination that really is something to write home about (especially if you're lucky enough to see the early morning sunrise in all its pristine glory in a clear and cloudless dawn), and travellers across the island have their own Alishan stories. The new Pei Men Station offers Alishan trekkers a new way to experience the perimeters of Chiayi City, and its location just two kilometers from the main Chiayi Railway Station makes it a convenient staging area for tour buses, backpackers and travellers staying overnight in one of the city's small but comfortable hotels. "The new Pei Men Station was designed to give Chiayi a more contemporary flair," says Pier Lin, a spokesman for the Chiayi city government. "The designers, an urban planning team from a Kaohsiung university, have tried to create a restful sightseeing and picture-taking area near the libary and cultural center in order to make the Alishan trip more memorable." "Some splendid public art has been set up in the station's new pedestrian park on the opposite side of the train tracks, with Aboriginal and contemporary themes mixed in for effect," Lin adds. "With the new artwork and pedestrian walkways, Pei Men Station rivals almost any small, rural station on the island. Walking through the area is now like taking a stroll back in time, with images and icons of the old Japanese railroading days for all to see. It's a great place for children, it's great for group photos and pre-Alishan lounging around and even locals are finding the new park area to be one of Chiayi's newest secrets. The old-style street lamp-posts with the railroad engines numbers on them gives the Pei Men Station a nostalgic look, almost like a contemprary musuem with hints of the old days thrown in for effect. It's an architectural triumph, in a quiet, understated Chiayi kind of way. This isn't Taipei, after all." The Alishan Forestry Railway is one of three mountain railroads left in the world, according to Lin, and it rivals the narrow-guage railroad that takes tourists up a scenic route in the Alaskan mountains, from the port of Skagway in southeastern Alaska to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. For train buffs curious about statistics, the Alishan rails are 762 mm wide, according to Lin, and the grade is 6.25 percent. Pei Men Station, the second station on the line following departure from Chiayi's main station, lies at an altitude of 31 meters above sea level, with the train climbing over a three-hour period to an elevation of some 2,270 meters. Tourists have been making the train trip since 1984, Lin said, and the new Pei Men Station and adjacent park are intended to serve as a shot in the arm to the government's international tourism campaign. Lin, who was born in Chiayi and speaks fluent English, notes that the Alishan railway was built by the Japanese early during the Japanese colonial period in Taiwan and was originally intended as a logging road, to get timber out of some of the most inaccessible areas in the Central Mountain Range. Today, the railroad is a seven-day-a-week tourist draw, carrying travellers from around the world -- and locals from across the island on groups trips and school excursions -- to the rugged Ali Mountain area. Lin, who has taken the trip by train many times, notes that the train passes through around 50 tunnels and crosses more than 75 bridges on its journey up and down the southern part of the Central Mountain Range. "The new park uses some elements of railroading history here in Taiwan for the benefit of train buffs and train-spotting fanatics," Lin says. "The number 26 that appears on the new old-fashioned lamp-posts signify to the engine number of a famous steam train that used to make the daily trip up the mountains. Railroad buffs in America call them 'shays,' so the old Number 26 Shay for one of our old steam engines has been used as a motif in the park. In addition, there's a huge, red steam engine smokestack, called "dalaba" in Chinese -- the big horn -- that has been positioned in front of Pei Men Station to serve as a visible symbol of the train station and make it easy to find for bus drivers, taxi drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians coming to the station for the trip up-mountain. The cobblestone sidewalks hark back to the old Japanese colonial period, as does the old green station house on the opposite side of the tracks." While most people heading up to Alishan by train switch trains at the main Chiayi City station, after coming south from Taipei or north from Kaoshiung, a growing group of tourists and local vacationers are choosing to depart from the nearby Pei Men Station where waiting means less hassles, more space, a nearby park and public library and a bit of old Taiwan railroad history thrown in for good measure. When making reservations for your next trip to Alishan, check with your travel agent to make sure you've got a reserved ticket for the Alishan part of your journey, and then make a beeline for Chiayi's newly refurbished Pei Men Station and adjoining pocket park, where you can relax in leisure before the little red trian departs. GOING THERE: For more information, call the Pei Men Station ticket office in Chiayi City at: (05) 272-8094 ============= ================= 17. I often see taiwanese students and adults, businessmen and other train passengers, studying English while they are riding on trains here. Sometimes I talk with them, if they are sitting near me, or if they ask me a question, and sometimes I just let them study quietly as the train passes through the countryside. Acutally, I think it's a good train hobby, to study or brush up on a foreign language, any foreign language, while riding on a train. This brings me to a story i want to tell you about an American here in taiwan, who is very popular among students of English.... He's one of the most recognizable foreigners in Taiwan, with his own radio show, a variety of appearances on popular TV shows and two besteslling books for students of English written in Chinese. His name is Jeff Locker, he's from the US and he's fluent in Chinese. Very fluent. So fluent that he says he thinks in Chinese now and even dreams in Chinese. Locker arrived in Taipei in 1991 on a summer vacation from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut to teach English with some friends and within days he found himself doing a guest appearance on a local TV show. He got a few jobs doing part-time modelling assignments in Taipei and made the first important contacts that would start him off on a long successful career as a show business personality in the ROC. Now he's a familiar face on TV, book covers and magazines, and within a year or two Locker hopes to obtain a permanent residency permit for what he hopes will be a long-term, and lucrative, stay in Taiwan. One English-langugae newspaper recently described Locker this way: "If the English language had a face in Taiwan, that face would belong to Jeff Locker." He sings, he acts on stage, he does commercials, he performs for charity benefits, he writes books, he tours the island touting the joys of learning English -- and he does all this in fluent Chinese. During a recent book tour appearance in Chiayi City, southern Taiwan, JEFF walked into a crowded booksstore on a Sunday afternoon for a 90-minute book promotion party. A crowd of around 50 teenage girls had congregated inside the store, and when "Jeff" entered, they all recognized his face and looked at each other with happy eyes. Yes, it's Jeff Locker, "Mr. Nice" as he is sometimes called, TV star extraordinaire and fluent Chinese speaker to boot. Sporting a white Woody Allen beach hat and shoulder-length hippie hair, Locker looks like he just stepped off the Margaritaville Express. Locker, a Yale graduate who has made Tawian his home for almost 10 years now, can speak Chinese more fluently than fluently and as soon as he is introduced by the store manager, he's off a long, smooth, 90-minute spiel on key English slang and idioms. He's funny, he's charming, he's down-to-Earth, he's boy-next-door and he knocks their socks off. The girls listen politely, smile knowingly and wait for a chance to get an autographed book later. Jeff is a real live island hero, TV superstar, foreign darling with an Ivy League undergraduate degree, and he's made their day. "I've been in Taiwan for 8 years now, and life is pretty funky," Locker noted on a Yale alumni website a few years ago. "Basically I moved here permanently after Yale, taught English and modeled part-time for a few years, then eventually got into TV and radio. I've done all sorts of random things, from TV soap operas to variety game shows to charity shows for breast cancer research. The last two years have been on the up. One of my two radio shows received a Golden Bell for best show, and the other was voted favorite show a year later in a nationwide poll. I've hosted the Golden Bells, the first foreigner in the history of Taiwan. Between TV and radio, I've interviewed lots of stars. [In August 2000] my first book will be published! It's all in Chinese and deals with learning English in Taiwan, how to meet and communicate with foreigners, and various other language related tips." JEFF was talking about his recent foray into the publishing world, using his celebrity status to write two books in Chinese for young people who want to learn more about English slang and idioms. The first book, which sold well, was titled "Jeff's English" and the second book, released in June, is titled "Jeff's English 2." Both books feature Locker on the cover, in humorous and eye-catching poses, and the second book come with a CD attached as well. And now there are books 3 and 4. According to book industry sources, Locker's books have done well in a crowded market, and the fact that he is a well-known face on national TV doesn't hurt sales at all. During his 90-minute solo performance inside the Chiayi bookstore, Locker regales his young fans with stories, anecdotes, jokes and asides -- all in Chinese, except for the few odd English idioms he throws out now and then. Dressed casually, he speaks casually, and everyone is listending intently. More than most foreigners here, Locker leads what he calls a completely fluent "Chinese language" life, to the point where he says he often finds himself translating his thoughts from Chinese into English, not the other way around. As a result, as he once told an interviewer, he's now "a little lighter, less sarcastic and pessimistic, more polite" than he used to be before he settled in Taiwan. His bookstore show is perfect, and when he finishes talking he will sit down and sign some copies of his two books for the crowd that has been waiting for two hours. With two solid-selling books to his credit and a ready audience of fans and readers islandwide, Locker may very well pen a third book on English slang and idioms and keep the franchise moving. He's certainly off to a good start. How has living in Taiwan effected Locker's life? He told the China Post in a recent interview: "I think I've changed. I've adopted a lot of Chinese or Taiwanese values ... when I go home [to the US], I'm totally alienated." Regarding his more than 10-year sojourn so far in Taiwan, Locker said: "I feel like I'm home." For many foreigners living in the ROC, Jeff Locker is a symbol of what hard work, good luck, talent and an excellent command of the local language can bring. He plans to stay in Taiwan forever and continue his career as an entertainer and actor, he says. ================== ==================== A trip to Lukang by train to Changhwa, then bus to Lukang When I was standing in a cold December wind one night in Chiayi, selling my book in the local night market, one customer stopped and chatted with me about his hometown of Lukang in Changhwa COunty. He was so happy to meet me and tell a friendly foreign friend about his hometown, that he invited me to visit him and his family in Lukang whenever I have time. A few months later, in the warm springtime, I took a train to Lukang and had a wonderful time visitng Mr Liu and his family there. You know Lukang better than I do, since you live in Taiwan. But let me tell you what I learned about Lukang, and if you have never been there yet, maybe someday you will go there too! Mr Liu told me that the name of Lukang means "deer harbor" in English. When I asked him why it had this strange name, since there were no deer there now, he replied: "It was probably a name that came to us a long time ago, when there were many wild deer in the area, which was not very populated then. That's what my grandfather told me." Mr Liu continued: "Lukang was once of Taiwan's three most important harbors, along with Tainan Harbor and Taipei harbor, long ago. Did you know that, Dan Bloom? In those days, Lukang harbor was one of the main ports of entry through which early Chinese immigrants entered Taiwan and trade was carried out between the island and Fukien province." "Lukang is different now. There are no deer here anymore, and the passage of time and the erosion of the seacoast here means that Lukang is no longer near the coastline. But Lukang has a long history that is very intersting, and that is why many tourists come here. Not only for our special foods and the beaitful scenery, but to see a very important history place in Taiwan. For example, my hometown of Lukang features some of Taiwan's most fantastic temple carvings and architecture. The colorful ceiling of Lungshan Temple is amazing!" I started my tour of Lukang with Mr Liu and his wife at the Lukang Folk Arts Museum (鹿港民俗文物館. "This Japanese colonial structure, built in 1920, was once the home of the Koo family, among Taiwan's largest landholders at the time," Mr Liu explained to me, while I took notes in my yellow notebook. "Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), son of the builder and chairman of the Taiwan Cement Company, donated the building and much of its contents for use as a museum." Most of the museum's collection consists of artifacts of daily use -- furniture, handicrafts, clothing, jewelry.. Although small, the museum is interesting. It is the kind of place where just about everyone can find something to like. "Lukang is famous for arts and crafts, and many artisans such as Wu Duen-how have been granted the Living heritage Award," Mr Liu told me. From the museum, walk up to Chungshan Road, and turn left. Go right at Sanmin Road to Lungshan Temple, one of the town's two most important temples and one of the best examples of classic Chinese architecture in Taiwan. This is a large temple, well-preserved, and is beatuifyk in its design and its pretty carvings and paintings. The ceiling is a particularly outstanding piece of craftsmanship. In addition to the architecture and the art work, some of which is around 350-years-old. "We worship one of their most beloved deities of Buddhsim here," Mr Liu told me. "Kuanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. "There is another temple in Lukang called Tienhou (Queen of Heaven) Temple (天后宮), located at the north end of Chungshan Road," Mr Lui told me. " The host deity here is Matsu, Goddess of the Sea, who is held in special reverence by fishermen and sailors. She is a very popular Goddess, as you know." Yes, I know about Matsu. I am not a Christian and I do not follow Western religions. My religion is the religion of the heart, the religion of people and human kindness and human compassion. I really don't believe in a God or angels or a heaven or hell. I believe we only have one life to live on this Earth, and that this life is now! But I am very interested in Buddhism and the religions of Taiwan. I do not look down at Buddhism or Taosim as being inferior to Christianity, as many Christian missionaries who come to Taiwan do. They are wrong to do so. Buddha was jsut an imporant a teacher as was Jesus or Moses. "If you want to see just how lively a Taiwan temple can be, Dan Bloom, come back here sometime at the time of Matsu's birthday celebration on the 23rd day of the third lunar month," Mr Liu told me. "You will be amazed at how popular Matsu is and how fervent is the public love for her!" In the vicinity of Chungshan Road between Lungshan Temple and Tienhou Temple are other important sights in Lukang: the quaint, narrow Nine-turns Lane (九曲巷), Half-sided Well (半邊井), and Old Market Street (古市街. There is also the Wenkai Academy (文開書院-)--a temple, shrine, and school rolled into one. Lukang is especially noted for the outstanding handicraft shops located along its main street. One example is Mr. Chen's Fan Shop at 400 Chungshan Road. Chen has been making richly decorated fans for a living since the age of 16, and -- along with several other craftsmen in the town -- is a recipient of the Living Heritage Award. He, like many of the other craftsmen here, is happy to demonstrate his skills--especially if the demonstration leads to a sale. The fans start at NT$300 (about US$11) and make perfect souvenirs and gifts. Among the other shops on this street where you can see masters in action are the Wu Duen-how Lantern Shop and the Wan-neng Tin Shop. These are places where handicraft approaches true art. "While not as well known as its handicrafts, Lukang's cuisine is not to be missed," Mr Liu told me. "MAny restaurants are situated on or near Chungshan Road. Oysters are a local specialty, and delicious oyster omelets (蚵仔煎) and oyster soup (蚵仔湯) are served up at the entrance to Tienhou Temple. Another local delicacy is ox tongue cake, a pastry with a sweet filling that is named for its shape rather than its ingredients." While Lukang no longer has a harbor and just a footnote in history now, it remains an interesting place to visit. The food is great, the people are friendly, the sea air is refreshing and history can come alive at any moment. For me, a visit to Lukang hosted by Mr Liu and his family was a very special time for me. And guess what, I didn't bring a camera with me! Dan Bloom doesn't even own a camera! LONG LIVE LUKANG! When I returned to Chiayi after my train trip to Lukang, there was an email waiting for my in my inbox from a high school student whom I had sold my book to in Lukang, at the bus station. She wrote: Dear Dan Bloom, Hello ! How are you today? I am Joan, the senior high school sophomore student who bought your book yesterday at bus station in Lukang.. .Do you remember me? I am so happy to meet you and make a friend with you . I once read your book in one of the local bookstores, and at the time I felt that the author of that book, your book, you, was an interesting person. But I didn't really read the book in the bookstore, I just skimmed through all 32 chapters. I wanted to buy it but but I didn't have enough money ,so I didn't buy the book. But yesterday at the bus station, when I walked near you and you said HELLO ...,I was so happy ! If I had walked quickly,I might not have had this wonderful chance to get to know you , or buy your book and made a friend with you. So thank you for calling out to me in your funny voice when I walked by! I've lived in Lukang for 17 years , but I think that you know Taiwan much more than me . I can't believe it ! I'm so admire you .Maybe I should call you a "New Taiwanese". Sometimes I want to complain about Taiwan.I think it is not good enough. Many countries like America,Japan,Italian,England,France seem to me to be much better than Taiwan.I sometimes wished I had been born in these countries , and not in Taiwan . But after I read "我就這樣哈上了台灣", I have changed my mind .Yes! Some things in Taiwan aer better than everwhere . People,food,scenery,customs and culture in Taiwan is best ! Thank you, DAN BLOOM, for reminding me to treasure my own country! Through your stories, I have come to know more about Taiwan culture and know why you love Taiwan so much . by the way, Dan Bloom, this is my first time to write an English letter . It's short, not long , and it takes so much time to write. Altough I am a high school student , and have learned English for seven years ,I'm still a little afraid to speak English, or write in English . I think that other people whose English is better than mine will laugh me, but thanks to your friendship and encouragement just to try .. I will try. By the way ,I'll be glad to teach you Chinese and Taiwanese, too !! from: Joan CHen Lukang ==================== ===================== How American drummer Dino Zavolta helped put Wu Bai and China Blue on the Asian rock'n'roll map forever When I travel by train, I often bring my walkman with me, to listen to music CDs as I read newspapers or just sit in the train and look out the windows. One of the bands I love the most in taiwan is WU BAI AND CHINA BLUE. Recently, I had a chance to talk with Dino Zavolta, the American drummer who works with Wu Bai in the band, and he told me a fascinating story. Here it is: When Dino Zavolta was growing up in America in the 1960s and 1970s, little did he know that one day he would be part of a major rock band in Asia, playing the drums as a founding member of Taipei's The Magic and bringing in a little-known but up-and-coming guitarist and singer named Wu Bai to join them. But that's exactly what Dino Zavolta did after coming to Taiwan in the late 1980s as a drummer for a foreign rock band called Motif. Today, hitting his stride after turning 40 in early March, Zavolta's sitting on top of the rock world in Taiwan, one happy camper, pumped up and primed, full of rock'n'roll stories and good cheer and planning to continue making Taiwan his home away from home for a long time to come. Home for Zavolta as a kid was a surburb of Los Angeles, where his Italian-American parents still live, and home was where he first took up the drums as a kid and played football on the local high school team and got nicknamed "Rhino" because he was big. Home is where he might return when he retires, if he ever retires, but home is also an apartment in Taipei and an adopted country he thoroughly enjoys living in. Dino told Prime Time in a recent email that he spent a few sunny days at Spring Scream in Kenting in April checking out new local bands, and he was recently in the studio with Wu Bai and China Blue working on some new material as well. The band plays three major arena concerts islandwide on May 11, May 18 and May 25 in Taipei, Changhwa and Kaohsiung, respectively. "I love Taiwan," he says. "It's given me a great career, a great time, great friends, great adventures. It's really been a dream come true living here, working here as a musician, bringing China Blue together and then getting together with Wu Bai. I've been real lucky here, and real fortunate, and I count my blessings every day. I love what I do, and what we -- Wu Bai and China Blue, all of us as a unit -- have been able to accomplish. Man, wait until my mother reads this in the newspaper back in California! She'll be in heaven!" Dino's parents don't get over to Taiwan very often, but they did get a chance to hear the band play in Las Vegas two years ago, at a private Christmas party sponsored by some Taiwanese business bigwigs, according to Dino. Zavolta's father, the son of a man from Naples, Italy, is 75 years old and "doesn't look a day over 60," according to Dino, who adds that "my grandfather on my mother's side played the accordian a lot and that influenced me, too. My mother's side of the family came over from Bologna, Italy. So I got both northern and southern Italian blood in me!" "Yeh, my parents came to that show in Las Vegas, and they loved it," Dino tells Prime Time on the telephone. "It was a great treat for my mom to be there and see Wu Bai and China Blue in action. All this over here in Taiwan, it's so far away for her over there. But in Vegas, she saw what we are all about and it was a wonderful night, for me to have her there with the band and all." First, some background music. According to the "official" biography of Wu Bai, probably written by a public relations marketing expert with an ear for a good story ... "as he became known as Taiwan's 'King of Live' music in the early 1990s, Wu Bai needed a dedicated backing band to follow up his breakthrough album. With Shiao Ju on bass, Big Cat on keyboards and Dino Zavolta on drums, Wu Bai created China Blue, a group of highly professional and experienced musicians to back him up on his mission to revolutionize Taiwanese rock." That's the official story. Now listen to drummer Dino Zavolta's take on the what "really" happened. "Well, actually, the story's a bit more complicated than that," Dino said in a recent telephone interview. You see, at the time, I was in Taipei playing with a foreign band, and I was also getting to know some of the other musicians in town, meeting them and hearing them at pubs and other music spots. At the time, Wu Bai had his own group, and while he was making headway as a singer and performer, his band was not all that good, to be honest. I had already met and picked out Shiao Ju, who's one heck of a great bass player, to play in a new group I was planning to put together. I saw the raw talent he had, and it was amazing. Then he introduced me to another musician, the guy we call Big Cat today, the master keyboard player, and we knew we had a good thing going." "One day, we caught Wu Bai's act at a local pub in Taipei, and I knew immediately that this guy had an amazing stage presence and voice. We became good friends, and I even taught Wu Bai how to drive, you know. When he finally had enough money to buy a new car, I think it was a Japanese make, he asked me if I could teach him how to drive the damn thing. He didn't even have a driver's license yet!" You've seen Dino on MTV and at the live Wu Bai and China Blue shows islandwide, and maybe you wondered who he was -- that goateed foreigner sitting in back playing a mean set of drums. Now you know part of the story. There's more. Dino, whose grandparents emigrated to America from Italy, says he has always liked Chinese food and culture and felt immediately at home when he first arrived here more than 12 years ago. "It's interesting," he says, "that Italians and Taiwanese are similar in so many ways and that's another major reason I am comforfortable in Taiwan. For example, both Italians and Taiwanese like to have big family functions, with lots of friends, lots of food, lots of drink and both peoples can also be very superstitious. I fit in well here in Taiwan!" "Maybe it was fate that brought me here on a six-month musician's contract with a foreign band," Dino says. "Whatever, here I am and I love this country, a great place to be a musician. And we've had a nice success with Wu Bai and China Blue, all in all." "When I first arrived in Taipei in 1989, Big Cat, China Blue's keyboard player now, was playing with a band called The Diplomats and on the same club circuit as Motif, the foreign band that brought me here on my first six-month contract," Dino said. "Let me tell you how I first met Shiao Ju. On the nights when were weren't performing, we went around to check out the local talent, and The Diplomats had a good repertoire and a solid following. The first time I'd ever seen a band cover Deep Purple's "Highway Star" was when The Diplomats played it, and Big Cat nailed it note for note. I was totally impressed. After that show, I introduced myself to Big Cat and we became good friends. His English is stunning, and in my opinion, Big Cat is truly an impecable keyboardist, a virtuoso. Somehow I knew back then that we would be playing together one day, and that I'd encourage Big Cat into joining up with Wu Bai and China Blue." "When I first met Shiao Ju, he was playing in an all-foreigner band," Dino continues. "One day, a close friend of mine named Keith Stuart, who speaks fluent Mandarin and is an outstanding music arranger/producer here in Taipei, took me under his wing and provided me with a place to stay and free Chinese lessons. Keith and I were out club hopping one weekend and he suggested that we check out a certain band in Taipei that Shiao Ju was in at the time. Since everyone knew Keith was a great singer, the band had invited him up on stage for a jam session. After one song, Keith asked the band if I could come up and sit in on a couple of songs. So after the introductions, Keith requested that we play "Superstition" and all I remember is that there was one local guy jumping and grooving to the way I played my kick notes and that was Shiao Ju." "After that set, Keith, Shaio Ju and I talked until 6 a.m., and we exchanged phone numbers," Dino recalled. "The following week, I found myself in Shiao Ju's home amazed by his huge record collection. One thing I can say for sure is that nobody knows more people in the music business in Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China than Shiao Ju, our bass player -- he seems to know everybody!" "Anyways, after a few years of palling around in the music world in Taipei, Shiao Ju and I had became pretty good friends, and we often talked about putting together an 'original classics' band for fun. Because at the time we still played with our own working bands to pay the bills." "After one of my trips back to the States, I came back to Taipei and had a good idea -- to put together a band of locals in order to alleviate any hassles from the police and club owners over foreign musicians here. Shiao Ju supported my idea and said he had some good friends in mind. At the time, Big Cat was still in the army and still had quite a while before his release. But whenever Big Cat had army leave, he would hang out with us over at Shiao Ju's house and we worked on his original songs." "One time, my own band was asked to play in an Earth Day festival at Tai Da University, and Wu Bai, who was really not famous yet, played with his band. Watching him play, I could tell he gave it his all. And when he did "Evil Ways" by Santana, at the end where the guitar solo takes off, Wu Bai played that solo his own way but with twice the energy of anyone I've ever seen! Man, he left the crowd stupified! It was then that I knew for sure I had finally found the key members that would make Taiwan rock history -- Big Cat on keyboards, Shiao Ju on bass and Wu Bai on guitar -- and yes, me too, on drums!" "Of course, it took a lot of persuasion to finally get Wu Bai to agree to leaving his own band and joining up with Shiao Ju and me. After about six months of solid rehearsing, we felt pretty secure to start gigging underground pubs around Taipei,and so the three of us played under the name of The Magic Band. Later, after he got out of the army, Big Cat joined us and, to make a long story short, we eventually became Wu Bai and China Blue. Yes, it's been a very long story, but what a trip!" So how did Wu Bai really get his name? People want to know. Let Dino explain it: "In high school in Chiayi City, Wu Bai. who comes from a small place called Garlic Village in the Chiayi area, was pretty chunky, and he also played the tuba in the school band. One of the members of the band apparently felt that the combined weight of Wu Bai and his tuba was around 500 kilograms." Wu Bai and China Blue are still popular in Taiwan, and have many many fans. If you see a big, friendly American guy playing the drums attired in a black ski cap and a groovy goatee, that's Dino Zavolta, a.k.a. Rhino, the man who helped put Wu Bai on the world music map, with a lot of help from his friends, too, of course. ============== ============== I want to praise teachers in Taiwan! Whenever I travel by train, I always see students travelling here and there, and I often meet teachers who are travelling on weekends. I like teachers, because they perform an important role in every culture. Whenever i meet a teacher while I am selling my books in the night markets or on the trains, i am always happy and tell them so. Because I had good teachers in America, and I feel that teachers are very important people. I like living in Taiwan and one of the reasons I like living here is that every year on September 28, there is a special day honoring teachers called Teachers' Day. I think this is a very good idea and an important part of Taiwanese culture. Yes, this day in honor of the grea teacher COnfucius honors all teachers. What a splendid idea! In America, there is no Teacher's Day. America should copy Taiwan and start a Taecher's Day , too. When I first came to Taiwan in 1996, I was teaching part-time in my home, to a group of high school students, and I will never forget taht first September in Taiwan when one of my students sent my a sweet thank you card for Teacher's Day. It really made me happy! But now for some sad news. According to the newspapers in Taiwan, many teachers feel that educating the young is just not worth the hard work and hassles anymore. Nearly one-third of school teachers in Taiwan do not want to continue their teaching careers, according to a recent survey. The survey also suggested that job satisfaction among teachers is generally low, with an average score of 59 points, just below the 60-point passing grade, on a scale of zero to 100. The survey, conducted on 1,200 teachers from public-school teachers nationwide, indicated that 30 percent of the respondents said that they do not wish to continue teaching in the future. Almost 30 percent said that they plan to quit their teaching jobs within five years, while 27 percent of them said that they would leave their posts after five years. Low pay, poor welfare benefits, long work hours, an inferior working environment and few opportunities for promotion are the reasons for these teachers' unwillingness to continue, the poll said. in the past, teachers were widely respected in society. what has happened? and why? the social status of teachers has declined. "In many cases, teachers feel that both parents and students no longer respect them. And that may be the primary reason why more and more teachers are dissatisfied with their work," said an observer. a similar survey also found that an overwhelming majority of elementary-school teachers feel their social status has indeed declined. The survey, showed that 90 percent of 1000 respondents felt that the social status of teachers has declined. Reasons given for the decline were changing social values, too many negative media reports about teachers and a lack of respect from parents. More than a quarter of the teachers, 26 percent, said that students have often made them unhappy with their jobs. However, 55 percent responded that students remain the biggest source of enjoyment in their workday. When asked which area of elementary-school education most needs to be strengthened, 30 percent mentioned moral education, while 29 percent said character education and 19 percent mentioned life education. In addition, when asked what things most influence children's thinking and behavior, the respondents cited parents' instruction of their children, media reports, interaction with classmates or peers and teachers' methods. Some of those surveyed said that parents, education administrators and the Legislative Yuan are the three largest barriers to maintaining a normal teaching schedule. Others stated that education policy and the traditional emphasis on seeking higher-level academic degrees, instead of true knowledge, are to blame for the difficulties in carrying out normal teaching. Well, whatever the survey says, I want to say this: teachers are very important people in any society and we owe them our gratitude and thanks and respect. I know that in my own life, teachers have been very important to me, and I still remember with gratitude and respect my teachers from when I was 8 years old, 11 years old, 13 years old, 18 years old and during my college years (18-22 years old). Perhaps the most imporant teacher I ever had was my junior high school Egnlsih teacher, Mrs Plum, who told me when was 14 years old that I had the makings of a sensitive writer inside me. On one of my reports she wrote: "Dan Blooom, you write well and smoothly and you can express yourself well. Keep up the good owrk and you can become a superb writer someday." her words were like magic to me, becauase nobody had ever told me that before, not my mother , not my father, not anyone. So when this teacher, when I was just 14, praised me for my writing skills, I was so happy and I began my dream to be a writer on that day! So yes, long live teachers, in every country! And here in Taiwan, it is inmportnat to respect and praise all teachers here and to ecnouragen young college stuednts to dream of becoming rteadhers too. Long live teachers of the world! ======================== ==================== The Taxi ride south from Taipei to Chiayi during a typhoon when there were no trains available! I am usually a sober and serious person, and I don't usually do "crazy" or outlandish things like taking a taxi from Taipei to CHiayi, when for a much lower price I can take the train or bus. But I did take a taxi from taipei to Chaiyi once, three years ago, when I was in a hurry to move down to Chiayi after changing jobs in Taipei. So yes, I did once take a taxi from Taipei to Chiayi, and I paid NT$4000 for the ride. But it was lovely ride, with a very interesting driver, who told me his whole life story during our five hour drive through the countryside. But when I got to Chiayi, I told me friends and I swore that I would NEVER NEVER take such a long and expensive taxi raide again! Never say never, as my grandmother used to say. Because two years ago, I took another long and expensive taxi ride from Taipei to CHAIYI and I swear that will be my last one. But let me tell how how and why I did it: My second taxi ride from Taipei to CHiayi was taken on the day that TYPHOON NARI hit Taipei in September 2001. REmember that day? I was in Taipei, visiting a publisher and an editor for some meetings about my work, and when I left my hotel on Linsen North Road in the afternoon and took a cab to the train station in taiepi, I found out that the last train south had departed 30 minutes before,and that because of the typhoon, there would be no more trains for the next 24 hours, maybe longer! OMIGOD! What can I do, I thought! I took another taxi to the bus station near the train station, but the bus station was very crowded with people trying to get busses south to Toayuan and Taichung and Kaohsiung, and I felt the crowds were going to make me feel so tired and stressed out. After a week in taipei having important meetings every day with publishers and editors and newspaper reporters, I just wanted to get back to my home in CHiayi as soon as possible. So I asked the cab driver, as the rain from TYPHOON NAIR poured down on the roof of the taxi, "How much if we go to Chiayi?" He smiled and said NT$5000. I said, "Oh, wow, that's too high, can you make it any lower?" he smile and said "Okay, sir, how about NT$4000?" I still was afraid I was spending too much money when the bus would only cost about NT$500, so I asked one more time: "Can you make a better deal for me, it's raining so hard and the typhoon is coming!" THe driver was an older man of around 60 years old,b ut kind and friendly even though he spoke no English. He smiled one more time, and said "Foreign friend, I can take you to Chiayi for NT$3000!" I said "YES, let's go" and in a moment we were driving south through the heavy rain and wind of typhoon Nari, past Taoyugan and Chunglie, past Yangmei and Hsinchu, past Taiching and Changhua and finally -- five long hours later -- we were in CHiayi COunty and driving into CHiayi City. The skies were clear in Chiayi that afternoon and evening, the typhoon was still up north in Taipei. So when I finally got out of the cab at my apartment on Culture Road in Chiayi, there was a pretty sunset in the sky and I did not know how much damage Typhoon Nari was doing up north at that very moment! I know, i know, Typhoon Nari was very bad for the Taipei area. I am sorry to hear the news! The driver was named Mr Yu and he also told me his life story as we drove south through the typhoon. He told me about the mid-Autuumn Moon Festival, and he told me about Matsu's Birthday festivals and he told me about his mother and father and grandparents in Sanchung, his hometown. He was a very friendly man and we had a good time together driving south in a terrible storm that day! I paid him NT$3000 when I got out of the taxi and then I gave him a NT$1000 tip and invited Mr Yu to sleep at my apartment if he needed to rest, but he said "No, DAN Bloom, I must get back to taipei tonight, my wife will be waiting for me. Maybe i can find a passenger at the Chiayi train station who needs to go north to Taichung or Taipei. DOn 't worry about me!" And then Mr Yu drove off. Into the night. Into the storm. Into Typhoon NAri. It was my second long taxi ride south and I SQWEAR I will never do that again. I am not such a rich man! But as my grandmotehr said: "never say never!" ====================== ===================== I am a backwards man! [[[[[note to translator: spell my backwards name in roman letters each time it appears in brackets.... dan]]]]] Sometimes I like to stand on the back platform of the last car in a train, and watch the world go by .... backwards. Did you ever do that? It's fun, and it's different. And you know, part of the fun of life, part of enjoying life, is doing things different every once in a while, even doing things .... backward. Let me tell you a funny story: I used to write humorous newspaper articles in America under [the pen name of ["Leinad Moolb"], which is my real name "Daniel Bloom" spelled backwards. Of course, in Taiwan I write under the name of "Dan Bloom" and that's how I sign all my articles and books here. Some people in my hometown of Chiayi even call me by one word -- ["Danbloom"] -- and that's what I am known as. But when I lived in the US, I often wrote under the pen name of "Leinad Moolb"] and I did it for one very funny reason: when you look at English words backwards, they look funny and surprising and cool! For example, the US singer Frank Sinatra often signed his paintings by the name of "ARTANIS." Really! He spelled his name backwards for fun! And the US TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey calls her own TV company by the name of HARPO which is Oprah spelled backwards! Yes, it's true. And there is a travel agency in Los Angeles called "The Levart Travel Agency" -- "levart" is "travel" spelled backwards! There are two men in Boston called Leon Jones and Noel Jones. They are twins. "Leon" is "Noel" spell backwards! The parents chose those two names on purpose, for a family laugh! It's a true story! There is a small town in Texas in the US called "Enola." This is "alone" spelled backwards! Americans and English people like to play games with backwards spelled words, and even spies like James Bond used backwards names in their work! But I have one warning here: do not spell the word GOD backwards! It is not polite! After I began writing under the name of Leinad Moolb, I began thinking of other ways to do things backwards and the more I thought about it, the funnier it all seems! For example, imagine walking to work one morning backwards! You could wak up and get out of bed backwards one morning, just for fun, just as an experiment to test "DAN BLOOM's THEORY OF BACKWARD LIVING" and see if you like doing things backwards. You could even jog backwards, and there is already a Taiwanese man in Yunlin County who runs marathon races backwards! I read about him in a magazine and saw a photograph of him running backwards! It was so funny! But I congratulate Mr Chen for having the courage to do things his own unique way. He is trendsetter, a visionary, a forward-thining backwards man! I like doing things backwards, too. Try spelling your English name backwards, if you have one here in Taiwan, or try spelling your Chinese name backwards in roman letters. For exeample, Chen Shui-bian becomes "Nehc Iuhs-naib" in the backwards-spelling method. Try this with your own name and report back to me at my own backwards email address: There are many ways to live backwards. You can drive to work backwards, if you are really careful, and you can swim backwards and sing backwards and even eat backwards! Yes, tonight, for example, eat your dessert first, then eat the main course, and at the end of your meal, eat the appetizer. just for fun, just to do something different, just to see life in from another point of view! One of my silly dreams in the future is to walk around the entire island of Taiwan -- backwards! Why? I just want to make people think about life! By walking backwards around Taiwan -- watching out carefully for cars and trucks and buses, of course! -- I want to help publicize "LEINAD MOOLB's THEORY OF BACKWARD LIVING" to give people in Taiwan a chance to laugh at life, to laugh at me, and to laugh at themselves. According to my doctor in Chiayi, Dr. Hsu, who told my that even my heart is beating backwards for some strange reason -- maybe it's my DNA! -- the more we laugh in life, the longer we can live. Laughter is good to cure stress, to cure the blues, to cure disease even. Dr. Hsu told me that everyone should try to laugh at least 50 times a day in order to live a long, healthy life. Think about it. Think about it backwards! =================== =================== 41. There are many countries to love, and I have visited some very interesting countries in my life. I loved living in Paris, and I loved living in Italy, too. I also lived in Japan for five years, in Tokyo, and I loved every day there! And of course, America, my home country, where I was born and raised and educated, is a wonderful place to live and work and dream. But now I have chosen to live and work in Taiwan, and I plan to stay here forever. There are no more countries I want to visit. My "travelling days" are over. I want to "settle down" in taiwan and enjoy the middle of my life here, and then spend my "golden years" as in ojisan here too. Maybe I will marry a Taiwan women in the future, and have a small family with here. Then I can be a grandfather someday too! I am looking foward to getting older. I do not fear the aging process, and I love life even more as I get older. My hair is turning grey and white now, and I love my hair this way. I have no plans to dye it black. Why change nature? I love my face the way it is , I love my hair the way it is. Aging is part of life, I am not afraid of getting older. I love the aging process. I was 16 once, I was 19 once, I was 26 once, I was 35 once, I was 42 once. I will be 55 someday, I will be 64 someday, I hope I will be 71 someday, and 82, too. If you see me when I am old, I will have long white hair like Einstein and people will call me "that funny old foreginer with the long hair hair who loves Taiwan!" The world is now a global village, and taiwan is part of the village. Yes, we need passports and visas and money to travel from country to country, but with the Internet and email and globilization, the world is a very small place now. I can live anywhere and be happy. Now I choose to live in Taiwan, and for me it is my Paradise on Earth? Why do I like Taiwan so much? The most important thing for me is the Taiwanese people! I admire your drive, your patience, your impatience, your creativity, your style, your zest for life, your open-ness to the rest of the world, your hospitality to foreigners like me, your love for your own country, Taiwan! I admire the Taiwan people, and I think you have created a great country. Do I have any complaints? Yes, of course, not everything is perfect in taiwan. There is air pollution, and sometimes there is noise pollution, and there are huge traffice jams in the big cities sometimes. And the beaches in Kenting are sometimes littetred with trash. And some people carelessly spit out their betel nut juice on the sidewalks everywhere. Sure, taiwan has social problems, too, like any other country. The rivers are polluted, the harbors are dirty, this green island is not so green anymore. But after admitting all that, I still love Taiwan, for it is the Taiwan people I like living with. I like the way families get along with each other, I like the way friendships are made here, I like the way people help each other when there are problems, I like the way taiwanese people help foreigners here, and I like the way taiwan people perceive "God" -- not as an old man with a white beard in the sky, but as a living presence of spiritual love. I like to watch and particiapte in Taiwanese religious festivals and New Year celebrations. I love the Mid Autumn Festival and I love Chin Min Jie too. I like the Dragon Boat Festival and all the other cultural festivals during the year, the Lantern Festival and the Sky Lantern Festival and the Black Tuna Festival in Pintung. I am a festival lover. I love festivals, the bigger the better. In japan , I love their festivals too. I love Asian festivals and the way ASian people celebrate their festivals. Some people ahve told me I am more taiwnese than some Taiwanese. No, this is not true. I am not a Taiwanese, although someitmes I like to joke with my friwends that I am 'Shin taiwanren" a new taiwanese. Beacuse as a foreighner who has decided to lvie the rest of my life here, I have come to love Taiwan and try to learn as mcuh about it as I can. AS you know, I am a journalist, a newspaper reporter, so I am a very curious person. But yes, I am really just an AMerican country boy who likes to travel, who has an open mind and an open heart, and I don't judge one country to be btter than another clountry,. or one religion to be superiod to aniother religion. I beleive in one world. one people, the human race. We are all related by DNA, AMEricans, CHiense, AFraicsn, Idnains, everyone! I really believe this. Do you? ================= ================== How did singer Valen Hsu get her English name? Another singer I like to listen to when I take long train rides in Taiwan is Valen Hsu. Here's an interesting story about her, and Miss Hsu, if you're reading this book, "HEllo! from Dan Bloom!" Taiwan's Pop singer Valen Hsu is not an international star like A-Mei or Coco Lee, but she has a following and a nice sales record -- and she's doing very well in the music industry. I like her music alot. her song ''True Love'' has a haunting refrain, "the city is so empty," rendered in English, and i love it. But why that phrase: "the city is so empty"? I did some research and found out that: The song was written by a well-known composer, who has often given songs for Valen Hsu to record. His name is Lee Zong-sheng, around 40 years old. Used to be a pop singer himself. On a recent trip to Hong Kong, Lee and his girlfriend (now his wife) Lin Yi-lian -- also a pop singer -- were seeing the sights and having a romantic holiday. But early one morning, Lin received an urgent call to go to Japan for some studio work. Not wanting to wake up her husband, Lin left a note to say goodbye and flew to Tokyo. Feeling that Hong Kong had suddenly become `so empty,' Lee began writing the lyrics that would later become Valen Hsu's hit song "True Love." Hsu -- who is still under 30 -- answers to four names: Valen Hsu is her English stage name; Hsu Cung-hui is her Mandarin stage name; Hsu Hong-hsiu is her real name; and her nickname is Xiu-Xiu. How did Valen Hsu get her English name? Is it a Taiwanese way to spell "Valentine?" Do you know? Now i want to tell you a funny story about Hsu Cung-hui. I met her once at a hotel lobby in Taipei. She is one of my favorite singers in Taiwan because when I first arrived in Taoyuan in November 1996, her songs were popular then and I heard them every day on the radio. So she became one of my favorite singers, my first love in Taiwan, and I have always bought her new CDs too. One day I was going to a hotel in Taipei for a conference meeting with some publishers, and I saw Valen Hsu giving an interview to a TV camera crew for TVBS TV in the hotel lobby. I was so happy to see her live, that I stopped what I was doing and walked over to her. I asked her manager if I could just shake her hand and say hello and the manager said: "Yes, as soon as the interview is over, you can say hello." When the TVBS interview was over, I walked over to Valen Hsu and said hello. I shook her hand and I could feel that she was nervous talking to me. I said to her: "Hey, VALen Hsu, you should not be nervous. You are the star! I am just fan! You are the celebrity! Why are you nervous meeting me? I am nobody!" She said: "Thank you for your kind words, and I am glad you like my music! I didn't know foreigners like my music! But I am nervous because I cannot speak English very well, my ENGlish is poor, so that's why I am nervous." ACutally, Valen Hsu could speak English very well, and she did not have to be nervous talking to me! Maybe she was nervous because she does not have an opportunity to speak ENglish very often with foreigners and she was surprsied that I had stopped to talk with her. To make a long story, short, I love Valen Hsu and I love her songs! Call me sentimental, call me romantic, call me a Mandopop fan, but I love Valen Hsu! Long live VALen HSu! I plan to go to her next concert, too. =========== ============== 44. Taiwan should be awared a gold medal in the Olympics of humanity This book that you are reading now will never be a bestseller in Taiwan. I know this and I accept this situation. There are two reasons this book will never be a bestseller, listed as one of the TOp TEN books on the national bestseller lists: 1. I am not a famous person or a celebrity ...and most people in Taiwan do not know my name or face 2. This book does not tell people how to become a rich businessman or make money in the stock market or find your special place in the universe. But in the meantime, since you have decided to pick up this book and read it, I hope that this little book will reach a large audience of readers and fans around the island. Although this book will not teach you how to get rich or find GOd or be a successful businessman, it will tell you how a foreigner who loves Taiwan feels about your country. Maybe my book will inspire you to love Taiwan more, to think about your own Taiwanese identity, to reach out to other foreigners and get to know them. If my book can do that, I will feel that it has been a success. I don't measure success in terms of money. I measure success in terms of communcating with people, exchanging ideas and thoughts, being human in a human world. I meaure success in the number of friends and readers I have, not in the number of dollar bills in my bank account. For me, success is not outside a person, but inside a person. In my own heart and soul, I feel I am a successful person, because I have learned to love life and appreciate my time here on the Earth, where we live just one time and have only one chance to find out the meaning of life. Taiwan has taught me many things: how to be patient, how to laugh when things go wrong, how to go through a red light when I am in a hurry, how to enjoy the hot humid summers of southern Taiwan without an air-conditioner in my house, how to enjoy the special tastes of such Taiwan dishes as fried crickets and roasted rat meat and black chicken and chodofu. This book will not be a bestseller, but I hope it will communicate an important message from a foreigner who has made his home here: you Taiwanese have created a very interseting, very vibrant, very creative and very cool country on this large green island! Yes, Taiwan is a large island .... don't tell me it is a small island. Green Island is a small island, Orchid Island is a small island -- TAIWAN is large island. Think BIG, think LARGE -- Taiwan, be ambitious! DO your best and go for the gold medals! You can do it, you are doing it, the future belongs to the Taiwan people. A friend of mine said to me one day: "Dan Bloom, it is so surprising to hear a foreigner say he plans to stay here forever. Forever is such a big word, and it is hard to imagine that someone from so far away wants to live here with us forever!" My answer is this: the world today is a global village, and Taiwan is a part of this global village. With the Internet and email , I can keep in touch with my family and friends overseas, and I do not feel I am living on a small island in the middle of nowhere. I feel that I am living in a very vibrant country in the center of the universe! Taiwan is like that for me! We are all members of the global village now, and the idea of "country" is not important to me anymore. Yes, my country of birth is America and I love America. America taught me how to be a good human being and love others as my neighbors. But now I want to embrace the world as my home, and Taiwan is where I want to make my home now forever. "We are the world, we are the children...." as that song by Michael Jackson says. Taiwan is the world, too. You are living in a very important place in the world: Taiwan. And you are living among one of the most interesting populations of people anywhere on this planet! In my opinion, Taiwan should be awarded the GOLD MEDAL in the Olympics of HUmanity! ============ ============== A chance meeting on the train and memoriers of 228! I met a very interesting man named Robert Wei when I was taking the train from Taipei to Chiayi one day. I was returning from the annual international book fair in Taipei, where I spent a week meeting with publishers and editors, and Mr Wei , an American citizen, was returning to his ROC army life "hometown" of CHiayi, a place he had not visited in 25 years! As the train travelled south past Taoyuan and Hsinchu and Taichung, Mr WEI and I spoke of many things -- life, work, family, dreams, national identity, politics, culture -- and I asked him if I could interview him for this book. Mr WEI , who is 65 years old and lives in San Francisco in the USA, said yes. So we talked. "I was born in Ilan," Mr Wei told me. "My father was a very important lawyer in Keelung and Taipei, but during the 228 incident in 1949, he "disappeared" and we never found his body. He was in Keelung at the time, working on some business, when he was taken away and when my mother heard the news she became frantic. We looked and looked for him, and for over a year we kept looking -- in Keelung, in Taipei, in Ilan, everywhere! But we never could find his body. Even today, I grieve over this incident, because I was only around 8 years old at the time. My mother would take me with her to Keelung and we would go from house to house, from door to door, from police station to police station, looking for my father! But for a year we never could find him or his dead body, and it was the saddest year of my life! The entire incident is one reason why I decided to study at university overseas, first in Japan and then in the USA, and then to make a new life in the USA. I married a Taiwanese woman in America, and we have three grown children now. And I served my military duty in Chiayi, when I was just 20 years old, so today I am returning to Chiyai for two reasons: to see my old army town again, and to visit the 228 Museum in Chiayi. I was invited by President Chen Shui-bian to attend the national ceremony tomorrow at the 228 Museum in Chiayi. But this is a sad event for me, it brings back very sad memories, as you can imagine, Dan Bloom!" Mr wei continued talking: "I went to Japan first, after my military duty, to study business and then I got my doctorate degree from Columbia University in New York. I decided to stay in America and I worked for several large international computer companies before starting my own computer company in New Orleans. I have been living in New Orleans for a long time now, over 25 years, and I am the head of our local Taiwan Businessman's Assocation. America has been good to me and my family, my children all have good jobs and have married there, and I have grandchildren now, too. My life has been a long journey from Ilan to Chiayi to Tokyo and New York and New Orleans. Today, as this train travels south, it is bringing back memories to me, some good, some sad, since the 228 incident made a deep impression on my young mind. Can you imagine a young boy of 8 years old in a sad and desperate search for his missing father, who was one of the top lawyers in Taipei at the time, and was killed by political forces during that terrible 228 event? For that reason, I have not wanted to return to Taiwan for a long time -- the memories are painful, since we never found my father or his dead body. Where is he? I still ask myself, where is he?" As Mr Huang and I sat next to each other on the train travelling south from Taipei to Chiayi, tears began to form in my eyes as I listened to his life story. It is the kind of life story that could be the theme of a novel or a movie, the story of what happened in Taiwan long ago. When we arrived in CHiayi, I helped Mr wei find a room at a local hotel, since he didn't know anybody in CHiayi anymore. And the next afternoon, after the 228 ceremony at Chiayi 228 Musuem, Mr wei and I had lunch together, dining on sushi and sashimi and a spicy hot pot. We talked more about 228, and taiwan's future as a democracy, and about our lives and dreams. I told Mr wei that meeting him had made a big impression on me, and that I would like to write about his life in my book. He said yes, and here is his story, at least part of his story. And I believe that there are hundreds, thousands of similar stories here in Taiwan and among overseas Taiwanese living in North America and Europe and SOuth Africa and Australia, who also witnessed Taiwanese history at a very close and personal level. The story of the 228 Massacre should be told from roottop to rooftop around the world, for it is a lesson of man's inhumanity to man, and every nation around the world, has similar stories of civil war and genocide. "Let us pray such things as 228 never happen again," I said to Mr wei , as we shook hands and parted on a side street in Chiayi before he returned to Taipei and then his home in the USA. "Yes," he said. "Let us hope such things never happen again anywhere!" ================= ================== Selling books at the local night markets in Taiwan has given me a new career as a night market vendor. It's funny to me, because when I went to college in Boston and studied French and journalism and literature, I never imagined that one day I would be living in Taiwan and working as a night market book vendor under the bright lights of a carnival circus that celebrates the many different tastes and smells of Tawianese food specialities. But here I am: Dan Bloom, book seller. I don't have a Ph.D. or even a masters degree (MA), and I am not even a businessman. I am a writer, a man who likes to put words together in English and have them translated into Chinese in order to communicate with my many readers here in Taiwan. Every day, every night, I have very interseting experiecnes selling my books, in the day markets and in the night markets. One day, I met a young women and her "boyfriend." That is how they introduced themsevles to me. The woman was about 18 years old, and the boyfriend was 17. But something seemed odd about the boyfriend, and I later found out (during dinner with both of them -- they invited to eat some hot pot dishes with them in Chiayi) that "the boyfriend" named Sam was actually a girl who cut her hair short and dressed like a boy and was gay! And the young woman I had met was also gay, they both told me over dinner. WOw, that was amazing: an 18 year old gay woman and a 17 year old gay girl, together as a loving couple, good friends, living their life as a gay couple in public. Usuall6y gay people do not tell the public they are gay until they are older, in their 20s or 30s or 40s, but here was a gay couple, teenagers really, being openly gay in public in Chiayi. Both Sam and Linda were very friendly to me, and we had a good dinner together and talked about many things. For me, if someone is gay, it is okay. Many creative people are gay, from painters and orchestra conductors to writers and poets. Gay people are part of our modern society, and I accept them as complete human beings. Gay men, gay women, they are all part of our society now, in America, in Japan, in Taiwan, too. So it was fun for me to meet Linda and Sam while selling my book at the local night market in Chiayi and getting to know them more over dinner. Sam is studying to be a hair salon worker, and Linda wants to be a singer. I wish them well and good luck in the future. It doesn't matter if a person is gay or straight. What matters is that they are a good person, with honest morals and a good mind, and that they learn about love and compassion and friendship and being a member of a large community we call The World Community. In the future, gay people will be accepted better by society, and they will not be made to feel sad or inferior or different. Every country in the world has gay people, and gay people are part of every city and town everywhere. It really doesnt matter what kind of sexual feelings a person has towards the same sex or the opposite sex, as long as their feelings are honest and loving and real. I was very happy to meet Linda and Sam in CHiayi and I wish them well in their future lives! God bless Linda and Sam in the journey through life! It won't be easy, because some people still have prejudice toward gay people. Do you? I hope not! ================= ================== Travel book by British man in Taiwan documents modern-day Taiwan For British writer Steven Crook, living and working in Taiwan for the last 10 years has been a long learning curve, and the London-born writer has documented his experiences here in an English-language book titled "Keeping Up With the War God: Taiwan, As It Seemed To Me." He also has travelled around Taiwan by train, north south east west, and he loves trains as much as i do. Let me tell you a few things about his book. Perhaps someday you can find it at your local bookstore or online at an Internet bookstore. I recommend it highly. It's a good book about Taiwan, one of the best in English, and the writer, a British man married to a Tainan woman, is a good person. And , yes, he loves train travel! The 135-page collection of travel articles, written for several island newspapers and magazines over a period of seven years, is an insightful take on modern-day Taiwan, and it deserves a wide audience both here in Taiwan and overseas. It may be one of the most important travel books about Taiwan in a long time. It is published in ENglish only and can be seen on the Internet at Reviews of the book in the English-language media in Taiwan have been positive glowing. The Taipei Times, for example, said of Crook: "[He] delivers a balanced and fascinating appraisal of the island ... by turns sardonic, wry and appreciative. 'Keeping Up With the War God' makes very enjoyable reading." The title of Crook's book refers, to an annual local festival in the tiny southern Taiwan town of Yenshui, where residents treat thousands of spectators to a long night of spectacular (and sometimes dangerous) fireworks displays. Crook went there with a steady eye and a courageous curiosity, and he writes about the experience firecrackers and sparks with intelligence and wit. Crook's insights about many aspects of life in Taiwan are telling, and he remains convinced the ROC has a good future in store. In one chapter, he states that while "economic freedom has resulted in severe congestion, noise and pollution [in Taiwan, it has also produced] great vitality." A foreign book critic said he found Crook's book to be an important piece of "lao wai kan taiwan" (foreigner's view) reporting. "This is the best account of life in Taiwan I know, and by quite a long chalk," the British critic wrote in his review in the Taipei Times. Crook, who is married to a Taiwanese woman he met while teaching English in Tainan in southern Taiwan, enjoys his life here, and his short yet tantalizing book is a testament to one foreigner's desire to understand the people and culture of the ROC. Not shy about criticizing those things that rub him the wrong way on the island, Crook never-the-less remains taken with Taiwan and plans to live here for the rest of his life. "I have always regarded the extremes of beauty and ugliness on this island as an entertainment -- a freak-show, almost -- guaranteeing that I should never feel bored," he says in his book. Readers of this small yet important travel book from Yushan Press will never feel bored either. If you would like to read a very good book in English about Taiwan, written by a BRitish man who enjoys life here, go to a bookstore in Taiwan that sells English-language book and buy Steven Crook's very interesting book titled "Keeping Up With the War God." ============== ============== My BOOKs about Taiwan are NOW AVAILABLE IN THE USA! When I travel by train in taiwan, I often meet local people who ask me where I am from, what I am doing here, how long I plan to stay, what my job is, am I married, how old am I, and all those other questions that people always ask foreigners. Now when I meet people on the train who start asking me many questions , I just give them a free copy of my book, sign it for them, and say: "read this, this will tell you all you need to know about me." Did you know, my books about taiwan are now available in the USA? Yes, read on.... AFter my first book was published in September 2001, an AMerican man named Ward Jones who lives in CAlifornia with his Taiwanese wife told me he wanted to sell my book in the USA. I said yes. So Mr Ward Jones wrote this brief statement on his website at -- DAN BLOOM "It is with great gladness and deep respect that we at the "Crystal Dragon of Taiwan" website on the Internet are able to offer our visitors copies of Dan Bloom's first book published in Chinese in Taiwan titled "I Love Taiwan". All copies have been signed by the author and are in new condition. This book is offered at cost. Due to our loving feelings for Taiwan and its wonderful people, we would like to share this wonderful book with others. The current cost is US$10 per copy. This includes postage and packaging within the United States. After other copies arrive by boat the per copy price will be reduced. However, we do not expect to receive the other copies for two more months. Due to unbelievably high shipping costs we have had to rely on "boat mail" so as to keep the future per copy price more reasonable. These first offered copies were mailed via air and as a result cost more. Those people ordering copies for overseas delivery will be charged actual cost of postage. We wish to thank Mr. Bloom for agreeing to work with us in our effort to offer his wonderful book to the people of the United States and world. We share his love and respect for the wonderful country of Taiwan and its people and are deeply honored to be able to share these feelings thru the offering of his book to all people." Sincerely, The Editor and Staff of "Crystal Dragon of Taiwan" For those desiring to order a copy of Mr. Bloom's book please email our staff at: or please write us at: Crystal Dragon of Taiwan, 151 Cohn Valley Way Folsom, CA 95630-5050 An article about Ward Jones and his website appeared in the World Journal newspaper overseas, published by the United Daily News group in Chinese, calls him "a Taiwanese caucasion" because he loves Taiwan so much and works hard for bring Taiwan's message of freedom and democracy to Internet readers around the world. WARd Jones wrote to me: Dear Dan Bloom, I have read about your book in news stories here in the USA, and I would like to sell your book on my website and give it away free to important government officials in the USA. I want to order 100 books now and more later, if sales are good. I am Already getting online requests for your books. Some copies will be given as gifts to various key people and in government here in the USA. The rest will be offered at cost to those wishing to purchase them. My site is a non-profit website. It was established out of my love for Taiwan. As a result, the site serves to educate, inform, and be a "one stop Internet site " for people interested in Taiwan. My website site is currently receiving over 2000 visits a day. I think your book is a very important addition to it and that it should be made available to people around the world. It is very important to me that people be able to see Taiwan and her people through the eyes of those who love her as you and I do. That is why I have written to you and order your books. I hope this project serves to bring and awaken many more people to the wonders and beauty of Taiwan and her people. I also hope this helps to advance the interest in your book and you as an author . ward PS: This book, the third book in my HA SAN TAIWAN series, will soon be available in the USA, too. ============= ============== Learning about the goddess Matsu and going on a pilgrimmage Although I am not a worshipper of Matsu, I enjoy learning about this important goddess. one night, a few years ago, I had a very strange dream about matsu while i was sleeping -- and in the dream, I dreamed that I went on an 8-day pilgrimmage following Matsu around central and southern Taiwan. the reasons for escorting the goddess Matsu on an annual pilgrimage of Taiwan are very personal, but for me, as a foreigner, it was just out of curiosity. That's what my dream was all about: curiosity about Matsu. In my dream, I took the train to Taichi along the Ocean Route and got off in the town of Taichi. I was walking on a small street in Taichi when I heard some children say: "Dan Bloom, Dan Bloom, Matsu is coming! Look, Look!" And they were right: I looked and saw a huge parade coming toward me, with 36 guards carrying Matsu's weapons. In my dream, I was a pilgrim carrying a red flag stamped with temple chops and a tassel of yellow paper talismans fastened on top. I had collected each talisman from a temple on the long 8-day pilgrimage route. I had written my home address in Chiayi City on the side of the flag, having been told that the talismans will bring blessings to me and my family. In my dream, I was waling from from Changhua (彰化) to Hsiluo (西螺), on the annual Tachia Matsu pilgrimage. The annual procession, as you know, follows a palanquin bearing a statue of Matsu from Tachia (大甲) in Taichung County to Hsinkang (新港), Chiayi County and back again over eight days. "Who is Matsu?" I asked an old man in Tachia in my dream. The ojisan, surnamed Wu, told me: "Dan Bloom, Matsu is the patron goddess of seafarers, and is believed to have protected the early immigrants on their way from southern China to Taiwan. For many believers in Taiwan, we will do anything to please the goddess. She is very important to us, as important as jesus is for Christians. We have been doing this in taiwan now for almost 70 years!" I reminded the ojisan Wu, who was 70 years old, that I was not a Christian. "I am an American Buddhist," i said to Ojisan Wu. "Oh, yes, I forgot about that," he said. "The annual Matsu pilgrimage begins and ends at the Chenlan Temple in Taichung County," the Ojisan Wu told me in my dream. "every year, the he pilgrimage follows a fixed route, but some pushy people want Matsu's blessing so much that they try to drag the palanquin out of its way and into their own front yards. All the people on the pilgrimage are friendly and love Matsu, but people in Changhua County seem to be matsu fanatics," Ojisan Wu told me. Ojisan Wu continued his story: "Dan Bloom, as a foreigner you probably do not know much about Matsu, but you should know that The second and third days are the hardest of the 8-day journey because the parade is in a hurry to get to Hsinkang in Chiayi COunty. By the way, you live in Chiayi, don't you?" "yes, I do," I said to Ojisan Wu. "Chiayi is my Taiwan hometown! I love living there!" The annual Matsu pilgrimmage is a very interseting Taiwanese tradition, and i often watch the news each year on TV. So many fireworks! So many people! I am glad I went on my first pilgriammage in a dream, because walking in a dream is easy, and when you wake up ... well, it was all just a dream! Although I have never communicated with Matsu directly, and while Matsu has never visitied me in my dreams and spoken to me, I can feel the power and emotion that Matsu gives in Taiwan, and I think it is a good thing. EVery religion has its own traditions, and they are all good traditions. I think that if Jesus Christ ever came to Taiwan, he would love to go on the 8-day annual Matsu pilgrimmage ,too. Of course, Jesus might feel shy when he sees a young Taiwanese woman in a sexy bikini singing old Taiwanese songs on top of a KTV truck during the pilgrimmage, but, hey Jesus, this is Taiwan! Enjoy it! "Most pilgrims on the 8-day Matsu pilgrimmage ask Matsu how they should travel each year -- by foot or by motorscooter or by bicycle or by car. And Matsu, who is a powerful goddess, usually tells each pilgram which method they should use. I usually go by motorscooter," Ojisan Wu told me in my dream. "After I went on my first pilgrimage, I became braver and more determined, thanks to Matsu," Ojisan Wu told me. "BEfore I went on these annual pilgrimmages, I was a weak and timid person. Matsu changed my life! Even my wife loves me more now, too!" It was a good and interesting dream, and I thanked Ojisan Wu for his introduction to Matsu ... and then I woke up in my own bed in Chiayi, tired after a long night of Matsu dreams! And last year, I visited Hsingkang in Chiayi County when the Mastu pilgrims came there, and for one long night, I sold my books from the back of my motorccyle seat, one by one, as the marchers went by me. It was fun, and by the end of the night, I sold 30 books to people in Hsingkang and those taking part in the Matsu pilgrimmage. I plan to visit Hsingkang every year now, and sell my books there again. It's a good way to see the event, and to meet people I would ordinarlily never meet. ================= ================= Chiayi County native village in scenic Danayiku Valley near Mt. Ali is perfect weekend getaway for city folk: take the train to Longmei or FEngchichu! Tired of life in the concrete jungles of Taipei and looking for a rural getaway far from the air pollution and traffic jams of the big city? A town in the Alishan region called Shanmei Village is located in a beautiful mountain valley just an hour's drive from Chiayi City in southern Taiwan, and it's well worth a weekend visit. You can also go there by train to Longmei or Fenchichu. Every year village leaders produce a tourism festival in November. The "DAnayiku Valley Fish Festival" is sponsored by the village of Shanmei and the ROC Tourism Bureau, and over 5,000 visitors make the trek to the festival grounds each fall, according to village leaders. But you can visit the town anytime, in all four seasons, and be treated to a scenic rural retreat in an Aboriginal village. For Tanya Yang, an Aborigine woman from the Tsou tribe who lives in Shanmei village, the annual fish festival is a chance to see new faces and greet old friends. And weekend visitors all year round are helping to put Shanmei Village on the tourist map, she says. "The festival has been going on for about six years now, and I am looking forward to next November's festival, too," Yang, 32, says. "It's a chance for our village to celebrate our culture and way of life, and at the same time invite residents of larger cities and towns to visit us and share our way of life for a day or two. We also invite tourists to come here any time of the year. We are open for business all year round." A documentary film titled "The Beautiful Stream of Shanmei Village" has received international awards and tells the story of how local residents took the initiative to launch an ecological conservation plan along the Danayiku River about 10 years ago, according to Yang, who lives part of the time in Shanmei village and part of the time in Chiayi City. "We launched a stream preservation movement to protect the beauty of our hometown," Yang says. "It revived the long-polluted local stream, and returned the fish back to its currents. Now the Danayiku River near Shanmei village has become a model of nature conservation and of beauty for all of Taiwan, and the annual festival is a way of showcasing the results, although a visit any time is welcome, all year round." The total population of Tsou tribal members in all of Taiwan is around 8,000, with the village of Shanmei hosting around 800 residents today, according to Yang. Weekend visitors to Shanmei Village may view typical Tsou houses with rounded corners and dome-shaped thatched roofs which extend almost to the floor. The men's meeting huts, called "kuba," serve as religious, political, and masculinity training centers. In the old days, enemy heads and a box of implements for igniting fires were kept there, and women were never allowed inside, according to anthropologists. Although there are some homestay services available in the Danayiku River area and Shanmei, these homestay services are not fully licensed yet. However, there are several hotels, motels and mountain lodges in the area, which tourists may use for overnight accomodations when visiting the Danayiku Valley. In the nearby towns of Daban, Fengchicu and Longmei, there are several motels available at moderate prices for invidivual travellers and families. In addition, along Kilometer 44 on Route 18, the main road from Chiayi City to Ali Mountain, several lodges are open for tourists. For rates and information, call (05) 258-6198, 258-6190, 256-1363 or 256-1016. Hotel accomodations are also available in nearby Chiayi City, with air service and train service from Taipei available as well. In the Danayiku Valley area, there are many intersting cultural and tourism spots for travellers and weekend tourists. On Route 18, the main road to Ali Mountain from Chiayi City, the small town of Chukou has a major tourist attraction known as the "Forever Bridge" -- a long suspension walking bridge over a wide river. The bridge is perfect for travel photos and is also popular as romantic dating spot for couples, according to local newspapers. In Daban village, a traditional tribal village of the Tsou people, there is a popular cultural center, in addition to many scenic nature trails and eye-catching waterfalls. The village of Fengchichu is also a scenic spot in the area, great for photographs and famous for being the mid-point of the Ali Mountain Railway route. While Taiwan boasts many tourist spots worth visiting over a long weekend, from Hualien to Taitung, and from Tamshui to Lukang, central and southern Taiwan has its own charms and attractions. Chiayi County is often thought of as just a place to go to visit the world-famous Mt. Ali, but there is much more to seen in the rural county halfway between Kaohsiung and Taichung. Villages like Shanmei and Daban, while way off the beaten path, are proving to be popular tourist draws for both children and adults alike. Shanmei village in the Danayiku region is one of those places that make an indelible mark on one's memory, and once you've been to this isolated mountain village seemingly in the middle of nowhere, you will never get the place out of your mind. And you might even want to come back for a return visit in the future, to learn more about the Aboriginal lifestyles and culture and history that are such an important part of life on this "tasty, terrific and tantalizing" little island, as one Chiayi observer puts it. ============= ================== LETTERS: Selling my books in the night markets of Taiwan, I often meet many people who are curious about my life here. I received a letter recently from a reader in Taipei who asked: "dear Dan Bloom, I really enjoyed reading your first book, and to tell the truth, it opened up my eyes about how a foreigner can love taiwan so much! thank you for loving my country! I have a question , however, and maybe you can explain this in your next book. I don't know very much about your own personal background -- your age, are you married, do you have children, how do you earn a living here? -- and what really interests me the most is how you can travel so far from your own home in America and then decide to live in Taiwan "forever" as you told me when we met at the book fair in taipei last year. I will never forget that day, when you told me that you will stay in taiwan FOREVER! Are you really serious about that? I think that for many taiwanese people this kind of statement is hard to understand because there is a saying in CHinese that says something like "You should never go too far away from where you parents live!" Of course, we are living in a new time, with new rules, and many taiwanese travelling far around the world now. However, it is still hard for me to completely understand why you would want to live in a foreign coutnry so far away from your home and your parents and brothers and sisters there. Don't you sometimes feel lonely here in Taiwan, so far away from home? And one more question: I am also curious if you ever fell in love with taiwanese woman. I hope you don't mind this question. Sincerely, Yu-wen Tsai TAIPEI Here is my reply to Miss Tsai... Dear Miss Tsai Yu-wen, thank you for your nice letter. I will try to answer your questions, one by one. 1. You want to know more about me? I am right-handed, I am beginning to lose the hair on the top of my head, I weigh 71 kg and I am 171 cm tall, I was born on April 7 in Boston, my father is a doctor, my mother was a nurse, i have three sisters and one brother, and many aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews in America, I was born in the Year of the {I cant remember which one it is, 1959], my star sign is Aries, I do not know what my blood type is because Americans do not usually know their blood types, I went to Tufts University in Boston where I majored in world literature and French language, my grandparents came to America in the early 1900s from four countries: Hungary, Italy, Poland and Russia. My grandmother once told me that our family was related to Einstein the great scientist and Felix Mendelsohn the great Polish composer of music. i don't know if this is true, because when my grandparents came to America in the early 1900s, they could not speak any English, they had never been to college and they worked as night market vendors in Boston and New York until they saved enough money to open up a meat butcher shop and a bread bakery and send their own children (my parents) to college and nursing school! 2. I have always loved to live in foreign countries. I lived in France for a year, I lived in Italy for a year, I have visited 25 countries in my life. I lived in Japan for 5 years and now I have lived in Taiwan for 6 years. yes, I plan to live in Taiwan forever! Is this so strange? I really like living and working in taiwan! You have a great country! You have a great people here! I love taiwan and I love the Taiwanese. 3. I am not married. I never wanted to get married in my life. When I was 20 years old, I decided that I wanted to visit many countries and not get married. But I have had love in my life, and I feel that the most important thing in life is love. I am not a playboy and I do not jump from one woman to the next woman, the way some men do. I like to enjoy the love of one woman and one woman only. In my life so far, I have had several very loving and happy relationships with women: in america, in France, In Alaska, in Japan and yes, here in taiwan too. Maybe someday, if I am lucky, I will marry a taiwanese woman and have a family with her, children! YEs, I love children, although I have never been a father yet! Maybe because I decided to be a writer and a traveller in my life, it was not easy for me to marry and settle down in one place. But now I feel that my "travelling days" are over and I do want to settle down and marry a woman here in taiwan. But i wonder: who could fall in love with such a silly dream like me, who sells his books in the night markets of taiwan and doesn't care about being a rich man or driving fancy expensive cars? I think most women would not want to marry a man like me. WOuld you? 4. I am never lonely in taiwan. I never feel homesick. I feel that the entire world, this Planet Earth, is my home, a real global village. Yes, I am an American citizen according to my passport. But I feel that I am really a citizen of the Global Village and I wish I could have a global citizen passport. American is the land I was born in and educated in and I love america. But now taiwan is the country i have chosen to live in and work in, and I plan to stay here forever. I didn't come to get rich or to marry a taiwanese woman or to be a missionary for some foreign religon, no. I just came here to visit your wonderful country and I am here still, loving every minute of it. Is that so strange? For me, my life is very normal and natural, I never planned it like this, but I love it. Maybe writers are like this: we are not afraid of taking risks and we love life so much! 5. I left America 12 years ago, in 1991. I plan to stay in taiwan forever. America is my past, Taiwan is my present and my future. i do not miss America at all, and i am very happy living in Asia, in taiwan. In my own opinion, Taiwan is a much better country to live in than America, although Americans are wonderful, kind and generous people. no, i never plan to live in America again. I said goodbye to my own country 12 years ago, a sweet and happy goodbye because I love AMerican and Aemrica made me what I am today. 6. I plan to write 10 books in this series of books about why I love living in taiwan. I hope you will read all of them. I will never get rich doing this, but I feel that i am rich in my heart and in my soul, blessed with many good friends from many countries. Sincerely DAN BLOOM =============== ============== Why I live in Taiwan and why I love Taiwan Some of my Taiwanese friends in Chiayi tell me that I must be a brave and courageous person to live alone overseas in a foreign country. But to tell the truth, I am not brave or courageous. I am just following my life's path, as I have been doing ever since I turned 21 and began travelling. For some people, it is their destiny to stay in their hometowns for their entire lives and stay close to home. For other people, like myself, it is our destiny to travel far and wide and meet many new and interesting people in foreign countries and create a new life in a new culture. I am not brave or courageous. I am just a normal American who likes to travel and who thinks this world is really a global village. I am never homesick because the whole world is my home! With the Internet and e-mail, I can keep in touch with my hometown near Boston wherever I go now. My parents and three sisters and older brother are never far away; the Internet and e-mail makes the distance between America and Taiwan very very small. I first began to travel when I was 16. I went to France for a two-month homestay, living with a French family in a small city north of Paris. It was my introduction to a much bigger world than the small town I grew up in near Boston. By giving me a chance to live in France when I was 16, m parents gave me a gift that would last for my entire life -- the gift of seeing the world in a new way, from a foreign point of view. After I graduated from university, I continued my travels: to Russia, Italy, Germany, Iran, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Britain, Holland, Switzerland, Mexico and Japan. Now I have made a second home in Taiwan and I plan to stay here forever. Do I stay in Taiwan because I am married to a Taiwanese woman? No, I am not married, although maybe in the future I will get married in Taiwan. But what really keeps me in Taiwan for six years now and more in the future -- in fact, I plan to stay here for the rest of my life and die in Taiwan and have my ashes scattered in the mountains of Chiayi COunty -- what keeps me here is you, the Taiwan people, my dear Readers! Yes, it is the personality of Taiwan people, the warm hearts and friendly faces I see and greet every day that keep me here! I love Taiwan because the Taiwan people are great! You have a very great country, my friends, with a great population of 23 million people. That's why I love Taiwan so much -- because of you, the people of Taiwan! I feel comfortable in Taiwan, I feel at home in Taiwan, I feel as if I belong in Taiwan. Yes, I am a foreigner and I will also be a foreigner. But when I wake up every morning in Chiayi City, I do not feel like a foreigner anymore. I feel as if I am just a resident of Chiayi, a resident of Taiwan. a friend of this wonderful country! Thank you for inviting me here in 1996, Mr DOminic Lin of Chiayi, the friendly English teacher who I met in Alaska in 1985 when he was studying ENglish at the university there! I came to Taiwan by chance, by the kindness of Mr Lin. And I have stayed here all these years because of more kindness from more Tainwanese people all over the island. I thank you deeply for your hospitality and your friendship. Life is wonderful in Taiwan! I believe that history and geography has combined to create a wonderful genepool of amazing DNA in Taiwan, and the people here are great! You have a great energy and a great creativity and a great power for friendship and hospitality, and that is why I love Taiwan. If there is a God, and I don't really believe in this man-made God, but if there is a God like that God, then he or she did a great job in creating this island off the coast of the ASian mainland and he or she did an even bettter job in creating and combining some very interesting DNA to create a wonderful people of Taiwanese human beings. God did a good job in creating America, too, I love AMerica, too. But I just want you to know, dear Readers, that I believe God did a wonderful job in creating Taiwan and I hope you realize you live in a very dynamic country with a wonderful future! Yes, long live Taiwan! And if mainland China ever invades Taiwan, Dan Bloom will be here, too, fighting against the enemy with you. I hate communism and I hate lies and political propaganda. As an American living in Taiwan, I will be right be your side fighting against any mainland China attack! __________________________ ================= =============== If you have a dream, follow it! It's not easy to follow your dreams, especially if your dreams are not very practical in terms of making money. Children who want to be artists or writers or dancers or film directors or musicians or novelists or poets always face the opposition of their parents who say: "Your dream is very nice, but I am afraid you cannot make money that way, and how will you survive?" So many people give up their dreams and decide to take a normal job that pays them a normal salary. But they are never happy, because they remember their dream. Dan Bloom's parents in Boston said the same thing to him when he was a college student: "You can never make enough money as a writer, dear son," Bernard and Sylvia Bloom said to their 21-year-old dreamer of a son. "Study to be a lawyer or an engineer or a doctor. It's nice to be a writer, but writers are poor and never have enough money. Forget your dreams!" But something inside me kept pushing me forward, maybe it was fate or destiny or the power of dreams. I kept dreaming of becoming a writer and after my university days I went to Paris, France to follow my dreams. And here I am in Taiwan, many years later, still following my dream, still trying to make a living as a writer! Dreamers are stubborn people. My advice to young people who have their own dreams of artistic dreams or business dreams is this: "Do it! Don't give up! Follow your own dreams!" I remember an American TV star who became famous after a long long time of being poor and unfamous. HE said: "Too many people simply give up too easily...You have to keep the desire to forge ahead, and you have to be able to take the bruises of unsuccess. Success is just one long street fight." Yes, success is a street fight, it's you against fate, you against destiny, you against your parents, you against all the other people competing with you with their own dreams! Success is not easy! But if you have a dream inside you, go for it, do it, follow your own destiny! You can be the master of your own fate! Okay, so I am not rich. Dan Bloom will never be rich. But I am happy, successful in my own way. I am fulfilled, I have lived my life by my own rules and I feel good about life. I love life! Money is not everything! Money is just one measurement for success! Personal happiness and satisfaction is also important. If you have a dream, don't let go of it. It is your dream, you have only one life to live. Do it! ============== ============== The parakeet that charmed a foreigner in Chiayi "Far, far away, in a place that is very cold, there is a land called Antarctica. It is so cold and so full of ice and snow and chilly ocean waters that the only animals that can live there are penguins. Did you know that penguins are quite friendly and charming? It's true. And one of the most friendly and charming among them is a young and curious penguin called Tobias." That's how a children's book for children in Italy begins. I know this because one of my many part-time jobs in Taiwan -- in addition to being a private English tutor for adults and a newspaper reporter for several English-language newspapers in Taiwan, Japan and the US -- (and in addition to writing books like this one!) -- is to work part-time as a re-writer for a translation company that translates children's books from Italian to Chinese and then into English. My job is to re-write the English, polish the syntax and grammar and rhythms of the story, and make it "read" like a real good children's story in English. It's fun to do this, and I love this part-time job. The pay is low but the rewards come in another way -- the satisfaction of having fun taking on an interesting and creative challenge. When I was given the book about Tobias the penguin to re-write and polish into easy-to-read English for kids in Taiwan and overseas, I didn't have to go far to imagine what it is like to be a penguin. Why? Because I have a pet parakeet that flew in my window one day completely by chance, a small bird I keep in a cage at my home in Chiyai and whose name if "BiG Bird" even though she's a very small bird. I consider Big Bird to be a kind of angel because I did not go out and buy Big Bird at a pet store. I wasn't even thinking about buying a pet bird. But one day, about a year ago, on a quiet Sunday morning, I woke up in bed and heard some noise near by window. I got out of bed, walked over the window, and to my surprise, I found a small bird on the outside of my house trying to get in! I couldn't believe it! Maybe it was a wild bird, I thought. When i opened to window and invited the bird to come in, she flew into my room and landed on my shoulder, as she had known me for a long long time. I think this was a sign from God that Big Bird and Dan Bloom were destined to be friends. And yes, Big Bird and I have become good friends. I talk to her in French, and she talks to be in bird-talk -- chirp, chirp, chirp. This "Angel" that flew in my window one day in Chiayi, completely by chance, has taught me alot about animals and the animal world. It's good for a writer to know about animals because in many ways, animals are like people. So when I was given the work assignment to re-write an Italian children's story into English about a funny penguin named Tobias, it was easy for me to imagine how Tobias might feel and think because Big Bird was right by my side as I was writing, and when I had a question about something Tobias might do or say, I just asked Bird Bird what she thought and she always gave me the correct answer. Parakeets understand penguins very well, because they are both members of the animal world. Thanks to Big Bird, I could understand the penguin's feelings and ideas, and beacuse I am an honest man, I decided to give Big Bird half of my salary for re-writing the Italian childrens's book. At first, Big Bird said "No, Dan Bloom, you're the writer, I'm just a small insignificant bird, you keep the money!" But I insisted that Big Bird take half my salary -- about NT$5000 -- and said: "Big Bird, I could not have completed this job assignment without you by my side, inspiring me with your chirping and being my muse! Please take the money and use it to buy some real delicious bird food. Do parakeets like cho-dofu?" I have re-written two stories about Tobias the penguin for a publisher in Tainan, thanks to the great help that Big Bird has given me. Someday I plan to write a children's story for children in Taiwan about Big Bird. It will begin like this: "Far, far away, in a place that is very hot, there is a tasty, tantalizing and terrific country called Taiwan. It is such a friendly and wonderful place to live, and the people who live there are so kind and generous to their foreign friends, that I have made Taiwan my home and plan to live here forever. And one of the inhabitants of Taiwan who has given me alot of inspiration, and never asked for anything in return, is a really cute little parakeet called Big Bird who lives on Lane 274 on Culture Road in Chiayi City in a fifth floor apartment with a beautiful view of the nearby mountains. Did you know that parakeets are quite friendly and charming? It's true. And one of the most friendly and charming among them is a young and curious parakeet called Big Bird." ================= ============== 61. Little Tokyo stills calls out to Dan Bloom when he visits Taipei Whenever I take the train to Taipei to visit friends or for a meeting with a newspaper editor or a book publisher, I always stay in a small hotel on Linsen North Road. Actually, it is a love hotel on "Liu Tiao Tong" (sixth street) and the owner of the hotel is a friend of mine. The reason I stay in the small love hotel is because the price is cheap -- just NT$650 for one night -- and I just need a place to sleep for a few nights while I am in Taipei. If I stayed at a fancy luxury hotel in taipei, I would have to pay around NT$3,000 or NT$5,000 just to have a bed to sleep on. So for a much lower price, I always stay at the love hotel on Sixth Street in Little Tokyo. It's convenient, it's quiet, there's a TV in the room and a very very very big shower room! Yes, did you know that these love hotel rooms have huge gigantic shower rooms. I measured the shower room in the room I stayed in the last time, and according to my measurements, the shower room in Room 201 could hold 32 people standing up! I guess that's why they call these hotels "love hotels!" In America, they are called motels or business hotels, but in Japan, where the Japanese like to combine ENglish words in strange new ways, the term "LOVE HOTEL" was invented around 20 years ago. At the Love Hotel I usually stay at in Taipei, -- it's called the BLUE MOON HOTEL or the RED GARDEN HOTEL, something like that -- there's a karaoke club on the first floor and sometimes I can hear people singing until 3 a.m. in the morning! Oh well, for just NT$650 a night, I cannot complain. When I am visiting Taipei, I also like to go to my favorite restaurant in Little Tokyo, a very relaxing place called "Tanuki Go Den" (狸御殿). It's on Lane 121, also known as Chi Tiao Tong, seventh street, and it's address in Chinese is 北市中山北路1段121巷17-1號. For reservations call (02) 2521-9402 or (02) 2511-8172. The restaurant opens at 5:30 pm and closes around midnight. I like to eat at Tanuki Go Den, even though the bill at the end of the meal is usually high, because the atmosphere is just the best I have ever experienced in Taiwan. You can watch your food being cooked on an open grille in front of you as the two cooks prepare the various japanese meat and fish dishes, with delicious seafood salads and rice cakes available, too. I usually eat a simple meal when I go to "tanuki Go Den." I like to start my meal with a seafood salad, and then eat some chicken yakitori, some cold tofu and drink some hot sake. That's it. For around NT$600, I can have a great meal, relax in a wonderful restauerant atmosphere and stare at the fire in the open grille. Did you know that looking at flames from a fire is a very good way to relax the mind? Yes. Of course, when I have a lot of money in my wallet, I order other delicious foods at tanuki Godeh, -- barbeque shrimp and crab, boiled clams, Korean beef called "kalbee" and many other kinds of yakitori, including liver, tongue and chicken wings. SOmetimes the bill for must one person -- me! eating alone and reading a magazine! -- will cost NT$3000. I don't care. Somtimes I live like a prince, sometimes I live like a poor man. Life is great! Mr Mikami , a native of Hokkaido Japan who married a very pretty woman from Taipei named Lai Hsiu-lan (賴秀蘭), created Tatnuki Go Den around 20 years ago. Hoke - partially smoked fish - is one of Mr Mikami'sspecialties. Try it sometime if you go there. The wood paneling, the polite service by the young men and women who work at TANUKI GO DEN give the place a real cozy atmosphere. If I die and go to heaven, I hope there's a TANUKI GO DEH there! =================== ================== 63. I am a backwards man! I sometimes write humorous newspaper articles under the pen name of "Leinad Moolb," which is my real name "Daniel Bloom" spelled backwards. Of course, in Taiwan I write under the name of "Dan Bloom" and that's how I sign all my articles and books here. Some people in my hometown of Chiayi even call me by one word -- "Danbloom" -- and that's what I am known as. But when I lived in the US, I often wrote under the pen name of Leinad Moolb and I did it for one very funny reason: when you look at English words backwards, they look funny and surprising and cool! For example, the US singer Frank Sinatra often signed his paintings by the name of "ARTANIS." Really! He spelled his name backwards for fun! And the US TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey calls her own TV company by the name of HARPO which is Oprah spelled backwards! Yes, it's true. And there is a travel agency in Los Angeles called "The Levart Travel Agency" -- "levart" is "travel" spelled backwards! There are two men in Boston called Leon Jones and Noel Jones. They are twins. "Leon" is "Noel" spell backwards! The parents chose those two names on purpose, for a family laugh! It's a true story! There is a small town in Texas in the US called "Enola." This is "alone" spelled backwards! Americans and English people like to play games with backwards spelled words, and even spies like James Bond used backwards names in their work! But I have one warning here: do not spell the word GOD backwards! It is not polite! After I began writing under the name of Leinad Moolb, I began thinking of other ways to do things backwards and the more I thought about it, the funnier it all seems! For example, imagine walking to work one morning backwards! You could wak up and get out of bed backwards one morning, just for fun, just as an experiment to test "DAN BLOOM's THEORY OF BACKWARD LIVING" and see if you like doing things backwards. You could even jog backwards, and there is already a Taiwanese man in Yunlin County who runs marathon races backwards! I read about him in a magazine and saw a photograph of him running backwards! It was so funny! But I congratulate Mr Chen for having the courage to do things his own unique way. He is trendsetter, a visionary, a forward-thining backwards man! I like doing things backwards, too. Try spelling your English name backwards, if you have one here in Taiwan, or try spelling your Chinese name backwards in roman letters. For exeample, Chen Shui-bian becomes "Nehc Iuhs-naib" in the backwards-spelling method. Try this with your own name and report back to me at my own backwards email address: There are many ways to live backwards. You can drive to work backwards, if you are really careful, and you can swim backwards and sing backwards and even eat backwards! Yes, tonight, for example, eat your dessert first, then eat the main course, and at the end of your meal, eat the appetizer. just for fun, just to do something different, just to see life in from another point of view! DAN BLOOM's dream in the future is to walk around the entire island of Taiwan -- backwards! Why? I just want to make people think about life! By walking backwards around Taiwan -- watching out carefully for cars and trucks and buses, of course! -- I want to help publicize "DAN BLOOM's THEORY OF BACKWARD LIVING" to give people in Taiwan a chance to laugh at life, to laugh at me, and to laugh at themselves. According to my doctor in Chiayi, Dr. Hsu, who told my that even my heart is beating backwards for some strange reason -- maybe it's my DNA! -- the more we laugh in life, the longer we can live. Laughter is good to cure stress, to cure the blues, to cure disease even. Dr. Hsu told me that everyone should try to laugh at least 50 times a day in order to live a long, healthy life. Think about it. Think about it backwards! Dan Bloom (Leinad Moolb) is an American writer who lives in CHiiayi and wrote the book titled XXXX. You can reach him by email at =============== =============== 64. Bilingual book for Police Officers in Taiwan Explains "Cop Talk" in English Bilingual Book for Police Officers in Taiwan Explains "Cop Talk" in English The hardest job in the world is to be a police officer. So says Leo Shih, in his handy new bilingual paperback. But perhaps this book can make the job a tad easier, as it provides police officers in Taiwan with useful English-language legal and slang terms for dealing with foreigners. Released by the Taipei-based Learning Publishing Co., "Police English" can be found in bookstores throughout Taiwan--as well as in local police stations. Many local police chiefs have ordered copies of the book for their foreign affairs departments, from stations in Kaohsiung City in the southern part of the island to the northern metropolis of Taipei. In Chiayi City, southern Taiwan, all officers and clerks in the foreign affairs section have been given free copies of the 163-page booklet. According to Angel Lin, one official there, the publication will help them communicate better with foreigners who work or reside in the Chiayi area. Shih, himself a former officer with the Wichita, Kansas, police department, has returned from the United States to his homeland of Taiwan. After living on the island once again, he realized there was a need for an English-Chinese guidebook to assist police officers here. That insight gave birth to "Police English," a book that goes a long way toward paving better relations--and communications--between police officers and foreigners in Taiwan. "As the number of foreign visitors and residents in Taiwan increases, police officers encounter situations where they need to speak English," Shih says in the publication. "This book is meant to serve as an aid for police officers in learning English." The book was a good idea, and the fact that it's now being used and widely circulated means that policemen have found it useful and practical. Shih noted that after leaving police work, he looked for ways to serve the law enforcement community in Taiwan. "Putting this book together gave me the perfect opportunity to do just that," he said. Using what he calls "common cop talk," Shih has compiled a bilingual guide that gives local officers a sense of English-language police talk. In a chapter titled " Assisting and Calming the Victims of a Crime," he lists many important phrases. Two examples are "This is the police, please stay calm," and "We have the suspects in custody. " Each phrase is followed by the same phrase in Chinese, with a brief vocabulary checklist on the bottom of the page. This is not a book for students of English, although it is usually displayed on shelves in that section in most Taiwan bookstores. Rather, it's a communication guide for police officers on patrol, foreign affairs personnel, the general public and local residents, as well as for foreigners. Terms such as "arrest warrant" and "search warrant" are explained, along with the phrases "Get down on your knees," "Get down on the ground," "Hands up!" and other verbal commands. Shih also lists and explains such orders as "Don't move!" "Freeze!" and "Turn around slowly." Don't laugh. A few years ago, a Japanese teen-ager studying in the United States was killed during a Halloween party in Louisiana when he apparently didn't understand a command to freeze during a nighttime incident. The boy kept walking, and was fatally shot. "Police English" does not focus solely on criminal investigations or situations of danger and alarm. There are also other helpful chapters with important phrases: For noise complaints, "It's late. Please be considerate of your neighbors." For fire evacuations, " Walk quickly to the nearest emergency exit." And for missing passports, "What was its expiration date?" There are chapters providing English terms on household registration checks, arrest procedures and interviewing victims of assaults =============== ================= 65. New book savors the flavor of famous steamed dumplings shop in Taipei It's the stuff of legend, Chinese steamed dumplings, that is, and for anyone who has ever spent much time living and working in Taiwan, there's nothing like some tasty steamed " shiao lom pao" for lunch or dinner. Ask any local resident across the island, what their favorite Chinese dish, and you're likely to hear them say the magic incantation: "shiao lom pao." With meat or or mushrooms or cabbage or combinations thereof stuffed inside thin flour puffs that are then steamed in a bamboo steamer, shiao lom pao restaurants and street stalls are ubiquitous all across Taiwan, from the smallest village to the largest city. There's even a restaurant in downtown Taipei that has become internationally famous for its steamed dumplings, and it's the subject of a recent book here titled "The Legend of Ding Tai Feng" by Taipei author Wang Mei. Yes, the New York Times once mentioned the Ding Tai Feng restaurant in Taipei as one of the finest steamed dumpling restaurants on the planet, and the management has been glowing from that compliment for years now. When Wang decided to write a book about the place, she first had to get the cooperation of the two people most responsible for the success of the operation, the father-son management team of Yang Ping-yi and Yang Chi-hua. Once she had them on board, writing the history of their award-winning dumpling shop was a piece of cake, she told reporters during a recent press conference in Taipei when the Chinese-language book was launched. Steamed dumplings have a long history in Chinese cuisine, and they have survived wars and famines, migrations and ocean crossings. Taiwan has its own style of making steamed dumplings and the Yang family was one of the pioneers, according to Wang. Although the steamed dumpling was not invented at the Ding Tai Feng restaurant, it has become an urban mecca for the savory dish, so much so that there are now plans to open up nine or ten outlets around the city, with a centralized kitchen set up by the Yangs serving as shiao lom pao central, according to Wang. So popular are the dumplings at Ding Tai Feng, that a major Japanese department store has already set up several outlets in Tokyo and plans to add more in the near future. Franchises are also being planned Hong Kong and mainland China, according the Yangs. The restaurant has come a long way from its humble beginnings, and it is now a fixture of Taipei dining excursions, for both local residents and expatriates in search of something both tasty and affordable. What's the secret to the shop's success? The cooks and kitchen helpers use only the finest ingredients and emphasize freshness on a daily basis, according to the book. There are also some family secrets involved in the preparation process, and certainly the location along Hsinyi Road near the corner of Hsinsheng South Road in downtown Taipei has also played an important role in making the place accessible to its regular patrons over the last 20 years. The well-written and quickly-paced book was published by Yuan Chien Publishing Co. and contains a variety of color and black-and-white photographs of Ding Tai Feng's past and present. With steamed dumplings certain to remain an important and savory part of Taiwan's island cuisine, the restaurant's future looks rosy, with new customers to please and new cities -- and countries -- to conquer. The legend of Ding Tai Feng is really not a legend at all; it's a real Taiwan success story, a family business story, an urban fairytale of hard work, fresh food, happy staffers and a certain way of attracting and pleasing loyal customers over the years. The next time you're in Taipei, on business or pleasure, set aside one afternoon or evening for a trip to this Taiwan legend. ============= ============== 66. Taiwan's younger generation adopting unusual names in search for "uniqueness" Forget the old standby English names like Emily, Amy, David or Michael. Today's young people in Taiwan like finding and sporting unusual names such as Rainbow, Marlboro, or Fortran. -- DAN BLOOM Yes, according to English teachers across Taiwan, from Kaohsiung to Taipei, a new generation of young people are taking on unique English names in an effort to be stand out from the crowd and be fashionable. And it's a trend worth watching, says Laura Chao-chih Liao, an associate professor at Feng China University in Taichung, who has written a book about "personal names, nicknames and English names" in Taiwan. Until 1997, I had never thought about writing a methodical sociolinguistic study about Taiwan-Chinese names," Liao says. "But after seeing a 'call for academic papers' on naming posted by the American Name Society in the US, I decided to write a book about what I have been observing with my students and colleagues here in Taiwan." The result, a 280-page treatise published by Crane Publishing Company in Taipei, contains interesting nuggets of information about the many naming conventions used by parents in Taiwan as well as amusing anecdotes about the use of "fashionable" and "cool" English names that some students adopt today in classrooms and cram schools. Even the New York Times is watching the trend unfold. In a recent article in the Times by a Chinese-American reporter writing under the byline of "Jennifer 8. Lee," -- her real name, by the way -- titled "Taiwanese raid dictionaries, pop culture in search of English names," Lee writes: "While [Taiwanese] students may once have taken names off prepared lists in class or been assigned names by teachers, now Western culture has inspired some students to come up with their own names, even if some of them may seem quirky to Western ears." Take names like Skywalker, Fortran, Manchester United, Eminem and Seven, for example. According to Lee, a 25-year-old Harvard graduate, such names are now being used in classrooms in Taipei and Kaohsiung. Says Liao, a 46-year-old Taichung resident with two teenage children of her own: "I've come across names such as Lancelot, Rexo, Empty, Anferrnee Hardaway [a US basketball star], Moment, Level and Snake, among others, in my research for the book." There's also Degial, Mida, Hurricane, Gobby, Herro Yuh, Vash, Bluse and Christle, according to Liao. Whatever happened to names like Peggy, Emily, Amy, David and Vincent? "There are still a lot of stufdents using normal, familiar English names in Taiwan, of course," Liao says. "But some students don't want to use a common English name; they want to be special. So yes, the worlds of sports and Hollywood movies and foreign superstars and actors give some students here an available list to raid for choosing their own unique names." English names used among young Taiwanese today can be inspired from US sports, pop music stars or simply the dictionary, ranging from Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods to Madonna and Britney Spears. "What's being reflected [in Asian naming fashions today] at the moment is a universal desire for uniqueness," according to Cleveland Evans, a US psychology professor in Nebraska who does research on naming trends around the world. "It's sort of a paradox," according to Evans. "As the world becomes smaller and more connected through culture and movies, people become more insistent on names that are unique to the individual to give them a sense of difference." Rainbow Chen of Chiayi says he wanted a unique name that people would remember easily. "I never wanted a name like David or Michael or Daniel," he says. "They're too common. Everyone wants to be special." Taiwan students often adopt Western names to use in English classes and cram schools and often change their names several times over the course of several years. Rainbow Chen confessed that he was first called Michael in junior high school and then David in high school and later Daniel in college. According to the New York Times, "by incorporating the flexibility of Chinese naming conventions with influences from Western popular culture, the younger generation ... is expanding the base of ready-made English names like David and Amy." By the way, just how did Jennifer 8. Lee get her unusual "middle name"? Being just one of hundreds of Jennifer Lee applying to get into Harvard College when she was still a high school student in New York, Lee asked her parents for some help in making her application stand out from all the others. The solution, according to Lee, was to use the number eight with a period after it, since in Chinese culture, eight stands for " good fortune." The result was admission to Harvard then and a successful career now as a New York Times reporter. Liao's paperback book -- which sells for NT$375 and may be ordered via e-mail at -- doesn't only discuss the use of unusual English names in Taiwan. Through dedicated research, the Taichung professor also delves into the msyteries of Taiwan's naming conventions, discussing "affectionate names," "fortune tellers' instructions," " homophonic word games" and a special Taiwanese fondness for "nicknames," among other topics discussed in her wide-ranging book. Interviewed, Liao pointed out that English naming phenomena in both Taiwan and outside-Taiwan Chinese communities are influenced by the Chinese concept that common names have lost their aesthetic value. They transfer the Chinese naming practice to English names. She suggested that native English speakers teaching English in Taiwan tell their Taiwanese students the stereotypical ideas about unusual English names in their own culture because Chinese give themselves quirky western names partly due to their innocence about the culture of native English speaking countries. ============== ================= 65. Could an expat become a member of Taiwan's national legislature someday? It might seem like a long way off, and it may never even come to pass in Taiwan, but if it happened in Japan (and it did) it could happen here. A Finnish man -- who lived in Japan since 1967 and married a Japanese woman in 1974 subsequently becoming a Japanese citizen -- has recently become a member of tthe Japanese parliament. His name: Marutei Tsurunen. He has become the first Westerner to take a seat in Japan's Diet, filling the seat of a Diet member who resigned his post. Although Mr Tsurunen ran for national office four times (and failed each time), history has now put him in the spotlight as the first "gaijin" (foreigner) to sit in the Diet. And if it could happen in Japan, who says it cannot happen in Taiwan, too. According to Richard Hartzell, a longtime, married resident of Taiwan who works now as a human rights activist and consultant for foreigners with legal problems, it's an idea whose time has come. "Sure, it could happen in Taiwan," Hartzell said in a recent email. "But it will take some twists and turns of Taiwan history and politics. But yes, there could be a Maruten Tsurunen here, too, sitting in the national legislature someday. He might have a name like Jack Smith or Ralph Jones or Etienne LeBrun, sure. Although I am not sure if Taiwan society is ready for this quite yet. What happens in Japane often reflects things that can happen here, too, however." For the past four elections in Japan, the Finnish-born, former missionary Tsurunen -- who became a Japanese citizen in 1979, five years after marrying his wife Sachiko -- tried to win office and always failed. In the last election in July 200, he won nearly 160,000 votes as a Democratic Party candidate, just falling short of the quota needed under the proportional representation system. Apart from his origins as a Finnish missionary, people in Japan know that Tsurunen's success has come the hard way. In all his campaigns, he relied on volunteers and grassroots campaigning instead of the traditional method of winning blocs of votes by getting the support of bodies such as unions or church groups. It took Tsurunen 34 years to find his place in Japanese society, as a member of the Diet there, he has succeeded finally. He even wrote a book in Japanese earlier in his quest to become a member of Japanese society, titled "I Want to be Japanese." But he could never become really Japanese, and he now considers himself an international person with a Japanese passport. Could a member of Taiwan's growing expat community someday become a member of the national legislature? "Stay tuned," says Hhartzell. "Japan is often a bellweather for Taiwan." ================== =================== 66. Yung Liu, Shiuan Liu turn books into Taiwan publishing empire For Yung Liu and Shiuan Liu, father and son, writing is a family affair. The elder Liu, who is 52 years old, is the immensely popular, bestselling writer of such hits as "Overcome Yourself", "Create Yourself", "Establish Yourself" -- a trilogy of personal motivation books -- and two new bestsellers "How to Talk Straight into the Heart," in a two-part volume. Born in Taipei and now dividing his time between Manhattan and Taiwan, the elder Liu majored in art at Taiwan Normal University. His most recent book, now among the top 10 bestsellers islandwide is titled "Lady, Lady, Don't Get Angry." Son Shiuan, a 28-year-old Taipei native and a graduate of Harvard College where he majored in psychology, has also done well in the Taiwan publishing market with sseveral books released here in Chinese-language editions, among them: "The Trembling Earth," "Finding Myself" and "Work Hard, Play Hard." He currently lives in Long Island outside New York City, while working on several book projects, he said in a recent email while preparing for an upcoming trip to mainland China. "I've published mostly travel writing and autobiographical essays in Taiwan, and a few pieces of short fiction here and there," Lui, who moved to the US when he was just eight years old, said. "'Work Hard, Play Hard,' for example, is a collection of stories, essays and ramblings from my college and post-college days. It's done well in Taiwan." In addition, the two writers, Lui pere and Lui fils, have collaborated on a book titled "Creating Win-Win Communication." Looking at the photographs of the two writers on the book jackets of their publications, it almost looks like they are brothers, so closely do they resemble each other. Like father, like son, as they say, and in this case, the two men have established a unique and independent publishing empire in the middle of Taipei's bustling publishing field. Yung Liu used his writing credentials and bestseller status to set up his own publishing firm in Taipei, called Shui-Yun-Zhai Studio. In addition, the Chao Yue Publishing Company, an offshoot of Shui-Yun-Zhai Studio, publishes Shiuan's books and a few other authors as well, among them American writer Dominika Baran. (Shiuan Liu translated Baran's latest book about her trip to mainland China, which was published here in October.) Vivian Liu, wife of Yung and mother of Shiuan, is now a fulltime homemaker, taking care of a 12-year-old daughter named Yvonne, according to Shiuan. His mother is a former director of admissions at St. John's University in New York. Although most foreigners in Taiwan have never heard of the famous father-son duo, it might be useful to compare the elder Liu to the American self-help guru Dale Carnegie, although Liu's books are more motivational and less advice-driven, according to his son. "The American book market has moved on from the days of exhortation and motivation -- now it's 'self-help,'" Shiuan Liu said in a recent email from New York. "My dad is less of a self-help guru for Taiwan than a general essayist on life. People in Taiwan like to read his bestsellers because they're pithy and philosophical and driven by stories, not just theories." While the elder Liu has already established a major publishing empire, son Shiuan -- not yet 30 -- is thinking of branching out into fiction. "I have had some stories brewing in my head for years," he says. "I'm trying to overcome my timidity toward writing fiction by starting with shorter pieces and then moving on to longer, more developed stories. Some Taiwanese authors have enjoyed tremendous success publishing their work on the Internet as 'web novels.' I see that medium as a promising platform for some of my works in the future." To get a taste of life in the North American wilderness, Shiuan Liu spent a summer a few years ago living with a family in rural Alaska, an experience he says he will never forget and which may very well work its way into a future book. Unlike the U.S. and Britain, where writers usually have agents steering their careers and making deals for them with powerful publishers in Manhattan and London, Yung and Shiuan Liu serve as their own agents, PR planners and publishers, according to Shiuan, and that suits them just fine. "My dad and I are our own agents, and we also publish ourselves. That is, of course, unusual, and our lack of agent representation also means that we have to do all of our own PR work and sub-rights contracting," son Shiuan says, noting that their books are also distributed in Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing and Malaysia. "We have also licensed our books to mainland China," Shiuan says. "In fact, my father has been doing very well in mainland China -- I think he has been one of the top ten selling authors there for the past two years." When asked how living in the New York area after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Shiuan Liu gives a thoughtful answer. "It's hard to say how the 911 attack has affected my plans," he says. "You could say that in light of the events, my current decisions can be perceived as 'I want to leave New York,' but I have wanted a change of scenery for a long time now, and it's unrelated to what happened in Manhattan that day. Being a native of Taipei, I feel that Asia is filled with opportunity, and it's somewhere that I've already established myself to a certain extent as a writer and publisher. The World Trade Center attack happened at a point where I'm no longer in graduate school and not yet in a full-time job. I feel like it's throwing a smokebomb on the crossroads of life. If anything, I feel the urgency to get started with my adult career right away, just so I don't dwell on the depressing events of the recent past here in the US." Currently, Shiuan Liu is doing some volunteer work in Manhattan with the Buddhist Tzu-Chi Foundation of Taiwan, which has set up a booth at the family assistance and relief center on Pier 94 in New York. "I interview family members of 911 victims and people who have lost their jobs, so that Tzu-Chi can give financial "compassion relief" to those who need money right away," Liu said in a recent email. "I have heard many sad stories and seen displaced people from all strata of society, who are all wandering the football-sized complex of Pier 94 looking to piece their lives together. Being there and helping people -- and being grief counselor when I'm needed -- has given me a lot of comfort, not just in the inspiring strength shown by the family members of the deceased but also because I feel like I'm actually doing something to help here. I feel I can have an effect on this seemingly overwhelming situation and in so doing, I'm exerting my presence in life." With new books on the horizon for Liu pere and Liu fils, the father and son writing team is looking ahead to the future, with plans to continue to divide their time between New York and Taipei. While none of their books are published in English yet, their Chinese-language books here have set a pattern that other Taiwan writers might want to emulate, writing and publishing and promoting their books on their own, free from the giant publishing firms that rule most of Taiwan =============== =============== 71. Seeing the world on a global bicycle tour You might have missed this news story when it first appeared in the Taiwan media, but it is worth repeating here because of the marvelous portrait it paints of two Taiwanese women -- world-circling bicyclists, global explorers, brave souls. Yes, Lin Chi-ying and Chiang Chiu-ping, whose hometown is Paiho in Chiayi County (famous for its annual Lotus Festival, by the way) were the stars in a newspaper article titled "Women cyclists blaze trail around globe." Written by Taipei journalist Sofia Wu, the article detailed how the two young women hatched a dream to bicycle around the world -- and how they accomplished their goal! From July 1998 through November 2001, Lin and Chiang spent over 900 days cycling through more than 30 countries on five continents. They bicycled through the solitude of deserts, the huge vastness of rural Alaska, saw the glamour of western Europe and glimpsed the wild African wilderness. When they came back to Taiwan they told journalist Wu: "That's enough. We have burned the most beautiful flames of our youth and the rest of our lives will just be a bonus. We will live in gratitude every day." According to reporter Wu, Lin and Chiang are probably the only two Taiwanese women to have successfully traveled around the world by bicycle, and they deserve a place in the country's history books. Lin said that their global adventure originated in Lin's childhood dreams of world travel, dreams she never gave up on until she accomplished her goal. Lin and Chiang certainly are symbols of the new Taiwanese woman, free to pursue their distant dreams and travel far and wide. The two women started their adventure by visiting first several neighboring Asian countries and North America. Then they traveled to Australia and New Zealand. Then they set forth on a tour of Europe and Africa, financing their global travels, according to reporter Wu, by "painting scenes of their journey on greeting cards and T-shirts, which they sold in their hometown of Paiho. Many Paiho residents, including workers at an iron factory near their homes, lent their support by purchasing their T-shirts. "Once you are determined to realize your dream, many angels will appear to render assistance," a grateful Lin told reporter Wu. There's a funny story, too, according to Lin -- about her local dentist in Paiho. In addition to making three sets of braces for her teeth at no charge, the friendly dentist also gave her a check for NT$200,000 and a brief note which read: "Don't forget to return home to Taiwan. Always remember Taiwan's merits. Somebody is waiting for you — for the sake of seeing your teeth!" I like that -- a dentist with a sense of humor. He is also part of this amazing story. Their heavier-than-normal bicycles were like "mobile homes," according to Lin and Chiang. Weighing in at about 18 kg, the bikes were especially assembled by a Dutch businessman and the bikes themselves were products of "a global division of labor," with alloy steel frames from Holland, chains from France and luggage racks from Germany. The bikes were also equipped with Taiwan-made anti-flat tires and safety lamps, according to the two women. Lin and Chiang said camping in the wild during their global adventure offered "extremely beautiful" experiences. "I will always remember the view of the moon that I saw from my tent at the foot of the Rocky Mountains," Lin said. "In addition, we received great care and assistance from the people we met along the way, all over the world." Despite the language barrier, one old Turkish woman in Turkey fell in love with the two adventurous Taiwanese women so much that she persuaded them to stay longer than they had planned! Lin said the most important facet of travel is to remain inspired and continue to find fun in everything and turn dullness into "magical wonder." I agree! When asked why they had chosen to travel around the world by bicycle, the slow way, Lin said it is because bikes can bring them closer to other people. "Whenever we want, we can cycle to marketplaces to see the people and the fascinating hustle and bustle," she said. She also said that after traveling through five continents and witnessing so many different lifestyles, she had come to know "how vast the world is." The journey also offered them rare insights into other ways of life and other peoples' minds. "Trailing through an immense desert or along an endless straight highway, I would feel deep loneliness, as if I was the only living being in the world," Lin said. Throughout their adventure, Lin went on, she learned to distinguish different places by their smell. "Forest, marsh, frozen tundra and dried kangaroo corpses all have their unique odors," she said. "And once we reached a city, we would tend to visit libraries, bookstores and universities. We liked to get to know a city through books." More importantly, the journey has made her come to understand the richness and diversity of life. "No heart will be hurt because its owner pursues her dreams, and when you really want to realize a dream, the whole universe will join forces to help you," she said. Both Lin and Chiang are now back in Taiwan, reliving their adentures and recounting their numerous stories to anyone who wants to hear a good one. They are also teaching women around the island in workshops and seminars how to see the world by bicycle. "Now that our adventure has ended, we are determined to become kindhearted strangers who are ready to help other travelers," Lin said. Maybe you've seen Lin and Chiang on TV or in magazines or newspapers. I hope so. But if by any chance you missed their really amazing story, you just read part of it here, and I hope it inspires you as much as it inspired me. Although I have no intention of bicycling around the world, I do enjoy riding my bicycle every day in Chiayi City, going slowly through the city streets and local side-streets, watching the world go by frame by frame, day by day. What's the hurry? Who needs a car? =============== ================= 72. > >> >"Driftwood Lady" of southern Taiwan builds> eye-catching restaurants with > >found objects along coastal beaches Author's note: Taiwan is full of interesting people, creative artists and designers, full of energy and new ideas. One such creative personality I have met on my travels around the island is a woman named Hsieh Li-Shiang, 37 years old, who lives in Tainan County and designs interesting restaurants. I call her the "Driftwood Lady of Southern Taiwan." Here's a short story about her. If you have any comments, please email me at Driftwood. It all began with driftwood. Even when she was a little girl growing up in southern Taiwan, artist/architect Hsieh Li-Shiang, 37, dreamed of driftwood palaces. Driftwood homes, driftwood scultures, driftwood treehouses. She built her first one, an eccentric treehouse behind her parents' home in Hsikang in Tainan County, when she was eight. In her late 20s, Hsieh designed and built her own> home, again using "aged > >and magical driftwood" -- as she puts it -- she> picked up along the coastal > >beaches of southern Taiwan. Now she is using huge> collections of driftwood > >she has rescued from the southern beaches as the> building blocks for a > >series of eye-catching "driftwood restaurants" in> Chiayi City, Hsinying in > >Tainan County and Tainan City's touristy Anping> district.> >> >Call her a dreamer. Call her eccentric. Call her an> authentic artist with a > >flair for original architectural design and a> disdain for the ordinary. One > >of a kind, an original.> >> >Yes, Hsieh Li-shiang is turning Taiwan restaurant> design on its side and > >churning out an oeuvre of work that has already> caught the attention of > >glossy home furnishing magazines and architecture> digests. TV crews are > >putting it all down on video and enterprising> reporters from > >Chinese-language publications are making a beeline> to her non-linear doors > >and windows. This is a woman who follows her own> path, and who, in the > >words of US poet Robert Frost, evidently chose to> take "the road less > >travelled" when "two roads diverged in a snowy> wood."> >> >In Hsieh's case, when two country lanes diverged in> southern Taiwan, she > >decided to follow her dreams and go with her own> inner flow, rather than be > >mere a cog in a machine she had no control over.> While many of her > >classmates from high school and college took one> road, Hsieh, motivated by > >her artistic flair and wandering imagination, went> deeper and deeper into > >her art and craft. Today, she's something of a hero> among Taiwan architects > >and restaurant designers.> >> >The evidence can currently be seen in Chiayi City's> popular "Five Cent > >Driftwood House" -- "Wu Jiao Chwann Ban," in> Chinese - a spacious, > >cavernous eatery along the city's famous Daya Road> that was built by Hsieh > >and a small army of assistants without any> blueprint or concrete design > >plans. Brick, mortar, glass, driftwood -- lots of> driftwood -- and recycled > >wooden train tracks have turned this restaurant> into an architectural > >marvel with a country flair. For local directions,> call the restaurant at > >(05) 278-7131.> >> >According to Joyce Tu, a 21-year-old waitress at> Hsieh's restaurant, > >customers have spread the good word about the place> and the eatery is doing > >well.> >> >"Word just seems to have spread by word of mouth,"> To told Prime Time. > >"There have been no major advertisements or> anything, but word just gets > >around here, and we're packed most nights. There> isn't anything like around > >the Chiayi area."> >> >Two more restaurants are now going up now in> Hsinying just south of Chiayi > >in Tainan County and in Tainan City, using the same> building materials and > >the same design creativity to put up more monuments> to driftwood and art. > >Hsieh's restaurants serve up inexpensive but tasty> lunches and dinners, but > >more importantly, they create a dining and leisure> atmosphere that is > >unique to Taiwan, maybe in the world. Think of US> architect Frank Lloyd > >Wright with a touch of Salvador Dali and Picasso> added on.> >> >Carrie Lee, a Chiayi high school student who often> visits the driftwood > >marvel in Chiayi with her classmates, says the> "drfitwood restaurant" > >intrigued her at first and then captivated her> entirely, turning her into a > >regular customer and happy fan. She even did a> class report on the eatery > >and its original design, and turned her teacher> into an avid fan, too.> >> >"When you go there, it's just something you never> expect in a restaurant or > >cofee shop," she told Prime Time. "I like to go> there with my boyfriend > >from school and spend entire afternoons just> talking and taking in the > >magical atmosphere. Ms. Hsieh has really come up> with something unique and > >relaxing."> >> >Hsieh is modest about her achievements, and when> interviewed recently by > >the China Post, she spoke in modest tones about her> work.> >> >"I first got into driftwood when I was still a> little girl," she says, > >dressed casually in jeans and workshirt, with her> shiny, black hair styled > >in what has become a kind of signature pig-tail> look. "There was just > >something magical about the pieces of driftwood I> first found along the > >beaches near my home in Tainan County, in a small> village called Chiku. I > >imagine the pieces of wood floating for hundreds,> thousands, tens of > >thousands of kilometers across the seas, and coming> to my little island of > >Taiwan. It thrilled me as a kid, and it still> thrills me now."> >> >Hsieh grew up in the Tainan County town of Hsikang,> outside of Tainan City, > >and still lives there. She says she got her> artistic side from her mother, > >who also likes to paint and evidently passed on her> designer genes to the > >next generation.> >> >"My father is not artistic at all," she says. "I> got this artistic > >imagination and instinct from my mom."> >> >When asked how she came up with the initial plan> for her restaurants -- and > >the unique name -- she says: "I designed and built> my own house about ten > >years ago, down in Hsikang, for my parents, using a> lot of driftwood and > >found objects I had collected over the years. Then> I got to thinking that > >maybe I could turn my imagination into the> production of a restaurant, > >using the driftwood theme, so when a bunch of> friends and investors gave me > >the greenlight to go ahead, we all got down to> work."> >> >Hsieh's first driftwood restaurant was built in> Paiho in Tainan County, and > >it served as her signature design for future plans> around the island. Built > >a year ago, it unfortunately had to be taken down> last month after Paiho > >town officials notified Hsieh that the restaurant> had been illegally built > >on restricted property. Down it came, only to find> itself resurrected now > >in the Tainan County town of Hsinying south of of> Chiayi. In addition, > >Hsieh plans to open up her third driftwood palace> in Tainan City's Anping. =============== =============== 73. Country doctor chases political, literary dreams By day he's a doctor, running a busy obstretics-gynecology clinic in Chiayi City, and by night he's a budding book author, penning witty, ascerbic essays about Taiwan politics, culture, medical practices and pop celebrities. And recently, Wente Hsu, 51, has published his first book, creatively titled "Starting with Sisy Chen's Breasts" and co-published with Avant Garde Books in Taipei, a major book company here. Hsu, who has a medical degree from National Taiwan Univertsty, grew up in Ilan City, went to college in Taipei and settled in southern Taiwan 22 years ago. In addition to practicing medicine, Hsu has dabbled in politics and once ran for a seat in the national legislature, campaigning in the Chiayi area as a reform candidate refusing to use noisy street fireworks and irritatingly loud sound trucks in his campaign. His campaign vehicle? A large vacuum cleaner mounted on a street float, with special instructions to the driver to never turn the speaker volume up over the legal limits. Hsu lost the race but garnered a lot of media attention for his novel, and reform-oriented, way of campaigning. Will he run for office again, he was asked in a recent interview. "I might if the right opportunity presents itself," he said. "I am deeply concerned about politics and Taiwan society in general, and I'd like to contribute something back to society, too. I make a good living as a doctor, but I have other interests, too -- writing and politics also attract me, yes!" Hsu said that his new book is titled with the rather sexy, yet somewhat snide reference to legislator and TV talk show host Sisy Chen for two reasons: to catch readers' limited attention spans when browsing for books in chain bookstores and to make a comment on what he says as Chen's hypocritical stance on feminism and women's rights. Readers can judge for themselves, he says. (The book is published in Chinese only at the current time, and there are no plans yet for an English translation.) Hsu writes in the afternoons and early evenings, stealing time from his medical practice to write essays almost daily. He later mails them out as email messages to a long mailing list of friends and acquaintances islandwide, as well as sending them to several national newspapers, where they are often published as paid features or as letters to the editor. "I love writing," Hsu says. "While this first book has not been a bestseller at all, I did reach the readers I intended to reach, and I hope to publish a second book in the near future. I am already preparing the manuscript on my office computer." Fluent in English and an avid reader of magazines and newspapers, Hsu is currently contributing to a new political monthly called "No I Pols" and is always on the lookout for new outlets for his creative output. He considers himself an essayist, first and foremost, and he has no plans to turn to novels or autobiography, he says. Hsu says he is a member of that generation that came of age in Taiwan during the martial law era. "I am a fighter for Taiwanese identity," he said. "I am for Taiwan's international sovereignty and I believe passionately in this cause. I love Taiwan, and I hope the younger generations also feel this way. Taiwan is a great little country and we have much to be thankful for -- and much to look forward to, too, if all goes well. I'm an optimist!" ============== ============= 75. When a group of foreign architects and city planners visited in Taipei for an internatinal conference on urban design, many of them made comments to the media that were positive and upbeat. A reporter for a Taipei newspaper, a Canadian man, wrote: "Architecturally, most of Taipei is less than 30 years old. It is bland and utilitarian, concrete and tile. Motorcycles park on the sidewalks and pedestrians walk in the streets. It is polluted, noisy, crowded and -- everybody's favorite word -- luan (亂), chaotic. Most residents, if you ask them, won't deny any of this. Instead, they'll affirm it, often smiling. To an incredible degree, Taipei residents are fond of their city, and they display their fondness with ironic expressions of distaste." But is Taipei really "ugly" -- as some people say? Let's listen to some of the comments made by the visiting architects and artists from around the world: The conference was organized by local Taipei architect Chi Tie-nan (季鐵男), who organized the first Urban Flashes event in 1999 and in 2000 became the only Taiwan architect ever invited to the Venice Biennial for architecture. Here is what some of his guests said to the English-language media after the conference was over: "Is Taipei ugly? "Sure, the architecture [in Taipei] is horrible, but it's not about how the city looks, it's about how the city works. The systems here are fantastic. From that perspective, this place is like Paris," said Sand Helsel, American architect and urban planner. "[Taipei] has been built on a good scale. The main boulevards are wide, and they are lined by mostly 12 to 14 story buildings. As you get into streets and lanes, the buildings get smaller, down to around five stories or so. This distribution allows for good sunlight penetration on almost every street. It's not like Hong Kong or New York, where some buildings are in shadow almost all the time," Helsel said. *On day and night Markets, Signage and Chaos: Sites visited included nightmarkets, Snake Alley and the Kuanghua computer market. "[Local people] have an interesting way of queuing up. It's very ... nonlinear." *On the Hsinyi District: Taipei's hottest development district, now containing Taipei City Hall, the Taipei World Trade Center and a few Western-style malls, including Warner Village and the New York, New York department store "I like Yungkang Street, where just by being there you're connected to so many different things." -- Sand Helsel. *On Hsimenting: "It looks depressing and torn down, but that's a state that allows more things to happen -- cheaper rent, a place for young people. It's a collage of different activities of different life spans. It's also more externalized -- people are in the street more than inside." *On the 24-hour Eslite Bookstore located on Tunhua South Road: "Twenty-four hour bookstores make your life a little less depressing. After midnight, there's usually only bars and discos." =============== =============== 76. Ruby Lin dresses in a fashionable diva stage costume, looking like a young Lolita in a Burberry skirt and black motorcycle jacket, full make-up and pouting lips, and she sings and dances her way across the asphalt "stage" in a local night market in southern Taiwan, belting out Taiwanese ballads and folk songs in a voice reminiscent of the late great Teng Li-jun and earning a round of polite applause from the assembled passersby watching the Chinese medicine show her parents are producing. Ruby Lin is 12 years old. Yes, on Sunday night in a popular night market in Chiayi County, Ruby Lin accompanies her mother and father, brothers and sisters and assorted aunts and uncles in a rolicking stage show whose main mission is to sell Chinese herbs and medicines to gullible customers who want to stay young or stay hard or grow hair or lose weight. Ruby attends junior high school, and minus the make-up and stage costume, looks like any other Taiwan teen. She's cute, she's vivacious and she's happy. When asked how she learned to sing with such a professional stage presence, Ruby says she's been singing since she was three years old and never had a voice teacher. "I learned it all by myself," she says in a mixture of Mandarin and halting English. "No teacher." ============= =============== 78. A brief biography of Dan Bloom in Q and A format Q: What's your real name? A: Daniel Howard Bloom, but please just call me Dan Bloom. When I was a little boy in Boston, my mother called me by the nickname of Danny. My middle name is Howard, but I don't know why my parents chose that name. "Daniel" means judge in an old ancient language from long ago. So maybe I am a judge of the human condition, since I chose to become a writer. Q: How old are you? A: I am no longer a spring chicken and I'm not yet an old geezer. Age is something I have never understood since I don't feel as old as I really am. Some days I feel like I am 26, even 19. Of course, I have entered middle age now and death is just around the corner. But I plan to stay forever young, forever. I no longer think of my age as a number, but as an emotion, a feeling. Q: Why did you come to Taiwan and when did you arrive here? A: I really came to Taiwan five years ago as a tourist, to visit a junior high school English teacher in Chiayi named DOminic C.C. Lin, who I had met in America many years ago. He invited me to visit his family in CHiayi for a week and I stayed for five years so far, and I plan now to stay here forever. Q: What's your favorite food in Taiwan? A: Well, you know in CHiyai the special dish here is jiro fan, so I love jiro fan. But my favorite food in Taiwan is "ko ya san su." I love the taste of duck. I also like to eat fried crickets, with a glass of Taiwan beer on the table too. Q: Is it true you really like cho dofu? A: Yes, chodofu is delicious, espcially with some cabbage on the side of the plate and some Taiwan Beer to go with it. Yes, I love Chodofu. While it's true that many foreigners never try to eat chodofu because they are afraid of the strong smell, if they ever do try it, I am sure they will like it. Q: Who is your favorite singer in Taiwan? A: I like Wu Bai and I like Valen Hsu. I like all kinds of music, from Beethoven to rock n roll to Japanese enka and Taiwan nakashi music. Music is music, and I like all music. I play the piano,too, and the guitar a little bit. Just to amuse myself and relax and slow down. I believe music is important in life. Listening musical notes on an instrument or on the radio or on tape or CD is good for the brain. Music is a kind of relaxing drug for the brain. Q: The Great Entertainment Paper in Taipei said in a news article last year that you are related to Albert Einstein, the great scientist. Is this true? A: No, I am not related to Einstein, but the newspaper did say that I was his "distant cousin." It's a funny story. You see, the reporter, Ginny Cheng, interviewed me at her office in Taipei, and she said that I looked like Einstein. In a joking way (I like to joke around, it's part of my personality, I like to laugh and joke and smile) I told her that Einstein was "my great great great great great great uncle" or something liek that, but I was only joking and I thought she understand that. I think she knew I was only joking. But her news story did say that I was related to Einstein and several other newspapers repeated this news. I was laughing when my friends told me about this, since I cannot read Chinese. Actually, I am related to the famous composer Felix Mendelsohn from Poland. According my grandmother Bella, who died a few years ago at the age of 96, her side of the family descended from the Mendelsohn family. But I am not sure about any of this. I wish I was related to Einstein, then maybe I would have some of his IQ. Acutally, my own IQ is quite normal and average, nothing special about me. I am just a country boy from Boston who is still learning about life. Q: How do you spend Chinese New Year period each year? Do you go back to America or travel overseas, like many foreigners here do? A: No, I love Taiwan, so I stay here for the Lunar New Year period and have a wonderful time every year. I love Chinese New Year! I love taking time off from work, eveyrone is on vacation, it's great! No, actually, I never go back to America. I haven't been there for 10 years and I don't ever plan to live there again. I plan to stay in Taiwna forever and die here. Q: When you die, what do you want to do with your body? A: I want to be cremated in Taiwan-style, and have my friends scatter my ashes in the mountains of Chiayi County, in the Tanayiku VAlley area near Shanmei Village. In my next life, I plan to come back as a silver fish in the Tanayiku River. That's my dream. Q: Dan Bloom, you are a strange man! A: Thank you for the compliment! I was born in a snowstorm in Boston on a cold April morning, and mother told me she had a feeling I would be a strange person when I grew up. But she never dreamed I would be a bookseller in the night markets of Taiwan. Life takes many unexpected turns, doesn't it? Q: Is there anything else you'd like to say before you end this self-interview? A: Yes, I want to thank the people of Taiwan for inviting me into their hearts and homes, for buying my books and giving me a new reason to keep on writing. Taiwan has been very good to me, and I really want to thank the people of Taiwan, even people who do not buy or read my books, for allowing me to be a guest in their country. It's a wonderful country, and I wish Taiwan has a very bright and happy future! I just want to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. And if readers have any more questions they want to ask me, please email me anytime. Writing a book is a two-way street: there is the author and the reader, and together we make the book a real experience. Readers need writers, and writers need readers. It's a team effort, this book business. Oh yes, and one more thing, before I stop talking so much. I want to thank my editors, my publishers, my PR representatives, my friends and my colleagues in the news and publishing industries for giving me such a warm welcome in Taiwan. Taiwan is a great place to publish books, and the professionals who work in the book industry, including the bookstore managers and bookstore clerks, have really made me feel "at home" in my adopted country of Taiwan. I can never be a Taiwanese, since by birth I am an American. But I often like to call myself a "New Taiwanese," a friend of Taiwan from overseas who wishes Taiwan well and hopes for the best for everyone on this wonderful island. "SHieh, shieh, gam sha li!" ================= ================== 79. elderly COUPLE happy TO BECOME CARETAKERS OF rural RAILWAY STATION in HSinchu I read several newspaper every day, all three of the English language newspapers, of course, and several English-language Internet sites in about Taiwan news events ( is a good one) -- and I also "look" at the main Chinese-language newspapers here, too. No, I cannot read Chinese, but by "looking" at the newspapers in Taiwan and they write about (and the photos they show) I can get a better idea of life here on this treasure island. One story that recently caught my attention was about an elderly couple who are now caretakers of a rural train station in Hsinchi County. According to the news reports I read, a Taiwanese writer in his 60s who lives in Taichung with his wife is now the caretaker of a small railway station in Hsinchu County. Hohsing Railway Station, located on a bypass of the hilly Neiwan Route in Hsinchu County, is not an ordinary railway station, at least in the eyes of Tseng Chuen-chao and his wife, Peng Chih-hui. Why? There's an intersting and heart-warming story here: Because Hohsing Railway Station is the station where the couple first met, a long time ago. Tseng, who now runs and owns a chain of math carm schools in Taichung City, has even written a novel titled "Chasing" to tell the love story of how he met his wife, with the railway station of Hohsing, his hometown, as the "main character." In the novel, Tseng explains how he once as an 18-year-old high school student chased the passing train, which came only once every hour, in order not to miss his final exams on a cold, sunny morning in 1954. He ran after the train and was finally able to catch it at the next stop, making it to school on time to take his exams. He also met a young girl on the train who was also from Hohsing and who took the same train to school every morning. But until that fateful morning when he ran to catch the train, he had never spoke with her before. After that wonderful day, Tseng and Peng became friends, taking the same train to Hsinchu City to school everyday. They have now been married for 37 years and both love the railway and the trains. The couple are thrilled because they are now allowed to look after Hohsing Railway Station -- "our railway station" -- which is currently half-deserted with no personnel from the Taiwan Railway Administration being stationed there. Although trains still pass through and stop at Hohsing Station everyday on a regular basis, the station presently does not maintain any ticketing or other services. Tseng and Peng are be the only persons who will look after Hohsing Station -- a wooden structure built during the period of Japanese colonial period with a red tile roof and surrounded by a white wooden picket fence. Hohsing Station has the only "reversible rails" in Taiwan in its vicinity, as well as a waiting room that is similar to that of an old-style Japanese railway station. There are also several cherry trees in the station's backyard which make the station look much more beautiful when the cherry trees bloom each spring. Tseng said he and his wife plan to invite volunteers -- "who must be lovers of the railway and trains" -- to help keep and maintain the Hohsing Railway Station in order to give the old station a new lease on life. Dan Bloom would like to be one of those volunteers at the Hohsing Railway Station in the future, and when I have some free time I plan on visiting the rural station to meet the Tseng and his wife personally. Acutally, I have travelled on the train line before, several years ago, when I visited Neiwan on a Sunday afternoon. But at the time, I had not heard the heartwarming story about this magical couple. Maybe you will go there, too, after reading this chapter. I hope so. These kinds of stories is what makes Taiwan so special to me, and I hope for you, too. Long live Tseng Chuen-chao and his wife, Peng Chih-hui! ============= =============== 80. America and Taiwan: a friendship based on similar dreams and goals When US President George Bush (Shiao Bushie) travels overseas to visit foreign leaders, he often speaks to college students in foreign countries, too, talking to them about America's ideals and dreams. America is not a perfect country, and President Bush will be the first one to admit this. But it is a country that tries hard to live up to the ideals of freedom and democracy, and I am glad to have been born there, and educated there, and to have started my life as a writer there. Although President Bush has not come to Taiwan yet to meet with President Chen Shui-bian or to talk to university students in Taipei or Kaohsiung or Chiayi or Hualien, he might say something like this if he did come to Taiwan. -- DAN BLOOM PRESSIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: "America is a wonderful country, a great country,but my country certainly has its share of problems, too, no question about that. America does have its faults, it is not perfect country. Like most nations we're on a long journey toward achieving our own ideals of equality and justice. Yet there's a reason our nation shines as a beacon of hope and opportunity in the world, a reason many throughout the world, including those of you in Taiwan, dream of coming to America. It's because we're a free nation, where men and women have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. No matter your background or your circumstance of birth, in America you can get a good education, you can start your own business, you can raise a family, you can worship freely, and help elect the leaders of your community and your country. You can support the policies of our government, or you're free to openly disagree with them. Those who fear freedom sometimes argue it could lead to chaos, but it does not, because freedom means more than every man for himself. Liberty gives our citizens many rights, yet expects them to exercise important responsibilities. Our liberty is given direction and purpose by moral character, shaped in strong families, strong communities, and strong religious institutions, and overseen by a strong and fair legal system. My country's greatest symbol to the world is the Statue of Liberty, and it was designed by special care. I don't know if you've ever seen the Statue of Liberty, but if you look closely, she's holding not one object, but two. In one hand is the familiar torch we call the "light of liberty." And in the other hand is a book of law. We're a nation of laws. Our courts are honest and they are independent. The President -- me -- I can't tell the courts how to rule, and neither can any other member of the executive or legislative branch of government. Under our law, everyone stands equal. No one is above the law, and no one is beneath it. All political power in America is limited and it is temporary, and only given by the free vote of the people. We have a Constitution, now two centuries old, which limits and balances the power of the three branches of our government, the judicial branch, the legislative branch, and the executive branch, of which I'm a part. Many of the values that guide our life in America are first shaped in our families, just as they are in your country. American moms and dads love their children and work hard and sacrifice for them, because we believe life can always be better for the next generation. In our families, we find love and learn responsibility and character. And many Americans voluntarily devote part of their lives to serving other people. An amazing number -- nearly half of all adults in America -- volunteer time every week to make their communities better by mentoring children, or by visiting the sick, or caring for the elderly, or helping with thousands of other needs and causes. This is one of the great strengths of my country. People take responsibility for helping others, without being told, motivated by their good hearts and often by their faith. If you travel across America -- and I hope you do some day if you haven't been there -- you will find people of many different ethic backgrounds and many different faiths. We're a varied nation. We're home to 2.3 million Americans of Chinese ancestry and over 500,000 from Taiwan, who can be found working in the offices of our corporations, or in the Cabinet of the President of the United States, or skating for the America Olympic team. Every immigrant, by taking an oath of allegiance to our country, becomes just as just as American as the President. America shows that a society can be vast and it can be varied, yet still one country, commanding the allegiance and love of its people. And all these qualities of America were widely on display on a single day, September the 11, 2001, the day when terrorists, murderers, attacked my nation. American policemen and firefighters, by the hundreds, ran into burning towers in desperation to save their fellow citizens. Volunteers came from everywhere to help with rescue efforts. Americans donated blood and gave money to help the families of victims. America had prayer services all over our country, and people raised flags to show their pride and unity. And you need to know, none of this was ordered by the government; it happened spontaneously, by the initiative of free people." Yes, I hope that President Bush visits Taiwan someday soon and delivers such a speech here. I am sure he will hear a lot of loud applause in the auditorium where he speaks. America and Taiwan are good friends, and we will be good friends forever. As an American living in Taiwan, I don't feel like a "foreigner" but as a member of the global village living as a guest in your friendly island called Taiwan. Thank you for giving Dan Bloom a chance to know more about Taiwan and for inviting me into your hearts and homes. I love Taiwan! Long live Taiwan! ============== ================= 81. I plan on going to the city of Suao in Ilan County soon to sell my book on the streets there. I will also take a taxi over to the nearby town of Nanfanao to eat some excellent seafood and sell my books there along the waterfront, too. But the main reason I want to go to Suao is because this enterprising city has been hosting an annual "Green Expo" for the last four years, and according to Ilan County Magistrate Liu Shou-cheng, the emphasis in always on the importance of protecting the environment and appreciating nature. A six-week, 2002 Ilan Green Expo, took place last March and April for six weeks at the Wulaokeng scenic area in Suao. For the event, the Wulaokeng area was turned into a floral sea with 150,000 flowers having been planted. Ilan County Magistrate Liu Shou-cheng told reporters that he hoped that all visitors will embrace the "magic of the green natural surroundings." I can tell you this: if Dan Bloom goes to Suao to sell his books in the night market there, I will also embrace the magic of the green natural surroundings, yes! I am a country boy from America, and I love nature. I lived in Alaska for ten years! I love rivers and lakes, and rolling hills and huge mountains, open seas and slow moving glaciers. The natural world of Nature moves me and touches me wherever I travel. Nature does not need a passport to enter, anyone anywhere can go to NAture any day, anytime. In Taiwan, too, Nature is everywhere. In Chiayi I often ride my motorcycle to the nearby lakes at Lan Tan and Reyitan to relax, breathe fresh air and "smell the flowers." Nature renews me, gives me hope, replenishes my soul. It's true that I don't really believe in a supernatural God in some imaginary heaven -- no I am not a religious person. But I do believe in the God of NAture, for this God of NAture is visible and everywhere. So color Dan Bloom green and call me an environmentalist! I love Nature and hope it can be protected in Taiwan, too. Ilan officials said they want to invite the public to enjoy the 10,000 hectares of flower fields that are laid-out to depict feeling of love and passion, graceful water dances, day and night, and amazing explorations in the wildness. What a great idea! More cities should follow Suao's example in the future! The themes of the expo this year were environmental protection, life and ecology, and Ilan County Government designed eight halls to demonstrate the themes, namely Orchids, Water, Duck Homeland, Agriculture, Green Olympics, Biotechnology, Insects and Tukang (wine). Noting that nature is the best teacher, the expo aimed to delight and introduce the importance of "green" concepts, as well as to educate the public about the influence of acid rain, air pollution, and the effects of greenhouse gases on the environment. The officials said that the Duck Homeland hall was to highlight the fact that Ilan is the origin of duck farms, while in Orchid Hall, various kinds of orchids were on display so that visitors could appreciate the exquisite beauty and elegance of the "king of flowers." The annual expo in Suao has helped the development of diversification of traditional agriculture, stimulated the economy and promoted leisure activities in Ilan County. It's a great idea, and I have already made a plan to make a beeling for Suao in the future, arriving by train from Taipei and then making my way over to Nanfanao, too. I love the eastern coast of Taiwan, and hope to spend more time there in the future. Long live Mother Nature! Long live the green hills and mountains of Taiwan! Let us all try hard to protect the environment, even in small, personal ways that can make a difference! =============== =============== 88. "Little Tienmou" proves to be a popular dining spot in CHiayi City by DAN BLOOM There is an area of Chiayi City that has become famous islandwide, and it has been called "LITTLE TIENMOU," named after the famous Tienmou district in Taipei where many foreigners live and work and where there are many international restaurants. "LITTLE TIENMOU" in Chiayi is along Daya Road, a long broad avenue that climbs a hill from the flatlands of Chiayi's downtown district to the highlands overlooking the majestic southern city, which serves as a staging area for trips to Ali Mountain. Several national magazines have sent reporters and cameramen recently to "LITTLE TIENMOU" in CHiayi to write about the area, talking to shop owners and taking photographs. If you do visit CHiayi City, here is a brief summary of a few hot spots in the city's Little Tienmou district: 1. The Shoot the Sun Tower in Chiayi Park near Daya Road, a tall 10-story architectural triumph with an Aboriginal theme, features a coffee shop with a view on the 10th floor and an Aborigine gift shop and restaurant on the ground floor. Tel: (05) 276-7016 2. A splendid little Japanese restaurant on Daya Road is the centerpiece of the Little Tienmou district and features gourmet Japanese cooking, the likes of which you've never seen in southern Taiwan before. From regular fare like sashimi and sushi to special dishes featuring spicy tofu and octopus soup, the Singing Bird restaurant is not too expensive and defintely worth a visit. Tel: (05) 275-6135. 3. The Wishing Well restaurant and coffee shop across the street from the Singing Bird restaurant serves the best cheesecake and truffles this side of Scotland, according to co-owner Jonathan, who with his Taiwanese wife has set up a very comfortable eatery and garden area that attracts a large clientele of locals and foreigners. Tel: (05) 271-5277. 4. A hillside coffee shop in the countryside outside Chiayi City offers a relaxing and soothing stop when you are visiting the area's large reservoir called Reiyi-tan. Run the a graduate of nearby Chiayi University, the Lucky Bird serves a variety of teas and coffees and has set up a lovely little library of English and Chinese books about outdoor gardens and off-the-beat eateries around the world. Tel: (05) 278-6409. 5. The Five Dollar Driftwood Restaurant at the top of the hill on Daya Road is the last stop in the Little Tienmou area, and it's worth a visit just for the architecture alone. Designed with driftwood panels and thick dining tables made of old wood, the Five Dollar Driftwood Restaurant joins two other similar establishments designed by the same architect in southern Taiwan, but the Chiayi shop is the roomiest and the most comfortable. Tel; (05) 278-7131.