Culture has been the big news this week, but I'm not talking about the Moscow State Circus or Jay-Z being in town. I'm referring to agriculture, aquaculture and bar culture, all of which have been hogging the headlines recently.
First off, a pop quiz: What's big, yellow and causing the government all kinds of headaches? No, it's not the People's Liberation Army. The answer is Taiwan's banana mountain.
Apparently there is a glut of the boomerang-shaped fruit in the nation at present, and according to a Council of Agriculture source quoted in the China Post, they were selling for as little as NT$5 per kilogram. I tried relating this to my local market stallholder the other day when buying some supplies for my pet chimpanzee Lien, but to no avail.
Anyway, the problem is so serious that the Chinese Communist Party has stepped in to help. The Chicoms made a deal with the party formerly known as the enemy -- the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) -- to purchase up to 2,000 tonnes of the fruit. That's right, the same caring, generous chappies that would not allow international rescue groups into Taiwan after the 921 Earthquake even as people lay trapped in rubble.
The same big-hearted bunch (excuse the pun), in fact, that continues to exclude Taiwan from the WHO and that blocked the world from helping us during the SARS crisis. It's comforting to know that they really do care about us, after all. The softies.
Big Red's decision to help the banana Republic of China came as a result of KMT honorary loser Lien Chan's (
My guess is that Lien the elder left the sacrificial pig behind in China to polish off the boatloads of bananas on arrival. He's a growing lad, you know.
It was also funny how Taiwan's media outlets -- especially CCTV's bastard offspring TVBS -- seemed to think that China's decision to buy a few bananas was more interesting than the implosion of the pan-blue camp over the Taipei mayoral election. They have been busy providing blanket coverage of the story, along with exciting footage of bananas being packed into containers.
Moving from fruit to seafood, another issue that sidled into the news this week has been the commotion over Chinese hairy crabs.
According to Reuters, our brave health inspectors discovered the presence of nitrofuran, an antibiotic linked to cancer, in imports of the coiffured crabs, and rightfully imposed a ban on the controversial carcinogenic communist crustaceans.
This news caused a big loss of face across the Taiwan Strait, with the Shanghai Daily reporting how the chairman of the Yangcheng Lake Crab Farmers Association, Gong Binglong, is offering a 1 million yuan (US$126,580) reward to any Taiwanese inspector who can find a carcinogen in any of his products.
All I have to say is this: In a BBC report last year, even the Chicoms themselves admitted that 70 percent of all China's rivers and lakes are polluted. The Chinese state media reported that the Yangtze River is "cancerous" with pollution and environmental experts fear untreated agricultural and industrial waste could turn it into a "dead river" within five years.
Now I'm no detective, but a quick check on Wikipedia reveals that "The Chinese mitten [hairy] crabs migrate from Yangcheng Lake towards the Yangtze delta for mating in September and October. The local fishermen harvest the animals during this migration."
Now, how many Yangtze Rivers are there in China? You don't need to be a rocket scientist to put two and two together. And it sure ain't five.
Then, hot on the heels of the crustacean controversy, came news about smuggled Chinese oysters laced with bleach and preservatives flooding the local market.
Waiter, I'll have the chicken.
Lateral motion was not the only kind of movement in the news this week. There was also a remarkable U-turn to behold.
The campaign to stab his old mate in the back -- sorry, to oppose corruption -- started by Nelson Mandela's poor imitation and revolutionary-de-jour Shih Ming-teh (施明德) has executed an amazing volte-face, announcing that from now on it will push for the passage of the long-delayed "sunshine laws," or legislation concerning the assets of political parties, with particular attention to the KMT's pilfered billions.
Green is the new red, apparently.
This change of tack is bound to have an effect on the levels of support the campaign is getting, as the majority of the campaign's supporters have been bluer than an Iijima Ai (
Another noticeable consequence of the campaign's announcement that it has decided to train its crosshairs on the pan-blue camp is the amount of coverage the protest is receiving from 24-hour cable "news" channels. From being the only story on certain channels for a whole month, the campaign has disappeared from our TV screens faster than a Chinese tourist on a mountain road.
And finally, on a happier note, congratulations to Taiwan's world champion cocktail mixer Kung Hui-chun (
My only complaint is that they could have thought of something more adventurous than "Cool Sweetheart" as the drink's name.
I'm more of a "Sex on the Beach" man myself.
Heard or read something particularly objectionable about Taiwan? Johnny wants to know: firstname.lastname@example.org is the place to reach me, with "Dear Johnny" in the subject line.