Subtitled "Expat Residents Look at their Second Home," this is a collection of essays penned by 16 foreigners who either currently live in Taipei or have done so in the recent past. A full-page author photo precedes each essay, and many other color pictures adorn the texts. \nIt's a mistake really to call them essays. All follow a similar pattern, and the signs are that they originated as extended answers to a questionnaire, or at least were thoughts prompted by the same set of questions. It's easy to imagine the circumstances of the book's conception -- a wish-list of possible contributors drawn up, and then a list of headings under which they might like to order their thoughts. This is the main reason why Reflections on Taipei often makes for uninspiring reading. \nThose responsible for it are probably more familiar with putting together magazines than books, with the result that this reads like a bumper issue of the city's bi-monthly Discover Taipei -- worthy enough, but unlikely to inspire anyone to spectacular deeds of glory. \nThe imposed similarity detracts from what might have been the respondents' differences of approach. If they'd all been asked to write an article about the city as they'd experienced it, the result might have been more striking. As it is, they all begin with how the writer came here, most include a section on what they miss when they're away, and most end with some criticisms, occasionally outspoken. \nThe list of contributors doesn't contain any mavericks. There are no jokers in this deck, no wild cards likely to precipitate any upturning of the apple-cart. There are some interesting views expressed, but the individuals chosen scarcely represent a cross-section of the expat community. There are no language teachers (who surely constitute the majority of Western residents), no pop musicians or DJs, and certainly no contract laborers. \nOn the other hand, those responsible for this book were clearly aware of the need for a spread of some kind. There is a range as regards origins, for instance. A quick count reveals five Americans, three Canadians, and one each from Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Holland, Germany and France. There are 11 men and four women. This distribution could be faulted by a radical, but a criticism more likely to attract wider assent is that their attitudes to the city vary little. This is hardly surprising, because the truth is that they almost all belong to that ever-reliable war-horse when it comes to stumping up contributions to magazines or charity boxes, the great middle class. \nThe photos the contributors have supplied of themselves merit a review of their own. A couple of the Americans have opted for cowboy outfits, one or two would grace the pages of a fashion magazine, and all combine a complimentary self-image -- which is only natural -- with a somewhat cautious approach. No one, for instance, displays himself with his tongue stuck out, let alone with a piercing through it. \nThe uniformity that results is at times remarkable. Memories of Taipei's major thoroughfares in the 1970s as dirt-tracks sporting rickshaws and ox-carts reappear with astonishing frequency. The variety and value-for-money of the city's food outlets is regularly remarked on. The MRT is almost routinely praised (one contributor, Jerry Keating, even helped build it), and the surrounding hills arouse widespread enthusiasm. Several of the writers, when asked to voice criticisms, urge the Taiwanese to work less hard and take time off to enjoy life's "real" pleasures. \nBecause blandness is the book's central weakness, the criticisms of Taipei represent its strongest suit. One of the sharpest of these comes from Indonesian Tony Thamsir. His job is to help contract workers solve their problems, and he states "It seems to be an Asian tradition to exploit workers ... Foreign workers," he continues, "are invited guests and are not the enemy." These forthright remarks are worth the book's price in themselves. \nA comment that I suspect goes to the heart of why so many Western expats are happy in Asia comes from lawyer Brian Kennedy. Here he's special, he writes, whereas at home in California he's no one in particular. Another telling remark comes from Canadian environmentalist Pierre Loisel when he honestly confesses, to his delight, the fact that "the streets of Taipei are filled with female works of art." \nFor the rest, writers Kondo Tomoko and Marie Feliciano both like stinky tofu, Dutch puppet-master Robin Ruizendaal (who describes himself as a "conservative hippy") approves of the increasing funkiness of the young, translator Johannes Twellmann appreciates the National Library, and editor Angela Peterson even enjoys the rain. \nBecause many readers will know some of them personally, here's a list of the contributors: Marie Feliciano, Jerome F. Keating, Brian Kennedy, Father Jean Lefeuvre, Ted Lipman, Pierre Loisel, Angela Peterson, Robin Ruizendaal, Ruan Yan-Juan, Tony Thamsir, Kondo Tomoko, Johannes Twellmann, John Van Deursen, Earl Wieman and Jeffrey R. Williams. \nFar and away the most memorable of the contributions is from the Jesuit priest and scholar Father Jean Lefeuvre. He's been in Taiwan for 50 years and speaks of the depth of Taiwanese friendship ("If you are a friend of a local person you are friends forever. Friendship continues until death"), of the local style of reaching consensus and then working together, and of how the strength of the family, and especially that of the mother, pervades local life. \nAnother contributor attests to the generosity of the Taiwanese. It's impossible to out-give them, he states. They'll always give you more than anything you manage to give to them. \nIn view of recent events, Father Lefeuvre provides a fittingly up-beat note to end on. He praises the people for Taipei's political development, and adds "You have become free men in a new world." \nAll things considered, it's impossible to disagree, and it's enormously uplifting to see the normal good-nature of Taipei people reasserting itself after the difficult post-election days.
Oct. 18 to Oct.24 To chief engineer Kinsuke Hasegawa, the completion of the Taiwan Railway Hotel was just as important as the launch of Taiwan’s first north-south railroad. Many guests — most notably Japan’s Prince Kotohito — would be coming to Taiwan for the Western Trunk Line’s inauguration ceremony on Oct 24, 1908, and it was imperative to host them at the extremely lavish new establishment. Hasegawa personally presided over its construction for the final months, which carried on day and night with over 1,200 workers toiling in shifts. They just made it — four days before the official ceremony. Designed
It’s not even a road yet. At the moment it is merely a hint of upturned sod off Highway 11. When I visited last week the digger was sitting there unattended for the holiday. And yet, there it was, terrifying. On the site plan the locals obtained, the road goes down to the south end of Taitung County’s Shanyuan (杉原) Beach. That beach now hosts the infamous Miramar hotel, built on land taken from aborigines by the government in 1987 and handed over to a developer to build a hotel in 2004 as a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project. The hotel became the
Wu Shih-hung (吳識鴻) isn’t an avid reader of comics or Taiwanese literature. An animator by trade, Wu first became involved with Fisfisa Media (目宿媒體) through its acclaimed documentary series on Taiwanese writers, contributing his distinct ink brush-style artwork to the 2011 feature on Wang Wen-hsing (王文興), The Man behind the Book (尋找背海的人). “When I first joined the company, people were talking about how good the animations in The Man behind the Book were,” editor of Fisfisa’s comic division Lee Pei-chih (李佩芝) says. “Every new employee had to watch it.” When Fisfisa decided to launch its long-discussed comic venture featuring acclaimed
Jazz is back, but just don’t call it a festival as the Give Me Five concert series is set to kick off tomorrow in Taichung. Running through Oct. 31, the small-scale performances take the place of the annual jazz festival, which was canceled for a second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In years past, the multi-day event attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators. “It’s totally different this year,” Hsiao Jing-ping (蕭靜萍), head of performing arts for the city’s Cultural Affairs Bureau, says. Nearly 30 traditional and contemporary jazz bands will perform at venues throughout the city. The old