Scottish band Camera Obscura kicked off a tour of Asia on Saturday evening by playing to a slightly older, more bookish-looking crowd than The Wall (這牆) usually sees. The six-person lineup, led by lead singer and songwriter Tracyanne Campbell on acoustic guitar, started with Come Back Margaret from the group’s most recent album, a melodically sensual and somewhat sapphic ballad that had the audience members swaying and nodding their heads to lines like “Come back, Margaret, I want to adore you/ Come back, Margaret, I want to explore you.”
The atmosphere during the less than hour-and-a-half-long set was congenial and relaxed, and many in the audience were clearly familiar with the Glaswegians’ music, applauding flourishes such as when trumpet-player Nigel Baillie put down his instrument and walked over to accompany percussionist Lee Thomson on the drum kit. Campbell introduced the title song of her band’s most recent album by saying, “I hope you guys aren’t offended by the title of this next song,” before introducing Let’s Get Out of This Country to rapturous applause. One fan in the front row had brought along a Scottish flag. “Where did you get that?” Campbell asked. “eBay,” was the reply. “How much did you pay for it,” she asked. “Too much!” shouted a fan in the back.
Camera Obscura is working on a new album and played three new songs from it, much to the crowd’s delight. The set ended with the wistful, melancholic Razzle Dazzle Rose, one of the most bittersweet songs off the bittersweet Let’s Get Out of This Country. It was perhaps more of a reflection of the audience’s temperament than the quality of the show when, unusually for a foreign band with a following in Taiwan, the curtain closed and the audience did not insist on an encore.
The only downside to what was an otherwise great evening was the unusual and daft move of limiting the free drink included with the concert’s NT$1,100 ticket price to a short list of beverages, including only two beers, Miller and Coors Light, and two cocktails. Hopefully this does not represent the beginning of a trend, as Miller makes Gold Metal Taiwan Beer taste like Chimay Blanche.
The finals of the German Lieder Competition Taipei 2008 in the Metropolitan Hall on Saturday showed a Taiwanese commitment to German 19th century art-songs that was unexpected to say the least. Six finalists in junior and senior sections sang out in German, with piano accompanists of their choice, and after a pause the winners were duly announced — Tang Fa-kai (湯發凱) in the junior section and Fan Ting-yu (范婷玉) (singing only items by the daunting Arnold Schoenberg) in the senior. Both carried off, among other rewards, cash prizes of NT$100,000.
Strangely, the senior contestant placed sixth failed to show up for the award ceremony. This can only have meant the six had been told the final placings off-stage, and she had been too upset to appear. If so, it was a testimony to the relentless competitiveness of Taiwanese society, but was unnecessary nonetheless — she had, after all got to the final 12 in a competition that had attracted an amazing 150 eager aspirants nationwide. All things considered, you felt this was an event that, in all Asia, could only have happened here.
The advent of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has spawned a new genre of fantasy and science fiction in which males (invariably white) argue that it is an “opportunity” or that the government should open up and let the virus run its course. After all, Omicron is “mild,” as numerous studies are now showing, and even more so among the previously infected and/or vaccinated population. It’s time, they argue, to accept that COVID-19 will be with us forever and re-open the country. The government must face reality, must “move from denial to acceptance” as one recent poster on LinkedIn put
It’s as if the outside world conspired to rob Yanshuei (鹽水) of its importance and prosperity. As waterways filled with silt, access to the ocean — which had made it possible for this little town, several kilometers from the sea in the northern part of Tainan, to become a major entrepot — was lost. The north-south railway, a key driver of economic development during the 1895-1945 period of Japanese rule, never arrived. Then, in the 1970s, the sugar industry went into terminal decline. Like Taiwan’s other old settlements, Yanshuei used to be a walled town. The defensive barrier is long
We weave our way through an old cemetery in the dark, as the sound of our quarry gets closer. At the foot of an old tomb, beneath a pile of rubble, we find what we are looking for. Tonight we embark on the seventh and final stage of the Taipei Grand Trail (台北大縱走). Starting with an ascent up to Zhinan Temple (指南宮), on past the famous Maokong Potholes (貓空壺穴), we then meander through the tea plantations and tea houses overlooking Taipei city, finally ending the epic adventure back down at National Chengchi University (國立政治大學). This section was deliberately left until the end
Are you in control of your smartphone or is it in control of you? Sometimes it is difficult to tell. One minute you might be using FaceTime to chat with loved ones or talking about your favorite TV show on Twitter. Next, you’re stuck in a TikTok “scroll hole” or tapping your 29th e-mail notification of the day and no longer able to focus on anything else. We often feel like we can’t pull ourselves away from our devices. As various psychologists and Silicon Valley whistleblowers have stated, that is by design. Many people are making efforts to resist and step away