Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Mar 18 2016

Ranger Poagao

My friend Azuma recently got revenge on me for casting him as a policeman in The Kiss of Lady X (not to mention a thug in Clay Soldiers) by asking me to play a park ranger in a commercial he’s involved in making. Fair’s fair, I agreed, and found myself checking into a backpacker hostel over the Wellcome supermarket at Guting last night, as we were heading out at 5 a.m. the next morning.

I slept poorly, not just due to the unfamiliar roar of traffic 12 stories below, but also because I kept waking up thinking I should be waking up soon, and was it time yet? Better check the time…no, but it would be time to wake up soon so I shouldn’t sleep too soundly, etc. Then I woke up and it was 5:20; no morning call had come. Rain was now beating at the window, so I figured the shoot had been cancelled. Still, I called Azuma, who confirmed. “Get some rest, you can still go to work today,” he said. So I fell at last into a deep sleep.

…and was woken up 20 minutes later when he called again. “The director’s decided to go for it,” he said. So I packed up and went downstairs for a quick McDonald’s breakfast and a drive through the muddy basin up into the clouds of the mountainous Yangmingshan area. There we waited along with the other cast and crew in our cars in the parking lot for the rain to ease up. Then we waited in a tourist center for the rain to ease up. Eventually it did, and I put on my park ranger uniform, complete with patches, a badge, and a semi-automatic Glock pistol replica. An actual Taiwanese park ranger arrived at the station soon after we did, which made me feel a bit silly in my fake uniform, but the others seemed to think  it was pretty accurate. The other actors were doing their scenes first, so I figured I’d take advantage of the uniform to make some silly Vines while I had it. I was already embarrassed as it was, so I figured a little more wouldn’t hurt.

Then it was time to shoot. The director and most of the actors were also bilingual, which gave the on-set banter another interesting dimension. I don’t envy the editor who has to reconcile all the different lighting conditions, however, as the weather was flickering between weak sun and near-complete darkness.

Still, we managed to get a lot done before the rain began again in earnest. The crew was working more or less as we’d done on our films, and I realized that I kind of miss film-making; it was fun and interesting, more purposeful than my usual wanderings with cameras. Maybe I’ll do a little something sometime.

posted by Poagao at 3:46 pm  
May 10 2012

Korea, the video

Hope you like it.

posted by Poagao at 2:37 pm  
Nov 08 2009

Shibuya and people who hate it.

I slept in this morning, puttering around my room and posting the previous day’s journal before finally heading out at noon. This time I walked around the other side of the park, through the alleys that skirt the edges, past old wooden houses along dead-end lanes. The weather was cloudy gray, and hardly anyone was around. I thought about Louis’ opinion that Taiwan is both Japan’s past and its future; the shiny veneer that I found so antiseptic when I first visited Tokyo in 1991 has worn off. It seems much more used and lived in now, closer to Taipei in feel than before.

I’d told Louis that I’d meet him at Sendagaya Station again, as I couldn’t remember where the cafe was, but as I walked I recalled various landmarks, and I got close enough that I could call from a payphone, and he walked out to meet me. Back inside, he introduced me to the photographer whose book Louis had sent me last year. The older man was holding a Ricoh GR1 and seemed to be in a rush to get somewhere else. “I like your photography,” I told his back as he left. Louis said one of the guys at the next table was the lead singer of a famous Japanese band that I had never heard of; I guess that cafe is popular among famous people. I had lunch there, chicken noodles and rice with some delicious soup. The waitress was very talkative; she told me she had visited Taipei once.

After lunch we walked towards Shibuya, which Louis doesn’t particularly like. “Couldn’t you just stand here and take a book’s worth of street photography?” I asked him, but he pooh-poohed the idea as too easy, basically shooting fish in a barrel.

“It’s almost as bad as Harajuku,” he said. I figure I’d do it, but I’d probably get tired of it quickly enough. The light was nice, though. At one point we passed a forlorn-looking man sitting at a desk in an empty lot on a deserted alley, presumably waiting for a passerby to inquire about the property, even though it seemed nobody was around.

SubwayWe walked towards Ebisu, through alleys lined with former used clothing shops that had closed. One place sold the very same Olympus Pen that we’d seen at the flea market for a substantially greater price. The whole area became very expensive looking, with glass-walled premium shops. As we passed an art gallery/bruncheon crowd of fashionable women nibbling snacks while surrounded by paintings/photos of dancers, I burst out in a scathing monologue mocking the art patrons. “Are you speaking into a microphone?” Louis asked.

We crossed a pedestrian bridge, from which Louis shot a series of photographs of three motorcycle policemen standing below, and then down to another neighborhood with a deep canal running through it. “Nice,” I said. “It doesn’t even smell.”

It was getting dark, and I was getting tired, so I was grateful when we stopped for some pie and drinks at a cafe open to the sidewalk. My apple pie and ice cream was delicious, and the orange/mango smoothie just the thing after a long walk. Louis had to go work on some snags in his upcoming book, so I took the train back to Shinjuku, from where I called Yas, who was out putting up flyers for his upcoming film festival. We arranged to meet at the Alta screen at ten, so I walked around the area taking a few pictures and just enjoying the atmosphere. I paid yet another visit to the Yodobashi camera store, this time playing with the Sigma DP2, which, while faster than the DP1, is still finicky and slow.

Yas was facing another long night of editing, so he had coffee at a crowded Doutor while I drank fruit juice. We talked about perhaps cooperating on a project in the future, probably a short film, and about directors in Japan and Taiwan. He said he might be able to find the Japanese film I worked on in 1994-5 under Edward Yang; he thinks it’s Director Hayashi Kaizo’s third detective film. I’ve never seen the finished product and would like to see how it turned out.

Yas hates Shibuya as much as Louis, if not more so. “It’s full of stupid kids,” he told me. “I wouldn’t go there at all if there weren’t some good independent theaters there.”

I took another route back to the hotel than I usually do, this time straying a bit too far into the hustler zone. Tall black men walked with me, trying to hand me cards for bars with scantily clad Japanese women on them. Luckily, my hotel is far enough away from that area; I don’t think I’ll be going there again.

Actually, my hotel, the Shinjuku Urban, has been great; I love the smell of coffee and creme in the plush-red carpeted hallways, the 60’s feel and the convenient location between several subway lines and near the Shinjuku JR. I would definitely recommend it.

Tomorrow is Monday, and everyone is going back to work. I’m thinking I might go to Yokohama and Roppongi if the weather’s nice.

posted by Poagao at 11:25 pm  
Jun 02 2009

A boat trip and Ennio Morricone

I didn’t want to go home immediately when I arrived back in Taipei from Tainan; it was too nice a day, so Chenbl and I walked up Dihua Street, which was much less crowded than I recall it being before Chinese New Year, and over to the Dadaocheng Wharf to see what was going on with the “Blue Highway” service that began a few years ago. There we boarded a small boat that was headed up the Danshui River to Guandu. Down below a guide was talking to a group about Dadaocheng’s history, but I preferred to stand up on top of the vessel, just behind the pilot, enjoying the wind and scenery. Fish jumped out of the water occasionally, one actually hitting the side of the boat before falling back into the water, which was muddy but did not smell as I was expecting.

We passed under bridge after bridge, the banks and people riding bicycles on the riverside paths sliding past; it was very pleasant and relaxing, and I wondered if boating activities would ever make a comeback on the Danshui, which had for so long in the past been crisscrossed by residents in their small vessels from Taipei to places like Sanchong, Xinzhuang, Banqiao and Yonghe. As if in answer, a few residents of Shezi Island dumped garbage into the river as we passed by.

We crossed the Keelung River entrance and docked at Guandu, next to the steamboat used for weddings and other big occasions. In addition to fishing boats, I saw some private speedboats flitting about under the Guandu Bridge. Once on shore, the guide told us that back in the 60’s after a huge typhoon flooded most of the Taipei basin, the army blew up a promontory that had jutted out into the river on the Bali side, effectively freeing up the floodwater from the bottleneck there. After that, however, saltwater from the ocean was now free to flow up the river, changing the entire nature of the environment.

Rather than take the boat back downtown, we caught the subway. I was meeting Ray and Gordon later for a concert; Ennio Morricone, the man who composed and directed the music for some of my favorite films, was directing a concert of his own work at the Little Giant Egg on Dunhua North Road. Though Morricone is over 80 years old now, he moves like someone decades younger, though it was hard to see too clearly from our seats in the stadium. From that vantagepoint, however, the orchestra and choir appeared as some giant organism on the stage, manhandled, wrangled, poked and caressed by Morricone’s baton to do his bidding. Some of the pieces I didn’t recognize, but many I did. Tingles went up my spine when the orchestra played the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but for me the highlight was when Morricone brought out a soloist who sang the unearthly tones of the music played during the scene when Tuco is running around the graveyard towards the end of the movie. I was on the edge of my seat, imagining the scene over 40 years ago when Morricone was recording the music for the first time.

The audience was ecstatic, though there were large empty patches in part of the stands. People yelled out their appreciation in Italian every time Morricone appeared on stage. Three or four encores later it was apparent that no new pieces were forthcoming; the theme from Cinema Paradiso was the only encore he had prepared. The rest were repeats, but the audience was in love with the old Italian, and it was amazing to see him in action now, after all these years, directing music for movies that were made well before I was born.

posted by Poagao at 12:53 pm  
Feb 19 2009

The Osaka Video

I got a new computer last month, just before Chinese New Year: an iMac. I figured that, as I do a lot of media-related things such as photography, video and music, I’d give the whole Mac thing another shot (I had a Powerbook at one point a few years ago, but things didn’t really work out between us). I’m keeping my old PC around and have been using both, but since I got back from the last trip I’ve been gradually migrating to the Apple machine. The above video was done on iMovie, and I have to say the experience was much, much nicer than it ever was in Windows. First of all, the iMac recognized the .avi format of my little Canon SD800IS immediately. I had painstakingly imported the clips to the PC via Windows Moviemaker, the only Windows program that recognizes the format. I used to go through that and then export to one media file which I would then open in Premiere, but this time the PC steadfastly refused to export, coming up with error after error and taunting me, egging me on each time to “Please try again!” It might as well have been wearing a blue dress and holding a football.

iMovie was much easier and smoother, and I learned my way around it while slapping this thing together. I felt I didn’t need to use Final Cut Pro as my travel videos are just thrown haphazardly together for the most part and don’t require very detailed production tools. The more I use this system, however, the more I appreciate the lack of BS I have to put up with to get things done. It’s so much closer to the experience I want when working with media that I find myself missing the Mac when the PC grinds to life, Windows taking roughly five minutes to fully load and looking so primitive. Which it is, I suppose: it’s an old, loud machine with XP, and old, loud OS. Both are stable enough I suppose; I guess I must have drunk the Kook-Aid. It’s true that the iPhone is a gateway drug. I’m afraid I’m becoming addicted.

But enough crazy fanboi talk; I’m sure I’ll find plenty to bitch about with the Mac in good time. I am pretty happy with the video, however, which, in a first for me, is available in relatively high quality on Youtube and Vimeo. I did the same thing as I always do when I’m traveling alone, i.e. periodically take the camera out in public and talk to it unabashedly with no regard to the strange looks I get. I’m loathe to do this kind of thing when I’m traveling with people, but you’ll be happy (or sigh in annoyance) to know that I managed to take quite a bit of such self-absorbed and pointless video on the trip to Spain and France as well, despite the presence of actual friends. I’m curious to know how that turned out as I also got a new compact camera for such things: a Panasonic LX3, to replace the Canon, which I sold. The LX3 has a wider, faster 24mm f2 lens (and admittedly looks cooler) than the Canon and in a pinch could be used for street photography provided the light is sufficient. The IS seems to work differently from the Canon, but once I got used to it it seemed fairly smooth.

We had a week of wonderful weather after I got back from Europe, and I’ve been feeling very glad to be back in familiar territory. Two weeks abroad is long enough to get far enough away from one’s usual surroundings to get some perspective on things, just long enough to start missing home, making both the voyage there and the trip back happy occasions. Typical Taiwanese Spring weather has returned this morning, however, with a cold front bringing a barrage of rain that is far more suited to the current economic predictions than the sunnily hopeful blue skies of last week, forcing men with jackhammers to stop their outdoor frolicking and return to drilling nearby walls in my building.

posted by Poagao at 5:34 pm  
Jun 12 2008

A night at the NSO

concert hallMy friend Chumble got some free National Symphonic Orchestra tickets, so I went over to CKS Hall last night to attend the first classical music performance I’ve been to in years. When I asked him what was on the program, Chumble said, “Beethoven, Haydn and Brahms,” which sounded nice. We met up with a couple of Chumble’s friends, a young Canadian man and his Taiwanese girlfriend, who nearly ran and hid when she was introduced to me. Meh, I’m used to it.

We got what we thought were reasonably good seats, but in addition to the chairs on stage was a large whiteboard. It turned out that this was going to be a classical music concert with lectures. Many people in the audience had brought notebooks. The short woman in glasses sitting next to me was all ready with a multicolored pen.

Ever since the debut of Taipei Philharmonic Radio in the mid-90’s, it seems that many people here have become interested in “understanding” classical music. There are programs dedicated to “explaining” all kinds of classical pieces, and game shows where you guess the piece and its composer. You can even buy expensive CD series to listen to in accompaniment to your favorite classical tunes, telling you just what it is you’re listening to. Other CD series are aimed at younger listeners.

The musicians walked out to take their seats and tune, and then conductor Yin-fang Zhang, a young woman, came on stage followed by a man in a white suit. This was professor Chu-wey Liu, and he began to explain the piece. The orchestra would play a bit, and just when I was getting into it, they’d stop, and the professor would talk a bit about phrasing, themes and motifs. I found it incredibly annoying. All of the emotion of the piece was lost. As if that weren’t enough, the woman next to was letting off silent farts every few minutes. Actually, I’m not sure it was her, but the wind was from that direction, and she just seemed guilty. Her pen clicked on and off as she took different-colored notes on the music, and she clapped between movements.

The full orchestra came on stage for the next piece, and I was relieved by the appearance of some very nice eye candy in the second violin section. During the intermission a concert hall employee came over to tell Chumble’s Canadian friend to stop moving his head during the show as it was apparently distracting the people behind him. I turned around to see who could be so easily distracted, but nobody met my gaze.

The final piece, Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, was picked apart once more, but I love Brahms and managed to enjoy the last part when the orchestra played through it in its entirety despite the waves of noxious odors coming from my left. The conductor didn’t seem to have a very firm hand on the orchestra, which was loose and often out of tune, especially the woodwinds, but the sound was quite nice and made me want to upgrade my stereo. It’s been forever since I played in a classical group; I played in high school with the local youth orchestra and once with the Florida Symphony Orchestra, and in college with the Central Taiwan Orchestra, both excellent groups, but I haven’t done anything like that since. I kind of miss it.

b/w leapThis morning on my way to work I saw some people spreading a net across the underpass on Zhongxiao West Road, underneath the pedestrian overpass. There was an ambulance and some policemen walking around, so I went up to have a look. I couldn’t see anyone in trouble and thought for a minute that a baby had inexplicably gotten caught underneath the overpass somehow, but it turned out that they were shooting scene for a made-for-TV movie. I asked one of the crew if it was difficult to apply for that particular intersection, but he said it had to be there, as the movie was based on true events, and someone had apparently done something of note while perched on the outside of the overpass. So it had to be that one, and they had to get the shot then, because they weren’t going to get a second chance. I took some pictures and left, wishing them luck.

posted by Poagao at 9:33 am  
May 01 2008

Tokyo video

The Tokyo video is finally up, both on Youtube and the new Vimeo page I just set up out of a mixture of curiosity and frustration with Youtube. It’s reallllly long and probably less interesting to people who aren’t me, but I like it. I think it’s a good record of my trip in any case. Vimeo, it turns out, not only has a larger screen with better resolution, the sound is much better, embedding doesn’t break my layout, and uploading is easier as well. I think I’ll be sticking with that.

Today was Labor Day here, a public holiday for all us oppressed workers, etc. I haven’t gotten out of the house yet today, and spent the time I didn’t waste trying to upload the video by doing laundry and other household stuff. But Prince Roy just called and said he was going to Sababa with some co-workers for dinner, so I’m heading over there for some dinner.

LATER: Dinner was good as usual, although they got my order wrong. We procured one of the veranda tables to take advantage of the nice cool evening air. As it’s work tomorrow, they couldn’t stay out too late. On our way over to CKS Hall, a plump and friendly black dog followed us, stopping with us at each intersection, until it convinced PR to buy it a sandwich. He ate the meat but not the bun (the dog, not PR).

Tomorrow: back to work. I’m now out of my little room and into the big cubicle farm, but in that context it’s a very nice seat. I may have to get some larger earphones, however, as I’m not yet used to the volume of regular office chatter. This weekend PR, Daniel and I are planning a trip down to Taichung and Tunghai to visit our old stomping grounds from when we were students there a couple of decades ago. I will try to refrain from taking too many pictures.

Enjoy the video:

12 Days in Tokyo from poagao on Vimeo.

posted by Poagao at 7:22 am  
Feb 10 2008

Palace ground-walking and some disturbing films

It seemed warmer when I stepped outside this morning, so instead of taking the subway, I decided to just walk and see where I ended up. As I proceeded south, more people began appearing on the deserted streets. By the time I came upon a series of shops selling snowboarding equipment, and then a group of music stores, the sidewalks were actually kind of crowded. Young people sat outside a coffee house taking hits of an espresso bong, while a cavalcade of black cars with the Japanese flag and the war flag drove by, loudspeakers blaring shouting and music. Japanese nationalists, I assume. Nobody seemed to be paying them any attention.

shining treeI found myself near the Imperial Palace grounds, so I went in to have a look. I was disappointed to find that, although the grounds are nice, there are precious few old buildings left inside, and none of those that are still around are accessible. There’s a large base with nothing on it near the center of the park. Apparently a large castle stood there for a few years hundreds of years ago before burning to the ground. I sat on the concrete at the top of it and figured out exactly where I was with GPS, and then took a picture for a couple of Australians.

After finding my bearings, I walked across the highway bordering the grounds to see the Budokan, which I’d read about and seen in various martial arts publications since I was a kid. What I didn’t expect was to hear be-bop music coming from inside. It turns out that there’s a concert series being held there, and I heard a ripping harmonica solo issue from within. I have to say, however, that it did somewhat lessen the solemn image I had of the Budokan in my mind.

More popular was the Science Museum. So popular, in fact, that there was a long line of cars waiting to get parking spaces there. The drivers were amusing themselves by reading, watching TV, texting, or just staring into space.

I went back to the Palace-less palace grounds and listened to the crows for a bit, as they are the only birds you can hear in winter here. Then I walked across the spongy yellow grass and down to the front gate, where a guard yelled at me to get off the edge of the moat where I was taking a rather mediocre picture. The grounds are strictly patrolled, on foot, bicycle, car, and camera, to keep people from going places they shouldn’t be. As it happens, the original guard stations are some of the few original structures to survive, and they seemed familiar to me in their placement and arrangement, perhaps because I spent a lot of time in various guard posts when I was in the army.

On Sundays the city government shuts down many major thoroughfares in the city and opens them up for bicycles and pedestrians, which is quite cool.

buildings, skyI’d arranged to meet Yas at his shop at 3:30, but I keep forgetting how big Tokyo is. The efficient subway system makes it seem smaller than it really is. I walked to the Tokyo Station, which looks like the mother of all old Taiwanese train stations (and I guess it is, in a way, as the Japanese built them all), and got on a train about 15 minutes later than I should have. Consequently, as soon as I walked in the door, Yas said, “Let’s go.”

It turns out the festival was held basically where I’d been walking this morning, in a small theater in an alley in the Kanda district. Yas introduced me to an actress named Aya, as well as another director. A heavyset man with long hair was busy threading the projector and setting up things while occasionally filming things with his handheld 8mm camera. Eventually he put it on a shelf and left it, but it was still taking a frame every five seconds. I guess he was making a time-lapse thing, so I played around with it, moving incrementally every five seconds so that it would look like I was moving at normal speed for a second or so.

The heavy guy made a short speech, the lights went down, and the first film played. It was quite terrifying and very abstract. The second film opened with a woman giving a guy a blow job, after which they had naked, black-and-white sex. Nothing was omitted. In another shot, I realized that the guy having sex was the projectionist standing just behind me. The film was processed in a really strange way I assumed was on purpose, but later Yas told me that it was because he developed the film in his bathtub to save time and money. He also said the guy has won a lot of awards in Europe for his experimental work.

Then Yas’ film, Carnophobia, played. It was both claustrophobic and extremely disturbing. Later I made some suggestions about how the knife should sound when it…well, I don’t want to spoil it for you.

The first part of the show over, I talked to a jazz pianist Yas knows for a bit, though his English is not really, uh, existent. He did give me a CD, though; I gave him a name card, hinting that the Muddy Basin Ramblers would really like to play a gig in Tokyo sometime.

I had to get something to eat as I hadn’t eaten all day, and some of the films in the second half seemed pretty guaranteed to make me lose my appetite, so I skipped out during the break, feeling very disoriented when Yas pointed me in the direction of the subway station. I think it was the films, which weren’t bad, just…really, really…bizarre.

nightrainOriginally I had planned to go to a bar in Shinjuku, but I ended up walking around Kanda some more, taking pictures of trains and tunnels near the medical university and St. Nicolai’s ornate Russian Orthodox cathedral. Nearby I found a restaurant called “Gorilla Curry” or something like that; you know I had to have me some o’ that, and it was delicious. Ads for the restaurant played on a TV inside, which I thought kind of superfluous; if you’re already in there, you probably don’t need convincing.

After dinner I walked around the area some more, thinking I would go back at 10pm and talk with Yas and the portly guy again, but when I got there it was closed; they’d finished early and left. I didn’t feel like taking the subway and walked all the way back to my hotel, admiring the three-dimensional nature of this great city, with its elevated trains, subways, and multi-level architecture, its tiny restaurants crammed into every nook and cranny, it’s apparent complete lack of roaches, rats and smoking scooters. The Japanese people, however, are still mostly a mystery to me:

The police stations all have a sign outside counting the number of injuries and deaths in the district the day before.

Workers are some of the most stylish I’ve ever seen, with wonderful baggy pants, tabi shoes, bandanas and trendy long hair and goatees.

The first thing the staff says to a customer entering a store is “Sorry!”

Those films.

Instead of coming upstairs, I walked around the streets behind, which I hadn’t seen before. It was oddly empty; nobody was around at all. I stood in the middle of an intersection, filming the lights turning red and green. It was eerie. The sound of my shoes squeaking echoed in the silence, and I halfway expected someone to open their window and shout, “Enough with the squeaky shoes!” but nobody did.

posted by Poagao at 11:35 am  
Nov 29 2007

Breath premiere

breathThe Taiwan premiere of Breath, a Korean film starring Chang Chen, was held at a West Gate District theater last night. I was waiting outside the lobby for Eric, who had the tickets, when I noticed a bunch of people with cameras were loitering purposely around a parked VW van with tinted windows. After a while a girl dressed in white with brown, ankle-length argyle socks got out and walked into the lobby, illuminated by the flashes of one of the photographers. I think she was sent out to test the waters, as all the other photographers ignored her and kept their sights on the van and whoever was in it.

Eric showed up and we shunned the crowded elevators, taking the stairs to the theater, where a press conference was being held. When we were finally let into the theater itself, we found that the row we were supposedly sitting was made up not of actual seats, but wide, furry divans of questionable taste. The numbers on the tickets didn’t match, so Eric went to find an usher while I stood around. The argyle girl was there with a similar quandary, complaining that she couldn’t find her seat. “I have the same problem,” I said, but she ignored me. Eric came back with a manager and we all ended up just sitting randomly and awkwardly in the divans.

A press guy made an announcement, and Chang Chen was called upon to make a speech. “Thanks for coming,” he said. “Uh, just watch the movie. I’m going to get something to eat.” The lights went down and we watched the film, which was about a Korean woman who might have been insane and her infatuation with a death-row prisoner (Chang Chen) who was kept in a cell with three other men and one sharp object, with which he kept trying to kill himself, nearly always spraying his roomies with blood in the process. There are some laugh-out-loud moments which quickly become sad when you realize what’s really going on, and the plot seems to challenge every idea you come up with to explain what you’re seeing as you go along. Director Ki-duk Kim filmed the movie in just 11 days, as is his style, keeping the locations and story quite simple. I have to say I was a bit jealous when I heard that.

After the movie we caught a taxi over to Chaochang, the very bar on Heping East Road where I attended the wrap party for Hayashi Kaisho’s Umihoozuki (coincidentally also title The Breath in English) way back in 1994, when the second-story venue was still called Fenchang, or “Cemetery”. When Eric told the cabbie the name of the bar, the driver said, “Oh, I know that place, it’s Jay Chou’s place, isn’t it?” In fact, it’s now partly owned by Chang Chen, but we didn’t correct him.

Inside, I chatted with Chang Chen, whom I met when we were both working on Mahjong, and he said he remembered me, though I wouldn’t be surprise if he didn’t as I’ve changed a lot since then. We talked about filming of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and he said the costumes were a royal pain. “But shitting in the middle of the desert,” he said, smiling, “now that is truly a pleasure.”

ChaochangI also met Jimmy, the artist whose illustrated books are published by the same publisher that published my book, Locus. Jimmy’s a small, thin man, with thick glasses and an easygoing manner. The bar was full of film people, producers, directors and many people who seemed to do many different things. I had an interesting conversation with Roger Huang, who produced Exit No. 6, Formula 17 and Betelnut Beauty. It turns out that, like with Chalaw, we are almost exactly the same age; he was born four days before I was. It was gratifying to talk with people who are passionate about the prospects of Taiwanese cinema.

As the night progressed, wine was handed out, and the guests became drunker. Shouting erupted occasionally from the more boisterous tables. I found myself talking to a certain member of the cast of Mahjong, who was quite drunk. “You remember me?” I said. He said he did, but seemed uncertain. I told him I was the one foreigner at the table who kept screwing up his lines by speaking them in Taiwanese* and his face lit up.

“Oh, yeah, right!” He leaned in drunkenly, and asked: “So when are you getting married?”

“Huh? Who told you I was getting married?” I said.

“You’re not getting married?”

“Uh, I don’t have any immediate plans, no.”

“Do you like girls or boys?” he said suddenly. This caught me by surprise. I’m not used to people being so blunt. Then again, I’m not in the habit of denying my identity either.


“Ah!” he said, and hugged me, and then stumbled off. It was a strange encounter. Eric had left by this point, and it was getting very late, so I said good-bye to Chang Chen and Roger and navigated the steep stairway down to Heping East road, where I caught a cab back to Bitan. An interesting night.

*Edward Yang had set things up in the movie so that all the Taiwanese would speak English to the foreigners, while all the foreigners would speak Mandarin to the Taiwanese, and there I was messing with the plan by speaking Taiwanese. This lasted for a few takes until Yu Wei-yan, the producer, came over to speak to me.

“TC, you’re not doing it right,” he said. “Do you know what you’re doing wrong?”

“I have a pretty good idea,” I said.

“Ok, then,” he said, and returned to the gaggle of crew at the other end of the room. I did my lines in Mandarin, and the shot went off without a further hitch.

posted by Poagao at 4:36 am  
Nov 21 2006

Poagao in China on Youtube

Poagao in China on Youtube

posted by Poagao at 7:08 am  
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