Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jun 03 2008

Prince Roy has left the island

It’s amazing how fast Prince Roy‘s tour went, but we had a lot of good times over the past couple of years. Last night I met up with my former classmate as well as Mark and Wayne at the Red House bar on Shida Road for a final night of drinks and conversation. The rain pattered on the canvas awning above our heads, and the smell of the mosquito coil reminded me of our Tunghai days. We all agreed that after PR left, we’d lead healthier, if less interesting lives.

beershotAfter the bar closed, we walked around the area in search of other hangouts, all of us (except possibly Wayne) reluctant to let the night end so soon, though it was well past midnight by the time we left. “Hey, friends, where are you going?” one guy yelled to us, in Spanish for some reason, as we walked past. We ended up sitting outside a place on Xinsheng South Road across from the park, where we had kebabs, sanbei chicken and veggies, chatting for a few more hours. The restaurant was also closing, so we walked down Xinsheng to Heping East Road, where Wayne turned west and home. Mark, PR and I walked the other way, all the way to PR’s empty house, where we bade him farewell and found cabs home in the rain.

As I watched the lights across the river flow by from the big wet expressway, I tried to imagine what it must feel like to pick up everything and leave Taiwan for a life in another country. It was difficult. In a way, it’s an exciting idea, but I’m so content with my life here as it is that it would freak me out more than a little bit. Eventually I settled on imagining leaving on an extended trip, with the idea of roaming the world for a while before eventually returning here. A bit more comfortable thought. By the time I got to bed the sky was already light.

The departure from our fair island of Prince Roy and Spicy Girl marks the end of an era, especially accompanied as it is by our new administration, the possibility of a new US administration on the way, the Olympics, three links, and a host of other developments. Things are afoot. Someone asked me the other day how many cycles of friends I’d gone through here. It’s a fair question, I suppose. Many foreign friends have come and gone. Some came back. Taiwanese friends have gone and come, as it were. In any case, none of us are the same person we were or will be; I heard once that all of our cells are replaced over a period of seven years, so that you’re literally not the person you once were. So things change, people change….alright, I’ll stop trying to be all Deep here and let you figure out what all of this means, if anything.

posted by Poagao at 10:13 am  
Feb 29 2008

2/28 events, and Chalaw’s CD party

IMG_9296-01I met Prince Roy yesterday afternoon at the best Sababa in Taiwan, the one near Yongkang Street, for lunch and conversation on the veranda. I’d brought my trumpet because David Chen and I were going to play at Chalaw’s CD release party in Gongguan later that night. Neither of us had to work as it was a national holiday to commemorate the 2/28 Incident of 1947. It was also one of the DPP’s last chances for publicity before the presidential election next month, and many events were scheduled. PR had arranged to meet up with several other bloggers at CKS Hall, where the DPP was holding an event and marching from there to the Songshan Soccer Stadium, so I thought I’d tag along. I didn’t feel like going all the way back to Bitan, and it was just a short walk from Yongkang Street.

A large stage was set up for a symphony performance in front of the actual hall, but the actual event was being held by the gate. PR and I were both reminded what a poor job the designers had done with the new inscription, which looks like it was drawn by four different people and then photoshopped together by drunken lemurs. Ok, maybe it’s not that bad, but lord, it ain’t good. At least they didn’t tear down the walls, as they had threatened to at one point.

presidentDue to the importance of the event and the lovely weather, I was expecting a huge crowd, but there weren’t that many people there, less than had witnessed the changing of the inscription. President Chen showed up and walked around a bodyguard-controlled corridor shaking hands. PR and I were just standing around and somehow got within a foot of him; PR even shook his hand. I saw the symbol of irony that is the Minister of Education, Tu Cheng-sheng, posing for pictures. We also saw Craig Ferguson and spotted David Reid, who, having had his cheek stamped with a DPP stamp, got a good spot amongst the wall of TV cameras and wasn’t going to budge. I also saw Darren there. Later, Wayne and Mark showed up, but it wasn’t clear exactly what was going to happen. The small crowd seemed lackluster and muted.

birdgateAs the sun dipped towards the horizon the weather got substantially cooler. Large flocks of birds flew around between the gate and nearby trees. Eventually some marchers who had been making their way on foot up the island showed up with flags, along with some loudspeaker trucks, and people began to move off towards the street. Wayne and Mark followed, while the rest of us headed for the subway. David and Craig were going to take the MRT up to Zhongshan to get ahead of the marchers, while PR, wallowing in indecision, said he was going home.

I met up with Chalaw, Honghao, Doug and the others at a noodle shop next to the Riverside and Kafka by the Sea for some dumplings. There was also a guy I hadn’t met, a Spanish guitar player named Ramses who is in Taiwan studying Chinese. He’s hoping to switch to a kind of musician’s visa soon, he told me. After we’d eaten we went up to the cafe and drank some rice wine Honghao had thoughtfully provided. It tasted like those little Yakult yogurt drinks you see everywhere here in lunch boxes.

I was a bit nervous as I hadn’t played the songs from the album in months, and I hadn’t even picked up my trumpet since well before the new year. I’d forgotten the pieces I’d learned for the album, but I was able to follow along and accompany well enough. As we were running through a few of the songs from the album, a heavyset young man with long dreadlocks walked in. Later he played a few songs with Chalaw, including a couple of Cui Jian covers as well as his own works. I was impressed with his voice as well as his songs, but most of all the way the music seemed to move him. His name is Matzka, from the Paiwan tribe, and he’s just starting out.

I glanced out the window and saw a long line of people waiting to get into Riverside downstairs. Apparently the drummer from Matzka’s group was playing down there. We finished up and moved our stuff so that people would have a place to sit while they opened the doors.

kafka showThe crowd wasn’t huge, but they were enthusiastic. David and I got off stage after we’d finished the songs we played on. I sat at a table in the back, by the window, watching the show and traffic outside. The original band members’ voices mixed well, the harmonies tighter and better than before. David had pointed out that Honghao was still wearing his shiny black police shoes, and I wondered if he might be on standby in case of a 2/28-related incident.

During the break later, fans ran around getting people from the band to sign their CDs. It didn’t seem fair that so many people wanted Ramses’ signature, even though he didn’t play on the album; the excellent slide guitar work on the actual album is actually David Chen’s doing.

Matzka, at least, knew this, and was impressed by David’s slide guitar work on the album, he told me in the smoking room towards the end of the show. These days he plays at a dive in Bali on Tuesday nights with two other guys playing bass and drums. His songs have a kind of reggae/ska vibe and could some more instrumentation, I think.

The show ended late, after 11pm. I said good-bye to everyone who remained (David, quite drunk, had departed with Robyn already), and went to a nearby KFC for a snack. I was reading one of Asimov’s robot novels when I looked up to see Wayne and Mark staring hungrily through the window at my fries. They’d lost interest in the DPP march halfway through and gone for dinner with Prince Roy instead. We chatted a bit before they, too, headed home.

I took the MRT back, reaching Bitan after midnight and dreading the view of the desolation along the riverbank. All of the buildings have been torn down on both sides of the water, save for the public restrooms, leaving a only huge swath of debris where once we lounged, talked, ate and played. It’s a truly depressing sight, somehow even worse in the emptiness of the night.

posted by Poagao at 4:54 am  
Feb 29 2008

2/28 events, and Chalaw’s CD party

IMG_9296-01I met Prince Roy yesterday afternoon at the best Sababa in Taiwan, the one near Yongkang Street, for lunch and conversation on the veranda. I’d brought my trumpet because David Chen and I were going to play at Chalaw’s CD release party in Gongguan later that night. Neither of us had to work as it was a national holiday to commemorate the 2/28 Incident of 1947. It was also one of the DPP’s last chances for publicity before the presidential election next month, and many events were scheduled. PR had arranged to meet up with several other bloggers at CKS Hall, where the DPP was holding an event and marching from there to the Songshan Soccer Stadium, so I thought I’d tag along. I didn’t feel like going all the way back to Bitan, and it was just a short walk from Yongkang Street.

A large stage was set up for a symphony performance in front of the actual hall, but the actual event was being held by the gate. PR and I were both reminded what a poor job the designers had done with the new inscription, which looks like it was drawn by four different people and then photoshopped together by drunken lemurs. Ok, maybe it’s not that bad, but lord, it ain’t good. At least they didn’t tear down the walls, as they had threatened to at one point.

presidentDue to the importance of the event and the lovely weather, I was expecting a huge crowd, but there weren’t that many people there, less than had witnessed the changing of the inscription. President Chen showed up and walked around a bodyguard-controlled corridor shaking hands. PR and I were just standing around and somehow got within a foot of him; PR even shook his hand. I saw the symbol of irony that is the Minister of Education, Tu Cheng-sheng, posing for pictures. We also saw Craig Ferguson and spotted David Reid, who, having had his cheek stamped with a DPP stamp, got a good spot amongst the wall of TV cameras and wasn’t going to budge. I also saw Darren there. Later, Wayne and Mark showed up, but it wasn’t clear exactly what was going to happen. The small crowd seemed lackluster and muted.

birdgateAs the sun dipped towards the horizon the weather got substantially cooler. Large flocks of birds flew around between the gate and nearby trees. Eventually some marchers who had been making their way on foot up the island showed up with flags, along with some loudspeaker trucks, and people began to move off towards the street. Wayne and Mark followed, while the rest of us headed for the subway. David and Craig were going to take the MRT up to Zhongshan to get ahead of the marchers, while PR, wallowing in indecision, said he was going home.

I met up with Chalaw, Honghao, Doug and the others at a noodle shop next to the Riverside and Kafka by the Sea for some dumplings. There was also a guy I hadn’t met, a Spanish guitar player named Ramses who is in Taiwan studying Chinese. He’s hoping to switch to a kind of musician’s visa soon, he told me. After we’d eaten we went up to the cafe and drank some rice wine Honghao had thoughtfully provided. It tasted like those little Yakult yogurt drinks you see everywhere here in lunch boxes.

I was a bit nervous as I hadn’t played the songs from the album in months, and I hadn’t even picked up my trumpet since well before the new year. I’d forgotten the pieces I’d learned for the album, but I was able to follow along and accompany well enough. As we were running through a few of the songs from the album, a heavyset young man with long dreadlocks walked in. Later he played a few songs with Chalaw, including a couple of Cui Jian covers as well as his own works. I was impressed with his voice as well as his songs, but most of all the way the music seemed to move him. His name is Matzka, from the Paiwan tribe, and he’s just starting out.

I glanced out the window and saw a long line of people waiting to get into Riverside downstairs. Apparently the drummer from Matzka’s group was playing down there. We finished up and moved our stuff so that people would have a place to sit while they opened the doors.

kafka showThe crowd wasn’t huge, but they were enthusiastic. David and I got off stage after we’d finished the songs we played on. I sat at a table in the back, by the window, watching the show and traffic outside. The original band members’ voices mixed well, the harmonies tighter and better than before. David had pointed out that Honghao was still wearing his shiny black police shoes, and I wondered if he might be on standby in case of a 2/28-related incident.

During the break later, fans ran around getting people from the band to sign their CDs. It didn’t seem fair that so many people wanted Ramses’ signature, even though he didn’t play on the album; the excellent slide guitar work on the actual album is actually David Chen’s doing.

Matzka, at least, knew this, and was impressed by David’s slide guitar work on the album, he told me in the smoking room towards the end of the show. These days he plays at a dive in Bali on Tuesday nights with two other guys playing bass and drums. His songs have a kind of reggae/ska vibe and could some more instrumentation, I think.

The show ended late, after 11pm. I said good-bye to everyone who remained (David, quite drunk, had departed with Robyn already), and went to a nearby KFC for a snack. I was reading one of Asimov’s robot novels when I looked up to see Wayne and Mark staring hungrily through the window at my fries. They’d lost interest in the DPP march halfway through and gone for dinner with Prince Roy instead. We chatted a bit before they, too, headed home.

I took the MRT back, reaching Bitan after midnight and dreading the view of the desolation along the riverbank. All of the buildings have been torn down on both sides of the water, save for the public restrooms, leaving a only huge swath of debris where once we lounged, talked, ate and played. It’s a truly depressing sight, somehow even worse in the emptiness of the night.

posted by Poagao at 4:54 am  
May 05 2007

Changes

New links!

Poagao’s Journal (here): poagao.org/pjournal

潑猴的日記: poagao.org/chinese

Monkey Learns to Push: poagao.org/taiji

The film production journal, Running with Swords: poagao.com/blog

It’s been a long, exhausting process, and it’s by no means finished, but thanks to Mark‘s generous donation of his time and effort over the past week, we’ve managed to force this site, kicking and screaming, into the realm of WordPress. Mark and I spent a couple of late nights wondering how to convert six years’ worth of posts and other ephemera, and it ended up involving ditching doteasy, upgrading my other hosting service, a nearly fruitless search for Blogger-to-Wordpress converters, converting all my blogs to Blogspot, then to WordPress.com blogs and then to WordPress.org blogs on my domain. I designed a new splash page with simpler links, but it’s still aligning to the top of the page whereas it should be in the middle. I also took the opportunity to make new banners for the Chinese and Tuishou blogs. The sidebars of all the blogs, however, are still pileups of bad links and leftovers. The film blog still hasn’t been converted, as that’s on poagao.com. I accidentally mislabeled a link yesterday in the WP admin section, effectively breaking this blog until Mark told me over gmail chat how to fix it. I knew it would be a difficult process, but neither of us could imagine what a pain it would turn out to be. I know nothing about coding and have relied on Dreamweaver for my web design efforts up to this point, something which Mark finds rather shocking. All I have to do to make him shudder with apprehension is mention the word “tables”.

So here I am in ur WordPress, postin’ blogs. It feels a bit alien and cold after six years of the Blogger interface, but it does seem to offer more usability. Hopefully over the next couple of weeks, with Mark’s help, I’ll be able to clean up the mess and get everything working properly again. For those of you who link directly to this page, the new URL should be http://www.poagao.org/pjournal

posted by Poagao at 11:49 pm  
Apr 03 2007

Another Bitan Weekend

Prince Roy, exiled from Spicy Girl’s SOGO shopping odyssey, came down to Bitan on Sunday along with Mark to enjoy the summer-like weekend weather. We met up on the bridge, as usual, and walked along the relatively mouthbreather-free upper sidewalk to the ferry crossing. There we boarded the brand spanking-new ferryboat, larger, cleaner and made of fiberglass, replacing the creaky old wooden boat they had before. The sparkling new white-and-blue boat’s metal railings even sported four bright orange life jackets (capacity was eight people), which, oddly enough, were made in the People’s Republic of China, complete with instructions written in simplified characters.

Accompanying us on the new ferry were two of the punter’s friends. They stayed on the boat, relaxing and chatting with the ferryman. One of them was sucking on a plum lollipop.

We disembarked on the other side and bought some drinks at a local watering hole set up in what looked like a container car, and proceeded to walk across the plain through the bamboo fields. A yellow dog followed us up to the border of its territory, where it spotted another dog, whined a bit and retreated. The air was fragrant with the scent of spring blossoms. It always amazed me that I can find such a rural atmosphere minutes away from my front door, yet downtown Taipei is 20 minutes away on the MRT.*

We walked to the Haihui Temple, where we looked out over the river at Zhitan and its strange Americanesque street layout. Mark wondered at the inscriptions on the balcony wall, which had “donated by” and the name of the donor written in red letters on each section. We puzzled over one character, which turned out to be simplified. I suppose the author didn’t have a thin enough knife to carve the traditional character.

We walked on, PR and Mark talking about investments, and all three of us dissing various dissable bloggers, including ourselves. The road wound through cargo containers made up as homes, with little gardens and barking dogs, as well as an open-air karaoke session. I was surprised to see a brand-new house; I’d been told that construction was illegal there. No doubt someone has sufficient connections in the area.

The mosquitos were beginning to bite by the time we made it back to the ferry. The two friends were still in the boat, still sucking on lollipops and chatting merrily with the punter. He’d told me before that the two ferrymen usually divide the day into two shifts, but I’m not sure exactly when his shift began. This time more people crowded onto the boat, surpassing the stated carrying capacity, but nobody paid that any mind. We had life jackets, after all!

PR’s ultimate goal that day was to have a meal at Rendezvous, so that was our next destination. We got a high table with a nice view of the river and spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking and chatting. I had the risotto this time rather than stuff myself with pizza, and it was delicious.

As the evening was getting on, PR and Mark decided it was time to go, so I said farewell to them at the foot of the bridge. After they left to catch the train back to town, I stood looking out across the river at the lighted buildings on the other side and watching the people coming and going across the bridge, trying to remember what it felt like when I was still living in the city. Eventually I walked back home, on the way taking a picture of one of the local strays lying in front of the gangster KTV palace, surrounded by the detritus of the street in such a way that it looked as if the sleeping dog was being watched over by an array of scooters, plants and traffic cones.


*For all of you considering moving down here, this does not mean that Bitan is a great place to live! It is in fact a nasty, crowded, smelly place with awful traffic, blaring karaoke, packs of stray dogs, a high crime rate, mouthbreathing tourists, noisy construction, scooter gangs and racing ricers, gangsters, random fireworks and no sidewalks. It is also mostly pan-blue, and few people speak English. There’s no Wellcome, no Blockbuster or Asia1 or any DVD rental places at all, and it’s a NT$300 cab ride from the city if you miss the last train. Plus we’re chock full at the moment. No vacancies! Sorry!

posted by Poagao at 3:19 am  
Jan 20 2007

Dunkin’ Donuts, but not as We Know It.

I met up with such community luminaries as Prince Roy, Mark and Battle Panda last night after work. I was the first one there, so while I waited I sat on a sidewalk planter outside the MRT exit gazing vacantly at a lobby I was sure I had entered for some nefarious purpose in 1991.

Mark had an inexplicable hankering for cheesy faux-Italian cuisine, so we headed to the alleys behind Zhongxiao where he knew of some likely candidates all lined up in a convenient row. We picked one and found they had no rice, left just noodles. The soup tasted canned; proof of this was on display along the wall, lined with various Chef Boy-ar-Dee products.

After dinner we headed over to Nanjing East Road to sample the new Dunkin’ Donuts store, despite reports that they’d taken a lot of the sugar out of the recipes to “suit local tastes.” After walking a couple of blocks from the station, the aroma of the shop brought back memories of my childhood.

There was a short line, but nothing anywhere near as egregious as the Mister Donut mobs of yore. The setup was a lot better than MD, too; you just picked up tongs and filled your tray with the donuts you wanted from the shelf, rather than being introduced to a brochure and led one by one to the counter to negotiate your purchase with the cashier.

We loaded up our trays and retired to a table at the back of the store to munch down on our goodies. All of the donuts were good, better than Mister Donut, though the frosting was a bit too waxy on some of the donuts. The regular glazed was exactly the same as the US version as far as I can recall. The chocolate-filled puffs, my childhood favorite, were not as sweet. In fact, the frosting and fillings were noticeably less sweet, though the donuts themselves seemed the same. They’re probably even better earlier in the day when they’re fresh.

I asked the cashier when the next store was opening up and where, but she just said “Soon” and “Couldn’t say.” In any case, it’s bad timing for me, because while I could have enjoyed these all through my twenties, they’re off the menu these days except for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries or just happening to be in the neighborhood. We’ll see if Dunkin’ Donuts, despite the questionable location of their flagship store, becomes as popular as Mister Donut. You’ll know it when you see fashionable women on the MRT carrying their latest jewelry purchases in old Dunkin’ Donuts bags.

posted by Poagao at 7:52 am  
Jan 20 2007

Dunkin’ Donuts, but not as We Know It.

I met up with such community luminaries as Prince Roy, Mark and Battle Panda last night after work. I was the first one there, so while I waited I sat on a sidewalk planter outside the MRT exit gazing vacantly at a lobby I was sure I had entered for some nefarious purpose in 1991.

Mark had an inexplicable hankering for cheesy faux-Italian cuisine, so we headed to the alleys behind Zhongxiao where he knew of some likely candidates all lined up in a convenient row. We picked one and found they had no rice, left just noodles. The soup tasted canned; proof of this was on display along the wall, lined with various Chef Boy-ar-Dee products.

After dinner we headed over to Nanjing East Road to sample the new Dunkin’ Donuts store, despite reports that they’d taken a lot of the sugar out of the recipes to “suit local tastes.” After walking a couple of blocks from the station, the aroma of the shop brought back memories of my childhood.

There was a short line, but nothing anywhere near as egregious as the Mister Donut mobs of yore. The setup was a lot better than MD, too; you just picked up tongs and filled your tray with the donuts you wanted from the shelf, rather than being introduced to a brochure and led one by one to the counter to negotiate your purchase with the cashier.

We loaded up our trays and retired to a table at the back of the store to munch down on our goodies. All of the donuts were good, better than Mister Donut, though the frosting was a bit too waxy on some of the donuts. The regular glazed was exactly the same as the US version as far as I can recall. The chocolate-filled puffs, my childhood favorite, were not as sweet. In fact, the frosting and fillings were noticeably less sweet, though the donuts themselves seemed the same. They’re probably even better earlier in the day when they’re fresh.

I asked the cashier when the next store was opening up and where, but she just said “Soon” and “Couldn’t say.” In any case, it’s bad timing for me, because while I could have enjoyed these all through my twenties, they’re off the menu these days except for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries or just happening to be in the neighborhood. We’ll see if Dunkin’ Donuts, despite the questionable location of their flagship store, becomes as popular as Mister Donut. You’ll know it when you see fashionable women on the MRT carrying their latest jewelry purchases in old Dunkin’ Donuts bags.

posted by Poagao at 7:52 am  
Nov 22 2006

A little different

You might have noticed this site looks a little different. That’s because I went over to Prince Roy‘s fourth-floor castle last night and got Mark to have a look at my code, which hasn’t really been dusted off since 2001, just added to and tinkered with whenever I found a bit of HTML to cut and paste in there. As a result, Mark was saying a lot of things like “Nobody uses DARPA settings anymore” and “I think I saw this tag once in 1997” when looking at my template. As Prince Roy had an early morning the next day, we didn’t have enough time to do a complete overhaul or, as I’m increasingly inclined, to migrate the whole thing to WordPress, as everyone seems to be doing these days. But I know that if I do, a year or so down the road someone will come up with something else that everyone will migrate to from WordPress.

Mark did manage to find the reason I haven’t been to implement a site feed, and now that he’s fixed it, I have real site feeds for all my blogs up and working. Of course, now I am expecting a huge spike in my readership and possibly a pony and/or limo, even though I’m constantly assured that that will happen when and only when I move to WordPress. In view of today’s wider monitors, I adjusted the width of the text so that it doesn’t go all the way across the page. It still doesn’t look quite right; I’d like the sidebar on the right to be close to the edge of the screen, for example, but it should do for now, or at least until I play around with it some more and see what looks good.

posted by Poagao at 1:33 am