Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Mar 20 2020

The virus

I know, it’s been a minute since I posted on here. A lot, needless to say, has been going on. My sister came out to Taiwan from Oklahoma for a month-long visit encompassing the month of January, my birthday gift to her. We also took a trip to Tokyo in early January for about a week, and I took her around northern Taiwan to see the sights, etc. The Muddy Basin Ramblers even gave her a private show, as we weren’t playing any gigs during that time.

The timing of the trip was a close thing, in retrospect. Even a week later and things would have been different. The day before she left, we went out to Jiufen for the day, spending the cold afternoon sipping tea and eating cakes at an old tea house overlooking the sea. The very next day, after I took her to the airport for an early morning flight, hundreds of passengers from the Diamond Princess (yes, that Diamond Princess) flowed out of the ship docked in Keelung and, yes, some of them visited Jiufen.

You know what has happened in the time since: The world has basically shut down, especially after the virus hit the U.S. and people started to belatedly take it seriously. Having been through SARS, and not being privy to the WHO’s prevarications, Taiwan knew what was up early on, closing down flights from China, which, ironically, had already helped out by limiting tourists from coming here in order to “punish” us for daring to have free and open elections. Most people began to wear masks on subways and buses as well as in crowded environments, and many mass gatherings were cancelled. Schools delayed their opening for a month or more.

Many countries have recently closed their borders; Taiwan did so a couple of days ago when it became blindingly obvious that most of the cases we were seeing were travelers from infected countries all around the world rather than just a few countries. All arrivals now go straight to quarantine…at least that’s what they’re supposed to do; there’s always those selfish, exceptionally unaware individuals who think they know better and effectively ruin it for everyone else. We saw it with SARS, and we’re seeing it now, even though the government has been issuing fines up to a NT1 million to people breaking quarantine.

Hopefully Taiwan will continue its stellar record fighting the virus; international media have mostly been ignoring this fact, instead pointing to other countries like South Korea, but that’s to be expected as most media don’t want to piss off China. In a way it’s somewhat comforting; at least people won’t be seeing Taiwan as a safe haven and trying to escape here. In fact, the border closings are causing a furor among expats who aren’t residents and have been living here on visitor visas, as they’re not allowed to go out and come back in again on a new visa as they’ve been doing, some for many years.

Watching as the virus ravages other countries, however, has been painful, countries such as Italy and Iran, and now even parts of the U.S., which delayed its virus response while Trump pretended it wasn’t a thing, and then just a small thing, easily dealt with. U.S. government officials, we’ve now found, knew about the threat but hid it from people while they sold their stocks, an act that is both illegal and unconscionable. Gun stores are being cleaned out, which is alarming. Jobs are being lost and/or suspended, yet landlords are still demanding rent. People who can’t work from home are bearing the brunt of the impact. Some states are at least trying to take up the slack for the federal government, acting to protect their citizens. I still see people, mostly Americans, pooh-poohing the virus, calling it “just a bad flu” or even a “plot by the democrats to make Trump look bad”, etc. There was one at the Altspace campfire just last night (VR seems to be taking off as more people around the world are on lockdown). Notably, everyone else blocked him, and he disappeared. The looming election looks like it will be a choice between two very old, very white men, both with cognitive problems and questionable records, and has thus been lost in the noise. If this is akin to a “wartime” situation, a narrative Trump seems to pushing now with his insistence on calling Covid19 “the Chinese virus,” his reelection is virtually assured.

For now, things here in Taiwan aren’t bad, relatively speaking. Cases here just passed the 100 mark yesterday, and we have one death so far; community spread has thus far been limited. Most schools and businesses are still open, if sparsely populated. Masks and rubbing alcohol are being rationed, and masks can even be ordered online. Legislation has been passed to deal with the economic and social impacts of the situation. I live on the outskirts of town, and I haven’t been hoarding; indeed my fridge isn’t big enough for more than maybe a week of supplies, but I’ve been buying a little more than I need every time I go shopping. I spend a lot of time at home anyway, more lately as I work on some books I’m in the process of making. I am in a way fortunate that I live alone; Chenbl lives with his elderly parents, and we all need to be especially careful.

When this is over, if it is over, I suspect the world will be changed, at least in view of the fact that the curtains have been torn down from many realities people were hitherto unwilling to face. Whether we go back to our previous state of ignorance remains to be seen.

posted by Poagao at 11:23 am  
Oct 11 2011

US trip, part 12

I slept poorly again in the home of my parents.

We visited the Chickasaw Cultural Center, a spanking-new institution outside the town of Sulphur, staffed by Chickasaw and featuring tasteful and informative exhibitions on Chickasaw stories, culture and legends. The tone was moderate, even subdued in the face of the horrors of history, but I thought it was very well done.

Back home after a lunch of huge barbeque sandwiches, we watched Jeopardy in between commercials for food that caused conditions treated by medicine advertised in the other commercials.

After dinner I went along with my father to walk their two dogs, strangely silent creatures that show their need for affection while never making a sound. Eerie. On the next street we encountered my parents’ Chinese neighbors, who are from Shanghai and have two kids, both born in the US. Their English wasn’t the best, so we spoke in Mandarin. The husband was working on genetically-modified food research at a well-funded local institution, and we talked about that as well as their opinions of the differences in eastern and western societies. Their son, who looked to be about six, didn’t speak Chinese very well. I would have liked to have chatted with them longer as they seemed like interesting people in the face of my isolation, but the dogs were struggling to get at a local cat, so we had to move on.

That night I retreated into my guestroom after tiptoeing around the scatterings of pillows and chatted online with a Seminole fellow who lived in the area.

posted by Poagao at 12:10 pm  
Sep 29 2011

US trip, part IV

I didn’t sleep well the night before my flight out of San Francisco; I’d programed both of my phone’s alarm clocks for 6:30am, but I wasn’t entirely sure they’d work, so I kept waking up and checking the time all night. When morning finally came, I grabbed my bags and headed downstairs to the lobby, where the woman at the desk informed me that the airport shuttle would be by at 7:15, and they guaranteed I’d be at the airport by 8. My flight was at 9:10. We chatted about the hotel’s long history, well back into the 1800’s, meaning it survived the great earthquake and fire of 1905. Impressive. The place really does have a nice old feel to it, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for those who are looking for a simple, centrally located room in the city, but who don’t need an in-room bath.

The shuttle van showed up around 7:30. The driver was a middle-aged Latino man, and a middle-aged couple from upstate New York were rhapsodizing about their love of cold weather from the middle seat. The driver was speaking in Spanish as we hurtled up and down the sloped streets, the tops of the old wooden houses glowing with the beginnings of the day’s sunlight, and I was in momentary awe of the New York woman’s Spanish until I realized there was another passenger, a short Mexican woman in the front seat.

Despite roaming the city’s hotels in search of more fares, the driver did manage to get us to the airport by 8-ish. He spent so much time chatting with the New York couple before taking me to the United terminal that I considered not tipping him, but I did anyway. The ways of tipping, they elude me.

Inside the airport, which was obviously no longer San Francisco, I waited in line until I found myself facing an empty counter. I stood there for a few minutes waiting for someone to appear before realizing that I had to actually key my information into a small screen in front of me, upon which I was issued two boarding passes. I then proceeded to the beginning of the security line, only to be told that one of my carry ons had to be checked, as every little thing in the US counts as a carry-on, in contrast with the rest of the world. I went back to check in one of my bags and came back to wait in the TSA line.

I waited for quite a bit. It was really my first encounter with the TSA, and the whole thing seems tacked clumsily onto the rest of the airport; it doesn’t fit at all, sort of like a Jehovah’s Witness camped in the middle of a Gap store. The personel wore uniforms, but that was the extent of their professionalism. They strutted around, ordering scared passengers around and deigning to see the next person in line when it damn well suited them.

I followed the other passengers’ lead, taking off my shoes for some reason, separating my bags, removing my computer, etc. My bags had to be X-rayed twice, and the attendant said this in an ominous voice, glaring around as she took the examination-defiant tray back.

Eventually I cleared the TSA zone and made my way to the gate, where a crowd of people surrounded the gate. Again I was assigned a middle seat. I wonder how one obtains anything but a middle seat here. Apparently they just do it at random at the gate itself, which seems prehistoric.

The planes seem stuck in a time warp as well; every plane I’ve been on has been old, with CRT screens and none of the modern equipment I’ve become used to overseas. The staff had trouble airing the safety video as well as the other videos that followed, and they now sell food instead of offering it as part of the service.

We arrived in Chicago a bit late, and I followed the signs to the terminal for my flight to Lexington. And followed. And followed. It seemed to be at the other end of the facility, but I made it in time to board a tiny little jet with tiny little seats and one short, pudgy flight attendent who was very nice. The clouds dropped below as we took off, very smoothly and quietly for such a small plane, I thought, though the prop job from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, Laos, was also nice and smooth. This time we passed huge cloud formations that resembled the star destroyers from Star Wars, and I imagined we were in a shuttle, flying casual.

Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky, was almost empty except for large pictures of impressive horses and signs saying things like, “Buy a few horse farms today!” My brother Kevin was waiting for me downstairs, and we proceeded in his Jetta station wagon to his house in the tiny, quaint town of Midway. I hadn’t seen Kevin in over ten years, so it was really good to see him again, as well as his wife Ann, and I met their two kids, Jack and Avery, that night. They seem like good kids, inquisitive and friendly. They asked me to say various thing in Chinese, and Avery actually almost tripped me up with “chandelier”.

Kevin and Ann are both architects, and their house is very nicely done, with warm colors, and so clean that…it’s just very, very clean. I’m staying in the guest room.

This morning Kevin and I drove to Lexington to join Ann at a motivational speakers’ seminar. I had my doubts about attending such a thing, but the list of speakers included such names as Steve Forbes, Colin Powell, Laura Bush and Rudi Guliani, so I thought it might be interesting.


Ok, so Colin Powell was interesting. Kind of jokey, as if he didn’t really take these things seriously. Laura Bush sounded like she was Reading Every Word From A Script, though her speech was in itself interesting, and the few words I caught of Steve Forbes’ pleas for a flat 17% tax seemed reasonable. Ann said that Guliani was good for the short time he spoke. But the rest of the thing was filled with shysters and shillers propping themselves up and trying to badger people into taking their courses and programs, late-nite TV Ronco ad-style. A huge US flag was waving on the screen behing the logo, and outside the auditorm, surrounding the doors, were many tables staffed by dozens of young black men, all with forms ready to sign in front of them. The shysters on the stage were vulgar, insulting, and plainly ignorant individuals playing the audience like a carpetbagger inpersonating a Baptist preacher. Perhaps it was the modern-day equivalent of the old medicine shows, but I’d have to say the Taiwanese shows selling fake Chinese medicine in between dancing Thai transvestites had considerably more class.

And yet the audience (I’m still not sure if their considerable average girth was representative of the general population or not) was eating it up; that was the biggest disappointment. They would answer the speakers, shouting YES! and clapping at any mention of being married for any length of time or anything military. A man came up and sang a rendition of God Bless America, and most of the audience stood up, their hands on their hearts, as if it were the national anthem. They called on all the members of military to stand up. Single mothers were brought up on stage, seemingly picked randomly out of the crowd, and given prizes, while one speaker told people he was going to heaven, while we were going to hell, and he hoped we would be hit by a bus. Then he preached compassion. Then he called us peckerwoods. There was an almost insane fervor and need to boast their own stupidity as if it were a credit. And it worked.

We left after Colin Powell’s speech and had lunch at a local restaurant. It began to rain, and most of the diners left the open patio, leaving a group of large blonde women holding umbrellas. “Are you making fun of us?” they challenged.

“No, I just think it’s an interesting situation,” I said, but they still seemed suspicious. A while earlier they had been asking if a girl who had tripped on the sidewalk was ok.

We walked back to the car, which was parked in what Kevin said others called “a really bad part of town”, but although it was obviously not well to do, it seemed pleasant enough, small ramshackle houses with porches. That morning, as we had walked through Transylvania College, which is apparently one of the oldest colleges in the US, we asked a student how old it was. “17th oldest college in the US, founded in 1780!” he said.

“Ha! We beat you: 1749!” I said, drawing a dirty look from the student. “That was probably a stupid thing to say,” I added to Kevin, who was probably trying to look like he didn’t know me as we walked on.

After watching Kevin’s two dogs, the typical pairing you see in cartoons of the big dumb one and the small smart one, tearing around the saltwater pool in the backyard, dinner was had in downtown Midway, two rows of interesting old buildings, many containing restaurants, separated by train tracks. I had mini corn dogs, which were delicious AND cute, and a chicken sandwich. We were afraid it was going to rain as the sky darkened, but the walk back was pleasant. Very quiet, very empty, with only one of two people in view at one time. The only sounds were the church bells and the occasional train. We picked up the kids from Ann’s parent’s house, just across the street and designed and built by Kevin, and returned to watch “The Player”, starring Hollywood and very stylized while also being almost completely random. Interesting film; Tim Robbins was, as usual, very tall.

posted by Poagao at 12:01 pm  
Apr 22 2011


Ten years ago today, I sat down in front of my computer in my little room on Xinsheng South Road overlooking the park and wrote the first entry in this blog. I was working at Ogilvy & Mather then, which was still on Minsheng East Road at the time. A visit to San Francisco to see my friend Mindcrime a few months prior had convinced me to start my own blog, which was incidental to my photography website back then.

Ten years!

I won’t say it’s hard to believe, as it definitely seems like an eon ago. I’ve moved several time, had several jobs, and visited many other countries over the last decade. Wrote a book, made some films, bought a place, sold my bike. It’s been an interesting ride. Alas, I’ve been remiss in updating things here, simply because the day-to-day details are so much easier to recount in places like Facebook and Twitter than compiled here.

I will continue to write here, but I need to find a way to update the site. I have too many blogs now, and the design is outdated. It needs simplification, and the latest version of WordPress, which I can’t install because mySQL is too old or something. I have no idea. I’m hesitant to lose the gray-on-black format, as black backgrounds are so much easier on my eyes than white ones, which are like staring full-on at a light all day. I might even implement some kind of photo-of-the-day site here, but to be honest, all of that is way beyond me.

Anyway, more things are afoot. I now have an agent in New York for the army book, I’m looking into publishing a photobook, and who knows, the long-delayed movie might even see some progress for all I know.

In any case, here’s to the next ten years!

posted by Poagao at 4:32 pm  
Apr 24 2009

Two-term blogger

I’m a few days late on this, but as of April 22nd, I’ve been writing in this thing for eight years. Thanks for all of you who supported my bid for a second term in office with your cries of “Four More Years!” last time around.

That said, I’m afraid I’ve become somewhat of a lame-duck blogger (or even more so, anyway). In fact, I’m beginning to think that most bloggers are (even more these days) lame duck bloggers, thanks to the plethora of instant microblogging social linking sites that have sprung up recently, added to the increasingly portable nature of Internet access these days. Who, after all, has time for lengthy descriptions of someone’s breakfast when they can get a play-by-play on the details and thoughts of some stranger throughout the day?

What bothers me a little bit about all of this, and I sound like an old fogey when I say it, is the growing feeling of obligation to pay attention to these things, these mundane matters that everyone (including myself, I must add, lest I be labeled a hypocrite in addition to everything else) is attaching so much value to these days in lieu of actual accomplishments. It was ok and kind of neat to have access to this information when it first became available, but I have to suppress a small shudder when I consider having to monitor this kind of thing all day, every day. At some point I missed, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter became necessary items, like TVs and radios before that. But unlike the old media, which could be passively observed, this time you have to participate and work at it. This was supposed to be a Good Thing, all the educators and socialogists said, this was supposed to be what TV and radio couldn’t give us because it was busy rotting our brains. For the office-bound employee with an Internet connection, it is a welcome distraction, of course, and that was indeed my inspiration for starting this account back in 2001, when I had such a position full-time. But these days I find it becoming a little irritating, all of these niggling little things to take care of online as well as in real life.

Or it could just be that it’s an incredibly nice day outside and I am inside here typing this dribble. Ah, well, screw it, I’m going outside, where I can Twitter that I am passing a 7-Eleven or something similarly inane.

posted by Poagao at 10:54 am  
May 14 2008

Bank Sinopac

I went to the bank today to see if I could adjust my interest rate on my housing loan, which has gotten a bit unruly lately. I had discussed my case with the woman at the bank, a Ms. Chen, many times on the phone, and she said I should come in to discuss the issue further and look at some different plans. This, however, necessitated a trip across town to the main Bank Sinopac office near the Far Eastern Hotel.

I walked over from the subway, found the place and was directed down to the basement level, where I found an empty reception desk, an empty help desk, and a generally dark, empty room. I peeked into the offices on either side and failed to arouse anyone’s interest. A single fellow in a tie chatted on the phone, leaning on the unmanned reception desk. “Wonderful service here,” I muttered. The guy on the phone glanced at me and continued chatting. I took out my phone and called Ms. Chen. “Are you here?” she asked.

“I’m downstairs,” I said.

“Ok, just go into the office on your right when you come in,” she said. I did so, and a woman approached me, while the other workers stared.

“I’m looking for Ms. Chen Xin-yue,” I said, and the woman burst out in giggles. She looked over at her co-workers and managed to point at Ms. Chen, who had stood up at the mention of her name. She looked at me, uncomprehending. “I’m here,” I said. “Me. I’m…uh, we had an appointment? I talked to you not five seconds ago?”

More giggles. “Oh!” Ms. Chen said, looking shocked and pointing me to a nearby desk, where I sat down and waited. As I did so, the entire section of office I’d just turned away from burst out into laughter.

Eventually the giggles died down and Ms. Chen came over. “Ok…” she said hesitantly, apparently unsure how to proceed. “Do you….do you have an ID card?”

You know I do, I thought. “Yes,” I said, and handed it over. She looked at it, then consulted her computer a while.

“You know, we could offer you a much better rate if you transferred all of your investments, funds and the like to us,” she said, saying “rate” in English. I declined, and she shrugged. After a while she asked me to sign a form. “Sign here to promise that you won’t pay off the loan within a year, and we’ll see if we can come up with a better rate.”

That’s it? I thought. “Could you at least give me a ballpark range?” I’d been led to believe on the phone that I could reduce my interest rate substantially and would be given several plans to choose from, but the figures she gave me were unimpressive at best, and would only last a year, after which the rate would go back up.

I mentioned the poor service I’d had at the bank previously, such as last month when the clerk asked me if I was positive I’d paid the payment the month before. I mentioned that many other banks have been calling me about switching my loan to them and giving quite attractive rates. Ms. Chen seemed at once skeptical and apologetic about these stories. “I’ll see what I can do, and we’ll get back to you with a solid figure,” she repeated, and then added. “Oh, and will you be staying in Taiwan long?”

I blinked, stared.

“Because you might leave, you see,” she went on. You must really, really not want my business, I thought.

“Get your supervisor over here,” I said.


“You do have a supervisor? Or do I have the privilege of addressing the top dog here?”

The supervisor was called. I showed her my bank book. “It’s not much, I know,” I said. “Of course, it might grow in the future. I have steady work at a government position. But,” I paused and pointed at the book, “You will never see a penny of it, thanks to your bank’s abominable service and idiots like Bobo the Clown here.” I pointed at Ms. Chen. The giggling had stopped.

And then I went to lunch. Lunch, at least, was nice.

I went to Fubon, who were professional and happy to handle my mortgage, savings, and all my other financial business. They offered me a competitive interest rate, anyway, so I can only assume that the Sinopac people are simply, woefully inept at customer relations for some reason.

posted by Poagao at 7:05 am  
Apr 29 2008

Weekend, etc.

First of all, before I start blathering on about my weekend, watch this video. Now, I used to tell people that everyone should visit New York City at least once, but I’m beginning to think I should change my advice. That person being arrested? It’s you.

After Tai-chi practice on Saturday, I joined Daniel and Prince Roy for a nice lunch at the Yongkang Sababa. The weather was perfect for lounging and eating pitas on the veranda. We then went to check out the progress of our favorite teahouse, Wistaria. Unfortunately, not only was the old structure still closed for renovation, the opening was delayed until June. We walked up Xinsheng to its other location, in a quiet alley, and sat next to the front window, which looks out onto the small garden.

tree windowUnfortunately for us, peace and quiet was not to be had, due to a woman loudly “educating” a couple of foreigners at a table on the other side of the room. The foreigners were apparently still jetlagged from their trip. “THE TEA CEREMONY IS A CENTRAL PART OF OUR SPIRITUAL LIVES,” the woman orated. “IT IS SOMETHING WE PARTAKE OF EVERY DAY.” I fought the urge to shout, “ANCIENT CHINESE SECRET, HUH?” at her.

Despite the noise, the tea was very good. We got our favorite Iron Bodhisattva tea and some snacks and spent the next couple of hours chatting above the din. After night fell, we walked over to Chicago Pizza off Jianguo and took a couple of pizzas over to the Da-an Park amphitheater to eat as we watched workmen take down scaffolding from that night’s show. In the distance we could hear a constant drumming. I wondered how they could keep going without tiring out. After the pizza was gone, we walked over to take a look, and found a group of people doing Brazilian dance-fighting to a drumbeat.

crazy bike on bridgeThe next day, Sunday, I decided to dust off the Crazy Bike, which had laid dormant in the bowels of my building all winter, and take a ride. I told myself it would be just a short ride, as I’d planned to get the Tokyo video done that day. The weather was just too nice, and it had been too long since I’d ridden. When I reached the confluence of the Xindian and Dahan Rivers, I turned west up the latter stream and crossed to the other side on the Xinhai Bridge. Then I began to wonder if they can extended the path. I told myself that I had come that far, and I might as well find out. The path ran between the train tracks and the river as I passed through Shulin, where I found that it had indeed been extended. I continued along the riverside, and found myself in downtown Yingge, across from the ceramics center. I’d set out at 1pm, and it was only 4pm, so I felt I could be back in Bitan by 7pm.

other endI was wrong. On the way back I began to get tired, and my knees began to ache. I stopped to chat with some drunken aborigines who having a party under a bridge, sharing a drink with them and plying them for hat-related information. I stopped on the bridge back to take pictures, and then at the site of the construction of a bridge across the meeting of the three rivers for still more pictures. At Gongguan I parked on the wooden walkway and laid on a bench to watch the stars for a bit.

It was well after 9pm by the time I got home, and after some spaghetti for dinner, all I wanted was a shower and bed. So much for productivity. Later I measured the distance I’d ridden with a map interface, which is probably not entirely accurate due to it’s straight-line distances, but it said I’d gone about 70 kilometers. It was a good ride, but I probably should have taken it a bit easier the first time out. Still, I now know that the path goes all the way to Yingge, so maybe next time I little exploring of that area would take the edge off the journey there and back.

posted by Poagao at 4:06 am  
Jan 07 2008


“I got beat up a couple of nights ago,” I told The Taipei Kid at JB’s last Friday night during Jacques and Olwen’s farewell party, sh0wing him a large bruise on my neck.

He looked shocked. “Really?”

“No, it was just a really mean massage,” I said. You see, my hosts at the New Year’s Eve party, Bret and Alan, both insisted that their masseuse was wonderful, describing how great they felt afterwards, though the techniques used were forceful, to say the least.

“He’ll break you in half,” Bret said. Still, that oft-fatal mixture of curiosity and stupidity that has gotten me into trouble so many times before caused me to ask for a name card with the place’s address, and when cold weather nixed plans for tai-qi practice on Wednesday night, I decided to take the MRT up to Shilin and give it a go.

The massage place is located in an alley off of Meilun Street, a few minutes’ walk from the Shilin MRT station. I knocked and entered, then was told to exit and take off my shoes and enter again. Inside was a nicely decorated lobby. I gave my name and references, and was told to soak my feet in a pot of medicine for a few minutes before the masseuse, a short, stocky middle-aged man named Blue, was ready. Apparently Blue was busy eating dinner, and he invited me to share the hotpot they had bubbling in the back of the house before we began.

Then, the massage. Now, I’ve had some massages before, and some were fairly uncomfortable. I’d told Blue to go easy on me, as well as about my old knee injury, but I swear, if that was “going easy,” then I wouldn’t wish the full treatment on anyone unless I really, really didn’t care for them.

It was excruciating. “Wow, you sure can yell pretty loudly,” Blue observed at one point. He pressed and pulled and twisted, sometimes getting an assistant to hold my feet while he wrapped a towel under my neck to stretch me out, medieval-style. He counted to three and then did his best to yank my arms out of their sockets, so hard my hands felt pins and needles, beat my calves mercilessly. Every time he said, “Take a breath, now breathe out…” I knew I was in for some serious pain. Blue said he was putting my spine back in alignment, bringing out a little toy spine to illustrate which bones he was forcing back into position. I wondered if his kids played with it in between sessions.

After a period of time, possibly half an hour, he was done and left me lying listlessly on the massage table. I hurt all over. After a while I got up, had a bite of hotpot though I’d lost my appetite completely. Out in the lobby, the assistant was busy picking a splinter of something out of Blue’s hand, digging around with tweezers under a magnifying glass. I wondered how he’d managed to give me a massage with a splinter in his hand, but then it occurred to me that perhaps that was one reason he was so forceful. Another possibly reason was that he thought a big hairy foreigner could take it. I have to admit, once you’ve started a massage it’s hard to quit halfway through. After all, you agreed to it.

I sat for a while, watching Blue work on another customer’s feet. The customer said that the more he did it, the more comfortable the massages became. But I felt like I’d been severely beaten, and just wanted to go home. “You’ll sleep well tonight,” Blue said as I left.

He was right about that; I did sleep well. Except when the pain woke me up. Over the next few days my arms and legs pulsed with a deep, annoying hurt that wouldn’t go away. My friends and co-workers were duly impressed with the large black bruise on the back of my neck (which is still there, almost a week later). Finding that I’m a little too hairy to use those salonpas-brand sticky patches, I used muscle-ache creams to help relieve the pain. when I called Blue to ask about it, he said the pain would only last 2-3 days. Bret said that maybe the pain was a sign that I needed the massage, that it meant I was helped more by it. The discomfort was pretty much gone by today. My hands have stopped tingling, for the most part.

I doubt I’ll be going back there any time soon. I might try going to another masseuse at some point, though, as I still like a good massage, but I’d also like to avoid Pain World as much as possible. Hopefully that’s not too much to ask.

posted by Poagao at 11:55 am  
Nov 20 2007

Thinking at 5:59am

I’ve been getting too many reminders lately, too many overdue notices, so to speak. Moving back into smaller quarters has disallowed me to continue shunning the cries emanating from various hidden corners of my life. There’s not much else to say, except that one can only cheat oneself so much before it becomes unbearable.

I recently came across the photography of Joakim Eskildsen, and although I find most online photography sites pale in comparison with a simple search of Flickr’s Explore feature, this guy is amazing. His composition, colors, manipulation of light, emotion and presentation of people in their environments constitute, in my mind, real photography, something I’d forgotten in this age of digital photography. He uses a Pentax 6+7 film SLR with prime lenses, apparently.

I just finished watching Layer Cake, and was reminded how a real movie communicates with its audience, not through dialogue, which is almost ancillary to the story, but visually, viscerally pulling emotions out of the audience. And this, ladies and gentlemen, isn’t exactly that deep of a movie.

I was at the house of a friend who bought some CD’s of ours, and he put on an old Louis Armstrong album including some of the songs we play. When Louis plays, it’s like nobody ever played before, or ever will again.

During the move, I was going through my old stuff, throwing away some of it. I went through old journals from the 1990’s, when times were tough for me, when I was a struggling camera assistant trying to make it from month to month and moving house periodically, almost systematically, throughout the city. I also reread a bit of the English version of my book, recalling the words of my old colleague Carl Davies, spoken not long after I was hired at the China News, to the effect that I couldn’t write myself out of a paper bag. He was right, of course.

I woke up this morning at 5:59am, after only a few hours of sleep, thinking: what the hell am I doing? If I don’t get to the core of things now, it’s likely I never will. I can’t quite explain it, and I suspect I should stop trying and get on with things.

posted by Poagao at 7:52 pm  
Feb 10 2007


Though it’s been blogged about extensively, I just have to express my amazement at the city of Boston’s reaction to its recent discovery of a few publicly placed LED boards with cartoon characters on them. Spurning chance after chance to realize what they were dealing with, their reaction to international derision over the matter seems to have made them simply more eager to “prove” that there was some kind of “threat” involved. Now apparently they’ve cooked up some numbers for “restitution” for their blunder and have forced the head of the Cartoon Network to resign.

What I find most significant is that this is the first time I’ve ever witnessed such a huge disconnect between what the mainstream media is reporting and what is blatantly obvious to everyone else. It’s almost soviet. Even living here in Taiwan and being a bit older than the targeted demographic, I still know about the TV show the character is taken from. So, it seems, does everyone on the Internet. But despite the fact that both the show and the Internet have been around for years, the mainstream media in the US seems almost willfully ignorant. I suppose in the first couple of hours after the story broke such ignorance could have been explained, but even today, weeks afterward, they don’t seem to have been able to understand just what happened. It’s like the real world is a foreign land to which they cannot imagine. It really makes one wonder, if the major US media players can’t even get this right, what’s the point of their existence?

Seriously, this was just as perfect a test as you could ask for, and they failed spectacularly, right down to the scapegoating of everyone but those actually responsible for the hysteria. The media, the authorities concerned and city officials decided to ignore reality and spend all of their efforts trying to push their fantasy on the public. Before the Internet it might have been possible to do this successfully (and it no doubt has been). But after the laughter dies down and they’re still putting up their claims as “truth,” I think the general public will realize that it has a genuine cause for concern on its hands. Basically, this incident has shown us that we cannot trust them. Even in this kind of situation, they’ve proved themselves not only useless and only concerned about saving face, but untrustworthy and even dangerous. But it seems that those who are charged with fixing such problems have become the problems themselves.

posted by Poagao at 4:23 pm