Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Nov 13 2007

Tidying up

The Water Curtain Cave is mostly tidied up, except for the bathroom, which is full of bags of stuff I’ve accumulated over the years and will probably need to throw out. I spent all day Sunday cleaning, sorting, unpacking, etc. I went through a bunch of old floppy disks full of old porn, ancient links and journals to remind me just how desperate the 90s seemed to me at the time.

Now all the place needs is curtains, which I’m going to get on Friday, and rugs, which are at the cleaners. With the new paint and posters up, it’s back to being the comfy little cave I remember.

On Saturday night I met up with denizens of the Little Bear Village at a hotpot place behind Sogo, located in a U-shaped building I’d walked past every day going to and from work when I lived in the Sogo Locker. There was a good turnout, 20 or so bears and cubs of varying descriptions. I’ve lost weight recently and thought they might not let me in, but it seems I’m still ok, at least just hairy enough to get me in the door. A lot of meat was eaten and spirited discussions held, and afterwards I rode on the back of a scooter to Base, a karaoke bear club off Zhongshan North Road near the Combat Zone. My ride’s owner, btw, was Porco, aka “Snowball” because he likes to wear white.

The place filled up quickly after we arrived, but I had to catch a cab over to The Source to meet with Joe, Marty and Micheal at 11:30, as Marty wanted to introduce me to some movie industry friends of his. The taxi driver was a maniac; I was left standing on the steps of the Central Bank 15 minutes early, so I sat in one of the building’s alcoves and ate a chocolate bar while watching the traffic on Roosevelt Road. A large rat startled me before I remembered that I don’t really mind rats as much as cockroaches.

Eventually I crossed the road and found Marty and Joe in the bar, as well as my fellow Bitanian Greg. The movie people were sitting outside chatting with some folks from the Berlin Film Festival, but after they were done Marty introduced me to them, including Eric, whose English is near perfect. I’d brought a copy of Clay Soldiers along and gave it to them as well as my card. It turned out that they had read my book.

Michael showed up, and I spent the rest of the night talking with him and everyone else, before taking a walk down Roosevelt with Michael before catching a cab home. I think I also caught a chill, because my throat started to hurt the next day, and now I’ve come down with a cold, the first one I’ve had, it seems, in years.

Yesterday I sold my last L-series lens, a Canon 24-105 f/4L IS USM, and picked up a Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4.5 DC macro for about a third of the Canon’s resale price, as I just wasn’t using the Canon that much since it wasn’t wide enough to use as a walkaround lens on the cropped frame 20D, and I doubt I’ll be rolling in enough dough to justify spending NT$75,000 on a 5D body any time soon. Even a brand-new 40D is about half the cost of a 5D. Also, I like doing macro shots, so the Sigma makes more sense for me. We’ll see if it works out.

The solid grey weather of last week, ever since I moved, has now broken into bright, sunny days. The sunlight on my face feels good.

posted by Poagao at 6:59 am  
Nov 07 2007

The Album Party

CD release party!Our self-titled album is now officially out, and we had a party/show last Saturday night to celebrate at the Huashan Culture Park on Zhongxiao East Road. Sandman, who started drinking early to keep up with his usual pre-show nerves, and I got there around 3pm, though we were supposed to get there at 2 to start setting up. I busied myself putting up pictures (oddly enough we’d run out of posters; I had to draw a sign for the door downstairs) while Robyn directed the entire operation with exceptional speed and efficiency. After a while we did what we could during the sound check to make the harsh acoustics of the place a tad more acceptable to the human ear.

Before we knew it, it was 6:30, and guests began arriving. We’d been featured in the newspapers and other media, and the place, an elegant hall on the second floor, filled up quickly. Almost as quickly, the food provided by Alleycats and Sababa vanished. It was a strange situation for me, socially speaking, as there were so many people in the room that, under normal circumstances, I could have chatted with any of them individually all night, but instead I had to keep excusing myself and doing more mingling. The replacement pizza smelled wonderful, but it was for guests, not the band, and we’d feasted on biandangs earlier anyway.

Slim takes a breakSoon it was almost time to go on, so we all made our way back to the green room, where there was a nice smoking balcony attached, and got ready to go on. Upon The Appointed Hour, David opened the door to the stage, and we all hesitated, staring at the open door, and the stage and people beyond. I think we could all feel what it meant, those few steps. Sandman was the first through the door, and I followed, the rest of the band behind me. The crowd erupted as we strode onto the stage, with a degree of emotion that I’d never encountered before in my career as a Rambler. There were there to see us, and we were there to make them happy.

“I’ve been wanting to say this for the longest time,” David announced to the audience. “This is the first song from our NEW ALBUM!” We began playing through the songs of the album, in the same order, more or less. Hundreds of people were stuffed into the room, and most of them ended up dancing, and many whooping as well. Several little kids banged on their small plastic chairs to the music just below the stage. At one point there was a minor confusion over the key of a certain song, but the crowd didn’t seem to notice.

Thumper's picture of me and Sandman at the album release showSeventeen songs went by in a flash, and it was over. We put our instruments away and chatted with people before they left, all of us high from the show and just being able to hold the album in our hands, the finished product of so many months of effort. It was almost sad in a way, being the end of an exciting, fun and rewarding period for all of us, even though it was also a beginning of sorts.

Later on we piled everything into cabs and went over to Bobwundaye to continue the celebration, which lasted into the wee hours of Sunday morning. I accompanied Jason Green for a few tunes on Charles’ surprisingly sweet Jupiter trumpet, which he got for a song, and didn’t have too much to drink.

One by one, the band left. Thumper disappeared, Sandman and Jojo went home, and David exited to cheers. Eventually, Slim and I also bade Conor and the others farewell and hopped in a taxi back to Xindian, our work done, at least for now.

posted by Poagao at 6:52 am  
Oct 28 2007

Gallery night

taxi weatherBetween tai-chi practice and the resistance-is-futile nature of the weather on Saturday, I didn’t get much done. In fact, I thought I might even be late for my own photo exhibit at Bobwundaye, so I splurged for a cab over from Bitan.

Turns out I shouldn’t have worried. When I arrived, the place was deserted except for a bored-looking foreigner sitting at the bar. I ordered a CC-ginger ale and sat down for bit. Then I looked at the photos hung up on the wall. The lights didn’t quite manage to fully illuminate them, but they looked pretty good. The terrible framing job caused ripples, however. I won’t be going back to that frame shop again. Which isn’t too big of a problem as there are 34 just like it on the same street.

After a while a group of women, including Chris, arrived, and sat down at the table in the back. I sat down next to them, feeling awkward as I didn’t really know any of them except for Chris, who disappeared into the bathroom. Was I interrupting some kind of “hen party” or whatever it is called when women get together and talk about female issues? I had no idea. I’m not much of a talker anyway, so I pretty much sat there and nodded.

Other people began to arrive, some of whom I knew, such as Maurice, Wayne, Mark and Gaby, and many I didn’t. I had no idea if they were there for the photos or just there or drinks. The Ramblers were all there, including a surprisingly stylish Thumper. It was now officially a Party.

I got a few inquiries about purchasing photos, but I hadn’t really thought out a sales strategy and didn’t close any deals. I also got a few questions about things like “inspiration” and “meaning,” and I pretty much explained that I had simply seen things I found visually interesting and taken pictures of them. I find it odd that other people don’t see the same things, but I can’t really explain it. In all honesty, it’s hard to feel that great of a sense of accomplishment as photography isn’t difficult or hard work for me. It’s just something I do and get pleasure from. It’s gratifying that some people seem to enjoy the results, but it’s not like filmmaking or writing a story, where you actually have to put effort and forethought into your project. I suppose, in musical terms, filmmaking is like the trumpet, which I spent a lot of time learning, while photography is more like the washtub bass, which I just seem to…do. And I have fun with both.

Speaking of music, by and by we Ramblers picked up our instruments and played a few songs, which the crowd seemed to enjoy. We played and drank until well after midnight, and no police disturbed the show for once. I’d had just enough alcohol, not too much, so I wasn’t terribly interested in the whiskey shots Kat was handing out, but in deference to the work she and the other staff members put into the exhibit, I downed it and pitched past buzzing into Trunk Derritory.

But it was a talkative drunk, and I chattered to Sandman and Jojo all the way back to Bitan in the taxi, my spirits buoyed by all the people coming to see the photos, hear us play, drink and have a good time. The whole thing was a success, if I dare say so myself.

Ironically, I didn’t get any photos of the event.

In other photographic news, some of my pictures are now featured on an interesting new website called Guess This City. It’s just sets of anonymous pictures of a city you click through, and then it tells you which city you’ve just been looking at. Can you guess which city I did? (Hint: it’s not Antlers, OK)

posted by Poagao at 11:11 am  
Oct 22 2007

Dream Parade and Bliss show

The Muddy Basin Ramblers on a parade float, photo by ThumperSaturday was a full day. I was late again meeting Sandman down at the 7-Eleven, but we eventually caught a cab to the corner of Renai and Jianguo, where the annual Dream Community Parade was forming. Traffic was blocked up, and the street was lined with floats. We found David, Slim, Conor and Thumper gathered around a large pig-shaped float that was supposed to be ours, but it turned out to be a mix-up. The pig was for BoPoMoFo. Ours was actually more of a “court jester” themed float, and much smaller. Two banners with the indecipherable “Planet Alasida” written on them flanked the small truck, and a little painted guy wearing only a blue loincloth was fussing around on top the cab, which had a railing. He seemed pretty well-endowed, and we stood at a distance, wondering if he had added anything down there. It was at this point that we should have realized what he was planning.

We walked up and down the line of floats a bit. Kids on stilts wobbled up and down the road. Two guys dressed in upside-down clothing staggered around pretending like they were walking on their hands. David and I did an impromptu guitar-and-bass piece; I shredded the colorful pencil I’d been using as a pick, so I prowled the offices of the elementary school looking for something to replace it. Hopefully nobody will notice the absence of a blue pen from their table.

Back outside, Thumper was letting some kids play his washboard, but suddenly the parade was starting up and we all jumped up on the truck just as it started off. The painted guy stood on the cab dancing and waving a flag. We moved slowly along Renai Road, following a group of Jedi knights, while a large goldfish followed behind. Periodically bubbles and smoke would emit from the goldfish, which made us wonder if there were some kind of party going on inside.

The weather cleared up as we played. I was standing against the ladder on the cab, facing the back of the truck. At one point I looked up to see David, Slim and Sandman staring aghast at something behind me, and I turned around to see that the painted guy had taken off his loincloth and was dancing, buck naked except for his “extension”, to our music. We kept playing, however. There seemed nothing else to do at that point. The people standing by the side of the road watching us giggled into their hands in embarrasment, or pointed and stared, for once not at us. We drove by a group of policemen who seemed to wonder if they should do something, but didn’t. This being Taiwan, we didn’t encounter any Puritan-style Outrage or shocked hands over children’s faces.

We continued down Renai, past a plethora of brand new luxury high-rises. We played “Reefer Man” but substituting “Naked Man” for the title character. “Have you ever seen that funny naked man?” David would sing, and we would all answer “Naked man!” while pointing at the oblivious subject of our commentary waving his flag on the top of the truck.

Eventually another man, who was painted purple from head to toe and sported angel wings and a fig leaf like some giant heaven-sent grape, ran up and had a conversation with the naked guy, who then put his loincloth back on. I’m guessing the police had words with the grape guy and sent a message through him. Afterwards, people began to look more at us than the painted guy, and we were finally able to concentrate on making music without distractions. A couple of times we passed a woman on the side announcing what each float was. “And the next float is….Planet Alasida! They use….uh, what the….kitchen implements! Let’s give them a hand!”

IMAG0033The sun went down as we approached the presidential palace, where a large stage had been set up. We continued to play even after the truck had stopped, as there was an audience of people listening to us. I was tired after a couple of hours balancing on one foot on a moving truck, though, and was glad when we finally stopped. We gathered up our stuff and got down to look at the other groups. Thumper went backstage and got himself a picture of himself with Mayor Hau, while Sandman went to gawk at the Brazilian dance groups. He came back with a small flower for his hat.

We decided to go to California Grill for hamburgers before adjourning to Da-an Park to watch the gypsy show, but although Slim and I ended up there, the others gave us the slip and went to the Italian Job instead. Later, Thumper joined us at the park, but we didn’t go watch the gypsies; instead we laid on the grass and chatted while looking at the stars.

At around 10pm we caught a cab over to Bliss, where we were playing a farewell show for our friend Chris. We got two free drinks, and the rum cokes perked me up a bit after a long day. A very blonde woman named Karen was taking money at the stairwell, but there weren’t that many people, which wasn’t too bad as Bliss can become very uncomfortable with too many people. Occasionally the whole building would sway a bit, a feeling Thumper and I attributed to the nearby subway construction.

The show went well, though it was difficult at times to make ourselves heard over Karen’s fascinating stories concerning her textbooks. We played two sets and called it a day. Charles borrowed my euphonium for a bit, but Sandman wanted to go home. I was bushed as well, so we packed up and caught a cab back to Bitan.

posted by Poagao at 12:50 pm  
Jun 17 2007

Street jammin’

“It’s raining,” I said on the phone to David, who was still entwined in the subway system on his way to Bitan. We’d promised Athula, the Sri Lankan rotti-provider and patron saint of the Muddy Basin Ramblers, that we’d perform on the street in front of his stand as part of the Taiwan Beer Festival on Saturday night. But all I could see from my balcony as dusk fell was sheets of rain. Still, I got my things together, just in case.

20 minutes later the rain had stopped, so I stuffed my pocket trumpet in my backpack and lugged the euphonium and the washtub bass components down the wet street and over the bridge, meeting my neighbor Brent and his wife on the way. The bridge was full of people, and I wondered if it might not be a good idea to have a sign saying “Do you know why you’re crossing this bridge?” on the Xindian side, as most people just cross the bridge and turn back. The strollers I can understand, but it’s the people who seem to be in a hurry to cross, glance at the other side, and then rush back that confuse me.

Xindian Street was full of people and pavilions selling various products under a curtain of Taiwan Beer ads, and Athula was doing his usual roaring business. We set up in the middle of the street. Just our appearance, with all of the unusual instruments, attracted a lot of people, but once we started the show we gathered up quite a crowd. They were in a festive mood, too, applauding and yelling in appreciation. It seemed that everyone had some kind of recording device running. Several people brought cups of herbal jelly tea for us all to drink through thick straws. Sandman’s dog Balu trotted around the area following up interesting smells.

kidThe rain started in again, and we moved under one of the awnings nearby. The acoustics there were a little better, but there wasn’t enough room for much of a crowd. As soon as it stopped, we moved back out into the middle of the street. We played nearly every song that involved the euphonium, which tired me out and left my trumpet performance lacking, but I managed anyway. At one point Thumper invited a small boy in a striped shirt to play the bells on his washboard, and the kid really took a shine to it; the look on his face was priceless.

We played the Taiwan Song, which David said was meant for just such an occasion. After another song I had just put away my trumpet and returned to find a spectator playing the washtub bass with a rather confused yet determined look on his face. He used so much force that he broke the pencil I’d been using to pluck the string in half. I let him play and retrieved my trumpet to play along instead.

We were halfway through Work Song when the downpour started. Big, heavy drops began splattering down, and around us a host of umbrellas went up. Slim slipped his hat over Conor’s amp to keep it from electrocuting anyone. By the time we finished it was pouring rain. I slipped the washtub over my head and gathered up my trumpet and the euphonium, which had tumbled to the pavement when Jojo had mistakenly picked up the unfastened case, and ran back over to the awning for shelter.

conorIt was 10pm, and the pavilions were beginning to pack up. We stood around chatting with local denizens, politely declining invitations to play again on other nights. I pinched the straw of my herbal jelly tea, trying to filter out the jelly part, but to no avail. In the meantime, some of the foreigners in the crowd were getting pretty drunk. One guy fell off his motorcycle, breaking a part off of it.

The rain stopped again. By the point, traffic was being allowed through again, and a cavalcade of little blue trucks approached to take away the pavilions. We weren’t quite finished, however. We set up again and played some quieter songs for a while before the police showed up, as we knew they would. More chatting and milling around ensued before Thumper and I whisked Slim away from his complicated social life, down to the dragonboat platform erected on the edge of the river, which was covered in beautiful fog. There, we chatted and drank until the wee hours. It was a nice evening.bridge

posted by Poagao at 5:10 am  
Jun 17 2007

Street jammin’

“It’s raining,” I said on the phone to David, who was still entwined in the subway system on his way to Bitan. We’d promised Athula, the Sri Lankan rotti-provider and patron saint of the Muddy Basin Ramblers, that we’d perform on the street in front of his stand as part of the Taiwan Beer Festival on Saturday night. But all I could see from my balcony as dusk fell was sheets of rain. Still, I got my things together, just in case.

20 minutes later the rain had stopped, so I stuffed my pocket trumpet in my backpack and lugged the euphonium and the washtub bass components down the wet street and over the bridge, meeting my neighbor Brent and his wife on the way. The bridge was full of people, and I wondered if it might not be a good idea to have a sign saying “Do you know why you’re crossing this bridge?” on the Xindian side, as most people just cross the bridge and turn back. The strollers I can understand, but it’s the people who seem to be in a hurry to cross, glance at the other side, and then rush back that confuse me.

Xindian Street was full of people and pavilions selling various products under a curtain of Taiwan Beer ads, and Athula was doing his usual roaring business. We set up in the middle of the street. Just our appearance, with all of the unusual instruments, attracted a lot of people, but once we started the show we gathered up quite a crowd. They were in a festive mood, too, applauding and yelling in appreciation. It seemed that everyone had some kind of recording device running. Several people brought cups of herbal jelly tea for us all to drink through thick straws. Sandman’s dog Balu trotted around the area following up interesting smells.

kidThe rain started in again, and we moved under one of the awnings nearby. The acoustics there were a little better, but there wasn’t enough room for much of a crowd. As soon as it stopped, we moved back out into the middle of the street. We played nearly every song that involved the euphonium, which tired me out and left my trumpet performance lacking, but I managed anyway. At one point Thumper invited a small boy in a striped shirt to play the bells on his washboard, and the kid really took a shine to it; the look on his face was priceless.

We played the Taiwan Song, which David said was meant for just such an occasion. After another song I had just put away my trumpet and returned to find a spectator playing the washtub bass with a rather confused yet determined look on his face. He used so much force that he broke the pencil I’d been using to pluck the string in half. I let him play and retrieved my trumpet to play along instead.

We were halfway through Work Song when the downpour started. Big, heavy drops began splattering down, and around us a host of umbrellas went up. Slim slipped his hat over Conor’s amp to keep it from electrocuting anyone. By the time we finished it was pouring rain. I slipped the washtub over my head and gathered up my trumpet and the euphonium, which had tumbled to the pavement when Jojo had mistakenly picked up the unfastened case, and ran back over to the awning for shelter.

conorIt was 10pm, and the pavilions were beginning to pack up. We stood around chatting with local denizens, politely declining invitations to play again on other nights. I pinched the straw of my herbal jelly tea, trying to filter out the jelly part, but to no avail. In the meantime, some of the foreigners in the crowd were getting pretty drunk. One guy fell off his motorcycle, breaking a part off of it.

The rain stopped again. By the point, traffic was being allowed through again, and a cavalcade of little blue trucks approached to take away the pavilions. We weren’t quite finished, however. We set up again and played some quieter songs for a while before the police showed up, as we knew they would. More chatting and milling around ensued before Thumper and I whisked Slim away from his complicated social life, down to the dragonboat platform erected on the edge of the river, which was covered in beautiful fog. There, we chatted and drank until the wee hours. It was a nice evening.bridge

posted by Poagao at 5:10 am  
Jun 03 2007

Peacefest ‘07

Backstage at the Hoping for Hoping PeacefestOver the years, the Hoping for Hoping Peace Festival has gained a reputation, at least in my mind, for playing host to mostly crappy weather. Spring is Taiwan’s most unstable season, and it has rained at some point during every Peacefest I’ve been to so far. In the past, we always played the last act on the last day, Sunday, and were invariably shut down by the management before satisfactorily completing our sets. This time, however, we chose to play on Saturday afternoon, just before the mass abstract jamming/hand-holding/circle-dancing orgy they call the “Peace Circle”.

I shoehorned myself into the back of Sandman’s Sentra along with his dog Balu, and we set off for Longtan. Jojo had a rough map, but so engaged were we in a fascinating discourse concerning language acquisition that we managed to miss the exit; we had to go all the way to Guanxi and then back around. Then we missed another turn and had to stop for directions at a gas station before we finally got on the right track, arriving at the hippie-filled garden spot at about 4pm. To our surprise, the weather was gorgeous, with a fresh breeze and no sign of rain. People, mostly young, tanned foreigners with interesting hairstyles, lay spread out on the field in front of the stage. Balu played with the other dogs and cheerfully mauled someone’s Frisbee. A short, heavyset foreigner with frizzy hair rushed up to Slim and David, pushing cans of coffee into their hands and saying in a good approximation of a 40’s businessman voice, “Hold these, fellas, I need to get to promotional pictures…make sure the labels are showing!”

lotus pondI walked around for a bit, taking pictures of the temple’s lotus pond. After a while, we set up a little practice session behind the temple in a claustrophobic clearing next to a tipi. The grass muffled the sound of the washtub bass, and I felt tired and apathetic among the stunted trees filled with spiderwebs. We went over Viola Lee several times, but it seemed slow and lethargic, and I played a few rather inappropriate fills. Sips from a Rosemary Screwdriver perked me up a bit, and afterwards I used the time before our show to buy a decent whiskey coke to put me in the mood.

We took the stage as the sun set, and all I could see through my sunglasses were brief glimpses of the audience as the lights swept out and around the field. The bass was booming in a resounding fashion, but nobody else seemed to mind. We hit our stride early on and things only got better. People moved up towards the stage, and soon we had a large crowd, most of whom were dancing. The sound guys stayed on top of things, and the audience, which had up to that point only showed passing interest in what was going on on stage, was incredibly enthusiastic. Our allotted time went by in a flash of some of the most inspired Ramblry I’ve seen to date. It was almost surreal. Part of that was the whiskey, and part was the shades, but by any estimation, it was an amazing show.

We stepped off the stage into a shower of compliments, which was gratifying. The Peace Circle was next, and a group of other musicians took the stage with a guitar, a digeridoo, and some other instruments. The crowd assembled into a large, hand-holding circle and danced to the rhythm. I took some pictures and then joined Sandman and some others in a little horn ensemble that had formed next to the drummer.The Peace Circle

The Peace Circle lasted a long time, and I was tired afterwards. Slim, Thumper and I trekked up the hill a ways for a post-show chat, sitting on the dark road taking care to avoid being mown down by any unwary scooters. As the next band started up, we were glad we’d done so, because even at that distance it was painfully apparent that they were not only way too loud, but they didn’t seem to be playing any songs. I kept waiting for their soundcheck to end, but it never did. We sat on the road and talked until they stopped, which took quite a while. It might even have been more than one “band”. Maybe they have a following among others, but it was definitely not to my taste, and I could only feel sorry for the eardrums of those who stayed below.

Thumper took off into the night on his scooter, back to his mountain abode, while Slim and I toured the field again. The stage was back to its more-or-less unattended state. We were soon surrounded by Taiwanese girls, who oohed and aahed over Slim’s Chinese. Of course Slim, being the Evil Child that he is, sicked them on me by revealing my secret identity. In the end I was forced to show my card.

Sandman, Jojo and Balu were ready to go by that point, so we piled in the car and set off. Balu shifted around in his seat for a while before falling asleep and snoring, and Sandman soon followed his example. I sat watching the lit windows of the apartment buildings flash by. I love driving through the highway tunnels at night and spying the lighted tip of Taipei 101 over the mountains ahead. Traffic was reasonable; we made the trip back to Bitan in under an hour. But I was exhausted and in bed by 11.

posted by Poagao at 1:55 am  
Jun 03 2007

Peacefest ’07

Backstage at the Hoping for Hoping PeacefestOver the years, the Hoping for Hoping Peace Festival has gained a reputation, at least in my mind, for playing host to mostly crappy weather. Spring is Taiwan’s most unstable season, and it has rained at some point during every Peacefest I’ve been to so far. In the past, we always played the last act on the last day, Sunday, and were invariably shut down by the management before satisfactorily completing our sets. This time, however, we chose to play on Saturday afternoon, just before the mass abstract jamming/hand-holding/circle-dancing orgy they call the “Peace Circle”.

I shoehorned myself into the back of Sandman’s Sentra along with his dog Balu, and we set off for Longtan. Jojo had a rough map, but so engaged were we in a fascinating discourse concerning language acquisition that we managed to miss the exit; we had to go all the way to Guanxi and then back around. Then we missed another turn and had to stop for directions at a gas station before we finally got on the right track, arriving at the hippie-filled garden spot at about 4pm. To our surprise, the weather was gorgeous, with a fresh breeze and no sign of rain. People, mostly young, tanned foreigners with interesting hairstyles, lay spread out on the field in front of the stage. Balu played with the other dogs and cheerfully mauled someone’s Frisbee. A short, heavyset foreigner with frizzy hair rushed up to Slim and David, pushing cans of coffee into their hands and saying in a good approximation of a 40’s businessman voice, “Hold these, fellas, I need to get to promotional pictures…make sure the labels are showing!”

lotus pondI walked around for a bit, taking pictures of the temple’s lotus pond. After a while, we set up a little practice session behind the temple in a claustrophobic clearing next to a tipi. The grass muffled the sound of the washtub bass, and I felt tired and apathetic among the stunted trees filled with spiderwebs. We went over Viola Lee several times, but it seemed slow and lethargic, and I played a few rather inappropriate fills. Sips from a Rosemary Screwdriver perked me up a bit, and afterwards I used the time before our show to buy a decent whiskey coke to put me in the mood.

We took the stage as the sun set, and all I could see through my sunglasses were brief glimpses of the audience as the lights swept out and around the field. The bass was booming in a resounding fashion, but nobody else seemed to mind. We hit our stride early on and things only got better. People moved up towards the stage, and soon we had a large crowd, most of whom were dancing. The sound guys stayed on top of things, and the audience, which had up to that point only showed passing interest in what was going on on stage, was incredibly enthusiastic. Our allotted time went by in a flash of some of the most inspired Ramblry I’ve seen to date. It was almost surreal. Part of that was the whiskey, and part was the shades, but by any estimation, it was an amazing show.

We stepped off the stage into a shower of compliments, which was gratifying. The Peace Circle was next, and a group of other musicians took the stage with a guitar, a digeridoo, and some other instruments. The crowd assembled into a large, hand-holding circle and danced to the rhythm. I took some pictures and then joined Sandman and some others in a little horn ensemble that had formed next to the drummer.The Peace Circle

The Peace Circle lasted a long time, and I was tired afterwards. Slim, Thumper and I trekked up the hill a ways for a post-show chat, sitting on the dark road taking care to avoid being mown down by any unwary scooters. As the next band started up, we were glad we’d done so, because even at that distance it was painfully apparent that they were not only way too loud, but they didn’t seem to be playing any songs. I kept waiting for their soundcheck to end, but it never did. We sat on the road and talked until they stopped, which took quite a while. It might even have been more than one “band”. Maybe they have a following among others, but it was definitely not to my taste, and I could only feel sorry for the eardrums of those who stayed below.

Thumper took off into the night on his scooter, back to his mountain abode, while Slim and I toured the field again. The stage was back to its more-or-less unattended state. We were soon surrounded by Taiwanese girls, who oohed and aahed over Slim’s Chinese. Of course Slim, being the Evil Child that he is, sicked them on me by revealing my secret identity. In the end I was forced to show my card.

Sandman, Jojo and Balu were ready to go by that point, so we piled in the car and set off. Balu shifted around in his seat for a while before falling asleep and snoring, and Sandman soon followed his example. I sat watching the lit windows of the apartment buildings flash by. I love driving through the highway tunnels at night and spying the lighted tip of Taipei 101 over the mountains ahead. Traffic was reasonable; we made the trip back to Bitan in under an hour. But I was exhausted and in bed by 11.

posted by Poagao at 1:55 am  
May 23 2007

Sappho gig

Slim ties Sandman's gold bowtie at Sappho before the gig.I was exhausted from editing by the time David, Sandman and Conor showed up at my door at 4pm on Saturday. While it was good to have company, I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to make it through a show that started at 10:30pm and lasted into the wee hours of the morning, as is our wont. Slim called and said he couldn’t make the pre-gig practice, and Thumper was in Kaohsiung, so we ran through a few of the horn pieces until we were more or less satisfied everyone remembered how they went.

After packing up and heading over to Athula’s for a rotti dinner, it began to sprinkle. I went to the local shop and picked up a new washtub, and Athula helped me poke a hole in the bottom with a piece of metal heated on his grill. In addition to the rotti, I also got a beef kebab and tossed all the gritty bits at one of the local dogs. David and I then caught a cab to Sappho while Sandman and Conor waited for Jojo to drive them.

Sappho is, simply put, 1977. Or rather, what I imagined that year and we drove past lounge bars with the word “DISCO” in lights above the door on rainy Houstonian nights. The crystal motif permeated the place, and all the surfaces were shiny with a distinct lack of right angles. Even the music was appropriate to the era. I tried and failed to capture the brown tones and funky barstools with my camera.

We threw our stuff in a side lounge and started setting up as the other Ramblers began showing up. Slim took a while tying Sandman’s gold bow tie, resulting in the picture above. We got two free drinks. My first was the worst rum and coke I’ve ever had. The second was the worst ginger ale and whiskey, but slightly better than the rum and coke. But they did the job. Plus the Panadol I took for the oncoming migraine I was feeling, or rather, seeing in the form of bright lights flashing across half my field of vision.

There was only a small crowd when we began playing, and only one of them had a suitable hairstyle. From what I understand the bands there usually only start after 11pm. Playing 20’s and 30’s music in a 70’s lounge bar was a little strange, a feeling enhanced by the fact that the sound was muddled and far away sounding. We couldn’t hear ourselves very well. The sound guy took our name literally, I’m thinking. The bass was muffled and faint most of the time, yet managing to emit loud booms now and then. The small crowd was growing, and everyone was trying to talk over us. It wasn’t a very good set.

The second set was much better, however. The sound guy figured out what he was doing, and the crowd got into the music, even dancing on the lighted octagonal floor tiles. We played for quite a while. It was about 2am when we stopped. I was still conscious, but my feet were dragging. Fortunately Sandman and Jojo gave me a ride back to Bitan so I wouldn’t have to deal with a cab ride.

posted by Poagao at 2:10 pm  
Dec 23 2006

Christmas Stuff

Not having been around snow when I was growing up, one of the things I miss most about this time of year is the whole Christmas light thing in the US. There are lights everywhere here, of course, but they’re usually up all year and have nothing to do with Christmas.

But today I came across this, which has to be the most awesome display of Christmas-light firepower I’ve seen. Impressive (note: wmv link).

Hotpot was had last night at Prince Roy‘s place, whereupon a whole lot of politics was discussed. As usual there was a lot of code-switching, which I really should be getting better at but patently am not. At one point Lennet leaned over and asked me, “Can I expect a lot of this kind of conversation in the future?” I said yes, I was afraid he could. He was referring to the political nature of the talk, though, not the code-switching. I guess Lennet’s used to the lack of political debate in Shanghai. Or he just doesn’t like it. Still, some interesting theories were proposed, and we managed to avoid the whole cult-of-the-expert thing you see on discussion forums.

Afterwards, when I was ready to go home, I found that I was out of cash after giving up my last change to a friend for getting me some cereal products, so I went to an ATM to get some money. It was offline. I went to another. It was offline as well. In the end I had to get PR to call Spicygirl to come down with cash to lend me for the taxi ride home. This never happens. Usually, even if one bank is down, you can easily find another one within one block. At first we suspected, of course, a mainland sneak attack, but that would have involved paratroopers, and the skies were clear. So it was either a personal attack by a well-informed hacker or just an inconvenient coincidence.

In preparation for the switch over to the new version of Blogger, I saved all my accounts to Word files. This account alone is over 1,000 pages long in Word, or approximately 3/8 of an average Harry Potter volume. Thus, the forthcoming novelization will be a hefty tome indeed. I also switched the Chinese blog to a more generic, comments-friendly format. I’ll see if I can make the appearance more interesting later. I’m not sure how I feel about the tags/labels thing yet.

Bret and Alan are having their annual Christmas party tonight out in Nangang, and there are various shenanigans and goings-on through Monday night’s dinner at Darrell’s and Judy’s place. Unfortunately, the current administration isn’t feeling too festive about Constitution Day, so we have to work on Christmas.

posted by Poagao at 1:30 am  
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