Showing posts with label articles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label articles. Show all posts

Saturday, July 14, 2018

My latest for Ketagalan Media: an interview with Lord of Formosa author Joyce Bergvelt

When I do interviews, I don't just decide which items to include and edit responses for length. I don't even just shift topics around, although doing so is important to bring out something 'more' than just questions and answers. I also sit back and think about the responses and, in whole or at least in great part, what story they come together to tell.

This was relatively easy to do in my recent interview with Lord of Formosa author Joyce Bergvelt for Ketagalan Media.

In this case, they tell an entwined tale of the dangers of not knowing the history of one's own country and those who would seek to use that history to further their own political ends: in the case of the Dutch, a history of colonization (important now more than ever as right-wing nationalism creeps further into European politics, if it ever really left). In Taiwan, a history that includes invading forces from China.

So, while it might seem out-of-place to start with a narrative about the KMT's 12-point sun at the gate of Tainan's Koxinga shrine in an interview that has nothing to do with the KMT, if you read to the end, you'll see why it makes sense.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Firewalking For Beginners: my latest for Taiwan Scene

I'm back as a guest contributor to Taiwan Scene, this time writing about firewalking in Donggang...but not the way you think. It's actually about being a female traveler faced with sexist (yes, sexist) religious traditions, and having entirely the wrong response to them - something I can only admit now.

In any case, enjoy. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Feasting, Fasting: my latest for Ketagalan Media

Yeah, I know it's a bit jolting to compare the way the world treats Taiwan to a smart, capable, good-hearted young woman who is burned alive by her in-laws because her family won't support her leaving, but to be frank, I see a point in the metaphor.

If you've ever read Anita Desai's Fasting, Feasting, you know what I mean. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I'm in The News Lens, punching you with history

My response to two opinion pieces on what to do about Chiang Kai-shek statues (and his memorial hall) appeared in The News Lens International Edition today - you can read it here.

A few key points:

His legacy ought to be studied and analyzed, if only to remember the horrors and agonies of the history of this island nation, and to educate ourselves on the importance of avoiding a backslide into totalitarianism. I do not believe anyone has suggested that he be deleted from history textbooks, nor would it be wise to do so.

This gets to the heart of why I wrote the response to begin with - the first article used the word "delete" in the title but never actually suggested he be erased from history, merely that his presence in statue form does not belong does not belong anywhere in the country, except perhaps at Cihu. I have no issue with a place like that existing, in the same way that one may visit other sites around the world that cause us to reflect on the tragedies of history. However, many people who defend Chiang's likenesses remaining intact equate removing the statues with 'deleting' him entirely from history. It must be clear that this is a straw man argument: no reasonable person would say we should forget Chiang existed, any more than we should forget that any other dictator existed.

Let's remember, as a friend pointed out, that one can appropriately remember and study history without keeping statues everywhere. The nations of the former USSR are quite able to learn about and understand what led to their 20th century circumstances without statues of Lenin still hanging about everywhere.

I also took issue with Adam Hatch (the original writer's) three key reasons for why the statues and memorial hall should remain. In short, he pointed to "economic development", "defense against the People's Republic" and "land reform", saying that all of these things make Chiang's legacy more complex than many would have you believe, and he tried to point out without apologizing for Chiang's crimes that, as a result, Chiang did some good in Taiwan too.

Why would I have an issue with this? Well...even if these points were historically accurate (spoiler: they are not), they do not adequately make a case for continuing to let Chiang's horrid face pop up around the country:

In short, there is no political, military or economic argument for continuing to allow Chiang statues to dot the Taiwanese landscape. Even if the economic and anti-Communist defenses were accurate, they would still not begin to contend with the pain his actions caused in Taiwan.

However, that's not why I wrote in.

One thing that really, really bothers me is the use of historical arguments to make one's case that are not actually historically accurate. I can tolerate it to some extent on the Internet because that place is full of crazies who don't know what they're talking about, but Hatch is a graduate student in the field. I don't want to be too mean, but I have to say, a grad student in this subject ought to know better. I'm a graduate student (or I will be soon) in an entirely different field, and simply because I care about Taiwan and read a lot, I knew his points were wrong. So where did he get these ideas? Who is teaching the postgrads at NCCU? What is up with the revisionist history? I do not believe that Hatch is attempting to push an agenda, and I do not mean to attack him personally, but whoever is teaching this version of history sure is.

What's more, these three arguments keep popping up in discussions of Taiwan affairs and their related history - this isn't the first time I've heard the "but economic development, land reform, and he kept the Commies away!" triad of arguments.

Frankly, I'm sick of it. It's time to beat these inaccurate arguments down - punch them with the fists of history.

A quick summary of why all three points are wrong - not wrong in my opinion, but factually wrong:

Regarding "Chiang Beat The Commies":

The change in Western attitudes to Taiwan came with the outbreak of the Korean War. The U.S. decided that Taiwan was an essential bulwark against the spread of Communism (and of China's navy into the Pacific). It was this change in Taiwan's strategic importance and the subsequent mutual defense agreements signed between the United States and the Republic of China, not any action of Chiang’s, which ensured that Taiwan did not fall to the People's Republic. Not only would this have likely happened without Chiang in power, it might have happened sooner under a leader more appealing to the United States, or with Taiwan hypothetically having gained independence as a former colonial territory of Japan.

Of course, we can't know what would have happened if the ROC had never come here, and Taiwan had been dealt with by the Allies as all former colonies of Japan had been, but the hypothetical seems reasonable given how things played out elsewhere.

In any case, Taiwan not falling to the PRC had nothing to do with Chiang himself.

And about "Chiang created economic development initiatives that made Taiwan an Asian Tiger", remember that this bit of revisionism asks you to believe that the KMT came to backwater Taiwan, and developed it, but that was not the case:

Before World War II, Taiwan was one of the most prosperous territories in Asia.
World War II certainly did its part to create economic turmoil in Taiwan, but for the most part, the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT) inherited a prosperous and well-run economy in 1945. This is not a defense of the Japanese colonial period: colonialism is, generally, indefensible. However, Taiwan's pre-ROC era economic prosperity is simply a fact. What destroyed the Taiwanese economy so much that the KMT eventually decided to "develop" it? The KMT themselves: as Hsiao-ting Lin (林孝庭) notes in “Accidental State”, under Chiang-appointed Chen Yi (陳儀), resources were so badly mismanaged, governance so high-handed and command economy and state monopoly enterprises so unsuited to local conditions that the economy, and the living standards of the Taiwanese, plummeted....
Chiang Kai-shek did not develop initiatives to turn Taiwan from a backwater into an Asian Tiger. He merely, and belatedly, sought to fix what he and his own party had broken to begin with. 

More could be said about this, and is included in the article, but the point is, you are not a hero when you wait a decade or so to fix what you yourself broke. And even if you were, it does not absolve you of other crimes: if you kill tens or hundreds of thousands, it does not matter if you made the trains run on time.

Finally, on "but land reform was really necessary, something Chiang realized led to his failure in China!" - yeah, not really, no:

Land reform is similarly a complicated issue: while breaking up large landholdings of an entrenched property-owning class is quite defensible, much of that land was ceded by Japanese owners leaving the former colony, and although some was redistributed, much of it was taken by the state directly, or given to KMT state-run monopolies. Make no mistake: land reform was enacted to enrich the ruling diaspora, including Chiang himself, just as much as it was meant to redistribute land to everyone else.

So please, make your arguments, mount your defenses, create your cases, but do so with an accurate view of history. Quit it with the "look at all the good Chiang did, too!" remarks. We know them to be inaccurate, because history tells us so. These are not secrets. These are not hidden stories. We know the story of the end of the Chinese Civil War. We know the story of the Taiwan Miracle. We know how land reform was handled. We know these things, so don't try to make a case by getting them wrong. These points keep popping up, and I'm done. Stop it.

Learn your history, and learn it well. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Two articles at rather distinct odds came out over the past day or so. One is very much worth reading. Let's start with that one, from the Washington Post, written by several young Taiwanese including my friend Brian Hioe.

I have complained before that the Western media ignores Taiwanese voices and, when they do seek them out, they use them to suit the message they've already decided they want to convey. As a result, public opinion in Taiwan, if it is considered at all, is made out to be more divided, muddled or discordant than it really is - or that it agrees with Western or Chinese narratives more than it actually does.

I stand by that, and am so thrilled to see strong Taiwanese voices taking the initiative and getting their own work published in major Western media outlets. They were never going to come to Taiwan, so it is good that many Taiwanese have gone to them.

Of course, this is also the nature of privilege. If you are Dr. Some White Guy Who Is An Expert on China, you don't have to seek out media and try to get work published: they seek you out. You don't have to push, or take the initiative - they contact you. If you are a qualified Taiwanese voice, however, chances are you are going to have to make the extra effort.

Generally, I love this article. There was a kerfuffle over the title (when I first read it, it was entitled "Taiwan wants One China: but which one does it want?" or something like that, which made no sense and was at odds with what was actually in the piece. In fact, if Taiwanese wanted One China that would imply they either wanted:

a.) One China (the PRC) and One Taiwan (which happens to be my position)
b.) One China, the ROC (okaaaaaay, but not gonna happen, dreamface)
c.) One China, the PRC, with Taiwan as a part of it (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA)

Nowhere in that title is there room for "we'll take an independent Taiwan as the ROC separate from the PRC" (that is, two Chinas), which, although it is not my position, is the most popular one at the moment. I do think this will change in a generation or so, however.

But good on the writers, who asked the Washington Post to change the title. The paper obliged, and now it reads "Taiwanese see themselves as Taiwanese, not Chinese". Good. Nice.

One small quibble:

In the U.S.-China Normalization Communiqué of 1978, the backbone of the policy, the United States “acknowledges” that there is one China and that Taiwan is part of China.

As far as I am aware this is not the case - the United States acknowledges that China's position is that Taiwan is a part of China, not that Taiwan is a part of China necessarily. If I am wrong, please correct me, but that is my understanding. I also appreciate that it mentions 1992 but not the fictitious 1992 consensus. It's good not to bring up things that don't exist in one's newspaper article.

Anyway, those are small things.

I don't have much else to say beyond what the excellent article already says, so enjoy some quotes. They are like a cold, refreshing mint lemonade on a warm day.

1. Taiwan is de facto independent. The Taiwanese see themselves as Taiwanese, not as Chinese.
The official stance of Taiwan was that Taiwan is part of China. Butthe China that this stance refers to is the Republic of China (based in Taipei) instead of the communist People’s Republic of China (based in Beijing). (One interesting fact is that the special institution National Unification Council, which defined the official stance in 1992, was “ceased” in 2006 along with the Guidelines for National Unification.)
Since the 1970s, PRC became diplomatically acknowledged as China by most nation-states, including the United States. That is, ROC no longer asks to be seen as representing all of mainland China. Its constitution, which claims sovereignty over the whole mainland, does differentiate between the “free area,” or the island of Taiwan, and the “mainland area,” after a series of amendmentsthat have been added since the 1990s.
But the ROC has never been part of the PRC in its history.
Good, nice, very good.

What’s more, ROC residents increasingly identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese. That identity has changed significantly since the island became a democracy in the 1990s. In 1991, ROC and PRCrepresentatives met with one another for the first time since the 1949 civil war. At that point, about one-fourth of Taiwan’s residents identified themselves exclusively as “Chinese”; 17.6 percent as exclusively “Taiwanese”; and nearly half said both Chinese and Taiwanese.
But by 2014, only 3 percent still identified exclusively as Chinese — and more than 60 percent Taiwanese, hovering around there ever since. Today, only one-third of Taiwan’s residents think of themselves as both Chinese and Taiwanese. Among those who are 29 or younger, born after martial law ended in 1987, 78 percent hold an exclusively Taiwanese identity — as do nearly 70 percent ofpeople younger than 40. If this trend continues, a solely Taiwanese identity will prevail as residents’ consensus.

Yes, yes, yes. Clap clap clap. I like this very much. American friends - this is all true and really something you ought to know.

For Taiwanese younger than 40, pro-independence support reaches 84 percent. Perhaps most startling, 43 percent of the under-40 generation would support independence even if it meant China would attack Taiwan under the risk of war.
On the flip side, unification with China has become unpopular. Even under the most favorable scenario — in which there would be little political, economic or social disparities between mainland China and Taiwan — only one-third of Taiwanese citizens say they support unification. That’s a significant drop from the 60 percent who supported unification in 2003.
Yes - and this is something many Americans are unaware of - and many leaders as well. There seems, outside of Taiwan, to be this assumption that peaceful unification is possible and best for all involved.  It is not possible, and not best for Taiwan, however.

Threats from China that Taiwanese independence will result in war are taken seriously. Taiwanese admonishments that attempts at unification will result in conflict are ignored. It's as though the world still believes that the Taiwanese buy the ROC myth and that they fully believe their constitution's claim to China - that the ROC and PRC are rivals for China because a government they never elected, which in fact invaded from China, said they were, and now the government in China threatens them with violence if they even think about changing it to reflect the public will.

It is time that the West realizes that the historical claims of the ROC are not an accurate representation of what the Taiwanese actually want.

Unification is not possible. It will never be possible. Many "experts", even some who work for reputable outfits, make the current status quo sound as though it exists because China has simply not put forward a suitable proposal for unification.

This is false. Bush is wrong here. There will never be a suitable proposal for unification. Not because China won't try, but because there is no possible proposal that China could put forward that would tempt the Taiwanese, because they are not Chinese and do not see themselves as Chinese, and that is not going to change, nor can a change be forced. The only possible peaceful path is one of an independent Taiwan.

So, anyway, that's the good article. Really, it's excellent. Go read it.

After that cool drink of mint lemonade, you can read this one (or rather, in fact, don't, just don't unless you like hate reading) which is like squatting in the dirt gnawing on roots and twigs.

This? This is a steaming bowl of stanky used douche - I mean not only like it was used so now it's kinda gross, but like some of it also ran up your buttcrack like it was a Roman aqueduct and so now it's kind of butt-stanky too with maybe some poo or hair in it, and also you were on the rag so it's...


Also there is a pube floating in it.

Aherrm. Sorry. Anyway.

This fuckstick slammed his fists on an unfortunate keyboard like an angry macaque and a few words inexplicably came out, and what we got was this.

My eyes want to file assault charges after this thing accosted them in an alley. The only good thing I can say is that I had actually never heard of this bum-bungler nor the "Neo-Whatever Eastern Whatever" or what the fuck ever this site is, because I read real news by real journalists and experts and hang around smart people pretending I am smart as well. What bothers me is that somehow he has a name for himself and even a Wikipedia page? Like, really?

Why? Off the tip of my dick I can think of like twenty writers who deserve Wikipedia pages before this ball-dangler does.

I won't bother to take down the article's central points. They sort of speak for themselves. The only thing I'll mention is that that stupid survey that pegged Taiwan as the "third most ignorant country" was also a steaming turd-pile, not to be taken seriously. I won't go into the questions asked and sample sizes - but the samples were too small and the questions stupid and pointless - suffice it to say that it is not an accurate reflection of Taiwan.

Instead, I will provide you with a running translation of some of this douchecracker's major "points", such as they are.

Shockingly, almost all the people I approached in December 2016 in Taipei either refused to discuss the topic, or appeared thoroughly ignorant about it. Some did not seem to even understand the concept of the ‘West provoking China’.

Translation: "Shockingly, when I approached random strangers in December 2016 and was a total asshole, shouting at them if they gave me answers I didn't like, I was surprised to find nobody wanted to talk to me!"

“Our enemies?” Did the Defense Minister say “our enemies”? Taiwan is a renegade province of China, whose ‘independence’ is recognized by only 21 countries (down from 30, two decades ago).

Translation: "I am a blithering idiot who not only has no knowledge whatsoever of the current state of Taiwan-China ties, but also struggles with basic life skills like forming words into sentences that make sense and reflect the true state of the world. Also, with this attitude I am quite surprised that nobody in Taipei was interested in telling me how they felt."

I will give him credit here: he's right about checkbook diplomacy. I'm not a fan of it either.

I asked him about the present tensions between Taiwan and Mainland China, about the West playing an increasingly aggressive role in the region.

He had no opinion.

I asked about the fascist anti-Communist and pro-Western legacy of Chiang-Kai-shek. He began to look nervous:

“I just work here for 8 hours a day. I don’t know anything about this place, really…”
“But you work here, in the middle of this enormous propaganda center!” I insisted. “Haven’t you heard about the millions massacred on Mainland China by his troops? Haven’t you heard about the tens of thousands killed here, in Taiwan?”

“No. I know nothing,” he laughed. “At school we learned nothing about this… I’m just a volunteer…”

In one of the halls, high-school students were taking selfies. “Do you like Chiang?” I shout at them. They all laughed, happily, showing me “V” sign with two fingers.

Translation: I do not understand the simple idea that when I approach people and ask them rapid-fire questions using high-level vocabulary in English*, which involve sharing the pain and struggle of their nation's history, they don't want to answer me because, again, I come off like a total fucking asshole and who would want to talk to someone like that? Furthermore I am incapable of parsing the non-answer, appeal to ignorance or half-baked reply as a common way in Asia of saying "I don't want to share my thoughts with you because you seem like a big fucking jerk". Instead I just dismiss them as stupid.

*I do not for one second believe that this twatmangler speaks fluent Mandarin or Taiwanese. 

At the “228 Memorial Museum” dedicated to the government-orchestrated massacre of Taiwanese civilians, I spoke to an 86-year old Mr. Chang, a survivor of the atrocities.
On the official museum site it reads:
“It commemorates the victims of the 228 Massacre which took place on 28 February 1947. The 228 Massacre was a rebellion by the Taiwanese people against the recently arrived Republic of China (ROC) troops. The ROC government responded with a brutal crackdown that ended with tens of thousands of Taiwanese people killed.” 
“Was Chiang Kai-shek really ‘democratic’?” I asked sarcastically.


Bizarre Chiang’s cult, Nazi high school parades and thorough political and historical ignorance! Continuous efforts to corrupt tiny poor countries in all corners of the world… Playing into the hands of the West, provoking China. What a place Taiwan has become!

I give him credit for being right about Chiang - but not  his inability to see that most Taiwanese also understand this but just don't want to share that with a total fucking asshole. Nor the contradiction inherent in rightly slamming Chiang but slavishly insisting that Taiwan is, in fact, a part of China, which in Taiwan is something only Chiang's party believes. What does he expect Taiwanese to do, hate Chiang (which they do, mostly) but still vote for the KMT? Understand the atrocities of the invading ROC, and yet agree with their party line? This isn't just him being Craptasticus McCunterson (though he is), it's plain stupid. Pretty much everyone who agrees with him about Chiang - which is most people - are pro-independence. The two are irreconcilable.

Nevertheless, here is my translation: 

bhjirwhpu9afos'c890[aerw klmXZGIUOXGEGRGRGogjgjlhgrj;eainphgopuy80748

No but seriously, "Nobody wants to talk to someone who comes off like a massive douchesmuggler" shouldn't be, like, a hard fucking concept. It's not even unique to Taiwan, or Asia. In the West perhaps we'd say outright "you seem like an asshole and I don't want to talk to you", or just "hey buddy get outta my face" (my preferred New York reply), but the non-answer or fake ignorance is Taiwan's (and Asia's) way of expressing the same.

Get a clue, or get the fuck out of Taiwan.

That said, apparently this "philosopher" has worked on "every continent". That's good news! I look forward to his working from Antarctica!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The WSJ's Taiwan Coverage Is Bad And They Should Feel Bad

I could be writing about lots of things - I never blogged our trip to Taidong and the East Rift Valley, nor have I updated my Indian food post with reviews of Khana Khazana and Sagar Indian. I could be adding Fuzhou Hill to "day hikes in Taipei when you woke up late". But oooooohhhh NOOOOO. We can't have that when there is shitty journalism to tear apart.

Instead, Josh Chin and his fucking terrible WSJ article/blog post have got me so riled up that I have to rant about that instead. So thanks, Josh, for ruining my flow. For interrupting my qi or whatever. For writing a steaming piece of crap.

Granted, the subheading is not bad: China is in denial about its alienation of Taiwan and needs to rethink its approach to the island, the top official in charge of managing Taipei’s relationship with Beijing said on Friday.

So far so good. But then:

The comments from Mr. Hsia, delivered in a conversation with The Wall Street Journal in New York, show how mainland China’s declining image in Taiwan has complicated relations ahead of the island’s presidential elections, whose outcome could frustrate Beijing’s desire for closer ties.

No, Beijing does not just want "closer ties". Beijing wants to TAKE OVER Taiwan. True, but misleading as it doesn't mention China's end goal, which is of the utmost importance.

Relations between Taiwan and China have long been fraught; the two sides split in 1949 following a civil war.

NO THEY DID NOT JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. The KMT and the Communists split in 1949, that happened in China (and the war started before that anyhow so it's a weird definition of "split"). If you were to write that the ROC, which currently occupies/governs (depending on how you want to look at it) and the PRC split, sure. But "Taiwan" and "China" did not split in 1949 as Taiwan was not a part of China at that time - it was a territory of Japan. It was distinctly not Chinese to begin with at that time, so how could it have possibly "split"?

Student protesters opposed to a trade pact with Beijing took over Taiwan’s main legislative chamber last year.

The protesters were not "opposed to the trade pact", they were opposed to the purposely "black box" back-room dealings that brought it about. They weren't fans of the pact for sure, but how could anyone be opposed to it or not, in full, as nobody was allowed to actually know what was in it? And they weren't all students.

A poll conducted by National Chengchi University shortly after the elections showed 23% of Taiwanese people supported independence for the island, the highest level since polling began in 1992. The number of people identifying themselves solely as Taiwanese, as opposed to Chinese, also set at new high at 60.6%.

That only counts people who call for independence immediately. If you count people who feel the status quo should lead to independence that number jumps considerably. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that number, the one that is a more accurate gauge of Taiwan's current political climate, somewhere above 50%? To quote the lower number but not the higher is almost purposely obfuscatory. Or maybe it's actually obfuscatory.

And 60.6%? True, but citing only that fact and not the one that shows that something like 90+% of Taiwanese view themselves primarily as Taiwanese, again paints an inaccurate picture. To the point of it being "truthy" rather than true. 
Despite that, Mr. Hsia said, Beijing has continued to act in ways that irritate people and officials in Taiwan.

"Despite" what? That implies the numbers above are favorable to China, and they are not.
The KMT is expected on Sunday to confirm Hung Hsiu-chu, an outspoken former teacher, as its candidate to take on Tsai Ying-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party in presidential elections next fall. Ms. Tsai, who is widely favored to win in polls, has said she favors maintaining the “status quo” with China. It’s a position shared by most Taiwanese, according to government polls.

Tsai Ying-wen and the majority of Taiwanese do favor maintaining the status quo, but this is another bit of truthiness, as both Tsai and a majority of Taiwanese want that status quo to eventually evolve into independence. Leaving that part out leaves out an important part of the equation and shows the majority viewpoint in Taiwan in an inaccurate light.
“If you truly wanted to win the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese people, make a good example in Hong Kong. Obviously it’s not helping,” he said.
This implies that it is possible to "win the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese people" to the point that they would actually allow you to take over their country.

And that is not going to happen. I'm not sure it's possible. Why imply that the impossible can be accomplished?

Oh...and don't read the comments.

So, thanks Mr. Chin for writing a "status quo let's not anger China" pile of dung. You probably thought you were being provocative of China by writing this. But, as usual, your rag got the situation in Taiwan all wrong. Again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Strange Gods

So, as you all know, I'm an atheist. Until recently I was a hardcore "I don't know" agnostic, but certain life events have erased even that glimmer of doubt that the universe is unregulated chaos that forms areas of organization - sometimes very detailed organization - only insofar as the laws of physics encourage it. Chaos makes sense to me, because when I look at the world, I see chaos. The organization I do see is just about entirely explainable by science. I don't see the hand of a supreme being.

That said, I'm interested in investigations into the veracity of religious beliefs or paranormal activity (the same thing, as far as I'm concerned), because study of anything curious and seemingly inexplicable is, well, interesting.

That's why I was fascinated to learn that a former student and now friend of mine participated as a researcher in this study on "Chinese character induction" or "finger reading" when he was a student many years ago. (This blog post by Michael Turton, as well as this paper, are the only English-language mentions online of this study that I could find). According to him, the study was more than just writing on paper and then folding it into a small ball - they put the papers under metal sheets and blindfolded the children, and the children could still use their fingers to "read" the characters and accurately tell scientists what the characters were. And that the characters that could be most easily read were ones like "Jesus", "God", "Buddha" and "Guanyin" as well as some Indian gods, among others. "Matsu"was also fairly strong, but other minor deities or supernatural/mythical beings were either barely readable or unreadable. Common characters (like "book", "coffee", "wash" or "jacket") were not readable. The children apparently reported that they could "see" the characters with their fingers, and they'd present themselves in their minds as lights of various brightness (that's not what the paper says, however, not exactly).

This person now has his PhD and is fiercely intelligent. He's not a wacko. He said that before working on the study, he was about as much as an atheist as me, except that he didn't care enough to label himself. Now, he says, he believes that "there has to be something".

Now, as I said, I'm an atheist. I don't believe any of this. At the same time, I don't think he's lying. I think he certainly did work on that study and he probably did see something that freaked him out. That doesn't mean, necessarily, that this stuff is true, just as "there is a God because I feel God's presence" is not solid evidence that there is, in fact, a God. Not even studies showing that there is a slight uptick beyond regular probability that something will happen - like a relative getting well - if people pray for it prove this.

It's a strange middle ground to be in, when you believe your friend and know he's not crazy, but you are also dead certain that this stuff isn't "real", or even if it is, there has to be a scientific explanation that we're just nowhere near understanding yet. I absolutely do not believe there is anything that can never be explained by science: only things that science as it is now can't yet explain, as it is insufficiently advanced. If there were something in this world that could not be explained by science, why have science to begin with?

It also made me think of something else: see, I have another friend who recently became a Christian (his wife is Christian - they are both Taiwanese). While I personally would not have made that choice, I am happy for him insofar as he's made a choice that he feels is right for him and makes him happy, and that's really what's important. In that way, I fully support him.

This friend and I had had a chat many months ago in which he asked me why I go to all these temple parades and festivals in Taiwan. "Because they're COOL," I replied. "Far more interesting than religious services in the USA, and far more interesting than parades by far."

"But do you actually believe in, say, Baosheng Dadi or Matsu or any of that?"

"Honestly, no. I don't believe that Baosheng Dadi is a real immortal being or a god. He was a real person, but I don't go in for gods."

After that, I thought about it for awhile. I don't believe in God or gods, but if I had to choose between the two, I'd go with the folk gods - be they Chinese, or Hindu gods, or any polytheistic pantheon of gods with specific functions and often difficult personalities with their own desires and whims, likes and dislikes and internal disputes.


Because, while it still makes no sense that there are these immortal powerful beings who can control events in the physical world, at least one thing does make sense: how the world would be if they were the ones in control. It would more or less match up with what we have now. In Taiwan people regularly consult "fortune blocks" (校杯) - those crescent-shaped wood or red blocks that can give one of three answers - no, yes, or "laughing god" (for the final one, imagine if you said "God, will I die of cancer?" and God answered "ha ha ha!"). The answer they give correlates basically exactly to probability, because it cannot do anything else - and so, yes, the world that we have, with correlates with statistical probability, would align pretty well with those blocks, including the times that the blocks are wrong.

Taiwanese will regularly make it clear that the god they are praying to may choose to answer their prayer or heed their request...or not. It really is up to the whim of the god. If you pray they may listen, and so you've upped your chances, but then if you don't pray, it may still happen. Only Baosheng Dadi or Hua Tuo or Wenchang Dijun can really know, and it is pretty well understood and respected that they act on their own preferences or whims. To me, that also correlates pretty well with the world I see.

Gods in folk-grounded pantheons - be they Hindu, Chinese or whatever - tend to have a lot of internal disputes, weird hierarchies and difficult personalities. When you think of them more as brawling, incestuous, clique-forming and reality-show-imitating natural forces, what happens in life fits perfectly with how you envision them acting. Kids are starving in Africa because the god of food either doesn't care, or is busy doing his sister, or is pissed off, or is otherwise occupied. Not "people are starving in Africa, but hey, GOD LOVES YOU, even the starving ones, but you're still starving because...uh..."

Think about it: bad things happen to good people. All the time. Half of Africa is bad stuff happening to good people. Good things happen to bad people: just look at Wall Street. You could say that God is benevolent and kind and this horribleness is the work of terrible, evil, original sinning humans...

...or you could say that that's just how it is, life sucks then you die, or maybe it doesn't suck, or maybe like most of us it's somewhere in the middle, and it's all random because that's how it seems.

You could then decide you want a religious belief, because you want to believe there is something bigger than you, bigger than all of us. That's great - it's a natural human urge. Even I have it. You could either believe in one omniscient, omnipotent God who loves us all (or create a really angry god who then gets a personality makeover a la New Testament), and then try to twist what you see in the world to fit that belief...

...or you could take what you see in the world and empirically try to deduct what the spiritual/godly realm must be like.

Science works based on the latter principle of deductive reasoning. The former is inductive reasoning, and it's just not how we do science, generally (although it sure is mighty tempting). It makes sense to me to base a spiritual belief system on deductive, rather than inductive, thought and explanation.

So no, I'm still not into this whole spiritual thing, although I find discussing it and thinking about it to be fascinating and worthwhile, and I do respect the beliefs of others (if you wanna be Christian, that's fine by me, as long as you don't tell me what I should believe. I'll even join you at the "Jesus was a pretty awesome progressive dude with a strong moral philosophy that we can learn from even today" party. I'll bring the whiskey. I'm pretty sure that although Jesus was a wine guy, he'd probably like whiskey).

But if someone put a gun to my head and told me I had to believe something - hey, it's happened to people - I'd go with polytheistic folk beliefs. Definitely. At least those jive with what I see.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chicken in Bok & Beer and The Shi-da Controversy

Chicken in Bok & Beer

With the controversy still roiling regarding overcrowding in Shi-da night market and the nearby "Exotic Cuisine Street" (Pucheng Street Lane 31), I figured I'd go ahead and review one of the restaurants on that street.

This place serves exactly what you think - fried stuff and beer. Mostly chicken, but you can also get fries, onion rings and fried tteokbokki as well as soft drinks and beer. It claims to be original Korean fried chicken.

The verdict?

Well, I didn't get to try to garlic chicken but the consensus regarding what we did get was that the sauce-less original flavor (above) was good enough but not fantastic - I found it a smidgen dry and lacking sufficient salt - but the ones in sauce (also above), both the "sweet" and "spicy" varieties, were awesome. I would totally go back for the spicy sauce crispy chicken. It's got a real kick of spice, it's not just sweet-and-sour sauce (although yes, I realize that that's what it looks like) and yet does retain some level of crispiness.

The fries are good by Taiwan standards, but they won't blow your mind.  The draft beer appears to be Tsingtao, which is unexpected. I've developed a taste for Taiwan Draft Beer (台灣生啤酒) but I'll take Tsingtao. As long as they don't give me Coors or Hite I'm generally OK. Draft beer is NT$100 a glass, and the glasses are fairly large.
A half chicken - which is one large serving - is NT $230-$260 or so. A full chicken is roughly double that.

Each order comes with a free "salad" - I ate it more out of pity for its continued existence, than anything. I considered it humane euthanasia to put that sad, limping salad out of its misery. It's basically shredded iceberg lettuce, a few corn kernels and thousand island dressing. Don't let it put you off, get it out of the way before the actual food comes. It's sad but it is not an omen as to the quality of the chicken.

Final verdict: pretty good, didn't tilt the world on its axis, would go back but only for the spicy sauce chicken.

If you want some really good Korean fried chicken, by the way, try the guy near the far end (far from Keelung Rd) of Tonghua Night Market who shares space with the Taiwanese meatball people. Portions are small but cheap, and his Korean fried chicken is great. He's actually Korean, by the way.

About that Shi-da dust-up. 

I don't have an opinion about the controversy itself - both the residents and the restaurants have good points - but I do agree that the government has handled it very poorly. Can't expect much better from Muppet-in-Chief Hao Lung-bin. (No, seriously, the guy looks like a muppet, and is about as smart as one). 

If I had to come down on one side, I'd side with the restaurants, even the ones I don't like (more on that below). They've been allowed to be there for ages, been officially inspected, have operated openly and have been given no reason to believe that what they were doing was illegal (even if it technically was). Sending a form letter does not equate to "communication" on the government end and I don't believe the government is trying even remotely hard enough to solve the issue.

While I do feel for the residents - I know how noise can impact quality of life - the apartments in that neighborhood can go for quite a lot of money. If I lived there, I'd rent mine out to students (who don't care as much, in my experience, and will love living so centrally) and use the rent money to rent myself a nearby apartment in a quieter lane. Or, I'd move. My issue would be roaches from all the food and crowds, though.

I know, I know, nobody should feel they have to move, but then that also goes for the stores and restaurants which have been operating with government blessings for years, and have even been promoted.

I also feel that while I still enjoy Shi-da, I don't like it as much as I used to. On Exotic Cuisine Street, Exotic Masala House has gone way downhill, I stopped eating at Out of India when they once served me garlic naan swathed not in fresh butter and mincedgarlic, but that nasty margarine-based "garlic butter" you get on toast in middling cafes. Seriously, as though I wouldn't notice. They must not think much of their clients that, if they'd run out of butter and garlic they couldnt've sent someone to the nearby Wellcome. That was years ago, maybe they've reverted back to real garlic and butter, but I'm scarred for life. I've never been a fan of the Tibetan restaurant, and I didn't think the famous Korean one was all that authentic (Korean Village closer to Roosevelt in a lane on the other side of Shi-da Road is worlds better).

I'd hate to see My Sweetie Pie go out of business, though, and while there is better Western food on offer in Taipei than Grandma Nitti's, I *heart* their caring for animals and their American Diner-style coffee.

I guess what I'd like to see are some genuinely good restaurants open up in this lane or nearby - I don't eat here often because I'm genuinely not that enthused by what's on offer.


The main part of the market, the one that's so crowded you can barely walk, isn't much better. I used to enjoy it, now the crowds make it not worth it. Most of my favorite places (like the store with cats that sold interesting Chinese-style "vintage" looking gifts, jewelry, clothes, home decor items and postcards) are gone, I don't think the food is as good as Raohe, Ningxia or Tonghua Night Markets, and I'm not interested in the new stores popping up selling low-quality size-negative-two teenybopper clothes and gold tone jewelry.

I still stop by the guy who sells enamel Chinese-style earrings though. I'm buying him out before he disappears forever. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Pressure On My Uterus Is Astounding

I hope you enjoy the title!

Sorry for not posting much - at all? - this week. I did an incredible amount of work and pulled off the move to the new apartment, and have had exactly zero free time to do much of anything other than work, pack and then unpack.  Things should start getting back to normal around Christmas, when I hope to get back to my normal blogging volume.

I had wanted to do a post on a hike we did in Zhonghe (中和) of all places, up to Yuantong Temple (圓桶寺 - not sure I got the wrong "tong" there), but my camera's acting up and I can't seem to upload the photos. I don't have Internet at the new place yet so I can't do it whenever, so if they don't upload now, I can't just do it from home. I'll get that up soon, though.

I also wanted to pass along this link on Taiwan's gender ratio worsening, which I'll write a post about when I have more regular Internet access and time: hopefully in the coming week.

For now, I wanted to  comment a bit on what it's like to be childfree by choice, and how people react to that,  as an expat woman living in Taiwan. It's something I got to thinking about after reading this article on women on American prime time TV and how few of them are child-free (basically one sitcom - How I Met Your Mother) has a child-free by choice woman and deals with the topic with some degree of sensitivity. I agree with the article's redux of that plot line).

Because, you know, back home there was pressure to find a nice boy, get married, buy a house and pop out a few sprogs. It was clearly something my family wanted for me - which is fine, I mean it's something most people do, and happily do by choice, and it is at least true that my marriage has been a fantastic, vital thing in my life. It's something people just kind of figure you'll do, and look askance at you if you verbalize that you don't want to.  For the record, I may be child-free by choice but I have never said that I did not want to marry or did not intend to marry.  I'm actually pretty pro-marriage as long as it's a modern, feminism-friendly marriage of equals rather than being a patriarchal tool of stifling gender roles.

When I say there was "some" pressure, though, I really mean it as "some", not "a lot".  Sure, the media is wedding and baby crazy - something that apparently tends to happen in tough economic times (a friend was telling me about a sociological study to that effect - people are less likely to go it alone and more likely to pair up, less likely to have kids or just have fewer kids, but are more attentive to the idea of procreation as a society - possibly because having a baby when times are tough is subconsciously seen as a status symbol: "Look, we can afford to have a baby even when the economy's in the crapper!"). And yes, one still gets comments that are based in assumptions - that you both want to get married and will do so, that you want kids and will have them. If you openly acknowledge wanting such things, it's fine. If you are faced with such a comment and are honest about not wanting one or both of them, though, it creates a frission of social awkwardness, to the point if you wonder if it's a faux pas to admit you don't want children or don't intend to marry. People are generally too polite to say anything about it, but you just know you're being judged. A tiny bit, maybe, but judged nonetheless.

This isn't true among my friends - all of whom know that I'm not into having kids - but when I lived in DC it was certainly true among colleagues and acquaintances. That's why my friends are my friends. I'm not going to waste time with anyone who'd judge me and find me lacking for personal choices.

It's a different story in Taiwan, though.

For a country with such a low birthrate, I have to wonder why everyone assumes that everyone else wants and will have babies. Clearly, with so few babies being born, plenty of women and couples are choosing not to do so - how can it be assumed that they will, or that they want to? (I realize the answer is "cultural norms and tradition", at least in part, but even those who are affected that much by cultural expectations of bygone days must realize that having the lowest birthrate in the world is clearly a sign that those days are over).      

I'm regularly asked if I'm married and, when I respond in the positive, if I have kids (sometimes I'm asked how many kids I have, as though I must have gotten my babymaking on already!). I don't mind that these are socially acceptable topics in Taiwan: I'm not inhibited about talking about such things. I'm at peace with our decision on kids - in fact, I'd say it's brought me that peace, I didn't have to make peace with it - and not afraid to talk about it confidently.

The reactions I get range from wonderment to polite questioning to outright criticism, although the latter is usually delivered in a friendly "motherly advice" sort of way rather than stone-cold mean-spirited criticism. Occasionally someone has the social acuity to realize that we crazy Westerners generally don't question or openly wonder at others' life choices and will leave it at that or express support.  Occasionally someone genuinely agrees.

Sometimes I get advice: not only am I wrong, apparently, and should definitely have kids, but I'll be told that at least one should be a boy, or the first one should be, and given other specifics like how many I should have and how I should raise them (the consensus seems to be that I should have two, at least one should be a boy, you know because I can control that of course, they should be schooled in a Western style but made to study as hard as Taiwanese kids - ugh! - and be raised bilingually. It's OK if I work and we get a nanny, though, or I could make my mother move here to help raise them. Ha...).

Mostly, though, I get the open wonderment of the "why on Earth wouldn't you want to have kids?" variety - and not just from old folks. From people my age, even! Talk about social pressure - for a society that procreates so little, Taiwan is certainly big on expectations to procreate.

It really is an assumption - I remember one group of students, for men, all engineers, who took me out for dinner at the end of our course. We went around and gave toasts (I'd taught them to do that) and one of them toasted me, knowing I would get married soon, saying he "wished for me to have a happy marriage and have many sons". I am often asked, after saying I don't have kids, when I will have them (not "if"). I am asked how old I am, next: sometimes the reply to my age is along the lines of "it's OK, you still have time, 31 is young" to "oh my god GET ON IT GIRLFRIIIIIIEEEEND those eggs aren't gonna stay good forever!".

I do feel very much in the minority, and I do feel that more women (or Taiwanese people in general) would come out and openly concur with the choice to be child-free if there were less overall expectations that probably keep their mouths firmly shut. I have a blog post coming up on this, but it does seem to be the case that when people make a life choice back home they're fairly open about it, whereas in Taiwan I've gotten the impression that a lot of people, realizing that their life choices go against expectations - even if they don't go against the "norm", such as not having kids  - decide to say nothing for the sake of social harmony.

Again, for a society with such a low birthrate, it seems to be really short on people, especially women, who are out of the child-free closet and willing to openly embrace their decision not to have kids.

A few other notes on this topic:

First, Taiwan is a rare gem in Asia and, frankly, the world in that there are high-profile Taiwanese women who have eschewed marriage and children (although it is unclear to what extent that was a choice):  the two that come to mind are Chen Chu and Tsai Ying-wen. It has not been said openly that Tsai and Chen can and should be role models for young Taiwanese women (especially Chen among women in southern Taiwan), but it deserves some thought. If anything, Taiwan could use some more female role models who have achieved both great success and have happy marriages and children: the one high profile woman I can think of who is also married is Cher Wang - I don't know if she has kids. I say this because I believe that successful role models should be balanced - to show women that you can marry and have kids and be phenomenally successful, or you can not marry and not have kids and still be successful.

Second, that I know this pressure in Taiwan is not directed at me just because I'm foreign or just because I'm a woman, although I am sure I do get more pressure because I'm female. My Taiwanese female friends, and even some of my Taiwanese male friends, have felt the same pressure. I can confirm this firsthand: I've seen Facebook status updates from friends who I know don't want children, because they've told me so, with replies along the lines of "that'll change when you have babies!" or "oh, such good practice for when you're a  parent". The friend whose feed items got these replies is Taiwanese and male.

Third, rather like back home, it seems to be assumed that because I don't want kids, that I don't like kids. Actually, I do. They can be great fun and I tend to be good with them. They generally like me. I love playing with my little cousins or friends' kids. I teach two girls in a private class once a week and I like them a lot. I just don't want to devote my life to raising them. It's assumed both in Taiwan and back home that I must have massive professional ambitions and that's why I don't want kids. I have some, but I'd say that my main ambition is to have a successful, satisfying and fulfilling life with enough money to be comfortable. I don't need to be a professional phenom even though my career is important to me - I aim for success, but I won't work myself  into an early grave. My main work ambitions are to be phenomenal at what I do and be in high demand, to enjoy it, but not to let it consume me. It's assumed that I am not "feminine" - which is kind of true, but not entirely. It's true that I lack a lot of characteristics typically associated with "femininity", but that doesn't mean I lack all of them (people have wondered how I can be so good at crafty things and DIY and yet not be sufficiently feminine to want babies). Before I married, it was sometimes assumed that choosing to be childfree meant that I was anti-marriage: nothing could be further from the truth. It's assumed that I have that quality so often described as "selfish": it's true that I don't want to make the sacrifices  that would be necessary if I were to have children, such as giving up free time and traveling less, if at all. I wouldn't call that "selfish", though. Feeling that way and having kids anyway, now that you could make a case for. I feel the weight of these assumptions more in Taiwan back home, but they exist in both countries.

Finally, I plan to write an entire other blog post about this - probably the next one I put up - but the main difference between me and a lot of Taiwanese people, especially women when it comes to pressure to procreate is that in many cases they feel the need to actually consider or even give into some of that social pressure. It is not uncommon for a woman to agree to have kids she doesn't really want, or isn't sure she wants, because her mother-in-law or her own family expects it. I've written before about a student in this situation who is preparing to have a kid she has admitted she isn't sure she wants - but her mother-in-law is adamant so she just finds it easier to go ahead and do it. To be fair, she isn't certain she doesn't want kids, either.

I listen to my two families, but I feel no need to actually do what they would prefer. Note: neither side is giving me a problem or anything like that! When I talk about Western in-laws vs. what I observe in Taiwan, I am speaking more generally. I haven't had any problems personally but I do have American friends who have faced such issues.

I know both sets of parents would be delighted if we had kids, but I feel no obligation to pop 'em out. In fact, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of "we're trying for a baby because my parents/in-laws want a grandchild"...yet it does happen.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quote in Forbes!! (11!!11!!)!1

Here I am!

I mean, I'm not entirely a "food blogger" but I blog enough about food that...hey, sure. Sounds good to me.

This isn't really the entirety of what I said, but it's a good enough quote taken from a much lengthier opinion on Din Tai Fung.

For the record, I do think their dumplings are excellent, but I don't eat there often - I've been once - because while they're really good, there's only so much you can do with a dumpling and I find their prices high. I believe the price has more to do with being able to get away with charging Japanese tourists that much than it does with how much it actually costs to run the restaurant and make a profit.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fake Steve Jobs

I just want to make sure everybody sees this. Awesome!

Fake Steve Jobs Shills Bottled Tea

I just wonder who the guy is (clearly it's not Steve Jobs). My guess: some indigent kids' cram school teacher doing at job at age 45 that really better suits a 21-year-old, who was happy to get the $3000 they paid him to model.

Was that mean?

Sorry. I guess I'm feeling mean today.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Stressed Out Women

Interesting article in the Taipei Times today, and it's regarding women's issues so I thought I'd give it a nod:

Study finds that women are more stressed than men

I'm not sure what commentary to add, but here's a bit of what I think. From the article:

Women experience more stress than men in the workplace and in life in general, and the sources of stress — such as concerns over sexual harassment at work — are the major difference between female and male employees, a study by the Council of Labor Affairs shows.


The survey found that regardless of gender, when it comes to work-related stress, employees are most stressed about “company insolvency,” which received an average of 5.86 points. This was followed by “company’s future prospects unclear” (5.83 points), “lay-offs or mandatory retirement” (5.67 points), “unpaid leave” (5.53 points) and “liability involved in company accidents” (5.00 points).

As to sources of stress at home, employees were overwhelmingly concerned with “decreased income,” which garnered an average of 6.35 points, the survey showed.

This was followed by “injury or illness in the family” (6.12 points), “sudden loss of a large amount of wealth or a large increase in living costs” (5.91 points) and “death of spouse, children or siblings” (5.77 points).

The survey also found that women in general were more stressed both at the workplace and at home.

I have to wonder where this is coming from. Could it be that women just worry more in general than men, or Taiwanese women worry more than their male counterparts? I have a hard time believing this, although I do believe that there are some general differences between the genders that are observable in large trends and groups (but absolutely not on an individual level, and part of the world's problem is taking observed trends in groups and applying them to individuals, a la "you're a woman so you must be like this").

I'd say instead that in terms of work and company culture and modern family life, that while the system has evolved to be more egalitarian regarding opportunities and lifestyle choices for women, that some attitudes have not changed and that while women have opportunities in the workplace and home life, that they're not always fully welcome on a more psychological level - where the attitudes people express and the prejudices and notions they more quietly hold and act on create some cognitive dissonance (I don't think I'm quite using the term correctly, but I hope you know what I mean). As in, "yeah, you can become a manager and work your way up the ladder and expect a household of more equal work-sharing, but culturally we're still going to undermine you in ways that are going to create stress for you, and you won't even be able to pinpoint why."

This can take the shape of longer hours that don't allow families to properly care for their children - something that stresses women out more seeing as women still bear the brunt of household duties (which I also don't like, but one topic at a time). It can take the form of a lack of flex-time and work-life balance, of employers and managers who quietly treat women differently or even hold discriminatory views, but whose actions are so subtle as to be hard to pick out and identify. It could be a lack of help with household duties at home, despite a modern culture that accepts that men should take on a more equal share of housework and child-rearing. It can take the form of employers that discourage taking full maternity leave.

Whatever the factors are, I don't think "women just stress out more than men" is one of them.

The source of work-related stress with the largest disparity between the two genders was “sexual harassment,” which ranked No. 28 on the list of most common sources of stress in the workplace.

Yeah, because women experience more sexual harassment by an exponential amount than men - something which is, of course, totally unacceptable but does, of course, still happen.

The study also showed a positive correlation between an employee’s education and work-related stress. The more educated an employee was, the more stress he or she felt at the workplace. Also, those with longer working hours felt more stressed at work.

The study also found a relationship between the type of employment and the level of work-related stress, with employees under contract or under temporary work experiencing more stress than regular employees or those with long-term employment.

This is all pretty obvious: if you have more education, you're probably working at a higher-level white collar type job and while they might not actually be more subject to the changing winds of the economy, it sure feels like they are. Of course longer hours create more stress, as you tire yourself out, you lack work-life balance and you devote an ever-larger chunk of yourself to work, which can stress you out quite a bit when the work you've devoted yourself to is problematic. As someone who has done contract work (and sort of still does), I can tell you that while it suits my personality beautifully, I can see why it would be very stressful for some, and during slow times of year it can cause small amounts of paycheck stress in me, as well.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Blogger in Taichung jailed over critical restaurant review

Really? For serious? If you write on your blog that you didn't like the food at an establishment, can they really file charges? Do you think this would have happened with a foreign blogger (I ask because so often, locals tell me "you think Taiwanese are friendly because they are nice to foreigners, but they are often terrible to each other")? Why is the ruling "final"? Why did she apologize (I wouldn't, even if I had to pay the fine)?

Why did people keep calling the restaurant to ask if the review was true? Did they think the restaurant would say "yes"? Wouldn't you just not eat there?

So, just because I think this is a giant pile of fucktacular crap (sorry, moms, but it has to be said), here goes:

- Cafe Bastille has great beer and terrible food. Never eat there.
- Song Chu (宋廚) has great duck, mediocre everything else, and horrible service. I will never eat there again.
- Sai Baba is pretty good, as it goes, and has a great atmosphere, but my hummus is better than theirs by far. Go ahead and eat there, though. It's still pretty good.
- The food in Shi-da and Shilin Night Markets is actually not that good, as local food goes. Try Raohe, Ningxia or Jingmei instead.
- Dingtaifung is overpriced. Go to 金雞圓 instead.
- Hindoostan has the worst Indian food I've ever tried.
- Exotic Masala House used to be good but their quality really went downhill.
- All Korean restaurants but two in Taipei are inauthentic (and only one of those two is notably spectacular).
- Kiki is not really Sichuanese food at its finest. 天府is better.
- Ice Monster was never all that great. Sugar House in Nanshijiao beats it by a long shot.

I'd write more about smaller, local food stalls and joints, but honestly most of those places where I've eaten have been really good!

So, uh, fuck the police.

Update: Catherine at Shu Flies has worked hard to write a well-grounded post on this issue. While the issue of whether the blogger in the original article was the one who wrote the view in part over a parking dispute (at least it's settled for me), I don't think that really changes anything I've said here - it's still a sign of troublingly harsh defamation laws and excessive punishment, and it's still likely that the beef noodle place did have cockroaches, not because it was particularly unsanitary but because every building in Taiwan has cockroaches!