Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Google Me This

Good Morning, Fellow Drifters.

Just wanted to point out that you're all behind the times. 2008 is SO last year. Get with it and hurry up over to the New, the Now... the Nine.

I'm taking a day to myself here. Much needed, much deserved. (If I do say so.)
Catching up on some emails and blog posts, thinking about buying a movie off iTunes to enjoy. It's much too cold and windy to sit out to read like I normally do. (Did anyone see 24:Redemption? Is it worth 12bucks?)

So... thanks to some fun tools, I can monitor the traffic to my page. I mentioned it when I reported being cited on another Taiwan blog. But sometimes, the traffic doesn't come from Blogspot or Facebook... but from Google.

It's quite amusing to find out who happens to my blog through the Search-Engine-turned-Lifestyle. The tool not only tells me where ( but what. In just the last two days:

  • Someone in Singapore is reading blogs on "Taiwan"
  • Someone in St. Louis, Missouri just realized the New Year is underway and is scrambling to learn how to "Form Habit"
  • A bloke from Strasbourg, Alsace used to search a "Louis Armstrong Happy New Year" (To those of you who have read my previous blog, my theory is that Monster Melancholy visited Strasbourg and he was hit with the same realization that Mr. Armstrong is no longer with us.) (just a theory...)
  • And Best of all: The Men of Houston, Texas are finally admitting they are jealous of "Asian Mole Hair"

God Bless Google.

Happy New Year -- from Monster Melancholy to Redemption

Happy New Year.

2009 is here, and at the risk of sounding pessimistic, things look dark.

Half-emptiness isn't my intent, though. Things really do look dark here... it's nearly 1AM.

Yes, you read that right. It's not even an hour past Midnight, and I'm already in my bed blogging away. Celebrations were limited for me tonight. I didn't make it anywhere too enthralling like the NYC-style, over-crowded Taipei 101, and the bar-parties aren't exactly my scene. Oh well. The New Year welcomes itself with or without Celebration. I had a great dinner with my Taiwanese Family, and spent the first few minutes of the New Year holding a four-year old on my shoulders so she could see the fireworks through the buildings obscuring our viewing spot on the Porch at the top of our 5-story condo/home.

Another reason I didn't go out? It was a bit moist tonight. I heard Taipei was rained out. It showered lightly, on and off throughout today, here in Taichung.

The New Year's Reflections always seem to bring out this Introspective Aspiration Monster that reeks with the stench of Melancholy. That's how you know it. You can smell the Melancholy for days.

Bally and 24hr Fitness love this Monster. Jenny Craig and Anthony Robbins prey on it.

No matter how many times its struck down, it seems to come back. Year in. Year out.

This Monster takes different forms for different people, but it's there nonetheless. Monster Melancholy hit me twice today. Once when I was listening to Louis Armstrong. It was just a small blip of a thought, but I felt as though my mind turned around to take a second look. "He's gone. He's not on earth anymore." I've been lucky enough to have never been intimately acquainted with Death thus far, so I have no idea why the thought of Louis Armstrong's death -- 30+ years postmortem, mind you -- hit me hard enough to stop my racing mind in its tracks. "He's gone. He's not coming back. He'll never contribute anything new to the world of music. Never give contemporary commentary on this Wonderful World." I still don't know where the strength of that thought came from and can only cite it as proof of the existence of Monster Melancholy.

Its second attack was through the weather. Particularly sub-par weather evokes Monster Melancholy like a rain dance brings the rain. But a subdued New Year's Celebration on a day of sub-par weather are elements that converge and formed that Perfect Storm of Introspective Aspiration; leaving your very clothing soaked in that stench no parka could save you from.

But there's something special about that Perfect Storm. Something Redemptive in New Year's Eve. Something Forgiving. There's a phrase in a song that uses the metaphor "Grace like Rain." My thoughts tuned to this song all throughout today as the droplets struck my beanie and scarf and jacket-clad shoulders. There's beauty in a hard rain that can wash the grime and filth from your shirt and shoes (and shoulders and scarves and beanies...).

The New Year is like that. A few lights, some cheers, and we embrace a new age. We get another 'round the sun. 2008 is gone in all its glory and grime, and it's not coming back. Washed away. Sealed in history, never to contribute any more to our life-story.

But we get a New Year; a new Chapter in our life-story. Another chance.

"The Sun rises for the good and the evil ... and the rain falls on the just and unjust." The New Year comes for the rich and the poor; the ones who celebrate lavishly, and those who don't know any better. The field of Grace is level. There are no buildings to peer around or over. You don't have to steal a glance. It's there if you want it.

The Story of Redemption is all around us. Everyday, a secret in front of our face. I'm learning to look for it and truly value it more than all else. Maybe this means less failures, and less grime... but then again, maybe in a way, embracing Redemption means admitting you're dirtier than you thought.

But that's the beauty of Grace. Its Shower persists long after the stench of Introspective Melancholy is washed out. All that remains: unadulterated Aspiration for that new beginning.

I am now well into the first hours of this New Year, and though it's still dark, the feeling of Grace 2009 has ushered in just seems a little brighter than I've known for awhile...

Happy New Year, Friends.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

State of the Nation - The View from a Beggar's Seat

As a first-year student at my school here in Taiwan, I was required to complete a Health Examination. Today, I received the standard Physical once-over, along with a Chest X-ray and a blood test (results will be in after the new year on those two).

The whole thing cost me about $25 US.

I was astonished at the low price, really. $700NT, I think. I'm pretty sure a visit to the physician, Stateside, would cost that in our Nation's currency. I don't have insurance - here or home - but that did not matter, nor did it affect the price. I walked in, let them have their way with me and the tests, and I was out the door. listed a few lesser known facts about this island-Country. It's striking how, in some ways, they are much further along - developmentally speaking - than even the States. We would do well to take note. (Hat tip: Alex)

Taiwan has the worlds highest recycling rate in the world, and is the first country to implement plastic recycling as a nation-wide program. Meanwhile China is well known for its rampant pollution.

Taiwan has the most Ph.D,’s per capita, and the most college graduates in the world, both domestically and internationally.

The gender wealth equality in Taiwan is 43%, the highest in Asia and near the top of the world. Women in Taiwan generally get paid just as much as their male counterparts. Plus unlike the U.S.A. and Japan, women generally don’t use the spousal last name or a Mrs. title in any professional or business environment. As a result many Taiwanese students don’t even know the marital status of their female teachers, let alone the last name of their spouse.

Lowest Poverty Rate in the World: Taiwan has the lowest poverty rate in the world, only 0.95%. The United States has 12.6% of the population below the poverty line, and Japan at 10%. China has 8% but their poverty line is so low that one must make less than $150 USD a year to qualify.

This last item really struck a chord with me. Lowest Poverty Rate in the World?? That's truly remarkable. I wonder if "Affordable Healthcare" was somewhere in the philosophy that lead the Nation to earn this title.

My new photo was taken during a class field trip to a Taoist Temple. I was sitting on a fixated stool perched at the exit of the Temple. It was called the Beggar's Seat. In older times (the Temple was at least 100 years old), homeless and fringe society would rest at the Tiger's Exit and pan penance from those who had just left their prayers.

No one was sitting there, that day. The Beggar's Seat was empty.

Someday, there will be no Beggar's Seat in the Land I will call my Home. It, too, will be empty. Society's most destitute will be tended to. It will be a time where it's not only Affordable to care for the Least of These, but Essential.

This will not happen overnight. And by no means am I holding my breath. I am, however, no less a proponent in that essential change.

Seeing this Change come about in our day-to-day world goes much beyond the realm of Politics.

No matter who you are: Doctor, Patient; Teacher, Student; slumped in the Beggar's Seat, or leaving the Temple Grounds... I encourage and invite you to join me and seek out this Essential Change in the reality of your day-to-day.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Nothing But Nets

As I write this, I'm sitting on my bed and under a Mosquito Net.

I've spent most of this evening waving an electric-wire tennis racket at anything that buzzed near my ear.

However, I don't have to live in the reasonable fear of Malaria. Some do.

It took me awhile to get used to sleeping under a mosquito net. It's disorienting at first. But after the first few days, the red bumps on my face began to clear up - and I knew it had nothing to do with my new face wash. I was being eaten throughout the night, and I didn't even notice!

But, that was it. The itchy, unsightly red bumps went away.

A bite from an infected insect does not disappear. Malaria induces fever, vomiting, convulsions and brain damage. Coma, and even death, are likely outcomes for untreated patients.

Worse still, Malaria is the cause of poverty in some third world societies. The spread of the disease is a fetter to all socio-economic growth.

Malaria is not a disease that can be cured, but it is a disease that can be guarded against.

Pills can be taken on a regular basis to reduce the chance of infection. Ointments and repellents can ward off insects, when applied. And get this: Mosquito Nets. Draped over a bed or a Child's play pen, a Mosquito Net can serve as a defense against the defenseless.

The United Nations Foundation is helping you be a defender of the defenseless in this battle against this awful disease. For only $10us you can purchase a Mosquito Net for someone living in this threat.

Christmas is over, but maybe you can find use for that sweater or b-rate dvd you plan on returning today for $9.99. You will never know the difference you may have made.

Post Script: The more time I spent thinking about this organization, the more I realized I couldn't not do anything. This is a group that bridges international waters, yet still strikes close to home for me. I've set a goal.

I want to change 10 lives.

10 lives


Will you help me?

Digesting (Slowly but Surely)

It's December 26th. Some consider it "Boxing Day"
Christmas is over. Amazing.

Thanks to some Blogspot tools, I found my name floating around in the Blogosphere.
Michael Turton cited my bus blog on his page. He does a great job covering all things Taiwan.
I was honored he'd take the time to mention my corner of the World[Wide Web2.0].

Another article he posted is about a Priest from the Congo.
He leads at a Catholic Church I was actually going to attend this Christmas (with my Taiwanese family), but couldn't because of class. According to my family here, he's very well versed in the Taiwan culture, and speaks the languages like a Native. He also speaks English like a Native. He also speaks French. . .

(Someday. Chinese first... then we'll keep going from there...Slowly but Surely.)

Anyways, here's the blog "On Being Black in Taiwan"

Don made a great statement: "Holy-days are nice, every-day is better"
A needed reminder this time of year.

Thank you all, again, for joining me this far in my Journey.

Taking it day by day,

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Reasons I Miss the States - Christmas Morning [Merry Christmas!]

Well the clock just struck 2am (12/26).

I've spent the last four hours under the mosquito net draping my bed and in front of my laptop. Enjoying Christmas via Skype, I opened the gifts my Family had sent, and watched them open theirs.

Traditions, huh?

Not quite what I'm used to, not quite what I want to get used to... but this is a special, memorable Christmas nonetheless.

I certainly didn't miss out this time like I did during Thanksgiving. Christmas Eve was spent with my Taiwan Family. We enjoyed a full Turkey dinner: stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, fish... The works. It was great. And I think we were the only ones on the block celebrating! (Though the church down the way was still playing Kenny G on their outdoor speaker...)

It was decided, without my vote, that the American should be the one to carve the turkey. There's something about wielding a weapon of mass destruction in the palm of your hand that makes your voice drop a few octaves. It's a defining moment for every man.

"Wow! You're slicing so well! Have you done this before?"
"Where'd you learn how?"
"Watched my dad do it a few years in a row..."

Larry was delicious.*
(*Family joke. I meant the turkey. Don't worry about it...)

Not many people remembered it was Christmas today, though I did receive an individually-wrapped mint from a Santa-hat-clad Bus Driver on my way home from school today. I guess that was enough to forgive him for being 30 minutes late.

It's time for me to sleep. I'm surrounded in gifts and wrapping paper, and I don't care. My alarm is going off in less than 5 hours, and I have to make it to the bus so that I'm not late to my Chinese Class Field Trip to the Buddhist Temple

I hope you are all right where you want to be. And if you're not, I hope you're moving in that direction with purpose.

Merry Christmas. Enjoy your day.
PS Though it's not the most celebrated Holiday...Taiwan did receive a Christmas Present. And from China, no less!

Here are some pictures that were snapped on Skype that are likely not supposed to see the light of day:

The Family around the Tree.

She sure does treat me nice.

Rock'n'Around the Tree

Christmas Eve Fish

Christmas Morning

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Adventures in the Back of the Bus

This is where I recount the adventures of riding the Taichung Public Transit System to School.

At the Bus Stop
Day ONE:
  • I arrived @ 7:59
  • Bus arrived @ 8:15

Day TWO:
  • I arrived @ 8:03
  • Bus arrived @ 8:11

  • I arrived @ 8:07
  • Bus arrived @ 8:06

It's okay, I still made it to school on time. Thanks for asking.

Today, on my return trip, there was a crazy lady that sat at the seat across the aisle from me. She had purple socks, purple shoes, purple pants and far too much red lipstick. Her bag overturned and the contents wound up rolling around on the bus floor. I leaned over to help retrieve the multiple packs of tissue.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Thank you, Thank you!!" She said, far too loudly.
Luckily, I had just learned the Chinese words for "You're welcome" and "Don't worry about it."

Mandarin lessons are paying off!

At the next light, she moved forward on the bus, as we were nearing her stop.
The driver forced the door open to let in the next passenger - a young man, who moved very slowly as he climbed the stairs and scanned his card. As the driver accelerated through the light, and then tapped the breaks when the car in front of him didn't do the same, the young man tumbled and rolled backwards in slow motion, his feet high in the air.

The crazy lady loudly squawked at the man in Chinese as he fumbled to his seat.

Before I could tune her out and return to my book, the bus driver laid into his horn at the car in front of us. Ten seconds I counted. Still honking. I glanced out the window and realized, as we swerved back to the right, that the bus driver had considered passing the slow moving car in the face of oncoming traffic.

A truck whizzed past us.

To end my trip, I dropped the two $50 coins from my front pocket into the coin slot between the driver and the door. It was the shimmer of gold sliding into the bucket that made me catch my mistake. As the bus doors closed behind me, I reached into that 5th half-pocket in my jeans, and found the two, silver $10 coins I intended to leave. $80 overpay, and the driver won't even consider it a tip.

I guess it's true. You can't put a price on a good adventure.

ㄋ一ˇ   ㄏ凹ˇ

A weekend recap is coming, but I am purposefully waiting until I have obtained the necessary photographs.
  • The recap will include (but not be limited to):
  • White on White Paisley and Sequence
  • Chris O'Donnell's Three Musketeer getup (or close enough)
  • A photographer
  • And a Turkey/Ham Lunch potluck

Stay tuned.

But for now, I thought I would let you all know that I am officially a Student of Chinese!
Class started Monday Morning at a brisk 9 am. It's for 3 months, 3 hours a day, 5 days a week.

I am in a class with 4 other students (unless the other 6 show up):
An Australian, who is a Taiwan Citizen-by-Marriage
An Exchange Student from Thailand
Another Student from Vietnam
and a Young Wife who recently relocated with her husband, also from Vietnam.

I personally feel that the Vietnamese students, and maybe the Thai-guy have an unfair advantage, seeing as their native tongue is also a tonal one.

Nonetheless, the 5 of us are in it together. Starting at square one: The Mandarin equivalent to the ABCs (BoPo MoFo). I am excited to learn. I love the idea of being on my way to fluency by the time I head back home to the States. Certainly will impress my friends at Panda Express, right?

The University I'm attending has a beautiful campus. My bus ride (which is about a buck-fifty US round trip) drops me off 20-30 minutes early, and the lake - and surrounding trail, tables, and observation deck - have already tap-tapped the extra time.

I'll admit, it's strange being back in the classroom again. I found the Library first chance I had, and grew giddy as I purused the 6th floor - "Western Bookstacks" - promising Miller and Marx and Socrates I would visit them again soon.

I just hope homework will allow.

On the first day, we learned a Tongue Twister. Can I share it with you? Oh great, thanks friend, here goes:
Mama qi ma. Ma man mama ma ma.

Translation, please?
Mother is riding the Horse. The Horse is Slow so Mother scolds the Horse.

Ai iou.

This is not going to be easy.

PS If I fragmented my homework and the chinese alphabet on my keyboard correctly - which I likely didn't - the Characters in the Title box spell out "Hello"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You English Speak Not Well.

I alluded to it here.

I spelled it out plainly here (See #1).

But you didn't believe me. Thought I was making it up.

This is the random Skype message I received tonight from a young lady somewhere in Taiwan:

Can we be friends?
I need someone practice english with me. I hope you can help.

See what I mean? Befriend a "Foreigner," and free English all around.
I don't know who this person is. I don't know how they found me on Skype.
But... heck, free English lessons?! Why not! (Should I feel bad that I didn't respond?)

(Oh, btw... Batman on Film just confirmed that Shia and Eddie won't be in the next Batman movie. Disappointed? I'm not.
... however, Rachel Weisz - of Mummy Returns and the excellent under-the-radar film "Blueberry Nights" - very well could land the roll of Selina Kyle/Catwoman... to which I would not complain.
If Catwoman is introduced for Nolan's third chapter, it would make for a great story line... but I don't know if a "sexier Bruce Wayne" is a strong way to end the series. Maybe a fourth to follow?! Wouldn't complain about that either. We'll see.

Just doing my part to keep you all updated. ;) I'll let you know when there's more.)

I just spent $355 on a half gallon of Eggnog, Ctd.

Eggnog Blog Update

So, believe it or not, they liked it. The only complaint I received (which kept most of them from asking for a second pixie-cup helping) was that it tasted too sweet.

I'll give it to them. It's a sweet drink.

Being in Taiwan makes me realize how over-addicted to sugar we are in the States. Everything is saturated with artificial sweeteners and neon-florescent colors.

You know what's considered ingredients for a good dessert here in Taiwan?
Red Beans
and Fresh Fruit.

I'm learning to take that over any artificial concoction offered to me back home.
(that said, I should make a note that I just snuck half a bag of Peach Rings out of the Christmas package my family sent me . . . hey! I said I'm learning!!)

Anyways, their less-than-enthusiastic reaction left me plenty in the carton to get my eggnog fix for the Season. (Yeah, that means I drank more than my fair share, and regretted it an hour later)

Being detached from familiarity - especially this time of year - has given me ample time to observe life-as-I-knew-it from the outside. Watching America's financial crisis spread throughout the World; Seeing a global perspective on politics; Unhinging eyes from any glamor in Hollywood or any hold in "trends," I have a unique chance to observe the culture I'd been unable to separate myself from - or really, know anything different.
One thing I am now sure of: The Hamster Wheel of "9-5, repeat" has no appeal to me.
(Nor does the "5-9" of retail, but that's a given. I weathered that battle already.)

While discussing "Stage Musicals" with Jimmy, I searched Cirque Du Soliel clips on YouTube. I found this Allegoric gem...

What are your thoughts?

BTW... completely unrelated, but since this is an update blog, I figured I'd let you all know my favorite tracks from the new BG record are now:
The title track, "I'll be Home for Christmas" (it's only fitting), and
The Jazzy, down-tempo "What Child is This" (what can I say... I'm a sucker for a good Jazz tune, and I didn't know the girls had it in them.)
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Merry Christmas Music

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Merry Christmas!

BTW... if you enjoy good Christmas Music, check out BarlowGirl. They came out with a Top Notch Holiday Album this season. I personally favor their take on "Carol of the Bells" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

At any rate... if you get a chance, check out what I'm humming through my holidays: Home for Christmas by BarlowGirl.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I just spent $355 on a half gallon of Eggnog

Tomorrow... I will be drinking Eggnog.

[Taken from]

I am incredibly excited. So excited that I thought it worth telling all of you about how excited I am.
(And to prove wrong my prediction about an eggnog-less Christmas)

Costco is the only place in Taiwan that carries this wonderful holiday treat. For that I'm certain. However, I did have to shell out $355nt for the carton. Supply and Demand, I guess. (fyi: $355= about $11us.)

But it's worth it. You see, I asked my class if they've ever heard of Eggnog, and their noses curled upwards.

"Ew! Does it really have eggs in it???"

I said, "Are you kidding me?! You're Taiwanese!! You eat pigs' feet and gall bladder!"

So I ventured down the road to Costco, used my American Costco card to get in, resisted the temptation to buy ice cream and pizza, and fought the insane crowds (see 17i), and found myself staring at the one stack of off-brand half gallon cartons of $355 Eggnog.

I'm banking on the hope that my class will be repulsed at the taste, and I'll get more than a few mugs out of it.
Selfish, I know. But at least I'm giving them a fair shot at an exotic cultural experience.

In other news... the Holiday's are in full swing. There's translated Christmas music on the radio, and plastic tree's in every Starbucks and McDonald's. The Vineyard of Harvest Church on my block was the first to put up lights and start projecting Kenny G's Christmas album onto the sidewalk (I have mixed feelings about that), but the Condo Complex and the bright orange underwear store on the corner have followed suite.

The funny thing is... no one celebrates Christmas. No one gets a day off work, or school. It's just another day. Traditions, huh?

Thinking of you all. Would love to hear from you as to what you're doing this holiday season.
Til then... Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reasons I Miss the States - Breakfast

What I'm used to:

What I eat now:

I rest my case.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thought of the Day...

Don asked...

Any thoughts on the appreciation of the arts, especially music, in the Taiwanese culture?

Amateur sociologist? Recreational philosopher? Social observationist?

so I thought I'd post a quick thought. I may expound on a later date.

Art is very affluent in Taiwanese culture. You see it purposefully throughout their Architecture, their Department Stores, their Restaurants, and their Recreation.

In the center of Taichung is a large Art Museum. The outer grounds are as aesthetically focus as the interior.
Taichung's Mayor has declared it his mandate to make the city a mecca for the arts -- the Jazz Festival was his institution.

But more than any other medium, I would have to say Classical Music is the art of choice.
Orchestra Performances are met by a full house I only dreamed of in theVault's days.
String Quartet and Chamber concerts have traveled to every elementary school, department store, and McDonald's.

And every Taiwanese student I know of is studying at least one or two classical instruments.

Taiwan has very little "Rock-Scene" to be spoken of. And the bulk of what does exist plays covers at bars and lounges where the audience sit at tables and maybe applaud.

But classical music... that's the ticket.

I've thought about why this is. True, there are still pop singers and the likes, but why is the emphasis placed so heavily on orchestra music?

Taiwanese - like Chinese and Japanese cultures - value their place within a group. Finding identity in a whole greater than yourself is considered Virtuous. They stay within their family units and work for large companies.

How does this contrast to the great Spirit of American Independence?

I hope to compare the two in a future entry, but for now, that's my Thought of the Day.

Do you know where those have been?

I was just served pig's feet.

It's my fault, really. I should have picked up on the cues when they said "Are you sure? I don't think you'll like it." In my defense, I was told it was "pork," not "Porky's Toes."

I poked around at the two lumps in my bowl and sipped at the soup, trying not to think about what would secrete when you boil feet. David asked, "So you don't like it?" I tried to feed him an "I'm working on it" line by saying, "Well, I just can't find the meat..."

"No meat," he said, "just skin."
Just then, something bent and snapped. I think I broke Squealer's ankle.

I've never been a huge fan of pork grinds, but at least those are fried and crunchy. You see, I don't enjoy skin. Chicken, pork, turkey... I'll pass. Give me meat, not skin. I've even been known to skin grapes before eating.

But besides that... why feet? Do we really have to consume all of the animal? I mean, A+ for frugality and conservation... but feet? I draw my line after stomach or gall bladder.

This is all to say that Babe, Wilbur and their potbelly friends are safe when stepping onto my plate...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Sound [and Sight] of Music

The family I stay with here in Taiwan heads up the Taichung City Symphony Orchestra. I'm lucky enough to get to tag along to performances and take pictures with my digital point-and-shoot.

I'm no Jered Scott, but I like to think I make due with what I have.
(Jered is a good friend, and an even greater guy than his photography is fantastic. Check out his galleries here.)

By no means am I claiming Photographer-status (I'm still only a "picture-taker") but I enjoy it nonetheless, and it gives me something to do other than sitting in a stiff theater chair.

This Sunday, there was a Chamber Concert at a local Jr High Auditorium. I was able to sneak around and snap a few shots.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Reasons I Miss the States - People

This video (by good friends, Gabe and Luke) inspired me to start a new "column" on the Drift.
From time to time, I will be posting "Reasons I Miss the States."

These two people are definitely on that list.

The Person Behind the Voice

I just wanted to spread a little Christmas Cheer as you all are waking up and venturing out to Church in the cold and snow this Advent Morn.

This Song has been somewhat of a Tradition of mine since I first heard it a few years back.
For as long as it's been on the Internet, it's been anonymous... until now.

The good people at Burnside Writer's Collective have interviewed the person behind the voice.

Don't believe me? Read for yourself.

Now hug someone near you and thank them for not singing like that guy.
If you want to hear more voices like that... well, come Karaoke in Taiwan...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Facelifts (without the Plastic Surgery)

So it's been 40 posts. I thought it was time for a blogger-facelift.

I mean, really. What kind of South Orange County Native would I be if I hit the half-century mark without a little Aesthetic Remodeling. We are, in fact, the Real OC.

The first obvious change is the banner up top. I took the picture at a park near my Taiwanese home. The edits were done by my girlfriend, Brittany.

Not that the banner is an amazing feat of Photoshop Glory but... she just won a city-wide contest for designing the big Gasperilla Art Show Poster half way through her first semester in Photoshop. Just thought I'd brag a little.

She lives in Florida. For those of you who did really bad in geography... that's no where near Taiwan.
And for those of you who are going to ask... yeah, I miss her quite a bit.

On to the second update:
If you've noticed below this post, I've added what Blogspot calls "Reactions." That's right. Now you can leave your reaction to my post without the busy work of commenting (though I still covet your comments. it's an addiction really. I'm sure I find some bit of my self worth in how many little blurbs I get to read from all of you wonderful friends. Thank you Web 2.0).

Unfortunately, I didn't have the option of limit-less reactionary possibilities (that's what the comment form is for). So for now, you're stuck with "adrift" "killer tofu" and "foreign to me"

Interpret as you will.

But anyways... thank you to all who have been drifting along in this Journey with me. I thoroughly enjoying sharing my adventures with you. And after hashing them out here, I realize they really are as crazy as they seem.

Thanks again!

A Fellow Drifter on Driving

Just wanted to point you all in the direction of a brilliantly (or should I say frightfully) accurate post about driving in Taiwan. It's written by a fellow foreigner who washed adrift here on the shores of this crazy island just over 3 years ago. Unfortunately, they don't give medals for that sort of thing...

Alex has been one of the sages I've relied on in the adaptation process here in Taichung. Plus, he's great company over Starbucks and Thai Food. After about 10 minutes into our first conversation, we discovered we spent a good portion of our lives within 15 minutes of South Orange County Driving Time from each other.

The only real difference? I'm a native, and he hails from England. At any rate... it's a great post, and as I said: frightfully accurate.

And before you click, here's a daily dose of the road here:

[Edit: These videos are too fantastic. Alex did the leg work to find and link these gems on his page... but I have to post them here. It seems so ridiculous to see this much lunacy in a 2 minute streaming clip... but this is just day-to-day reality.]

And this one has a great sound track:

And this will make you jump up and make a face something like O_O ...or maybe =-O
See for yourself:

This stuff just couldn't be scripted if they tried.
Check Alex's post for the reason behind the madness.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thought of the Day...

I just have to say, I've discovered how soothing the act of erasing a whiteboard can be.

Really though, it's great.

Today was a meaty day in class, filled with technical stuff like where to put the period at the end of an MLA-format quotation. Between the audible snores and the origami, there were a few moments that I turned to my scribbled board and wiped away my tension before I turned back to regain control of the classroom from the snoozing and the sidebar conversations in Chinese.

And after class? You better believe I spent a length clearing all the clutter from the board and my mind. It's meditative, really. Maybe if I ever write a book it could be called "Zen and the Art of White Board Erasing."

Just a thought for today...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Photo of the Day

Due to popular demand, I dug out a photo of line #14 mentioned in my previous blog post.
That's a Squid-on-Stick stand in all it's Night Market Glory.

Bon Appetit! Or as we say here, Su Fan!

Neck-Mole Hair is Cool, and 25 [More] Cultural Observations

One of my first posts after arriving here in Taiwan was a list of 25 Cultural Surprises entitled Sponge Bob Square Pants Knows Chinese.

I decided to do a follow-up:

  1. It is assumed that befriending a Foreigner on the street means free English lessons

  2. White-Foreigner Males in their 20s-30s have a bad reputation on the Island, and I can see when I pass a girl, or father, who puts me in that category.

    1. On the other hand, there are times when I pass a girl on the street, she'll stare at me in a way that probably would have gotten me beat up by the boyfriend on her arm if it were to happen in the States. I typically look at him to try to neutralize the situation (and size him up, just in case), but I'm greeted with a wide eyed, smile that rivals his girlfriend's gaze.

  3. There's usually a bout of giggly laughter after I pass by.

  4. It's okay to tell your English teacher he's fat if it's true.

  5. It's okay to tell your English teacher he's fat if you think it's true.

  6. They see being fat as unhealthy, not unfabulous

  7. Girls still starve themselves to be thin, however

  8. The one rule on the road I've seen followed is “No Right Turn on Red”

  9. At bigger intersections, Scooters have to make a two-light right-angled turn instead of simply turning left. This is occasionally broken.

  10. Mothers let toddlers stand between their legs on the floor of their scooter helmetless as they ride through the reckless city.

  11. But the AC and heater are rejected, largely, because it is deemed unhealthy and a waste of unnecessary energy.

  12. The Dryer is seen as a Clothes wrecker, and thus ignored.

  13. Duck and Chicken heads and feet are served as edible additions to your dinner.

  14. Every Night Market must have a Squid-on-a-Stick Stand

  15. Best factory-placed sticker on the side of a scooter: “Strictly for Wind Cutting.”

  16. 7-11 does not sell any Energy Drinks, and their soda list is about 4 beverages long. However, they have three refrigerators full of bottled tea.

  17. McDonald's, KFC, TGI Friday's, and Costco all taste more or less the same, the only difference is the bilingual menus.

    1. Speaking of Costco... it's nothing short of an adventure-outing here. People queue up 15 people thick and wait a good ten minutes all for a nibble of the new chunk of Cheddar cheese.

    2. Oh, and the Pizza in the cafe near the entrance? Tastes the same, except the flavors are Cheese, Hawaiian, and Seafood. I have yet to see Pepperoni anywhere.

  18. The Pamello fruit is a festival delicacy that is typically eaten once a year. It tastes like a white orange.

  19. You sort your recyclable trash at public fast food restaurants and in office buildings

  20. The lady at the DVD rental store has a strange but decent taste in English speaking movies. (American and British)

  21. Even when you know you're full, you're still hungry. Because you obviously didn't eat enough. They don't have a problem telling you this. (for circular reasoning, see numbers 5-6)

  22. Those snack bags with the wasabi-wrapped-wafers, and the stale ginger-flavored communion crackers, and the crunchy flash-fried (whole) minnows... they're actually not half bad. (Just don't think about the minnow part as you're putting it in your mouth)

  23. Jr and Senior High Students study for fun, and practice their instruments on their day off. (Yes, day. As in one.)

  24. Taiwanese try to out-entertain their guests at weddings. C-Rate Magicians always do more harm than good. That simply should be an international policy.

  25. If the only substantial facial hair you can grow is four inches of straggly mess out of a neck mole... by all means, go for it...

Friday, November 28, 2008

I Wish We Were in a Depression

My predictions for today were right.

I went to Starbucks with some friends. I don't know if I contributed to the "Starbucks Goes (RED)" gig, because most of the menu and signs were in Chinese. The Toffee Nut Latte was good, though. I'll admit I missed the Pumpkin Spice, and I became keenly aware of the fact that this would be a Christmas without Egg Nog by the look on Jimmy's face when I asked him if he's heard of such a drink. But before all that, the first thing I noticed when I walked into Starbucks was Christmas Music.
That's when it hit me: The Holiday Season Has Begun.

My thoughts have been tuned to the "Black Friday" festivities all day long. I'm quite glad I escaped it this time round, considering my position at ground zero last year. If anyone participated in Buy Nothing Day, I applaud you. (I know of a few who did)

Though, if you'd heard of "Buy Nothing Day" and still chose to venture out to the malls and markets in search of a frugal deal, I understand. You are not unlike the rest of the country.

Earlier, I read a story on Yahoo! News that quotes shoppers saying that money's tight this year because of the failing economy. It would list how they were sticking to a budget, or focusing primarily on their kids.

Then it would say something like:
She bought a Dynax LCD 32-inch TV for $400, slashed from $500, along with an iPod and several DVDs.
I couldn't help but imagine the 28-inch TV in her family room.

Not long after I read that article, I read a different one.

This isn't a Depression. It's just Depressing.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I knew it was bound to happen...

I've seen this game of "Tag" floating around the blogosphere, and I knew it was only a matter of time before it happened my way. I was tagged by a fellow southern California blogger Don, and feel obliged to comply.

Here's the skinny:
The game requires the one tagged to share six personal quirks, and then to tag three others to continue the game.

Personal Quirks, eh? I'm horrible at thinking of Personal Quirks... not that I don't have them. I have plenty. Ask my girlfriend Brittany, or any one of my family members, and they'll give you a list a mile long. I'm sure of it. For some reason, though, I have trouble coming up with them on my own. It's like those "What do you want to be when you grow up," or "What do you do for fun" questions. It's not that I don't have answers, or I'm not a fun person, I just have trouble verbalizing them.

Could that be a quirk? I hate those questions... that's quirky, right?! . . . yeah, I didn't think so either. Can't blame a guy for trying. Alright, I'll give it a go:

1. I recently switched my teeth-brushing hand (it worked, btw). No big deal, right? The quirky thing is that I switched it from my right hand to my left hand. I'm left handed, but do many things like use a fork, throw a ball, and brush my teeth with my right hand.

2. I've been told, by more than one or two people, that I use chop sticks better than native Taiwanese chopstick users. I use them with my Left hand only.

3. Due to one too many hits to the head, my jaw can pop on will. I've learned to pop it at different pitches. I can pop "Mary had a Little Lamb" about as well as I can sing it intune.

4. In my short years on this planet, I've spent entirely too much time working in retail. This has left me with a disease. I can't pass a stack of clothes in a store and leave it unstraightened. I also fix hangers and adjust mannequins.

5. I hate surprises. Especially surprise parties, unless of course I find out about it before the surprise happens. But if anyone successfully pulls off a surprise party on me -- though I'm appreciative -- my initial response is an overwhelming feeling of frustration as I instantly realize the amount of preparation and scheming that went on behind my back.

6. Though I don't have the chance to as often nowadays, I enjoy being barefoot. In highschool, I spent as much time as I could in my Rainbow Sandals, and a couple years ago I went most of the summer without shoes- including a roadtrip across the country. I'm sure this was the cause of my back pain that summer. I'm also sure my mother is cringing.

Okay, I'll admit it, that was easier than I thought it'd be once I got going.
Now to continue the game: Gabe, Jenny, Jordan ... You're It!

Oh yeah, and Quitsies, Double Stamp It, Touch Blue/Make it True.

A Big Mac, a Journal, and a Pocket-Sized Apple Pie: Notes on Ending Well or A Taiwanese Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone.

There was no Turkey-day for me, this year. Thanksgiving isn't exactly a Taiwanese holiday... though I had fun this past week recounting the history of our Nation's holiday -- and wondering if I look something akin to a Pilgrim to these Native Taiwanese.

In place of my Turkey (and gravy, and stuffing and...) dinner, I did the most American thing I could think of, and went to McDonald's.

It was the only Apple Pie I could so-loo (walk) to.

After ordering my Big Mac meal - and Apple Pie - I found a quiet booth on the second floor of Mickey D's. I was hoping to journal throughout my meal, but first, I practiced another American staple before I took my first bite; I prayed.

It wasn't very extensive, and I'll admit, I'm not exactly in the habit of praying before my meals, but it lead to a time of thoughtful writing. I'll likely end up posting what I wrote, but not now.

I don't want to say much now - though I'll likely wind up with a mouthful, as usual. I'll try to bite my tonuge before the post gets too long. Today should be a time of inward reflection, not lectures, rambles or rants.

I do want to say this: the holiday season has begun. There is a reason that Thanksgiving is the doorpost to this season. Thanksgiving should be a time where we re-orientate our lives. To remind ourselves who we are, what we value, and what we have -- before we are overwhelmed by "the Holiday Season."
Like the cleansing process of an Islamic man before evening prayer, Thanksgiving sets aside the monotonous filth of our day-to-day, and readies us for the rituals of the season.

Being away from said rituals, I think I'm beginning to value them more. I certainly miss them. I didn't know I would. The gingerbread houses, and the tinsel'd Trees. The silly things that set this time of year apart. But being away from them is also helping me process why we should go about any of this at all. What value there is outside the frivolous Balls of Holly we'll become so acquainted with.

The sun is setting on the evening of this year, and we have the distinct privilege, if not responsibility, to end it well. What does "ending well" look like to you? What is it in life that you value above all? What do you want dubbed as the central focus of your 2008?

These are the questions I mulled over while I consumed my Big Mac and pocket-sized Apple Pie. And I hope that you will take them into consideration tonight as you enjoy your turkey (and stuffing and cranberry sauce and yams and pumpkin pie and waldorf salad and...) Go about this Holiday Season with purpose. Don't let it flash by quicker than a light on a tree. Finish this year well.

Finally, whatever is True, whatever is Noble, whatever is Just, whatever is Pure, whatever is Love... Meditate on these things.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Haircuts as a Multi-Cultural Experience

For most people, it's a ritual that has to happen every month or so.

But for me, if it involves uncertainty, I try to avoid it like the plague. I really hate going to new stylists when it comes to my hair (Katie McDonald, I miss you!). I feel there's this road seperating me from the barber shop/salon. Like a busy street, where one wrong step means disaster. For some reason, I have these visions of botched haircuts, or bald spots (which I'm sure is inevitable, but I'm fully for putting it off as long as possible) everytime I think of finding a new stylist. It's happened before. I had a heck of a time getting a decent trim in Florida, back in the day. Apparently, Ft. Myers Mall had never heard of a Faux Hawk. Oh how edgy-California I was.

Taking my hair-cut-hesitations in mind, throwing the prospect of a language barrier just makes the process all the more terrifying.

But I've survived. And I think my fear is settling all together.
I'm nearing the 3 month mark here in Taiwan, and this morning, I had my second Taiwanese Haircut. Since I live in a community of convenience, my new Salon was picked for me. Right across the street, a stone's throw away, there's a large multi-chair salon that I think is named "Beauty." I don't know why it's so big - I've never seen more than three seats filled at a time. Room for growth, I suspect.

Greeted by two young boys at the counter, I was welcomed in, and told to sit at one of the open chairs. I saw the lady who cut my hair last time I was in. She's the owner, I think. And she doesn't speak English. Since "Ahma" (the grandmother I live with) paid for my last haircut, against my will, I wanted to be sure I was getting the same price. "San Bai, yea? er.. ma," which translates, "Three Hundred, yeah. er.. '?'"

A cut and shampoo for just under $10 US is not too bad of a price, if I do say so. (Mind you, ten bucks is ten bucks. Tax is always included in Taiwan, and tipping is never necessary or expected.)

It seemed that the owner would be the one handling my head today, so I was a little surpised when her daughter, I'd guess around 16, smocked and toweled me. At this point, I was still reassuring myself everything would be okay. Luckily, the smocking was the extent of her involvement in my grooming process.
Instead, the lady who was sitting in the corner, doing her makeup, took the helm. I had never seen her before. She was dressed entirely in purple. Skirt, shirt, jacket and shoes, completed with a purple cap which caused the look of the entire outfit to scream British Tea Party, in a way only the British can and would scream tea.

At this point, I was reacquainted with one of the two boys from the front desk. The owner spoke her first and only English words to me from across the room, "My son." She smiled brightly. Based on her reaction, and my prior experience with 13 year olds in Taiwan, I took it to mean he spoke English. And he did. Very well, even. We had a plesant chat about his going to school, my teaching; his speaking English, and my poor Chinese; his proximity in age with my brother back home; my having a girlfriend, him being without; the fact that he thinks I'm very handsome, the fact that I think the same of him. You know, the usual stuff.

Though I owe him much more than making the time pass quickly. It was his translation (and my hand motions) that guided Miss Plum through the waves of my hair. I don't think I could have done it without Tim.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out. I'm much less picky when it comes to my hair, then say a year or two ago. But for apperances sake, "Beauty" Salon trips are still necessary. Thanks to translators like Tim, and shearstrisses like the Lady in Purple, going across the street just got a little easier.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

For Once, I'm an Artist

For my fellow Bloggers, check out this site. They analyze your blog and spit out something like a personality profile. Pretty fun. Here's mine... is it Accurate?

ISFP - The Artists

The gentle and compassionate type. They are especially attuned their inner values and what other people need. They are not friends of many words and tend to take the worries of the world on their shoulders. They tend to follow the path of least resistance and have to look out not to be taken advantage of.

They often prefer working quietly, behind the scene as a part of a team. They tend to value their friends and family above what they do for a living.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Excuse me, sir? Your nerd is showing.

I'm really excited for this. It's sad, but it's true. If you know me well, you know it's true. And I'm sure you're thinking to yourself that, yeah, it's sad too. Oh well, that doesn't change the fact that this was pretty much one of the best movies ever filmed. Heath Ledger was brilliant. You and I both know that. So stop trying to find reasons to argue with me.

Thanks to my recent pre-Taiwan purchase of Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul, along with the nice people over at, who recently did a whole PODcast on the depth of the Dark Knight, I've been able to merge my love for my childhood superhero and my semi-closeted status as an amature philosophy buff.

I really don't think there's another superhero that deals with the complexities that Bruce Wayne/Batman faces. There's the age-old debate that Superman is better. And I'm sure one of you Superfreaks are going to point out how Superman had Christ-like qualities in the newest movie, but here's my response. First off, the latest Superman movie kind of sucked. It was a bore. You think that if there was a guy who had super-human strength and calling, you'd make him a little more interesting. And secondly, I'm pretty sure that's just bad theology.

So don't go there. You still lose.

If any of you are as big a geek as I am when it comes to the Batman, check out the BoF website. Their already starting to track rumors of a followup Nolan/Bale flick. (I'm sure you've probably heard the murmurs about Philip Seymour Hoffman as the Penguin, or Johnny Depp as the Riddler... don't worry, they're just rumors)

Batman doesn't seem to have quite the fanfair here as it does back home. There's an occasional shirt (from the 90s or before), and doodads like this one (image: right). But nothing lining the streets or aisles at the department stores.

That's okay. I guess that's why I'm an educator.

Stop to Smell the Flowers

Stop to Smell the Flowers

This weekend, I went to the "Flower Festival" in the DaKen mountainside with my friends Jimmy, Mia, and Brio. It was nice to get out in the sunshine and (relatively) fresh air. I got sunburnt. Luck of the Irish. It wasn't too bad, though. Thankfully, I avoided all Lobster-like qualities.

The Flower Festival is basically a dozen or so Fields of Flowers (see above, and below...), some vendors, and a dirt parking lot.

The vendors feature a number of traditional Taiwanese food and trinkets. I tried Sugar Cane Juice. It's green.

There were also several Ice-Cream-Mans equipped with an ice chest on the back of their Scooter. Here, they're known as Baboos, for the sound their squeeze-horn makes when they ride through the neighborhood or sit and wait on the side of the road as busybodies pass by.

The trip was good for an hour or two, which is more than enough time to see everything at a snail's pace. Nonetheless, it was a worthwhile chance outside the city.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mixed Meat, Idolly Speaking

Yesterday, I ate a Pig's Gall Bladder.

It was meaty, with some fat. A little chewy.

I was told it had been dedicated to Buddha in a Temple Festival a day or so prior.
I thought about Paul when he talked about eating meat sacrificed to idols. I didn't remember all the ins and outs of what he had to say, so I just ate it anyways. I didn't want to be rude.
I asked them if it was going to give me magical powers or something. They said, no, it's just special. That made me feel better about eating it.

It wasn't bad, but I don't think I'm going to make Gall Bladder a dietary habit.

Later that night, I had chicken rump, and chicken stomach. It was from the nice lady at the mixed meat stand.

I made up for it, though. Finished my night with a big American Chili's burger, topped off with a White Chocolate Molten Cake... and some Carmel Popcorn while I watched the new 007 flick.

Worth it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

That's a Lotta Buddha

So, believe it or not, but there are Buddhist Temples all over Taiwan.

These temples range from small rooms, to huge centuries-old establishments.

I've been to a couple in the city, and a couple in LuKang - including one that was dedicated to the Emperor's Warriors, and one that has been standing for over 500 years! The intricacies in the architecture are breath taking.

There's a new temple being built. In fact, it wasn't quite 100% up-and-running when I happened in for a look. It's certainly an Ancient-meets-Modern-chic Temple. The outside is fairly indistinguishable, unlike the unmistakable appearance of its Ancestors.
But upon stepping inside, you're greeted by an elderly man in a lotus position towering over you, looking down from 30-40 feet above.

"Where do you get that," I wondered.

My question was answered on my way to Ikea last week (you really got to love Ikea), I passed what I could only describe as a Buddha-Surplus store. There were three, 30 foot Statues lined in a row, then a couple 15 footers. And around that? Smaller statues decorated the empty lot with all the tents, tables and fanfare to boot. It looked like a whole-sale warehouse that you could find off the 5-freeway along your way to La Mirada.

Though Taoism and even Christianity are prevelent over here on the Island, Buddhism seems to be the dominate practice.

I don't know much about this religion. I hope to know more.
Understanding someone's world view, especially their religion, will only help you understand them as a person more. Beyond that, I've found that understanding other people helps you to grow in a deeper knowledge of yourself and your worldview. It changes, shifts, and reaffirms the grounds you stand on.

From what I can tell, the Buddhist Culture puts a heavy emphasis on Ancestors and Ghosts. And when there's Ghosts, there's fear. In fact, there's a whole week called Ghost Week where the Taiwanese go to great lengths to keep themselves safe from angry spirits.

Fear is a powerful motivator. It changes peoples minds, shifts peoples perspectives and reaffirms their hesitations.
Effective, it may be. But I'm not conviced Fear is the wisest of persuasions.
Looking at this new culture has taught me to begin to evaluate my own.

What are the areas in my life that I operate out of Fear?
How can I change them to be more Affirming and Life-Giving?
How can I let Fear give way to Love?

That's my rant for this Blog. I'll leave you with a snap shots from the up-and-coming Temple.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What David Letterman and Jay Leno did NOT say about America

The Following Post is Edited from its Original Form. Guess I should Learn to Check my Sources Better. The following quote is NOT from David Letterman, or Jay Leno for that matter. Which makes sense to me. Though I do believe both of these night time TV personalities have some depth, the article contains some phrasing and ideas I'm fairly certain neither would choose to say. My apologies to the nice people at the Late Night Show [Tom] that had to take time out of their day to do my Homework for me.

Shame on me.

I'm quite glad the election is done, and have no desire to focus any more current energy on politics, but after a bit of deliberation, I decided this was worth posting.

When I first read the transcript, it reminded me of a conversation I had with a student one of the first weeks I arrived in Taiwan. Though his accent was heavy, he had a surprisingly extensive vocabulary, and was quite well versed -- from what I could tell -- in Politics (foreign and domestic), current events, literature..

Jeff-the-student, Alex-his-teacher, and I (the floater, that popped in on the classroom conversation and refused to leave) were discussing the state of America and it's current fiscal fiasco. Alex was pointing out that so much of America's media and education pointed inward, rather than looking outward. It's focus was the US of A. The news was even narrower than that, focusing on California. And even narrower than that, focusing on Los Angeles.
I was reluctant to tell him that the depth of the conversation we had just finished on current events... I probably couldn't have with most University Students his age.
Alex agreed.
Jeff was hurt. Offended even. He couldn't understand. "Why? But you are my heroes. America is a place where you can be anything you want to!"

It was hard to hear that from him.

...the world loves the U.S., yet has a great disdain for its citizens...
(Cited from below)

Maybe it's not a coincidence that such a seismic event as our election happens in the same month we as Americans stop and remind ourselves where we come from, what we have, and what we're thankful for...

"As most of you know I am not a President Bush fan, nor have I ever been, but this is not about Bush, it is about us, as Americans, and it seems to hit the mark. The other day I was reading Newsweek magazine and came across some Poll data I found rather hard to believe. It must be true given the source, right? The Newsweek poll alleges that 67 percent of Americans are unhappy with the direction the country is headed and 69 percent of the country is unhappy with the performance of the President. In essence 2/3 of the citizenry just ain't happy and want a change. So being the knuckle dragger I am, I started thinking, 'What are we so unhappy a bout?''
A.. Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 Days a week?
B.. Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter?
C.. Could it be that 95.4 percent of these unhappy folks have a job?
D.. Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year?
E.. Maybe it is the ability to drive our cars and trucks from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state?
F.. Or possibly the hundreds of clean and safe motels we would find along the way that can provide temporary shelter?
G.. I guess having thousands of restaurants with varying cuisine from around the world is just not good enough either.
H. Or could it be that when we wreck our car, emergency workers show up and provide services to help all and even send a helicopter to take you to the hospital.
I.. Perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home.
J.. You may be upset with knowing that in the unfortunate case of a fire, a group of trained firefighters will appear in moments and use top notch equipment to extinguish the flames, thus saving you, your family, and your belongings.
K.. Or if, while at home watching one of your many flat screen TVs, a burglar or prowler intrudes, an officer equipped with a gun and a bullet-proof vest will come to defend you and your family against attack or loss .
L.. This all in the backdrop of a neighborhood free of bombs or militias raping and pillaging the residents. Neighborhoods where 90% of teenagers own cell phones and computers.
M.. How about the complete religious, social and political freedoms we enjoy that are the envy of everyone in the world?

Maybe that is what has 67% of you folks unhappy.

Fact is, we are the largest group of ungrateful, spoiled brats the world has ever seen. No wonder the world loves the U.S. , yet has a great disdain for its citizens. They see us for what we are. The most blessed people in the world who do nothing but complain about what we don't have, and what we hate about the country instead of thanking the good Lord we live here.

I know, I know. What about the president who took us into war and has no plan to get us out? The president who has a measly 31 percent approval rating? Is this the same president who guided the nation in the dark days after 9/11? The president that cut taxes to bring an economy out of recession? Could this be the same guy who has been called every name in the book for succeeding in keeping all the spoiled ungrateful brats safe from terrorist attacks? The commander in chief of an all-volunteer army that is out there defending you and me?

Did you hear how bad the President is on the news or talk show? Did this news affect you so much, make you so unhappy you couldn't take a look around for yourself and see all the good things and be glad? Think about it......are you upset at the President because he actually caused you personal pain OR is it because the 'Media' told you he was failing to kiss your sorry ungrateful behind every day.

Make no mistake about it.

The troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have volunteered to serve, and in many cases may have died for your freedom. There is currently no draft in this country. They didn't have to go. They are able to refuse to go and end up with either a ''general'' discharge, ''other than honorable'' discharge or, worst case scenario, a ''dishonorable'' discharge after a few days in the brig.

So why then the flat-out discontentment in the minds of 69 percent of Americans?

Say what you want but I blame it on the media. If it bleeds it leads and they specialize in bad news. Everybody will watch a car crash with blood and guts How many will watch kids selling lemonade at the corner? The media knows this and media outlets are for-profit corporations. They offer what sells, and when criticized, try to defend their actions by 'justifying' them in one way or another Just ask why they tried to allow a murderer like OJ Simpson to write a book about how he didn't kill his wife, but if he did he would have done it this way......Insane!

Turn off the TV, burn Newsweek, and use the New York Times for the bottom of your bird cage. Then start being grateful for all we have as country. There is exponentially more good than bad. We are among the most blessed people on Earth and should thank God several times a day, or at least be thankful and appreciative. With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?"

-Anonymous, who likes to pretend he runs a Late Night talk show.

(Hat Tip: John Wilson, for posting the note; Facebook, for it's Mini-Feed, Andrew Sullivan for showing me how to Hat Tip in a blog [though he'd be horrified at rookie quoting error I made]; Tom, for pointing out my error; and Alex, for letting me share in that conversation with Jeff.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Photo of the Day

Taken before a Taichung City Orchestra Performance at a local Elementary School

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Thai Work

I visited the most lavish Thai Restaurant tonight.
The decor was phenomenal. The food was fantastic.

If any of you Westerners venture this way, I'm pretty sure it's one place you'll have to visit.

Mixed Meat Politics

So on the home stretch of my nightly stroll around the block, I was stopped by 5 kind faces, two of them my neighbors. They offered me a plate of fruit. I knew from experience that they don't take refusal well, so I had a seat.
The neighbors run a mixed meat stand out of the store front of their home. I've been bought and offered a couple plates, and it has to be some of the strangest varieties of "meat" I've ever seen in one place. Thankfully, I think they realize that Americans do not enjoy charred Chicken Head or Feet. Though I know now what the heart tastes like, and I'm pretty sure I ate an authentic chicken nugget...
I regress.
After the fruit, my neighbor -- a kind hearted old lady who gives away more meat than she actually sells -- got up to get me a skewer full of meat that could compete against any cafeteria mystery food. Again, I accepted the UFD (Unidentifiable Foreign Delicacy). It was surprisingly tasty.
Her kind-eyed husband and the other gentleman seated offered me cigarettes. This time, I denied. The gentleman spoke, through broken but stable English, that he was from Hong Kong, where everyone smoked, but knew that in America it was not popular.

The conversation shifted back into Chinese.
I had another grape.

He looked at me and I thought I heard "residential location," but then he said "Obama and McCain?" He asked if I thought it mattered that Obama was "a negro." I told him that I thought it would be healthy for America to see a bi-racial man in Office. The conversation had already shifted back into Chinese, and I don't think they heard me.

Nevertheless, it left me thinking...
First, I thought "Does Hong Kong have a President?" but that was overtaken by another thought:
Tuesday's a big deal.
From 10 hour line at strip malls in Atlanta, to the quiet benchside of a Taiwanese Mixed Meat Stand... the world is waiting to see what will come.

Friday, October 31, 2008

When will it end?

"And they will know we are Christians by our hate."

I heard this quote used in reference to Christians reacting in politics. (I believe it was in reference to California's Prop 8, but that'd be for another blog.)

The quote came to mind again when I saw this.

Frankly, though I've immersed myself in the world of political blogs and in an attempt to stay up-to-date on the election, I've grown very very tired of all of it:
What is being done
What should be done
What I'm "supposed to" believe and think and act and vote

(I didn't vote, btw. Not that I'm proud or think I made some great subversive statement... I don't... I was mostly too lazy to bother with the absentee ballot, so it's hardly a fact I'm proud of.)

I just don't know if I can buy it. I don't feel like the best, or even most Christ-like, reaction to all of this is fear. "What if he does do this" or "..if he doesn't do that" or "what if she"

Are we, (and I'm primarily mean "as the church") asking the right questions?
More than that, are we living out the change we're dreaming our elected officials will bring?
Are we pursuing peace, love, service, and those other warm fuzzies Christ laid out as a blueprint to what we should look like?
What does our country see when they see us?

I heard Mother Teresa used to have a saying to the effect "You better not speak out against abortion until you're ready to adopt some babies and care for some mothers yourself." That made me think real hard.

All that's besides the point (or is it?). My hope is that Tuesday, the country (and the church inside the country) will accept that he was voted into office, and move forward as one unit.

I think we need to come to realize some things...

It's not about me. It's not about them versus us. It's just us. All of us.

And if you don't like it. Move to another country... like Taiwan or something. . .

Sorry for the rant. Happy Voting.

PS Happy Halloween.