It’s beginning the feel a lot like…winter. Today was 18 degrees and also the first day I wore long johns. Strange, that. The weather in Taipei has been that like Indian summer days on the cusp of crisp fall bitterness in Canada. Although I welcome the drop in degrees after another scorching Taipei summer, my bones shiver and chill at the tangible realization that a cold, humid, and damp winter has arrived.
I spent 24 years of my life enduring blizzards and ice storms, essentially Arctic like winters where temperatures often reach -40 degrees Celsius. One from home would scold my complaining of Taipei’s winters, but really, it gets COOOOLD here. Constant rain and humidity make a cool 15 degrees Celsius feel somewhat closer to a nippy zero, minus the frost. Homes here are not heated, there are times where I’m certain I’ve seen my breath whilst purritoed in a duvet, only my face and typing fingers protruding from the duck down layers.
Mom – skip the next paragraph.
This morning I saw, another, scooter wreck. I’ve seen plenty, but never front row like today. I was driving in the tunnel beneath the SongShan Airport, at the north end of Fuxing Road into DaZhi. At top speed, the scooter in front of me drove straight into the back of a stopped truck. The trucks rear acted as a spring board and the driver of the scooter ricocheted off the back of the truck into the wall of the tunnel, his scooter landing on top of him. I was the very next scooter behind him. It was HORRIFYING. The impact was swift and loud, echoing throughout the tunnel. I stopped (slash braked hard), fully in shock, I didn’t know what to do. I was equally as horrified that NOT ANOTHER DRIVER STOPPED. I’ve seen this before, nearly all accidents I’ve been witness to in Taipei, never does a soul stop, they simply scoot around, often crunching over the scattered shards of plastic and glass. Audrey and I once came upon the aftermath of accident, an elderly woman crossing JianGuo had been smoked by a scooter and was lying motionless, probably dead. Not a person came near her, as if she were gravely infected with the plague, and any civilians in the vicinity simply went along in their lives. In Canada, accidents attract masses, whether it’s a trained civilian or a curious bystander, everyone wants to help, even to just offer a call into emergency, or ten. Today, two people stopped, me and the truck driver. Unbelievable.
Taipei has a MAJOR traffic problem, recently relieved somewhat by a fast growing Mass Rapid Transit (MRT, or Metro) system. The population of Metropolitan Taipei, including Taipei county and surrounding areas, is about 10 million. Taipei city covers about 272 square kilometers, and every square kilometer is densely occupied by approximately 10 000 people. Taipei is known as the ‘scooter capital of the world’, fittingly. In 2009, the total scooter population in all of Taiwan was 14.2 million (the population of Taiwan is only 22 million), and in 2002 Taipei cities roads were driven by about 1 million drivers (that’s 1/3 of the population of the cities core), outnumbering cars at about 700 000. Scooter hell, armies of scooters at every light, in every alley, on every sidewalk.
Imagine rush hour.
Driving a scooter along Civic Blvd in Taipei
It’s only December 1st and I’ve finished my Christmas cards, Christmas presents, Christmas movies, Christmas songs, and Christmas decorations. All I’m missing is eggnog. Taipei is bustling with entertainment. Only 49 days until the 6th and final season of LOST, and I’m nose deep into the Fountainhead. As requested, and as promised, this is the beginning of what will become dozens of diverse and varying book reviews. It is likely evident, in my writing mostly, that I am an avid reader. Now, commencing with a few reads from 2009..
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami
The is the first of four Murakami reviews by me, his literary imagination has taken over my soul. I casually borrowed the Wind Up Bird Chronicles from a friend without being familiar with the author, and powered through the 700 or so pages in less than a week. I lost sleep over this book. It blew my mind, like I had no mind left. THIS BOOK IS A MASTERPIECE AND IS THE BEST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ.
The story is many things amidst a search for identity, a search for a missing wife – Kumiko Okadu – but it begins with a quest for a missing cat—Noboru Wataya – a cat named after Kumiko’s older, political, and supernaturally evil brother. The plot advances chronicling a chain of events surrounding the absence of the cat, events that were once seemingly mundane are now surreal and bizarre. We follow Toru Okadu – the protagonist – into his dreams, both lucid and shared, far into the earth where he spends some time in a well, an act inspired by Lieutenant Mamiya – an officer in the Japanese military who accounts his horrifying memories of the military’s efforts in Manchuria – to his eccentric and dark encounters with May Kasahara. Creta and Malta Kano guide Toru metaphysically fusing together fantasy and realism whereas Cinnamon and Nutmeg Akasaka provide Toru with more of a pragmatic and tangible yet still thoroughly surreal direction in his quests.
This book is long and requires some mental muscle, but never do you feel it becoming frivolous. It is full of Japanese culture yet western references are prevalent throughout. Loneliness is an underlying theme, but is never fatalistic. It’s dark, poetic, insightful, it is literary brilliance.
A Spot of Bother and the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
I probably picked up a Spot of Bother five times and put it down five times over. It is written by the same author who wrote The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, it was also sent to me by a friend in Canada with whom I regularly share interest in many of the same literary works. I could not be bothered with this book, I found it dull and the style irritating, the style of the narrative being the predominant basis of my disinterest. The book is about a 61 year old hypochondriac who discovers a small lesion on his hip that he is certain is cancer although its been diagnosed as eczema. He begins to quietly loose his mind, the sleeve reads. If someone else out there has read and loved this book and thinks an opinion otherwise to mine, I welcome your persuasions in my completing this book. Even so, the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime was nothing less than brilliant. This wonderful story is one of an autistic boy solving the mystery of the murder of a neighborhood dog. This story is both melancholy and delightful, and the author does a beautiful job interpreting the events and the world around as that of a boy who is challenged by his fears and inabilities. I especially recommend this book to one who has a difficult time getting through a book, or needs an easy reintroduction to habitual reading. A terrific gift for any age.
The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald
My second read by a fellow Canadian Ann-Marie MacDonald. The first being Fall on your Knees..but I will keep this critique for another day, as I need to ferret through my memory for elements on the read and collect the exemplary words needed to define this stunning novel. I picked up this book, the Way the Crow Flies, on the simple adoration of Fall on your Knees. I saved this book for some time to read in an appropriate atmosphere, and did just that. I read it whilst perched alongside the Nam Song in Vang Vieng, Laos with nothing but enitre days to spend leafing through books. At 900 pages, a simple yet thoroughly engrossing story of a murder in a small Canadian town fills the pages for a swift read. Nazi’s, Russian rocket scientists, sexual predators and the Royal Canadian Airforce meticulously link together themes in secrets, family, loyalties, and morals, and keep this story captivating and strong throughout. I don’t typically enjoy happy endings, Anne Marie MacDonald understands me here. This story is a fictionalized account of the Steven Truscott Case.
A family member has departed. I’d like to go home, especially considering the approaching Christmas season. A lonely one to be had. Alas, this doesn’t look likely. It’s my Dad I would most like to be there for. Say a prayer in Canada, light an incense in Taiwan. Sad face.
In lighter news, we went out to LUXY last night, and much to our surprise (we were told this wasn’t going to happen) there was a billboard sized glossy ad for our Aoki party outside. Happy face.
This is a rant.
All of my/our energy is going to promoting and creating hype for our party. For a city of such size, it’s extraordinarily hard to draw a crowd. Electro and indie dance are still fresh, this is something we’re trying to change. I was lucky in Canada, DJ’s du jour every weekend, sometimes Thursdays. Here we wait a month between parties, and (this is the apparent theme to my post) as foreigners are less than all the rage in the ‘indie’ crowd, we rarely we make our way out to the smaller, more intimate indie spots. ‘Tis is shame, it’s where I want to be. The predominant motive that compelled us to throw parties in Taiwan, is to change this. BRING MORE MORE MORE ELECTRO AND INDIE DANCE TO TAIWAN. You’d like to believe that every hipster, scenester, indie, or whatever party kid would fully support us, right? FOR THE LOVE OF MUSIC. Well, it’s not all love in this world. The party crowd (and when I use the term ‘party crowd’, I am referring to every neon kid in tight pants, an artsy t shirt, and converse that listens to whatever obscure indie band that hasn’t but might soon be mixed and remixed, and, pun intended, dances through Sunday at electro and indie dance parties.).. so this party crowd, in every city around the world, is especially pretentious (I’m sure this statement reaches many stereotypes, but those I am not a part of). Selective in music, selective in friends, trends, hangouts, what have you. I get the feeeeeeeeeling that here in Taipei, I am one in the minority in this ‘indie clique’. But this scenes bread and butter is music, it is the bond that ties all these kids together, gives them something to talk and be passionate about, and is also the one predominant thing that we (foreigners) have in common with them, a wholehearted passion in musical interest and party vibes. Forget language barriers, this should be enough. Not always.
Countless times, Audrey and I have gone to an indie party and have often been the only wai guo ren’s there, we dance as hard, as fast, and with as much devotion for the music being pumped into our ears as the hipster bumping into us, we stay until the lights go on, and all the meanwhile no one says but a word to us, except for maybe the one kid who thinks being seen with a white girl is still cool (ugh). And still we go, alone, the two of us in our own clique, and we dance. Because we love the music. But not always the vibe. The vast majority of my partying has been done in THE city of all cities, Montreal, so I’m coming from and longing for THE vibe that every city wants to be (that we want to create). Lofts, clubs, and warehouses rammed with eccentric and eclectic kids losing it on the dance floor, all coming together pour l’amour de la musique!
I find this vibe lacking in Taiwan. Possibly and probably because I am an outsider. Inside AND outside of this scene, some Taiwanese hate foreigners. We are tolerated, but not always liked. Albeit, this is with reason. I don’t dismiss the notion that some foreigners should not be liked, we have it easy here and some halfwits have abused this which has resulted in somewhat of a stigma being pinned to foreigners as a whole. Some might call us pretentious too, fine. 5 years ago, you could teach English here while not even possessing a high school diploma, some of these pinheads are still here. Times have changed, reputations have not.
Dancing Through Sunday is three foreigners and one Taiwanese eggroll that is easily considered one of us. We live, breathe, and dream music, we love electro particularly, we love to dance, we love Taipei. We want to put Taiwan on the map, make it a regular stop in Asian touring rosters. We want more music, more dancing, we want the party vibe to reach everyone. We want the DJ to play a track and see the entire club go wild. We’re doing this for every same reason that our Taiwanese counterparts do it, but we do it in high heels. Perhaps these anxieties are just my own, but I hold this awareness and these impressions I’ve battled all week since presale tickets hit stands last Saturday. I am anxiously awaiting comments and criticism on our party becoming official, I am eager to see if we have the support of the party kids, which in my opinion only, is our target audience. I worry that with our limited communication, our choice in venue, us being foreigners, this being Aoki’s second show in Taiwan (why go see him if we’ve already seen him?), and the overall hype surrounding the party, they won’t come. Because it’s not ‘indie’ enough. So then we’ll have no parties, except for the ones in our living rooms, at all.
Indie is only a trend. It has materialized, as all other trends of the 90’s, the 80’s, and so on, with the intention to move heaven and earth artistically, creatively, and uniquely, and once diminished, will leave but a faded style. More than less of this indie crowd are conforming to anything and everything mainstream anyway, and are a paradox of what indie really defines.
Just be yourself.
And I will continue to wear high heels to indie parties.
Dancing Through Sunday is myself, Audrey Harton, Sway Lee, and Cresencio Victoria.
We are an imaginative promotional collective fresh to Taipei’s bustling nightlife striving to bring the latest international faces and musical influences to this already vibrant city. We are an eclectically collaborated team hailing from all over North America and Taiwan, all passionate and inspired musically and creatively and wanting to make ourselves, and our influences a vital staple in Taipei’s nightlife and underground music scene. Joining forces with Dim Mak from L.A on a residency and LUXY nightclub in Taipei means the crème de la crème in international electronic artists in Taipei’s finest and most elite nightclub.
Who better to establish this party circuit than Steve Aoki. Aoki bridges the gap between commercial and underground music culture and he unconditionally represents the vibe that we want to create in this city. Scores of unparalleled parties promoting quality and originality are imminent, promising the finest electro that will glue you to the dance floor and have you dancing through Sunday …
MSTRKRFT, The Bloody Beetroots, Felix Cartal, Bloc Party, Auto Erotique, Shit Disco, Armin Van Helden, Shinichi Osawa, The Kills, Pase Rock, S.P.A, and Strech Armstrong are just a few artists represented by Dim Mak and in our realm of possibilities.
Dancing Through Sunday X Dim Mak Present
Saturday December 26th, 2009
November presale: NT850 + 2 drinks
December presale: NT950 + 2 drinks
Door: NT1100 + 2 drinks
But 5 tickets together, get 10% off
Available at: NEU, Pet Shops Girl, Screaming, M@M, KGB, mo! relax, LUXY
A thousand million thank yous to the creative brilliance of Liam Thurston for the industrious design. And especially for putting up with us.
In 2008 I gave up the happiness of indulgence for 21 days in the name of Joshi. This rather wholesome and impressive regimen limits you from any wheat and gluten, dairy, fruit (except bananas), some veggies (mostly nightshades), red meat, coffee (even decaf), sugars, anything artificial and processed. It is intended to flush out all those frightful toxins and fats that your body has stored, and restore the bodies Ph from acidic to slightly alkaline, all whist dropping a few kilos.
Prior to ‘day 1’, I read Joshi’s book which was more of insight into the programme than a meal plan like most ‘diet’ books deliver, and although it was slightly frustrating as I had little knowledge as to what I was allowed and not allowed to eat, I do think it’s necessary to read the book so you understand WHY you are doing this. For anyone interested, I do have the book here in Taiwan, but it would certainly be a crafty mission to do this detox here considering the resources available, as well I have another book targeted towards eating whole and holistic foods.
Being who I am, I blogged the whole experience, complete with recipes, meals plans, and the suicidal thoughts that came with my system being depleted of caffeine and chocolate (in the end the coffee cravings nearly killed me, I cheated, I did, on a small organic decaf coffee with soy milk, I’m a cheater). I’ve found myself often linking the blog out to people who have expressed interest in it, and have now decided to just officially promote it. Ye, promote it. Once I killed the initial 7 days, I HAD NEVER AND WILL PROBABLY NEVER AGAIN FEEL THIS GREAT IN MY LIFE. I RECOMMEND. Especially for those, as I, who struggle with food allergies (Mom, are you listening?).
To quit life and become a nomad gypsy spending it meandering countries huddled alongside the immense and enchanting Mekong, my days spent absorbing literary wisdoms of my favorite authors, basking in the fiery southern sun, and trekking ravishing sceneries bestowed upon by stunning hillsides and breathtaking sunsets, is my greatest dream. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience this for weeks at a time on many occasions, this time not quite in the jungle, but near the edge, a weekend in grimy, gritty, ghetto Bangkok for my birthday. Far away from any parties, I spent it poolside, breaking only to be fed and watered and purchase purses, I was in bed each night watching BBC by dusk. Happens every time.
I hammered through The Time Travelers Wife, a book recommended and given to me by my aunt. I had a tough time wrapping my head around this book as it’s far from my style, but once free of all distractions except the looming threat of a sunburn, I was quickly immersed in the complexly written and emotionally compelling story, tears streaming down my face becoming the swimming pool below. I recommend. I dried my tears and read another cover to cover, by an author highly favored by and an influence on authors I perpetually read, a book I have been holding and anticipating for some time, the Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. It began so promising in a powerful manner, introducing extraordinarily satirical characters like Mike Fallopian, Manny Di Presso, Dr. Hilarius (the protagonists psychiatrist), but in the end, more like the middle, I was thoroughly dissatisfied. The final 5 pages did finally help shape the book as whole, but I found myself searching for links to its theme over and over throughout. It was frustrating, quite irrelevant more often than not. Perhaps this is because it’s dated, and I am only of the ripe age of 26, though this has never stopped me from enjoying a classic before; but perhaps it is merely because I had such high expectations, as I do of everyone and everything, and this resulted in a greater let down. Fortunately, at 147 pages, and not having packed another book, I finished it. I don’t recommend.
I think I will write a blog solely on book reviews and recommendations. Soon.
Back to Bangkok Dangerous. I sunburned my boobs (every time) and realized there is not enough lemongrass in my life. I found DAIRY QUEEN and a degree from the University of Ottawa for $30CAD. We stayed at the Rambuttri Inn on Soi Ram Buttri, a far more easy going and blasé soi than it’s renowned equivalent Khao San Road. 850 baht ($25CAD) / night for this rooftop. HIGHLY recommend.
180 baht ($5 CAD) for all of this.
That’s stir fried vegetables and tofu over brown rice with a spicy garlic sauce, a fresh mango smoothie, beers, water, and menthols (note the warning pictures on these menthols). Money goes a long, long way in Asia, so you’ve heard. I backpacked Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia for more than a month on less than $1000CAD (Vietnam soon!). Massages in SE Asia are a dime a dozen and drain you of about $5 for an hour for pleasure pains by a little Thai women whose bijou hands are her deadliest weapon. But MaiThai massages are cheap thrills not to be missed.
This was horrifying, particularly playing on my fear of fish. It does not hurt, only tickles. Not so much a massage as an exfoliant. Or a leech like attack. These inch to an inch and a half long ‘doctor’ fish are from Turkey and have a hunger for dead skin. My mom is going to tell me get a grip when she reads this, but I screamed, I SCREAMED, I couldn’t do it. The feeling of these sucker fish between your toes is that of a submersing your feet into just as many hissing cockroaches. So dramatique, I know. You don’t know how long it took to get me to stick my feet in just long enough for Audrey to take this photo. Fear factor.
The floating market was yet another overcrowded money snatching tourist attraction, in which I overheated to that of Bikram and bailed on for refuge in an air conditioned van for the remaining hour of the venture.
In place of birthday cake, I ate grasshoppers and chicken hearts. Becoming Taiwanese! Breakfasted on the big day in Bangkok, lunched mid air with Air Asia, dinnered in Taipei like the Japanese MY BIRTHDAY ON RICE SOCIETY, but the party was on Friday the 13th. Friends came and caroused with Nick Chaney and I as I turned 25 (for the second time) and Nick bid farewell to Taiwan (for the first time, they always come back) in hopes of happier tummies in New Zealand. We made dreams real and memories last in photos and in the heart.
Sometimes I reckon I am a comic simply because I only sleep on Sundays and power through the rest of the week high strung and delirious (speed talking is one of my skills). Or because I am extremely talented in impersonating forest animals. But really, my hilarity originates in the fact that the affairs I find myself engaging in in my everyday are hysterically amusing and would probably never happen in any other part of the world. At least once a day, many times more, things happen which make me mutter (and sometimes holler) ‘Only In Taiwan’.. or OIT as we’ve abbreviated (xie xie Will). If you live abroad, no doubt you can relate. Do not mistake these tales for ignorance, I am actually extremely cultured, but even so I am slightly naive, I have a rather short temper, and I make fun of unfortunate foreigner happenings. JUST FOR LAUGHS.
These cultural accounts, past, present, and future, will keep you amused with an array of easy readings and effortless laughs to brighten your day, whether it is snickering at me or chuckling with me, I promise to impress. I’ll update often.
Beneath the header, you’ll find ONLY IN TAIWAN, follow my narratives there.