It’s Friday again, and there’s nothing to be done about it.

Betelnutblogger kicked off the week with this post on Taiwan’s Jack Problem.

When I first arrived in Taiwan, I thought these ubiquitous concrete structures lining the coasts, shaped like jacks, were to deter the impending invasion of the island. H.L. Mencken’s account of a train ride through Pennsylvania came to mind: such aesthetic destruction of that which is by default beautiful can only be ascribed to a willful inclination toward that which is unsightly and dispiriting - “a libido for the ugly.”

It’s called pork. When the smoke cleared after a shower of pork barrel funds landed on the Penghu, the islands had more ports than the main island of Taiwan. Taiwan basically runs on outflows of funding for construction, similar to Japan’s construction-industrial state, which means essentially outflows of funding for concrete.

Betelnutblogger also has the skinny on Wendell Wilkie, Soong Meiling, and a girl’s love of power:

An interesting review of a book on Wendell Willkie in the New York Times. It sounds like a book well worth the read, but what I was looking for was a reference to this incident treated at length in Jonathan Fenby’s Chiang Kai-shek bio. Chiang’s wife had clearly married him for power, but the limits of Chiang’s usefulness were becoming apparent in 1940, and she was clearly looking to move on an even more central stage . Willkie’s loss to Roosevelt was clearly a tremendous disappointment to her. It is often said of the three Soong sisters that one loved money, one loved China, and one loved power. Meiling certainly played her part. In New York, later that year, Meiling met with Willkie’s man Cowles again:

I looooovvveeee gossip.

Kerim had some amusing and insightful maunderings on the history of the Oompa-loompas:

After spending some time worrying about the exploitation of Oompa-Loompa labor, I was happy to learn about efforts on their behalf. These incldue: PETOL (People for the Ethical Treatment of Oompa Loompas), and the Chocolate Manifesto. It is from the latter that I learned to appreciate the counter-hegemonic nature of the Oompa-Loompa songs.

Kerim observes that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a parody of the chocolate factories that destroyed the mom-and-pop confectioners Roald Dahl knew as a kid. That seems true of the book, but in the original movie, the object being parodied is Christianity, with the factory as Heaven, and Wonka as God.

The Taiwan Troll had a very rational letter in the Taipei Times.


I was angered by what I perceive as a lack of respect for real teachers. I studied to become a teacher, as opposed to taking a four to six week TESOL course. The notion that just anyone can do what I do is upsetting to me. And so I felt the need to write.


More power to ya! But the lack of respect is country-wide. Since anybody does teach English, the idea has grown up that anyone can — so nobody respects English teachers. Go get your PHD and work in a college! Then you can earn the same amount of disrespect on far fewer hours.

Mutant Frog, who ranges over topics Asian with a sure hand, offers this tie-in to a thread on Starbucks rip-offs.

Seeing this Boingboing post on international Starbucks knockoffs prompted me to post the photos I took at the famous Taiwanese Starbucks knockoff, ‘Starbugs.’

But do they serve coffee? Read and find out.

The Gentle Rant writes on escape:


Here we are for now, the New Taiwanese; simply the latest wave of escape artists to find this island, escaping political oppression, and correctness, high taxes, cold weather, or poverty. We should be safe until the next wave of change sweeps through here. Resistance is futile.


Now I am trying to escape off the island….

Jason Wright fisks China’s claims to Taiwan:

Just in time for the beginning of the final stretch of the baseball season, Xinhua lobs a nice big juicy one over the plate:

“‘Taiwan is part of China’ backed by international law”


Hehehe. Poor Xinhua. Don’t miss this chilling post on a father who hid his daughter, a coma victim who had revived, so he could collect payments on her from the government.

Pinyin News blogs Ma’s victory in the KMT elections as a victory for Pinyin, and gives a little background.


Most advocates of Tongyong Pinyin, which Taiwan’s central government has adopted but not made mandatory throughout the country, like to tout the made-in-Taiwan aspect of their system. This is simply another way to oppose China. And perhaps the KMT of today, with its relatively cozy good relations with Beijing, would indeed generally favor Hanyu Pinyin. But it’s important to remember that the KMT in the past opposed Hanyu Pinyin…..


I always enjoy blogs with dedication to a single topic, because they are so informative.

Cameraeye blogs on phone scams.

Phone scams are very common here. I’m not sure how people fall for the trap anymore, since everyone knows about them. In fact, I’ve had several Taiwanese people freak out on me because they thought I was a telephone scam artist.


And don’t miss the great pics.

MeiZhongTai and I a while back had discussed a potential Taiwan-China conflict, and I had commented on the high level of control exercised over drills in Taiwan society. On Thursday MZT blogged on the scripting of drills among Taiwan’s armed forces.


Some have argued that the event should be called the Han Kuang Demonstration because much of the exercise is scripted or at least partially planned in advance. The ROC military, however, would counter that the event is not scripted but rather based on the ‘most probable course of action’ by Communist forces. What that means is that other smaller exercises are less scripted, such as the Joint (San-Jun) Exercise, but these larger joint exercises are designed to represent one specific technique that the PLA might use.


Scary. It recalls the famous incident in which the Japanese gamed the attack on Midway during the planning stages. They lost several carriers. The umpire declared that impossible and refloated them. Alas, real life was not so kind to them. Naruwan Formosa, inspired by news reports of Chen’s criticism of the KMT over the weapons purchases, logs on the topic of Taiwan’s military readiness as well.

David at jujuflop once again critiques the KMT’s clumsy party organization:


So, the ~1 million KMT members vote for party delegates who vote for the Central Committee members who then vote for the Standing Committee, who then try to agree with the chairman (separately voted for by the KMT members) on policy which they pass on to KMT legislators (voted for in national elections) and try and convince them to implement it. Does this sound like an efficient process, or a hangover from one-party rule?


I’ll take door number 2 on that one, David. It’s a good illustration of how so many of Taiwan’s procedural and organizational arrangements are holdovers from the authoritarian days, and still in need of cleaning up.

Shorts: Scott Sommers is looking for volunteer teachers for aboriginal summer camp. I missed Mesheel’s post full of awesome pics of storm damage from the typhoon. Popcorn & Green Tea celebrate the first issue of their new newspaper about Hualien. Go Ryan & Iris! Several of us have read the latest installment of the Harry Potter saga, and Brian reviews it here. A great book that I enjoyed very much.

Have a great weekend!