Friday, December 31, 2004

That cold Taichung weather

I see that the Weather Channel "magnet" says it's 45 F right now, with winds at 15 mph (that must be in the city--up here on Dadushan, they almost picked me up off the ground). And yes, the wind chill is about 38.

SEA-EAT blog

It's quite possible you've seen this blog already, but if you haven't, The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami weblog provides information about Dec. 26's earthquake and tsunamis, and about related relief efforts and opportunities to help out.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

More and less interesting ways to use a "cheat sheet" during a supposedly memorized dialogue presentation

Had dialogue presentations in class today. (For the blissfully uninformed, this is where students write a dialogue, have me correct the grammar, memorize the corrected version, and present it in hopefully an entertaining fashion for their classmates who are themselves desperately trying to memorize their own dialogues before they have to present or who are relaxing after having presented their dialogues.) Noticed that some students (not all, not even most, I'm happy to say) felt the need to have the dialogue script nearby as they presented. Sometimes they actually used it (which resulted in my lowering their grade, since they were supposed to memorize the dialogue) and some, I think, just felt they needed to feel its aura near them as they presented.

Some students gave the script to someone sitting in the front row, so that person might hiss a key word at them if they forgot. Some students used the scripts as props, pretended they were newspapers or DMs (direct-mail advertising flyers). Some students propped the scripts up on the chalkboard, in full view of everyone (one pair was doing a good job of facing the audience when they spoke--except when they forgot what to day and had to turn around to look at their script). And one student spent a lot of time looking at her forearm--on which, as it turned out, her lines were written. It reminded me of a picture I once saw of the "cheating shirts" that civil examination candidates sometimes used to help them remember the Chinese classics. It also reminded me of the "cheat sheet" that I took to one of my comprehensive exams. We were allowed to bring in a "cheat sheet" so long as it was only one page (double-sided was OK). I managed to get my font size down to 7.5, with margins of 0.2 cm all around.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Christmas dance parties

The Christmas parties and dialogue presentations that are going on downstairs are competing with the Scholars Baroque Ensemble recording of Handel's Messiah that I'm playing in my office. I break out the CD every year around this time to try to get me into some sort of Christmas mood.

Every Christmas things get particularly noisy around here as a party atmosphere sets in. Our school is famous--or notorious--in these parts for a huge Christmas dance party that students hold every year. It's a loud monstrosity that backs up traffic on Taichung Harbor Road as students from all over the area ride their motor scooters to the school's gate and park along the road, covering the sidewalks with scooters. Then there's usually a rock band of some sort and a lot of screaming. I live about 5 or 10 minutes (by car) from the school and some Christmas Eves have heard the yelling and cheering from my house. I've always thought Christmas dance parties were kind of weird, and I've tried to explain my feeling to students in terms like "Would you go to a dance party held on Chinese New Year?" This usually gets responses like, "Oh no. That's a family holiday."

All crankiness aside (and the above is probably just an expression of crankiness that has little to do with the student Christmas party), I'm happy this year because my brother and sister-in-law are coming for Christmas. This will be the first Christmas I've had with my brother in 13 years and the first Christmas ever with my sister-in-law!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The former native speaker's kitchen self-destructs!

We were awakened this morning to a horrendous crashing sound. At first we thought our enemies were finally attacking us directly. (Yes, the former native speaker has enemies...) But no, the culprit turned out to be some worn-out screws that were holding our kitchen cabinet to the wall. What a disaster, though! Here are some pictures:




So we've got some shopping to do this weekend... *sigh*

Quotable quote

My brother, referring to his breakfast in Tainan this morning:
I liked one of the intestines better than the other.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Post-election news roundup

Just in case you weren't watching, the pan-blues (the KMT, New Party, and PFP) retained their majority in the Legislative Yuan yesterday, 114 to the pan-greens' (DPP and TSU) 101. I imagine this will result in continued gridlock in the legislature, as the pan-blues do their best to make Chen (and by extension, the DPP) look incompetent as a president. This, unless the two sides manage to overcome self-interest and actually try to work together.

The Taipei Times has an editorial arguing that the "low" turnout for the election (66%, they say, but the China Post says under 60%)* had to do with people becoming "sick and tired of politics". The editorial also argues that the strategy of allocating votes (basically asking the party faithful to vote for one pan-green candidate instead of another because the former is more likely to lose than the latter) hurt the pan-greens. These claims are in contrast to analysis from sources like the PRC and CNN that have attributed low turnout and the pan-green camp's loss to Chen's pro-independence stance.

*Note as of Dec. 14: Either I've got 老花 eyes or the Taipei Times has changed its turnout figure: it now reads as 59% on the website.

Friday, December 10, 2004

T.G.I. this particular F.

Tomorrow's election day. Today the parades have been following us wherever we go, shooting off firecrackers and generally just snarling traffic. Pre-election day news:

From Free-for-all marks penultimate day before elections (China Post):

One typical family — in Kaohsiung — has three generations each prepared to vote for as many parties.

A matriarch of the family, a staunch supporter of President Chen Shui-bian, will vote for whoever the Democratic Progressive Party wants her to vote and requires her two children to do as she tells them.

The grown-up children are Kuomintang supporters. They want to follow the opposition party's vote rationing directives and have been clashing with their mother at dinner table every evening over the last week.

Her grandchildren, three of them eligible to vote, want to stay at home on Election Day. They dare not tell their granny of their abstention plan, which, however, has been intimated to their grandpa, who is prepared to vote for the New Party.

From Chen says will back Guggenheim if Hu supports DPP candidates (Taiwan News):

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday urged Taichung City Mayor Jason Hu (­胡志強) to support the city's four pan-green legislative candidates, in exchange for his backing to push through the Guggenheim Museum project in a "green" Legislature.
[Sounds like bribery--or blackmail? to me...]

Can't wait till it's over...

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Reactions to Chen's name-changing proposals

Today's Taipei Times reports (and editorializes) on several reactions to Chen's proposals to change the names of de facto embassies and state-run organizations:

One thing that comes out of all this is that it's much clearer that the name change has more to do with sovereignty than with clarifying easily-confused names. (This, again, isn't a big surprise--I was purposely taking Chen's comments at face value in my previous note, but I don't think that's necessary anymore.) It's also quite clearly being discussed right now because of the legislative elections. I've seen at least one "green" representative say that those who don't approve of the change "don't love Taiwan." We'll see what happens to these ideas once the elections are over...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Naming Taiwan

(also the title of a paper I'm working on for a conference in April...)

In Chen Shui-bian's 2004 inaugural address (English version), and in at least one interview before that address, Chen explicitly raised the national identity issue--in the former, by the statement "regardless of whether an individual identifies with Taiwan or with the Republic of China, per se, a common destiny has bequeathed upon all of us the same parity and dignity" (不管是認同台灣或者認同中華民國,其實都是相同的歸屬). In the interview, he said:

For the 23 million people of Taiwan, whether our country is called Taiwan or the Republic of China, it doesn't change the fact that we are an independent, sovereign country. We are not a local government of another country.

In both of these statements, Chen raises the national identity issue (R.O.C. or Taiwan?) as a point of equivocation--while it is an issue that has never before been so explicity raised by a sitting R.O.C. president, it is also quickly waved away by the act of equating the two possible names or identities. This is a new version of the balancing act that Taiwan (or is it the R.O.C.?) has performed ever since it lost international recognition as a sovereign state.

Now Chen is proposing to change (or "rectify") the names of state corporations and government agencies so that they use the name "Taiwan" rather than "China." Chen claims that this would be done in order to reduce the confusion that results from the word "China" in the names of those organizations. He also implies that this is not the same thing as a formal name change.

To some extent he's probably right--people in other countries are probably not always aware that "China Airlines" is from Taiwan, or that "China Petroleum" is also a Taiwan(ese) firm. The word "China" or "Chinese" often gets applied to Taiwanese organizations and people more in ignorance of the geographic origins of those organizations or people than in recognition that the "China" or "Chinese" refers to the Republic of China (rather than the People's Republic). (Ask any Taiwanese student in the U.S. who gets labelled a Chinese student whether or not s/he wants that label.)

When it comes to the names of some of Taiwan's de-facto consulates, which usually include the name "Taipei" instead of "China," Chen could run into some trouble. If the main purpose of the change is to avoid confusion, rather than to press for a de facto "Republic of Taiwan," then it's not clear how calling the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (Taiwan's de facto embassy in the U.S.) the "Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office" will make any difference, since the word "China" isn't in the name right now. (I suppose if you want to go along with Vice-President Lu Hsiu-lien's argument that people might think TECRO doesn't represent Taichung or Kaohsiung, you could say a name change would reduce confusion. But I wonder if the confusion is as great as she implies, or if it's just her impression of the situation--as it was with the "UNFAIR" ad campaign.) At this point the name change comes close to an official name change.

When Chen Shui-bian was reelected in March (let's leave aside the controversies regarding the election), he won by a margin of about 30,000 votes, or less than half a percentage point. That's not much of a mandate. (Even Bush got more of a "mandate"--ugh.) Do these proposed name changes reflect the will of the people (the 23 million people of Taiwan that Chen often invokes in his speeches)? Since Chen's proposal is closely tied to the legislative elections that will be held on Saturday perhaps Saturday's results will tell us the answer.



[Update: May 15, 2005: The English quote from Chen that's at the top, about "parity and dignity" is obviously different from the Chinese version. In my paper, "Naming Taiwan," for the conference, I translated the Chinese version as "no matter whether one identifies with Taiwan or with the Republic of China, actually it's the same thing". It's a rough translation, but it's closer to the Chinese than the official translation.]

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Late season typhoon

Taiwan just got hit by typhoon Nanmadol, which is (according to the Taipei Times) the first December typhoon for Taiwan "in recorded history."

A few trees got knocked down around here, but today we have a beautiful clear sky. Other parts of the island weren't so lucky, though.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

End of November wrap-up

I've added a couple of goodies to the blog, including the Blogrolling-managed list of blogs and the Weather Channel weather magnet. For a while I was contemplating a move back to the Weather Underground one, but actually I like the appearance of the Weather Channel one better. Sorry for all the trouble, you folks at Wunderground! (But you shouldn't have gotten me worked up about the "CN" in the first place...)

Life has been ... interesting in other ways this month, but I won't be going into that for a while. (Reminds me of the "Human Bomb" episode of the old George Reeves Superman series--"No comment until the time limit is up!")

See you in December! (Some folks literally...)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Dubya the movie

You've probably seen this "trailer" for "Dubya the Movie", but I've got to make a link to it. It's just too perfect--especially the actor they've got playing him.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Response from Weather Underground!

I received a response from Weather Underground about my complaint! "They" wrote:

Thank you for the bug report! We're aware of the problem and we'relooking into it. We hope to have it fixed today.
A "bug"? Well, if you want to call it that... Anyway, here's the revised/original sticker:

Click for Taizhong, Taiwan Forecast

Or this one:

Click for Taizhong, Taiwan Forecast

But now I've got to decide whether I should put the sticker back in its old place or not...

Sunday, November 21, 2004

"Contesting Public Memories" conference

Syracuse University will be hosting a conference on public memories next year. Here's part of the call for proposals:
The "Contesting Public Memories" conference seeks to expand the broad interdisciplinary conversation about public memory. Conference organizers invite submissions focusing on the dynamic interplay between and around public memories. While the conference theme is designed to be broad and inclusive, our sense of the contention of public memories includes: efforts to resist, resurrect memories, or redefine memories, etc. This broad theme, in turn, is organized around three sub-themes: Places, Events, and Persons. Within these sub-themes, we envision topics ranging from theoretical to practical, and from global to local.
Proposals are due April 1, 2005. Wonder if anyone will be submitting proposals on 228? (See the National Archives exhibit [in Chinese]; see also George Kerr's book Formosa Betrayed, which describes 228 in detail.)

Adventures in gardening

Well, the edible amaranth (a.k.a. "Chinese spinach") that we planted a couple of weeks ago started sprouting last wek, and then a couple of days ago all the sprouts, with one accord, died. The coriander and the Chinse celery never even came out of the ground. And the cactus I bought from the landscape architecture students last year got some sort of fungus on it and died a few months ago. I think we have a feng shui problem (or maybe I'm just an incompetent gardener...)

Friday, November 19, 2004

The politics of weather goes underground...

You might have noticed that I've taken the "Taichung" (or "Taizhong") weather sticker off of this site. The other day I visited my site and found the letters "CN" after "Taizhong" on the sticker. I immediately removed the offending code and sent this e-mail to the folks who run the "Weather Underground" site:

I used to have a weather underground sticker for Taizhong, Taiwan on my website http://jonintaiwan.blogspot.com. Now I've taken it off because someone added "CN" or "China" to the sticker. Why in heaven's name did you have to politicize the WEATHER, of all things???

Jonathan Benda

We'll see how they respond...

Thursday, November 11, 2004

A note from an Ohio "Blue"

Eric Gardner, my long-time friend, fellow OU alumnus, and man of a thousand beard styles, sends this from Cleveland (I'm quoting with his permission):

Greetings!

Just a note of hello and reassurance. Even though Ohio went "red" (for Mr. Bush), there exist here a sizable (no, not all overweight, although too many of us are) minority of "blues" (and we are unrelated to the"Blues" and the "Talls," those extra-terrestrials purported to be living in our midst out in New Mexico).

In "Civil Disobedience," Henry David Thoreau reminds us that voting is much more about expediency than it is any sort of guarantee of determining correct moral or political action. He cautions us against weakly expressing our desire for virtuous outcomes by way of voting and instead implores us to "Cast [our] whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but [our] whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight."

"Blue" Ohioans will surely exert positive resistance to check any extremist or absurdist "red" policies--Thoreau's "counter friction to stop the machine" [of government]. We must continue to educate and inform ourselves to do so best. Let us begin each to resist positively in our own way. I have already shaved my mustache and am growing a Lincoln beard ("Mr. Bush, I knew Abraham Lincoln...and you're no Abraham Lincoln.").

I hope this note helps. I find it hard to speak for and defend the whole state of Ohio, but even at the risk of megalomania, felt I should say something.

Best,
Eric

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Faith and rhetoric in the U.S. election (and beyond)

E. J. Dionne, Jr. has made some important points about the language of faith in his recent Washington Post column (registration required):

What's required is a sustained and intellectually serious effort by religious moderates and progressives to insist that social justice and inclusion are "moral values" and that war and peace are "life issues."
Much to some intellectuals' dismay, a lot of people (Dionne, Ellen Goodman, and others) are suggesting that Democrats need to reach out to the people who voted for Bush because they felt he was a moral man and a man of God. As Goodman and others have said, we have to get beyond being embarrassed by words like "morals" and "faith" if we're going to persuade anyone that we have an agenda and values worth taking a look at.
One thing a lot of Democrats are thinking about these days is "what went wrong?" How did so many people go for Bush despite all the evidence that he had done a terrible job in his first term? How could they not have gotten Kerry's message? CNN.com quotes Representative Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota as remarking that "the Democratic party nationally is perceived as being out of step with mainstream values."

Chris Dykstra, writing on the New Patriot blog, addresses the need for Democrats (and liberals in general) to reframe their arguments in ways that ordinary Americans (the ones who voted for Bush) will understand and accept. He argues that one of the main reasons that Bush is back in the White House for another four years has to do with the way the Republicans have used language to try to evoke particular emotions in Americans:

Radical Legislation is gilded with emotional titles, such as "Patriot Act" for example, or "Clear Skies." The justification for war is simplified and reduced to words a child would understand and repeat. Why do they hate us? "They hate us for our freedom."

Dykstra uses such words as "propaganda" and "packaging" to describe what the Republicans have done (and what he thinks Democrats need to do), but what he's basically talking about is rhetoric. Although his article doesn't use the word "rhetoric" (at least not in any positive way), he's basically arguing for liberals to use the same strategies as the Republicans in order to gain a hearing by the people who voted for Bush last Tuesday.

This suggests that the Democrats need to go back to the Republicans' speeches and writings and identify those commonplaces that resonate with those who voted for Bush. They have to understand how the Republicans used those commonplaces to invent arguments justifying actions like going to war with Iraq and supplying Federal financial support of church-run organizations. Then the Democrats need to invent their own arguments based on the same commonplaces and use them repeatedly, consistently, and fearlessly. Dykstra gives an example:

Democrats must begin to use the language of faith. Even if our intent is secular, i.e. the separation of church and state, prayer in schools, etc. it must framed as a way to support faith. In other words, strong legislation prohibiting prayer in schools must be called the: Faith Protection Act. The argument would be that limiting prayer in schools protects all faiths from government control. We must proactively identify a progressive legislative agenda (separation of church and state) then sell it by framing it as a way to protect something conservatives cherish (faith) from something conservatives fear (government control).
The use of commonplaces might strike some liberals and intellectuals (and even rhetoricians?) as embarrassing--or even worse, lazy and possibly even ethically suspect. Richard Lanham has suggested that in modern times, rhetors are less likely to use commonplaces "because we no longer trust traditional wisdom, are far more interested in investigating the world anew" (170). We're much more comfortable with complexity because the world seems much more complex than the Republicans would lead us to believe. We don't trust appeals to emotion because we believe decisions should be made based on evidence and rational deliberation. As a group of people who claim to represent diversity (as opposed the Republicans, who are often accused of really representing only the rich and the Christian Right), liberals often seem to take an unnecessarily narrow view of the kinds of rhetorical approaches that we should use to forward our beliefs. But as Lanham reminds us, "[f]or an oral culture, ... commonplaces, like all formulas for thought, were where thought and utterance began, not just where they were conveniently parked" (170). This suggests to me that while we need to "simplify" by going back to the commonplaces, we needn't avoid complicating the simple. We need to work out strategies to appeal to the beliefs of at least some of the 51% who voted for Bush while at the same time pushing the envelope on what can be said.

(I notice that I've moved from referring to Democrats and liberals as "they" to "we." Oh well... I suppose that wouldn't be any surprise to anyone...)

Saturday, November 06, 2004

I just found out that Haloscan is holding the comments to my older posts hostage until I pay them US$12. I also see that Blogger has its own comments function, so I'm going to switch over to that and gradually get rid of the Haloscan comments by downloading them or something. So in the mean time, please click on the "Comments" link on the lower right hand side of posts you want to comment on. Thanks!

Update as of Nov. 13: As you can see, I've taken the Haloscan comments off of my blog. The comments that I could "save" have been copied to the "Blogger" comments section. Sorry for any inconvenience!

Friday, November 05, 2004

A note on English departments, applied and otherwise

Scott Sommers has a thoughtful post on his blog about the curiously named "Applied English" (or "Applied Language") departments that are popping up in universities around Taiwan. I want to add a few thoughts about this phenomenon and its disciplinary and administrative contexts. When I first heard of Applied English departments (Chaoyang University's was the first one I ever heard of), I had the impression that they were the "wave of the future" because they seemed to address some of the concerns I had about the relevance of the traditional English major to students' futures.

My perspective is that of a teacher in a more traditional English major program. One of the challenges facing traditional (literature-based) English programs in Taiwan (and abroad) is that of demonstrating their relevance to students' futures in the marketplace. As an advisor last year, I often heard students express concerns about whether their education would help them get a good job. They had the feeling that all the coursework they had to do in literary studies wasn't going to help them very much after they graduated. When I told them about Applied English programs, some of them seemed interested in the kind of curriculum I was describing to them--light on literary studies, heavier on language skills and business-related English training.

Traditional English majors, like (according to Scott) Applied English programs, are in large part a product of R.O.C. Ministry of Education policy. The curriculum of English or foreign language and literature departments in Taiwan was up until very recently mandated by the Ministry of Education. For years, the MOE had a pretty heavy load of required courses, including two years of British literature and one year of American literature. Individual schools could require more, but not less, than what the MOE mandated. The MOE-mandated English major was in large part a literature major.

When the MOE relaxed its hold on Taiwan's English departments, they were left with the task of figuring out for themselves what their educational mission was. Some programs are still trying to define their mission, in an age when prospective English majors are increasingly seeing little relation between the literature-heavy curriculum of the major's program and their future needs in the workplace.

Furthermore, as universities are pressured to professionalize by hiring more Ph.D.s and publishing more scholarly research, literature faculty in traditional English departments will probably find more and more of a gap between some of their teaching activities and their research activities. There are a number of ways in which this gap might be negotiated: some faculty will try to teach more courses that relate to their research (including offering more specialized courses in graduate programs); some might attempt to refocus their research to make it relevant to what they are teaching.

A third possibility is that the undergraduate English major will also have to professionalize along with the department as a whole. My department, for instance, recently passed a motion to require English majors to take more electives within the major than they previously had to take. One justification for this new rule is that undergraduates need to see their major as training for the profession of English studies rather than simply as training in language skills.

What effect this new rule will have on enrollments in the major is yet to be seen--even with the availability of major requirement information, many students still wander into the English major quite unaware of what they're getting themselves into and shocked at the amount of "impractical" content they need to study. This requirement is, however, an attempt to move the program in the direction of professional training, which seems to be "the trend" (as my students put it). There is also the potential for some redefinition of "English studies," as new courses might be added to the menu of electives students can take.

One colleague mentioned that this new approach (though it's not really that new, since it partially reinstates some of the courses that the MOE required years ago) indicates a change in the department from a "liberal education" ideal to a professional (or pre-professional) training mission. Interestingly, while the English major program at my school is developing a vision of professional training in terms of disciplinary training, the school's administration has recently raised the idea of creating an Applied English department in addition to the current major. Whether or not this will happen is anyone's guess at this point, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did.

[Add your conclusion here.]

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

"Record" voter turnout in U.S. election (?)

CNN.com reports a "record" voter turnout for Tuesday's U.S. presidential election: citing Curtis Gans of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, the article says: "Gans put the total turnout at nearly 120 million people. That represents just under 60 percent of eligible voters -- the highest percentage turnout since 1968, Gans said."

"Just under 60 percent of eligible voters"--it sticks in my throat. Why would there be such a low "record" turnout? Is it really possible that 40% of eligible voters didn't see enough of a difference between Bush and Kerry to bother going out to vote? Last Sunday's Washington Post Magazine has an article interviewing a nonvoter (registration required) that suggests as much. The election--and the government itself--seems a long way from the concerns of these people. Perhaps the problem of nonvoters has more to do with the choices than with the eligible voters themselves.

"Doom, despair, and agony on me..."

Everyone's reporting that Kerry conceded. The only site that hasn't confirmed it as of the time of this posting is the Kerry/Edwards official site. (Those poor saps are always the last to know... or at least the last to post...)

Anyway, how does the rest of the song go?

Deep dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all
Doom, despair, and agony on me...

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

A new rhetoric blog

The Blogora, "a public blogspace about rhetoric and rhetoricians sponsored by RSA [the Rhetoric Society of America] and hosted by the CWRL [the Computer Writing and Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin]" is a new space for discussion about rhetoric. It appears that there will be featured "bloggers-in-chief" who will run the discussion for a period of time.

Right now the discussion seems mainly about the political situation in the U.S. The posts are interesting and I'll probably continue to follow this blog, but I hope in the future the U.S.-centric focus will broaden out. (An example of this is that the category for posts about the U.S. presidential election is simply called "The Election.")

"Blogora" is a reference, by the way, to the "agora", which, according to the Columbia Encyclopedia, was
in ancient Greece, the public square or marketplace of a city. In early Greek history the agora was primarily used as a place for public assembly; later it functioned mainly as a center of commerce.
The agora is often used metaphorically (?) to describe the Internet.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A change of heart

After viewing the Yes, Bush Can website, I've had a change of heart. It was the Fact Check page that really convinced me. Locked up here in my ivory tower, I wasn't aware of all the ridiculous things that were being said about our CEO President.

Unfortunately, it's too late because I already sent in my absentee ballot, but I hope that my dear misled readers (and if they're reading this blog, they must have been misled) will see the light after a trip to the Yes, Bush Can site.

Although I cannot correct the terrible mistake I made, I am considering taking the Patriot Pledge as a kind of penance. I'll also be passing the "Smokey the Log" petition around the office very soon.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The "Plagiarism" responses

I've posted a few of the responses to the questions about the "Plagiarism" chapter on my Research Methods site. I have to admit I was a little surprised that most of the students expressed agreement with Gibaldi's moralistic language regarding plagiarism. Maybe I should have told them they were allowed to question him...?

Monday, October 04, 2004

Update on Research Methods class

I mentioned in an earlier note that my Research Methods class was focusing on "plagiarism, copyright, and intellectual property" this semester. Here's what has happened so far.

We had a holiday last week so the Research Methods class couldn't meet. In the mean time I noticed 2 news articles that showed up on CNN's website that related to plagiarism: one about a playwright accused of plagiarizing from a book and a magazine article, and another about a Harvard professor who admitted plagiarizing from another book. I also noticed that if you do a full-text search for "plagiarism" or "plagiaris*" in an online encyclopedia like the Columbia Encyclopedia at Bartleby.com or the encyclopedias in the Grolier collection, you'll often get a lot of results that relate to literary authors who were accused of plagiarism. Wonder what that means...

I'm assigning my students the second chapter of the new (6th) edition of the MLA Handbook. The chapter is about (surprise!) plagiarism. It's quite a hoot in places... Here are the questions the students are supposed to answer about the chapter.
  1. Why do you think Gibaldi has this as the second chapter in the book?
  2. What words seem to you to be the strongest (or "key") words in this chapter? In other words, which words stand out the most to you? Why?
  3. Knowing that the author is writing with students like you as the audience, how do you think he wants to make you feel about plagiarism?
  4. How do you feel after reading this chapter?
  5. What questions do you have about plagiarism after reading this chapter?
If I get any really interesting responses, I'll post them.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

More revisionist history-journalism

Not to be outdone by the China Post (see my earlier note), the Taipei Times declared Sun Yat-sen "Taiwan's founding father" in an article in today's paper.

More on the moribund state of democracy in the U.S.

The Christian Science Monitor has an article about the persecution of anti-Bush protestors. I mentioned in an earlier post how Glenn Hiller of Hedgesville, WV got fired from his job after asking Bush some tough questions at a rally. The Monitor describes another incident in West Virginia, where two anti-Bush protestors were arrested for "wearing T-shirts with anti-Bush slogans" and "refusing to relocate to an area for protesters" at a July 4 rally. According to the Monitor,
At Bush campaign stops, attendees sometimes must sign a loyalty pledge, and staffers screen those who would ask the president questions.
Doesn't sound too different from what usually happens across the Strait from me...

In other news from West Virginia, AP reporter Ron Fournier quotes Allan Ramsey, "a 67-year-old retiree" from Hedgesville who said he was "disappointed in the president's performance" in the debate and thinks he found "reasons to maybe vote for Kerry" after listening to what Kerry had to say in the debate. Let's see... Ramsay can't lose his job, since he's a retiree, so I guess Bush will have to figure out some way to arrest him...

Friday, October 01, 2004

"I wake up every day thinking about how best to protect America. That's my job." GWB

Hopefully not for long...

"I sit down with the world leaders, uh... frequently..." GWB

From listening to the debate on NPR (via the Internet), I'd say Kerry did do better than Bush, despite the rules that hamstrung him (rules that Bush broke on one occasion, according to an AFP report by Stephen Collinson). I don't know if this qualifies him as "better than Cicero," but he definitely sounded more presidential than Bush.

Transcript of first debate (NPR)

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Guess Bush won't be visiting Crawford as often in the future

The Lone Star Iconoclast, a Crawford, Texas, newspaper, has endorsed John Kerry for president. I don't know much about the Iconoclast, but it doesn't seem like a left-wing paper (not that that would be a problem for me...). In the editorial, the publishers write that they "endorsed Bush four years ago" and supported the invasion of Iraq. But now they seem to regret those earlier positions and recognize that Bush's leadership (in the U.S. and abroad) is fundamentally flawed. As they put it,

What has evolved from the virtual go-it-alone conquest of Iraq is more gruesome than a stain on a White House intern's dress. America's reputation and influence in the world has diminished, leaving us with brute force as our most persuasive voice.
They endorse Kerry because they believe he "can navigate our country back to prosperity and re-instill in America the dignity she so craves and deserves."

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

At least my cellular service is OK

I got a free mountain bike for resubscribing for cellular service. My bike came today. It's a Merida 218 DX--a model that you can't find anywhere on their website, probably because they're embarrassed by it. It looks like Merida makes some pretty good bikes (even some nice looking real road bikes). But this thing is as heavy as an SUV and looks like it was welded together by a 13 year-old in shop class. Well, I guess you get what you pay for. I'm just glad none of my old cycling pals live in Taiwan.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Google's news service in China doesn't give the whole story

As mentioned on CNN's website, Google has bowed to pressure from the Chinese government and doesn't include results from news sites that are censored by the PRC. Simon Thomas from The Epoch Times, one of the online papers banned by China, has commented on this turn of events. As he puts it,
Many in the U.S., both in government and in the corporate world have the idea that if we do business with a corrupt government, then we'll reform them.

It hasn't worked out that way in China. It seems the opposite happens, and the government corrupts you.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Don't know much about history?

A China Post article from yesterday that describes the rally against arms purchases includes this slightly confusing sentence:
The demonstrators included many retired generals and veterans who personally took part in the war against invading Japanese to liberate Taiwan and the following civil war against Chinese communists.
Did I miss something? Which army fought against the Japanese "to liberate Taiwan"? Is this sloppy reporting or the China Post's attempt, in some weird way, to "nativize" by randomly replacing the word "China" with "Taiwan" in their news reports?
Of chocolate mooncakes

It's that time of year when we're bombarded (OK, that's too strong a word) with mooncakes. The mother of one of my wife's students even made her own mooncakes this year! Knowing that I'm a foreigner with a sweet tooth, she concocted the first cross-cultural chocolate mooncake that I have ever tasted.



Good stuff! Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
John Kerry is "better than Cicero", says leading Republican strategist

Time magazine has an article about how Bush and Kerry are preparing for their debates. The Republicans are trying hard to "even" the playing field between the two candidates and to lower people's expectations about what Bush will be able to do in the debates:
Bush's chief strategist, Matthew Dowd, says he knows Kerry's record and is not spinning when he describes the challenger as "the best debater ever to run for President" and even "better than Cicero."
Of course, Dowd knows that if Kerry can't live up to that kind of praise (and how can he, given how the 32-page debate agreement has hamstrung his speaking style?), Bush will get the better post-debate "bounce".
Dr. Pepper binge, anyone?

The Wellcome (the way they spell that store's name always drives me nuts) nearby got in a welcome shipment of Dr. Pepper a couple of weeks ago. I've never been a frequent visitor to the import stores here in Taichung. I guess I'm too busy and they're too far away. So it was nice to see cans of my favorite soft drink available, no matter how temporarily. Judging from what usually happens with imports like macaroni & cheese and Grape-Nuts, I suspect the store won't be getting Dr. Pepper on a regular basis. *Sigh* (I have a plan, though. I'm currently binging on it so much that by the time Wellcome is no longer carrying it I'll already be sick of it, so it won't matter.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

I've been 'unblogged' recently because the semester will be starting soon here. (Yikes! It's going to start on Monday!) I'll be teaching Freshman English for Nonmajors again (for the first time in 11 years), a section of Research Methods (I've taught all 4 sections, for the entire sophomore class of English majors, for the last two years--I needed a rest!), and a section of Intercultural Communication.

I've been working mostly on redesigning my Research Methods syllabus. We're going to focus as a class this semester on the topic of "plagiarism, copyright, and intellectual property." I'm going to be putting myself in the interesting position of encouraging students to examine critically the history and politics of plagiarism while at the same time trying to teach them not to plagiarize. We'll also be looking critically at the issue of international copyright, but at the same time I'll be requiring them to buy the textbook (no photocopying allowed). We'll see how that works out... I'll try to provide progress reports if anything interesting is happening.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

So what do you think?

This is one of the ads that the government is circulating around New York to press for Taiwan's entry into the United Nations:



Vice President Lu Hsiu-lien thinks New Yorkers might get confused by the ad (although she evidently hasn't asked anyone there). She says that people might believe the government is saying that the UN is being fair to Taiwan.

I don't think the ad is as confusing as she thinks. After all, there is no space between "UN" and "FAIR" to make people believe these are different words. Furthermore, why would Taiwan's government initiate an advertising campaign to tell people that everything is OK? (Hmmm... Maybe the PRC can put out some ads doing that. I can see the copy: "UN FAIR...") One of the Taiwanese stations interviewed some New Yorkers on the street and none of them seemed to be confused about the meaning of the ad.

What do my readers--particularly those who study visual communication/visual rhetoric--think? (Do I have any readers who study this???)
International Conference on Cross-Cultural Communication CFP

Was e-mailed a call for papers for the abovementioned conference, to be held July 6-8, 2005 in Taipei. The conference's theme is "Modernization, Globalization and Cross-Cultural Communication." Here's the conference website.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

End of August notes

An Olympic moment:
  • A belated "Hooray" for the ROC/Taiwan/Chinese-Taipei (whatever you want to call it, as long as you don't call it China) Olympic team. Taiwan got its first gold medals ever--two of 'em! Congratulations to Chen Shih Hsin and Chen Mu Yen of the Taekwondo team!
  • I'm still waiting for China to claim credit for those gold medals, or press the Olympic Committee to retract them, or...

And on another note:
  • Does anyone know how I can find a copy of a book titled Arts, Literature, Philosophy in Taiwan, by John Deeney, S.J., and Jean Lefeuvre, S.J.? The publication information I have on it is "Hsinchu, 1968," which suggests Fu Jen University, but their library catalog doesn't list it.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Hmmm... maybe democracy is dead after all...

News from the folks back home: A couple of weeks ago, Emperor Bush II spoke to some of his subjects at Hedgesville High School in West Virginia. A man named Glenn Hiller was there and called out some "pointed questions" to Bush about Iraq. Hiller was fired the next morning from his job at Octavo Designs in Frederick, MD. I found an article about this situation here. According to the article, Octava got some tickets to the speech from a client and the client was "embarrassed and offended" by Hiller's actions. Hmmm... I'm embarrassed and offended by Bush's actions--does that mean I can fire him?

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Notes on the weather and diabetic dogs

So far it doesn't seem like Typhoon Rananim is going to have much of an effect around here. It looks like it'll be affecting the north more. We did have pretty heavy rains last night, though; my wife and I were driving home from the vet, where we left our dog Mei-mei so she could get her kidneys inspected. Mei-mei has had diabetes for the last 6 months or so (*sniff*) and we were worried that her kidneys might have some problems recently. (The good news, as of today, is that her kidneys are OK.)

I have some "pre-diabetic" pics of Mei-mei up here (they'll open in a new window). She has lost a lot of weight since she got sick--went from 38 kg to 18 in just a few months. But her spirits are high, despite having to get insulin shots every day and despite losing her eyesight to cataracts (and developing glaucoma). She's taught us a lot about dealing with adversity, though. I guess that's her purpose in life right now.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Last night I finished reading The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, and I must admit I haven't yet figured out what Isabel Archer is going to do (or has done) at the end of the novel. I think I need to reread the last portion of the book a little more closely.

What I really find interesting--disturbing, actually--is that my first reaction upon finishing the novel and experiencing confusion about the ending was to say to myself, "I guess I'll have to surf the Web tomorrow to see what interpretations people have about the ending." Even more horrifying was my second thought: "Wonder if they've made a movie of this?" (I see they have.)

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

In praise of Taichung's DMW

We foreigners often like to complain about things in Taiwan--I do this a lot, negatively comparing institutions here with those in the U.S. But one government organization that I've never had any reason to complain about is the local Department of Motor Vehicles. Every time I go there to get my license renewed (now it's every two years due to new regulations [hmm... that sounds like the prelude to a complaint, but I'll let it go]), it takes me less than five minutes to get in, pay my NT$200 renewal fee, and get my new license. Compare that with the time I've spend in DMVs in West Virginia, Ohio, and New York--in those places, sometimes you end up waiting in line for hours even when there's no one in front of you!

The staff at the Taichung DMV on "Big Stomach Mountain" (大肚山) have never snarled at me, either, like some of the folks in U.S. DMVs have when I've interrupted their reveries to renew a license or otherwise make them do work. Back when I got my Taiwan license (in 1993), they even let me take a different color-blindness test after I failed the first one (couldn't see the numbers among all those little colored dots). For the second test, I just had to identify whether a light was red, green, or yellow--a much more practical test, in my view. (Don't let it frighten you that there's a color-blind driver on the streets of Taichung. From what I can tell, I'm not the only one.)

So say what you want about Taiwan's bureaucracy--I know of at least one place where things are going right.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Our water's back!

We finally had running water yesterday; I found out last night that they were able to lift the water gate (it was in about 120 meters of water). It was nice to be able to take a real shower after all those days...

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Taichung Stinks!

But it's not our fault...

In Taichung many of us have gone for over 5 days without running water (since the morning of July 6). Seems the dam that supplies most of Taichung's water (at "Carp Lake" 鯉魚潭) has had problems with a water gate that was damaged by flooding. But supposedly we'll have water tomorrow... or Monday... or Tuesday...


At any rate, this news doesn't seem that important to the Taipei Times or the Taiwan News, as far as I can tell.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Long Vacation

OK, so I've been on a long vacation from the blog. A lot has been going on, though.

  • I sent a draft of the first chapter of my dissertation to my advisor (a dissertation that has been moribund for close to two years). She sent back a lot of great feedback that I haven't done anything about yet.
  • I collected and read through about 100 student research paper drafts. Now they're handing in the final drafts and I have to grade them and turn in all my grades before June 28! (HELP!!!) No more teaching 4 sections of Research Methods for me...
  • Other things have been getting in the way of my blogging, but I'm not at liberty to discuss them right now. But I will talk about them soon... (Yeah, I know--you're thinking this is just a cheap way of getting you to check back more often...)

Back to grading now...

Monday, May 10, 2004

Teacher evaluations go e-hua

My school is now promoting its new use of an online teacher evaluation process. As of this semester, students will no longer be required to fill out evaluation cards in class; they'll go on the school's web (in their own time) to register their opinions about the class. I predict a large drop in the percentage of student responses and a rise in the percentage of extreme responses ("strongly agree" and "strongly disagree").

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Had my health exam yesterday at Ch'eng Ch'ing Hospital. They took my NT$1100, photocopied my passport, took my height and weight, checked my eyesight (is the "E" facing up? down? to the right? to the left?), took my blood, asked me some questions (Do you have any chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.? Are you allergic to any medications? Have you ever had an operation?), took a chest x-ray, and I was on my way in less than 5 minutes.

One of my colleagues speculated that this is all a racket to appease the doctors and hospitals who have been complaining for years about how National Health Insurance has taken away their profits. So maybe we're seen as a cash cow for the Taiwanese medical industry. Turnabout's fair play, I suppose: Taiwanese are often viewed as a cash cow by U.S. university administrators. (Gives a whole new twist on the concept of people from other cultures as "the Udder.")

Friday, April 30, 2004

BIGGER SIZE BRAND-NAME SHOES

was the headline on the small card placed in my office mailbox. The card went on to ask if I were "[l]ooking for bigger size brand-name shoes?" and told me where I could find some. It appears these cards were given only to the foreign teachers.

I don't know whether to feel insulted or grateful. Maybe I'll check out their website.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Talk about bad timing...

So this morning I'm talking to the secretary about the health examination form that she had given us and pointing out that it doesn't include a lab test for syphilis (one of the three required exams for foreign teachers, along with TB and HIV). So she calls the Labor Affairs Council to check with them about whether or not we needed a syphilis test and why it isn't on the exam form. I'm standing there next to her, health exam form in hand, and she's on the phone talking about this and talking about "梅毒" (mei du, syphilis) this and "梅毒" (mei du) that and in the middle of it all, a work-study student who's in one of my classes comes in to the office to deliver the mail. This is how rumors get started...

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Getting my ---- together

Well, we're back to square one here, stool-wise. The secretary in my department made some phone calls and determined that the online form that I linked to below (in paragraph 3) is outdated and the current form requires the stool sample and leprosy test. So I've got my "Chang's Feces Examination Apparatus for parasite ova conc and O.B" [sic] and I'm ready to make my contribution. Excuse me while I find the latest copy of the China Post--I'm always moved by that paper...

Update: Now after calling the authorities again, our secretary got yet another answer: we don't need the stool sample and the online form I linked to below is the correct one. When she asked why they'd told her before that the stool sample was necessary, our secretary got the response: "Who told you that?"

I'm afraid to suggest that the curtain is now going down on this little water-closet drama...

Friday, April 16, 2004

More stool news

Well, this blog is becoming very ... ummm ... excrementally focused... Sorry about that. (Perhaps I should change its title to "Jonathan Benda's Excremental Vision.") But I want to add that I have found some laws related to the health examination issue for foreign university teachers (and other foreign professional workers).

I checked some information on the website of the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training (行政院勞工委員會職業訓練局) which has the information about the hiring of foreign professional workers (外國專業人員). That site has a health examination form that appears to be for workers of our... ahem... class (?). That is, there appears to be a different health examination form for foreign professionals.

The information about health examinations for foreign professionals is located here. The laws that specify who's who under the labor law (specifically, which category of foreign workers university teachers fall under) is located here.

These are in Chinese legalese, though, so I'm still not sure even after slogging through this stuff. People with better Chinese (legalese) reading skills than I, please look through this information and let us know if my suspicions are correct. It's possible that I'm misreading all of this, so please someone doublecheck for me.

Thanks again to Scott for spurring me on to do a little checking!
More on the health examination mentioned below

You might notice that the health examination form I linked to below doesn't actually mention a stool sample or leprosy examination. Scott Sommers says in his response to my post that his school didn't mention those tests. I'm currently checking with my school about this--it's possible we received an old examination form. More on this later...

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Foreign university English teachers as foreign labor

While I wasn't paying attention, the status of foreign university teachers in Taiwan changed slightly. We found out the other day that instead of getting our work permits through the Ministry of Education, we will now have to apply through the Council of Labor Affairs. We are classified as "foreign professional workers" (外國專業人員) according to the information on the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training (行政院勞工委員會職業訓練局) website. This puts us in a category with "sports coaches and athletes," seafarers, full-time foreign cram school teachers, etc. (See "FAQ for hiring foreign professional workers".)

Unlike other foreign workers (domestics, caretakers, construction and factory laborers), foreign professional workers don't appear to have a limitation on the duration of their employment. Other foreign workers can work in Taiwan for up to 2 years before their employers must apply for an extension--the total amount of time they can work in Taiwan can't exceed 6 years. (See "Rights and Obligations of Foreign Workers").

Like other foreign workers, however, foreign professional workers need to get a health examination as part of the application process. This also seems to apply even to university teachers who have been here for several years already. The health examination includes a medical history, a physical examination, and laboratory examinations for HIV, tuberculosis, a stool examination for parasites, and a check-up for leprosy. It's easy to feel rather offended by such examinations for a couple of reasons: 1) most of us have never had to go through this before in Taiwan; 2) those of us who are university teachers don't tend to think of ourselves as possible carriers of HIV, TB, parasites, and the like. However, I wonder if, related to this second reason, our response doesn't grow out of a class-based and, for many of us, race- or ethnicity-based sense of our identities as white-collar workers who come from "developed" nations. I've complained myself about this whole process, partly because being required to take an examination that implies I might have parasites offends against my sense of myself as a "clean" person. (Ignoring the question of where has my sense of myself as "clean" come from? Has it not come at least partly from my identity as a middle-class white Euro-American?)

The MOE-operated work permit system of the past allowed foreign university English teachers to identify ourselves as different in kind as well as in degree from foreign laborers. Now that we have to operate under some of the same rules as other foreign workers, the class- and race-based differences that underlie our identities (and our reactions to this change in administration) might become more pronounced. On the other hand, the new situation might also allow us to identify more with other foreign residents of Taiwan.

Note: Scott Sommers, whose blog I've mentioned before, has started a lively discussion on the concept of foreign English teachers (in Asia) as "economic migrants." One of the issues that Kerim Friedman raised in response to some of Scott's comments had to do with the race and class of Westerners 'migrating' to Asia to teach English (see "Migrants" on Kerim's blog). I'd be interested to hear how the status change I'm discussing above might affect, if not the economic status, the self-identity of university-level English teachers in Taiwan. As I understand it (correct me if I'm wrong), (legal) foreign English teachers in cram schools have always gotten their work permits through the Council of Labor Affairs. As Scott mentions (somewhere), there's often a lack of identification (and even some level of suspicion) between foreigners who teach in cram schools and those who teach in universities. Now that we're all--to some extent--in the same boat, there seems to be one less feature of our professional lives that distinguishes us.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

CNN Online once again misinforms the public about Taiwan


The end of an article by CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott announcing the resignation of the "[t]op U.S. Taiwan official" mentions the aftermath of the presidential election and referendum, concluding, "A referendum that accompanied the election on whether Taiwan should declare independence failed to pass." This statement marks a new low in CNN's sloppy coverage of Taiwan.

Update (9 April 2004): The article on the CNN website has been revised. The abovementioned quote has been removed and replaced with three paragraphs describing the referendum questions and the fact that less than 50 percent of eligible voters voted on the referenda. (I should note that after posting the message of 8 April, I sent some feedback to CNN Online regarding the article. Thanks to Chris Benda for pointing the revision out to me, though!)

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Bush's America


Paul Krugman has a great column that showed up on the Op-Ed pages of Thursday's Taipei Times: "Bush's America becomes a byword for deception, abuse of power", describing how the Bush administration "responds to anyone who reveals inconvenient facts ... with a campaign of character assassination." People are finally beginning to see the light...

Friday, April 02, 2004

More on the Washington Post interview


Yesterday's Taipei Times contained an article claiming that the writer of the Washington Post article that I mentioned below apologized for misinterpreting Chen's statements. The way in which the alleged apology has been communicated to the public is quite suspicious, though. The Times cites "[a]n official of the Presidential Office who wished not to be named" as saying that Philip Pan said he was sorry for misrepresenting Chen's comments. Why would the official want to remain anonymous? Why hasn't the Washington Post printed a retraction, or at least a correction, of Pan's article? And why does Pan (and David Hoffman) continue to do his smoke-and-mirrors act in an April 1 article that in paragraph 5 links the new constitution to Chen's campaign pledges about relations with the mainland and in paragraph 13 cites Chen's argument that the constitutional reform plan has nothing to do with mainland relations?

Here are the two paragraphs in question, from the article entitled "China Denounces Taiwan's Leader, Rejects Call for Talks":


First, paragraph five:
Chen said in an interview with The Washington Post this week that he had won a mandate despite his victory by only 0.2 percent of the vote and refused to back down from any of his campaign positions on relations with mainland China, including his pledge to write a new constitution and implement it by 2008.

And paragraph thirteen:
Chen also argued that his proposal to write a new constitution had nothing to do with Taiwan's independence and was instead aimed at deepening democratic reform and improving governance in Taiwan, by reducing the size of the legislature, for example. [This paragraph is followed by China's rejection of Chen's comments and the PRC's accusation that Chen isn't sincere about cross-strait peace.]

Now I would like to see Pan's previous article retracted or corrected, but I don't think my wishful thinking is enough to make it happen. And I'm wondering who is really served by Pan's "secret" apology to Chen. It certainly hasn't changed anything about how the Post is covering the situation in Taiwan.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Chen's Washington Post interview

Chen Shui-bian's recent interview (registration required) with the Washington Post has been misinterpreted by both the Post and CNN Online. Both news services interpret Chen's comments as "press[ing] for independence" (CNN) or "press[ing] ahead with an aggressive agenda to develop Taiwan as an 'independent, sovereign country' despite the risk of war with China" (Post article by Philip Pan and David Hoffman). CNN Online begins its story (almost wrote "sortie") with the following mis-lead:
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Chen Shui-bian says he has been given a mandate to press for Taiwan's independence from China despite a razor-thin margin in his hotly-disputed re-election.


Chen has vowed to proceed with plans to write a new constitution, developing Taiwan as an "independent, sovereign country" despite the risk of war with China, he said in an interview with the Washington Post.

Actually, in the interview transcript, Chen said nothing of the sort. In fact, when discussing the new constitution that he wants to develop, he specifically said, "It is not a timetable for independence or any attempt to change our status quo." He later stressed,
These issues [legislative reform, protection of human rights, possible adoption of a three-branch government, and other issues related to constitutional reform] do not have any bearing on the independence or unification issue, nor will the constitutional reform effort violate our "five no's" commitment and pledge.

The Post cites this statement in its article on the interview, but buries it down in the seventh paragraph, after characterizing Chen's agenda as "agressive" and his remarks as "defiant." (The Post also summarizes this idea rather than quoting Chen directly; they thus "water down" the strength of his statement.) The CNN Online article, written in part by Mike Chinoy (who is often perceived here as pro-Beijing), doesn't mention the above quotation at all.


The phrase "independent, sovereign country" that the Post and CNN have jumped on in order to raise alarms about Chen comes from a statement he made in response to a question about China's "one China" principle. Chen argued that the one China principle is not settled from the perspective of the people of Taiwan because the PRC's "One China" can only refer to the PRC itself, and Taiwan is not part of the PRC. Chen continued, saying that
For the 23 million people of Taiwan, whether our country is called Taiwan or the Republic of China, it doesn't change the fact that we are an independent, sovereign country. We are not a local government of another country.


So this is the status quo. We want to maintain this kind of status quo. We certainly don't want Taiwan's current status quo to be changed unilaterally.


I believe Taiwan or the Republic of China is an independent, sovereign country. Even Mr. Lien and Mr. Soong in this campaign did not dare deny it. They don't dare say we are not a country. I think we have reached an internal consensus that insists on Taiwan being an independent, sovereign country. I think only Beijing cannot accept the fact that the Republic of China or Taiwan is an independent country.

As Chen notes, Lien and Soong have also spoken of the ROC as a sovereign country. After all, they were also running for president of the ROC, not for the position of a local leader of the "Taiwan Province." In the PRC newspapers, "President" is often put in scare quotes when applied to leaders of Taiwan, and some of the US papers (including the Post) imitate China's use of the term "Taiwan leader" (so much for independent thinking). But in Taiwan, we don't put "President" in quotation marks, and whatever disagreements people have over Taiwan's identity, the ROC isn't viewed as just a period in mainland history that ended in 1949. (At least not for the same reasons that the PRC views the ROC as an historical period!)


Now, it is possible for people to quibble with Chen's equivocal use of "Taiwan" and "the Republic of China" when naming the country. Certainly the PRC (and perhaps the pan-blues here) will make an issue out of Chen's slipping in and out of calling the ROC "Taiwan" (or is it calling Taiwan "the ROC"?). It appears Chen himself has raised the issue of what Taiwan/the ROC should be called, through paralepsis, the act of emphasizing something by seeming to quickly pass over it. He seems to dismiss the idea that there's any difference in what the country is called ("whether our country is called Taiwan or the Republic of China"), but by rejecting the difference a name makes, raises the name as an issue.

China has not yet responded to the "naming" issue, but the People's Daily has already responded to Chen's interview in their their best Darth Vader voice: "We have taken notice of Chen's remarks. ... We believe that the massive Taiwanese compatriots have also learned about it." (Makes you wonder who those "massive Taiwanese compatriots" are--are they the folks who go to McDonald's too much?)

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Disclaimer: I should probably make the obvious (?) statement here that the views expressed on this blog are in no way meant to be representative of the opinions of Tunghai University, the FLLD, my wife, my officemate, or my dog (although she hides behind an innocent grin, in her mind she explores the mysteries of the universe). This blog also does not represent the views of anyone else who has ever had any physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and/or virtual contact with me. (I'll check with my lawyer friends to make sure this is enough of a disclaimer--updates as necessary.)

Saturday, March 27, 2004

I've been meaning to mention the blog that Scott Sommers, up the road a piece in Taipei, is maintaining about the political situation here. Being in Taipei, he has more access to what's going on, including the opportunity to spend some time at Saturday's demonstration.

Scott's also got some interesting posts on language policy and the role(s) of English in Taiwan, two topics of interest (to me, anyway!).
Chen's press conference, the 327 demonstration, and 口號

While I was out with some friends this evening, it seems Chen Shui-bian had a press conference in response to a big demonstration by the pan-blues today. CNN's article about the press conference and protest summarizes some of what Chen said but doesn't describe Chen's anger about accusations that he faked the assassination attempt. The article also doesn't mention that the pan-blue protesters numbered about 500,000 (according to the estimates I've seen) and the speakers included former DPP members like Sisy Chen (陳文茜) and Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), as well as 80s rock star Luo Da-you (羅大佑). From what I saw on TV, the demonstration was mostly peaceful, which I was happy to see considering the potential for violence.

I'd like to collect some of the slogans (口號) that have been used during the protest--both English and Chinese ones. I was especially curious about the English sign that was shown behind the speakers at today's demonstration: "Democracy is Dead." The protesters today also carried placards symbolizing the death of democracy. (This image is from an article in the People's Daily of the PRC!) I'm wondering if this slogan has its roots in the antiwar protests in the U.S. (see this image as an example) or if it has been circulating in Taiwan for longer than that. It was evidently also used by protesters against the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Kungliao back in 2001. I'm interested in the "circulation" of this slogan in international contexts--how it has been used, both seriously and ironically, in various statements, protests, etc. I did a Google search and find it has been used a lot in reference to the US war on Iraq; an earlier use comes from a 1995 news release by a pro-gun group regarding gun legislation in Canada. If you find any earlier references, let me know...

Primary and secondary rhetoric and the study of ancient Chinese rhetoric


Thanks to a citation by John Logan in the winter 2004 Rhetoric Society Quarterly, I'm finally getting around to reading George A. Kennedy's Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times. Logan cites Kennedy's book as an example (and an influential one, at that) of "the increasingly dominant understanding of the Fifth Century BCE as a predominantly oral culture" and of rhetoric as primarily an oral practice (quotation from Logan's abstract). Kennedy divides rhetoric into "primary rhetoric" and "secondary rhetoric". He described primary rhetoric as follows:

Primary rhetoric is the conception of rhetoric as held by the Greeks when the art was, as they put it, "invented" in the fifth century B.C. Rhetoric was "primarily" an art of persuasion; it was primarily used in civic life; it was primarily oral. Primary rhetoric involves an act of enunciation on a specific occasion; in itself it has no text, though subsequently an enunciation can be treated as a text. (4)

Kennedy describes "secondary rhetoric" as
the apparatus of rhetorical techniques clustering around discourse or art forms when those techniques are not being used for their primary oral purpose. In secondary rhetoric the speech act is not of central importance; that role is taken over by the text. The most frequent manifestations of secondary rhetoric are commonplaces, figures of speech and thought, and tropes in elaborate writing. (5)

I'm excited about this because I've been trying to understand the focus that Xing Lu puts on oral rhetoric in her 1998 Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B.C.E.: A Comparison with Classical Greek Rhetoric. Lu, in fact, explicitly rejects commentaries or criticism of written Chinese rhetoric early on in her book, arguing that such studies
are limited in ... their interest in written language at the expense of oral speech. Consequently, such studies offer useful information on Chinese language and stylistic writing but fail to identify theories of rhetoric and communication and to offer specific explanations of the cultural and philosophical orientation[s] that affect rhetorical practice. (27)

Lu doesn't cite Kennedy at this point in her book, but that might not be surprising because of the great influence of Kennedy's book on the study of classical rhetoric in the field of speech communication. It appears, then, that Kennedy's division of primary and secondary rhetorics has jumped from discussions of Greek rhetoric to Lu's study of Chinese rhetoric. I'm currently speculating on how appropriate this jump is. My preliminary conclusion is that it isn't entirely defensible.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Just noticed an article in the China Post that reminds those of us in Taiwan that China is watching closely what's going on here--and enjoying what they see. The longer this situation goes on, the more China can point to it and tell the people of Hong Kong that democracy equals chaos.


From what I noticed this morning, the Chinese TV news (on TTV) wasn't wall-to-wall election crisis--they were covering some other things, too. But I haven't had a chance to watch the news today. Too busy!

Sunday, March 21, 2004

The China Post, usually a pro-KMT paper, has an editorial today that suggests that the people of Taiwan need to accept the fact that Chen and Lu won. Although it contains a few suspicious sentences (for example, "The people were shocked by what appeared to be an assassination attempt on the president and the vice president" [my emphasis]), it generally does what Lien/Soong refuse to do: concedes the election.
Last night more news came out that I didn't get a chance to mention. For one thing, the difference between Lien's and Chen's votes was less than 30,000. The number of invalid ballots was over 300,000. So maybe a recount isn't a bad idea.


The Taipei Times has one of their over-the-top editorials about the KMT/PFP reaction to the election. It includes the following gem:
Let us be frank: Today's pan-blues are yesterday's bunch of vicious, thieving, fascistic thugs who raped and looted Taiwan for half a century. They have been trying to give the impression that they are reformed, that they are democrats to the core and during the election campaign we at least tried to believe that this was so, even if we though[t] their policies stank. But last night they reve[a]led themselves in their true colors.
While I agree that the history of the KMT (including Soong Chu-yu's own activities) is pretty bad, this editorial sounds a little too inflammatory to me. But maybe that's the point. The Times has a history of using such language and the editors drag it out whenever there's a conflict between the greens (DPP/TSU) and the blues (KMT/PFP).


I've also seen some disturbing images on the TV news, however, of pan-blue supporters rioting (I can't think of a better word for it) in Taichung, Kaohsiung, and other places. So the Taipei Times' opinion that the pan-blue protest is encouraging violence might not be far from the truth. The kind of response to this situation that went on last night and has continued into today has not been discouraged enough by the pan-blue camp, although Taichung mayor Jason Hu did attempt to calm people down early this morning after they'd trashed the courthouse. Lien Chan and James Soong's "sit-in" (ironically called 靜坐 jing zuo, originally referring to silent meditation, in Chinese) seems to have encouraged a lot of protests that are anything but peaceful. They need to act--and speak--more responsibly if they want to avoid being accused of inciting unrest.


If you're wondering if I'm pro-pan-blue or pro-pan-green, well, I guess I'm moving to being neither at this point. (Actually, I'm color-blind, so that makes me more objective! ;-) ) Maybe we'll be able to figure out my politics as we go along here.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

We live in interesting times in Taiwan. As I walked out of my apartment this evening to buy some tea, all the TVs in earshot were tuned to a speech given by Lien Chan, telling his supporters that he will call for an annulment of the election results. The pro-KMT China Post newspaper in Taiwan has an article up on its website about Lien's speech, and I imagine if this issue isn't settled before the May 20 inauguration, most of the beginning of Chen's second term will be concerned with whether or not yesterday's assassination attempt was real or not. (The preceding link is to a CNN.com article about Lien's call for a recount.) The pro-DPP paper The Taipei Times also has an article up about this situation.


I'm not going to say what I think about whether the assassination attempt on Chen was real or faked. Political theater, on the one hand, has been part of the DPP's toolbox for a long time. On the other hand, assassination and murder have been part of the KMT's toolbox for a longer time. (So far no one in public has accused the KMT of attempting to kill Chen, I should add.) But this whole situation--especially Lien's call for a nullification of the vote--can contribute to quite a bit of instability in Taiwan in the next few weeks.


CNN has Mike Chinoy on right now (about 9:10 p.m. local time), who is trying to analyze this situation. Chinoy says that a senior DPP advisor told him that Lien's language might incite violence. Chinoy calls this "uncharted and potentially dangerous territory."


So far the people in my apartment building and around my neighborhood seem to be glued to their TVs and relatively quiet. By now the firecrackers that were being set off by the local DPP office nearby on Chong-De Road are mostly quiet. The election commission is on TV now declaring Chen the winner. There was 80% turnout in this election. The head of the commission is saying that the committee is not aware of the details of Lien's demand. "There are certain procedures that need to be followed," he says. We'll see what happens tomorrow...?