Sunday, August 28, 2005

Passing rain

By 7422 427 2 4 4 32423

This is fiction, but the story is directly lifted from my friend Stu and what he actually saw (the story hit me very hard).

Although melodramatic, many of the themes in this story I I would keep, it has many of the motifs that I associate with life in Taiwan.

The wind catches the rain and moves it horizontally; it moves fast but looks slow, looks unreal. The rain pushes across, without beating, it gently shifts along the empty street. Taiwan pauses and Tainan watches from its insides. The city waits. I watch the floating rain, falling around buildings, past windows, and over lives.
I watch the rain from my balcony. It creates an enclave that holds the rain away. Tainan gets dirtier in the rain. The oppressive stench of rot that fills the sewers rises, and reaches higher. Now, the stench reaches the 8th floor, but I stood on the 9th, preserved from it.
This rain started with a lightning strike. Then it poured. It poured so hard it became more of a mist; the air became water. As the winds picks up, the rain never seems to hit the ground, just float along. The thunder gets worse.
People are still driving in the rain, cars making the same irrational decisions, but slower. Motorcyclists wearing bright yellow garbage bags, or blue, green, and yellow jumpsuits. Flashes of neon trying to stay up on the slick road.
Below my balcony is a one-way road. A car comes out of the parking garage under me, and turns against the legal flow of the street. Symmetrically, but faster, a motorcycle turns the corner about twenty feet away. He is wearing a blue rain suit and a small black helmet on a new scooter, his girlfriend is in a yellow garbage bag on the back.
Their tire sticks into one of the road’s ridges, and the bike quivers, about to fall as it finishes the corner. He corrects to the left. His tire leaves the ridge at once, causing a quick, unprepared acceleration. His bike leaves the ground for a second and then hydroplanes into the black car.
The driver's leg gets crush between the car's side and his bike; his girlfriend leaves the bike.
Her climb and her decent are more awkward than anything else, like throwing up a floppy plastic doll. It does not look poetic or dramatic, just peculuar. She lands on the car's roof, somewhat inexplicably.
She lies there as the scene freezes in the pouring rain. After a second, maybe two, the motorcyclist pushes back his bike back with his good foot. His bike is heavily scratched up, the car has a sizable dent where the motorcycle hit it, the roof is fine; the girl has not moved.
The driver of the car walks out, expressionless. I am nine floors away, and he is not expressionless because I am nine floors away. He just is expressionless, it’s simply the best word for it.
The motorcyclist and the car driver get out and talk. They seem upset as they speak, but it seems more like a passing annoyance or a difficult business deal than out right anger.
The car driver points to the dent. The motorcyclist points to the scratches, his leg, and his girlfriend. She shifts her head. The two go back and forth, pointing at their various loses. The car driver points at the corner, and makes a convex curve to show the motorcycle turning. The motorcyclist points the direction that the street went to show that the car was going the wrong way. Through their hands, its clear they reach a consensus that the fault and damage cancel each other out.
They carry the girlfriend off of the roof, and prop her up on the back of the motorcyclist. The pair drive away, with the girlfriend’s feet dangling from the bike. The car goes the way it was going, the motorcyclist, hopefully to a hospital. They never exchange cards; they just talked until there was an agreement. I walk back inside, and I write this.

Quick notes

Writing on a computer makes failure a bit more palatable. If my half written personal statements and blog entries were physically piled up, there would a good excuse for a bon fire, or perhaps, arson. I am moody and insecure lately. I am continually questioning everything I do.
I don’t think I am homesick, though that is involved. I lasted longer in Guadalajara, a lot longer. I think the issue is that there is so much silly drama here that it drives me crazy. There is so many things that hang me up for no reason, and then I get hung up on being hung up.
I am declaring war on my piles, and showing you what I am working on. To my audience, the lack of comments suck, I will step up my game if you step up yours. If you want posts, post that you want posts. This is a blog and not a book for a many reasons; we might as well use a blog’s capability for interaction. As a gesture of good faith, I put an attempt at fiction up.
Also, sorry for the non-sequitor, go out and hear Kanye West’s new album. It is not as good as they are saying, it is better. Its rare five stars from Rolling Stone are entirely justified. Just listen to it, this includes Mom and Dad – Miranda and Nick. Everyone that might read this blog. It is music, amazing music. It plays like a greatest hit collection from an excellent artist after a long running career, every song is just that good. If you are reluctant, just IM me. But you have to hear it. It is going to be mandatory listening some day, maybe not “Abbey Road” but at least my generation’s Abbey Road.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

More posting

There is a demand for more posts, so I am going to put more quick ones up. These will not be edited and will be far less literary (or attempted literary). I just want to actually tell you about some of the more interesting or funny day-to-day happenings here in Taiwan.

One, there are at least ten tea stands on my block. Not even the whole perimeter of the block, just the side in front of my apartment. I have my regular tea stand, but I have decided to explore more. So now, I am trying as many as possible. I did not even realize how many of them there are, I have even accidentally discovered a couple (some are hidden by food stands). I think I have tried six or so; the street is not even that big and I have plenty more to go. At each I order one of the tea staples here (nigh tsa is how I say it, and that usually works), which is milky Chai like thing. They are so good, but they can really range in quality, so it is a fair battle. Right now, one of the stands has a clear lead, with a nigh tsa that just about killed me with goodness.

Two, as I am writing this sentence, jets are passing overhead, four or five at least. They do that, low flying military jets. I am not the only foreigner who can't help but think it sends the wrong signal. I assume it is supposed to give the people here the impression that they are safe from China. However the people are not stupid. China has more jets by, lets say, a dozen, maybe even a touch more. So I would think that the daily fly bys would just seem kind of sad. Plus, who knows when those jets will actually be Chinese jets and not Taiwanese.

Third, telemarketers like to call me. They have adopted the technique of getting all the information out before you can say hello. So I pick up the phone and then a flood of Chinese flows over me. In normal conversation I can now catch a few words. However, the telemarketers are trying specifically to talk as fast as possible, so I get nothing. Then I usually say “I can't speak Chinese” or “Do you speak English” and then we laugh. That is basically it. So, next time you guys get a telemarketer, say you can't speak English, and you can laugh and laugh.

Four, I bought the camera. I realize it’s only been a few hours, and I did not wait for any responses, but I could not help it. I suddenly remembered being a little kid, looking at a camera half as good as the one in question for $3,000 wondering if I could ever afford a digital SLR. When I was 16 I bought my first digital camera at $616 give or take. The camera in question now is only $100 more and way better than the cameras I dreamt about as a kid.

I realize the extension of that logic, this camera will some day be $8 and not worth it. But by then, I will have moved on, however, in that time, I want to have moved. I love photography, and even if I can’t do it professionally, I can do it. The same goes for writing. A lack of excellence should not deter me, or even bother me. If that was the case, I would give up Chinese, as I will never become fluent without dedicating myself to it. However, I enjoy Chinese, I enjoy photography, and I enjoy writing, so I will try to do all three.

Quick blog post

This is much more blog than it is pretentious in comparison to most of my posts. However I have been "tagged" and I should do something about it.

Also, right now, I am debating buying a new digital camera. It is $750 and should be about $1,000, so it is a great deal. I really want a new digital camera, but I also need money to be getting ready for law school. I will take votes in the comments section, furthermore, the lack of comments has gotten out of hand (with the lovely exception of Melina). If you don't like a lack of posting, put it in there, peer pressure will get me moving and its good to feel read.

This is so blog, but I "got tagged by faraxk aka Miranda"

List ten things in a day that give you a moment of joy...then tag six of your friends (you don't have to do the last part, I will tag various people, but I don't want to be apart of a second generation of involuntary tags):

1 Talking to my mom and dad, both on the phone and in email. In the case of my dad, reading about him in news articles is also a joy of increasing frequency.

2 Talking to my friends, in Chingrish, in Spanglish, and in old fashioned English. Especially online (I like the written language more I guess)

3 Playing basketball.

4 A great date with a charming person.

5 Dancing.

6 Writing and photography (I group them together because I view them in a very similar fashion).

7 Saying something with even the slightest tinge of fluency in Chinese.

8 Helping students successfully produce something in class.

9 Reading blogs and books. One gives me a feeling of connectedness with those I know, one gives me a feeling of connectedness with those I want to know.

10 Thinking about what I am actually doing.

Tagging (again, you do not have to tag others unless you want to):
Old Math (Yeah, you heard me dad, you get a blog, you have blog responsibilities for a lil friendly spam)
jsn 3G (Jared)
javajake (Jake duh)
phototesting (Clark, even if I am the only one who is reading your blog now :))
probando, probando (Melina, this should be real easy for you with the casarandose going on).
jada_gaia (yeah J., lets see if you check this site)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Better writing through the NBA

The Mavs tried to take advantage of the situation. When the annual league revenue increases stopped and a luxury tax loomed, teams adjusted their financial profiles. To get under the tax threshold, they offered good players packaged with horrible contracts. We took them. We hoped the talent would get us a championship before the number of bad contracts we took on in trades caught up with us.
It didnt [sic] happen --Marc Cuban

And that is why I cannot write. That is why I can’t seem to update this blog. I have not written because I sound like Marc Cuban. Marc Cuban writes like this. And that annoys me. He is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, a team that I really enjoy. He seems like a nice enough fellow, but I think he is a dork when it comes to writing. And I write like him. Like that, short sentences mixed with long, to create a fake rhythm.
Then he has a pretentious paragraph.
His writing is choppy, and not good. What he writes about is fine enough, and it’s not bad either, but he could not be a professional writer. And I write like him. A lot like him actually. Very sadly, I want to write more like the writer of a web comic, Tycho at http://www.penny-arcade.com/. His prose always keeps me reading, even about the most boring topic. I never thought my life would reach a point where I am idealizing a comic writer.
So I will no longer write like Marc Cuban, starting with this sentence, so get used to long and confusing sentences. My days of trying to mimic a bad Hemmingway are over, periods will be denied, commas will be overused, mistakes will be made, and readers will stop reading. I have no style, and that will continue to be true, but the semblance of style that I do have, will be longer and even more contrived. Pretentious to the max, I may even get a thesaurus, or, a word a day calendar.
The second reason I have stopped writing is the same as what I spoke of after the rain. Everything is in flux, where a true writer shines, and I simply do not. I was watching the Daily Show (brought to me by my new internet), and Jon Stewart accredited a solider in Iraq’s gritty writing to him having written it during the war itself, rather than after the fact. I could not do something like that, I just feel like I am talking about nothing, because so many lines of thought, or belief, will just get chopped off.
“Does she really hate me?”
“Is she going to get fired?”
“What is the Chinese word for confused?”
At least half of those will remain unanswered, and knowing that, I don’t ask them. I mean, I would not want to leave a reader hanging or something. Instead, I wait until after everything gets answered, or not, and then I write about things that turned out to matter. However, I can’t leave something that might not be significant, I would be a terrible mystery writer.
Next, I have not put anything up because when I have the mood to write, I am dedicated to writing terrible personal statements. That is my new hobby, making as many bad, unreadable, unusable personal statements for law school as my tired fingers can churn out. By the time I send my personal statements, my delete key will be rounded down to a nub.
The problem is that I have psyched myself out, I often think that Stanford or Harvard should not let me in; and if I don’t believe that, how the hell will I make them believe that? Look Stanford, you can probably do better me. The next application will likely be a gay racial minority with a 175 LSAT, a 3.97 GPA, who is a firefighter, let that person in. In fact, let everyone in you would normally, and me. See, that would be really easy, you just admit 178 students + 1. It’s a good idea, because you get me, and I am cool? Right…Right…Stanford?... It feels like an awkward date, the personal statement is the only dinner conversation I get to try and attract a girl that may simply be out of my league.
The last reason I am not writing, there are too many things to write about. I have eight or nine documents of half written entries. Things that I simply have to write about but I just can’t put into words deserving of the situation. I have worked with the meanest person I have ever worked with. I am meeting all kinds of people. I am eating all kinds of things. But everything I write seems to patronize what I am writing about. The only thing I feel comfortable writing about is how bad my writing is. I will continue posting things, and trying to make my sentences longer, or something; and I will try to have a real post very soon.
I hope.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Very quick tech story

Very quick story:

The other day, me and my friend Stu went to the phone company to move his internet connection to my house. The way their system works is you can actually pass on an Internet connection to someone else, so we were doing that.

After a very long wait, we get up to move everything. We get a nice lady who clearly used to speak English butt has not used it in a very long time. At one point she needed a copy of my passport. However, my passport is with the Taiwanese government getting a green card.

We tried calling my work, but they apparently did not hold onto any of my information (this is why I can get so frustrated about school sometimes). They did not even have my passport number (they found it later, but after everything was resolved).

So the solution? I had my computer in my bag, which had a scan of my passport for when I was applying for jobs. I whipped out the computer, we saved the passport image on my friend Stu’s USB drive, and then printed it out on the phone company’s computer. We did this very fast. Not only did we get it printed out, but also the passport image was the size of an entire piece of paper. So not only do they get it, they REALLY got it.

And people ask me why I carry my computer with me wherever I go. Now you know.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Did someone say cute kids?






The graduation show is past, to everyones relief. Here are cute photos. I have more on a friend's camera.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Walking away from love

“I love you!” he shouted down the street.
A hesitant pause, “I love you too!” I shouted back, lying.
I didn’t really love him; I didn’t even know his name. But I did not want to leave him there, waiting, with his friends watching, embarrassed.
I knew why he loved me; he loved me because that was the only other thing he knew how to shout in English. The first thing, “Hello,” had been expended, and I don’t think he wanted the conversation to wane. Luckily, by the time I had confirmed my reciprocal love, I had continued walking far enough that we did not have an awkward silence after our most intimate moment.
I was coming back from getting food and tea. My favorite food stand makes sweetened deep fried food, and yes, it tastes as good as it sounds. With this, I bought lemonade and tried to flirt with the girl at the tea stand.
My Chinese flirting is pretty rudimentary, “I like your clothes;” I point at her Chingrish shirt, because I love Chingrish.
She says, “thank you.”
“What name is you?”
“Shou li”
“I ### Matt”
Blank stare.
“I am Matt.”
“Mas?”
“Matt”
“Mah…”
“Uhhh...is.” Is being what I keep saying for yes, because I am stupid in Chinese.
…”You ### here?” She points to the building where I live.
“Oh, is, is…I am in it.”
She asks, “you ### ###?”
“Ummm…I am a tea her.”
“What?”
“I am a tea her…”
Then it went downhill from there. I later realized, or think that I realized, that the mystery question was, “How old are you?”
This is actually one thing I like about Taiwan conversations. People will ask you anything, right from the start. I hate the western dance. I like being able to ask, “How old are you? What do you do? Do you have a boyfriend?”
This is one reason my language shortcomings anger me. The age question is my favorite because people get very excited when they find out how young I am. Most people guess my age around thirty. The highest was 35, the average is about 27 or so, and I think most people lower their guess to be flattering.
This sort of thing would be nice to communicate, but I just can’t do it. I can’t even seem to learn the verb “to learn.” How can I not learn the verb “to learn.” It is the one verb that I am always doing when I am speaking Chinese. “I am learning Chinese” is one of very few statements that I can make a hundred percent of the time that I am speaking Chinese, yet I can’t say it.
Equally disturbing, my friend Stu, who can speak decent Chinese (at least passable), does not know the word. He uses one of his many backward Chinese tricks, in this case, he would say, “I am being taught Chinese.”
Chinese just does not let you cheat. There are no cognates to lean on and your pronunciation has to be perfect. It would be like if English had nothing but words like “dot, done, dope, down…” If you mispronounce a word, it's a totally different word, not just an ugly version of what you mean.
A Chinese kid was trying to say the word “dark” to me the other day. He kept saying “ball.” He got frustrated that I did not understand that by “ball” he meant “dark.” His frustration is what I feel with virtually every word that people don’t understand, which is virtually every word I say.
In Spanish, I could force the words out, it sounded like I was spitting marbles at a gong, but the words got out. My grammar was great compared to my terrible accent I was a good student, just a bad speaker. I always felt sorry for anyone who had to listen to me, but at least people understood me.
With Chinese, I am not even a good student. I have the potential of forgetting any word, such as “Yes.” The only words I always remember are “this,” and that.” They are properly said as “Nagga” and “Jagga.” However, the Tainan accent makes it more of a “Nigga,” and “Jigga.” For the large contingent of my blog readership that are not Jay Z fans, Jigga is the nickname of one o one of the best, rappers to date. He has /many songs with the chorus filled with “Niggas,” and “Jiggas.” So now, every time I order this or that, I am thinking, “What’s my mother f--king name?”
“Jigga...”
Arguably the most peculiar part of my Chinese is that I am becoming more literate than conversational, something that should not really happen in Chinese. With some of my friends, I use more Chinese than English. I can’t actually write any characters, but I have learned to type them.
The worst part is interacting with the regular population. People often run from me. If I go up to pay for, waitresses will run and get the English speaker, even if I just want to give them money. The problem is that I can often not blame them. They have a prejudice assumption that I can’t speak Chinese, but it's a completely correct prejudice assumption. Other foreigners, who can speak Chinese, get mad when people insist on using poor English with them or clearly avoiding them.
Learning is very slow going; the biggest problem is that I have to speak English all day long. If I end up speaking Chinese in the day, there is a big problem on multiple levels. If I had the money, I would just stop teaching and become a full time student again; then I could declare war on the language. However, teaching is teaching me a lot, it just doesn’t happen to be Chinese.
I will learn more Chinese, but it is frustrating that I cannot meet people now. Sometimes, I feel very closed off from people. However, at least, drunk and stupid, I know that at least one person loves me in Taiwan.