Comedy at The Hammer

Local personality, Gary Patterson.

Gary Patterson is involved in the English-speaking comedy scene here in Taipei. Over the past few decades, Patterson and other comedic rovers have been making the rounds, meeting at venues to crack wise and laugh it up. I met up with the comedian for a chat. I wanted to know why he does this. That is covered below. Patterson also filled me in on the history of stand-up in Taipei. He talked about what they had to go through in the early years, when Taiwan was still under martial law (1949-1987). The assertion of Taiwan's constitution and, in particular, freedom of speech, breathed energy into the movement in nineties. I will cover that part of our talk in a future post.

Patterson and other rovers will be at The Hammer, www.thehammertaiwan.com, Monday night (April 20).


Me: You have been in Taiwan for a long time. What brought you here?
Patterson: I met my wife in college at KU. She is from Taiwan.

Me: Do you see yourself sticking around? If so, why? What would be some of the factors for you just packing it up and leaving Taiwan?
Patterson: I'd only stick around Taiwan if I started a business that I really enjoyed and had fun running and managing with local employees. I'd pack up and leave Taiwan ASAP if there was another intelligent job overseas.

Me: You have been active on the comedy front. What brings you to do it? Why do you persist in doing comedy in Taiwan?
Patterson: I used to live in Longtan (龍潭) with my in-laws and that got old after about three years. I love doing comedy. It was a great way to get away from my in-laws and family, and just have fun for myself. It is a form of therapy for most of us, including me. I had a rough childhood and adulthood.

Me: You are obviously motivated to do comedy. What inspires you to create an evening of comedy at The Hammer? Why are you interested in organizing this at a local venue?
Patterson: The Hammer is a special bar where us expats are able to feel like we are at home for a few hours while we get out our frustrations, love, and tell stories.

Me: Is it hard to round up comedians?
Patterson: It is very easy to round up comedians here in Taipei.  There used to be a very organized group of comics named ROCT (Republic of Comedy Taiwan); however, most of the event managers got busy with other work and the local cheese ball government was trying to crack down on people doing performances without the proper work permit(s). Even though we don't pay any one, we can only use people with APRCs and marriage ARCs, and local IDs of course.

Me: What are things you respect in your peers?
Patterson: I admire every one for whatever they love to do and if they find real meaning and happiness in it. There is nothing wrong with what we do in this lifetime. We are all connected and find our own path(s) sooner or later.

Me: What gives you grief in rounding up comedians for a show?
Patterson: I wouldn't call it grief, but sometimes you get the comics that go over their scheduled time, or are too drunk to perform professionally. I'm guilty of this too, but we all learn from our mistakes. Well, most of us do. I know I did. 

Me: You must have some misgivings about what's happening on the local comedic scene. What are they and how do you deal with them?
Patterson: It is just the local jealous people seeing us expats do something fun. We don't worry about the money. Actually, I haven't had to deal with anything bad yet, but I have a plan and I will execute it when needed.

Me: What pisses you off in terms of comedic themes? Do you ever think "This guy is full of shit?"
Patterson: Come on. Every one is full of shit to some extent. It is just a way of hiding feelings, or getting needed attention from peers. Yes, I do think that many people are full of shit, but we are all guilty of this, so this is an even playing field for comics and people in general.

Me: Besides getting laughs and being the center of attention in an act, what else brings satisfaction in doing this?
Patterson: I was always a funny guy around my friends and knew some day I could do this professionally. I used to teach way too much. With my smoked meat business, I rarely have time for myself and my family. My family doesn't really understand me at times, but I'm not perfect either. I married too young and often have thoughts of leaving and starting over.

Me: When you are performing, what do you do if you feel an act isn't working? Do you simply proceed or do you change gears?
Patterson: Yes, I do switch gears, but most of my comedic routines are just out of my head and I feed off the audience cues and movements.

Me: Is there a joke or idea you have heard too much on the circuit?
Patterson: No. It all comes down to being just a joke or idea. 

Me: I just have a comment. Then I want to do a Q & A quickie. Foreigners have said they are uncomfortable with other foreigners misbehaving in Taiwan. They say it reflects upon all foreigners. In other words, the bad behavior of people they have never met somehow still reflects on them. I may come from a similar culture or have the same skin color as one of these troublemakers, but that does not mean I have to be included in a tribe. I was talking to a comedian. He was preparing his act on this theme. I felt like popping this idea inside our chat.
Patterson: OK. Sure.

Me: Which comedian has had the most impact on you?
Patterson: There have been many, but Ralphie May has been my favorite. I saw him live in Kansas City one time when I owned my own tea house in Lawrence, Kansas.

Me: What is the funniest movie you have ever seen?
Patterson: Rush Hour.

Me: Who is the most daring comic you have seen?
Patterson: Bob Saget. The comic that played the father in "Full House."

Me: Have you ever caught the popular Yonghe (永和) comedians, Chris R 'n' R and Mattie www.? They have a two-man show called "It's Not an Act. It's Just Us."
Patterson: Not yet.

Me: Short Fuse?
Patterson: Some people think he's too coarse and loud -- too bombastic when it comes to politics, especially Thai politics. I don't agree. I think he's very good at improv. He doesn't reside in Taipei now. That's too bad.

Me: Thanks Gary for your time. We will catch up with you soon.
Patterson: My pleasure.


Check out Gary's meat smoking business, KC BBQ Taiwan, at http://goo.gl/ujqQKl. Special thanks to JTH for his work on the film production. JTH filmed our chat, which lasted for a couple hours. 


Movie Night at the Museum

Chris is showing Marathon Man, starring Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, Roy Schneider, this Thursday (Jan. 15) at the museum: http://goo.gl/dnM2lU   I've been attending these screenings regularly because he keeps coming up with interesting viewing choices. I like sitting in the big gallery among all those paintings and watching a movie on the big screen. Plus it's free.

We've already seen Klute, Wild Strawberries, Magnolias and Badlands among others. I'll put a link up to Jeremy Olivier's (who is by coincidence a distant relative of Laurence Olivier) write up of Badlands, which he did after that showing. Jeremy's piece speaks to the idea that something good is coming out of the movie nights -- they are not just an excuse to drink. On that note, Chris will have NT$100 sangrias and NT$300 corned beef and cabbage plates available. http://goo.gl/wgH4FF

Things will get under way at around 7:30.


She Is Feeling Nostalgic

An ad for Popeye pens. There isn't a date, but the Japanese writing probably places it from 1929 to 1945. The pens were availabe at Huashanting, an area just east of the Taipei Train Station. This is the first time I have heard the "ting" / 町 stuck on the end with this specific area. It is pretty normal to do this with Ximenting (西門町) however. I am also guessing the 樺 is the old spelling for 華. The name change would have occurred some time after the KMT invasion (late 1940s), when those clowns were running around trying to sinicize the island.


Art at The Hammer

The Stories of Our Feathered Friends, by Austin D. Brigman

We have been running an art exhibit at The Hammer. I had been meaning to do something along these lines ever since we opened two years ago, but always seemed to get distracted by day-to-day issues of the place. I talked to Austin Brigman, one of the two artists featured, about some of his concepts. Austin is from Wisconsin, but now makes his home in the Little Ireland neighborhood of Yong He (永和), a suburb south of Taipei.


Me: What originally brought you to art? Or can you even remember?
Austin: I think I was drawing as soon as I could hold a pencil. There have always been things I could see in my mind that I couldn’t find in the world. I’m compelled to give these ideas a life of their own.

Me: Sorry, it's a boring and repetitive question, but what are you doing in Taiwan?
Austin: Teaching English, making art, learning Chinese, attempting to be an adult.

Me: Has Taiwan influenced you in how you proceed? If so, could you explain?
Austin: Of course. The scenery is amazing. I find the mountains and plant life as well as the urban jungle to be very inspirational. Living in a new country is very influential in itself. A lot of familiar elements are missing from my life and their absence causes a great deal of personal reflection. Not to mention all the new and exciting things I’m learning to adjust to.

Me: Who has in general influenced you? I mean both famous individuals and on a more personal level in terms of your art?
Austin: The list of my “heavy weight” influences begins with Van Gogh, Picasso, and Duchamp. My modern day influences include Greg “Craola” Simkins, Anthony Lister, and Burne Hogarth, among many others. I am also affected by the natural world (animals, plants, geology, weather, etc.).

Me: You have, just going over your catalog, shown an interest in the collage? I'm not saying this is all you do. But why are you into this genre?
Austin: Collage was a happy accident for me. I fell into it when I was working on my BFA at UW-River Falls. I was trying my hand at water color/marker/ink illustration. It was and is incredibly frustrating! I would work on a piece for hours, only for a single mistake to render it ruined. In a moment of frustration, I started cutting and ripping out drawings I enjoyed from various failed pieces. Slathering paint on them, fusing different elements together. I went a little crazy, but it felt right. It was a natural reaction to what I had seen as a constricting medium.

Me: What is your goal? Where are you moving / want to be moving in terms of your art?
Austin: I would love to make art that I’m more satisfied with than not. I still have a lot of work ahead of me. I’m looking to incorporate more realistic elements into my work (landscapes, figures, etc). I think my style is suitable for children’s stories. I really enjoyed reading books when I was young and seeing the great art that accompanied the stories. I want to give back and inspire young artists.

Me: OK then. What is something you find off putting about art right now?
Austin: I don’t need to see anymore mediocre fan art based on Zelda, Bioshock, V for Vendetta, League of Legends, The Last of Us, Star Wars, Portal, etc. Fan art needs to be really, really good to be acceptable. Otherwise it’s just piggy-backing off of someone else’s creativity.

Me: What encourages you generally and specifically in the art scene right now?
Austin: There are a lot of great street artists influencing people in public spaces. I think it’s important for people to have creative exercise, even if that only means responding to another person’s work.

Me: Any plans for the near future?
Austin: I have a few ideas for children’s stories that I would like to attempt. A vacation sounds nice too.

OK, speed round...
Me: What is the best color for painting?
Austin: There’s a color between robin’s egg blue and turquoise that I can’t get enough of.

Me: What is a topic you won't touch?
Austin: Horses.

Me: How much time do you paint on a weekly basis?
This varies quite a bit. Some days I won’t paint at all. Others I’ll paint for three to four hours. There’s a lot of ebb and flow.

Me: When are you the most productive?
Austin: I work best at night (11pm to 2am).

Me: OK. I can't think of anything else at the moment. Thanks.
Austin: Sure.

Austin at The Hammer


Craft Beer Catching on in Taiwan

We have our first Taiwan-based craft beer via the 23 Brewing Company at our The Hammer restaurant. It's called #1 Pale Ale. I mean to come back with a post about what we've been up to recently, and hopefully to more consistent blogging once the World Cup of soccer is over. It has been a bit of a hiatus I admit, and I admit missing contributing to Taiwan-related commentary. Talk to you soon. I have been trying to keep up at Facebook; I haven't stayed on top of things in the past year: goo.gl/MCSwaA


Chinese Spare Ribs

There has been response to my wife's recent FB post: "Self defense is the natural reaction to protect yourself if someone attack or intimidate you. I think that is the right way to fight back and face the problems, not just let it go or  swallow the the bully. I am glad you guys, truly friends, around me and to count on with. There is no word to express how grateful and thankful to what you guys did today. The bravery and justice is really touching e when I saw through my eyes..."

Okay, for starters, she actually has FB friends who are attacking her English. English isn't her first language. Those that are attacking live in Taiwan and are native speakers of English. If they were to pony up in Chinese, my wife would not take the same tact. I know that. She would simply read the comments and try to add to the dialogue in a polite way, as she is a polite person. She would not mock them as they mock her.

I am going to talk about what went down. A customer entered our restaurant last night. He had been drinking beer and spirits. He informed us that he wanted wine because he had gout, and couldn't take any more beer. A couple of bottles of vino later, he was on his way to Frankie's Pie Bar. Around twenty minutes later, he re-entered our fold. He was not a happy customer now. In fact, he was smashing down his fist on our bar and demanding justice from Frankie who, it seemed, had simply gotten tired of his tiresome behavior and given him the boot.

I was too busy to really pay attention. I did talk to him about chilling, and said if he had a problem with another outfit, why not bring it up there. Then I went about my business. About ten minutes later, he was on his back on the floor, kicking his feet around. Why? Because he had tried to slap an off-duty cop and had had his ass handed to him.

I don't really have a problem with this individual. He showed up two times tonight to apologize. He is stressed I will ban him from our establishment, but that won't happen just yet. He's just on thin ice; his appearance today can't hurt him in solidifying his position. People can be evil when they drink; it is as simple as that. 

Our restaurant is for people to relax. Leave the other stuff at the door.


The Scubar Opens Shop in Fulong, Taiwan

My friend Nigel is opening a restaurant / scuba diving shop in Fulong (福隆) this coming weekend. Festivities will get under way at noon, March 15. There is more information at his Facebook page: http://goo.gl/Yp5x0S

Besides being an obviously creative chef and qualified dive instructor, Nigel is also an engaging fellow. He has many stories to tell about his travels and is never short on anecdotes or advice.

I have written about Fulong before because I see it as one of the best beaches in Taiwan: http://goo.gl/awZ3nJ. The Scubar should only add to its charm.


Money Laundering in Taiwan

I plan to get back to blogging soon. At the moment, I am interested in cotton imports through Tamsui, Taiwan in the late 1870s and early 1880s. This is what the British Consul, Mr. T. Watters, writes on March 6, 1882: "Of the foreign imports, it is mainly in cotton goods and pig lead that there is an increase." Watters goes into detail later on, in the same report: "The Customs Returns do not distinguish between English and American cotton goods, and so it is not possible to write with confidence as to whether the import of British cotton goods has increased. Nor has any distinction of name made by the retailers and consumers. But I have been informed, on very good authority, that American cotton goods are fast becoming popular here, and that importation of them has grown quickly."

I was looking into technological advances that might explain advantageous progress on the part of the American cotton industry during the late part of the nineteenth century. But then it occurred to me: wouldn't the Brits have had access to the same developments? There is an interesting discussion in the Report on Cotton Production in the United States, written by Eugene W. Hilgard, Ph.D., in the service of the US Census Office in 1881, on how the alluvial flood plains created by the Mississippi River, specifically how the river has provided both minerals and irrigation to the region over the years, make the eastern states of the Deep South ideal for cultivation. I will get back to this at a later time as there is a lot of reading to do.


Something happened to me recently that was a bit of head-shaker. I have discussed it with a few friends and they don't know what to make of it either. It started at the First Bank of Taiwan, where I had arrived to conduct business. Like I have done countless times in the past, I filled out a wire transfer order at the international section so that I could pay my credit card in Canada. The clerk handling the transaction looked it over and asked me write down my address.

"It is there," I said, pointing to my address in Wanhua.

"No. What I mean is your real address."

"I assure you this is my real address. That is where I live," I said.

"What is your home address?"

"What are you talking about? That is my home address." This went around and around for a while. Then I realized what was going on. The bank clerk couldn't fathom that I actually lived in Taiwan. He thought I was a visitor instead, some kind of foreigner as he put it. So I told him: "No. That is my home address. That is where the bank in Canada sends my stuff. I simply do not have an address in Canada."

"Could you give me the address of a relative then?" Why would I do that? Especially as that would be lying...

"You haven't been working long here, have you?" I asked, taking a different tack.

"I have been working here for almost a year!" was the indignant reply.

"OK then. Send it as is or let me talk to someone who knows what is going on."

A couple of days later, I get this call from First Bank. It's the same guy. He starts off by quoting me some non-specific laws on money laundering. Never mind that I have only sent $500 Cdn. Never mind that I put my name on the wire as recipient and also stated it was for a credit card payment. Never mind Canada is one the most regulated countries in the world. Never mind that there is a paper trail. Never mind that it is 500 freakin' dollars! "Don't you think this is absurd?" I finally asked, "especially when you consider the amount? Who on earth would launder $500 Cdn. to themselves, paying around $25 to do so?"

"I did think it was absurd when I looked up the rule. Now your bank refuses to accept the money."

Bullshit. I called my bank in Canada and they had no idea about the case. They hadn't refused the money because they hadn't received it. And yes, they agreed it would absurd to consider this money laundering.

On the topic of money laundering in Taiwan, I have wondered about the following: when I arrived in Taiwan, people often favored jewelry stores over banks for exchanging money. Some said the rates were favorable. Some did this because they didn't have a work ARC in Taiwan. Why did the jewelry stores have large amounts of foreign cash? Where did it come from?


Once I Pass'd Through a Populous City

Walt Whitman (1819 to 1892) included this poem in Leaves of Grass, which he was still editing on his deathbed:

ONCE I pass’d through a populous city, imprinting my brain, for future use, with its shows, architecture, customs, and traditions;
Yet now, of all that city, I remember only a woman I casually met there, who detain’d me for love of me;
Day by day and night by night we were together,—All else has long been forgotten by me;
I remember, I say, only that woman who passionately clung to me;
Again we wander—we love—we separate again;         5
Again she holds me by the hand—I must not go!
I see her close beside me, with silent lips, sad and tremulous.


Restaurant Atop Incinerator

I had meant to have a meal in Beitou's (北投的) Star-plucking Restaurant for ages. The Star-plucking Restaurant, which opened thirteen years ago, appealed to me for a couple of reasons. First off, the view of Taipei promised magnificence. Nestled 120 meters in the sky, amongst the stars, the restaurant is based on a revolving concept. The Star-plucker does a complete revolution every ninety minutes. It is also built atop a garbage incinerator, which is amusing. Last Monday, my wife, daughter and self decided to give the place a try. We weren't disappointed. Although the food was on the pricey side, we figured it was tasty and we didn't leave feeling hungry. My wife had the chicken. I opted for sliced pork and pickles.

The best way to go is either by vehicle or MRT. If you do the latter, get off at Qilian Station out Beitou (北投) way and walk west for about fifteen minutes. That simply entails turning left and going straight. As the restaurant sits up in the sky, it's an easy point to gauge. 

I took this photo from the Star-plucking Restaurant after lunch. The nearer river is the Keelung whilst the one a little further off is the Tamsui. They will merge in about 100 meters, to flow out into the Taiwan Strait. 

There's a nice river walk behind the incinerator. It winds around for a while before letting out on a broken down and weedy path. You will have to talk to the locals to figure it out from this point on; or, you can simply walk back to the incinerator.

This was the gate to a private plantation. Not a lot in terms of cultivation going on inside, but it was still nice and green. The route is scenic to say the least.


White Sky Shaved Ice

This picture has been circulating through social media today thanks to Formosa Vintage Museum Cafe. I want to post it on my blog as it was taken in a corner of Wanhua (萬華). The picture dates to 1960, so if the seller is still around, he's in his early sixties. He's selling beef jerky (that's what he's holding), Snow White Bubble Gum and some kind of product with a maple leaf (next to the Snow White).

In the background, the signage moving from the left is 天白菓冰 (White Sky Shaved Ice) or 先白菓冰 (Mr. Shaved Ice), a popular summertime dessert here in Taiwan. I am not sure because the first character is slightly cut and either name would have been catchy. Next up is a shoe store followed by a tailor. Two signs in English. Hmm. The horizontal sign on the right is more difficult; I need to think about it or ask someone. It seems a service is being provided.

I googled Snow White Bubble Gum and came up with this: http://goo.gl/tHWvPb . I haven't seen Snow White Bubble Gum, which was "healthful" and "delicious," before. I wonder if the company that produced this treat is still in business. If they are, they probably heard from Disney's lawyers years ago.


One China Policy

My friend eyedoc, who runs a blog on Taiwan history and culture among other things, http://danshuihistory.blogspot.tw/, sent me this letter, which was used by then Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his lawyers as the basis for KMT illegitimacy as far as governing Taiwan after 1945.

The letter outlining the United States' commitment to this country does not speak for me, an American, especially when it comes to the one China policy because I think the one China policy would speak to and regard China, but I see it as somehow meant to encapsulate Taiwan. 


Taxi Talk

Taxi by Patrick Cowsill
Taxi, a photo by Patrick Cowsill on Flickr.

I took the above taxi yesterday. I asked the driver about the two American flags sticking out the back. He asked me if I knew about San Francisco. "Sure," I said. "I've been there many times."

"No, San Francisco 1952? The Treaty of San Francisco?"

The Treaty of San Francisco clarified that Japan did not have any claim over Taiwan after the Second World War. Chapter II, Article 2, (b) states the following: "Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores." This a bit redundant, especially since Japan agreed to give up all claims in the summer of 1945 when she agreed to the terms of the Potsdam Declaration in order to unconditionally surrender.

According to the taxi driver, Taiwan still belongs to the U.S. He asked me how I felt about that. "I'm not really into having colonies. And how does this serve Taiwan?" I asked. "If it is how you say, wouldn't it be better just to give Taiwan back to Taiwan?"

"You can't give Taiwan back to Taiwan because China will steal it every time," was the reply.

I'm looking at Potsdam right now. The terms state Japan would return to its pre-1895 status; it doesn't make mention of Taiwan returning to China. Why would it? The China of 1945 was a much different thing than the China of 1895. Plus, China signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki to get rid of Taiwan. In other words, China didn't want Taiwan.

I can't find anything in the San Francisco Treaty that says the Republic of China can set up here (I admit I should read it more closely). The Republic of China wasn't even invited to San Francisco to attend.

There is something in the Potsdam Declaration that could possibly validate China's presence: "the occupation of points of Japanese territory to designated to the Allies." Formosa isn't mentioned by name.

I can't help but to think of recent news in regard to the "occupation" word. The KMT government has set about to revise "history" textbooks once again. The plan is to call the Japanese colonial era an occupation and then have it taught to our kids, even though Japan signed a treaty in 1895 to receive and govern Taiwan. The revisers are not calling the KMT arrival an "occupation of points of Japanese territory," etc. They don't seem to think it's an occupation at all.

Business card 


Jinguashi Restaurant

Untitled by Patrick Cowsill
Untitled, a photo by Patrick Cowsill on Flickr.
I took this shot the last time I was in Jinguashi (金瓜石). The restaurant, which serves taro soup and ribbon fish, is above the POW Memorial. I wanted to put up a link to their website, but then realized I don't even know the restaurant's name. If anyone knows, please do tell. 


Poor Boys and Pilgrims: Paul Simon Visits Taipei

My friends are cynical about seeing the monuments of rock and pop in concert, and so am I. Usually the sound in the venues is awful, so you can't hear much of anything. Then there's the costly ticket prices (I paid NT$3800 to get in), short performances and having to sit through a bunch of new stuff that doesn't resonate. Still, when Paul Simon rolled into Taipei, I wanted to see him, to be in the presence of a singer that I've been listening to ever since I can remember and who has influenced me with his lyrics and melodies. This is some of what he played tonight; there were four or five songs I didn't recognize:

Boy in the Bubble
That Was Your Mother
Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover
Mother and Child Reunion
You Can Call Me Al
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
Slip Sliding Away
Me and Julio
Obvious Child
I Would not Give You False Hope
Here Comes the Sun (Beatles)

He also played five Simon and Garfunkel songs:

The Only Boy in New York
Sounds of Silence (just Paul on the acoustic guitar)
Homeward Bound
The Boxer

In all, it was a good concert. Nobody was leaving for the doors. The sound was fine. His band (all eight of them) were top notch too. I just kept thinking, this dude is 72! According to Simon, this was his first visit to Taiwan. He did the mandatory "thank you" in Chinese and several encore songs before leaving.

The Only Living Boy in New York was the first Simon and Garfunkel song, or "S and G stuff" as Simon referred to them, played. I'd listened to it the day before with a bunch of other stuff to get in the mood. When I heard this one, ironically, I thought he'd never play that one.


Yang San Lang Art Museum


Yang San Lang (楊三郎)

Shufang, Ahleena and I decided to check out the Yang San Lang Art Museum (楊三郎美書館) today: https://www.facebook.com/yangsanlangartmuseum. Nestled in the shadow of Zhongzheng (中正) Bridge, down European Lane in Yonghe (永和), it was a short trip from our restaurant. When we arrived, we were greeted by Christopher Young, the grandson of this great Taiwanese figure in Taiwanese painting, namely Yang San Lang.

The museum has five floors, all of which Christopher patiently walked us through. The first two hold some of the grandest paintings. As Christopher explained, it has to do with the dynamics of the museum. The upper floors have shallow ceilings; in other words, they're too small to hold larger works. Having said that, the paintings that made the deepest impression were on the third floor. They are of Tamsui boats. To tell the truth, I probably wouldn't have given them a second thought, especially after seeing the masterful stuff below. Chris filled me in on his grandpa's obsession with boats however and I came away with different point of view.

In 1947, Yang San Lang was already an important figure on the Taiwan art front. So important, it seems, it landed him on the KMT 228 kill lists. Luckily, a benevolent police officer tipped him off. This individual also pointed out if Yang showed up at an exit point from Taiwan, family in tow, the invaders wouldn't give a second thought on erasing the whole clan. Thus, it was decided that Yang's family would leave first. Yang himself was expected to make a rendezvous with a helpful party out in Tamsui, and from there board a ship and continue on to Japan. It was up to him to get there though. Being an imaginative and industrious fellow, Yang procured a small boat near his native Yonghe and proceeded to row himself down the the Hsin Tien (新店) River. This was no easy feat, as the soldiers from China were patrolling her shores. At the time of 228, the Hsin Tien was awash with debris, floating corpses, etc. and this certainly helped the cause because Yang's boat was able to blend. Whenever he saw movement on land, he ceased with his paddling and dropped to the bottom of the boat. Three days later, Yang managed to make his way to Tamsui and get on out. He then spent the next six years in Japan before landing in the West. Needless to say, there wouldn't be a museum today, stocked full of wonderful paintings of Taiwan, America and Europe, if Yang hadn't, with the help of a boat and nice cop, been so resourceful.

The museum is definitely worth a visit for anyone interested in Taiwan's history and great art. And when you're finished, there's a cafe downstairs, run by Yang's grandson, that serves up strong coffee and tasty desserts. 

Christopher Young, grandson of Yang San Lang (楊三郎)


真男人: Taiwanese Marathoner

Three customers at my restaurant made this documentary about Chang Chia-che (張嘉哲), a marathoner from Taiwan. There's some really good stuff here, for example, Chang's insights into competition: he feels a sense of achievement just from running. It's not necessary to win medals, etc. Chang lives in Yonghe (永和), so you'll probably recognize some of the scenery if you're Taipei-based.

I asked the film-makers how they expected to make any money. The doc is, after all, posted on YouTube. They said they didn't make this documentary with an expectation of making money.


Taiwan's Climate, 1895

I've been reading up on Taiwan in 1895, just to get a feel for what was going on at the time China dumped the island on Japan as part of the Treaty of Shimoneseki. Just doing the math, it's now 118 years since China got rid of us. Anyway, I came across this report on the climate, which I found interesting. It was written by N. Perkins, an assistant to the British Consul in Tamsui. I've never seen anything else by him, which is a pity as he writes well. He also types, which makes things a lot easier. Most of the consular reports are in cursive, so they can be quite the slog: 

The Formosan seas are well known for their typhoons, chiefly occurring between June and October.

The velocity and violence of the winds during the height of these storms is almost incredible, and from their rotatory course they test to the utmost skill of the builder, whether of house or ship. 

The rain is swept in steam-like masses along the ground, and the rivers appear to be lifted bodily from their beds. 

These tremendous storms cause the want of harbours along the coast to be more severely felt. Tainan, however, seldom feels the force of typhoons, which usually break off east or west at South Cape.

Earthquakes are also of frequent occurrence, and it is always considered an ominous sign when a long period of time elapses without some shock being felt. There is a record of a severe shock in 1782, which is said to have effected [I checked the dictionary and this seems to be correct] a considerable change in the outline of the coast. A frightful convulsion occurred in 1862, and more recently violent shocks of 1881, 1882, and 1892. 

From what has been said above it will be seen that the island tends, however slowly, to reunite itself with the mainland, from which its severance at remote period was probably due to some volcanic convulsion.

Much has been written about Taiwan's ship-wreckers (bandits who looted and stripped ships in need of repair after storms and thus stranded off Taiwan). Their business was a lucrative one in the past due to the conditions Perkins describes: the violent storms and lack of good harbors for ships to escape from them. We shouldn't forget that Taiwan was a fairly lawless frontier prior to the arrival of the Japanese. I imagine the situation off Taiwan's shores resembled what is going on right now near Somalia. In addition to the law and order provided by Japan starting in 1895, it should be noted that technology and a better understanding of weather patterns also worked to put these groups out of business. I checked the records for the previous year and there were only two wrecks, a Norwegian schooner called the Sylphiden and an American barque called the Mary L. Stone. The Sylphiden, stranded just south of Tamsui, was towed into Tamsui's harbor. She was then dismantled and sold, I am guessing, by the owners. The Mary L. Stone washed ashore at Ilan. The cargo, kerosene bound for Shanghai, was a "total loss." Luckily, nobody died.

The part about the earthquakes reminds me of the 1999 "9/21" earthquake, when a 7.3 quake hit the island in the middle of the night. After that, Jade Mountain, Taiwan's highest peak, was said to have shrunk by several meters. There is a pretty good account of it on wiki. The wiki write-up for the 1935 Hsinchu-Taichung earthquake, Taiwan's deadliest earthquake on record, is solid as well. I want to mention the earthquake of 1654. WM Campbell covers it and others in Formosa Under the Dutch (page 7): 

On 14 December 1654, there happened a mighty one which with short intermissions, continued for seven weeks. Indeed, some have been so unusually violent that the valleys, mountains, and houses moved like a ship on the waves, as if the whole of the land were about to sink altogether. 

I know I am wandering now, but I'm going to close out by saying the 1650s weren't a good time for Taiwan when it came to Mother Nature. Writes Campbell: 

During 1655, [an] abundance of locusts spread themselves over the islands of Formosa and Tayouan [where the Dutch fort Zeelandia was located]. Their first appearance was in Tayouan, where they fell down from the sky like a great fall of snow, and covered all the ground. After two or three days they directed their way to Sakam [modern Yanshui 鹽水, I think] . . . and multiplied in such numbers that no place was free of them. The people of Sakam tried to destroy them, and in four or five days the bodies of those they collected weighed thirty thousand piculs [or shoulder loads]; but it proved in vain and efforts were given up, for the locust[s] continued to increase until all the sugar-cane and rice crops were utterly destroyed.  


The Hammer -- A Customer's Shots

One of our customers took these shots of The Hammer's vicinity. I asked him to send them to me as I liked the tone. I also enjoy these kinds of photographs of Taipei and Taipei Greater. I often take pictures of old, tacky buildings and the like.

Across the way from The Hammer.

Down the lane from The Hammer.

I've finally got the directions to The Hammer sorted out, I think. The main problem was customers would go to Google Maps to look for us and find the pin was way off. To get a proper pin, I had to apply to Google. They then sent a postcard to our restaurant with a password to input, to verify we exist. This took about three weeks. You can find us now if you go to Google Maps and type "The Hammer Taipei." 

Here are the directions I put up at www.facebook.com/thehammertw: The Hammer is a three-minute walk from Dingxi (頂溪佔) MRT Station, Exit Two. When you come out of the MRT, turn left on Yong He (永和) Road and immediately turn left again into the alley next to the station. The alley is a T: turn right into Lane 9  (9巷). You will see The Hammer forty meters down the way. 

I am hoping to have a website up for The Hammer around January 10; I will then return this blog to it's normal function: Taiwan history and culture, written to amuse the blog author. Special thanks to Doug http://www.thecyclingcanadian.com/, who calculated the distance down the lane (40 meters) by leaving his cosy bar stool to walk it out and count the strides.

Anne Wheeler -- A War Story

I received this email from Anne Wheeler. She's the daughter of Ben Wheeler, a Canadian doctor who was held at Kinkeseki (金瓜石), Taiwan during the Second World War. She is also a documentary film-maker:

"Hi Patrick. A War Story is a documentary film available for free on the National Film Board of Canada website. It is about my father and the men he was interned with during WW2. You might want to put it on your site so that others may watch the film -- which features Jack Edwards. Thank you for your interest and work regarding the history of your island."

Here's Anne Wheeler's link to A War Story: http://www.nfb.ca/film/war_story


I've posted many times about POWs interned here in Taiwan. I will give a quick rundown as I feel the topic is important:

3. And on Jack Edwards: http://goo.gl/xoBli


Omelets at The Hammer

I know I promised to stop with The Hammer posts. But my wife is so beautiful that I can't help myself. This is it for a while. Here's our last shameless address link: No. 14 - Lane 9, Wanhua Road, Yonghe, New Taipei City / 新北市永和區文化路9巷14號.


Upstairs at The Hammer

Upstairs at The Hammer

My friend Doug http://www.thecyclingcanadian.com/ was sitting at the bar of my new restaurant when he noticed people were passing by, peering in and moving along. He figured this was partially due to the fact we haven't advertised or clearly indicated our upstairs seating. Downstairs, we only have a bar and one table. Doug said I should put some photos out front to point out that we do indeed have seating on the second floor. 

I finally got around to taking him up on the suggestion, pasting three photos (one is above) to my chalkboard out front. About thirty minutes after doing so, a woman asked me if the room was for rent. She was thinking about moving in!

My friend Igor sent me this photo (above). I am not sure what is going on. Something is going to get smashed though. Perhaps they're melting the items / relics down.

I'll get back to my normal blogging soon -- I just need to find the time. I am thinking about writing on Taiwan, 1898, in the next little while.