Protests in Taipei: Uber vs Taxis; Land Rights and Illegal Buildings

Last week I saw taxis besieging the Executive Yuan (between Shandao Temple and Taipei Main MRT) over the government’s failure to crackdown on Uber quickly enough.  Taxi drivers were protesting because of Uber’s refusal to be subject to taxi regulations in Taiwan‬ and it’s refusal to clarify its tax status. My colleagues at work had a related discussion last week over whether existing (over?) regulation is strangling disruptors in the interest of maintaining the status quo. While there were a wide range of opinions as to whether Uber‬ is, in fact, bringing anything new to the Taiwanese industry as a disruptor or whether it’s just trying to dodge consumer protection regulations and tax, the conversation can be extended beyond Uber to the financial sector and further afield. Some of my colleagues thought the government was being too cautious when it comes to providing legislative flexibility to innovative industry disruptors while others thought existing legislation was just common-sense protection for industry players and consumers? The government announced that they are going to launch “diversified” taxis, but it’ll be interesting how the story develops beyond just the Uber issue.

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About a week prior to the taxi protest, I was passing by the front of the Executive Yuan when I saw this protest placard, along with a single protester. It reads:

政府無能,     [When] the government is inept,

百姓受窮,     the ordinary people are forced to live in poverty;

竊盜私地,     Stealing private land

罪大惡極,    is an extremely pernicious crime.

天理難容。     [which] the heavens cannot tolerate.

哀!     Woe!

I’m not sure if it was a specific grievance as I didn’t stop to chat, but maybe someone can help me out in the comments section.

I saw the banner below outside my friend’s housing development when she invited me for a barbecue/pool party there (near Qizhang MRT – opposite Carrefour):

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Common facilities (of a residential complex) are illegal buildings, the residents have been lied to

From what I’ve gleaned from the internet, this is a controversy over certain common areas of a residential complex which were built without planning permission by the developers. The city government then demolished or plans to demolish these areas and the residents are protesting because they were sold their apartments under false terms.

If you’ve seen any disgruntled looking peeps holding signs let me know in the comments section!

Update: Tea Trademarks in Taiwan

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I recently posted about a trademark lawsuit in Taiwan, involving Uni-President Enterprises Corporation’s tea brand 「茶裏王」 and 「阿里王 Ali One」. I pointed out in the post the difference in the second characters of each brand name. However, I recently checked the trademark database in Taiwan and found that Uni-President has registered both 「茶裏王」 and 「茶里王」 as can be seen below:

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You’ll notice, amusingly enough, that the character 「裏」 doesn’t even show up on the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office trademark search website – and is displayed as just a blank box. The missing character is pictured in the image, however.

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This makes the judgement I previously mentioned a little more understandable, given that two out of the three characters are the same (even if they have different meanings). You’ll also notice that the product ranges to which the second trademark is applied is broader than the first.

Here’s the registration for 「阿里王」:

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Interestingly, the English translation for 「茶裏王」, “King of Teas”, doesn’t seem to be a registered trademark. So many companies and brands adopting similar English names is allowed, like the one at the head of this article (King Tea).

Jolin Tsai up for a Cabinet Position? (Joke) 蔡依林內閣 (笑)

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I was watching another KMT/blue-leaning political talk show earlier today and came across the following joke from talking head Tang Hsiang-lung (唐湘龍):

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A rough translation is as below:

I could call it the Tsai Yi-lin (Jolin Tsai’s Chinese name) cabinet

Because it looks as if Tsai Ing-wen (Jolin shares a surname with the president)

Is relying (the word for rely “依” is the second character of Jolin’s name) on Lin Chuan’s (the premier of Taiwan; his surname makes up the last character in Jolin’s name) methods

To form the cabinet.

I don’t know enough about the politics to comment, but just thought it would be amusing to see the kind of jokes that can be made in Chinese.

See him in action here:

 

Photo credit: Hsiao Lee

Adventure Time in Taiwan

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Amused that the Ice King and Lemongrab speak 台灣國語 (Taiwanese influenced Mandarin) in Adventure Time in Chinese and use lots of Taiwanese words, whereas Jake speaks Cantonese influenced Chinese. Heard the Ice King use lots of Taiwanese expressions, like 跟他切(che̍h)了 for 跟他分手. Finn said around two words the whole episode, so couldn’t really tell how he speaks, but it seemed to be normal Chinese with a little bit of Taiwanese too. Interesting though. I know baddies in old films in Taiwan normally spoke Taiwanese, but think that it’s likely just coincidence here, and an attempt to replicate the crazy English voices in the original, as Lady Rainicorn, who speaks only Korean in the original only speaks Taiwanese in the Taiwan version.

UPDATE:

Thanks to Keith Menconi (@KeithMenconi) at ICRT (@ICRTnews) for providing a link to an interview he did with April Chang, the woman in charge of dubbing for Cartoon Network in Taiwan, which is totally cool.

 

Fortune Telling Community College in Taipei

A lot of junk comes through my letterbox everyday. More often than not it’s housing advertisements, but I thought that this fortune telling class for local residents was quite interesting:

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It reads:

REALLY ACCURATE!

A beginners’ class on the art of telling fortunes with people’s names

Do you want to know who is holding you back and who is there to help you? How much does one’s name influence one’s life?

In order to be of service to the residents of Wangxi Li, we’ve invited instructors from the Taiyi Numerology Centre to give classes to the residents of this li on the art of telling fortunes from names, so they can understand life and grow together!

The rest is details of the cost and contact information.

Many Taiwanese people that I have met are extremely superstitious, they believe in ghosts in a very literal way and they believe that if they’re having a run of bad luck they can change their luck in several ways. One of these ways is to change their name. Many Taiwanese people I know have changed their name at least once, some several times. Baby names in Taiwan are often chosen by fortune tellers and if you’ve been given a bad name, then you need to get it changed or you’ll be unable to turn your life around.

I’m not a massive fan of fortune telling and don’t hold any stock in it at all. Irish people have a lot of superstitions too, from older beliefs in leprechauns and fairies to the pseudo-Christian traditions of faith healers and relics (objects owned by saints or their body parts which are said to have magical healing powers). These traditions still go on today, for example, most irish cars will have holy water somewhere in them as a blessing. I also heard a story about a miraculous Medal being thrown into a house up for sale by interested buyers in the belief that it will secure them the property.

A good antidote to superstition like this is a play by Brian Friel called Faith Healer, although, obviously you’re free to believe what you want:

But the questionings, the questionings… They began modestly enough with the pompous struttings of a young man: Am I endowed with a unique and awesome gift? – my God, yes, I’m afraid so. And I suppose the other extreme was Am I a con man? – which of course was nonsense, I think. And between those absurd exaggerations the possibilities were legion. Was it all chance? – or skill? – or illusion? – or delusion? Precisely what power did I possess? Could I summon it? When and how? Was I its servant? Did it reside in my ability to invest someone with faith in me or did I evoke from him a healing faith in himself? Could my healing be effected without faith? But faith in what? – in me? in the possibility? – faith in faith? And is the power diminishing? You’re beginning to masquerade, aren’t you? You’re becoming a husk, aren’t you?

Faith Healer Brian Friel

I feel that some sociology doctoral candidate somewhere should take some of these classes though, as I find it so interesting how much this kind of thing affects people’s lives.

To be fair to the organizers, although the class costs NT$1000, those with low household incomes can take it for free.

I’ve heard lots of Taiwanese superstitions (/beliefs) over the years, like not whistling at night during Ghost Month; Oh yeah… Ghost Month, when the gates of hell open and ghosts come into the land of the living; Putting your umbrella down before you go inside (or a ghost will think you’re leading them in). And many more like this. How about you? Comment below with any beliefs that you’ve heard about in Taiwan.

I’m provided a link to the centre’s website (Chinese only) for anyone who is interested in the mechanics of how one’s fortune is told with one’s name. But this is not an endorsement.

Why write a note when you can write a treatise…還有…

It’s now well-documented how voracious my neighbours are in their appetite for note-writing, but they’ve outdone themselves once again with this in-depth study on the consequences of not closing the door and the art of door-closing itself:

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Residents beware,

Recently con artists have been running rampant. They pretend to be express delivery men and come to your door with fake cigarettes and fake alcohol. As soon as you sign in receipt for the goods, later [sic.] people will come to collect money, asking for several tens of thousand of NT. If you don’t agree to give it to them, debt collectors or the mafia will come to your door and stick an axe in your face. Please be sure to close the door.

Don’t worry, this literary masterpiece is not complete yet, the author, having exhausted their veiled threats of mafia men and axe-chucking debt collectors, is fetching a new page to instruct us mere mortals on the true art of door closing:

Also,

Please close the door more lightly. Don’t do it so forcefully. Given that you don’t have anything against the door personally, you don’t need to bring the entire building down.

What I don’t understand is why would having the door closed fend off these roving hordes of axe-wielding con-artist delivery men. In case you are wondering… I do close the door, and try to close it lightly (even though it’s a natural slammer).  I wonder when the English version will come out.

Is your building being peppered with notes? Have you been attacked by axe-wielding con-men and lived to tell the tale? Comment below or contact me!

 

Fake it ’til you make it: Inappropriate wordplay using characters from Jin Yong’s martial arts novels

1280px-Gay_Pride_Taiwan_2009If you’ve been in Taiwan for a substantial period of time but didn’t grow up here, chances are you’ve sat on the outskirts of an hilarious conversation involving characters from the books of martial arts novelist Jin Yong (also known as Louis Cha) during which you’ve had completely no idea what was going on, or what the jokes were about. This has been my fate on several occasions, as, although I’ve bought several volumes of Jin Yong’s novels, I’ve never mustered up the courage to commit to reading a whole one and they’re currently rotting on my shelves. Given that generations of teenagers in Taiwan have read most of the Jin Yong canon, there are a lot of mainstream cultural references that revolve around these books.
When listening to this rather racy podcast on four Taiwanese guys’ experience of “romantic” dalliances with gay foreigners in Taiwan (click here to download it directly or click on 「台灣及其他國家」 under the 「收聽下載點」 section after following the link), I was perplexed when everyone started laughing at one point in the podcast over the nickname that one of the hosts had adopted for the show: 「獨孤求幹」. “Lonely, asking to be fucked” is the literal reading of the nickname, but this in itself was too crude to inspire so much mirth. The wit (well, you can call it wit), comes because the phrase is a corruption of the name of a Jin Yong character, 「獨孤求敗」”Lonely in search of defeat”. He has this name because he is so expert at swordplay that he wants to be defeated just to find someone who is on par with his skill.
Now the joke is starting to become a lot clearer – swordplay, seeking someone equally skilled at… There we go.
For those still none the wiser: The 「幹」 meaning “fucking” suggesting that he is a master at it, but is looking for someone that can beat him in terms of skill and, here, suggests that he could be turned from a “top” to a “bottom” if he found someone more skilled at it.
I’ve found that in Chinese tones being the same, ie 敗bai4 and 幹gan4 both being fourth tones, tends to be more important in wordplay than rhyme or off-rhyme as in English.
Let me know if you’ve had a similar experience in finding a Jin Yong reference that you just didn’t get.
Quick note that the podcast contains some very adult content.
Lead photo credit: Liu Wen-cheng

Non-Cangjie Geeks Should “Avoid” This Article (Snort)

I was doing an exam on a computer when I came across 「免」(avoid), and couldn’t for the life of me remember how to write it in cangjie. This is because the font on my computer used a variant form of 「免」, as below:

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According to cangjie logic this should be written 尸竹日竹山(shahu), with the 刀 similar to that on the top right part of 「解」(弓月尸竹手/nbshq), but, of course 免 is written 弓日竹山(nahu), following the logic of 色。

Other variants of 免 can be found here, one of which bears a striking resemblance to 「兑」 the simplified version of the character 「兌」(dui4/ㄉㄨㄟˋ to exchange).

Curious if anyone knows what fonts feature the variant of 「免」, I also wonder if there are any plans (as unproductive a goal as it may be) to add variants to unicode, as I think they add something to the language.

If you have an unhealthy obsession with Chinese characters and want to share some of your observations, you can contact me or comment below.

If you want to see a similar post to this one, click here.

It’s Art… Don’t Rely on it 「倚靠」跟「依賴」

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As I was wandering through the Takashi Ohta Paper Museum Expo (being held at Huashan Creative Park Dec 19- Feb 29) I did a double take, when I saw this sign above many of the pieces of art:

12660271_10102331381795969_290275658_n Although I’ve tired slightly of all but the most bizarre Chinglish signage, I thought this one was of note because it can be read as a covert injunction to aspiring paper artists everywhere – “Don’t rely on this kind of work, man.”

To be fair to the Chinglish offender in question, the word 「倚靠」(yi3kao4/ㄧˇ ㄎㄠˋ) in Chinese can mean both “to lean on” and “to rely on”, in the same sense as in English, “leaning on someone” can be extended to mean “relying on someone” (依賴 yi1lai4/ㄧ ㄌㄞˋ). Having had dealings with the kind of people who run these events in Taiwan, I also know that they have about a billion things to do and very little time and money to do them, so we can’t be too hard on them, and where would we be without something to snigger at.

The exhibition was quite cool, I’ll limit myself to posting the scene from Ximen in Taiwan:

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Photo taken at exhibition, will remove on request

The rest you’ll have to explore for yourselves.