Pulling a fast one with 奧步 àupō͘

「奧步」 is the common written form for the Taiwanese expression 「漚步」 àupō͘ meaning a sly or crafty move.  This is just one of those phrases you’ll hear again and again. I heard it a while ago in the run-up to the election:

「尤其是大家其實現在都在期待就是民進黨最後會出什麼奧步。」

“Especially when at the minute everyone is actually waiting to see what crafty maneuver the DPP will end up pulling at the last minute.”

arc

You can hear it around the 11:04 point in the video below:

I heard it again just now while getting my hair cut (shorn off), in the Taiwanese soap opera 《炮仔聲》 (Ep 327) playing in the background.  It was translated into Mandarin in the subtitles as 「耍手段」:

「這個江宏傑真的有夠可惡,只會耍手段,不是用錢收買人,就是抓人的親人來威脅。」

“That Kang Hong-kiat is a real piece of work, he’s always got some sly trick up his sleeve. If he isn’t buying people off, he’s using people’s families to threaten them.”

arc

It’s one of those really useful phrases that’s really hard to find the right situation to use. In the first example I used, it’s used in a Mandarin sentence, so you can use it that way too, but make sure your tones are on point if you’re going to, or you’ll stand there shamefacedly repeating yourself until you have to spell it out like I did in the kitchenette at work when I called my colleague a 抓耙仔 jiàu-pê-á/liàu-pê-á (a snitch). I said bei instead of pei or something *shrugs*.

Many Shrimp: Thanks in Taiwanese! To-siā/多謝/多蝦

So previously we learned that 蝦 xiā (shrimp) in Mandarin can be slang for guy with a hot body but an ugly face (not you, you’re beautiful!). We also learned to pun with shrimp in Mandarin here, and learned the Taiwanese phrase 「無魚,蝦嘛好」 (bô hî, hê mā ho) here. Today, however, we’re going to mix it all up, with a Mandarin/Taiwanese/pun crossover:

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These commemorative stamps (they can’t actually be used as postage stamps, they’re just decorative) were launched by the Taiwan Anti-Tuberculosis Association. The one with all the shrimps on it is their way of saying thank you to those who bought stamps in support of the cause.

Why does a bunch of shrimps mean thank you? 多蝦 duō xiā (many shrimps) is a transliteration of the Taiwanese for thank you to-siā (the actual characters are likely 「多謝」 which is how it is normally written).

So next time you’re in a taxi with a driver with a nice body but whose face has a “nice personality”, remember “many shrimp” and you can charm him by saying thanks the Taiwanese way.

 

Book Review: ‘Taipei Dad, New York Mom’ by Mickey Chen 書評:陳俊志的《台北爸爸/紐約媽媽》

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Initially, I was quite excited by this book, as I’d previously watched a documentary by this late director (I reviewed it here). The book starts off with a moving account of the disintegration of the author’s family and the effect of his sister’s death on him and the larger family.

As the book develops, however, the same story is repeated ad nauseum and seemed almost like the author was trying to impose his own moral interpretation of his riches to rags story on the reader. The tone also seemed more appropriate to the essay format, rather than a long-form novel as he seemed to get a bit lost in his own narration after giving the broad strokes of the initial story. There are interesting aspects to the narrative. In the context of the gay marriage referendum, there has been a shift towards conservatism within the gay movement, and this has led to clashes within the movement, between those attempting to be inclusive to the extent of embracing what they call “chem sex culture” and BDSM fans and those in pursuit of (what their opponents would call) heteronormativity. The author seems pulled by these two conflicting strands of the gay community throughout, which may be what drives his switches between the first and third person at points throughout the book.

I’ve never really been a fan of autobiographies and towards the end of the book, it started to grate on my nerves a bit. The author teases the reader a little by suggesting he’s going to reveal the details of his life, but apart from brief references to a few of his relationships, a disjointed scene where we assume he’s having chem sex, the author’s main purpose throughout the novel seems to be to air the dirty laundry of the rest of his family members, while he maintains a Madonna-like status of victimhood throughout. There’s a lot of anger and resentment in the book, and this comes across in passive-aggressive comments and made the book come across as quite monotonous. Whereas in fictional works like Moonlight, there is a layer of separation between the author/director and the anger of the protagonist towards their family, the first person narrative here left us with nowhere to go, as the author doesn’t seem willing to reflect on the larger social context and systematic problems surrounding his family’s downfall in the same way that Moonlight tries to give the protagonist’s mother a human side.

We almost get to a scene comparable to the scene in Moonlight when the author faces his father’s mortality, but it doesn’t have the same impact for me as the film. Reading the book was almost like listening to someone you don’t know gossip about the people in their life, or someone showing you their family photo album. As a reader, I found it hard to care. Maybe due to the author’s familiarity with his family members, we’re never given a complete picture of them, just who they are as they relate to him, and, frequently, how they’ve victimized him. The central theme of the book is the tragedy that occurs in the author’s childhood. The tone flits between brief moments in which the author portrays something genuinely moving, snarky quips, boasting and wallowing in self-pity. While it’s nice that the author broke up the heaviness of the tragic portrayal of his sister’s death and his family’s disintegration, the other bits of the book felt a little posed, and there was a lot of name-dropping. Essentially they are there to show us what a famous, witty and high-performing luvvie the author is despite the loss of his sister and the break-up of his family home initiated by his father.

If I were to take a more cynical view on the change between the first and third person I mentioned above, it could be seen as an attempt to “be literary”. Combined with certain other comments throughout the book like “The small hole in the back of the intricate doll, now looking back, of course, was a massive symbol for leaving my carefree childhood”, just came across as pretentious attempts to sound educated. I felt this came across in a passage in which the author talks about drug-fueled sexual experiences at the Taiwan Youth Park, and he switches from the first to the third person, reflecting perhaps the disassociation that he feels from taking Ketamine:

一直到青年公園成為台灣gay beach才懂得一枚渾圓無瑕的屁眼是如此的人間至樂。沖澡間總有誘人的底迪無邪地以屁眼向你召喚,一起騎了車吃完建中黑糖剉冰就是如奶蜜甜糖的幹底迪床戲。IKEA夏日涼床上好多美麗的男孩永恆停留在他們高潮來前童稚的眉頭微蹙,屁眼戲劇性地陡地縮緊也忍不住要射了的迷離K世界,我想起古典的英國文學史課堂上那些草原芬芳的下午。男孩們滿足的輕喟很快在你身上趴著睡著,包裹著他們青春身體的甜淡香味,穿透裊裊迴繞的Rush餘韻,直撲鼻端讓我跌入底迪歳月曾經那麼無邪的往事如煙。

老去的男人後來綿延璀璨的性史再也沒法像古典時期那麼甜美可人了。隨手翻到一頁,聞了Rush嗑了E用了勾媚兒的性愛體驗,在鐵皮書裡用最複雜的符碼象徵交互指涉,都難以取代陰莖屁眼乳頭霎時的萬般感受。一沙一世界,蔓延展開成花花天地。 屁眼生出花朵,陽具是燦爛的樹。他感到自己的身體變成一本巨大的鐵皮書,鏤刻著感官的年輪和耳語的密碼。在我耳邊輕輕呢喃,身體就是記憶。

It wasn’t until the Taiwan Youth Park became Taiwan’s gay beach that he understood how much earthly pleasure could be derived from a perfectly round asshole. In the shower rooms there were always seductive twinks, beckoning you over brazenly with their assholes, then after riding a motorcycle together and eating shaved ice with brown sugar from the shop beside Jianguo High School, it was time for the even sweeter treat of fucking them. Lots of pretty boys will remain frozen with their brow slightly furrowed in the childish expression that comes just before an orgasm on an IKEA sun lounger, their assholes suddenly tightening dramatically as I can’t stop myself cumming in that blurry world of K, I thought of the fragrant scent of afternoons on the moors from my English Literature classes. The boys would sigh gently in satisfaction and then cuddle against you to sleep, as you hold their youthful bodies, with their faint sweet smell, with the lingering whiffs of the leftover Rush adding to the mix, and as the smell hits the nostrils you fall into the naivete just like that of youth, and the past goes up in smoke.

As men age, the ongoing resplendent sexual history is never as sweet and innocent as the classical era. Perusing to a certain page, sexual experience with the smell of rush, on E and Foxy Methoxy (5-MEO-Dipt), implying each other’s guilt with the most complex of symbols in an iron corrugated book, it’s hard to replace the myriad momentary sensations of the penis, the asshole and the nipple. The world on a grain of sand, spreading out and blossoming everywhere. A flower blossoms from the asshole, the penis is an awesome tree. He felt his entire body had turned into an iron-clad book, with the age rings of sensation and the codes of whispered nothings. Whispering in my ear, the body is memory itself.

I liked the fact that he inserted an apparently random thought into a sexual experience, as it made it ring truer, but everything the author does seems aimed at proving his extensive learning, which is why the random thought is about his English Literature classes.

In another of the brief interludes where we get a glimpse of the author himself and not just his family, he talks about his sexual relationship with one of his long-term partners:

晚上我們總是到純樸的民家洗澡,一鎖門,老羅和我熾熱摸索彼此。滑膩的肥皂泡沫穿過我們的股溝,我們挺直的陰莖。門外的部隊同儕不耐地敲門問詢,春光乍洩的梁朝偉啐了口水,猛烈進入張國榮,沒有KY,沒有保險套。這是我們最初芬芳的乙醚記憶,在意亂情迷的夏夜,穿透了層層記憶而來。

At night we always went to the rustic local showers. As soon as we locked the door Lao Luo and I would start passionately groping at each other. The soap suds flowed between our buttocks and around our erect cocks. Our army mates would knock impatiently on the door as Tony Leung from Happy Together spits as he enters Leslie Cheung, without any KY, without a condom. This was our diethyl ether-scented first memory, entranced with passion on a Summer evening, and it cuts through layer upon layer of memory to emerge again.

Some of the author’s comments on class are a bit over the top, particularly as he’s aware himself that he’s one generation away from a similar level of poverty. He’s constantly emphasizing how educated he is as a way to elevate himself:

那一年,我和老羅都剛退伍,我繼續在補習班教英文,努力存錢準備出國留學。他是油漆工人,下工後愛喝小酒,和朋友打電動玩具和柏青哥。我們沒有共同的朋友,我討厭他的狐群狗黨,他覺得我的朋友都是外星人。我們兩人一旦吵架,沒有緩衝地帶,沒有調停人,只有兩個人硬碰硬對幹。年輕的我們總是不明白,有些時候,再怎麼深刻的愛情是跨不了階級這一關的。

That year, when Lao Luo and I had just gotten out of the army, I continued to teach English at a cram school, working hard to earn money to study abroad. He worked painting houses, and when he got off work he liked to go for a tipple, and play arcade and pachinko games with his friends. We had no friends in common and I hated the pack of scoundrels he hung out with, whereas he thought all my friends were from another planet. As soon as we started to argue, there was no buffer zone, there was noone to mediate, there was just the two of us clashing hard and going after each other. Young as we were, we didn’t understand that sometimes, no matter how deep the love you feel, it can’t cross the class divide.

One interesting aspect of the narrative is how the mainlander/local Taiwanese division functioned beside class divisions. His father’s family is local Taiwanese, which plays a large part in his father’s rags to riches story. The author’s paternal aunt marries a 「不愛講話的外省老芋仔」 (a taciturn mainlander), who is 30 years older than she is. Another of his paternal aunts manages to escape from a 「wife-beater」only to marry a butcher who starts another family on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. When she goes to confront her husband’s wife in China about this, the fight that results makes the local paper in Guangzhou and the author jokingly refers to it as 「為國爭光」(winning glory for one’s country). The author’s father is said to have a consistently patriarchal attitude to everything that befalls his sisters, even though they are often providing him money to provide him investment for his hair-brained get-rich-quick schemes and bail him out of financial trouble.

Overall, it’s worth a read, although it might wear on your nerves a bit. The author, also a director, passed away recently.

 

 

 

 

Read Google Play Books on your Kindle

book-2135769_1920This is an unnecessarily complex way to convert your Google Play book to a Kindle readable version. Why don’t they make their systems interoperable? (Sigh!)

Go to Google Play Books:

Step 1: Click ‘My Books’

Step 2: Hover over the book you’ve bought in Google Play and click the ︙ button.

Step 3: Select download ePub and download it to your computer.

Step 4: Install Adobe Digital Editions (yes, you really have to do this).

Step 5: Once you’ve setup an account, go to ‘File’ and ‘Add to Library’, then select the file you just downloaded and open it.

Step 6: Go back to Library

Step 7: Download Calibre (yes, you also really have to do this.)

Step 8: Download DeDRM Tools (shhh… just do it) and extract files.

Step 9: On the main screen of Calibre, go to Preferences, and then click Plugins, under the Advanced Tab.

Step 10: Click ‘Load Plugin from File’ and select the DeDRM Tools file you just downloaded and extracted.

Step 11: Restart Calibre and Click ‘Add Books’, and select the downloaded file from My Digital Editions

Step 12: Select ‘Convert Books’, and select MOBI as the output file type.

Step 13: On the right of the Calibre app there should be a Path: Click to open link. This will lead you to your newly created MOBI file, which you can transfer to your Kindle.

Step 14: You’ll generally have an email that you can send files to, or you can just do it the old fashioned way via USB.

 

 

E-reading Chinese-language books in Taiwan: Frustrations Galore

Taiwan has been quite slow to get into the e-books game, but over the last few years, more and more titles are being made available on a range of platforms. Although there is a range of reading devices available, I’m going to look only at e-books available on the Kindle (the only dedicated e-reader device in my possession) and on various mobile phone apps.

A word of warning, expect to be slightly disappointed. The industry seems largely to be dragging its heels, preferring traditional paper copies to digital copies (cue a junior lecturer’s lesson plan on Walter Benjamin). I’m not sure if this has to do with copyright law or if there’s just a general fuddy-duddyness. Anecdotally speaking, I’ve seen a lot of people reading martial arts novels and lots of manga on their phones in the MRT.

Kindle: I was actually surprised when I was gearing up to do this blogpost, how many Taiwanese books are available on Kindle if you search for them. That is the catch though, you already have to know what you’re looking for. Once you do manage to get your book on to the Kindle, it works quite well.

The other options available that I’ve seen are Google Play Books, MyBooks or eBook – the eBook reader launched by books.com.tw (and there’s also ReadMoo and Kobo rated below in the table). Even here, older but famous titles (like 《孽子》  for example) are hard to find. If you know of any other stores let me know in the comments section.

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Eric Chu gets called out on Zhongzheng Bridge

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Someone isn’t an Eric Chu (朱立倫) fan. This poster is still displayed on the Yonghe side of the Zhongzheng Bridge in New Taipei:

朱立倫
你的政治生命己經
結束,你當市長期
間,連民法第53條
第1﹑第2項都不
知道。又故意曲解
法律,以掩飾錯誤
。縱容公會違法。
(顯)然失職,實在(不)
適合選總統。

“Eric Chu, your political life is over! During the time you were mayor, you didn’t even know clauses 1 and 2 of Article 53 of the Civil Code. You also deliberately twisted the law to cover up your mistake. You tolerated illegal activities from guilds, which was a clear dereliction of duty.  You’re clearly not suited to run for president.”

For your reference, the Article in question is listed below:


Art. 53: “The resolution concerning the alteration of the bylaw of a corporation shall be passed at a meeting at which the majority of the members of the corporation are present, and by a majority of over three-fourths of the members present, or when over two-thirds of the members of the corporation declare their consent in writing.
The alteration of the bylaw of a licensed corporation shall be approved by the authorities concerned.”

The wording is vague enough that it could refer to a wide range of allegations, but I saw a few articles like this, which give you a general feel. 

The person behind the poster is likely Wei-Shyue Chang (張維學), who was behind previous posters in this position, opposing Japanese imports,  supporting Hong Shu-chu, and on the Diaoyu Islands and the comfort women issue

Whoever it is, the neighbouring political banners give you an idea of where their support lay in the KMT primary:

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The slogan on this Han Kuo-yu banner is a call for us to “Think of the children, to save society,” which has echoes of the anti-gay propaganda in the run-up to the referendum on gay marriage.

Easycard Wallet: Not (yet) for Foreign Residents? (March 26: Update)

The Easycard Wallet which could previously tell you your card balance and display your receipts has had a revamp. You can now use the app to make purchases instead of fishing out your Easycard. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to register for the pay function without a Taiwanese ID until the end of May according to a Customer Service representative (ARCs do not meet the required format and no alternative is given for foreign residents to sign up.)

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A customer service rep sent the following message, saying that foreign residents will be able to register for the app starting at the end of May. They’re phrasing it like it was a planned rollout as opposed to just bad programming and lack of forethought, but hey… it’s something:

您好:

謝謝您的來信。

有關持居留證者申請悠遊付一事,本公司預計5月底開放,屆時歡迎提出申請。

或建議您可加入本公司facebook粉絲團或LINE官方帳號或留意本公司官網的最新消息,日後您即可接收最新資訊。

以上說明,謝謝~

Thanks to Slava for the tip!

 

Covid-19 Cases in Taiwan So Far (Updated April 7)

Found this cool infographic online and thought it would be cool to translate the info provided so far. I can try updating it as the epidemic continues if it doesn’t get completely out of hand here. Same colour means same cluster. You can also view it on Google Drive here.

Added a few stats below:

Other COVID-19 related resources can be found below:49565892377_f5a57db0bd_o

The Medcram series on the coronavirus has calmed me down when panic overwhelms.

The slightly less calming world stats on Worldometers or here.

The CDC website on which the above tables are based. More recently they’ve been releasing tables in Chinese listing all new cases.

An account of what it’s like to be quarantined in Taiwan from Jonathan Chen.

Tricky Taipei talks to coronavirus quarantiners.

You can also explore this treasure trove.

If you’re having visa issues, you can contact the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

If you believe you have symptoms of the virus, please call 1922 toll-free (+886 80 000 1922) to arrange a medical visit.

Selling Things Through Family Mart

Not an expert at this, but a commenter asked for a guide to using Family Mart to sell things. I’ve never sold on the platform, but thought I’d try and help out.

The main website is here.

If you’re selling something, you’ll want to click on 賣家專區 (Seller Section) highlighted in red below:

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You’ll get an error message and will be redirected to this page, prompting you to register/login. The page asks you to enter your phone number as below:

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Once you enter it, they’ll send an SMS to your phone to prove you’re the owner of the phone, and then they’ll prompt you to set a password for your account.

Next up is this page:

 

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This is easy enough, just fill in your account name (should be the name on your bank account), make sure you select 「外籍人士」 then fill in your ARC in the ID section, then select your bank, branch (your branch code is normally the first few numbers of your account no. for E Sun bank account holders) and fill in your account no.

The second bit of this page, is for those who want to be able to have credit card payments received on their behalf. So you can sign up for ECPay (綠界科技)for free if you want:

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I’m not going to sign up for that for this demo, but partner banks are listed here.

After that you’ll get a message telling you to check your account name in case there are any errors, but there should be a follow-up message congratulating you for setting up a store. Then you’ll come to the personal information disclosure screen. It will ask for your name, your email (twice) and at the bottom it will ask you if you’re willing to disclose your personal information. (The first option is disclose individual info, the second is disclose company info and the third is don’t disclose – which will be highlighted in blue and is the default choice):

未命名

From here, you can add a store:

未命名

From here, you’ll be able to name your store:

未命名

Then you can list your products:

未命名

You’ll be prompted to fill in information about the product you wish to sell:

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Once you sell something, I’m assuming you get follow-up instructions.

Anyway, that was for Sue, if you have any follow-up questions, feel free to write again.

Order and Pay for Masks Online and Check your Medical History with the NHI App 用全民健保行動快易通app買口罩註冊辦法

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UPDATE: The number of masks you can pick up at once will be adjusted to 9 every two weeks from April 9. You’ll only be able to order every other round from the third round onwards, so if you missed out on the third round you can order in the fourth, but not the fifth. If you ordered in the third round, you can’t order in the fourth. This is due to the new two week quota.

Second Round: Orders taken from 8am, March 25 to 8pm March 27
Payment period: 8am March 28 – 8pm March 30
Text sent out: March 31 – April 1
Collection from April 2 – April 8

3rd Round (9 adult masks/10 child masks): Orders taken from 8am, April 1 to 8pm April 3
Payment period: 8am April 4 – 8pm April 6
Text sent out: April 7 – April 8
Collection from April 9 – April 22

4th Round: Orders taken from 8am April 8 to 8pm April 10

5th Round: Orders taken from 8am April 15 to 8pm April 17

I discovered this app a while back, but it wasn’t really of much use to me until I heard the news that you can order masks through it on a weekly basis. The app essentially provides you information about your medical history and medications prescribed you online, and they’ve added information about all the tests you’ve undergone through the years in English (See Extra Credit section below to explore this content). It also provides reminders about scheduling your next dentist appointment, but previously, the app was buggy and not incredibly interesting, so I didn’t blog about it at the time. The process of getting your device verified is also quite complex and involves a card reader, so I didn’t think there’d be too much appetite for a post about it, but maybe the online ordering system and the added info will change that a bit.

After downloading the app 「健保快易通」(Google Play) or here for Apple users (if you’ve already downloaded it, make sure you have the latest version). You then have to go to the website to verify your identity with a (ATM-style) card reader (you can buy them on PCHome here).

After you’ve installed the card reader, head to their website, if you’re a Windows user, you’ll need to download their Windows installer, or MAC Installer, (others available here).  You can check if your card is being read properly here.

If it’s working, you should get a message like this:

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You’ll also have to mark your server as a trusted server here (or click on 「設定伺服器為可信任服務」(set as a trusted server) on this page). You’ll have to be an administrator on your computer to do this.

Now, you can get on with verifying your mobile app.

First-time users should click the box labeled 「首次登入請先申請」(First-time users, please apply here first), which I’ve marked with a red box below:
(Note they’ve now added English to the website too.)

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This will take you to a list of terms that you can click agree on:

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