Saturday, February 22, 2014

Blurring the Lines of What is Legal, What is Safe...and What Really isn't Either

A sleek black Mercedes pulled itself next to the street-side bar where the author and his two friends began their night with a couple of Gin and Tonic's to wash down an anxious sense of uncertainty on what is going to happen next.  The bar owner, the gracious host for the night, motioned his three new friends into the black-leather backseats of the spacious vehicle.  Putting himself on the front passenger seat, he prompted a casual small talk with the elderly driver, who appeared professional but relaxed in his tuxedo uniform.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Increasing Absence of Fashion for the "Common Male"

One of the biggest, most luxurious, and most famous departure stores in Taipei is beyond just a building with expensive brand-name shops.  It is actually a complex of FOUR buildings, each of which 7-8 storied and all of them connected via pedestrian-only bridges on the ground level, and sky bridges on the 4th floor.  From restaurants to food courts, cosmetics to clothing lines, activity halls to nearby movie theaters, the Shin Kong Mitsukoshi seem to contain everything a shopper would ever want in order to while away a lazy weekend.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Taiwanese Domestic Politics: Is the Ideological Crowding out the Practical?

When talking about Taiwanese politics, China is the elephant in the room.  These words from Western media should not and indeed really do not face disagreement even here in Taiwan.  Certainly, for an island where 40% of exports head to China and 10% of citizens live in China, to speak of political issues in a Sino-centric fashion would not be at all excessive or exaggerating.  And looking at events of the past across the Strait and potential repercussions for the future, the fixation of local politicians and common people with China is very well justified.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Can Universalism of Religious Identity Overcome Nationalistic Biases?

At one moment the author and his friend were the only customers in a quiet hole-in-the-wall halal restaurant, and just five minutes later, to their bewilderment, the shop was getting over run by a Chinese tourist group, who took up 3/4 of the restaurant in two waves.  Even as massive, money-wielding Chinese tourists have become a common sight abroad in the past decade, this one was maybe a bit subtly different.  The venue was a Muslim restaurant, and the tourist group was composed fully of Chinese Muslims taking perhaps their first trips to Taiwan.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Attempting to Decode the Influence of Western Alcohol-Fueled Entertainment in Asia

When it comes to Westerners stereotyping Asians for the way they entertain themselves, a few truisms dominate.  Most notably, speaking of karaoke, an activity popular from the most basic "resorts" in the Philippines to out here in Taiwan, the Westerners do not mask their disdain.  Calling the drunken butchering of so many classics something "less interesting than watching paint dry on the wall," travel guides do not hesitate to place them at an inferior status compared to the glorious emergence of Western-style bars, pubs, and dance clubs in international-oriented major Asian cities.