Let’s Remember: James Baldwin died December 1, 1987

James Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) is arguably one of the greatest writers and public intellectuals the US has ever produced. Even when speaking off the cuff without preparation, his answers are more enlightened and valuable than the prepared speches of the polished mouthpieces in Washington. If US leadership in the last thirty years had half the intellect of that man, most of the US’s problems wouldn’t exist.

A novelist, a playwright, a songwriter, essayist, his versatility and intellect knew no bounds. And as a human rights advocate – civil rights, LGBTQ rights, socialism – his words spoke volumes and have become ever more relevant as the US marches backwards.

Biography.com: James Baldwin

The Root: 5 Times James Baldwin Read White America

Pacific Standard: How James Baldwin Gives Our Problem Back to Us

Thirty years after Baldwin’s death, though, America has found itself in a Baldwin renaissance. This resurfacing of Baldwin is ubiquitous, from journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates’ award-winning book Between the World and Me (2015); to director Raoul Peck’s Academy Award-nominated film I Am Not Your Negro (2016); to the fact that, over the past year, Baldwin’s book sales have improved by an impressive 110 percent, according to some estimates. That Baldwin is now re-emerging says lots about Baldwin—but it says even more about us.

There aren’t many people I have said I wish I could go back in time and meet, but James Baldwin is one of them. Unlike many whose personal lives turned out to be flawed or problematic, Baldwin’s name remains untarnished.

Let’s Remember: Marie Curie, born November 7, 1867

Marie Sklodowska Curie (neé Maria Salomea Sklodowska) was born November 7, 1867, 150 years ago. She died on July 4, 1934, of aplastic anemia related to her work with radioactive materials. In 1995, she and her husband Pierre Curie were interred at the Panthéon in Paris, the country’s mausoleum for national heroes.

Marie Curie was a giant in the field of STEM. She is the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields, and members of her family (Curies) won five Nobel Prizes in all. She discovered techniques for detecting isotopes and identified two elements, Polonium and Radium, the latter heavily used in medical treatments.

The Nobel Foundation’s biographical profile of Marie Curie

I would have posted this in November, but was unable to for personal reasons.

Self, Care: My time away has not been voluntary

I have to excuse myself for another long break away from posting. I don’t know what’s worse, problems happening all at once or one immediately after one another. Posting resumes this weekend.

In late October, around the time of the Pride Parade in Taipei, I began having computer problems. Data recovery has taken some time along with finding a suitable replacement computer.  That’s one of the advantages of living in Taiwan – if I buy Acer or Asus and have a problem, the factories and service facilities are less than 200km away.

In November, my sister (sister by choice, Kat, who is also transgender) took me to a women’s clinic (cisgender and transgender) which was willing to start me on hormone blockers which I took for three weeks. This was a huge mistake and I will not be taking estrogen again. My blood pressure and heart rate have been excessively high since then (150-160/90-100) and I can feel the physical strain on my heart. At my last health check in August for work visa renewal, my normal BP was 120/75 and resting heart rate was 60, extremely good for someone age 50.  I found out later that the active ingredient in the estrogen pills (ethinylestradiol) is banned in several countries as unsafe.

The estrogen also gave me my first experience with mood swings. I could avoid blogging and commenting during that time (my personal policy of “don’t write while angry”), but I could not avoid work. I did not do anything inappropriate, but my employer needed a medical explanation from a doctor for my erractic behaviour and emotional outbursts. Not a good situation.

Another medical issue unrelated to the hormones (or is it?) that has kept me from writing has been a return of effects from my concussion in 2011, the inability to focus and complete tasks. Recurrences of flooding, inability to concentrate and lack of patience are common post-concussion afflictions.  At work, I have no choice but to try and focus (do my job to keep my job and work visa), but outside of work it has been difficult. I haven’t even had the energy to socialize, let alone write.

One most bizarre and humourous thing this past month has been an American on facebook (we belong to the same nostalgia group) who began messaging me romantically once a week. If being on the opposite side of the world isn’t enough reason to say no, he’s an eagle-t-shirt wearing, Trump supporting Fred Bircher, “it’s okay to be white” type. WHY would he be interested in a transgender woman? (He knows, he’s commented on specific photos.) I know I should block him, but I’m getting great comedic value out of his messages which have not yet been offensive or sexual.

Death Camps: An american tradition

The Slave Trade.

The Gnadenhutten Massacre.

The Trail of Tears.


The Exclusion Act.

Wounded Knee.

Balinga Massacre.


Prison camps for ethnic Japanese people.

No Geun Rhi.

Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Dominican Republic and dozens of others.

My Lai and other massacres in Vietnam.

Iran-Contra and Operation Cyclone.

Azizabad, Kandahar and Kunduz.

Puerto Rico.

[Read more…]

Out To Launch: Annoying Orange is even more clueless than you thought

It’s easy to understand now why Rex Tillerson described Trump as a….   Trump wants the US to increase its nuclear arsenal by ten times. Exactly whom is it going to be used against? ISIS bases in Syria?

It’s long past time for the US military to overthrow the cast of clowns. There’s nothing left to salvage. Could a one year military dictatorship – until a new presidential and senate elections are held – really be any worse than this?

Excuses Excuses: A hollyweird mogul’s operandi

It doesn’t shock me at all that Harvey “Swine-Slime” Weinstein has been knocked from his predatory pedestal.  No, I didn’t know it would specifically be him, but rumours have abounded for decades about the “hollywood casting couch”, of women raped by coercion.  Cue the scum who say “They consented.  How else did they get the roles?  Why didn’t they report it sooner?”  Asia Argento begs to differ, unequivocally stating that Weinstein raped her.  And other people such as Terry Crews – a man, and ex-NFL player – have reported being sexually assaulted by other, different hollywood executives.

This is another example of something I’ve said before about Donald Sterling, about Tiger Woods, about Bill Cosby: People knew and they kept their mouths shut.  The media knew, powerful people knew (NBA owners, hollywood actors and executives), and they protected the perpetrators with a code of silence.  Their careers and access to the halls of power would have been cut off if they had spoken.

There is a lot of heavy criticism for actors like Matt Damon and Russell Crowe who helped silence a 2004 New York Times expose on Weinstein, and for other actors who have said nothing about him since the story broke.  Their silence speaks volumes.  But their silence doesn’t bother me as much as backslapping and congratulating being given to George Clooney, Mark Ruffalo and others who are speaking up.  I suspect they also knew and are protecting themselves.  You can’t be around and spend that much time with Weinstein and his ilk and never hear a single rumour.

The most appalling thing I read today was in a Taiwan feminist group on facebook.  A friend posted a comment by a piece of garbage she once considered a “friend”.  He said, “Following the demise of Harvey Weinstein, artors wishing to make it in Hollywood will now have to rely on their acting ability.”

The level of tone deafness and rape culture advocacy is astounding.


Murder Rates: Lies, damned lies and atavistics

In the Snopes group on facebook, a man named Michael McLaughlin published an interesting correlation of data. He compared the rates of gun deaths in 68 countries versus the wealth (GDP per capita) of each. Wealth is directly related to the education of a country, whether as a cause or an indicator.  His graph shows a strong correlation between wealth and a low gun death rate, and poverty with a high gun death rate, with the US as the biggest exception. [Read more…]

Shells Fall: They are not the hollow men

Mass shooters in the US are not the hollow men of TS Eliot’s poem.  Eliot’s men were hollow because they afraid to carry out their violence.  But there are plenty of potential hollow men in the US – neo-nazis, white supremacists, anti-abortionists, militia militants and other extremists trying to work up to it.

But the mass shooters in the US can be considered hollow men as people, as emotionally stunted and (mostly) white males.  The writer linked and quoted below has an excellent argument for the abundance of white male shooters.  It is primarily about the US, but applies equally well to mass shooters in other countries (e.g. Marc Lepine, Thomas Hamilton, Martin Bryant)[Read more…]

Blog Rules: A reiteration

Recent unpublished comments require this.  I can’t expect everyone to go back to my first post and read them, so I’m repeating them here:

– – – – –

What are your blog’s policies?  I will start simple and evolve or expand it where or when necessary:

  1. Be nice.
  2. No heated arguments.
  3. No profanities.
  4. No insults.
  5. No misrepresentation or quotemining.
  6. No personal attacks upon myself or others.

Most FtB writers have…animated conversations, to put it politely.  I’m not making comment on other people’s blogs by saying or having those rules.  It’s more a stylistic choice than about controlling conversations.  Not allowing certain things doesn’t prevent anyone from saying or doing such things elsewhere, and it doesn’t tread on anyone’s rights or ability to speak here.

Cancer Sticks: Capitalist racism

In July, I wrote about the way tobacco companies are shifting their businesses away from certain regions to others.  What I failed to point out then was the inherent racism of such “marketing”, and of governments who let them do it.

Of the five largest tobacco companies in the world (there used to be six before 2017), they are US owned, British owned, UK-US, from Japan and China.  Together, they sell and estimated 94.5% of all tobacco products sold.

Due to rising rate of cancers and public ire, tobacco laws have regulated, controlled and limited the advertising, sales and use of tobacco in wealthier countries.  Even those which have long been filth-pits of cigarette smoke (e.g. Czech Republic, China, Russia, Philippines, France, Italy, South American countries) have enacted strong legislation to curtail smoking and limit who can.  Combined with falling numbers of smokers in G7 and G20 countries, tobacco companies have been desperate to find new suckers (pun definitely intended) to buy their filth.  Even the Chinese and Japanese governments have begun an anti-smoking campaigns and legislation. [Read more…]

The Earth Moves: But sometimes, not enough

Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau (CWB) is concerned with earthquakes – or rather, the lack of them in 2017.  (As if the lack of typhoons isn’t enough of a problem.  The people I hear complain the most about typhoons also complain the loudest about water restrictions.)

There have been very few 5.0 or 6.0 earthquakes this year.  Taiwan’s earthquakes are slip faults, two plates sliding past each other.  Quakes as high as 7.0 are rare because of the gradual release of energy, the lack of earthquakes could mean a buildup.  Building construction is designed for the expected earthquakes, but what about the unexpected?

Too few earthquakes in Taiwan so far to release energy: CWB

Taipei, Sept. 21 (CNA) Taiwan has seen fewer earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.0 or higher on the Richter scale so far this year compared with previous years, which is not good for proper energy release, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said Thursday.

Taiwan usually experiences more than 100 temblors on that kind of scale each year, but as of Thursday, there had been only 42 episodes, said Kuo Kai-wen (郭鎧紋), director of the bureau’s Seismology Center.


Thursday was the 18th anniversary of the Jiji earthquake that hit central Taiwan [Sept. 21, 1999]. The tremor, which measured 7.3 on the Richter scale, took 2,415 lives.

In other environmental news, please remember that climate change isn’t real.

Penghu records highest September temperature in 121 years

Taipei, Sept. 24 (CNA) A temperature of 35.1 degrees Celsius was recorded by a weather monitoring station in Magong City, Penghu on Sunday, the highest recorded in September since the station was established 121 years ago.

Taiwan’s air quality has also been poor recently, with warnings for the elderly, young children and those with respiratory problems.  In one township, the red warning applied to all people.

Air quality unhealthy in parts of western Taiwan

Taipei, Sept. 24 (CNA) The air quality dropped to levels deemed unhealthy in central and southern parts of western Taiwan on Sunday, according to the Environmental Protection Administration’s Taiwan Air Quality Monitoring Network.

As of 12:00 a.m., the air quality indicator flashed red at the monitoring station in Hsingang Township in Chiayi County in the south, according to the monitoring network at the Environmental Protection Administration.

A red alert indicates that air quality is unhealthy for the general public.

As I write, most areas have only a “moderate” warning, but that’s at the end of a weekend, two days of industrial inactivity in China.  It will likely worsen by late Monday.

Crime Waves: Slaves, knaves, graves and haze

That title wasn’t meant to be flippant. It’s been a busy week in crime news, especially during “ghost month” where many Taiwanese people are very superstitious.

In followup to the recent murder of a Vietnamese man by Taiwan police, combined with numerous news reports of slave labour by unscrupulous businesses, the National Immigration Agency (NIA) is taking a more humane (but long overdue) approach and treating people who run from jobs as possible victims, not criminals.

NIA re-designates runaway migrant workers as “unaccounted for”

National Immigration Agency (NIA) Director-General Jeff J. Yang (楊家駿) announced Tuesday that in future whenever foreign workers’ whereabouts are unknown after leaving their official place of employment, his agency will no longer refer to them as “illegal runaways” but rather classify them as “unaccounted for.”


Foreign workers often feel compelled to leave their jobs in Taiwan for reasons beyond their control, but despite that are often characterized as suspects or criminals, which Yang said was unhelpful and would henceforth be replaced by the designation “unaccounted for.”

One main reason for leaving is the mistreatment of workers, from abuse to extortion to slave labour. In the case from Kaohsiung, the government surprised me with their actions: confiscating money from the people’s captors and giving it to the victims as back wages.

Fishermen ‘kept like slaves’ in Taiwan

A group of foreign fishermen in Taiwan were locked in tiny windowless rooms around the clock to stop them escaping while not at sea, prosecutors said in the island’s latest abuse case involving migrant workers.

Fishing and boat company owners were among 19 people charged Monday in the southern city of Kaohsiung for illegally holding 81 foreign fishermen in buildings after they had berthed their boats.


Prosecutors also confiscated nearly Tw$3.69 million ($123,000) from the companies in back pay for the workers.

The case came to light last year after a fisherman tipped off prosecutors with the help of a social worker, the statement said.

In other recent news, a hazing incident involving sexual harassment at a Taiwan university is cause for corcern. There aren’t many stories about hazing that make the news here, but the ones I’ve heard involve christian schools. Is that selective reporting, or a sign of a specific problem?

Details of Freshmen Hazing Activities Posted Online

An instructor at Chung Yuan Christian University (中原大學) in Taoyuan is being criticized for his involvement in freshmen hazing activities, details of which were posted on Dcard.

The student who posted details of the hazing during the freshmen outing said he was embarrassed and didn’t want to participate in the games but was pressured to do so.


The instructor, who was not named in the UDN article or Dcard post, reportedly said that male students who were embarrassed or offended by the activities during the freshmen outing were “too conservative.”

Guns are illegal for anyone not the police or military, but that doesn’t stop criminals from getting them. On the other hand, there’s no “good guy with a gun” fiction, and the police can immediately tell who the criminals are.

Three Injured, 1 Dead in New Taipei City Gangland Shooting

Five people were shot during temple celebrations in New Taipei City’s Tucheng District today and at least one is dead.

One of the victims is a gang boss named Lin Li-chang (林立昌) who belongs to the Heavenly Way Alliance. At the time of writing Lin is in a critical condition after being shot 6 times. Lin was not breathing and had no heartbeat when brought to the hospital, but was revived and is currently undergoing emergency surgery.


Shortly before 1:30pm, Lin and temple volunteers were partaking in a ceremony where they distributed rice to the poor, when a gunman suddenly drew a pistol and began firing at Lin. The gunman shouted “Finally, I take revenge for the boss.”

Police suspect that the shooting is related to the assassination of gang boss Huang Yilun (黃義倫) who was murdered in Tucheng as he sat in his Porsche SUV in June this year.

They Didn’t Migrate: How do deal with an invasive species

The government of Chiayi county, Taiwan, is offering a (modest) reward for the capture of brown anoles, a species of lizard native to the Carribean.  The species is capable of destroying indigenous wildlife, and the snake population, while plentiful and dangerous, is not large enough to deal with the problem naturally. The anoles obviously got here because of human intervention (read: stupidity), but did they get here by plane or by cargo ship? I doubt they were smuggled in. [Read more…]

Music Rules: The pain came when Morphine was taken away

Mark Sandman was born September 24, 1952, and would have been 65 today. I say would have been because he died of a heart attack while performing on stage in Italy in July 1999, aged 46. He was the eldest of four children, three sons and one daughter. She is the only surviving sibling, three sons all dying due to illness.  Parents should never have to bury their children.

Mark Sandman was the singer, bassist and primary songwriter of the band Morphine which produced six incredible albums. Their “Low Rock” sound rode the wave of “alternative” music of the 1990s primarily due to their sound and unusual and minimalist instrumentation (two string slide bass, baritone sax, and six piece drum kit) though they have far more in common with jazz, beat poetry, groups of the 1970s and 1980s (e.g. Steely Dan, Two-Tone bands). The instrumentation sounds primitive, yet they produced a full sound. (Sandman would jokingly introduce Colley as the group’s “lead guitarist”.)  With incredibly strong songwriting, they performed live shows that sounded as good as their albums, and had a growing word-of-mouth fanbase. [Read more…]

Left To Die: Callous and cowardly cops are here too

In August, Taiwanese police were engaged in a roundup of foreigners working without legal visas (expired but did not leave, ran away from their jobs, etc.).  Slave labour has been a problem with arrests as recently as last spring.

During one of these raids,  Taiwanese police murdered Nguyen Quoc Phi, a 27 year old Vietnamese man who was being arrested. He tried to escape and was shot nine times. The police did nothing as he slowly and painfully bled to death. No first aid, no call for an ambulance, no attention at all as he lay on the ground suffering.

The video below is interesting not because of the content, but its source: the Hsinchu County Fire Bureau, itself a government agency. It didn’t require private individuals who happened to be there. (Something tells me there will be consequences for the person who released the video.) [Read more…]