Paradise Found: Isla Formosa

Ah, home sweet home.  And I do mean home, as I’m in the process of applying for permanent residency.  If only Taiwan could shut out the rest of the world, or make the rest of the world think and behave the same way as people here.

Marriage equality hasn’t passed yet, but the ruling DPP is gradually gathering support for passage of the law, which will likely be voted on in 2017, well before the 2018 elections.

Taiwan on verge of becoming first Asian country to allow same-sex marriage

Taiwan is on the verge of becoming the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage, according to the politician who tabled the new law.

A legislative committee approved an amendment to the civil code on 26 December, beginning a process that is expected to last until the middle of the year.

“We’re almost close to passing it,” Yu Mei-nu, the politician who introduced the marriage equality bill, told digital news company Global Post.

Another reason I’m glad to be here is quality of life.  There are work opportunities, equality and career opportunities for women, a safe country, relatively clean environment, low levels of violent crime, etc.  The biggest annoyance I’ve had was being verbally and physically harassed by an transphobic jerk the other day (the first time I’ve experienced that), and he was a foreigner.

Taiwan has also just been named the best place in the world for expatriates to live based on a variety of factors (work, education, health care, etc.) out of the top 21 countries. The list includes countries you expect – some of the Benelux, Nordic and Euro Union countries plus Australia, New Zealand and several Asian countries (Japan, South Korea, and Singapore).

Noticeably absent is the US, and that was before Petty Cash was elected.  The only other countries ranked as worth living in within North and South America are Costa Rica and Ecuador, according to 14,000 expatriates from around the world.

The top 21 countries for quality of life have been ranked

The countries with the best quality of life in the world have a good work-life balance, access to quality healthcare, education, and infrastructure, as well as cost of living and career opportunities. Great weather also helps.

In a new survey by InterNations, the world’s largest network for people who live and work abroad, the company asked 14,300 expats, representing 174 nationalities and living in 191 countries or territories, to rate 43 different aspects of life abroad on a scale of 1-7.

The top 21 are in order:

  1. Taiwan
  2. Austria
  3. Japan
  4. Spain
  5. Costa Rica
  6. Malta
  7. Czech Republic (a/k/a Czechia)
  8. Singapore
  9. Germany
  10. Switzerland
  11. South Korea
  12. Canada
  13. New Zealand
  14. Portugal
  15. France
  16. Australia
  17. Luxembourg
  18. Ecuador
  19. Finland
  20. Hungary
  21. Denmark

World Leader Pretends: The cut-out president

We are only a week in to the unelected US Resident’s sole term in office (because there won’t be a second), and people are justifiably frightened and appalled by dictums from the dictator, worried that this will continue for four years. I don’t believe the circus clown Petty Cash is the one we should be worried about when there is something far worse.

If a US president leaves office, the vice president is promoted to the position.  If the president leaves with less than two years remaining, then the vice president can still run for two full terms as president.  I suspect Petty Cash is simply there to fill the seat for two years.  His dictums are merely a distraction from the real concern, the power hehind the throne.  Pence is the one making the policies that will stick.

As many are well aware, there are a large number of buildings with the name “Trump” on the, but Petty Cash does not actually own them.  He is temporarily affiliated with a business at the beginning, but really only licenses his name.  He continues to profit from them after he leaves.

I am beginning to suspect the same is true of him as the unelected Resident.  He gives the false front of “being an outsider” while in reality is a puppet of those even wealthier than he is.  These early atrocities are naught more than cutting off a cat’s tail, make the public ignore the more serious things going on behind closed doors.  I suspect he is simply a cut out and will quit (I wouldn’t call it resigning) sometime in 2019, which would allow Pence to run for two full terms until 2028 – three terms in terms of the actual power he wields.

My Career Careered: How I became an ESL teacher

This is the first in a short series.  I plan to write more, including telling those interested how to get started in my field of work.

I haven’t spoken of it before (not that anybody asked), but I work teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) and have done this for more than fifteen years.  Anyone who has taught ESL will have eyes wide open at that number because they know most people last just one year, very few last two, and the percent who last five is tiny.  Of the hundreds of expatriates I know or know of, less than a score have been abroad for a decade or more.

How did I get started?

Back in 2000, I was underemployed and living paycheque to paycheque at a wretched “rent to own” company.  My former college (which will not be named) has a student placement office where current and former students can check job boards.  Many were from businesses seeking to recruit recent graduates, so there were often jobs not offered elsewhere.

I didn’t get offers for any of those.  What I did get, though, was a copy of “Teach English in Korea!”, a posting from a recruiting company.  I had previously applied for teaching jobs in Japan but was rejected because I didn’t meet the Japanese government’s required qualifications. (“Anata wa nihongo o hanashimasu ka?”).  I did, however, meet the South Korean government’s requirements.  I figured, “What the hell, it’s a new experience and better than where you are,” so I applied.  (Thanks, Kris.)

The interview went well and the confirmed hiring me a day later, though I didn’t realize at the time that being a warm bodied native speaker with a white face was enough.  (The first time in my life I began to understand privilege.)  Within six weeks I had gone from working a dead end job to a passport, plane ticket and my life in two suitcases.  The yard sale to sell off everything helped a lot both in load and money.

The next two months were a whirlwind, flying for the first time in my life (I’m still a white knuckle flyer), training, and most shockingly, living in a foreign country where I didn’t know a word of the local language.  Thankfully, the Korean hangeul script is dead easy to learn and read.

I’m going to leave it there for the moment because the next point would be another thousand words: What is it like to teach ESL?  I’ll save that for another day, preferably tomorrow.

Noise Annoys: Chinese New Year in Taiwan

Ah yes, Chinese New Year…one of (thankfully) only three times of the year that religion in Taiwan becomes highly annoying.  However it doesn’t come in the form of proselytizing; rather, it’s the fireworks going off at all hours without warning.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it were limitations on it.  The firework displays organized by federal and local governments happen in specific places and at specific times (for example, at Taipei 101 in Taipei at midnight this past Saturday, six kilometres from my home as the crow flies).  I could plan to either stay home inside solid walls or leave town because I know in advance.

The real annoyance is the noise polluters, the inconsiderate scum who light firecrackers indiscriminately at all hours, in back alleys and on streets, and up to two weeks before and after the holiday in question. Fireworks give me headaches comparable to migraines and they don’t go away for days.

“Culture” does not justify using noise as a weapon nor being inconsiderate to others.  There need to be legal restrictions on when and where fireworks are used for the same reason that many on FtB have spoken about church bells.  Not just in Taiwan at CNY, but anywhere and on any holiday.

The missive, “The right to swing a fist ends at another person’s nose,” applies to physical violence, but the same should be true of audible violence: The right to make loud noise ends at another person’s ear drums.

Music Rules: New Sedition

I suppose by now everyone has heard Alex Jones is Jonesing for a coup d’etat.  Puh-leeze.  The US military leadership, from Ollie North to Patreus and everyone between and after, are all willingly complicit and will do whatever pResident Petty Cash (a/k/a Annoying Orange) tells them to do.  There are no Smedley Butlers anymore, the US military is as obedient and unwilling to question as the Soviet military once were.

Excuse my dust, for being three weeks away.  Summer and winter vacations are the busiest time of the year in the ESL business – extra classes, extra paperwork, etc.  Chinese New Year is a welcome relief (more in another post).

Feudal Loured: FIFA as a personal fiefdom

Gianni Infantino, the recently elected FIFA mafioso president is trying to put his mark on soccer football early and create a legacy for himself.  But the only mark he’s going to leave is a black one.

BBC:  World Cup: Fifa to expand competition to 48 teams after vote

Telegraph UK: FIFA votes to expand World Cup to 48 teams from 2026

Infantino’s “brilliant” idea is to expand the world cup from 32 teams to 48 by 2026.  It will require eighty games in total to complete the tournament, and sixteen new stadiums for any host country or countries.

He and FIFA claim this move is “not financially motivated”. 9_9

[Read more…]

Wet Work: Is blood liable to be spilt?

“Sorry, not sorry” is more like it.  The only regret is that he was caught saying it.

Israel’s ambassador sorry over ‘take down’ Sir Alan Duncan comment

Israel’s ambassador to the UK has apologised after a senior member of his staff was secretly filmed saying he wanted to “take down” Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan.

It doesn’t matter whether “take down” infers political assassination or character assassination.  Duncan is a democratically elected member of the British government, and it is not the place of other countries to remove him by force or by blackmail. If one country can do it, so can others.

Israeli Embassy senior political officer Shai Masot made the comment in footage filmed in a London restaurant and obtained by the Mail on Sunday.

He told a reporter that Sir Alan was creating “a lot of problems”.

Ambassador Mark Regev said this was not the embassy or government’s view.

I beg to differ.  Anyone willing to say such things in public wouldn’t hesitate to say the same or worse behind closed doors.  If Regev and other superiors didn’t know Masot held those opinions, they were incompetent in vetting him.  And if they did know, then letting Masot continue in that position shows they agreed with him or approved of it.

Considering Regev’s history of walking perfectly in line with Netenyahu, he likely knew.  Removing Masot is political expediency and public relations, not punishment.

Speak Up: It’s important

This week, a letter written by a former UW-Milwaukee student to the university’s chancellor was posted on the I Have Forgiven Jesus blog.  To say the letter was scathing is the understatement of the year, and we’re only a week in.  As I said to the blog’s author, J, “I had to stop reading the letter halfway through.  My glasses had melted and I needed to change them.”

Trumpenproles (*) like Milo Yiannopoulos (the subject of the letter) have a tendency to flip out and attack those who dare factually criticize them or hold a different opinion…and then direct their rabble of followers upon the target (vis-a-vis Leslie Jones).  In response, I reached out to the letter’s author to show concern and solidarity before that happens.  Because it probably will.

(* “Trumpenprole” is a better term than “alt-right” because they are uneducated masses disinterested in facts, have no idea of the effects of their words and actions or who they serve, vis-a-vis the 1%ers.  The term originated with a Wall Street Journal hack last summer, but he was using it as part of an attack upon Obama, rather than describe the mindless populism of the new far right.  It is less “populism” than priapism – they used to get away with violating others with impunity, but now they can’t get off like they used to and are lashing out violently in frustration.)

The reality of harassment is, the silence of bystanders favours the aggressor.  Whether online or in person, saying nothing and not defending others has two effects:

1) An unchallenged aggressor takes others’ silence as assent with their words and consent to act out.  Bullies only become confident and violent when there are no consequences.

2) The target of the harassment feels isolated, alone and likely outnumbered.

This is even truer in person with the threat of physical violence.  Speaking up, however, has the opposite effect:

1) The aggressor feels isolated and lacking in numbers, especially when attempting to commit illegal acts that might have repercussions.

2) The target knows there is support, feels less threatened and may grow in confidence.  And others who might have stayed silent will begin to speak up.

Back in September 2016, French artist Marie-Shirine Yener (a/k/a Maeril) created a brilliant comic on how to confront islamophobia.  Her comic illustrates what I mean, that silence protects the aggressor, and speaking out more than cancels them out.

Speaking out is not a zero sum game, it’s a case of “the sum is greater than the parts”.  Silence empowers aggressors by more than one person’s strength, and speaking out empowers the targets of aggression by more than one person.

If the target of aggression is someone you know, speaking up speaks volumes.  Showing kindness and support to a stranger accomplishes more than with a friend, and it does the most for someone with whom you disagree and don’t get along with (hopefully, you have none).

Speaking out should be a moral obligation.  I’ve been guilty of silence too often in the past, but I’m working on it.

Must Resist: Hate groups have no place in Taiwan

It has come to light that the anti-LGBTQIA protesters in Taiwan weren’t just dishonest about their numbers (shipping people city to city to make their numbers seem larger) and weren’t just hypocritical about their violent tendencies.  Multiple bigots were arrested last week (not just the one mentioned in the link) after committing unprovoked violence and trespass during their protest against the first reading of the proposed marriage equality law.  They attempted to physically push past a police line and enter the building.

It turns out that several US-based christian hate groups, as defined by the SPLC, have been interfering in Taiwan’s domestic affairs, organizing violent groups and spreading hate speech with no facts behind them (e.g. the myths about child molestation and bestiality).  This includs “MassResistance”, “IHOP” and a few others.

Anti-Gay MassResistance Supporting Anti-Equality Activists in Taiwan

MassResistance has joined the ranks of Religious Right groups that are expanding the global reach of their efforts to resist legal equality for LGBT people, boasting in recent months of its anti-equality efforts in Mexico and Nigeria. Now, as Taiwan moves toward becoming the first Asian nation to embrace marriage equality, the Massachusetts-based group is helping mobilize opposition from Taiwan’s socially conservative Christians.

The Taiwan government should treat the foreign meddlers the way other countries treated “pickup artists”: as a threat to its citizens. They should be detained and deported from the country.

Whims Whimper: Left over ideas, episode 3

Every year around the winter solstice, I trot out the idea of calendar reform.  (Yeah, I know it was almost two weeks ago.)  I have a pipe dream where the world gets rid of the nonsensical “30 days hath November” calendar and start using mine.

January to May are 31 days each, 155 in total.

June to December are 30 days each, 210 in total.

In a leap year, we have December 31st.

It’s simple, easy to learn, consistent, and I’m sure those in the US who celebrate African-American History Month would love it after getting shafted with the shortest month on the existing calendar.

Let’s not stop there, designate the winter solstice as New Year’s Day.  Why not?  It makes a lot more sense than doing it eight to ten days later.


There were numerous New Year’s Eve parties in Taipei, and the one I attended was a lot of fun, with a lot of like-minded people, and I’m not just talking LGBTQIA.  Many young Taiwanese and most waiguoren here are atheist, agnostic or at least secular. And those who are religious start to realize they don’t get to and shouldn’t be able to dictate to others.  There’s also a very strong anti-China/separatist streak amongst most young adults.

When my friend Magnolia was performing, she was handing out numerous two word signs and people were happily waving them.  I’m sure you can guess the other word on them.

**** 2016

**** China

**** Trump

**** religion

**** christian hate

Other signs would likely be appreciated around these parts.


Music Rules: It was just another day

For the Taiwanese, December 25th was Constitution Day, the day when the country took a major stop to becoming a democracy.  To me, it was Sunday and a day off to go shopping.  The stores were open, the sun was shining, and people were going about their days.

And I didn’t hear a single annoying christmas song all day.  Ah, the bliss of silence.  Aside from the very rare artificial tree or cheap decorations, a person wouldn’t have known there was any sort of foreign holiday going on elsewhere in the world.

The only time that religion in Taiwan gets annoying is major holidays like Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Festival and a few others when anti-social noise polluters start pulling out firecrackers and blowing them at all hours.  (For those who say, “Why are you spoiling other people’s fun, I beg to differ.  You’re spoiling other people’s sanctity and security.)  Thankfully, I was inside a solid building kilometres away from Taipei 101 when the New Year’s fireworks were going off.

The Tide Has Turned: And the goal is finally in sight

Taiwan’s new bill granting marriage equality for all easily passed the first hurdle in becoming law.  The ruling DPP and coalition partners have the numbers to pass the law, and the KMT, the largest right wing party, doesn’t opposing the legislation.

Marriage equality in Taiwan has gone from uncertainty to possibility to inevitability.  It’s now only a matter of time.

Taiwan takes key step to marriage equality

An amendment to the Civil Code was approved by a legislative committee Monday in a major step toward the legalization of same-sex marriage, as thousands-strong dueling demonstrators took place outside the Legislative Yuan.

After three hours, the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee approved the amendment proposed by ruling party Legislator Yu Mei-nu, which replaces “male and female parties” in the Civil Code’s marriage chapter with “two parties.”


Taichung Marches: December’s parade was another success

The LGBTQIA parade in Taichung on December 17th was another rousing success with tens of thousands in attendance.  I wasn’t there, but some who were tell me it didn’t have the same atmosphere at the marriage equality protest.

That’s actually a good thing.  It’s a sign that we know the right side is winning and (see another post today) the right to marriage now has a definite goal, and end in sight.

Taiwan’s Thousands march in Taichung’s LGBTQIA Pride Parade

By Central News Agency

Thousands of people attended the Taichung LGBTQIA Pride Parade on Saturday, waving rainbow flags in support of LGBTQIA rights in the central Taiwanese city.

The Taichung LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual/Allies) Pride Parade, now in its fifth year, began at the Taichung People’s Park.

Don’t Rush: Consider them retired

A lot of people, including many on FTB, talked about 2016 being a bad year. I wasn’t one of them, but not because I didn’t care about those who died during the year.  I’m growing more philosophical as I get older, turning 50 myself next month, so seeing many of the names I grew up with dying (most 10-30 years older than me) comes more as inevitability than surprise.

The biggest inevitability for me in 2016 of people coming to an end are the band Rush.  No, nobody died, but drummer Neil Peart has made it clear that his arthritis makes any more touring out of the question.  After more than forty years, they will no longer play live as Rush, though guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist/singer Geddy Lee still want to perform, and they might still record.

I always knew the band would come to an end, but I always thought I would be sad or crying.  Instead, all I feel is grateful to them.  I am grateful that in the 1970s as a kid, there were other people who felt, liked and said the same things that I did, making me feel a lot less alone in the world.  I am grateful for a band that was down to Earth and ethical, grateful for a band that played throughout my entire lifespan, and grateful for literally dozens of existing albums that will keep me entertained even if another one never comes.  Clockwork Angels is arguably their best album, so it’s one hell of a high note to end on if it’s their last.

Considering the band’s history, feeling anything but grateful would be an insult to them.  In the mid-1980s, there was talk of a split because of musical direction in the band, but they worked it out.  In the late 1990s, Neil Peart didn’t play for four years after the deaths of his daughter and his wife a year apart, yet they pulled through.  (“Consider me retired” is what Peart told Lee and Lifeson in 1998.)  Every year and every album since 2001 has been a bonus, and the only complaints I have are (a) the “loudness wars” on Vapour Trails, which even Rush admit is a problem, and (b) fans stopped buying Rush’s albums in the numbers they used to.

I have nothing but best wishes and gratitude to offer them.  To Mssrs. Dirk (a/k/a Gershon), Lerxst (a/k/a Slobovic) and Pratt (a/k/a O’Malley), I thank you and I’m still smiling.