“I Voted” Sticker in Chinese

On election day in the U.S., I saw this particular “I Voted” sticker online:

The sticker has “I Voted” in three languages: English, Chinese, and Spanish. The statements in English and Spanish seem very positive and upbeat, with exclamation marks. The Chinese translation 我已投票 comes across as happy as your computer telling you its virus library was updated. The statement 已更新 is used in software to mean that it has been updated. The use of 已 makes the statement rather formal and boring. It makes voting seem rather mundane, which is probably the opposite of what the sticker is supposed to project, given the statements in English and Spanish. 我投票了! also means “I Voted!” and sounds much more exciting. Plus, it also has an exclamation mark.

Finally caught up with BBC’s “Sherlock”

I know BBC started airing “Sherlock” in 2010. I know it made a Benedict Cumberbatch a much watched actor with a strong following. I know “Sherlock” has been well received. I just did not have the time to watch a single episode of the series. There’s only so much time in a day, and there’s so much out there to consume already. It was my pop culture blind spot. But it’s a blind spot no more, because I have now watched all three seasons.

To celebrate Sherlock’s 2014 Primetime Emmy wins, PBS announced it was streaming all episodes of Season 3 (until September 25, 2014). Thankfully I had time to finally experience the series. I found all three seasons on Netflix and started watching. It wasn’t until later I found out that even the episodes on Netflix were only made available recently. So I suppose I jumped in at the right time since “Sherlock” is now available where I can watch it.

I’m not sure when I first learned about the stories of Sherlock Holmes. I do remember my parents mentioning them when I was young. In Chinese, Sherlock Holmes is 福爾摩斯 (I know it sounds nothing like Holmes, but that’s for another post). I remember reading a few stories when I was young. I also remember watching some episodes of “Sherlock Holmes,” the series starring Jeremy Brett, on PBS. The only impression I have of that series is that it seemed rather dark.

I did watch some of the first season of “Elementary,” the updated Sherlock Holmes series on CBS. Unfortunately I lost track of it. Maybe the episodes will show up on streaming media so I can catch up. I did become a bit tired of the narcissistic version of Sherlock Holmes in “Elementary,” so it would be interesting to see how that developed.

I am completely enamored with “Sherlock.” It is witty and funny and a whole lot of fun. The actors and actresses are a delight to watch and really pull the audience into this particular world of Sherlock Holmes. I do like the socially awkward, but slowly becoming human, Sherlock Holmes. I also like the lively John and Mary Watson. I really like the caring, but still caustic, Mycroft Holmes. I’m completely terrified of the creepy Moriarty. This entirely updated version with modern technology is an absolute delight. I also really like the music and graphics. Ok, fine, I like it all.

“Sherlock” also gives me a glimpse of London. I was supposed to go to London on business around this time last year. The trip was canceled at the last minute so I didn’t end up going. Hopefully I’ll still be able to visit on my own at some point.

Now like everyone else, I’m waiting for Season 4. I’m not dismayed, as undoing this blind spot has given me a chance to go back and revisit Doyle and the original Sherlock Holmes stories. Digging through my books also resulted in a collection of Donne poems that I’m curious to revisit. It has also opened my eyes to the wonderful talents of one Benedict Cumberbatch. I’m particularly looking forward to “The Imitation Game,” which is scheduled for release on November 21, 2014.

I first learned about Alan Turing in my computer science courses. He is known for developing an early form of the computer and breaking the Enigma code. Although he died in 1954, his story continued this year when he finally received a royal pardon. I’m really excited to see his story brought to life through film.

Now, hopefully I have time to get through the first season of FOX’s Sleepy Hollow since all episodes are available on Hulu and a new season will be starting soon.

Yes, I know Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Mison (who portrays Ichabod Crane on Sleepy Hollow) were both in Parade’s End.

No, I haven’t had the time to watch it.

What is the real price of things in Taiwan (in U.S. dollars)?

I’m not an expert in economics, but I am aware of the economic differences between Taiwan and the U.S. Something that always concerns me is when I see people directly determining the price of an item in Taiwan by a simple exchange rate conversion. A shortcut for the conversion is that 1 New Taiwan Dollar (NTD) is equal to 30 U.S. dollars (USD). When someone buys a breakfast that costs 60 NTD, the common response is, “That’s cheap! It’s only 2 U.S. dollars.”

But that’s 2 U.S. dollars from the point of view of someone with an U.S. income and used to an U.S. cost of living. What does that 60 NTD breakfast really feel like to the average person in Taiwan? How do we figure out the price in USD so the average American would feel the same way about that breakfast?

We can compare incomes and find the price of that breakfast in U.S. dollars based on income. The median income in the U.S. is roughly 52800 USD. The median income in Taiwan is 39600 USD. The average Taiwanese earns 75% of what the average American earns. For 1 USD that a person in the U.S. earns, a Taiwanese person is earning 75 cents. Based on this income discrepancy, 1 NTD is equivalent to 22.50 USD. The price of that 60 NTD breakfast for the average Taiwanese feels like a 2.67 USD breakfast for the average American.

That probably doesn’t seem like a large difference, but that is based on median incomes. Now let’s look at a particular income bracket: college graduates. College graduates in the U.S. earn an average of 45327 USD a year. Taiwanese university graduates earn 26722 NTD a month, or 320664 NTD a year, or 10688.80 USD a year. Taiwanese college graduates earn on average 23.58% of what an American college graduates earns. For the 1 USD that an American graduate earns, a Taiwanese college graduate earns 24 cents. In this case, 1 NTD is equivalent to 7.20 USD. So to a Taiwanese college graduate, that 60 NTD breakfast would feel the same as a 8.33 USD breakfast for an U.S. college graduate. I’m sure most of you would think that that breakfast is rather expensive!

I know I’m probably missing some things. Maybe I should be comparing amount of disposable income instead of salary. I’m only comparing the price of breakfast, and not taking into account other items that contribute to the total cost of living.

It’s important to understand the local economic situation and not just base price comparisons on the exchange rate. Just because one thinks something is cheap relative to the exchange rate does not mean it is affordable to the average person in that country. Of course, when you’re on vacation, you can spend what fits in your budget, but some awareness of the value of items to locals may help you better understand a place.

Spotify playlist: Taiwan indie – love of the land

I made this “Taiwan indie – love of the land” playlist to share with fyeahcindie. I figured I would write about it here as well, since I just covered music from Taiwan on Spotify in a previous post.

The playlist consists of fourteen songs from independent artists from Taiwan. I’m really glad these artists are available on Spotify, because it really shows the diversity of artists in Taiwan. Some songs are definitely commentary on political and social issues. Other songs are purely about locations in Taiwan and gaining insight from those places. The diversity also shows in the language. The songs are in Amis, Hakka, Taiwanese, and Mandarin. There are also different genres: ballad, rap, rock, simple guitar, and songs that mix genres.

1. ho hay yan (喔嗨洋) – suming (舒米恩) (lyrics at kkbox)
In Amis. Suming is Pangcah (Amis) and has been credited with mixing Amis music with different genres.

2. Mahalateng (我心所屬) (things belonging to my heart) – suming (舒米恩) (lyrics at kkbox)
In Amis. About home, family, and ancestral lands, no matter where one has been.

3. 眾神護臺灣 (The Gods Bless Taiwan) – 董事長樂團 (The Chairman) (lyrics at indievox)
In Taiwanese. A mix of traditional temple instruments and rock. Asking the temple gods to bless Taiwan.

4. 台北!台北! (Taipei!Taipei!) – 八十八顆芭樂籽 (88balaz) (lyrics at bandcamp)
In Mandarin. Complaining about problems suffered by any major metropolitan city. “…lonely people of Taipei, lonely people of Taipei… so what if there’s pollution, Taipei, Taipei, where everyone is the same, Taipei, Taipei, where the food has no taste, Taipei, Tapei.”

5. 記憶盆地 (The History of Taipei City) – 拷秋勤 (Kou Chou Ching)
In Hakka, Taiwanese, and Mandarin. Features 李靜芳 (Lee Ching Fang; link to FB fan page), a traditional Taiwanese opera singer. A great mix of rap and traditional opera. The indievox link has a summary of the song: “not sure when people started calling Taipei City the land of the nobles, when did everyone stop loving this city? the reason we do so is because we don’t know this city. Its past has been replaced by new buildings. tradition and modernity do not conflict, and modern construction can preserve many important traditional resources. we need to bring back that lost history. through this song, we’re telling everyone, let’s bring back our pride in Taipei.”

6. 台北 Balaba (Taipei balaba) – 黃玠 (Dadado Huang) (lyrics at kkbox)
In Mandarin. Escaping busy life in 台北 with a comforting song.

7. 貢寮你好嗎 (Gongliao how are you?) – 929 (lyrics at kkbox)
In Mandarin. 貢寮 is in the northeastern part of the Taiwan. It is known for 福隆 (Fulong) beach where the Hohaiyan Rock Festival is held every summer. The construction of the fourth nuclear power plant is also in 貢寮. “…youths have gathered on the sand in the hundreds of thousands, want to have fun, to rock, and be brave, if everyone sings together, what amount of strength could there be. I want to loudly sing, sing to you, I want to loudly sing, sing to the sand, I want to loudly sing, with all the energy I have, we do not want the nuclear power plant…”

8. 台中日和 (good day in Taichung) – 葛洛力 (Glory) (lyrics at kkbox)
In Mandarin. Spending lovely days on the west coast in 台中, and life’s ups and downs.

9. 三分之一搖籃曲 (One-Third Cradlesong) – 甜梅號 (Sugar Plum Ferry)
Instrumental. 甜梅號 (Sugar Plum Ferry), was temporarily named 四分之三搖籃曲 (Three-Quarters Lullaby), and is now called 微光群島 (Shimmering Islands). This piece was originally written after the 921 earthquake in 1999. The earthquake was one of the deadliest in history and caused major damage. The earthquake was centered in 南投 (Nantou), which is located in the center of Taiwan.

10. 要去高雄 (going to Kaohsiung) – 宇宙人 (Cosmos People) (lyrics at kkbox)
In Mandarin. Eagerly going to 高雄, a city in southern Taiwan, “…where the temperature is hot, the sun is bright… there is someone there waiting for me…”

11. 墾丁的風 (the wind of Kenting) – 吳志寧 (Zulin Wu) (lyrics at indievox)
In Mandarin. Relating the nature of 墾丁, which is the southernmost point of Taiwan, to life and love.

12. 台灣魂 (Taiwan spirit) – Mc Basso (lyrics at indievox)
In Mandarin. A rap song about the being the future of Taiwan, putting away political and historical differences, and uniting for the greater good.

13. 島 (island) – 吳志寧 (Zulin Wu) (lyrics at kkbox)
In Mandarin. A lovely song about the people and beauty of Taiwan. It’s also the ending song for a show on public television called 我們的島 (our island; link to YT). “…our youth is written on the island’s mountains… we have the strength, warmth of the sun, illuminating the path that the island will progress… it doesn’t matter if we are happy or sad, we will forever protect her. our island, small small island, forever accompanying her.”

14. 晚安!台灣 (Good Night! Formosa!) – 滅火器 (Fire EX.) (lyrics at indievox)
In Taiwanese. An anthem for many social movements in Taiwan. “in this quiet night, I know you have worries and cannot sleep, thinking about your past, your punishments, suffering for many years… in this quiet night, I know you have worries and cannot sleep, worried about where your future leads, where your happiness will be… darkness will eventually pass, once the sun comes out it will be a nice day, for you have a beautiful name… Heavenly Grandfather will bring blessings, once the sun comes out it will be a nice day, hoping for peace, Taiwan… hoping that everything will go smoothly, Taiwan.”

Even though I like the arrangement and songs on the playlist, there were a few songs that came to mind that were either not on Spotify or not counted as indie.

一條命 (One Life), the most recent album by 董事長樂團 is not on Spotify, but music videos are available on YouTube. 美麗啊 and 家己的Formosa both speak to the beauty and problems in Taiwan. 美麗啊 specifically speaks about 美麗灣 (Miramar Resort) in 臺東, a construction project that threatens to harm the eastern coastline of Taiwan.

The album 我是‧海雅谷慕 from 張震嶽 won the 25th Golden Melody Award for Best Mandarin Album earlier this year. The song 我家門前有大海 (Spotify link) (lyrics from kkbox) is a catchy song about the beauty of 花蓮 on the east coast of Taiwan.

Another song that came to mind was 入陣曲 by 五月天 (Spotify link) (lyrics from kkbox), which I’ve written about before. It definitely summarizes the overall social and political climate in Taiwan.

島嶼天光 (Island’s Sunrise) by 滅火器 (Fire EX.) will always be a reminder of 2014. It was written during the protests of the Sunflower Movement. Although it speaks to that particular moment in time, it also reminds us to continuously stand up for what we believe in and be 勇敢的台灣人 (courageous Taiwanese people).

How to help with Kaohsiung’s explosion disaster 「81氣爆」


I haven’t had the heart to write at length about the disaster in 高雄, especially since it happened soon after the plane crash in 澎湖. Here’s some information about making a donation to the Kaohsiung Social Affairs Bureau, which will directly help those needing assistance recovering and rebuilding.

Originally posted on Taiwanvore:


For detailed views of the scenes of disaster, click on the picture. (photo courtesy of super720.com)

Without going into a detailed coverage of the recent explosion disaster which physically and emotionally rocked the city of Kaohsiung, I thought I’d make a quick post in case some foreigners are wondering how to help out.

Ways to donate money to help with the Kaohsiung explosion disaster.

At the moment, financial donations are mainly sought for. This can be done by wiring money directly to the City of Kaohsiung, or more conveniently at any Family Mart or 7-11.

At those two convenient stores, get the attention of a sales clerk, tell him/her your desire to make a donation, in most cases he/she will gladly walk you through the process of filling out the donation form to get the donation receipt printed, you’ll hand in the money, and voilà! You’ll have done…

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Listen to music from Taiwan on Spotify and iTunes Radio

I’ve been waiting for kkbox to expand beyond Asia, but it looks like I’ll have to settle with Spotify and iTunes Radio for now. There’s a lot of music from Taiwan that is available on Spotify. iTunes Radio is currently only available in select countries, but there are also plenty of artists from Taiwan available through iTunes.

I like to look at the rankings for Taiwan to see what’s trending. I turned off “Hide Unplayable Songs” so I can see albums that are not available in my current country. Then I can try to find if there’s a compatible version available. In some cases artists, albums, and songs are also listed under an English name. I’ve also found some tracks listed in pinyin, which makes it impossible to tell what song it is.

At the same time, there are some surprises. The soundtrack to 九龍變, which is a 布袋戲 (glove puppet show), is available. 布袋戲 is quintessentially Taiwanese in culture and language. There’s quite a bit of modern Taiwanese music too. I’m not familiar with Hakka and aboriginal music, so I don’t know if they are well represented.

I’ve made a gigantic Spotify playlist of music from Taiwan. It’s really more of an library. I wouldn’t try to listen to the whole thing, it’s currently more than 500 hours of music. But if you put it on shuffle, you might find something you may not have heard before that you’d like. There’s rock, pop, indie, hip-hop, Taiwanese, and live albums. There might be duplicate albums because I noticed some albums became unavailable while an identical album would become available. My guess is some albums might have a Taiwan or Asia version and an international version. But I can’t tell which is which anymore because Spotify now tries to replace an unavailable song with an available version.

I’ve tried both Spotify radio and iTunes Radio, starting with one artist and then telling the radio my preferences. My experience is that Spotify will play the artist I start with, whereas iTunes Radio doesn’t and (on the variety setting) will quickly deviate from what I was expecting. I’ve given up trying to teach both services the difference between Mandarin and Taiwanese (that would be an awesome but complex machine learning algorithm). It actually worked on Spotify for a while, but then deviated and I couldn’t get it back. With iTunes Radio I was able to get a station with indie artists from Taiwan. This is definitely not a comprehensive test since I didn’t keep track of the variables. But it seems that both services have a large enough library of music from Taiwan that the radio settings will provide a good selection of music.