Archive for May 2011

ICLP電子報第48期:臺灣中部旅遊 ~ A Tour of Central Taiwan (featured in 48th ICLP Bulletin)

May 30, 2011

Xitou God Tree

電子報第48期:臺灣中部旅遊 (original article including photos)

A Tour of Central Taiwan
English Translation of an Article by James Smyth

In my last report of ICLP’s trip to Central Taiwan, I described the Mazu Festival in Beigang. This time, I’ll recount the rest of the trip. We had all sorts of activities during an abundant three days of travel. I invite everyone to read the following, and if any of these places interest you, you can go visit them yourself!

On the way to Beigang, we stopped at the Zhongxing Kebao factory; we took a leisurely tour of its new museum and learned more about our favorite staple food: rice. At the museum shop, we tried rice ice cream [rice cream?], malted rice milk tea, and the like.

After that, we went to Tianwei Flower Garden and rode bicycles through Taiwan’s “Genuine Flower Expo,” which is the traditional farms and neighborhoods of the town. You don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to ride, as the town bicycle shop rents 2-, 3-, and 4-person bicycles in addition to the single-seaters. Pedaling around with friends is a very social way to sight-see. The town’s restaurant, “Grandma’s Kitchen,” also prepared delicious Taiwanese cuisine.

The second day, we drove from Beigang to Lugang. The Qing Emperors made Lugang an important part, as did Japan, so Lugang was central Taiwan’s biggest city until the early 20th century. First we toured the restored historical temple street market. We made yuzhen cakes [consisting of dry flavored powder packed together] and drank oyster soup. While we were in the heart of Lugang, a group of pilgrims carried an icon of Mazu into the temple accompanied by dancing, costumes, and music.

Local high school students gave us tours, which was a natural cultural exchange method. One could say the city’s most famous site is Longshan Temple (it has the same name as Taipei’s most famous place of worship, but the two have no connection with each other). The Lugang Longshan was built in 1653, during the 7th year of Ming Emperor Yongli’s reign. Though numerous natural disasters have damaged it over the last 350 years, it’s always been quickly rebuilt. Its most recent vintage was finished in 1938, during the 13th year of Japanese Emperor Showa, and it has great artistic value.

That afternoon, we ascended to Xitou Forest by bus. On the morning of the third day, we enjoyed a refreshing hike of the cool and beautiful mountain. There we saw the 2800-year old “God Tree.” Actually, before Japan colonized Taiwan, the entire mountain was virgin forest, but the Japanese army harvested almost all the timber to aid the war effort. They spared the “God Tree” because it looked terrible, so its initial misfortune was most fortunate indeed. There were also archetypal flower bulbs which enlightened “Thought and Society” students who had learned the theory that the Chinese character for “emperor” (帝) is a pictogram representing a drooping flower (蒂), symbolizing that society is supported from the top down by the emperor. The mountain resort in which we stayed had all kinds of Japanese shops, and we could also buy some comparatively rare Taiwanese snacks, for example “black charcoal ice cream” (which had the flower of bamboo charcoal).

Finally, we took a boat across Taiwan’s most famous lake, Sun Moon Lake, and sampled its traditional food stands, famous for wild boar, mushroom baozi, and rice wine. The area isn’t your parents’ Sun Moon Lake anymore: the pace of its development surprises year after year.

We returned to Taipei on Saturday evening so we could take a one-day vacation from our exciting three-day vacation and enjoy Easter Sunday.



May 29, 2011






臉書時代的情形 ~ The Facebook Generation

May 28, 2011

作者: 史杰輝
編輯: 沈若榆


The Facebook Generation
Author: James Smyth
Editor: Shen Ruo-yu

Ever since I went to college, I’ve been able to use Facebook to effortlessly keep up with my friends from a distance. And whether my friends are American or Taiwanese, they can use Facebook to keep in touch with me. Because Facebook also lets friends trade web addresses, it’s also made a great contribution to the news and entertainment industries.

If we can use the network to ease the pain of separation, what could be wrong with it? Well, such a convenient social network can be addictive. Though Facebook is a handy communication tool, it still can’t compare to face-to-face interaction. Even if you maintain a friendship with someone for years through the Internet, you can’t understand certain things about their lives. Not cultivating one’s interests outside of Facebook and spending most of one’s life in front of a monitor are not things we should look favorably upon.

I have a few friends who refuse to use Facebook. They say only life in the outside world is real. Because Facebook has done so much good for me, I don’t want to give it up, but I keep track of how much time I spend on the computer; I want to use my limited lifespan wisely.


May 27, 2011






Regionalism’s Influence
Author: James Smyth
Editor: Zhou Chang-zhen

Today my classmate Stephanie said that some people who are “half-planted in their hometown soil” [a Chinese figure of speech] can’t help hating the place. I think this is very true, so first I’d like to expand on her thought. When I was a student, I often used sarcasm to describe my hometown. Even though I knew it was a very safe and prosperous place, I thought the people there were shallow and arrogant. When you’re an adolescent, it’s natural to criticize other people and things, but if you don’t have a good reason for it you’ll simply hurt yourself and others. My love for my hometown has never been stronger than it is now.

Taking it a step further, I’ve now lived in four other places: Duke University, Madrid, my Japanese farming village, and Taipei, each of which has its own great qualities. I’ve thought of each place as “my home” before. Whenever I start to dream of a place, I know I’ve become comfortable there. I supported three teams during last year’s World Cup. I woke up at 4 AM to watch the championship game, and I was celebrating all day after Spain won.

I imagine my attitude conflicts with traditional regionalism and nationalism, but in today’s internationalized society there are more people like me every year. To tell the truth, though, more than a few emigrants to Japan complain that no matter how many years they’ve lived there, and no matter how many local activities they’ve participated in, the natives see them as guests and ask them when they’re planning to return home. This is completely different from the emotional burden carried by, for example, an emigrant to America. Though the Japanese easily distinguish a person looks different, they should at least acknowledge that Japanese ancestry is not a necessary condition for being a Japanese person. You all know I treasured my experience in Japan, but I also felt this kind of distance from people when I lived there.

Though I am also a minority in Taiwan, I’ve never felt left out here, and I find that amazing. ICLP’s international atmosphere obviously plays a big role in that, but my Taiwanese friends also say that because their island already has so many ethnic groups, and it has been governed by many different nations, it has a more open society. As far as I can tell, Taiwanese-style “nationalism” is a rare thing.

The First Lady of the Renaissance

May 26, 2011

Above: Lady with an Ermine, a masterpiece painted by Leonardo da Vinci in 1490. Below: Rembrandt’s Girl in a Picture Frame on display in one of the rooms of the Royal Palace of Madrid. The pieces are part of the Polish Golden Age exhibition opening June 3. Photos by Claudio Álvarez.

The First Lady of the Renaissance
One of Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest paintings arrives in Spain under extraordinary security: “Lady with an Ermine” rarely leaves Poland
El País: La primera dama del Renacimiento
Ángeles García reporting from Madrid May 25, 2011

It will be the center of a phenomenal web of diplomatic-artistic intrigue: on Monday, May 30, at 16:00, a military plane from Poland will land in the Torrejón airport. From that moment, a team of 12 people, among them restorers and politicians, will keep watch over a priceless artistic treasure. The object worthy of such attention is La dama con l’ermellino (“Lady with an Ermine”), one of the fundamental works of Leonardo da Vinci’s meager artistic production and by extension one of the jewels of the Italian Renaissance.

It will be the star of the exhibition the Golden Age of Poland exhibition (opening June 3 in the Royal Palace of Madrid, and it will surely be one of the artistic events of the season. Such prominent pieces do not commonly travel, and this is not precisely an exception. After passing time in the capital, it will take advantage of the break from its home (the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow) to visit Berlin and the National Gallery in London. Upon returning home, it will not leave again for at least 15 years.

Before then, the lady will complete her obligations in Spain. The canvas – 54.8×40.3 cm and painted in 1490 – will be installed in a nobleman’s salon in the palace especially designed to host a piece which revolutionized the portrait for various and intangible reasons including the spiral movement ascending through the head, the anatomical study of the hands, face, and neck, the atmosphere which could be called tangible (the famous Sfumato mode), and most of all the harmony and enduring Renaissance beauty.

A team of reinforced glass specialists will create a display case to guarantee suitable conditions for the painting, a panel 40 centimeters thick designed not to hinder contemplation of the painting, costing 30,000 euros for the trip and paid for by the three countries benefiting from the visit: it is little to preserve a canvas which, having survived two world wars, Nazi plundering, and acts of aggression, is now maintained in optimal condition.

A miracle? Nicolás Martínez-Fresno, president of the Patrimonio Nacional [National Heritage], prefers to use this word to describe the painting’s arrival in Spain. Those who have taken part in seducing the venerable dame include President Zapatero, Minister of Culture Ángeles González-Sinde, and King Juan Carlos himself, who contemplated Leonardo’s works in Washington years ago and has a personal relationship with Prince Czartoryski, the sole owner of this work and the rest of the extremely valuable collection held in the Krakow museum.

“The history of this painting,” explained Martínez-Fresno, “has run almost parallel to that of Poland.” The vicissitudes to which the director refers include episodes like its discovery in 1939 in the catacombs of a Polish castle and subsequent requisition by invading Nazi forces, which sent it to the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin. In 1940, Hans Frank, General of the Polish Government, demanded the restitution of the treasure in the city of Krakow; ignominiously, it ended up adorning his own private villa.

The painting’s good luck before the convulsive twentieth century began in earnest in Milan. Leonardo created it on commission for Duke Ludovico El Moro. The lady is Cecilia Gallerani, the beautiful young lover of the duke, who sat for the portrait at 17 years of age, when Leonardo had a little more than 40. Successive restorations have not affected the woman’s figure, but they have affected the background, which was not originally black. There was not always a signature in the left corner, either.

And the ermine? That was the duke’s nickname. The only argument about the work is over the exact identity of the creature: is it a weasel? A ferret? A marten? Zoological digressions aside, the enigmatic mascot will settle in Madrid until September along with 190 other works testifying to the cultural richness of Polish museums, including treasures from artists like Lucas Cranach and a very beautiful oil painting, Girl in a Picture Frame, produced by a mature Rembrandt in 1641.

A Well-Traveled Lady
There was no trace of the portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, who died young, until the beginning of the 19th century. It then became a part of the Czartoryski family collection which also included pieces by Rembrandt and Raphael.

After the Russian Czar’s troops arrived, the painting went into exile in the Hotel Lambert in Paris. The Franco-Prussian War propitiated its return to Poland. From 1876, it presided in the Krakow Museum until the Nazis arrived.

For the First Time, More Than Half of Spanish Public Debt is in Foreign Hands

May 25, 2011

For the First Time, More Than Half of Spanish Public Debt is in Foreign Hands
Debt issuance falls 41% thanks to the government’s adjustment measures
El Mundo: Más de la mitad de la deuda española está en manos extranjeras por primera vez
Juan Emilio Maíllo reporting from Madrid May 25, 2011

The majority of Spanish public debt is in foreign hands for the first time ever. Those who are not residents of the country possessed 291 billion euros of Spanish debt at the end of 2010, 70 billion more than the year before and 53.4% of the total.

In 2009, the percentage was 46.5%, according to the data of the Bank of Spain, which published its annual public debt report on Wednesday; the report did not detail which countries own this debt.

The net issuance of Spanish public debt was €64.147 billion euros in 2010, which would be a descent of 41% from the year before, according to Javier Maycas, chief of the national bank’s Monetary Policy Implementation division.

The national bank attributed the fall in debt issuance to the adjustment measures the government had already put in motion.

In any case, the total state debt in circulation increased 13.9% to roughly €461,996,000,000.

The net collection of funds through T-bills ascended to €3.579 billion while the amount raised by bonds and obligations were €26.737 billion and €33.831 billion, respectively.

For its part, the secondary debt market had a slight 0.1% fall in 2010 and held at €18.6 billion.

Rajoy Claims Vindication for Strategy of Keeping a Low Profile, Requests Early Elections

May 24, 2011

From right to left, Mariano Rajoy, Dolores de Cospedal, Esperanza Aguirre, Javier Arenas and Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón at the Executive National Committee of the Popular Party. Photo by Claudio Álvarez.

Rajoy Claims Vindication for Strategy of Keeping a Low Profile, Requests Early Elections
The leader of the victorious Popular Party avoids questions, calms euphoria, and won’t consider a vote of censure
El País: Rajoy reivindica su estrategia de bajo perfil y pide elecciones anticipadas
Carlos E. Cué reporting from Madrid May 24, 2011

Mariano Rajoy is not a man accustomed to vindication. Due to his timidity, style, and strategy, he prefers that others analyze his trajectory and explain his decisions. He almost never does so himself. But Sunday’s landslide victory lead to changed behavior on Monday. Rajoy used a televised speech before the National Executive Committee to remind everyone, the faithful and critical alike, of the wisdom of his strategy of keeping a low profile, designed by him and his guru Pedro Arriola, and he said he will continue to employ this strategy given the fabulous and unexpected fruit it has given him.

Sunday was, for Rajoy and the majority of the PP, proof that he was right. Now he is committed to cooling euphoria, not agitating the left, and arriving at La Moncloa [the presidential palace] without anyone noticing. And also in changing the party’s isolationist image from the last legislature: “The PP can speak to everyone except Bildu [ETA’s de facto political party].”

“We had a slogan, centered on you, which was an appeal to moderation,” he began. “We campaigned the way we believed was best for us and the Spanish community. We haven’t responded to provocations or insults. We have to think about the future. We aren’t here to entertain anyone, and no one should mark our agendas,” he finished in a clear reference to the press. Esperanza Aguirre listened to him quietly though she obtained an extraordinary election result using precisely the opposite strategy, which was to take a stand on all controversial issues.

He is so obsessed with not making noise that when he laid out the matter of the day, a petition for early elections, he did it in his style, dissimulating, without any sound bites. He reminded everyone that he had already asked for early elections ten months before in the debate over the state of the nation, and he assured that the option remains on the table. “We told Zapatero. He didn’t accept, and that’s his right. Things haven’t gone any better. Our position is the same, and we’re not going to repeat it every single day because that wouldn’t make sense.

“This government is not in good shape. Greece’s isn’t well, either; it has a dangerous amount of debt. There is much uncertainty, and this government is not the most suitable for generating confidence and dispelling doubt,” he argued.

In case any of his directors doubted him, Rajoy put the machinery of his party in motion yesterday. The leadership believes Zapatero will not move forward on his proposal, but the PP wants to maintain pressure and keep its rival in tension.

In fact, Rajoy announced that on June 6 there will be a board meeting to decide the future of Dolores Cospedal as secretary general. If Rajoy opts to relieve her – first he will speak with all the party barons – Ana Mato, whom the leader applauded as the coordinator of this campaign, has the votes in hand to be the new secretary general. Cospedal has always said that she wants to get along with others, which has inspired much internal criticism, although yesterday she was much more cautious. Cospedal, after her well-deserved victory, and Rajoy both have the power to do what they like.

The PP should have a congress before the end of the year. It could happen after the elections, but it also could also take place in the fall as a launching pad for the national elections. “The party is beginning to prepare for the general elections,” Rajoy stated.

The leader did not answer questions – not even after such a crushing victory – but Cospedal will do so in the morning. He left it clear that, despite those who are convinced the current state of affairs is unsustainable, the PP will not call for censure of the current government. Rajoy has decided to move forward cautiously, not take risks, and wait for the PSOE to collapse under its own weight.

Now for governing. Only a fall packed with budget cuts, which made the left mobilize against previous PP governments, as is happening in Catalonia now, could detail a victory the populares have long considered irreversible. The leader asked influential party members for cuts but not traumatic ones. “I’d like more control of superfluous expenses, assessments, contracts, and normal expenditures, and austerity in comportment and in law. That is what is expected of us.”

Although just yesterday he asked for “maximum transparency” from his regional leaders in order to clean up politics, Rajoy still hasn’t explained a controversial decision such as leaving Francisco Álvarez-Cascos off the Popular Party ballot in Asturias, something which came back to hurt him. But the power of Rajoy is already so absolute that no one even asked about the Cascos affair. In fact, nobody spoke except him and Cospedal.

A hundred directors, among them the regional presidents – including the almost-always absent Francisco Camps – traveled to Madrid to applaud each other. Rajoy has attained all his objectives. Including this last one: that the PP act ever more like its leader.

Rajoy Quotes
Early Elections: “This government is not in good shape. Greece’s isn’t well, either; it has a dangerous amount of debt. There is much uncertainty, and this government is not the most suitable for generating confidence and dispelling doubt.”

Low Profile: “”We had a slogan, centered on you, which was an appeal to moderation,” he began. “We campaigned the way we believed was best for us and the Spanish community. We haven’t responded to provocations or insults. We have to think about the future. We aren’t here to entertain anyone, and no one should mark our agendas.”