Saturday, August 30, 2003

Thoughts on Fat People and Racism from a non-oppressed but very obvious minority.

Reading IA's diatribe against fat people was interesting. Lots of people popped out of the woodwork to take sides.

Me and some friends got together last night for drinks and conversation. Because there was an American, a Canadian, 3 Brits (English, Welsh, and Scottish), and a South African, it was an interesting evening. The talk turned to racism. And I think we all had to confess that there is a certain degree that we consider ourselves racist.

And in the end, it struck me as similar to those comments about fat people. Everyone has preferences about who they will befriend, who they will avoid, and how they will behave when confronted with someone outside that group. I can't go out and make friends with a black person to prove I'm not racist. Ultimately, people prefer someone like themselves, I think. You can get along well with the fat person at work, but you don't have to ask him/her out on a date. Or the black person. Or the Iranian immigrant. Or the white guy who is a total asshole. Or the retarded person who cleans up the place.

The word "retarded" came up last night, and it kind of precipitated the whole discussion. I said that in private, you're allowed to have whatever opinions you want. That doesn't make you a bad person. You might make other people uncomfortable, and maybe it will lead to a situation like IA's comment section where people said essentially, "I'm fat, or know someone who is, and you suck because of your opinion." You can always try to avoid controversy, or you can have an opinion and start a real conversation.

Americans and the Western world in general have been pushing for acceptance of all kinds of people in the last decade or so. Out with the hatred, in with the loving. That kind of teaching has some value, but in the long run, it's more useful and important to use the law to insist that people are treated fairly in the public sphere. No amount of teaching will get them to stop making fun of you behind your back. If I could live in Taiwan for 100 years, the locals would never stop staring at me and my white skin. But they'll (nearly) always do business with me. That's a far more important measure of progess.

And, despite the fact that anyone's welcome to drop by, a weblog is, in my opinion, an essentially private thing. I'm sure ultimately the courts will see it differently. But people are, again, drawn to those weblogs/people who have something in common with themselves. Not the same types of people, but people who share some common interest. The world's a big place. Not everyone loves you.

Friday, August 29, 2003

In Praise of Obsolete Media (apolgies to CTL)

Very few people use cassette tapes anymore. I don't even have a working tape player these days. But it turns out that CDs are no good for classroom use.
First of all, the geniuses who bought the CD players in the classrooms picked the cheap ones with no pause button. Try teaching an English lesson on a CD without stopping the track.
Second, in classrooms with hardwood floors, kids jumping up and down cause the CD to skip wildly. So I've had to copy all the CDs I use on to old cassette tapes to use them at all. Which is too bad in a way, because they're missing out on hearing "The Hello Song" in all its hi-fidelity glory.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Good news:
Finding out that your landlord doesn't want to sell his house, so you can rent it for another year.

Bad news:
Going to the doctor for a cold sore and being told that you have herpes. I thought that might be a communication problem, but some checking on the web confirms that cold sores are a kind of herpes. Also a warning to 90% of you that you probably also have this unfortunately-named virus swirling around in your system.

I think that scared Tim (my boyfriend of 6 years), but it's impossible that this is something new.

Monday, August 25, 2003

It has rained every day for 2 weeks. Not all day, mind you. Just the regular afternoon downpour.

And yet, according to the papers, there is a water shortage. The real problem is that all the news media equate Taipei with the whole country. If something's wrong there, it's obviously everyone's problem.

There are about 4 24-hour news networks here, devoted to Taiwan news. Which is why you see (Taipei) motorcycle accidents and (Taipei) water shortages and (Taipei) crazy men trying to jump off buildings. Sometimes I'm relieved those camera trucks don't show up here very often. I haven't been on TV here yet. As far as I know.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

I am not a pedophile.

I work with kids all day long. Some of them are about 2 years old and they go up to about 6 years old. In Asia, it's not yet forbidden to have physical contact with strangers' kids. I just found myself thinking today that just doing my job here would get me in trouble at home. I see naked kids running around the hallways, looking for someone to wipe their asses. I see (ugh) impolite little girls in dresses sitting on the floor with their legs crossed.

It's just kind of ironic, that the one job I'm truly qualified for by way of experience is working with kids, but there's almost no chance I could do it back in North America. Once the parents knew I'm gay, they'd be running for their lawyers.

It's okay, though. I think by the time I leave Taiwan, I will certainly have had enough of this job.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

As long as I live, I'll never be a morning person. I thought for a while that I was turning in to one, but today, 10 minutes before I have to leave for work, I still feel like I need another hour or two of sleep.

Unfortunately, the only time I seem to wake up early is on the weekends. My brain just isn't ready for the world until about 9:30 every day.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

I got hit by a car yesterday.

I seem to be okay. My scooter seems to be okay. I wanted to be angry at the guy, but neither of us were paying much attention. Of course, I was just traveling in a straight line, but still...

Nice thing about Taiwan, though, was that the whole experience took about 20 seconds. Even though there was a huge dent in his car, and pieces of it on the road, he didn't want to call the police. He just wanted to keep going. And so did I. So we went. But today my shoulder hurts.

Friday, August 15, 2003

After you've been here a while, you start to think that it isn't such a bad idea to take advantage of red lights.

I mean, think about it. You're waiting at a red light. There's no cross traffic. You need to make a left turn, and you'll have to wait another whole cycle for the light to change. By the time it's your turn, there will be a huge line of vehicles stopping you from making an early left. Shouldn't you just go now? Then you'd be out of the way of all the other traffic. You're doing them a favor. Yeah. Every fucking day I get stuck at this light. It's 45 seconds long. If I made this turn, and the other left up ahead where there's also never any traffic, I could shave 2 minutes off my drive. Missing this red light makes me miss the next one. The damned civil engineers are behind this. The same ones that didn't even line the roads up right to begin with. And there's that fucking light that absolutely no one ever stops at. Why the fuck do I waste my time? And Jesus, it's about to rain, and I don't want to have to pull over and get the fucking raincoat out of the fucking helmet-compartment. There's no way I'm waiting for this light in this downpour. Scooters don't need to pay any attention to this one, there's no way they could get in the way of oncoming traffic. And look, that old man with his grandson in a wicker kid-seat bungeed to the rear of his motorcycle didn't stop at this one either...

Friday's over for me. Ha. Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Tonight will be a full moon. This helps explain why everyone in Taiwan is getting out the metal can to burn paper money in. This is "Ghost Month" in Taiwan, so all the superstitions are coming out of the woodwork. My school had their little ceremony today. They put lots of food on a table, then burn incense and that fake money.

But it doesn't seem like a ritual. They just had a couple of office staff take care of it. It looked more like a chore.

In other news, I see on my multicultural calendar (complete with Pagan festival days), it says that Friday is "Assumption Day." I'm sure it's religious, but I think I'll spend the day assuming all kinds of other things instead.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Mondays are evil. Even after a weekend spent doing absolutely nothing.

But to add excitement to an otherwise dull weekend, I bought a DVD player, and even though the first one was fucked up right out of the box (made in Taiwan), the second one seemed to work okay. I watched "The Godfather." I've never seen it. I didn't know Al Pacino was ever a young man. I thought he was one of those people who's always been old. I'm starting to feel that way myself.

Have a good day.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Now I can add another CD-R to my list of broken appliances. Just installed a new one. Third one in two years. And the Taiwanese wonder why their products get a bad reputation.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Living in Taiwan, 12 hours from "home," I end up listening to NPR's Morning Edition live when I get home from work in the evenings. It's a much more mellow program than "All Things Considered." Noah, Rob, and Linda really get in your face.

But the thing that bothered me was the ADM mini-ad that occasionally cycles through. They used to say, "ADM -- Supermarket to the World," which seems a bit pompous but basically benign. The new one is something like, "ADM -- The Taste of Things to Come." It sounds to me like they're embracing the notion of coroporation-uses-freaky-new-science-to-help-all-mankind reputation a little too heartily. Or am I just projecting my own bias?

Monday, August 04, 2003