Wednesday, March 28

Allahu Snackbar

After hearing about the place in the weekend from my flatmate Bryan, I finally managed to hit up Sababa Pita Bar today. Apparently they opened back in October or November, but this is the first I've heard of it, which is surprising. It's absolutely excellent.

The food is all nice and cheap, with pita sandwich type things costing NT$98 (NT$148 with chips and a drink), and the "cigars" - Middle Eastern spring rolls, basically - are delicious, particularly the Moroccan (spiced mince with pine nuts). I went down this afternoon and tried the chicken souvlaki pita and two cigars - the Moroccan and the Egyptian (spicy cheese). NT$244 in total, and a hell of a good feed. Tasty, freshly made, friendly service (with staff that actually speak English, rather than just pretending to)... top shelf the whole way. It is a little small, and their hours need some work (11:30am-9:00pm), but those are minor issues. They also do take-out and sell pita, hummus, tahini, and such in bulk. Strongly recommended for those of you in Taipei.

The restaurant's address is 1F, Alley 54, Lane 118, Heping E. Rd. Sec. 2, but the easiest way to get there is head to the corner of Fuxing S. and Xinhai, turn right onto Xinhai, right again at the Hi-life convenience store, and then first left. There's a map on the site that makes it clearer than that muddied-up pile of shit description though.

Thursday, March 22

Wednesday, March 21

Both Sides Now

Finally got off my ass and made it back down to Riverside for the first time in a while to check out one of my favorite indie acts here, Coach. Unfortunately, first I had to sit through the support act. (pic related)

The first act of the double-header, and as such the first hour of two, was a band I'd heard of only in passing, The White Eyes. As it turns out, there's a reason "in passing" is the most I've heard of them. They represent almost everything that is epic fail in Taiwanese popular and youth culture. The music is technically tolerable, but they desperately, desperately want to be punk, except for the fact they have none of the talent, emotion, experience, or linguistic capability necessary to do so. The guitarists do nothing more than thrash out the same piece of shit "melody" that they've robotically memorized for EVERY. SINGLE. SONG., while the "vocalist" - in the loosest sense of the term - screams incoherent English lyrics into the microphone. Even better, she seems to have decided that punk = British, so she does all this with an amazingly affected pseudo-English accent and peppering her songs with Britishisms like "bloody," despite clearly not understanding them. This leads to her sounding like the bastard love child of Sid Vicious and Mushmouth, but without the eloquence. Even worse, they have no stage presence. None. Zero. It was the loudest hour of boredom ever.

tl;dr: The White Eyes are fucking lifeless, soulless, poor excuses for robotic punks.

But then Coach came on, and renewed my faith in Taiwan and Taiwanese music.
These boys know how to put on a fucking show. Talking shit to each other and the audience between songs, getting the audience singing along - no mean feat here either, each of the instruments working together instead of sounding like a bunch of showoffy fucks, and a lead vocalist who stalks and bounces around the stage like he owns that shit. The sheer energy they put out in that hour had everyone in the crowd enjoying themselves. Good thing, too, since last time I saw them they put on a decidedly average show, and sounded like they were going soft. Turns out that was a slump, at worst.

You'd think in a culture so oppressive of creativity, independence, and individualism, Taiwanese youth would freak the fuck out like their Japanese counterparts do. But no, most just buckle under the pressure and become robots capable of little more than soulless memorization and repetition. Thank God there are some who manage to come out of the process with some sense of themselves. That minority give me faith that perhaps there's a chance Taiwan's going to end up alright after all.

For your listening pleasure (and as a reward for getting through all that crap): Coach - Ballet Girl (mp3)

Sunday, March 18

Lords and Ladies, Welcome to Medieval Times!

In yet more proof that flying to Taiwan must at some point involve a trip backward in time - it's the only explanation for much of the weirdness here - this story from Saturday's Taipei Times talks about protests over the closure of Losheng Leprosarium in Taipei County.

It's not the protests, nor the closure of the leprosarium that has me confused. No, it's much simpler than that. What the hell is a (presumably) developed country in the 21st century doing with a fucking leper colony? I thought that stopped getting taken seriously around about the time they stopped bleeding people to cure diseases. How on Earth does a country responsible for making some of the more high-tech components for iconic 21st century products like iPods, Wii's, and big-ass TV's simultaneously also have such archaic ideas about, well, anyone who's even remotely different to the hoi polloi? This is madness!

Friday, March 16

A New Low for the Taiwanese Media

One habit I wish I could break is watching the news channels here from time to time. As anyone who's seen them will know, I use "news" in the loosest possible definition. For the uninformed, these channels make Entertainment Tonight look like BBC News in terms of content, ethics, style, and general value to society.

That being said, one of the channels - I forget which - hit a new low, something I had previously imagined impossible. But they did it. They reported, po-faced and with dead seriousness, a televised assault by Donald Trump on another celebrity. That celebrity? The video below (in particular the last 30 seconds) should make it crystal clear:

Again I ask: Seriously, what the fuck? How is it the Taiwanese news media manage to be more naive and gullible than a 10-year-old child?

Wednesday, March 14

My Karmic Checking Account Runneth Over

The universe apparently approves of my actions of the past couple of weeks. At Chinese New Year, and after some inspiration, I've finally gotten around to trying to get my work shit serious. I've got some nice pimp business cards (not quite American Psycho, but fuck it, good enough for me), signed up on a couple of professional translation community sites, hooked up my own website (in good time, in good time), sorted out my resume, all that shit. And in the space of two weeks I've landed two new clients - through recommendations, so I must be doing something right - with a potentially fucking awesome job waiting approval. The goal is to be able to ditch my buxiban work - or most of it - by the time my ARC is due this December, and live off freelance and Sinorama Taiwan Panorama work. Once that shit's golden, it might be time to consider hitting up Taichung or Kaohsiung instead of Taipei, rocking the cheaper rent and nicer weather, and rolling like a motherfucking P I M P. That said, leaving Taipei could suck for all kinds of reasons, but whatever, I'll burn that bridge when I come to it.

Saturday, March 10