Sunday, May 31, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
"These accidents happen all the time," I called to Meredith, "You're sitting in the danger zone." "So I see," she replied. She fled to safety, only to be replaced by Actor Scott Foley, star of CBS-TV's The Unit. On the show, Foley plays a special forces operative who risks his life on globe-trotting, undercover missions ... but the real question is, "Can he survive the Curb from Hell?!?"
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
It was a Culture Clash of major proportions this morning at 7th and Montana as a pair of Anonymous Music Aficionados (pictured above) regaled the crowd with stories of last night's classical performance featuring Internationally Celebrated Conductor Kent Nagano at the The Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Evidently, the stage was a bit too broad for its own good. The program began with a tribe of Inuit Throat Singers who croaked at each other from the depths of their windpipes, creating a sound one might expect if a dozen cats coughed-up a collective hairball. "I'm sure there's a place for this music ..." said Aficionado A, "...somewhere in the Arctic." Next-up was a grizzly rendition of Karlheinz Stockhausen's "In Freundschaft," performed by a Bassoon Soloist who appeared on stage in a bear costume. "Just try to imagine a man in a Full Kodiak Bear Costume standing alone on stage, grasping a bassoon with an air tube entering his mouth just below the snout," said Aficionado B, "He was accompanied only by a small jar of honey near his feet, apparently intended to inspire him to musical greatness." "Did you say this was a bassoon or a buffoon solo?," I interjected. Whatever the case, the whole evening must have been unbearable. The Aficionados left during the intermission. "That's what I like about the Broad Stage," said Aficionado A, "You get home so early ...!"
Saturday, May 16, 2009
It didn't take me long to find the National Theater and Concert Hall, Taiwan's largest national performing arts center. The building looks like a traditional Chinese palace with its imposing stone facade and bright, orange tiled roof, but it's actually a modern structure, commissioned in 1975 by the Kuomintang government. To my surprise, I learned that my own company, Philips Electronics, played a major role in its design and engineering.Directly across from the National Theater and Concert Hall is the monumental Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall honoring the famous former President of the Republic of China who died in 1975. Chiang Kai-shek was considered a reformer, so in designing the monument, the Taiwanese people wanted to make a statement. According to the official propaganda, "The key concepts of the architectural design are: to convey the spirits of Chinese culture; to create a style with novelty and distinctiveness; and finally to use the most modern architectural technology in order to achieve practical and economical purposes at the same time." In other words, no one wanted to break the bank on this one. It's imposing but stark.
The Memorial Hall is surrounded by lush gardens with two ponds designed to reflect the principles both of the Ming Dynasty and the modern unification of China. The ponds are stocked with colorful carp and surrounded by hills, which -- according to officials -- "provides an ultimate sense of relaxation to make visits worthwhile." In my opinion, it would have been more relaxing if it wasn't 90-degrees outside with enough humidity to send even Chiang Kai-shek running for cover.
I continued my walk until, quite by surprise, right behind a street vendor selling a foul-smelling delicacy called "Stinky Tofu," I stumbled upon the National Taiwan Museum. The Museum -- built in 1908 by the Japanese who ruled Taiwan at the time -- features collections including specimens of Taiwan's indigenous animals and plants. I didn't go in, having already seen enough of these animals on my dinner plate to last a lifetime.
Perhaps that's why the police presence today in Taipei seems so much more subdued. The Lone Bumpkin standing in front of the Taiwanese Presidential Palace (pictured above), is actually a Police Officer in disguise. I was driving by in a taxi when my driver stopped, laughed and, in broken English, yelled out the window, "Hey you Tourist, who do you think you're fooling?!? Everyone can see the wires hanging out of your ears ... we all know you are an Undercover Cop!" I urged him to drive on before he started another rebellion.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Turtles, they say, are good for longevity ... though the unfortunate specimens pictured above might argue with you on that point.
Mice are soaked in wine for a period of at least two years. You pick your own specimen out of a cage and the nice folks at Snake Alley will ferment it for you. The New York Times called Snake Alley "a street paved with Chinese traditions and superstitions," but by the time I was finished walking the two blocks I was ready to call it something else: A Day. My blood was boiling and it wasn't because I'd sampled any of the "merchandise."
"It's healthy for men, healthy for men," repeated a particularly zealous vendor in broken English. "I'm not interested in snake blood," I said, firmly, "Haven't you people ever heard of Viagra?!?" And with that, I huffed off. The nearest PETA office is in Hong Kong and you can bet I'm getting in touch with them.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
It's called a "Dragon Festive Sweet" and is essentially two scoops of technicolor bean paste atop a banana leaf. In the Dragon Boat tradition, I'm told, such sweets were thrown into Hong Kong harbor centuries ago in an effort to prevent fish from eating the corpse of a well-known official. I wouldn't try that these days. Not only would the fish prefer the corpse, but local authorities would probably slap you with a fine for Toxic Dumping, to boot. Now that's what I call Justice ...!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
And finally, we're ready for our main course: Intestines al Dente (pictured above). Where else, my friends, could you find juicy, raw intestines carefully wrapped and coiled by expert artisans who aim to please. Some establishments might charge you an arm and a leg for morsels like these, but at Shilin Market you pay for your intestines by the foot.
I hope you saved room for dessert, because I'm about to make you an offer you can't refuse: Pig Blood Popsicles (pictured above). It's true, the culinary geniuses here in Taipei have found a way to take congealed pig blood and mold it into the form of a popsicle. What will they think of next?!? The mind -- and the stomach -- reels. That ends my tour for today, folks. Come back tomorrow for a special, inside look at the Taiwanese Healthcare System ...!