Monthly Archives: January 2009

Taiwan: Books, Writers & Videos

Every Sunday on the local newspapers China Times (中國時報) in Taiwan, many readers are expecting the two pages reviews on books. In the year end, book columnists will announces their picks on “Books of the Year” (開卷好書獎), the best Chinese books published in Taiwan in that year. Since 2006, the newspaper also makes “Book Video” for awarded writers, representing their works in word, music and image.

This year 11 writers are invited to participate in the clips, including novelists, activists, and essayists. There writers share their views and perspectives towards their works, and what they want to reflect upon through words. Although the videos are all in Chinese, hopefully they can still convey and reproduce the atmosphere in their works. In the end of each clip, the voice over promises they are “Good books, and good to read”.

The following are some selected clips with my translation of the writers’ narration.

Plastic Opium

In Plastic Opium, the author Xia Chuan-Wei (夏傳位) reveals how credit cards and debit cards influence public perceptions, what unreasonable revolving interest rates are imposed to users, and what discriminations debtors face after falling into the credit card trap. In the clip, you can see the shopping districts in Taipei. He says in the clip:

[…]我想這個社會應該深一層地問,我們可以容許銀行業者賺錢到什麼樣的程度,都不用為他們所造成的社會後果負責;我們社會也應進一步思考,應該要建立一個什麼樣的標準,容許卡奴在負起他們自己的責任以後,重返這個社會,重新生活;我們更應該思考,怎麼樣督促政府,負起他應該負起的管制責任,這個社會要建立起一個什麼樣金融正義的標準,讓每一個人都擁有權利,能夠接觸到這個社會的金融資源,來發展他們自己的事業與生活。

[…] Our society should ask some deep questions: How much profit that banks can earn without being responsible for legacies and consequences? What standard should be raised to help debtors get back to the society and start a new life, after shouldering their duty? How should we urge the government to be accountable and place suitable regulations? How can we define “financial justice” so that everyone can access financial resources to develop their business and life.

Us

The author Gu Yu-Ling (顧玉玲) is a long-term activist for migrant worker rights. Us is a book recording stories of several Filipino migrant workers. Taiwan has introduced lots of migrant workers from Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, since 1990. In her own words in the clip:

[…]這本書如果對社會會有一點作用的話,我希望它像照鏡子一樣,讓我們看見彼此。我們使用抗爭,我們使用了歌舞表演,然後那個記者會或公聽會,我們用各種軟的硬的方式,其實不就是試著要跟這個社會對話嗎?[…]我一路書寫,我一直非常非常意識到讀者在哪裡,我希望人們看見,我希望人們知道這真的發生在台灣,就在我的左鄰右舍,我只是視而不見而已。[…]

[…] If this book can have any effects to the society, I hope it would serve like a mirror to help us see each other. We have tried to protest, to perform songs and dances, and to hold press and public hearings. With all these ways, soft and hard, we are just trying to foster a conversation to the society. […] I am always very aware of my readers when I write. I hope people can see. I hope people can understand that these stories really happen in Taiwan. Migrant workers are in our neighborhood, but many people pretend they do not exist.[…]

The End of River

As the first generation of Malaysian-Chinese writer in Taiwan, Li Yong-Ping (李永平) writes the novel with Borneo, Malaysia in mind, but lives in Taipei, Taiwan. He mentions:

我是一個小說家,小說家應該有個本事,能夠把兩個不同的空間結合在一起,你打開書房的窗子,你看到的是台灣的河流「淡水河」,你寫的是婆洲大河,可是在一個作家心靈裡頭,這兩條大河、這兩種風景,它就很奇妙地會產生一種互動,那個互動越來越強,結果這兩者就融合在一起,到了後來我幾乎分不清,我到底是寫婆羅洲大河,還是寫台灣的大河,我覺得這是寫作過程裡頭最美妙的一種經驗,這很難傳達出去,但是我相信敏感讀者在我的作品裡頭,應該可以看出這非常非常有趣的面貌。[…]

I am a novelist. Novelists should have the skill to combine two different spaces together. When I open the window in my study, I see Dan Shuei River in Taiwan, but I am writing the story about the river in Borneo. In a writer’s mind, the two rivers and the two scenes will miraculously interact. As it grows stronger, the two rivers merge together. In the end, it is so difficult to distinguish which river I am writing about. This is the most beautiful experience in writing, which is hard to be conveyed. I believe, however, sensitive readers will notice this very interesting situation.

To view all 11 clips, please visit YouTube page. To read notes from video production team, please visit OpenBook Blog [zh].

It is Digital Divide

Nigerian students power up their OLPC laptops by inju.Talking about digital divide seems to be a popular trend. To increase internet penetration, engineers and technical experts develop OLPC. It’s not enough. We need people to spread and bring in skills and knowledge. However, you won’t realize what exactly digital divide is until you stand in the classroom in front of a groups of eager students, young and old. It’s not a phrase. It’s a reality.

Portnoy shares an experience he encountered last week, when he went to a country village in southern Taiwan with Project Puncar. He stood at the blackboard, writing an URL for students to copy and type themselves. After he finished, many kids and adults looked at the keyboard and were lost. Reminding by others, he realized he wrote the URL in lowercase, while English alphabets on the keyboard are capitalized. When students are struggling with recognizing alphabets, it would definitely need more time for them to catch up, or even bridge the digital divide.

It is a small thing, but it says so much. What we take for granted is truly a high barrier beyond reach to others. We need to do more in all ways to improve the situation. After all, we, writing and reading this blog, are the luxuriously lucky ones. Only when getting to the cliff of digital divide, can we try to understand how abysmal it is.

(I may be annoying, but I have to say this again. If you have a great idea with concrete plans to minimize digital divide, apply for Rising Voices Microgrants. The deadline is January 18, 2009.)

(credit: OLPC picture from inju’s album; )

For You: Rising Voices Microgrants Application

We are often told that durning economic downturns and financial crises, many NGOs and cultural institutions face budgetary difficulties, as their donation sources shrink significantly. Everyone in related sectors are looking for all kinds of ways to survive.

Most of us agree that citizen media is a good idea. It hands pens, the microphones and cameras back to the general public, just like you and me, to highlight stories relevant to most people, but maybe not to traditional media owners, editors or reporters. However, starting from ground zero is painful and difficult, if you have silimar experiences. You need connections, devoted people, mobility, technology, internet access, skills… and money of course.

risingvoices1.jpgHaving a vision is always great. To transform visions into realities, however, requires practical means. If you now have a vision and some practical means in mind about citizen media, Rising Voices, an outreach project of Global Voices, can help you be equipped with the initial financial resources you need. Please hand in your citizen media-related proposals before January 18, 2009, and you’ll have a chance to receive a microgrant up to US$5,000.

US$5,000?! I know it may not sound much for a project, but it can definitely help you to work out your visions with first steps. Every big pyramid starts from a piece of stone, right? This microgrant will provide you a stepping stone.

Other people have utilized their microgrants to achieve great goals. Voces Bolivianas has not only successfully worked in Bolivia, but also started their wonderful initiatives in Argentina. If you start, there are always possibilities. As internet is borderless, your citizen media-related vision has a chance, if implemented, to become a worldwide legendary.

I know this blog doesn’t have a large readership, but you happen to have a citizen media project in mind, or you happen to know someone with that vision, please don’t hesitate to apply for Rising Voices microgrants. Please feel free the spread the information. We all know how difficult and uncomfortable to keep a great idea in mind for good. Don’t keep it as a secret. Say it out loud, and make your idea helpful.

First Radio Experience

I participated the radio program Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders from Wisconsin Public Radio on January 5. Since it is a live show, I wake up at 4 in the morning to answer the phone. During the one-hour show, the host Jean interviews Georgia, Sami and me from Global Voices. Jean literally talks to three telephones at scene, in fact, as three of us are in Trinidad, the Netherlands and Taiwan, respectively. This setting itself exemplifies the basic idea of Global Voices. It’s virtual. It’s online. Its participants are everywhere in the world.

The interview is a great experience, although the time I really speak is quite short, only about 5 minutes or so. Most of the time, I just listen to the show via telephone. Georgia has done a great job, interacting well with the host and talking about citizen journalism and GV experience.

One hour is actually too short for Global Voices. If other programs are trying to introduce GV, every branch of it can be a one-hour show, to tell the truth.

This is my first overseas radio interview experience. I hope there will be more in the future, although I don’t know what kinds of programs will be interested in Lingua translation project.

For people interested, you can downloaded the show in mp3 file in the program archives (1/05/09 Monday). I appear at the middle part of the show.

My Life in 2008

At this time of the year, I bet many of you have already read a lot of reflections on many blogs. But sorry, I still want to do mine.

This year I have three travels abroad, all unplanned at the beginning. Experiences in Hungary, Japan and South Korea all broaden my horizons, and they all change my life in some ways. After Budapest, I am more involved in Global Voices than before, both in mind and in workloads. The in-person connection is a reassurance to me. These authors, managers and translators are no longer just names or email addresses. Old-fashioned as I am, physical contacts are still more substantial to me than cyber or virtual networks, although I am working in this huge virtual organization. Coming back from Budapest, Portnoy said he might give away his opportunity to the next GV Summit. I can’t. I need renewal.

panda souvenirs on our head (Hong Kong) People and connections are more crucial than everything in this world, as this year teaches me this lesson. Without connections, you won’t get your initial job opportunities, no matter how good you are.

In 2008 in GV, I have the confidence to say I work hard, even very hard. Starting as a happy, innocent translator in GV Chinese, I took over managerial/editorial position in early 2007 as Portnoy, the founding father of GV Lingua translation project, temporarily left for 1-year compulsory military service. I had assumed I would return his throne when he came back, but it turned out not the case. Sharing GV Lingua directorial works with him while still being GV Chinese editor since midyear, I have the chance to witness many developments in GV. If this process is a trap of quicksand, I am surely indulged in it.

Just for the personal record:

Number of Translation in Global Voices

Year

Posts

Roundups

2007

174

43

2008

432

58

I have kept my complete translation list for review.

I clearly understand quantity doesn’t equal to quality, especially in the field of translation. However, if the number has any significance, it just proves I work long hours with GV in the past year, hopefully with some positive results.

I did have a lot to complain in my life at some points, but when I read lots of stories with tremendous challenges and difficulties, natural or man-made, on GV or other news sources, my complaints mostly become too trivial to even be mentioned on my blog.

To sum up for 2008, I recall the first line from James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful:

My life is brilliant. My love is pure.

Hope it will stay the same in 2009. I believe my life will be beautiful.