p% Made in Taiwan

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cat Burglars

The door was locked.

The cats, beyond the door sounded like they had just knocked something over. "Silly cats." Taking out the key and turning it in the lock, I didn't get the usual three-stage series of weighted clicks; instead just a solitary single rotation, signifying a flatmate was home.


No answer, I walk into my room, but catch a glance of Abe's. "He must be doing washing." Clothes everywhere. Cupboards open. Something is not right. Thoughts of Abe or his girlfriend in a frenzied argument wander through my brain, as I pass into my room and see a symmetrical display of laundry. Something is definitely not right.

The penny drops at about the same speed as my jaw as I glance round my room. Lenses and camera intact. Passport strewn on the bed. Computer accounted for. I run back into Abe's room; again I see his camera equipment and computer, and am even more confused. The trifecta of laundry-themed rooms ends in Armando's, as I run past on the way to the living room, and awaiting brand-new Macbook Pro. What is going on?

Abe. No reply. A quick word with Armando, and he cuts short dinner to run home. Obviously avoiding touching anything at all, I do a quick second sweep of the rooms - the only stuff missing seems to be Abe's computer and our beloved three-legged cat, Tripod, who is likely hiding in a dark corner somewhere. Armando arrives - pennies and jaws dropping all around.

"What's the number for emergency services in Taiwan? ... 012?"

I try Abe again. No response, so I call Natasha and ruin one more evening.

Time to dive into emergency Chinese, and I dial. The guy on the end of the phone is calm and positive, and he dispatches a policeman to arrive in the next few minutes. Just before hanging up, he compliments me on my Chinese; and even under such stress my ego still pauses to be stroked before I shake myself out of it. Meanwhile, Armando is doing his own sweep of the house, shocked that he had only left home an hour previously at 6:50. We play out the scenario - the door, the lights, the stuff left lying around - nothing quite making sense. I grab the camera, take some shots of each room, and run a video around while narrating what I remember.


My dirty laundry


Abe one more time. Or maybe two. His phone is clearly off.

The first cop arrives, and I rattle off what happened to him. This shit clearly happens all the time, and he calmly listens to our story while he wanders around and takes photos of the most pertinent details. He sits me down and I sign some forms that seem to allow detectives to come in and do a formal inspection. Switching between his Nokia cell phone and radio, he radios for backup, and Armando and I look up to see the househould Hulk cookie jar, well, ajar; it's head and shoulders telling the story of a very polite burglar taking a peek inside and returning the lid.

The phone rings. A conversation completely out of context is difficult enough to grasp at the best of times, and it was only after a minute that I realised it was the police call centre asking to see if I was 'satisfied' with the timely service so far? Satisfied? What... yeah sure. Thanks. Slightly knocked sideways, it seemed all the more natural to strike up a conversation about our cats, while watching the policeman edging towards Datou. A few photos are collected on his official camera; and in mild disbelief I watch as he takes out his cell phone and adds a couple for himself. Are we looking for a cat burglar here?

Datou has a new friend.

More police begin arriving, and questions begin to be asked of the likely location of the other keys. Abe is out of contact, Natasha is on the way, and I don't even have the cell phone of the landlord. Raised eyebrows, inspection of ID card etc etc. This is getting a bit frustrating.

The CSI dude turns up, and he begins inspecting the main door lock. No joy. Then, his eye wanders over to the window opening into the living room; a brief flash of the light and it's clear that's where they came in. Bars block the windows of most houses in Taiwan, and ours is no exception. The only surprise is how easily they prised the bars - with an adjustable spanner, no less. So, let me ask you - if you can get through the bars with such a crude tool, and the bars themselves work as a ladder, what is the freaking point. Strike one for Taiwan. Not in our favour is the fact that we often leave that window open to allow air in, and it was unlikely that it was locked - lesson learnt.


Breaking and entering

Prints are taken on the window, and ... Hulk. Gloves. They came and went through the same place, which probably explains the scuffling sound when I arrived. We chat briefly about what to do, and his advice sounds like it is coming from a man that has seen this way, way too often. The adrenaline starts to fade as he leaves, and we assess the damage. Tasha arrives, slightly breathless.

Yes - Hulk. Please take him in for more questioning, by all means...

It's quite clear straight off the bat that we got away amazingly lightly. A few hundred dollars in American cash, and all the expensive equipment and travel documents are still intact, as far as we can see. But still one cat missing.

Tripod is timid cat at the best of times, but she was not to be found in any of her typical hiding places. I shine a light quickly outside, and nothing. I go and get my camera, and set the flash on, hoping to capture some reflective eyes; nothing. Did they really steal her?

Another shot with the torch, and the other guys hear a loud "meow". Tripod, except for Gizmo-like sound effects simply does not meow, ever, and I am in disbelief that it is her. Datou, on the other hand, makes a bolt for the window, clearly in distress - what a hero! Some more flash photographs taken down the alleyway, and sure enough it is her, lurking behind an air conditioning unit. I grab a torch, throw on some shoes and run out of the door, with Natasha in hot pursuit.


The rear of the apartment building is dark, dim, and not easy to access. I catch sight of her, and she scampers off (with three legs it's hard to do much else), and I worry that we are about to start a bizarre game of mouse and cat. But I corner her, and manage to pick her shivering body up. Safe. And I pass her up to Armando, manhandling herself up the bars and into the warm light of the apartment.

Covered in the muck of a million scooters, I head back to join Natasha and walk back around to the apartment entrance. Call Abe a dozen or more times. Talk at length about what the hell just happened, and wait for his arrival. And it was about this point that we realised just how hungry we were. The adrenalin surge comes to an abrupt stop.

We didn't need to wait to long for Abe to come back. Without wanting to get too dramatic, we walked him through the house, and it was clear that he was as shocked as the rest of us. Turns out his phone had run out of power. It's at times like this that I realise my daily Chinese skills have definite limits - vocabulary that Abe is talented and dedicated enough to learn. Still, we got through, and in the end what more is there to say? We were amazingly lucky.

We'll be lodging the full report with the police tomorrow, but until then I have rather an important gathering to attend - the departure of Nick Chaney from Taiwan. But I'll leave that for the next post.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stormtrooper on a Bicycle

Like I said. Stormtrooper on a bicycle. Yes, it's the Deaflympics closing ceremony.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wake Boarding Taiwan

Wave rider

Nick had the genius to book a day of wake boarding in west Taipei, near Wugu. After incessant requests from my sister to go while in the UK, I finally had the opportunity to bite the bullet, and 'shred the rad', as we wake boarders say. It took a few attempts to get up on my feet, but after that it was fun in the sun. A perfect activity for an oppressively humid day in Taipei, and one that I would like to repeat in the near future. Add to that this morning's mountain bike ride, and I had a real 'action' weekend ... and my body aches to prove it.

The price of old rope

Sneak pics

Taipei Yacht Club

Beautiful clear water - just don't touch the bottom.

Rear view mirror

Views to the mountains / motor ways. It was nice to see Taipei from a different angle ...

... which I did. Several times.

Rocket man.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Window Undressing

Walking home after a late night in the office, and I stumbled across a window being re-dressed at Sogo. Or undressed, perhaps. Flickr.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

X Beyond O : Calligraphy - Sign - Space

School days

In contrast to last weekend, which was an alcohol-fueled romp through Taipei's early mornings, I decided this weekend to be a little more civilised, and thus lined up a morning of Mountain Biking (sweaty), followed by a rather more cultured stroll around the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei.

I turned up to quite a large exhibit of modern interpretations of Chinese calligraphy, called X Beyond O: Calligraphy - Sign - Space. I have seen my fair share of 'modern China' style exhibitions on this type of subject, but they wowed with some really very memorable pieces, including projection of characters onto graffiti'd-up school desks, piles of paper with laser-cut symbols running through and fun and games with the increasingly ubiquitous multi-touch displays.

I am still somewhat blown away by the main space, however. A huge ink pad - and I mean huge; about the size of a tennis court - flanked by a scroll and brushes on one side. Dimly lit and perfectly reflective, it really was rather a special space.

I can't pretend to be able to penetrate these deeper aspects of the culture - especially written culture - but I do think I can appreciate it none-the-less, and certainly enjoy it. I say that, as the Chinese I have been learning over the last few years is bring ground to dust, replaced by the mental effort required to survive at Dell!

Hidden images, projected into a brightly-lit room

... which entailed running around the room attempting to capture and focus the characters on Chinese fans ... one reference too far?

The main exhibition space. None more black.


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Monday, June 15, 2009

Fixed Gear Taiwan 2.0

2 wheels good. 4 wheels better. 6 wheels best.

... my third bike in Taiwan, courtesy of Ken, it's already been modded with white grips and new saddle. I still need to put some proper KM on it, but isn't it pretty?!

Checking the scene at PS Tapas in Taipei

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Pockets of Design # 1

Favourite Local Buildings

In my bid to pay a little more attention to my surroundings, I have decided to photograph and document some of the things that I like the most in my local area, but that I see regularly - maybe the most difficult things to appreciate.

For me, this manages to be 'Taiwanese', speaking in a vernacular of concrete and harsh angles. The desire to customise individual treatment of air conditioning and external facades is somewhat channeled, and who can argue with the stripes of magenta, and might-I-say awesome lightening bolt foyer? This building makes me smile.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Taipei a-Wanderin'

Since I have now been in Taiwan an improbably long FIVE YEARS, and on top of that broke one year at Dell, I thought I would go and treat myself to a new camera lens. I somehow managed to misplace my old 50mm F1.8, so thought I would take the plunge and get the F1.4 upgrade. Abe, my flat mate, has the F1.2, which is an amazing piece of glass to be sure, but it's a bit big for carrying for long periods, and I didn't have a spare kidney to sell.

I am quite enjoying it so far, and also bought a polarising filter for my 24-105 L, since I thought I would be more likely to do landscape images with that one. All good fun.

Triple-double reflections

This picture was interesting, not for the thing itself (I rather liked the yellow tape while waiting for food), but for the reaction of one of the passers-by. He leaned in, asked me what I was taking a photo of, and when I explained 'of the yellow tape' snorted indignantly and strutted off.

There were some pretty serious anti-government marches this weekend, and I spotted the minor result of one of the rallies - they had crossed out the 'Chinese' on the Deaflympics signs. That'll teach 'em!

Lane positioning

Building at rest

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Taipei Has Eyes

Walking away from buying a new lens, I was amused by this underpass and the faces that jumped up at me as I walked up and down the steps.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Deaflympics Parade

Beijing gets the Olympics. Taipei gets the Deaflympics. Or is that being unfair?

Anyway, some sort of opening ceremony was passing by at the end of my street, so I grabbed my camera and was met with a Batman-esque (Tim Burton vintage) floating barrage balloon parade. Sports shoes, frogs, sea horses ... and all guarded by a team of Star Wars' Storm Troopers. It just makes so much sense.

Frog (the mascot) I understand (although why choose a frog? What do they have to do with hearing impairment?) Training shoe; I understand. Sea horse? ...

Storm Troopers. Yup.

Storm Troopers avec floating training shoe. Use the force!

These are not the droids you are looking for.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Birthday Redux

It's useful being friends with designers and photographers; they have a habit of injecting that extra element of quality into capturing events. In my case, I was lucky enough to have Abe shooting away on his rig, and Gerhard & Klara mounting their time-lapse cam in the corner of the room - lovely.

Kicking off proceedings was dinner at my favourite local 'restaurant' - the getto shrimp van at the end of the street. We grabbed, wine glasses, bread and candles, and created a few raised eyebrows, dining to the sounds of music and shrimps being fried with a hairdryer. As the parking lot filled up, we decamped to the apartment, where a super spread of friends gathered to wish me well as I successfully managed to circumnabulate the Sun 30 times.

On top of that, I am now the proud owner of a 20" Apple Cinema display, which is significantly more pleasant to work on - to the point that I am pretty sure I am processing more photos for upload to Flickr now, and the blog. Awesome.

Nick and I discuss vases

Really special to have the HK crew in town. Appreciated!

Candlelit / neon - lit supper

Strike a pose.

Onizou Idea Nomads in Town

Shrimp pots.

A very special cooking style - eat your heart out, Heston.

Make a wish!

The team.


After managing to offload this trash to Sam last year, it managed to find its way back here. Someone will pay for this!

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