326 Peace March

Today the streets of Taipei have been jammed with hundreds of thousands of Taiwan's citizens carrying banners, chanting, and singing songs. The event: the 3-26 Peace March in which over a million people protested a law passed in China two weeks ago that authorized 'non-peaceful' actions to annex Taiwan.

Buttons, flags, and shirts displayed characters reading Democracy. Peace. Protection for Taiwan. The multi-coloured leaves on the olive branch represent the democratic island's multiple political parties.

China's citizens received no news from their government about this event.


Panorama images by Walker Young
Taiwan 326 Flickr Photo Pool
Round up of press coverage by New Taiwan


Good Year for Beethoven

Whether we're taking our first heady sip of Beethoven's music or imbibing a glass with every meal, music lovers can't help wanting to taste what more he has for us in the cellar.

BBC Radio 3 is now planning an event we can all savor.

From 9am on Sunday 5 June to midnight on Friday 10 June, BBC Radio 3 will broadcast every single note of Ludwig van Beethoven. Every symphony, every quartet, every sonata ... and plenty of Beethoven surprises too.

Sir Roger Norrington, Alfred Brendel, Peter Cropper and John Suchet will be your guides through the music that's closest to them. And John Hurt will be taking us inside Beethoven's mind, reading from his fascinating letters. . . .

Visit this website before and during the week for comprehensive background information and to take part in discussions and competitions. And you'll be able to listen to the Beethoven you want to hear, when you want to hear it, on the BBC Radio Player.

Get ready to pop the corks on June 5.


Guggenheim East

Will we see a Guggenheim museum in Asia?

Discussions had been going on for two years here between the Guggenheim and the city of Taichung in Taiwan to build just that. Taichung boasts fine restaurants and night clubs, balmy weather, wide streets, and popular shopping centers. Its leisure offerings, though, have been more of the Atlantic City variety than the Manhattan kind. Jason Hu, the city's mayor, has been eager to establish a different tone and polish the city's image. The possibility of adding a Guggenheim museum to the city's cultural offerings gave his plans a big boost.

Negotiations came to naught, though, when city officials remained concerned that the museum represented a crippling long-term financial liability. Government officials in Taiwan still hope to open a world-class arts museum in Taichung regardless of the loss of the Guggenheim.

The museum, for its part, remains committed to the idea of international expansion.In an article for Bloomberg, William Pesek Jr discusses how the idea of building an Asian outpost of the Guggenheim is gaining traction in Hong Kong and other cities. Skepticism remains, though, about whether the recent economic benefits brought by a museum in Bilbao, Spain, can be repeated. A vibrant arts scene does bring economic benefits to a city, Pesek notes. But the benefits of an art museum do not lend themselves to cost-benefit predictions of the short-term, number-crunching sort you might use when considering a new office tower.

It will be interesting to see how things develop. At the end of last year the Guggenheim's chairman and chief benefactor resigned in protest over the museum's plans to become an international brand. Already it appears that adding a Guggenheim to a city's skyline may not be the upscale gesture it once was. Eyebrows are raising now over reports that Singapore hopes to combine a Guggenheim museum with a casino.


Call to the world

China's authoritarian government approved a law on Monday that authorized 'non-peaceful' actions against Taiwan if the island continues minding its own business outside of Beijing's control.

Here is the six-point response made yesterday by Taiwan's democratically elected president. And here is the official call to the world made by Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council. (In reading the documents please note the difference between People's Republic of China, the official name of Communist China, and Republic of China, the official, older name of the government in Taiwan.

China's talk of 'secession' obscures an important fact: Taiwan has never belonged to the PRC. Taiwan has been a self-governing society the entire time the PRC has existed. It has had its own constitution, currency, public institutions, national emblems, and body of law. Since when does a state 'secede' from a nation it was never part of?

The people of Taiwan, like citizens in any democracy, assume that decisions about their future are theirs to make. The free society they have built here testifies to their right to make these decisions. It is time for the people of the world to respect that right.


Birth of Hope

On this date a few decades ago the world became a richer place.

Hope in Philadelphia

Here's to Hope: partner, friend, and the purest artist I ever met.

Shalom, dodi.


Brazen China

This week China's leaders are pushing a new domestic law intended to legitimize their ambition to annex a certain self-governing democracy nearby. The Washington Post calls the 'anti-secession' move what it is:
President Hu Jintao has now made clear that Beijing's policy of openly threatening Taiwan with a war of aggression remains intact.... Mr. Hu's answer [to Taiwan's good will] is to mandate, by law, that peaceful democratic political activity on Taiwan trigger invasion by China.
The Post editorial is getting plenty of attention here in Taiwan. I first learned of it from some local TV commentators on a morning show. They especially liked the way the piece named some of Beijing's enablers:
France and Germany--fierce opponents of military force when used by the United States against a vicious dictator--remain eager to sell weapons systems to a regime that has formally committed itself to aggression against a democracy. Rather than joining with the United States to help keep the peace in Asia, they would cater to the country that promises to break it.
Many Taiwanese have wanted to see the world taking more notice.

Wonder what readers inside China think of the Post piece? Wonder no more. They can't see it.

The Great Firewall of China--a massive system of electronic censorship--blocks access inside China to thousands of web sites that discuss Taiwan, Tibet, Tiananmen Square, Falun Gong, recent mass protests, and any other subject the regime finds unflattering. Expat colleagues of mine who travel to China report that, once inside the country, they can't access their own blogs. Lack of access may be just as well for the health of China's citizens, whose activities on the web are tracked and who are subject to arrest if they view disapproved material.

Such is life inside the 'people's republic' where only the trade is free (on a good day). No one should find it bewildering that Taiwan's citizens would be loathe to sign up.

Bravo, Post.


Wigmore Hall Live

An earlier post mentioned the growing trend of orchestras producing their own recordings. Concert halls have now joined the trend. Gramophone magazine reports plans by Wigmore Hall to start a new record label. The label, Wigmore Hall Live, will issue at least a dozen disks in its first year.


ShiDa Duties

This week I begin working with the Senior Women's Choir at ShiDa (Taiwan Normal University). We have two big events coming up: next month's world premiere of Psalm Lu-O, a choral-orchestral work by S. K. Tzeng, and our own spring concert a few weeks after that. Professor Tzeng's piece will be performed by the combined choirs of the university joined with the University Symphony conducted by Apo Hsu.

ShiDa, Taiwan's leading music school, claims a number of talented and well-trained students. The Senior Women's Choir routinely performs repertoire in at least eight languages: Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Latin, English, French, German, and Italian. All the singers have engaged in serious music studies from an an early age.

For the choir this is always a demanding time of year. Many of the women are coming back from auditions in Europe and America. All are planning to give recitals in June. Awaiting us between those events is our premiere and our spring concert. It promises to be an adventure. I'm looking forward to it.


Changes in Platitudes

If ever a genre of decor was ripe for satire, it's the office motivational poster. You've seen it: that overpriced piece of kitsch execs like to buy instead of art that really humanizes a work space. The standard formula calls for photos of animals and athletes captioned with banal proverbs to inspire the company's worker bees to produce more honey.

To the rescue: Demotivators from Despair.com!

Get to Work

Thanks to my brother for thinking I'd enjoy these. You got that right, Bro. And the 'Success' poster will always remind me of you.