Tuesday, 27 September 2005

Good to be Alive

My producer liked my Birdgirl stunt! Yay!

What a relief.

I was working on ideas for stories most of the day. I'll find out which ones will work, hopefully tomorrow.

Here's an excerpt of an email I wrote earlier:

I got into a car accident today. I stopped, but the guy behind me didn't and he hit me from behind. It wasn't very bad and we're both OK. My CRV looks a little scratched up, but his hood was completely bent. I was so busy at work, I didn't have time to think about it, but after we finished taping tonight, it came back to me. Being ill at the same time, driving home was a little hard. I'm just glad everyone is OK and that it was a decent-looking professor who hit me. I got his card, matched his ID and took pictures of both our cars.

Still a little shaken up. Looking forward to work tomorrow.

I'm interviewing a man whose two sons have a rare, degenerative disease called ALD (Adreno Leukodystrophy) or Lorenzo's. The parents spend every waking moment taking care of their children suffering from ALD. In due time, the children with ALD will become deaf, blind, paralyzed and then die. Somewhere in between all that, the parents have to work, stay strong, research about the disease, find sources of treatment and find money for that treatment. Treatment is very expensive and unavailable in many cases. A bone marrow transplant is a possible treatment for patients in the early stages and is not that difficult to receive once a matching donor is found, but all four ALD patients who received bone marrow transplants in Taiwan failed to recover and have died. This man I'm interviewing tomorrow, his two sons have ALD. The youngest son, who is only in kindergarten, is too far into the disease that he cannot receive a transplant. But the oldest son was a candidate, and the parents chose to have the surgery in Taiwan. They did this because the patient needs to be happy and receive a lot of encouragement before, during and long after the transplant to increase the chances of survival. If they went to the US like the previous ALD case who chose to do so because the success rate there is higher, then they wouldn't have the support of family, friends and classmates like they do in Taiwan.

I can only hope that I will never have to make a decision like this. Telling the story is enough.

It's good to be alive and to be healthy and to have healthy family.


Sunday, 25 September 2005


I was at the Taiwan Birdman rally (http://www.tw-birdman.org/birdman/index.aspx) today. Originally, I had planned to do just a stand-up and then jump in the water, but ended up finding a couple of international competitors, so I got some English soundbytes, which made my day. Now I have a real story, instead of a translated one with my stand-up in the end. Yay!

After all the teams had finished, I did my stand-up, put on a life jacket and a big orange afro, ran up the stairs to the platform, said some stupid things to the show hosts up there in very strange Chinese, because I was nervous and was just speaking English two seconds ago, ran down the 20 meter long ramp and then realizing how crazy I am when I saw how high three meters was right before I plunged in, screamed, lost my wig on the way down, and the next thing I knew, I was being fished out of the canal by the rescue boat.

All in a day's work. The Chinese news, however, ended up not broadcasting my jump, so I think that it may not have been a great idea. My editor thought it was good when we talked about it last night. Well, we'll see if I get called in for a lecture. I'm fine with that as long as they are reasonable and tell me why it's wrong.

On the way back to the news van, though, a little boy on a bicycle slammed into me, leaving a very nasty looking multi-colored bruise the size of Lucky's paw.

After the SNG director showed me how silly I looked, we all headed back to the station. I was still soaking wet by the time we got in and my left ear was feeling a little strange. After drying up and changing, the adrenaline wore off and it started to hurt. For the next few hours, I couldn't hear very well. It's much better now, but I should probably keep an eye (an ear?) on it.

After I wrote my story and left it for my editor to check tomorrow, I met Tinna for dinner. We had some nice Thai food for a reasonable price at New Bangkok. Afterwards, we walked over to the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall to see O-Getsu-Ryu (http://www.o-getsu.com/). It was pretty good, but it helps if you know the story beforehand and the ideologies of Bushido. It seems to be a fusion of chambara with dance and modern theater with some interesting, artistic swordfights. The shoes the performers wore really bothered me, though. I don't understand why they chose to wear trainers. They didn't seem to go with the rest of the costume and they made the performers look like children dressed up in anime characters. I give the show a seven out of ten, and if you like Bushido, kendo and/or dance, I recommend you see it.

I decided to walk the 20 minutes back to my office, where my car was, so I saw Tinna off at the train station, then swung by for a tapioca snack at Dongqu Fenyuan 東區粉圓. I couldn't finish it, but it sure gave me a fix. Now I can stop thinking about tapioca for another month or so.

It was a nice day off. I'm officially on tomorrow, as translator.

Does anyone know where I can find a good tomato-based pasta?

Saturday, 24 September 2005

Art Classes

I'm still going to my drawing classes, although drawing sculptures are not terribly fun because it is so excruciatingly difficult.

Guess who this is.

I just started print making class at the National Taiwan University of Arts. When I showed up at class, the professor, knowing who I am and what I do for my job, asked me "you have time for this?" Now I kind of understand what my godmother must have felt when her woodcut print teacher said that to her on their first meeting. Of course, I replied, yes, I do. When he found out I've travelled all the way from Danshui (nearly two hours away), I think I saw him smile a little. Ganbarimasu.

More pictures from dinner on the wharf.

New Light

Saturday, after Mom's K-school graduation, we went to Danshui's Fisherman's Wharf for dinner. I was very reluctant to go, but we needed to celebrate and I changed out of my suit that I wore for graduation and into something more appropriate and marched into the car without any complaints.

Dad had been raving on and on about how unexpectedly good the food at a particular restaurant is. They do have a pretty good setting. There are seats on the sidewalk, window seats on the inside that looked out onto the mouth of the Danshui River and live music all night long.

I was starving and was still miserable, but expecting little, the quality of the food pleasantly surprised me. It's not something you would expect to have in a tourist area. We ordered a pizza margarita to share and I had a seafood risotto. Parents shared a Belgium beer. The pizza and risotto were quite good; perhaps better than that you'd find in an average restaurant.

Amy and Takeki showed up a little later. They helped out at the graduation banquet and needed a break from working and suits. I seem to surround myself with people like this. The two guys I really liked when I was in Japan were like this. Of course, I never got to see them, but I had a terrible crush on them. Dangerous.

While waiting for Amy and Takeki, though, Dad gave me a direction and some ideas about work. He suggested me to cover political stories, which I thought I would never do, unless pushed into it and unless I had been in Taiwan long enough to know what is going on.

What he said made a lot of sense (as he usually does). Taiwan's democracy is relatively young. Put in a kosher way, there are many inefficiencies. Legislators throw chairs, hold up disrupting placards, boycott speakers for no apparent reason. There is lots to report and lots to analyze. There are reasons why reporters don't do much analysis work, but according to Dad, there is a real opportunity to shine. Management at the network would like it, the foreign community would like it and foreign media would like it as well. If I can make it relevant to the public, they would like it as well, perhaps. So a light bulb went off over my head and hope began trickling in again.

Well, we'll see how things go. It will be a race against time, though. I have a feeling that the lady upstairs will pull one of the associate producers out sooner or later. I'd rather be the one pulled out and put into the reporting staff and move forward. I started a translator, moved on to be an associate producer, and it's time to do something else. I want to be a journalist. I've been wearing the necklace my grandfather who encouraged me to be a journalist gave me. I will be come a journalist.

Low, and Even Lower, and then a Little Higher

I hit a new low the other day. It had been quite a few days of me being completely fed up with everything, morning to night. Tuesday morning, I woke up early, went downstairs and got grumped at for no reason. Walking back upstairs, I walked right into the edge of the fish tank lid, which was rotated off the top to let more air in the tank. The reason I woke up early was to do something--anything. So I chose to finally take my Taiwan driver's license test. Expectedly, most of the people at the DMV were quite rude. I passed the written test with no major problems, but failed the "road" test in less than ten minutes.

The road test is conducted on a course at the DMV, and in the DMV's Toyota Tercel. The test consists of first backing into a parking spot without your tires touching any of the lines on the ground, including the white lines in the middle and on the side of the road in the course and the lines that mark the parking space. The second task was to parallel park, without touching any lines. The third task was to drive into an S-shaped alley and backing out of the S-shaped alley without touching any lines. I don't remember what else goes after that because I didn't even make it past parallel parking. I don't think I have been in a tighter situation than that presented on the course. If you can pass the test there, you can park anywhere. But in my own defense, I've never had problems parking or driving in Taipei, in Tokyo, in LA or in SF, in a car, that is. Nevermind in a motorcycle. (Here comes the big godmother lecture again...)

I wasn't too disappointed about failing the test, since I wasn't expecting anything good to happen to anything anymore. I didn't want to go home to continue being grumped at, and I didn't want to go to work because things there haven't been great for me either. I didn't want to go anywhere. But I ended up going to work. I just may be a true workaholic.

On the way to work, I decided that I've had enough of the DMV and I was willing to risk my license being lost in the mail, so I paid TWD760 and FedEx-ed it off to Michael in California to have it authenticated at the Taiwan trade and culture office in San Francisco. I went to the American Institute in Taipei (AIT) to have it done, but they said I need to that in the US, and in the state where the license was issued.

Later at work, one of my coworkers told me he just had his California DL authenticated at the AIT the day before yesterday. Great.

We were talking about how you can get away with driving around permanently with just an international license, but quickly shelved the ideas when we realize that we appear on TV. The I-don't-speak-Chinese, I-just-got-here and I'm-not-a-resident excuses don't work anymore. So much for that.

But the goddess of mercy was watching, and later that evening, my editor-in-chief, whom CNN notifies just before our submissions are broadcasted said that my "Marketing Culture" story had been aired. And three times at that!

So all that is well, I suppose, ends well. But in recent times, it feels like each step forward takes the effort of ten. It's better than no progress, though. What an agonizing and lonely time.


This is King.

Tuesday, 20 September 2005


Keelung was fun! But quite tiring as well.

I was exhausted before even getting there, so I slept all the way from Taipei to Keelung. The car ride must have been something like 50 minutes long. The nap felt good, though a bit short.

With four hours to spare until the event began, I looked around, first for the lanterns and then for my cameraman. The lanterns were nowhere to be found, but I my cameraman wasn't too far away. I introduced myself and Chen Chong-han, my cameraman, quickly brought me over to where the other cameramen were hanging out. For some reason, other reporters were nowhere to be seen. The guys gave me a biandang (お弁当/boxed meal) and fried vegetable bun. The vegetable bun had an entire egg, oysters and lots and lots and lots of yummy carrots, cabbage and other veggies in it. After eating dinner standing and with my hands, Chong-han told me about the water lantern festival tradition.

For the next three hours, I wandered around and soaked up the atmosphere that was gradually warming up, and also the moist sea air. I talked to the captain of the rescue squad and he was so nice as to offer us a ride in one of the rubber rescue boats during the lantern floating.

After the speech and parade, I took off my heels, rolled up my pant legs and was about to head down to the beach when the rescue squad stopped me and said I was crazy. They took my shoes, gave me a pair of their reef shoes and put a life jacket on me.

When I finally made my way down to the boat, I was caught between all the excitement and having to work in it. I guess that's what made it fun!

It was fun, except for those times when we got too close to the giant ship lantern. I thought my hair was going to be singed off and my nose blasted off by the firecrackers. That was not fun.

I love being on the water, though, whether it's on a rescue boat, a yacht or a rowing shell. The last time I was on a boat was in Aomori. We were taken out to the bay out there to watch winning Nebuta floats tugged around and a fantastic display of fireworks. Keelung was no Nebuta matsuri, but it sure reminded me of it and how lucky I am to get to see all these things.

Work is tough sometimes and so is life. But the rewards I've had so far make it all worth it. I've hit another low in both, and I think I need to have some patience and put in some more hard work until the next wind comes. I just hope it comes soon.

Marketing Culture

Here's the story I wrote. It's called "Marketing Culture."

I haven't figured out how to compress videos and add them to my blog, but once I do, I will post the video as well. Anyone care to teach me how?

Here are some pictures. You can find more at my homepage: http://homepage.mac.com/michella.weng

As Taiwan’s manufacturing industries are increasingly moving overseas, the government wants to make sure that other industries will be able to step up and take their place in the economy. In our feature story today, Formosa TV’s Michella Weng (翁) takes a look at what the government is doing for the tourism industry and culture at the same time.##

Opening stand-up:
The Keelung lantern floating festival is one of several cultural events that Taiwan's Council for Cultural Affairs has been helping to promote.

Taiwan's government has in recent years been pushing harder to upgrade its tourism industry to become a more integral part of the economy. A year ahead of schedule, 2004 was named the “Year of Taiwan Tourism.” And this year, the government is helping to market 21 different venues by packaging them into the 2005 Formosa Arts Festivals. Even Premier Frank Hsieh appears in the commercial and often makes apperances at venues as well.

Dr Chen Chi-nan, Chairman of the Council for Cultural Affairs wants Taiwan to be a land with a showcase of traditional and also newly invented festivals in ten years, somewhat like Japan.

Soundbyte: Dr Chen Chi-nan, Chairman of Council for Cultural Affairs
Taiwan already passed the stage of agricultural economy, light industry development and also semiconductor industry and the next stage, we define it as a kind of cultural and creative industry.

But it's not just about selling Taiwan to tourists. According to Chen, it's also about creating an identity and local pride in an era where globalization is also forcing people to think about localization.

Soundbyte: Dr Chen Chi-nan, Chairman of Council for Cultural Affairs
The best way to cultivate local identity is through this kind of arts and festival activities. Culture is the basis of local identity.

Ten years ago, county governments didn't seem to be confident or interested in holding cultural and arts events. Now they see the significance and are playing a big role in cultivating the attraction of Taiwan's ethnicity and a sense of local identity and pride.

As regional governments become better at hosting and promoting festivals and their culture, the national government can gradually scale back their support; and they have.

Ending stand-up:
The quality and consistency of their work has been much better, so they've been able to ease off the funding and reallocate it to other uses. This is Michella Weng for Formosa TV, reporting in Keelung.

Tea with Andrea

These were taken one month ago (which felt like only two weeks), when both Andrea and I had a little bit of time during the day. I was actually off but was doing a story in the afternoon and at night. I interviewed the chairman of the Council for Cultural Affairs and went out to Keelung for the midnight lighting of the water lanterns. Two tired people.

Monday, 5 September 2005

Fun Things

Work has been a little too much lately. So much that I wanted to throw things. The TVs weren't working, the computers weren't working, the fax wasn't working, the printer wasn't working... And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Enough about work.

Since my last blog, I was told to sleep more and blog less. Instead of not blogging at all, I'll keep them shorter.

I accompanied my mother her school events last night and this afternoon. She's taking a leadership for women class at the Ketagalan Institute. The school was founded by Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan's current president. They offer courses on leadership for influential people in Taiwan's government and industry, or people affiliated to them. I talked to my mother's classmates for the first time yesterday, and they were quite interesting and mostly very knowledgeable. It was at a banquet at Premier Frank Hsieh's residence. It's good to be with people that have something to share. I learned about the country life in Taiwan, how locally focused community colleges are popping up everywhere now, which is becoming something of a phenomenon, and what is likely to happen to the show I am working on. I saw some high-profile people and found out that the world is once again smaller than I thought it was. It turns out that the husband of several of the women were friends or acquaintances of my father. The deputy minister of the interior, who used to be the mayor of Taichung and who uncannily looks like my aunt on my father's side says to me: you look like Judy Ongg. I say: why, thank you. Sometimes that falls out of the sky. I usually don't like to talk about that unless someone else starts. My father says: actually, she's Michella's godmother. She says: what a coincidence, she and my husband are cousins and she stayed at our house in Taichung. What a coincidence indeed.

This afternoon, there was a K-school get-together at the Shihsanhang Museum of Archaeology. I brought my 18 cm x 12 cm sketching pad and pencils along, and once things got a little boring, I started drawing. After the lecture on Puyuma (an indigenous Taiwanese people in Taiwan) craft and pride, everyone moved outside for tea. The conversation became a little boring, and I started sketching. I tried drawing the vase on the table, but it was going nowhere so my mother suggested the elevated wooden structure that was behind us. It looks like a very long gazebo that started three meters off the ground. I didn't get to go up there, but I'm sure there's a good view of the Danshui river and of Danshui on the other side.

Well, the sketch wasn't great and I had a very hard time, but I think it's not so bad for my first architecture sketch.

That sketch, however, gave me drawing fever. After an hour and a half, it was time to go home. I was still sketching on the car ride home, and nearly threw up at the end of the journey.

After dinner, I took out the only two art books I had and decided to do a picture of a picture. The first one is from the cover of the Munakata Shiko Museum collection book. I gave up pretty quickly. I think I need a Chinese brush to make it look anything close to what it's really like. Then I found a print of a Camellia in my godmother's art book and started drawing away again. This one lasted four "I'm in town!" phone calls.

When it rains, it pours; and it goes for friends who are visiting as well. Eddie from Bilingual messaged to say he's in town. Jack from UCI, Yi-Chen from Bilingual and Cindy from Dominican all telephoned tonight to say they're here. Amazing. This will keep my mind off work for sure.

Where has all the time gone? I've been writing for an hour now. I will be an ugly monster again tomorrow.

This was taken by my paparazzi mother.