2013年6月1日 星期六

Blog Archive 26 很久很久以前的文章

1. Hot Springs in Taitung County (May 2013)

I discussed this topic several years ago, on my other blog about Taitung 台東.  I don't think I've brought it up here before.  For those interested in Taitung in general, I have linked certain phrases to entries in my other blog.

A lot of people come to Taitung for the hot springs, and these hot springs are certainly among the most famous destinations in the county.  While I cannot say I have been to EVERY hot spring in Taitung County (there are a lot), I can say that I've been to most of them.

Taitung's hot springs are most easily divided into three areas: the hot springs in Jin Luen 金崙, the hot springs in Jer Ben 知本, and the hot springs in Lu Ye 鹿野.  There are also hot springs in other locations, but these hot springs are not nearly as well-known.
1. Jin Luen

Jin Luen is in Tai Ma Li Township 太麻里鄉, near the southern end of Taitung County.  It lies along Highway 11, and it is particularly vulnerable to typhoons.  Many of their older hot springs were destroyed during the 8-8 Typhoon, and what you see in this area now is what survived.  If you are looking for less-visited hot springs, this is the place to go.  Most of these hot springs aren't as impressive as what you'd find in Jer Ben, but they are cute and inexpensive

Those who don't want to pay for their hot spring experience can go down to the river that passes through town.  The hot spring flows into this river, and all one needs to do is find the right hole to sit in.

2. Jer Ben

As far as Taitung goes, this is the big leagues.  There are many large hotel resorts in this area, a lot of tourists, and on the weekends a surprising amount of traffic.  Even so, Jer Ben is very convenient from Taitung City, and there are less popular, less crowded options that are still worth visiting.  The Royal Jer Ben Hotel has to be the fanciest hot spring in the county, but its fame is justified.  The Journey to the East 東遊記 hot spring is PACKED with tourists on the weekends, and isn't even a real hot spring.  There are several other options in this area, so if you're not sure which one to visit, it's best to check them out before you buy your ticket.  As an additional incentive to go there, the Jer Ben Forest Recreation Area 知本森林遊樂區 lies on the other side of the hot springs.
3. Lu Ye

Lu Ye Township is north of Taitung City, along Highway 9.  The big hot spring here is Ing Jia 盈家, which isn't nearly as famous as anything in Jer Ben.  The river south of Ing Jia also has its own hot spring, and holes can be dug out along the riverbanks.  There is also the Shan Yue 山月 hot spring, the Luminous Hot Spring Resort 鹿鳴溫泉酒店, and another hot spring north of the resort, along the highway.
4. Other Options

Farther afield, there is the An Tong hot spring area 安通溫泉區 just outside of Chang Bin Township 長濱鄉, at the northern end of Taitung County.  This hot spring is in Hualien County 花蓮縣, and as such is outside of this discussion, but it's just a stone's throw from the county line. 

Jin Fong Township 金峰鄉, just west of downtown Tai Ma Li, still has at least one hot spring: the Eastern Sun 東太陽 hot spring and hotel.  I think it would be a nice place to stay.  There used to be another hot spring across the river from there, but last I heard it was either under repair, or closed indefinitely.

There are also a few hot springs in Hai Duan Township 海端鄉, as one approaches the southern entrance to Jade Mountain National Park.  The best-known of these is probably the tiny one inside the Tian Long 天龍 Hotel, but there are others along the Central Cross-Island Highway.  I went to one near Chu Lai 初來 that was small but fun.

I've also heard they're building a new hot spring resort in Dulan 都蘭, but this may be another "fake" hot spring along the lines of Journey to the East.

2. Photo Gallery 7 (May 2013)

Not so many pictures to choose from this time.  Most of these are from that trip we took to Tainan 台南.

A funny thing I came across at my wife's grandfather's house in Yunlin 雲林.  I'm not sure if they made this themselves, or if they bought it from a store.  Cardboard!

Incense burning in front of the Koxinga Shrine 鄭氏大宗祠 in Tainan City.  A very wet day.

Inscription on the wall of the Confucius Temple 孔廟 in Tainan City.  Really difficult to make out the characters.  Not sure what this inscription is for.

A guava field in Li Ji 利吉惡地, Taitung County 台東縣.  I believe that's Beinan Mountain 卑南山 in the far background, and a little further up the river is Little Yellow Mountain 小黃山.

This is Li Ji again, looking down the valley into Taitung City.

Hualien's FarGlory Ocean Park 花蓮遠雄海洋公園.  We went on a field trip here last semester.  I couldn't have cared less about whatever aquatic mammals were performing.  I just wanted to lie down in the water!

3. Thoughts 8 (May 2013)

What's been on my mind this week.  Hold on now, this is going to be long...
1. It's raining today.  It's raining HARD.  It's been raining for hours and hours.  Parts of our school are flooding as I write this, and certain stairwells have become miniature waterfalls.  

I like the rain when I'm at work.  It makes the students calm, and I don't feel bad about not being able to go outside.  It's also an excuse not to do certain things, such as sports.  I really didn't want to play soccer anyway.

I keep wondering if the the typhoons will come early this year, and whether or not I'll get days off.  I love typhoon days.  Just sitting inside, watching the wind and rain.  Good times.
2. Some "hippy" people are annoying.  They pretend to be non-judgmental, they pretend to be accepting, and they pretend to be "enlightened".  But often it's just so much bullshit. 

There's nothing wrong with Peace, Love, and Understanding, but many of the musicians they idolize have actually bothered to think through their personal philosophies.  What's more, they've actually lived them, and they've actually tried to make a positive change in the world outside their doors.

I know plenty of "hippies" who are cool.  It's only a couple of these "hippies" that are irritating me at the moment.

4. A lot of kids in our school think they hate Koreans, but few of them are able to differentiate between North and South Korea, or explain the reason(s) for their abiding hatred.  I suppose they pick these things up from their elders.

For those who don't already know, Taiwan competes with South Korea in several key markets, and there has been a lot of resentment over purchases/investments made by Korean companies in Taiwan.  Taiwanese telecommunications companies are losing a lot of business to Korean companies such as Samsung, and this is an ongoing source of tension between the two countries.

North Korea, on the other hand, is a different problem altogether.  Their government is unquestionably evil and exploitative, and one wonders how long they can continue to function.  I could understand hating the North Korean government, but hating the North Korean people?  They are the ones who truly suffer at the hands of their country's oppressive regime, and they are the people who have my deepest sympathy.

On the plus side, a lot of the girls in the South Korean girl groups are extremely hot, and all of the kids who say they hate Koreans don't seem to have any problem with Super Junior, Girls Generation, Psy, or whoever else is popular at the moment.

5.  Speaking of music, I've been istening to a lot of it lately.  I am most often alternating between Witchfinder General and Ghost (B.C.).  The first four tracks on "Friends of Hell" are AWESOME, and even though the new Ghost album isn't that great I still love "Zombie Queen."  Also looking forward to the new Queens of the Stone Age album.  The new track they've released sounds promising.

6. Reading the British Museum's History of the World in 100 Objects.  I am reading this book in Chinese, so my impression of it might differ from those reading the English version.  It's quite absorbing.

7. Housecleaning: This blog is fairly well read at the moment, though that can always change.  I am happy that people enjoy reading what I write, and I am always happy to get comments.

Life is good for most of us, most of the time.  Of course, this is just my opinion.  If life doesn't seem good, I think it is usually because we are focusing our attention on the wrong things.  

You take care of yourself now, and I'll do the same.    

4. Dragon Boat Festival 端午節 2 (May 2013)

The following is an excerpt from 台灣節日故事 ("Taiwanese Holiday Stories").  The Chinese was written by 張青史, and this book was published by 風車圖書 (Windmill Illustrated) in 2012.  This year Dragon Boat Festival falls on Wednesday, June 12, and everyone in Taiwan gets the day off!

Dragon Boat Festival
(Fifth Day of the Fifth Lunar Month)

農曆五月初五, 就是民間所稱的端午節, 又叫 "五月節", "五日節", 是我國民間極為重視的節慶.  我們常認為端午節的由來是為了紀念愛國詩人屈原, 實際上, 端午節的起源和屈原並沒有什麼關係; 只是後來曾加的 "包粽子" 與 "龍舟競渡", 才和屈原產生關聯.  The fifth day of the fifth lunar month is popularly known as Dragon Boat Festival.  It is also called "May Festival" and "Fifth Day Festival."  It is one of the more important holidays celebrated in our country.  We usually think of this festival as commemorating the patriotic poet Chu Yuan, but in truth Dragon Boat Festival's origins have nothing to do with Chu Yuan.  The inclusion of Chu Yuan was later used to explain activities that were added more recently, such as the wrapping of rice tamales, and the dragon boat races.

吉代人很早就有這種反應季節變化與天氣特徵的節日, 並且有許多與 "衛生" 和 "保健" 相關的習俗.  端就是 "開始" 的意思,午與 "陽" 相通, 兩個字加起來就是陽光開始強烈, 天氣變炎熱的意思.  People in ancient times observed this kind of holiday in accordance with changes of season, or changes of weather, and they also had many customs related to hygiene and preserving one's health.  The "Duan" [which comprises the first character of Dragon Boat Festival's Chinese name] means "a beginning," and the "Wu" [which comprises the second character of this Chinese name] means "the sun."  Taken together, these two characters signify the time when the sun grows stronger, and the weather grows hot.

農曆的五月, 正是酷暑盛夏, 天氣炎熱, 各種蚊蟲孳生, 人們容易生病, 自古以來就被稱為 "惡月".  由與當時醫藥不發達, 人們便想出一些可以僻邪, 驅蟲, 解讀的方法, 列如: 在門口掛菖蒲, 喝雄黃酒, 懸掛香包等.  另外還有划龍丹, 吃粽子, 豎雞蛋等游樂活動.  久而久之, 這些方法就成為端午節特有的民俗活動了.  The fifth day of the fifth lunar month marks the onset of summer heat, and of hot weather.  Every kind of insect breeds, and it is easy for people to become sick.  During ancient times, this time of year was referred to as the "evil month."  At that time medicine was undeveloped, and people began to think of ways to prevent infestation and other evils.  For example, they would hang calamus in their doorways, drink yellow "hsiung" wine, and wear sachets.  They also raced dragon boats, ate rice tamales, hung up eggs and engaged in other pleasurable activities.  After a time, these activities all became parts of what we know as Dragon Boat Festival.

5. Foreign Relations (May 2013)

Is Taiwan a Country?

That depends on who you ask.  If you ask China, they will say no.  If you ask Japan, they will probably say yes, with certain qualifications.  If you ask most Taiwanese people, they will start talking about China, the Kuomintang 國民黨, and the U.N., and by the end of that discussion you probably still won't know what their opinion is.

Whatever Taiwan is (and in my opinion yes, it is a country), it issues its own money, it has its own passports, and life in Taiwan is VERY different from life in Mainland China.  For example, Taiwan is a democracyTaiwan also has laws in place to protect property owners, and freedom of speech is seen by most Taiwanese people as the cornerstone of a progressive and harmonious society.

Taiwan's relations with its neighbors is a huge topic, and moreover a topic that could be discussed in the context of several academic disciplines.  One could discuss these relations in economic terms, in historical terms, and even in religious terms.  I am not attempting to cover every angle here.  Just to offer a rough outline.

Taiwan and Japan

Taiwan and Japan go back a long way.  In 1895, Japan took Taiwan from China, though the Chinese Emperor probably wasn't all that bothered about it.  The Ching Dynasty 清朝 had little to do with Taiwan, and Ching officials tended to view Taiwan in much the same way as Americans view Puerto Rico.  A nice place to visit perhaps, but watch your wallet.

Taiwan was under Japanese administration for 50 years.  During that time, many people learned to speak Japanese as part of daily life, and many Japanese words found their way into Taiwanese 台語, the dominant language.  The Japanese built many train stations and other historic buildings in Taiwan, and they are often remembered for their efficiency.  The Japanese lost Taiwan at the end of the Second World War, and in their wake the nationalists, under Chiang Kai-shek 蔣介石, took control of Taiwan in 1945.
Taiwan and South Korea

South Korea, like Taiwan, was under Japanese colonial rule during World War II, though the Japanese presence in South Korea didn't last as long.  Taiwan severed diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1992, after South Korea chose to recognize the People's Republic of China.

South Korea, along with Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, is one of the countries known as the "four tigers" of Asia.  These four countries led the early wave of economic growth in the region, though their economic performance in recent years has been overshadowed by the phenomenal success of the Mainland Chinese economy.

South Korea remains very competitive in the electronics industry, and their entertainment industry has grown by leaps and bounds.  K-pop idols such as the Wonder Girls, Super Junior, and Psy are popular worldwide, and these groups also have a devoted following in Taiwan.

Many Taiwanese view South Korea as their closest economic competitor, and for this reason there are sometimes bad feelings between the two countries.  On the other hand, the influence of Korean culture on Taiwan is undeniable.  This influence may not have roots as deep as that of Japanese culture, but the presence of Korean restaurants, Korean TV shows, and Korean bands in Taiwan has been an established fact for years.
Taiwan and China

The situation with Mainland China is complex, and cannot be described in full here.  Suffice to say, China experienced a civil war just after the Second World War concluded, with the communists under Mao Tse-tung 毛澤東 squaring off against the nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek.  Chiang Kai-shek lost that particular argument, and as a result his nationalists retreated to Taiwan with US support.  Once in Taiwan, they established (or some might say reestablished) the Republic of China 中華民國 on the island, which claimed sovereignty over all of China.  The communists, returning the favor, claimed sovereignty over Taiwan.  The result of these claims and counter claims is Taiwan's ambiguous political status, which has yet to be resolved to anyone's satisfaction.

Taiwan was one of the earliest investors in the Mainland Chinese economy, and has reaped untold sums from China's economic "miracle."  China and Taiwan also share many cultural affinities, and the ties between the two nations run deep.  Many people in Taiwan are only two or three generations removed from the Mainland, and many tourists from Mainland China visit Taiwan every day.  Even so, two countries with two vastly different political systems are bound to come into conflict now and then.  One can only hope that cooler heads prevail.

Taiwan and the Philippines

The Philippines is Taiwan's neighbor to the south, but the two countries have very little interaction.  Many Filipino workers come to Taiwan to work in factories, or as nurses, and this inflow of manpower has meant a steady source of revenue for the Philippines.

The Philippines has been in the news a lot lately.  Recently a Taiwanese fisherman was gunned down in waters shared by the two nations, and the result was a public outcry.  The government of Taiwan responded to this outcry by demanding an apology from the Philippines, and is also requesting that they make restitution with the slain fisherman's family.  Relations between the two countries continue to be tense.  As of a few days ago, Taiwan's government was not accepting any more work applications, or issuing any visas for Philippines nationalsThere is even talk of suspending flights between the two countries.
Taiwan and the US

The US is like that uncle you only see on Thanksgiving.  He shows up drunk, maybe hands you some money, and for a few hours you feel loved.  But after Thanksgiving he is nowhere to be found, and you are left to sort out your own problems.

At present, the US, Taiwan, and China are attempting to observe the "One China" principle, which treats the territorial dispute between China and Taiwan as an internal matter.  As long as China does not attempt to resolve this matter through military force, the US is pledged not to intervene, but if China resorts to violence then the US is "obligated" to defend Taiwan - or at least to aid in its defense.

It was US aid that got the nationalists started in Taiwan, and it was US support that made Taiwan's rapid development in the 60s, 70s, and 80s possible.  Back then, Taiwan occupied a position very similar to China's in the year 2013.  It was an emerging economy with an abundance of cheap labor, and it was also a country with a stable government and solid plans for the future.

But of course things change, and the US economy has struggled since then.  The tech bubble of the 90s and early 00s has burst, and for many Taiwanese the US isn't the shining beacon of hope and progress that it once was.

Even still, the two nations remain on good terms.  The US government recently lifted the visa requirement for Taiwanese nationals, and the US still views Taiwan as a valuable market for products such as beef.  Many of the computers and celphones used in the States are manufactured in Taiwan, so there is still a healthy trade between the two countries.  I don't know that the US is the best friend (or even the best uncle) that Taiwan could have, but Taiwan needs all the friends it can get.
Taiwan and the Rest of the World

Taiwan occasionally gives cash gifts to countries in Africa and Latin America, in exchange for diplomatic recognition.  This has been the case since Taiwan was first expelled from the U.N. in the 1970s.  Up to that point, the Republic of China was recognized as the rightful government of all China, but Nixon's rapprochement with the Chinese communists brought a slow end to that.  Mainland China, always zealous in such matters, often puts pressure on institutions worldwide to remove Taiwan's flag from public view, and tactics such as this only increase everyone's confusion.

Taiwan's identity, and its relations with other countries, rests on the issue of reunification with the Mainland.  Ma Ying-Jeou 馬英九, the current President of Taiwan, was seen as very "pro-China" at the beginning of his term, though he seems to be leaning more towards the nationalist side these days. 

One wonders how easily Taiwan could be reabsorbed into China, and whether or not this re-absorption wouldn't cause more problems than it solved.  China's reclamation of Hong Kong continues to pose certain problems for residents of Hong Kong AND residents of China, and these problems would certainly pale in comparison with the kind of baggage that Taiwan brings to the table.

6. Teaching English 10: Review (May 2013)

This entry is a review of this topic.  I'm not saying it's the last time I'll ever write about Education, but this is the end of the "Teaching English" entries.

In Teaching English 1 I talked about jobs I've had in Taiwan.  All of these jobs were as an English teacher, in both public and private schools.

In Teaching English 2: The Wrath of the FET I talked about types of "bad foreign teachers" that I have observed during my time in Taiwan.  Were I to approach this topic again, I would probably add at least 5 more types to the list.

In Teaching English 3 I talked about facets of English-language education in Taiwan, and my thoughts on each.  Many of these thoughts resurfaced later in the English in Taiwanese entry.  I discussed dual-language instruction, age limits, tests of English in public schools, and other, privately administered tests such as the TESOL and the TOEIC.

In Teaching English 4: Anxiety I talked about the anxiety that first-time teachers often feel in Taiwan, and strategies for coping with it.  I'm not sure how many people read this one, but I hope it was as encouraging as I meant it to be.  Yes, teaching ESL can be scary, but it can also be very rewarding.

In Teaching English 5: Dolch Sight Words I talked about the Dolch Sight Word List, which is a list of high-frequency words in the English language.  Every teacher of English should be familiar with these wordsThey can save you a lot of time!

In Teaching English 6: Side by Side I talked about the Side by Side textbook, and how it might be used in the classroom.  I have used Side by Side for years, and although it has flaws I find it very useful.  I also use English Firsthand, Interchange, and the Ladybird readers quite a bit.  I am always trying to find a good blend of textbooks and more authentic materials/experiences.

In Teaching English 7: The MPiLGEF I talked about our school's expense-paid trip to Washington D.C., and what we got out of Microsoft's Partners in Learning Global Education Forum.  Looking at these pictures brings back a lot of memories.  My school is entering a similar IT competition this summer, and we'll see how we do.

In Teaching English 8: A Tuesday at Tung Hai I talked about a typical Tuesday at my school.  I realize that entries such as this one might seem a bit masturbatory, but hopefully someone got something out of it.  I have met a lot of people who are curious about what I do, and this was meant to satisfy that curiosity.

In Teaching English 9: Special Topics I discussed Task-based Teaching, and how my approach to special topics is a reflection of that methodology.   I talked about teaching PE, Social Studies, and other topics through the medium of English, and also about some successes and failures I have had with each subject.

Which leads me to the present entry, Teaching English 10: Review.  You are reading it now, you know what it's about, so there is no need summarize, I think.

7. 禁煙節 Non-Smoking Day (May 2013)

There are a lot of "holidays" that aren't on most calendars.  Check your calendar for "Non-Smoking Day", and you probably won't find it.  It's not famous, everyone has to work that day, and there are no fun activities associated with it.  For this reason "Non-Smoking Day," just like "Armed Forces Day" and "Railroad Day" are left off of most calendars.

It is, nevertheless, to be found in my "Taiwanese Holiday Stories" book, and it falls on June 3 every year.  Don't forget to say "Happy Non-Smoking Day!" to EVERY PERSON YOU COME ACROSS on June 3.  It will confuse them, and their confusion will be amusing.

The Chinese here was written by 張青史, while the English was written by me.  This version of "Taiwanese Holiday Stories" (台灣節日故事) was published by Windmill Illustrated 風車圖書 in 2012.

Non-Smoking Day**
(National [Western] Calendar, June 3)

禁煙節的由來要追溯到明朝末年義大利傳教士利瑪竇來華傳教, 帶進了鼻煙, 讓國人開始對煙品上癮.  清朝中期以後, 英國人發現在中國賣鴉片可以獲取很大的利潤,於是開始向中國銷售這種對人體有害的毒品.  To search out Non-Smoking Day's origin one must go back to the end of the Ming Dynasty, when the Italian missionary Matteo Ricci brought snuff into China.  Chinese people became addicted to tobacco products from this time onward.*  By the middle of the Ching Dynasty, the British discovered that they could make huge profits by selling opium in China, and from then on sales of this kind of unhealthy product began.

由於官民大量吸食, 造成吏治腐敗, 也使得百姓的財富愈來愈少,精神越來越委靡不振, 甚至喪失工作意願, 雖然清廷下令禁止鴉片進口, 但是輸入量卻有增無減.  After officials began consuming [opium] in large amounts, corruption became a problem, and the people grew less and less prosperous.  They grew more and more demoralized, and they lost their desire to work.  Although the Ching Court forbid the importation of opium, the amount coming in was not decreased.

道光皇帝即位後, 決心禁絕鴉片, 派遣欽差大臣林則徐到廣州負責查禁鴉片.  林則徐與一般官員消極, 怕事的做法大不相同, 他非常強勢和堅決, 許多外國商人及傳教士對他大公無私的態度都很佩服.  After the Emperor Dao Guang assumed power, he decided to stamp out opium, and he dispatched the imperial envoy Lin Dze-Shu to Canton Province to ban the opium trade.  Lin Dze-Shu was the opposite of most public officials, who were scared of getting into trouble for doing things differently.  He was very strong and determined, and many foreign businessmen and missionaries considered his selfless attitude to be very admirable.
林則徐將收繳的鴉片, 於公元1839年6月3日, 在廣東的虎門全部銷毀, 轟動全國.  Lin Dze-Shu took the opium he had seized, and on June 3, 1839 in Hu Men, Guangdong he destroyed it.  This caused a sensation.

但是, 清庭迫於英軍的強大軍事力量, 竟將林則徐革職, 流放到新疆, 改派琦善擔任兩廣總督, 在江寧與英軍談和, 簽訂 "南京條約", 割地又賠款, 在中國歷史上寫下可恥的一頁.  However, the Ching Court had a strong British military presence to contend with, and this necessitated the dismissal and exile of Lin Dze-Shu.  He was sent to Xinjiang, and Chi Shan replaced him as governor of Canton Province.  [Later] in Jiang Ning the British army held peace talks [over this and other issues], and the "Treaty of Nanking" was signed, which not only annexed parts of China but also imposed fines [on the Ching Government].  This was a shameful day in Chinese history.

林則徐雖然被革職流放, 但是他勇於任事及查禁鴉片的舉動, 獲得全國人民的讚許.  為了紀念林則徐查禁鴉片的事蹟, 後來便將6月3日定為我國的"禁煙節".  Although Lin Dze-Shu was dismissed and sent into exile, his sense of responsibility and his attempts to stop the opium trade won the approval of all the citizens.  In order to commemorate his efforts to stop the opium trade, June 3 was later declared "Non-Smoking" day in our country.

*There is a somewhat racial tone to this article, and the first paragraph seems to imply that foreigners are to blame for an addiction that has a long history among Chinese people.  Blaming Matteo Ricci (or the British) for Chinese tobacco consumption is like blaming the guy who invented plastic for all the garbage in the world.  Several aspects of Chinese culture exacerbated this problem, not least of all their tendency toward isolationism and their failure to recognize the worth of many Western discoveries.

**I also hope the inclusion of this story doesn't sound too judgmental on my part.  I only include it here because it's the most recent holiday before summer vacation.  I don't smoke tobacco, but I do occasionally smoke, if you know what I mean.

8. The Iron Man Trilogy Vs. The Dark Knight Trilogy (May 2013)

This has little to do with Taiwan, but like many American men I am obsessed with superhero movies.  I recently saw "Iron Man 3" in Kaohsiung's 高雄 Dream Mall 夢時代, and it seems like an opportune time to compare what are (so far, at least) the two most popular and profitable superhero movie trilogies of all time.

For those who don't read comic books, the Batman character is owned by DC Comics, and the Batman films are produced by Warner Bros.  Iron Man is owned by Marvel Comics, and the Iron Man films are produced by Marvel Studios in association with Disney.  The rivalry between Marvel and DC is an old one, and many comic book fans tend to side with one comic book company's characters over the other's.

While there isn't a whole lot of logic to the "Marvel vs. DC" arguments, I should begin by saying that I grew up fixated on DC's Flash, and DC series such as "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and Frank Miller's "Dark Knight Returns" were among my favorites growing up.  I was always a huge fan of The Hulk, but the appeal of Marvel characters such as Spider-man and Captain America was often lost on me.  I never thought Iron Man was especially interesting, though I gladly admit that the movie trilogy fleshed him out nicely.

For starters, a quick review of all six movies, in their order of release:
1. Batman Begins (2005)

This is the film that made Christopher Nolan famous.  Christian Bale stars as Batman, and Liam Neeson appears as his mentor/nemesis Ra's al Ghul.  The film explores Bruce Wayne/Batman's earliest years, and concludes with the defeat of Ra's al Ghul's League of Shadows.  This film was a vast improvement over previous Batman films, which were all very cartoonish.
2. Iron Man (2008)

I didn't get interested in this film until I saw Tony Stark's cameo at the end of "The Incredible Hulk".  Like "Batman Begins," this movie is an origin story, following Tony's journey from arms dealer to Iron Man.  Where "Batman Begins" is DARK, this movie is sunny.  Where "Batman Begins" is serious, this movie cracks jokes.  "Batman Begins" is the kind of thing you study in film school, while "Iron Man" is the kind of movie you watch over and over again.  They're both great films, for completely different reasons.
3. The Dark Knight (2008)

Nolan's second installment in the Dark Knight Trilogy.  This one finds Batman squaring off against the Joker.  It's a complex, technically accomplished movie, and easily ranks as one of the best superhero movies ever - if not the best.  I've seen it more times than I can count.
4. Iron Man 2 (2010)

This is the dark horse of the six films discussed here.  One of my favorite actors, Mickey Rourke, appears as Whiplash, but there is a jokiness about this film that seems to mock its intended audience.  It also tries too hard to set up Marvel's big set-piece, The Avengers.  Justin Hammer was the most interesting character in this movie, and I was sorry the script didn't give him more to do.
5. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The big finish to the Dark Knight Trilogy.  Bruce Wayne, an injured recluse, comes out of retirement to tackle Bane and a resurgent League of Shadows.  Although Catwoman was great, this movie is really, really long, and at times Tom Hardy's performance verges on the hilarious.  All in all, a weak ending to the trilogy, and I wish they had stopped with "The Dark Knight."  In fairness to Nolan, he was never going to top that film.
6. Iron Man 3 (2013)

After the success of The Avengers, Tony Stark finally battles the Mandarin.  While not as laborious as "The Dark Knight Rises," I found this movie disappointing.  The tech used is implausible, Tony Stark too closely resembles Jackie Chan during the fight scenes, and the conclusion is wholly unsatisfying.  Yes, they throw in the obligatory "Iron Man will return" at the end, but by this point does it really matter?

All of the above stated, I think that when you compare the two sets of three films, the Dark Knight Trilogy comes off looking better.  This isn't just because "The Dark Knight" is by far the best film out of the six, but because there's more consistency in what Nolan created.  When you look at the complexity of what he and Jonathan Nolan did, when you look at the acting, when you look at the stylistic accomplishments, I think that Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy manages to succeed despite a weak third act.  

Iron Man, on the other hand, starts strong and finishes slow.  The first "Iron Man" is, in my opinion, almost as good as "Batman Begins," but nowhere near as good as "The Dark Knight."  Parts of the Iron Man Trilogy are also self-serving nods to the (then) upcoming "Avengers", and the weakest of the three Iron Man films (the third, in my opinion), comes across as the usual Hollywood crap, unredeemed by the craftsmanship that made "The Dark Knight Rises" watchable.  Bottom line: at (very) least the Dark Knight Trilogy was TRYING.  The Iron Man Trilogy - as a whole, mind you - seems less inspired than calculated.

It will be interesting to see how future movie trilogies compare to these two.  With "Thor: the Dark World" and "Captain America: the Winter Soldier" coming out before the inevitable "Avengers 2," I cannot help but wonder which trilogy will truly stand the test of time.  It's not a given that we'll see a third Thor or a third Captain America movie, but it's certainly possible.  An "Avengers 3," given the success of the first film, seems like a foregone conclusion.

I am inclined to think that Nolan's trilogy is the one that our kids and grandkids might actually see, simply because few directors out there can equal Nolan's talent.  Yes, Joss Whedon has a great ear for dialogue, but I think that after the novelty of "The Avengers," he might begin to wear on people.  The banter-heavy Avengers was a great film, but I think that if he doesn't find a way to "cut to the chase" in the next film then he's in for trouble.  Expectations for the next Avengers film are already astonishingly high, and I don't think his output thus far justifies the hype.  He was, after all, using characters and settings pre-fabricated by other directors.

9. Another Weekend in Kaohsiung 高雄 (June 2013)

These pictures were taken from the roof of my apartment building in Taitung 台東.  This was the day before we took the train to Kaohsiung.  It was getting hot, but the sky looked very beautiful after the rain.

The next day we woke up very early to take the train.  We haven't taken the train to Kaohsiung in a while, but did so this time because our car is dying a slow death.  The train is much less tiring, but of course much more constraining for those who like to explore.  It takes about 3 and 1/2 hours to go from Taitung to Kaohsiung via train.

I enjoy watching people in the Taitung train station.  It's a strange mix of tourists and people just down from the mountains.  Guys from Taipei wander around, looking lost, while grandmas from Beinan 卑南 contemplate the outside world.

After arriving in Kaohsiung, we took a taxi to Dream Mall 夢時代.  Our friend's wedding was on the seventh floor, in a restaurant I had never been to.  The food in this restaurant was surprisingly good, even though the liquor offered was disappointing.  I managed to get slightly toasted off some cheap wine, and after the meal we headed upstairs to see Iron Man 3.

As usual, we spent the night in my mother-in-law's house.  We took the SLOW train there, and arrived very tired.  I fell asleep almost instantly.

The pictures above were taken in the Lu Ju 路竹 train station.  It's a weird place, and I have the feeling they don't see many foreigners around there.

On the following day we took my mother-in-law back into Kaohsiung City.  She is crazy about this hot pot place in the FE 21 Department Store 大遠百.  After our meal I took my older daughter for some ice cream, and bought some running shorts.

Later we headed up to the Eslite bookstore 誠品 on the roof of the FE 21, and I took these pictures of Kaohsiung's skyline.  It was a very hot day, and not a good time to be outside.

At about 7 we took the train back to Taitung.  Not one of my best trips there.  It would have helped if I had been less tired on Saturday.  It would have also helped if I had taken the car.  Next time I'll take the car, and be sure to get enough sleep beforehand.

10. Jolin Tsai (June 2013)

Jolin Tsai is probably Taiwan's most famous pop star.  She has been around since the late 90s, and she is known throughout Asia.  She's pretty, but I'm not a fan of her music.

She's also the queen of product endorsement.  The picture below is from one of her Adidas ads.

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