- Sep 25, 2012
What do you call the various employer-provided benefits given to a female DC character?
- Aug 27, 2012
The New 52. Here is DC’s 2011 stunt of restarting all their ‘main continuity’ comics — excluding Vertigo ongoing series or DC animated universe tie-ins. A challenge they faced was to draw in new readers while keeping old engaged enough to retain their loyalty, and if we are to start a discussion about if DC met those two goals, the New 52 ACTION COMICS can support either pros or cons in uncertain terms. Monthly sales chart indicates that ACTION, a top 20 mainstay, grabbed new readers. A fact that perplexes me after reading the comics themselves.
ACTION benefits from Grant Morrison’s prestige, no doubt helped by his groundbreaking work on All Star Superman. He has become comicdom’s equivalent of a performance artist: comic geeks are fixated by everything surrounding him and anticipating all his creative endeavors with endless delight. Condescending phrase: to comic geeks, you’re “NOT ONE OF US” if you don’t profess religious devotion to GMoz’s brilliance — until it’s ‘objectively’ absent, and then you can pretend his early Zoids and his dismal WildCATS relaunch (with Jim Lee) didn’t happen! Gmoz: comics; Whedon: TV!
So… in ACTION we get Rags Morales (60%), Andy Kubert (30%), and Gene Ha and other fill-in artists (uh, 10%, whenever Morales is lazy?) drawing GMoz scripts, which means that half of the comic looks like melted candlewax! With asymmetrical eyes! And disproportionate waistline! Brad Anderson’s shiny coloring alleviates some of the poor pencil work, but that can only do so much to hide the shoddy, inconsistent work. To be fair, the most hideous panel wasn’t Morales’ creation.
What the hell did I just see? Yuck.
It’s comicdom’s cliche to refer to GMoz as ‘an ideas man’, as a master of ‘compressed’ storytelling that permits 5 ideas within 20 pages (with 1-2 being other writer’s average). My problem is that he doesn’t pair intriguing concepts with engaging characters. His Superman as a ‘brash, arrogant guardian of Metropolis’ is a departure from the nice farmboy image perpetuated by Christopher Reeves, except that (and an absence of parents, because in comics, FAMILY suxx lol) is the only difference I saw in what’s considered to be a ‘fresh new take’, and that merely mattered in the first two issues. Everything else in ACTION is cliffy-noted aspects of Superman’s (eternally retold!) origins, fast-forwarded so we never have to worry about the exploration of said aspects. Did you know that Superman was ‘The Last Son of Krypton’ rocketed to earth during its planet’s impending doom? Bet you want to know what Krypton society was like then; too bad you need to read about it in John Byrne’s Man of Steel. But, how about the Legion of Super-heroes being a 31st century team of misfits who, inspired by Superman’s heroism, time-traveled to his early days to inspire him back? Explore that in Geoff Johns/Gary Frank’s Superman and the Legion of Superheroes! Maybe you’d want to know why a miniature Kandor was key to Brainiac’s characterization? Read Johns/Frank’s Superman: Brainiac and their New Krypton saga! In the meantime, we shall have the densest Superman origin story without going through his range of feelings during these events. Minus an emotional core, ACTION is as dry as reading Wikipedia.
And, perhaps, it is cool to see a Superman who wears jeans, or a centipede Brainiac, or Metallo’s new costume, but really…
What do I care?
Ps. All the Occupy Wall Street subtext? They mean nothing coming from a self-proclaimed ‘champion of the working class’ who dissed Chris Ware for white privilege despite being one of the highest paid comics writers and having an upcoming vanity convention that charges $500-1200 per ticket. I’m amused by the hypocrisy.
- Jul 05, 2012
…but I’ll be back soon. I just need one more week of programming training, then I’m ready to update again.
- May 24, 2012
Has it only been just two weeks since my last update? That’s weird; it honestly felt like a month ago.
I’m ending my Wednesday’s Comics series, not just because it has become too tiresome and time-consuming to talk at length about four different titles per week, but also becaise I’m not good at reviewing monthlies (or floppies, as they’re called). From now on, I’ll only review one – or two, tops – comic weekly, and depending on my mood, I might either choose a notable issue, or a particular story arc or collected edition. This will motivate me to put more thought on my writing, as I resent some of the dismissive post I had for an issue I didn’t have feelings for.
Besides, I still want to write about other subject matters.
All that out of the way, I’m revealing the state of my pull list:
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man: I desperately want this comic to be good, but the creative team seem determined to find endless ways to ruin it. After a brilliant 5-issue arc, everything has felt so purposeless and drawn-out, which doesn’t help alleviate its painful price tag of $4 per 20-pages.
Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll keep this on my pull list until Marvel releases Spider-men, an upcoming series where Peter Parker Spider-man and Miles Morales Spider-man will cross path (and, unfortunately, written by the same author). The better of the two series stay on my pull list; if both turn out terrible, then I will have to part ways with Morales.
Winter Soldier: This leaves. Comic isn’t a very exciting format to tell an action-thriller, and the story is middling anyway.
Daredevil: Despite a strong Chris Samnee issue (#12), I’m quitting for the constant change of artists. Besides, everything from issue #8 onward hasn’t been as good as issues 1-7, and there doesn’t seem to be an end to the decline.
Wolverine and the X-men: I’m glad to see Chris Bachalo return to form in #9, but I wish it would be less concerned in tying with Avengers vs X-men, especially because they are incongruous. Keeping it for now out of my goodwill for the early issues.
Speaking of which…
Avengers vs X-men: REALLY SUCKS. Ever seen comic fans who, despite hating a particular line-wide event, persist in buying them just ‘to keep up with the joneses’? I stopped being that character a while ago. Comic companies like to hype event comics as can’t-misses, points where everything changes, but the fact is they aren’t: if you don’t read the latest line-wide event, no one cares, and your life will go on just fine. That’s true for every pop culture media, actually, and it’s only the marketing teams and fans telling you otherwise. When you die, no one’s going to say, “Here lies John Doe, who has never read Siege, Fear Itself, and Avengers vs X-Men.” Bottomline, stop buying comics you don’t like. Dropped.
Supergirl: Issue #9 read like one of those midst-of-battle Dragonball episodes. Are you kidding me? Dropped.
Green Lantern: This is following its pre-reboot pattern: strong start, followed by a slew of interminably uninteresting storylines. Dropped because Hal Jordan is still loathsome: he’s quite possibly the worst superhero.
Fatale: It stays, but please let it end soon, because I stopped caring. Horror and noir just don’t mix.
Saga: I’m IN for the long haul.
Saucer Country: Like Fatale, this suffers from merging to genres without being good at either, but the difference is that the alien conspiracy and the political angle are less incongruous than noir and horror. Which does not speak well for Paul Cornell, actually, and I don’t like his tendency to pile on 500 indistinguishable characters on a single issue. Dropped.
Funny, Saga is as overloaded with characters as Saucer Country, yet it’s all the better for that.
Batman: I’m just waiting for the Court of Owls storyline to end, and then I’ll bail out.
Batman, Inc.: Eh, the latest issue was interesting enough, so while the entire series has had great highs and absolute atrocious lows (check out #8, and the second part of Batman Leviathan, which featured a case of Women and Minority in Fridge that, suspiciously no one ever brought up, I guess because Grant Morrison gets a free pass), I’m sticking with it.
The Flash: I still haven’t read the latest issue, but it’s staying regardless of how it turns out. I predict it will be good anyway.
Prophet: I just got it, actually. Haven’t read it yet, so its current pull list status is unknown.
Supreme: Issue #64 contains violence as gratuitous as its place on my pull list, so it leaves.
Dial H for Hero: While there’s nothing significantly awful with the first issue, it doesn’t really lend itself to a multi-part story, and so I’m dropping it. I don’t regret trying it, though, and it’s not a bad comic debut for sci-fi writer China Mieville; only, I’d much rather finish reading Perdido Street Station. Many people didn’t like Mateus Santoluoco’s art, and I agree with them when it comes to drawing human characters, but I dug the design of both weird superheroes like Chimney Man and Emo Goth Man (name not entirely accurate; I’m too lazy to go check).
- May 06, 2012
Wednesday’s Comics Week 14
Point one issues exist as entry for new readers. Too bad only those who read Marvel’s PR releases are aware of such – and most of them are already their customers anyway. It’s a dumb idea: what would repel new readers faster than the knowledge that comic issues now have decimals? Take Venom, where #13 received .1, .2, .3, and .4 incarnations. And editorial staff continue to wonder why people deem their work too insular.
Daredevil does not need a new entry point, especially when their previous entry point, the relaunch, wasn’t even a year old and just came out in trades. Curious parties would be better off reading that anyway since it introduces Daredevil more effectively than this issue. I’m going to overlook the fact that it’s drawn by Khoi Pham, which means that the series’ main attraction, whether Paolo Rivera or Marcus Martin, is absent. It has bigger problems.
Daredevil #10.1 could not be less Marvel’s definition of ‘point-one’ than if it was #11 instead. The only ‘newbie-material’ here lays on the cover and the intro page summarizing Daredevil’s abilities and origin. The story spins directly from one of the ongoing threads beginning in Daredevil #6, about a hard drive that holds incriminating information. I’m finding it hard to care about a story based on this device, and I’ve been reading Daredevil since it relaunched. Just imagine how the proverbial new reader would learn to care about an unfamiliar character getting so worked up over a hard drive. It’s akin to viewing Nicolas Cage’s going berserk over a burnt doll in Wicker Man, without deriving the same ridicule.
Ultimate Comics Spider-man #9
UCSM #9 improves from previous issues by a margin, which makes me loath to write about it, because I feel obliged to reward an average-quality product with praise. It still suffers from Bendisian dialogue tics and his pacing issues: it’s hard to shake off the ‘that’s it?’ reaction that people get after reading. The art fares better, however, since David Marquez labours instead of rushing his art like Samnee and Pichelli did on #6-#8, and Justin Ponsor’s coloring manages to retain the same mood as Pichelli’s better issues (#1-#5).
It would become a mess to read in trade format with the shifting creative teams that don’t match styles. Why didn’t Marvel let David Marquez draw #6-#10 instead?
Wolverine and the X-Men #8
This stings. I had been enjoying WatXM at this point, so of course Marvel found a way to sneak in a dumb convolution to threaten my enjoyment. Every WatXM comes with a ‘PREVIOUSLY’ page that recounts the events of past issues (it’s in every Marvel comic), only in #8 there’s this bit about Beast’s girlfriend that was entirely absent in the series until now. Then the comic devoted a lot of panels on her enduring physical abuse, because that’s what comic book girlfriends are made for! Or at least that’s what it looks like, because the art is impossibly messy. Chris Bachalo returns here after being taken over by Nick Bradshaw, and his work stinks and has the unfortunate effect of making me sound fickle: dug his work in #1-#3, wasn’t sold on Bradshaw at #4, warmed to him since, and now I’m wishing him back. The entire action sequence in space is so incomprehensible that I needed to read dialogue bubbles to know what was happening.
Supreme came out at the height of ‘the extreme-90s’, and was little more than Superman-with-attitude before creator Rob Liefeld hired Alan Moore to save it from commercial decline. Moore then abandoned Supreme’s continuity and instead turned him into a throwback to Silver-Age Superman. It was acclaimed like most of his work, but went unfinished, and eventually went out of print (still haven’t read those).
More than a decade later and in a move reminiscent of releasing Bob Dylan’s bootleg series, Image Comics printed Moore’s unpublished Supreme tale. It’s about a limbo universe that merges previous Supremes with the current one. Erik Larsen and Cory Hamscher drew Supreme #63. I’m not a fan, but I’m surprised by how much I like their art. It has a very Arthur Adams feel, where the male characters have enormous upper bodies and wear pointy shoes. It looks ‘very 90s’, if more cleaned up, and befits the tone of the book if for nothing more than as a callback to the era in which it flourished. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with letting Larsen be the writer for #64-#65, as he will return Supreme to a more ‘heroes with attitude’ tone, even if #63’s story transitions to that well. Do we need more of those when we’re already severely lacking the ‘genuine nice guys’ in superhero stories?
I bought Supreme #63 more as a curiosity, and also because I really miss reading good Alan Moore’s comics. His recent work hasn’t been favorably received, and I wasn’t interested in Tom Strong, Promethea, or League of the Extraordinary Gentlemen, so my last Moore read was from quite way back. Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, WildCATS, Watchmen, and DC Universe Stories were the apex of my comic-reading. I liked his writing here too, but it ultimately left me sadder to see him get screwed right over by DC, because it’s clear to me that the man has big ideas for superhero stories.
The horror finally manifests! The story is weird, and I can’t even decide if that’s good or bad. I guess I’ll find out how it affects the next issue before passing a verdict on this one.
Wednesday’s Comics Week 15
Green Lantern #8
Green Lantern #8 contains Doug Mahnke’s ugliest art since the reboot. Usually with comics, you can’t take the cover into account for your judgment of what’s within, but GL #8 is the exception. Look at the image above and try to figure out how it’s possible for your rib cage to protrude to the extent Hal Jordan has.
It happens a few times in the comic; looking at them made me feel so uncomfortable I could almost feel my back breaking.
The story is progressively less interesting too. I still regard the first five issues as one of DC New 52’s most enjoyable (and underrated, given how they’re received by angry Hal Jordan fans who’d rather that he, not Sinestro, be the lead character) but Geoff Johns has turned the attention away from the Sinestro-Jordan dynamic, and made the story more about Guardians’ cosmic manipulations. I’ve never been sold with the way Johns write Guardians as one-dimensionally oppressive authoritarian figures. For a group that has essentially ran DC’s universe for million years, surely they’d be more wise and less arbitrary?
Saga is the kind of comic that restores my faith in the medium. Everyday, the ‘comics internet’ acts as Marvel and DC’s free marketing team, publicizing their latest gimmicks and rewarding even their mediocre efforts with loud, obnoxious, sometimes thuggish press. Out comes Saga, which Image published in relative silence: it isn’t surrounded by two-page advertisements in other Image comics; no one from the company was hyping it as ‘THE INDUTRY’S FUTURE!!!’; and the creators haven’t dominated social media by pretending to be everyone’s best friends.
It’s selling simply for its quality, a success story I wish I saw in comics more. Without knowing what it’s about, people counted on Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples to offer the highest quality work, and so far both have exceeded expectations. After a long hiatus from the medium, Vaughn proves he’s still among the medium’s best writers, and Staples’ art keeps improving as she designs fantasy creatures sure to delight and scare readers equally.
If one thing has gotten worse with Saga #2, it’s the decreased page count to 22, but I guess 44-pages are too much to ask for a $3 comic. Still, Saga #2 manages to be a fulfilling read thanks to Vaughn’s skill as a storyteller. One of his best qualities is the way he gives characters moral ambiguity. He does not create absolute good or absolute evil, and it shows in #2, where the readers are provided a glimpse at the lives of its antagonists, and also shown the desperation from a protagonist in bargaining with a hired assassin.
Saucer Country #2
I said Saucer Country #1 was good a month ago without explanation, and now I regret it because Saucer Country #2 is a decline.
SC#1 was a great start for how it built intrigue. It combines politics with UFO conspiracy in a clever commentary on how not needed political beliefs can be based on insane ideas. There are hints of alien invasion, but they’re never explicitly revealed as real, so the readers are left wondering if the characters seeing them are hallucinating. One such character, the protagonist, happens to be a presidential candidate, and she’s torn on what to do about the possibility of alien rule, while pondering what it means for an immigrant to pick this battle(yeah, I don’t understand how that works. You have to be born in the US to be a presidential candidate, but I guess that’s comics for you).
That’s all good, but SC#2 suffers the same problems that plagued Demon Knights (also by Paul Cornell): it dumps too much info before allowing any of it to resonate. This isn’t helped by the characters and their dialogue: while Ryan Kelly’s art tries to differentiate them, it’s not enough to make them indistinguishable. Everyone is either someone who sees aliens, or someone who thinks they’re nuts. They all talk and think alike, giving readers very little reason to latch onto a specific character.
Winter Soldier #4
I’ve gotten to the point of not knowing what else there is to say about Winter Soldier without revealing its plot, so I’ll just keep it at ‘if you dug the previous issues, #4 retains all their good qualities”.
Wednesday’s Comics Week 16
Peanuts’ previous issues contained too much Lucy von Pelt for my tastes. She’s undeniably one of the most remarkable members of the Peanuts gang, but sometimes she gets so mean that you’d wish she’d get her comeuppance.
She sure does in this issue, even just momentarily. Peanuts #4 leads with a story about an arm wrestling competition. It stars Peppermint Patty, and that alone is a cause for celebration, because I love Patty almost as much as she loves Charlie Brown!
My comic shop lists Peanuts #4 as the final issue of kaboom!’s Peanuts (which the official site lists as miniseries). No plans of new Peanuts stories have been announced, and while I respect the decision, I still think it’s a shame the end the series this early, considering how many more characters they could’ve worked with. The new Peanuts series always succeeds in making me recall my childhood, so come on, kaboom!, make more Peanuts. I want to be a kid again!
Avengers vs X-Men #2
What was I thinking when I gave AvX#1 a fairly positive comment? After having reread AvX#1 and learning about Phoenix Force, I take back what I said: this is a one sided battle where the X-men side is clearly wrong! There’s no reason for Cyclops to take arms against the Avengers, not when he’s defending the same entity that killed his wife, destroyed planets, and generally made mutant lives miserable.
I hate mulligan moments like this, but at least one of my concerns didn’t change, and true enough AvX #2 was exactly what I feared it would be: it’s Tower Defense disguised as comics. Marvel made a big deal when they announced a tie-in devoted to the fighting (Avengers vs X-Men: Versus. What an unwieldy title!). It stands to reason that the main Avengers vs X-Men series would contain more story, and yet AvX #2 is purely about fighting too, narrated with hilariously cheesy captions like: ‘Organic diamond meets multi-million dollar armour. The most expensive punch in history.’ ‘Marital discord. With hail and lighting and hurricane-force winds.’ ‘The Lord of Atlantis versus a man from Harlem with indestructible skin. Either would sooner die than yield. Today both will bleed.’ I wouldn’t be bothered by the silliness if the previous issues weren’t so po-faced. There’s absolutely no consistency between issues. The artist and the writer constantly change without bothering to maintain a specific tone.
Speaking of the art, this is how I best sum up John Romita Jr.’s. When I showed this panel to my comic-collecting friend:
…his reaction was a dumbfounded “This is the comic Marvel hypes?”
Wolverine and the X-Men #9
Also known as: Hey guys, we interrupt our regular programming to tell a story that’s already been told in AvX#2!
Marvel, thanks a lot for letting your latest event hijack your best ongoing series.
I’m growing less interested in the Court of Owls storyline. Every issue since the sixth has been less about an actual story and more about fighting, and it doesn’t even follow an internal logic. How is it that Batman nearly dies fighting an Owl Man in issue #6 while pretty much dominating a large group of Owl Men at issue #8? Because he’s Batman?
I feel awful saying this given how much I dug Mahmud Asrar’s art, but all it took for Supergirl to improve was to replace its artist with someone who knows how to tell a story economically. With George Perez on board, Supergirl #8 felt more packed than all previous issues.
Wednesday’s Comics Week 17
The Flash #8
In this issue, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccelatto explain how The Speed Force works. It’s too much technobabble, but check these panels:
Glorious. The Flash still stands above every DC New 52.
The Omega Effect Crossover: Avenging Spider-man #6, The Punisher #10, Daredevil #11
In a scene from the Walk the Line, Sam Phillips asks an auditioning Johnny Cash what song he would like to be remembered by when he dies. Cash then performs Folsom Prison Blues, and it becomes his legacy.
Can I ask Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Marco Checchetto and Matt Hollingsworth if The Omega Effect is a story they’d tell if this was the last comic they would create? If I seem to overreach, bear in mind that Marvel aggressively promoted this crossover to the point where anyone who dared raise concern about it received lashing remarks from its editor (whom I shall not name; did that on twitter, got trolled back by him). I try to understand Marvel for pushing this crossover: they want fans of Daredevil to also check out Avenging Spider-man and The Punisher. Only, it’s crude: it forces instead of recommending the other titles to readers.. Pick all of them up or risk missing a story development in Daredevil, The Punisher, or Spider-man. I’ve heard of quite a few people annoyed into quitting Daredevil because of this crossover, a blight to a series that received unanimous praise all of last year, receiving Eisner nominations to boot! Myself, I’m close to dropping it too.
So Omega Effect sucks. A crossover must surpass all previous issues from the relevant titles, yet this manages to be Daredevil’s worst issue both for its story and art. Rucka, Waid, I admire you, but Omega Effect helps neither of you! If you’re going to make a crossover about a hard drive – and really, that’s its basis? - the least you can do is be frivolous, not dead-serious as suggested by Checchetto’s ‘grimdark’ representation of all three characters, ignoring the whimsical tone of Daredevil’s relaunch. Their dynamic in its entirety involves Spider-man and Daredevil freaking out about Punisher; every five pages, they have to remind everyone that Punisher is a murderous lunatic, even if he agreed to cooperate with them on not killing anyone very early on! He makes them look like whiny tools, and no one emerges a better character from this.
To hijack an ongoing series with a story this unnecessary is an insult to all.
- Apr 25, 2012
Here’s a sketch I gave my sister as a birthday greeting card yesterday. Had a fun time drawing it, despite my share of frustrations.
- Apr 21, 2012
Half of my vacation was spent here (the other half I lived in my maternal grandmother’s apartment in Sanchung City, an unremarkable place). Shuangxi directly translates to ‘two rivers’, and is a small and quiet riverside village. It’s not exactly a tourist attraction, but it is technically home, since my dad grew up here. Most of Taiwan consists of mountain ranges and river gorges, and here is a village that has both.
I love living in this place, and regard it as the best retirement home. Coming here is a great relief from the havoc of busy urban life, and makes me feel connected to nature. Trees, and mountains, and the sounds of flowing rivers: they’re everywhere. So are domesticated animals that like to befriend neighbors; there were two dogs who approached me and became my playmates.
Xinyi is where you’ll find Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building from 2004-2010. It’s a financial district that also houses many malls and restaurants, most of them catering to the upper class. Xinyi is Taiwan’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue, or its ‘haute couture’ capital (I hate that phrase so much). I’ll be honest, I find it to be very boring. I guess watching fireworks shoot out on every ‘rings’ of Taipei 101 makes for a spectacular sight on New Year’s Eve — you’ll know what I mean after seeing the picture below — but its only other activity is for you to look at the price from its stores and weep.
The Eslite Bookstore’s headquarters are the only place here that I could hang out for more than 30 minutes.
(picture ganked from Forumosa)
People frequently compare Ximending to Harajuku District, but I can’t confirm this as I’ve never been to Japan. The core idea is similar, though, in that they’re both garish and intended for youths. You’ll find places for every type of youth subculture: there are tattoo stores, record stores for audiophiles, curio stores, toy stores, manga stores, cosplay stores, all kinds of fashion outlets. Everything that a teenager will buy, you’ll find here. It also houses many theaters for mainstream and independent movies alike, and it has a corner that’s bombarded with advertisements for the current blockbuster. It’s a very loud place and your reaction to it will reflect your age: adults will get headaches while teens will regard it as nirvana.
I’m older than Ximending’s crowd, but I still enjoy coming here, mostly for the stores with huge manga selections.
(from Travel and Leisure Asia)
Shihlin Night Market
Night markets can be found in nearly every city in Taiwan, but Shihlin Night Market is one of its most popular. This is about as chaotic as Ximending, but isn’t as insular, since its stores target a wider age group. There are actually two purposes for coming here: to shop for inexpensive goods, and to eat. I like it more as a food trip destination, personally, but I bought a kick-ass old-school Justice League of America shirt that I’m quite in love with.
Lu Gang is a quaint city populated with temples and specialty food stores. It’s outside of Taipei, and a bus ride here takes around 3 hours. I may have missed a few tourist attractions here as my aunts and uncles mentioned many places in Lu Gang that I haven’t heard of.
Wooden sculptures town. Also quite far from Taipei. It’s quaint too, but in a different way to Lu Gang.
Xin Pei Tou
If you’ve ever played Hot Springs Story and wondered what real-life occupation it’s mimicking, you’ll be enlightened by coming to Xin Pei Tou. It’s one of Taiwan’s few cities that is populated with hot springs inns, and possibly its most convenient, as you can get there by subway.
National Palace Museum
When I was in New York, I spent four whole days exploring Metropolitan Museum of Arts art exhibits. I also spent an entire day at the Museum of Natural History. I quite enjoy going to museums; I find them stimulating.
National Palace Museum, or Ku Kung in Mandarin, is said to hold the world’s largest collection of Chinese artifacts. I’ve gone here a few times before, but it’s been a while, so I set half a day aside to explore ancient Chinese art and antiques. It looks quite formidable on the outside, as it is built like a grand palace with large pagodas. There are two separate buildings of similar design, and beside it is a garden of moderate size. The first building is for Chinese gallery, and the second is where historical items from other countries get consigned: during my visit, the Louvre sent paintings of Greek mythological figures there.
I was hyped, but, I dunno, I ended up not feeling it! The turning point for me was when the museum staff refused admission unless I left my camera at the counter. Which drove me insane! The Met, one of world’s largest museums, allows taking pics of their exhibits, but do it in Ku Kung and woah you’re ruining their surprise! That restriction killed my mood to ‘expand my cultural understanding of Ancient China’, and it resulted in me wandering many exhibit halls without registering anything I had seen.
Admittedly, I just simply didn’t have the curiosity for some of the exhibits. Collections of urns and porcelains completely went over my head – was I supposed to gawk at how lovely the curves of this vase are? The only gallery that I loved was the one with Chinese paintings, what Westerners more commonly refer as Sumi-e. Chinese painting is an art technique that requires precision – there’s no room for error, unlike, say, oil painting, where you can brush over your mistakes – and emphasizes expression over accuracy.
I guess Ku Kung is worth visiting once, despite my experience suggesting the contrary.
Taipei Zoo and Maokong
These two places are near each other, so people suggest experiencing both on the same day. I wish it were that easy.
My initial plan was to spend the morning at Taipei Zoo, then the afternoon at Maokong. I’ve been to Taipei Zoo before, so I figured that I’d be able to cover all areas in less than three hours. Maokong is a tourist attraction that has recently increased in popularity thanks to the newly opened gondolas you take from Taipei Zoo to its mountaintop location (gondola will undergo maintenance on May 1 to June 1, 2012, so plan accordingly). It’s a tea farm, and its other main attraction is its many teahouses.
There’s a stupidity in the idea that I’d enjoy going to teahouses by myself – they’re more suited as a lounging area where people start discussions. I had company for most of the places I went, but my trip to the zoo and here was solitary, so what happened is that I just walked around, took a few pictures, and went to a ‘Tea Promotion Center’, which is a pseudo-museum that guides you on the production of tea leaves. The problem is that I came here around 5 PM, and so most of the places that aren’t teahouses were beginning to shutter. I left this place thinking Maokong didn’t live up its hype – it’s prominently advertised in subway stations – but then when I actually went back to the subway, I took a free Taipei travel guide, and saw plenty of Maokong attractions that I missed. Bah, should’ve known better than go there unprepared/unguided.
In any case, I ended up loving Taipei Zoo so much that I spent more than five hours there. It is such a wide zoo that there are buses accommodating people too tired to trek the entire place! It manifested a fascination with animals in me that I didn’t know I had. It’s also a humbling experience: if you think you’re a good photographer, zoo animals are determined to deflate your ego. Just like they did mine.
And thus ends my Taiwan travelogue. In closing, enjoy some pics I took from the zoo.
- Apr 17, 2012
Entries like this are reminders to myself that I joined tumblr not just to write about comics: nytdrmr is a personal blog, which means I have the liberty to post livejournal-stuff whenever.
Just like today, when I’m fresh back from Taiwan!
Here’s my background: I’m the Philippine-born son of Taiwan immigrants, and most of my 28 years have been spent in Manila. My relatives live in Taiwan, and I only get to visit them during long vacations, like this year’s Holy Week. What follows are my musings about the two weeks I spent there. I’m not sure that there’s any purpose to this; I merely love writing travelogues. If you could bear with me, I hope I prove to be entertaining enough!
Taiwan is one of those countries where it sucks if you don’t speak its language; for Taiwan, it’s Mandarin. You can get by with English, and you’ll earn ‘cool points’ for it, but unless you’re engaging with only the international community, having a fulfilling conversation with a native is near impossible unless you speak Mandarin (or in some cases, Minnan, which is a minor variation of Fujian province’s vernacular).
And your Mandarin has to be good, in that you should at least speak on intermediate level. In some Chinese-speaking Asian countries like Singapore, you can get away with being a novice in Mandarin since you can plug English words if you didn’t know their Mandarin counterparts – Singapore is where your command of a language would plateau after reaching a certain level. Not so in Taiwan; no, if your Mandarin is bad, Taiwan presents infinite opportunities for you to despair about it.
I was guilty as charged! Lots of my facebook statuses during my vacation consisted of me lamenting on my awful, awful command of Mandarin. During this time, I realized the importance of a dictionary app, and I pretty much spent the entire vacation hanging onto my iPad for dear life and using KTdict C-E to translate Chinese characters.
(I’m also significantly more confident speaking Minnan than Mandarin)
Train, bus, subway. Get used to them. I spent so much time in each that I even came up with a list of favorite music albums for train rides (which I might post in the future).
One thing worth mentioning is that bullet trains just recently started operating in Taiwan. I was quite hyped for them back when they were planned, but having finally rode on one I’m far more ambivalent about them than I expected. The good part is that they can zip through all of Taiwan in less than 3 hours, but their ticket price is PROHIBITIVELY EXPENSIVE, and most of their stations stand in isolated places. It’s no wonder that this project suffers frequent financial drawbacks; it’s a wasted opportunity: here is a technology that should ease travel, yet no one wants to use it!
Always my favorite part of going to Taiwan, food here is bliss for fans of Chinese. They’re rooted from Szechuan, Cantonese, Hunan, Beifang, among other Chinese cuisines, with a mix of the indigenous and even some Japanese. They’re also very friendly to vegetarians, since Taiwan is predominantly Buddhist and Taoist; I benefit from this too because I am vegetarian. Everytime I come here, I set aside a night for food trips, and the best part is that most of the local specialties can be bought from street vendors at very affordable prices. For less than 2 USD, you can have a decent meal.
Below are pics of some of my favorite Chinese foods that I ate on this vacation:
Black misua. It’s a noodle dish with the sour taste of black vinegar.
Fried dumplings. If you’ve never heard of this you’ve ‘mis-lived’ your life!
Oyster omelet. This one is the vegetarian version.
Fermented tofu. It’s a love-or-hate dish because of its smell.
Aiyu Jelly. Lemon jelly, basically. It’s a very refreshing drink and is perfect on a hot day.
Every cuisine seems to have its own frozen desserts; ‘chua ping’ is Taiwan’s. It’s crushed ice with milk, and your choice(s) of fruits or toppings.
Mmm I’m getting hungry. I’m gonna have to cook noodles for dinner!
(to be continued)
- Apr 16, 2012
…after I unpack. I just returned from a 2-week vacation.