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Synapticism

An experiential journal of synchronicity and connection

Ephemera

Ephemera: a celebration of triviality and transience. If it suits the fleeting nature of social media platforms like Instagram or Twitter it probably belongs in this section as well.

Illumination of an Ordinary Urban Space

Illumination of urban space
Illumination of an ordinary urban space.

I snapped this photo in haste while wandering around Dàtóng District 大同區 a few hours ago. It is, in some sense, an utterly ordinary scene: a street light illuminating an emptiness in the otherwise cluttered urban landscape of downtown Taipei 台北. There is no story to this photograph, only a feeling to convey—a cinematic quality, a silent scream in the concrete matrix.

Now Playing at BIOS Monthly

Now playing at Fuhe Theater
Now playing at Fuhe Theater 福和大戲院.

Recently my work on this blog was featured in an article by Nien Ping Yu 于念平 for the Chinese language web magazine BIOS Monthly. The article, loosely translated as Canadian Cultural Blogger: Even Unremarkable Places Have History (加拿大文化部落客: 再平凡的地方都有歷史), was based on a sprawling conversation we had in person rather than an email questionnaire. Mostly we spoke about themes and practices commonly seen on this blog: discovering history through the exploration of lost and neglected places, revealing intriguing connections through observations of synchronicity, and using photography as a documentarian medium rather than focusing solely on aesthetic appeal.

Several of my original photographs are featured in the article, some of which have already appeared on this blog (for example Fugang Old Street 富岡老街 and Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫) along with others yet to be published (mostly from the infamous Fuhe Grand Theater 福和大戲院 in Yǒnghé 永和). Other adventures referenced in the text include forthcoming material about Dadong Theater 大東戲院 in Zhōnglì 中壢 and the Liuzhangli Muslim Cemetery 六張犁的回教公墓 here in Taipei 台北.

Whitey’s Up To No Good Again

Whitey’s up to no good again
An amusing sign featuring some random white guy trashing the planet.

I was amused to notice this unusually large anti-littering sign in central Taichung 台中 the other day. White men are occasionally portrayed as villains in public service announcements here in Taiwan 台灣—see here and here for two examples from this blog—but seldom with as much absurdity. I mean, just look at how few fucks are given by this business cowboy, lasso in hand as he throws trash everywhere while riding, inexplicably, a balloon version of planet Earth, with cigarettes, wine bottles, tin cans, and other refuse strewn all over the place. Yee-haw! A friend joked that this is basically how she imagines most white men—and indeed, this is basically me, all of the time.

Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel in a LIFE Books Special

A haunted hotel in Okinawa in LIFE Books
My photo of a haunted hotel in Okinawa in LIFE Books.

Last year one of my photos from Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel 中城高原ホテル was picked up by LIFE Books for the publication of The World’s Most Haunted Places. I have yet to complete my own write-up of this fantastical and awe-inspiring ruin in Okinawa but I will certainly get around to it sooner or later. Appearing in a LIFE publication of any kind is also pretty cool even if it isn’t the original magazine, which my mother used to collect and keep around the house while I was growing up. She proudly bought a couple copies when she heard the news and the special hit the supermarket stands back home in Canada.

The Birdman of Taipei Station

The World in Aves’ Eyes
A bizarre work of public art in the bowels of Taipei Station.

This bizarre installation is one of the more iconic and well-known works of public art in Taipei 台北. Created by artists Hé Cǎiróu 何采柔 and Guō Wéntài 郭文泰 in 2009, it is entitled The World in Aves’ Eyes 愛維思看世界 (alternately Birdman 鳥人 or Daydreams 夢遊) and can be found somewhere in the labyrinthine passageways beneath Taipei Railway Station 臺北火車站. Apart from the obvious, the immature, androgynous figure holds a pencil in its right hand (never to write a word), water continuously seeps from its neck, and its feet show the signs of a mild case of pigeon toe, a condition that should be familiar to anyone who has seen young Taiwanese posing for photographs. Here is the original creative statement that accompanies the piece:

「愛維思看世界」以稚嫩的身體、怪誕逗趣的鳥頭以及輕輕淺淺的流水,表現出E世代對世界的困惑,身體的稚嫩感彷彿要告訴世界,還不急著要長大,而側著的鳥頭以不成比例的尺寸,誇張的標明著自我的異化感,猶如一位誤闖地球的外星人,在幽浮般的蛋殼中孵化而出。

愛維思(Aves)搖搖晃晃的嘗試著適應這難以理解的世界,那漾漾清水則是一般腦傾洩而出的困惑,沒有黑暗、邪惡、憂傷或者種種成人世界裡的光怪色彩,愛維思(Aves)的苦惱是屬於孩童一般的天真困惑,在陽光的照耀下甚至會散射出七彩的光暈、迷霧而迷人。

My ability to translate Chinese remains limited, particularly when it comes to the sort of conceptual language employed above, but I’ll do my best to provide the gist. From what I can tell this piece is about the confusion and innocence of youth, of an entity in no hurry to grow up and face the challenges of the adult world. The grotesque bird’s head, disproportionate to the slender, prepubescent body, is meant to represent an exaggerated sense of alienation. There’s more—but I’ll leave it at that for now. You can find out more about this work on Facebook. Stay weird, Taiwan!

Unexpectedly Profound Night Market Fashion

One corner of the universe
There is only one corner of the universe you can be sure of improving and that is your own self.

I spotted this t-shirt in the front window of a shop in the enormous Féngjiǎ Night Market 逢甲夜市 in Taichung 台中. At first glance it appears to be the usual gibberish—but a closer look reveals a surprisingly profound message: There is only one corner of the universe you can be sure of improving and that is your own self.

Love Or Punishment

Love or punishment
“Love or punishment: your choice?” How about a bit of both…

I was amused to notice this public service announcement posted in the front window of what I would assume is a community police station in Bǎnqiáo 板桥. I wonder what compelled them to write out “love or punishment” in English? The target audience is obviously local. Below the main banner the text reads: jīnqián & shíjiān 金錢 & 時間 (time and money), dōu yīnggāi liú gěi piàoliang nǚyǒu 都應該留給漂亮女友 (all should be left to the beautiful girlfriend). In case it isn’t obvious by now, this is an admonition to not engage in the services of prostitutes, which is technically illegal in Taiwan 台灣 (but seldom enforced).

Qing Dynasty Arcade

Qing dynasty arcade
A discarded video game machine in back alley Hsinchu.

I found an old video game machine discarded in the back alleys of Hsinchu City 新竹市 the other day. I was walking by a street-side fruit stand when I noticed the stark outlines of an older building in a small laneway to one side. Stopping to explore, I found a storeroom for the fruit stand—and behind that, another abandonment, this time dating back to Qing dynasty times by the look of the distinctive bricks on the wall. I wonder what possessed anyone to dump this lone machine in such a place? Now just imagine plugging it in and seeing all the lights switch on again—it’s almost like the plot of some strange, fantastical film where the protagonist is then sucked into a secret world of the imagination.

Please Recycle, Dear Leader

A quirky recycling sign in a Taichung restaurant
Kim Jong-un implores guests to “please recycle, thank you”.

Yesterday I dropped in for brunch at a quirky diner in Taichung 台中 known as Lucky Southeast Asian Dining Hall 金福氣南洋食堂. The decor is decidedly pan-Asian kitsch, with all manner of recognizable icons appearing on signs and posters around the shop. This particular graphic features a cartoon version of Kim Jong-un, supreme leader of North Korea, imploring guests to recycle chopsticks. Hey, at least it’s not Hitler!