Taiwan’s Only Geometrid Moth

Yesterday I breezed through the small town of Èrshuǐ 二水 in southern Changhua 彰化 to scope out some historic sites on my list. One of these sites, the old Ershui Public Hall 二水公會堂, is located next to a wide expanse of unkempt meadowland, evidently a breeding ground for Taiwan’s only geometrid moth. There were hundreds of brightly-colored, iridescent moths flitting around the overgrown ruins—and many more locked in an embrace on whatever flat surfaces could be found. After coming home last night it didn’t take long to puzzle out the name of this species of moth: Milionia basalis pryeri, a subspecies of Milionia basalis only found in Taiwan and southwestern Japan 日本, particularly Okinawa 沖縄. There appears to be no English common name but in Chinese it is generally known as chengdaizhichi’e 橙帶枝尺蛾; roughly “orange-banded moth”.

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A Close Encounter With An Atlas Moth

Last week I went out for a day of exploration with Josh Ellis who brought me to the excellent Laotoubai Hakka Restaurant 老頭擺客家餐廳 in Lóngtán 龍潭, Táoyuán 桃園. This restaurant is operated out of an old farmhouse (or sanheyuan, a traditional Taiwanese courtyard home) so I wandered around to take a look at each room before our meal arrived. Stepping out into the courtyard an employee gestured toward a giant moth perched on the leg of a chair. I had seen Neil Wade post one just like it on Facebook a few days prior to this so I wasn’t exactly surprised—but wow is it ever large!

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Giant Bird Crossing at Taida

It was hot as hell this afternoon so I smartly cut through National Taiwan University 國立臺灣大學 in search of some shade while on my way to one of my favourite working cafes in Taipei 台北. NTU, better known as Taida 台大, has a beautiful main campus in the heart of Dà'ān District 大安區 that offers some respite from the busy city streets that surround it. While riding along one of many tree-lined laneways I noticed this absurd sign by the roadside. The text reads dongwu chuanyue 動物穿越 (“animal crossing”), jiansu manxing 減速慢行 (“slow down”), with nary a word about giant birds, much to my disappointment. I’m not sure if this is a student project or something official but either way—it’s awesome! I wonder now, is this meant to depict the herons commonly seen in parkland around the city?

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Have You Seen Him

Today I wandered by the former American embassy, now the Spot Taipei Film House 光點台北電影院 in Zhōngshān District 中山區, and noticed this series of stickers on the electrical transformers across the lane. In bold lettering it says: HAVE YOU SEEN HIM. I wondered what it meant—and it seems I’m not the only one. Turns out the man in the photograph was one of the police officers involved in evicting people from the Executive Yuan 行政院 in the early mornings hours of March 24th, 2014, during the Sunflower Student Movement. He was caught on camera beating protesters and, when student leaders demanded the police identify the officer, they initially claimed to not know his name or whereabouts. Later it was revealed that the officer was not even relieved of duty in the aftermath of that violent night.

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Now Playing at BIOS Monthly

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.

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Lost Among the Multitudes

I wonder how many cats are lost every day? Certainly this number cannot be insignificant, for it is something almost every cat owner must address at one point or another. I have personally been involved in the search for lost cats on at least five occasions—and have probably made posters of my own at least three times. This particular poster up on the mountain in Hamilton caught my eye for whatever reason—the unusually bold design, the melancholic appearance of raindrops on the plastic cover, or perhaps the forlorn look of the potentially doomed feline, its indeterminate fate depending on chance and circumstance. And are we not all lost as well? Put up a poster for yourself.

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Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel in a LIFE Books Special

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 沖縄 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.

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Daily Needs in the Next World

Spend any amount of time in Taiwan and you’ll invariably see people burning ghost money, more generally known as joss paper in English and zhiqian 紙錢 in Chinese. Pictured here is a particular kind of joss paper known as jingyi 經衣, which features iconographic representations of the everyday goods spirits are likely to use in their daily lives. This batch is emblazoned with clothing, hats, shoes, combs, mirrors, scissors, cigarettes, matches, and various modes of transportation among other things I can’t reliably identify. The idea here is that you can burn this paper and these goods will be sent to the next world—and ghosts lingering in the area, their material needs met, will be more kindly disposed to the living. Ironically, burning joss paper is not exactly good for anyone’s health , nor is it environmentally-friendly to say the least.

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Time Is Not Reversible 時間是不可逆轉

I spent about an hour in the library at Shih Chien University 實踐大學 in Taipei 台北 not so long ago. Among tomes unshelved and perused was Chieu-Feng: The Mountainous Town 山城九份, a collection of photographs by Wong Ting-Hua 翁庭華 documenting everyday life in Jiǔfèn 九份 over the course of four decades.

This quotation immediately jumped out at me. It succinctly articulates one of the main reasons I do what I do (in terms of photography and blogging). I am similarly concerned with documenting the prosaic, everyday moments, the sort of things that most people overlook. Photography allows us to explore the past, to consider what happened from a different perspective, in a different light. All these scenes vanish the instant they are captured.

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