Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wife of new Argentina representative in Taipei shares her recipes for home entertainment

By Nancy T. Lu

No country consumes more beef per capita than Argentina. But when Carmen Pena, wife of the new director of the Argentina Trade and Cultural Office (ATCO), showed up to introduce a few of her favorite recipes at the Eslite Bookstore Xinyi’s Cooking Studio, she pushed aside talk about the parrillada, the asado or the beef cooked con cuero.

Home cooking, Argentine style, .was what she seemed to be prepared to share with the small crowd, who showed eagerness to learn about Argentine culture, notably cuisine. She enlisted the help of chef Daniel Negreira to demonstrate her simple recipes for home entertaining.

Sopa de remolacha or beetroot soup preparation began with the washing of the beetroot, potatoes and green apples. Actually the green apples were not available in the market. Red replacements were found. Then the cooking of the ingredients went on for 20 minutes before everything was put into a blender. The thick soup called for a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Olive oil was added to emulsify it. A drop of yogurt of original flavor contributed to a nice presentation. Cumin or semillas de comino went in for that final touch.

The arollado or roll recipe came up next. Tuna fish right out of a tin can went into the salty version. Ingredients also included mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper and finely chopped American celery.

Dulce de leche or condensed milk made the sweet difference in the filling of another roll. Crushed walnut and sweet wine were also introduced. The affection for sweet milk is said to be the influence of Spanish cooking.

Juan Pena, ATCO director, watched the entire session with approval on the sideline. Pallas Chen, who coordinated the monthly culinary event, warmly welcomed the presentation of a slice of Argentina this month.

Mate, a drink made from the dried leaves of yerba, inevitably had to find its place in this Argentine activity in Taipei. Samples of the small gourds from which the Argentinian men and women drink mate were prominently displayed on this occasion. The bombillas or the tubes with which to sip mate were there, too.

Tango music, quite identified with Argentine passion, did not play out in the background on March 26. But the dance of seduction in Tango Land did merit some mention.

A slide presentation took the audience on a quick tour through beautiful Argentina. Iguazu’s waterfalls and Perito Moreno’s glacier were some of the pictures which stood out.

Quiz time drew quick response from the audience. Carmen Pena threw out one about Argentina’s national sport: “Who is at present the hottest Argentine soccer player?”

“Lionel Messi,” replied a Taiwanese fan. Messi is a potential successor to the legendary Diego Maradona.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Learn to make a variety of French bread directly from a visiting expert from Le Cordon Bleu

By Nancy T. Lu
Bread, bread and more yummy bread of different shapes, textures and flavors baked according to French recipes simply make your jaw drop at the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei’s azie nowadays.

Experienced French chef Stephane Reinat, who wears the hat of Le Cordon Bleu’s technical director of boulangerie, comes visiting with one message: Notwithstanding the wide range of industrially produced bread that is available, you will enjoy baking your own bread at home.

And so Reinat is teaching the art and technique of making French-style bread at 3 p.m. daily for four days until March 27. Only 20 students are accommodated each time. The fee is NT$1,200 per person. Call tel. (02)2521-5000 ext. 3157.

Reinat, who has opened seven bakeries of his own back in France, demonstrates to learners how to make food from a flour-and-water dough with yeast (sourdough) which is fermented, kneaded and baked in the oven. Get ready to enjoy a particular squarish baked bread with Provence-style soup, relish another one with fresh salad or even make a yummy smoked salmon sandwich with still another elongated bread. Bon app├ętit.

Tips from the French include going for the good bread with a crisp crust, an attractive golden color and a soft crumb. The popular baguette is an example. Develop a taste for quality bread that is served fresh but not hot. Rye bread, however, is something preferably slightly stale. And a loaf is cut only immediately before serving. Bread actually accompanies the French meal from start to finish.

Check out the bread choices at azie bun such as rye bread with agrumy, spelt wheat bread, potato and onion bread as well as grapefruit Danish with fresh fruits.

All photographs were taken by Nancy T. Lu.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Composer Tan Dun to conduct “Crouching Tiger Concerto” for two orchestras on March 26

By Nancy T. Lu

Tan Dun, Academy Award winner for his original soundtrack for filmmaker Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” returns to Taipei upon the invitation of the National Symphony Orchestra to live up to his reputation for creating “a new sound world” and for bringing together East and West in his experimental musical expression.

Tan Dun is to conduct a new version complete with multimedia presentation of his “Crouching Tiger” music at the National Concert Hall in Taipei on March 26. The “Crouching Tiger Concerto” is written for a change for two different orchestras, the National Symphony Orchestra and the Taiwan National Chinese Orchestra, as well as for two soloists, cellist Lien Yi-shien and erhu player Wang Ming-hua. The original composition was for just one orchestra.

The two soloists’ music-making will articulate the feelings not openly acknowledged between the characters portrayed by Michelle Yeoh and Chou Yun-fat in the smash hit Mandarin movie. After the world premiere in Taipei, it will air next at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, according to the composer who travels as goodwill ambassador for the big international fair in Shanghai.

Tan Dun is likewise calling attention to his personal fascination with the visual aspect of music, this time even seeking to create sounds on three instruments newly kiln-fired using clay of three different colors – black kind originating from Xian in China, whitish one sourced from Taiwan and reddish one coming from Hong Kong.

Notes from “Earth Concerto – A Dialogue with Gustav Mahler” will, therefore, require playing on a wind instrument of extraordinary shape (resembling French horn as seen in picture above), a “xun” or Chinese vessel flute of clay and a “fou” or clay percussion instrument gourd or pot.

Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” inspired the composition and Tan Dun wrote it to commemorate the composer’s 150th birth anniversary. The music is both experimental and eclectic in its mix of elements from East and West.

“Internet Symphony No. 1, Eroica” will also be in the concert program. This piece was composed originally for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Aspiring musicians picked from around the world gathered at the Carnegie Hall in New York to play as the YouTube Symphony Orchestra Tan Dun’s commissioned composition. The piece was only four minutes and three seconds in length. .

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s Lin Hwai-min moves his Bodhgaya memories to dance stage

By Nancy T. Lu

Do you ever stop to look and listen to the river – rippling, flowing, rushing, angrily swelling, dangerously overflowing or even dying? Do you ever heed what it is trying to say?

Do you still have to be awakened to see and hear the message of the river? Or does it have to take disastrous floods like those brought by typhoon Morakot on August 8, 2009, to make you notice the crying and wailing of Mother Nature?

“Listening to the River” – an 80-minute production of the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre – raises these questions and more.

Lin Hwai-min, artistic director and choreographer of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, has lived next to the Tamshui River longer than two decades. Often away on long tours, he feels he is home at last only when he sees the all-too-familiar river once more.

But particularly on an unforgettable meditation trip to Bodhgaya, famous as the place in India where the Buddha attained enlightenment, Lin looked out from his balcony one day and saw men and women bathing in the River Niranjana (now called Falgu).

That night, Lin was roused from sleep by the commotion outside. When he got up to check what was going on, he caught sight of mourners throwing ashes of cremated bodies into the river, rendering the water murky. He caught glimpses of red cloth and food offerings during the sacred ritual of sending off the departed to another world. The next day, however, he noticed that the river had been cleansed completely of all traces of the activities of the night before. Peace and quiet, too, had returned to the river.

And so Lin began reflecting on his river experiences, not just in the faraway exotic land of Buddhist meditation but also right in his home turf in Pali. Ideas for a new piece of choreography began to flow out of his mind and take shape. “Listening to the River” was born.

Video clips and not just still photographs play an important role in the new production, “Listening to the River.” Upon Lin’s instruction, Howell Hao-jan Chang spent six months shooting them around Taiwan. Lin envisioned their use as backdrop for the new dance. He also wanted the Cloud Gate dancers to carry on emotional dialogues with the running images.

The special projector acquired by the dance company for convenient use even on tours (Most theaters no longer have the budget to allow the company to spend three days just setting up the stage for a production, according to Lin.) brings out a river’s dramatic and even amazing faces on a white cloth in “Listening to the River.” The changing colors caught by the eye of the camera are dazzling.

In the end, failure to capture satisfactory footage of burning water lanterns in a true-to-life setting forced the simulated staging of the Ghost Month ritual on the bank of Tamshui River after dark one day according to the precise instructions of perfectionist Lin.

Lin himself confessed: “In creating a piece of choreography, I ended up making a movie, too.”

The process of creating “Listening to the River” required Lin to hold a lot of technical discussions with his team including Lulu W.L. Lee for lighting design, Lin Keh-hua for visual and set design, Ethan Wang for projection design and Howell Hao-jan Chang for videography. .

Because Lin was there to direct the filming of the lacking portion, he made sure that the cameraman zeroed in on the images – resembling flashbacks of his Bodhgaya experience – which he wanted to recreate from the beginning.

As a burning water lantern sails out in the dark, slow-moving dancers become like a funeral entourage saying goodbye on the riverbank. Even the music sounds just like the kind accompanying a funeral cortege. The dancer representing the mourned person on the right side of the stage breaks into a powerful dance expression of what seems like liberation from worldly suffering and pain.

Death as theme (even the selected lachrymose and elegiac music of the opening scene says it) gets a calm and mature treatment from 63-year-old choreographer Lin. There is no sense of panic, only calm and quiet, notably towards the end.

The production depicts at one point a river swelling and swirling dangerously. Filmed footage of dancers blends with images of the Dajia River (said to have been shot just a day after destructive typhoon Morakot struck Taiwan). Performers are seemingly tossed around, finally overpowered and swallowed up just like victims of the floods last year.

The time comes for the dancers on the left side of the stage to alternately bend their knees somewhat, making their heads appear as if they are bobbing in the water. But everything seems surreal like a painting.

Video images technically and artistically suggest a river overflowing, even slowly spilling out onto the stage floor and threatening to inundate the theater.

Lin explained that the screen for running the video images in the 10-part choreography is intentionally kept slightly reduced in size to prevent the company dancers in street clothes from being completely dwarfed and overshadowed on the stage. One portion even sees the backdrop transformed into a mirror for the solo dancer.

The fluid and colorful body language of the Cloud Gate dancers whether doing solo, duo, trio or group dance is not lost on the audience. Disciplined bodies take turns articulating mood swings in the metaphor on mortality of not just man but even of Mother Earth.

Dance poetry even competes with video art in stimulating the spectator into reflecting on thoughts such as death and loss, which sometimes leave the onlooker on the verge of crying a river.
“Listening to the River” is an attempt to probe the human mind and heart. What indeed is the river trying to say? Lin encourages every viewer to leave the theater with a personal answer at the end of a performance.

After the Taipei run at the National Theater from March 18 to 21, Cloud Gate’s “Listening to the River” will move to the Tainan Cultural Center on April 10 and 11 and then to the Chung Shan Hall in Taichung on April 17 and 18.

Photographs have been provided by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Anilao in the Philippines offers great escape and exciting adventure in diving and snorkeling

By Nancy T. Lu
If you love the sun, the sea and, even more, the undersea fairy garden, head for Anilao in Mabini, Batangas Province. You are going to love every minute of your Philippine travel adventure.

More than 30 years ago, I made my first trip to the area, experiencing in the process without harboring any fear of the unknown the pristine Philippine water and the breathtaking coral kingdom. Memories of the outing linger on.

I remember boarding a motorized banca, after a long drive from Manila, to get to a private resort accessible only by water in the final stretch. The exciting exploration of the bay around the Calumpan Peninsula shortly began.

As I was not a swimmer and still am not one, I went out to sea initially to just enjoy the breeze. A snorkeling friend popped up at one point to urge me to join him in the water and to simply have a look. He had actually found a spot on a coral bed for me to stand on.

Clinging to the banca’s outrigger, I bent down to marvel at Mother Nature’s totally magnified aquarium. Wow! The schools of brightly colored tropical fish swimming by reminded me so much of the documentary films of Ron and Valerie Taylor about the fascinating marine life in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. The sight really took my breath away. I finally understood the divers' passion to go underwater.

The banca, which was constantly pushed by the waves, finally forced me to climb – with difficulty, I must admit – back to where I was comfortably seated earlier. I nearly lost my bearing after discovering that I was suddenly only one step away from the unfathomed deep. Somebody had to literally pull me up.

Anilao or Barangay Ligaya, 127 kilometers from Manila, has changed for the better since those days. Improved roads nowadays make it more accessible. You can drive directly to Leisure Dive Resort, for example, for a weekend of aqua sports. Travel time from Manila to Anilao today is only two and a half hours.

Refreshing juice from “buko” or the young coconut was what I was served upon my arrival at the Leisure Dive Resort not too long ago. Before lunch, I saw a fisherman bringing in his fresh catch from the sea to sell after pulling his banca ashore. Shortly the wonderful smell of grilled fish wafted through the air, whetting my appetite.

Arthur and Mel Riosa (shown in picture at right), who own the place, were around during my visit. They personally saw to it that the kitchen staff did not delay in serving a hearty lunch of Filipino dishes that day.

Mabini, the town named after the brain of the Philippine revolution against the colonizing Spaniards and to which Anilao belongs, is bounded on the east by the Batangas Bay and on the west by the Balayan Bay. Known for coral diversity and dive spots, it attracts visitors interested in scuba diving, windsurfing, trekking and snorkeling. Daytime, therefore, is usually reserved for snorkeling and diving activities at different nearby sites. There are at least 20 such locations.

Mel Riosa claimed she herself did not know how to swim. But after getting into a wetsuit and putting on a life jacket and fins, she jumped into the water without hesitation when the small group she was guiding arrived at an area for baby shark watching. I balked at following her but was convinced in no time to be adventurous. I ended up watching the sharks from a distance. They stared back.

The motorized boat later took visitors to another dive site called Cathedral Rock. Some tourists began tossing pieces of bread into the water to attract the hungry fish. Indeed the creatures with fins shortly went into a frenzy over the thrown food. Twin Rocks with a barnacle-covered capsized barge I did not get to see that day. I only heard about it. Mainit (mening “hot”) was another special diving point with hot spring water spilling into the sea.

And then it was on to Sombrero Island for the small entourage. Years ago, I easily picked up beautiful shells on the beach to bring home as souvenirs. But on this more recent trip, such treasures were harder to come by due to the large influx of tourists over the years. Visitors must now even pay to be able to explore leisurely the island resembling a hat from a distance.

Before calling it a day, I learned to blaze a water trail on a jetski. Another fun option was to get on the banana boat. Actually I shuddered just thinking about getting thrown without warning into the choppy sea.

The Leisure Dive Resort has rooms with native furniture for nearly 40 guests. The rooms have balconies looking out to the sea. For families and friends, the beautiful glow of sunset each day can be admired together from a big and open pavilion, too.

Anilao’s sun and sea are calling. Start planning a trip today. Get information about pickup at the airport in Manila for a direct drive to Anilao from Leisure Dive Resort through email address

All photographs were taken by Nancy T. Lu.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

3 choreographers working with dancers of Cloud Gate 2 to make "Spring Riot" happen on stage

By Nancy T. Lu
Huang Yi, a choreographer who shows promise of becoming the “enfant terrible” of Taiwan’s modern dance scene, will be the youngest talent among a creative trio to headline Cloud Gate 2’s forthcoming dance concert, “Spring Riot.”

If the very short video clip of his latest dance creation “Floating Domain” (See photo taken by Liu Zhen-xiang) says anything, it is that Huang at 26 is bursting with amazing creativity and energy. He is simultaneouly preparing to participate in a contest in Denmark.

Huang after the recent success of his high-tech “SPIN 2010” puts his imagination and wizardry to work for Cloud Gate 2, turning dancers into room occupants, walls, or even tables and chairs at will. With Bach’s music playing in the background, a confined space morphs with surreal effect. Pointing a finger is all it takes to begin the magic process.

Everyone’s room experience, whether solitary or shared, was what Huang basically tried to latch onto when he started creating his new choreography. His own humble family background gave him no choice but to cope with life in a cramped and shared space. Books, the Internet and creative work helped him break free from the suffocating surroundings. Necessity was the mother of invention. He embarked on flights of fancy. Suddenly his world simply opened up and knew no boundary.

Meanwhile Cheng Tsung-lung’s “Crack” reorganizes and consolidates the choreographer’s experiences in digging into narrow openings or breaks encountered in life to bring out the emotional garbage. The 34-year-old Cheng cited particularly the painful turning point of an adolescent romance, comparing it to a crack on a pavement. Composer Pan Rong-sheng has come up with a combination of electronic and high-tech sounds, even including the old record platter’s scratch, to go with Cheng's choreography.

Choreographer Ku Ming-shen caught sight of a long white shoreline from the plane during a trip to Hualien and Taitung. She found it beautiful but lacking in expression. But once on the ground, Ku saw up close water pushing and crisscrossing, breaking up and coming together, splashing and bubbling in all directions, after the waves had rolled in and slammed the coast. Ku realized that from such a picture in nature could be drawn a parallel in human interaction. In Ku’s piece, "Endless Shore," the dancers simply stand still or they clash in their moves.

The Cloud Gate 2’s“Spring Riot” will be presented at the Novel Hall for Performing Arts from April 21 to 25, the Zhong Zheng Hall of the National Chiao Tung University in Hsinchu on May 1, the Zhi De Hall of the Kaohsiung Cultural Center on May 8 and the Chiayi County Performing Arts Center on May 15.

For ticket information, try Cloud Gate (tel. 02-27122102) or National Theater and Concert Hall Box Office (tel. 02-33939888)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Taipei Traditional Arts Festival unravels new ideas to enhance seduction of Chinese music

By Nancy T. Lu

Breaking new grounds mainly through crossover collaborations appears to be the thrust of the Taipei Chinese Orchestra, now on its 30th year, as seen in the richly diverse programs, even featuring top-caliber international performers in a number of cases, of the 2010 Taipei Traditional Arts Festival from March 11 to June 17 this year. The goal is to go international and make far-reaching impact.

The Taipei stage or even the bigger Taiwan limelight will cease to be the limit for the TCO’s exposure. The 21st century will be about developing the blueprint to take traditional Chinese music to the international spotlight, said Chung Yiu-kwong, director of the orchestra. The TCO seeks to reach not just local crowds all the way to neighborhood communities but also international audiences and ultimately establish a global brand, he added.

A music ensemble of the TCO will be going with the Han Tang Yuefu Ensemble, famous for “nanguan” performances, to the Schumann Festival in Dusseldorf, Germany, this coming June 1, he revealed with pride. Sheng player Wu Wei will be featured as soloist. Trombone player Christian Lindberg will perform with the TCO at the Grand National Theater in Beijing on June 13. Puyuma singer and 1997 Aboriginal Mother-Tongue Singing Competition Dingko Nan will topbill a program along with the TCO under the baton of Chen Cheng-hsiung as well as U Theater at the Shanghai Expo on June 16. The Shanghai Concert Hall will be the venue of another TCO performance with percussionist Evelyn Glennie on June 17.

The Taipei Traditinal Arts Festival, now on its 23rd year, has invited outstanding contemporary artists in Chinese music playing like erhu artists Min Hui-fen, Yu Hong-mei, Ma Xiang-hua, Ma Xiao-hui, Zhu Chang-yao, Yang Xue, Jiang Ke-mei; pipa players Wu Man and Zhou Tao; as well as sheng performer Wu Wei to perform. Joining the established and prominent musicians are some new and rising stars.

Chung Yiu-kwong, who enjoys a growing reputation as composer, singled out for special mention the famous interpreters of western classical music, who have been lined up as the festival’s special guest artists and soloists. They include: Yu Li-na, the Chinese violinist who gave the first performance of “Butterfly Lovers” Concerto as well as Yin Cheng-zong, who found fame as the original soloist of the “Yellow River” Concerto; consistent Grammy award winner Kronos Quartet all prepared to participate in the “Silk Road” series this year; and certainly a coup when it comes to getting hold of three top cellists, namely Mischa Maisky (see photo above), Julian Lloyd Webber and Anssi Karttunen, who are to play with three very famous erhu or Chinese fiddle musicians, namely Ma Xiao-hui, Yu Hong-mei and Jiang Ke-mei. Composer Chung Yiu-kwong is writing new pieces for all of them.

The Kronos Quartet and pipa player Wu Man, who recorded together Tan Dun’s “Ghost Opera,” will be featured on June 4. Wu Man will also play in “Beyond the Silk Road I” on June 5. “Beyond the Silk Road II” on June 6 will return the Kronos Quartet to the stage with the TCO. Erhu player Ma Xiang-hua will interpret a new piece written by Pan Hwang-long on June 6. .

The TCO does not stop at simply playing western music in addition to the traditional Chinese music repertoire. Creating new and changing music genres for the Chinese orchestra, in Chung’s thinking, is going to help the TCO not just build a vast repertoire but also literally get noticed and go places. Such direction enjoys the approval and support of Hsieh Hsiao-yun, the new head of the Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs.

The Taipei Chinese Orchestra in a bid to reach out to all sectors of society will likewise get involved with If Kids Children’s Theater in the production for children and their parents titled “Magic Stone.” French mime Philippe Bizot will star in another program of the TCO. The Holo Opera’s “A Silk Banner from the Emperor” will have the musical collaboration of the TCO, too.

The festival’s opening program, “Meng Xiaodong,” has the Guo Guang Opera Company and the TCO as co-producers. Wei Hai-min (see photo from cover of Silk Road), who is cast in the title role, plays a “lao sheng” (“old male” representing an old or bearded character) on the Chinese opera stage. But she must also reprise the off-stage female side of the real-life Meng Xiaodong.

The part coveted by many seasoned performing talents calls for the projection of Meng Xiaodong’s “refined” and “cold (unflappable)” qualities. On a stage intentionally kept very simple if not bare in design to tax the imagination of the audience, Wei must rely on her voice to deal with three singing challenges in the production: bare the heart and soul of Meng Xiaodong, sing a “lao sheng” role in a Chinese opera, and even capture the performance of a “dan” or female role by the legendary male Chinese opera master Mei Lanfang.

In real life, romance blossomed between Meng Xiaodong and Mei Lanfang as a result of close collaborations on the opera stage. There was a falling out, however, and Meng Xiaodong ended up a very frustrated woman.

The dramatic orchestral music in “Meng Xiaodong” – which was written by Chung Yiu-kwong for conducting by Shao En – helps flesh out the story. In fact, the 60 musicians of the TCO become the storytellers. “Meng Xiaodong” opened at the Zhongshan Hall in Taipei on March 11 and will run until March 14.

The TCO will organize a conference on ethnic music. Huun-Huur-Tu, a music group from Tuva on the Mongolian border, will be featured in “Farewell My Concubine” on May 29, the opening day of conference on folk music. Throat singing is what they are known for.

Exciting festival programs of the TCO, catering to the public’s diverse interests, will unfold in the months ahead. New and experimental ideas in presenting Chinese music promise to enrich and add to the seduction offered by silk and bamboo instrument musicians.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

While President Ma Ying-jeou prepares to visit Solomon Islands, Ambassador Beraki Jino and wife Ellen Jino say goodbye to friends

By Nancy T. Lu

Ambassador Beraki Jino, who has been appointed the new High Commissioner of the Solomon Islands to Australia, will leave Taiwan on Sunday, March 14, only about a week before President Ma Ying-jeou heads for his country on March 21 as part of his seven-day six-nation tour of the South Pacific. Ma will also travel to Palau, Nauru, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands, all diplomatic allies of Taiwan. Jino will already be in Canberra when U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Australia after his visit to Indonesia.

Diplomats and their spouses are very familiar with the whirl of despedida parties in the weeks leading to the end of their tour of duty in a particular post.

Solomon Islands Ambassador Beraki Jino and his wife, Ellen Jino, have made many friends during their six-and-a half years of posting in Taiwan. As a result, the lunch and dinner invitations in the last few weeks have kept them very busy. They will leave with their 11-year-old daughter. Their son will stay behind for another three years to finish his college education in Pingtung.

Ambassador Jino and his wife accepted the invitation to the luncheon hosted by the Taipei International Women’s Club (TIWC) on International Women’s Day on March 8 at FranSir Dining Room in Tienmu. In fact, when the diplomat thanked all those present led by Connie Pong, the TIWC president, he remembered to propose a special toast to all the women from different countries actively working to improve the status of women.

Just about everyone at the farewell lunch proceeded to join the International Women’s Day celebration hosted by the National Women’s League of the Republic of China at the Grand Hotel that afternoon. While there, Ellen Jino spoke briefly with Charlene Yang, wife of Foreign Minister Timothy Yang.

Among those who showed up to say goodbye to the leaving friends of the TIWC were: Jasmine E. Huggins, Ann Keke, Mariann Tertak-Hergovits, Margaret Ledoux, Sandrine Borgeaud, Dr. Chang Po-ya, Lily Lin, Mayumi Hu, Lily Assana, Annie Yung, Jennifer Liu, Julia Wang and Susan Huang.

Packing up all the belongings and souvenirs accumulated over the years has been quite a rigorous challenge, according to Ellen Jino. Ambassador Jino expressed how much he valued particularly his collection of blue-and-white vases from Taiwan.

The diplomat and his wife will always cherish memories of warm hospitality during travels around the island. Unforgettable was their trip to the heartland of Puyuma culture in Taitung one New Year’s Eve to participate in a very colorful aboriginal celebration.

Taiwan’s indigenous people could be said to be the island’s important bridge with its diplomatic allies. In fact, President Ma will be bringing along the Formosa Aboriginal Song and Dance Troupe when he blazes a trail through the six nations, including the Solomon Islands, in the South Pacific.

The Taitung trip arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs proved a beautiful encounter with Austronesian brothers and sisters in Taiwan for Ambassador Jino and his wife along with other members of the diplomatic corps. The young Puyuma men turned up after four days and three nights of Spartan training in the chilly mountain forest

Ambassador Jino and his wife joined hands with the dancing Puyuma men and women on this occasion, forming a circle and performing traditional steps to aboriginal singing. The lyrics of the repeated song went: “We are all one family, staying close and loving one another.”

From the musically-gifted Puyuma tribe in the Taitung area originates Taiwan’s pop diva A-mei. Well-known song talents Kimbo, Pau Dull and Samingad also trace their roots to Puyuma communities.

When asked if he tried betelnut-chewing while in Taitung, Ambassador Jino replied: “We also chew betelnut in the Solomon Islands.”

The ambassador and his spouse confessed that they will miss all the good food and the fine dining in Taiwan. In fact, Ambassador Jino wished he could continue enjoying Taiwan’s fresh fruits, especially mangoes.

Ellen Jino, a lover of Taiwan’s beautiful orchids, said with regret: “Too bad I will not be around to see the Taipei International Flora Exhibition later this year.”

All the photographs were taken by Nancy T. Lu.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Architectural language of Richard Rogers and partners invites look at museum in Taipei

By Nancy T. Lu

Richard Rogers, the British architect who truly found fame as “high-tech iconoclast” with the building of the Pompidou Center back in 1977, and his partners get viewed up close in an exhibition of 78 scale models at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

The scales of the projects carrying the name of Richard Rogers over the years – from the house he did for his parents to the Barajas Airport in Madrid – are different. But the intellectual input remains consistent and keeps developing. Simply put, the architectural language fascinates.

“Richard Rogers + Architects: From the House to the City” was an exhibition conceived six years ago for the 30th anniversary of the Pompidou Center in Paris in 2007. The show covering 50 years of work by Richard Rogers and his collaborators has been on the road for two years and Taipei is its first Asian stop.

The British Council in Taipei is actively involved in organizing educational activities for different age groups during the almost two-month run of the exhibition in Taipei until May 2, announced Christine Skinner, director of the British Council.

“We have been working in Taiwan for 10 years now,” pointed out the visiting Ivan Harbour of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners on Friday. “We have done two modest buildings, the Ching Fu Group Headquarters and the Kaohsiung Central Park MRT Station. Both are in Kaohsiung.”

The exhibition carrying primarily the name of the winner of the 2007 Pritzker Architecture Prize includes a vast range of projects. Some are difficult to link according to style. But themes like “Public,” “Systems,” “Transparent,” “Legible,” “Urban,” “Lightweight” and “Green” have served to somehow bind them all together, explained Graham Stirk of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

“Legible” has to do with “what the building is trying to say” and “Public” has to do with “public responsibility,” said Stirk.

Of the Ching Fu Group Headquarters (left photo), which has exposed columns and large extractor funnels thereby echoing the Pompidou Center in design, Harbour remarked: “This project has been one of the happiest buildings we have been involved with.” He added: “The building has soul.” Skinner, who once attended a function at the site, described it as “a fabulous building with a gorgeous deck.”

The building belonging to a leading shipping company and commercial ship builder has been turned around to minimize the impact of the hot sun in southern Taiwan and at the same time to face the best view. Louvres on the roof also help reduce the heat.

Lloyd’s of London (right) with six towers was described during a guided tour of the exhibition as “basically a large box where people work.” It has been designed with an eye on “a great deal of flexibility.” Although “complex-looking,” it has been “based on simple principles.”

The Barajas Airport (left phoro) in Madrid covers an area of 1.2 million square meters. It is virtually “a city in itself”. Although built in such a vast scale, the architectural design does not lose sight of the fact that it is intended for use by humanity. There is a system of repetition in space design. The roof has an underside of bamboo. The “unique use of a rainbow of colors” helps travelers find their way around the airport which happens to be a 1.2 kilometer-long building.

The Rome Congress Center, another project designed like a giant ship (see top photo), was an experimental work going against the boring concept of an insular building. The architecture emphasized the top as private space. The rest was open to 24-hour activity. Trucks could drive up to the main spaces.

As for the National Assembly of Wales, Richard Rogers’ team felt like they were “creating a big living room for the people of Wales.”

Energy needed to keep the building running is reduced to only 30 percent. Reduced demand for energy follows if spaces are not treated equally. Absolute temperature becomes important only if the environment is contained, according to Harbour.

The building also borrows heat from the ground. Wind power generated at a site near the National Assembly of Wales pumps up the heat from the ground.

Technology is closely tied to public responsibility in the works of Richard Rogers and his collaborators.

All photographs were taken by Nancy T. Lu. The group picture shows: (from left) Ivan Harbour; Chen Wen-ling, acting director of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum; Christine Skinner, director of the British Council; and Graham Stirk.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hsieh Hsiao-yun succeeds Lee Yong-ping as head of the Department of Cultural Affairs

Hsieh Hsiao-yun (extreme right in the photo), director of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum until recently, has succeeded Taipei Vice Mayor Lee Yong-ping as director of the Department of Cultural Affairs under the Taipei City Government. She officially took over her new post on March 1.

Since her appointment as Taipei vice mayor in September last year, Lee (extreme left in the photo) continued to hold simultaneously the post of director of the Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs.

During the turnover ceremony, Taipei Mayor Hau Long-bin (shown at the center in the picture) commended Lee for her performance in promoting the creative industry and in making the city come alive through culture and tourism.

Hsieh previously served for five years under former Taoyuan County Magistrate Chu Li-lun as director of the Taoyuan County Department of Cultural Affairs. She was director of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum for two years and seven months.