Saturday, March 9, 2019

Rod Dreher's Facebook "Followers"

For years Rod Dreher at The American Conservative has been following the insanity of our sexual left, tracing its juvenile fads and fetishes, documenting its woke Kool-Aid authoritarianism. His blog there also has one of the sharpest groups of regular commenters on the Internet.

But when TAC posts Dreher's pieces on its Facebook page, the commentary is monochrome. Repeatedly, there's a literal horde weighing in within hours to savage him, nearly always in the same terms. What's interesting is that these are not mainly garden-variety trolls, I think, but actual readers of TAC who somehow love to loathe Dreher's cultural conservatism. Which reveals something: many of our young "political" conservatives, at least those on Facebook, don't have a moment's patience for religiously grounded critiques of the Sexual Revolution. (Yes, not only "conservatives" follow TAC, but I think it's safe to assume that many of those posting consider themselves one type or another of conservative.)

I'll just post some screenshots from today's salvo. And honestly, this is perhaps the most polite series of comments I've seen this bunch give Dreher in months. Usually the savaging reveals a deeper discomfort--what I read as the fear of many thirty-somethings (?) to be even tangentially linked to someone who might be accused of being a "bigot". Thus, in this group of readers, Dreher simply must be savaged.

I used to engage in these threads now and then. Now I see it as wasted time, though I did deliver a punch today.

The comments are on a piece in which Dreher formulates a new law of public attention--the Law of Motivated Noticing. These are motivated noticers of a certain type, I'd say--people who can't sit still if anyone dares suggest in their presence that our sexual anti-culture is a civilizational problem. These are noticers who are sadly downstream in the Andrew Breitbart sense.

Oh, and of course:

If mainstream culture and the education system is daily prodding kids to discover they're "trans", if gay men celebrate urinating on each other as a kind of public rite, that's because "people want to be accepted as they are". You should just take a lesson from Kindergarten (what Kindergarten?) and say nothing if you think these things are signs of anti-culture.

Check out my just-published book Minor Scratches, and stock up on Band-Aids while you're at it.

Monday, February 4, 2019

My Brother Sohrab Ahmari

Yes, I consider Sohrab Ahmari a brother of sorts. I’ll confess I laughed aloud more than a few times while reading his youthful memoir From Fire, by Water. Part of it was that Ahmari is in ways a laughable sort. Doubtless we’d all be laughable if we dared undertake such brutal self-revelation as he does. But even more than laughing at Ahmari, I laughed because his zigzagging intellectual youth traces my own nearly to a tee. Ahmari’s brave self-interrogation in this book is a mirror in which I was forced to revisit the stages I myself went through. It made me laugh at my younger self.

This coincidence is odd, given the stark difference in our backgrounds. Cultural/geographical: Ahmari’s Tehran childhood vs. my suburban Wisconsin childhood. Generational: Ahmari is a young man, in his 30s; I’m in my 50s.

In common we have the fact that we both became Catholic in the middle of the current decade (2015 for me, 2016 for him). But there’s much more commonality, as you’ll see.

Ahmari’s tale begins with his childhood in the Ayatollah’s Iran. Raised in a middle-class Tehran household by liberal-minded parents who kept their real lives hidden from the regime, Ahmari learned English young as was infected by an admiration for all things Western, especially American. His portrait of the double lives of those around him is sketched with a swift, light touch. Still, the memory of regime menace, always present in the form of school officials and morality police, and his sense of Iran as a land stuck in fatalistic nostalgia, burning with ideological rage, a land “[smelling] of dust mingled with stale rose-water”, clearly mark off the Iran chapters of his book from the intellectually madcap American chapters to follow.

At age 14, Ahmari immigrates with his mother to the US and starts a new life near an uncle in small-town Utah. In a narrative turn that will disappoint many an American patriot (and many a Mormon besides) the young Iranian is horrified by the cultural wasteland he finds himself in. His youthful dreams of the US as intellectually advanced, and deeply secular, are dashed. He’s repulsed by the numbingly shallow conversations Americans engage in when together (cars, sports, bargains, weather); he’s indifferent to his high school’s sports rituals; he’s amazed that his neighbors actually believe the Mormon scriptures; American girls his age are aggressively physical in ways he can’t process. These pages remind me of my own teenage years in Wisconsin. I never could grasp, and still can’t, Americans enthusiasm for sports. (A confession, of which I’m secretly proud: I have yet to watch a full game of American football from start to finish. Ever. To me “Super Bowl” refers to a vast toilet fixture, one large enough to flush the NFL and NBA simultaneously.)

But just when the disillusioned young Ahmari feels himself going irreversibly sour on America, he one day comes across a copy of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra in a book store. He buys it, takes it home, devours it on his bed, and is reborn. Never a pious Muslim, still disappointed that Americans themselves are so religious, Ahmari declares himself a Nietzschean.

It’s here where I begin to laugh at myself. At age 16, in a Milwaukee book store, hardly knowing their content, I also picked up the hammer of Nietzsche in the form of two slim paperback volumes: The Antichrist and Twilight of the Idols. I took them home and was likewise electrified by what I found. Ahmari’s difference from me here is that he, as an Iranian from the capital, at least had some notion of what an intellectual was. My own milquetoast Midwest education hadn’t even hinted at the existence of such a class of being. My discovery of Nietzsche was thus a double revelation: 1) God was dead, as I’d already suspected; 2) one could use writing, and this thing called “philosophy”, to seize upon the world and maybe even wrench it into different forms.

I followed my purchase of the Nietzsche volumes by building up much the same small library of “existentialist” writers Ahmari did (Camus, Sartre, Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard) though in my case Colin Wilson’s dour book The Outsider proved key in terms of suggesting new titles and deepening my sense of the crisis. Like Ahmari, as I gather from his hints, I became a brooding verbal scourge at my high school.

Ahmari’s Nietzschean awakening soon gave way, via the “existentialists”, to political engagement and Marxism. For me a similar phase began when I entered the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study Comparative Literature. In 1987, I was sent for a month to Gorbachev’s USSR as a citizen diplomat of sorts. Ahmari ended up studying philosophy and getting involved with a Trotskyite cell. We both at this stage became enamored of the Beats, especially William S. Burroughs.

These parallels may not be very interesting to readers of this review, who may find such an intellectual trajectory a bit banal, or common. If so, sorry to bore. But the pace, the concerns, the motives—to go by Ahmari’s memoir, they were nearly identical for the two of us. And what seems odd is that I went through the trajectory starting around 1983, whereas he began his more than a decade later.

Further, some may find this range of philosophical and literary obsessions (Nietzsche, Marxism, William S. Burroughs) bizarre for two men who were to end up Catholic. I don't find it odd in the least.

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: … “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am going to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:14-5)

One kernel of truth in this verse from Revelation is the following: those who burn most feverishly against God, who struggle heroically to reject God’s knocking, often only manage to mark themselves out as future faithful. Ahmari was such. His memoir demonstrates that his halting steps toward faith were nearly all made possible by his keen intellectual honesty combined with resistance to that faith. And the fact that grace finally reached him.

Ahmari’s conversion story is the heart of the book: those pages where cracks appear in the confident secularism to which he’d committed himself. He has finished university, begun work as a teacher. From one especially dedicated colleague, whose comportment in life contrasts painfully with his own often hungover self, he learns the worth of honesty and resolve. He is nagged more and more by the sense that academic leftist or left-liberal explanations for evil in the world are incoherent, just as he realizes that the identity categories of SJW politics don’t even half explain the dynamics of victim and oppressor in the real world.

He reads more widely, and is impressed by the horrendous failure of all the grand modern projects (particularly Marxism) predicated on the notion that man can be remade according to ideology—and that such remaking can be a recipe for progress. He begins to realize that it is rather the conservative vision, grounded in religious tradition, that makes sense of the arc of history. In fact, contrary to what Marx and Sartre might argue, human nature is both unchangeable and shot through with sin, and will remain so regardless of political revolutions or any new economic dispensation that might be effected. There are, instead, two things necessary. First: attending to human nature as it really is; accepting and understanding it with all its fatal flaws. Second: listening to that internal voice that calls in all of us, namely conscience, a voice that insistently prods us whenever we begin to move toward evil or injustice—that even prods us when the injustice we are about to commit has been justified by some utopian political program.

Basic experiential recognitions like these, which come like epiphanies to Ahmari as he continues his work as a teacher, join up with his keen understanding of the centrality of sacrifice in the human condition, and together prepare the way for his recognition of the central Gospel truth re-enacted in the Mass.

I won’t try to describe Ahmari’s pages on what actually happened to him, how he was finally shaken to his depths while attending a Mass in New York. His depiction of his doubts, his telling of how the stages each gave way to the next, his final decision to become Catholic and the process of joining the Church—it is all narrated with a compelling honestly that evidences no designs on the reader. One has rather the impression of a very careful observer of self doing his best to explain what that self has lived and seen in the world.

From Fire, by Water is a brave book and, for all its intellectual twists and turns, surprisingly readable. I’ve often read and been impressed by Ahmari’s articles in recent years, but this book stands out as a real gem. I’d highly recommend it to anyone engaged with current left-wing politics in the US. It will challenge you. Also, of course, Catholics, especially those who’ve been educated in the humanities in recent decades, will get much from the book—perhaps, like me, more than a few laughs.

But before closing, I’ll mention one more parallel between my brother and I. Ahmari married an Asian American architect from Xi’an, China. Myself, I married a Taiwanese poet and literary scholar from Taiwan. Unless I’m mistaken, Mandarin Chinese is also now on Ahmari’s plate, as it’s been part of my diet for many years.

Order Ahmari’s From Fire, by Water: My Journey to the Catholic Faith.

Have some deadpan with your coffee. Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. Dryest humor in the west.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

What It Does

What it does to you is a thing you would not want done to you. Not by any stretch of the time we fell under the sway of ending.

You’re here and be grateful it’s not you either. Should you see them coming to the end of your tether, look away. That you no longer trust each other they take for granted. They’ll grant it you as a given of their supposedly benign presence. Look away. And think only this: What was is the future we hope for.

Mutterings may console. And who do they think they’re fooling with such arguments that I for one find utterly persuasive?

We are in the place where all fear the one thing that has already happened.


Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Why I Do Not Work for the CIA / 我不為 CIA 工作的理由

Why I Do Not Work for the CIA


I do not work for the CIA because I am too dumb
And I am not a Mormon

Besides my patriotism is lacking

I wouldn’t have passed any of their tests

It’s clear I do not work for the CIA


Do I maybe, after all, work for the CIA?
It’s hard to believe I do

I begin my day later than them

And teach language at night

CIA people would be analyzing language
Arabic and Urdu and such

Documents of specs in Chinese

But me I teach language

The CIA wouldn’t be teaching anything
They’d be writing up reports to answer
Yes or No Yes or No

But me I teach and joke with students
Trying always to play out the Maybe

For as long as possible


I keep to myself and drink scotch
This is very CIA

How long have I been CIA now?


I'm damn good at what I do in fact

My Chinese is better than many a fellow agent’s

And my French was once good too

I still get the subjunctive wrong less often than many a Mormon
Who passes me sober in the halls at Langley


I’ve never been to Langley

There's no way I'm CIA

I’d have cracked under pressure sooner
And told everything I know


Though I’ve been under immense pressure at times
And have cracked twice or more
I’ve never quite told everything I know

But it wasn’t because I was holding back

Out of patriotism or to protect some asset
But because I didn’t quite know how to put it
How to frame it I mean

Everything I know

And sometimes I didn’t even know really
That I knew it


This kind of thinking is definitely not CIA

Maybe that’s why I'm such a precious asset to them
They wouldn’t risk me on any small mission
Translating chatter from Urdu

Instead they coddle me

Keep an eye on my drinking

They’ve pared me down to one cigar a day

They’re encouraging me now to find a new health club
Get back in shape like I was

When we were winding down the Cold War


In fact I will not find a new health club

I’m tired of this far-flung Asian assignment

I want them to know it too

I’m tired of the metro ride back and forth

The students half of whom are ADHD

I’m waiting for my station chief finally to have enough of me
And drop word that I’d be better off

Somewhere with more action

Berlin or Rome

Nice would be nice

But I’d settle for Damascus or Tel Aviv

As long as it wasn’t too dangerous

In short somewhere my skills can be used


Now that it’s clear

I’m solid CIA

I must pay off those back taxes soon
Plan a visit to Langley

I must stop messing around with Maybe
And get back to basics

Yes or No

Me or You

One of us is in the wrong here

Eric Mader
* * *

我不為 CIA 工作的理由


我不為 CIA 工作,因為我很笨
顯然我不會為 CIA 工作


又或許我,說到底了,就是在替 CIA 工作?



CIA 那幫人則忙著分析語言
CIA 倒是什麼課也不教

這很 CIA

我 CIA 多久了?



不可能是 CIA



這種思考模式肯定很不 CIA
這或許便是他們視我為 CIA 之寶的緣故


我在等我 CIA 的駐派國代表終於也受夠了我

我就是如假包換的 CIA

* * *

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Sunday, December 30, 2018

OBASAN! 歐巴桑! (英/中)

Obasan #7

Taipei. I was sitting atop a cement traffic pylon near a busy intersection. It was just before class and I was smoking one of my mini-cigars before going in to teach. I had my umbrella leaned against the pylon—not a very good umbrella, the handle kept coming off and I needed to get a new one when I had the chance. 

A well-dressed 60-something woman came by me with a little caramel-colored dog on a pink leash. The dog was sniffing the base of my pylon and I was thinking: “This obasan is NOT going to let her dog piss on the pylon while I’m sitting on it.” 

Of course I was wrong. The dog started pissing, the stream of piss just missing my umbrella. I didn’t look at the woman, but kept my eye on the dog to let her know I saw how rude she was being. 

And the dog, no more than a foot tall, just kept up its pissing. Its piss flowed voluminously, amazing for such a small dog, until a broad puddle had formed just under me. 

Then the woman went on her way. 

As I stood up to go, not a minute later, my leg nudged the umbrella and it fell flat into the puddle. I decided to leave it there. 

I crossed the street and went into a little bakery to get something to eat. I hadn’t had time for dinner. Coming out, I saw the woman circling back with the dog. She looked at my umbrella lying in the piss, then looked round to see if I was still nearby, then reached down carefully to pick up the umbrella. She’d decided to take it! 

Pulling a few sheets of tissue from her high-end, oversized purse, she began to wipe the piss off the umbrella. I watched her from the shade of the bakery awning. When she was done wiping off the piss, she continued on her way, heading home with her dog and my umbrella. 

But she carried the umbrella by its handle. And the handle came off in her hand, the umbrella itself dropping to the ground. 

Surprised, she glanced round again, to see if anyone was watching, then looked down at the umbrella at her feet. Finally, in a gesture of frustration, she tossed the handle down next to it. She continued on her way home. 

Very OBASAN! Yes, very very OBASAN!



好啦你最了不起啦擋在旋轉式柵門的入口前翻找包包裡的悠遊卡彷彿天底下就你一個人而已嘛後面六個人全都擠在那邊過不去嘛你還瞥了我一眼好像在說「我都五十六歲了一 手養大兩個兒子其中一個還是台大畢業的老娘讓個屁路!」哎喲台大是嗎啊不就好厲害陳水九騙的母校嘛我上班快遲到了一邊涼快去啦奧巴桑

我每逢星期六就只能抓緊下課時間去買杯咖啡喝或許只 有三個人在排隊吧兩個奧巴桑加一個男人那兩個奧巴桑跟 櫃檯小姐說拿鐵會比卡布奇諾大杯嗎?對了刷什麼什麼卡是 不是可以打折?哦等等哦我有帶什麼什麼卡阿娘喂 2% 的折 扣溜我來找一下卡什麼星巴克又出全新系列的隨行卡了哦那 我先前那張隨行卡裡面的點數還能用嗎裡面還有一些點數咦 有折扣嗎朵拉你看星巴克新推出的隨行卡溜(開始討論新舊 隨行卡哪張比較美老天饒了我吧)要不要買張新的你覺得咧 你覺得這張顏色好看嗎小姐你們有別的顏色可以挑嗎好了朵拉你要喝拿鐵還是卡布奇諾哎喲他們有聖誕節限定的噁心巴 拉摩卡溜這下好了已經有七個人被她們堵在後面了既然肢體 暴力在這個城市屬於犯法行為我就撤了我就兩步做一步直奔 Cama Café 去了我去你們的奧巴桑


我在 7-11 正打算買點薄荷糖就發現結帳隊伍裡連續排 了三個奧巴桑而且最前面的奧巴桑已經跟櫃檯小姐吵了起來 說便當不是要比結帳金額便宜個三塊錢嗎那奧巴桑邊指著發 票邊說啊櫥窗上的海報不是寫便當只要多少錢喂喂我難道得 在這邊聽她高談闊論不成何況她後面還有兩個奧巴桑在等我 沒吃薄荷糖又不會少塊肉閃人了閃人了

我有件包裹要寄去紐約結果人一進郵局就看見現場排了兩組人馬其中一排有五個人不過都是男性和女職員另一排則是兩個分別抱著一小件包裹的奧巴桑我可沒那麼傻我走向那 支排了五個人的隊伍然後哈沒想到吧我寄了包裹錢也找好了隔壁排的第二位奧巴桑還在那邊郵資哪個方案怎樣又怎樣問個沒完媽呀!

隔天,我們一行七人緊緊挨在擁擠的捷運車廂裡面對車 門站著。我們這群人稍後就會一片黑壓壓地蜂湧而出,準 備下車轉乘綠線。我身後有個奧巴桑,穿著花俏橘襯衫。奧 巴桑這邊推那邊擠,試圖從我們之中開出一條路— 就因為 她已經,呃,五十七歲了?她好像迫不及待要下車,好像等 不及要奔向某個地方的收銀機,隨便什麼地方的收銀機。她 拚了命想擠過去,那可惡至極的超大 LV 包的金色搭扣也開 始勾住我樸素包包上的黑色帶子。我也下車— 我嘟噥著中 文。她沒抬頭看,也沒搭腔,倒是露出若有似無的淺笑。她瞇起了眼在計算,過分嫣紅的嘴角嵌著一小滴晶瑩剔透的口水。我知道她腦子裡正轉著會員卡、折價券、禮券、贈品的畫面。八秒之後,她又試圖從我們之中穿過去,即使用膝蓋想也知道我們會在這站下車。我也下車!我又說了一遍。我也下車,奧巴桑!

Eric Mader


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Monday, December 17, 2018


C'est moi.

1. 是的,作為一個在這裡生活了數十年的西方人,我確實愛台北和台灣。但當然有一些事情令人討厭。這就是任何地方的情況。我有一些建議。今天我一直在記下他們。

2. 台北捷運不允許吸煙是合理的。但我認為每年應該有一天允許吸煙。事實上,在那一天,捷運上每個人都得吸菸,這樣才公平。

3. 這條規則將普遍適用。這意味著:在那一天,兒童 - 是的,甚至是嬰兒 - 都要在捷運上吸煙。

4. 吸著古巴雪茄的人可以免費乘坐。

5. 你能看如果我是台北市長的話會有多有趣嗎?

6. Louis Vuitton 的包包很醜陋。在台北有太多LV包包了。我知道在其他亞洲城市情況更糟。不過台北還是要改革。我自己不跟那些背著LV包的女人說話。我都不甩她們。LV包越大,這個規則就越適用。

7. Hermès,Michael Kors,Fendi - 這些品牌的是可以接受的。快丟掉你們的LV包包。你甚至在想什麼?


9. 這樣可能還會創造出一種新的本土音樂類型。

10. 台北的交通不是很好,但並不是太糟糕。台北最差的車手是男人。這並不奇怪。但在台北,我發現,最糟糕的車手位於階級差距的兩端。所以:在台北,你會看到那些駕駛黑色賓士的男人,以及駕駛小藍色卡車的男人,在影響台北的交通。

11. 那些開黑色賓士的混蛋顯然認為他們太重要了,不用遵守交通規則。至於藍色卡車司機,他們似乎不知道這個城市甚至有他媽的交通規則。

12. 通過車輛識別這兩類駕駛員後,應該被法律強制每年在中央公共廣場聚集一次,只穿著內衣,進行公開體罰。

13. 體罰必須進行電視轉播。

14. Sogo 電梯非常慢。當電梯有電梯小姐工作時,電梯甚至動得更慢。沒有人他媽的需要電梯小姐,好嗎?

15. 幾天前,我突然意識到那個在羅斯福路上用木板拖車推著自己賣抹布的老人,他在二十年間完全沒有改變。太不可思議了。我開始懷疑他是一個被派到這裡監視我們的外星人。

16. 奇怪的是,今天早上我在廣福南路的車上看到了他跟他的小拖車。他們可能不止一個嗎?

17. 今天在捷運上,我看到一個約22歲,看起來傷心又面露恐懼的女人,她抱著一個藍色毯子,裡面抱著嬰兒,偶爾來回搖晃。這個女人衣著整潔,看起來很正常,除了悲傷的表情以外。

18. 當我靠近時,我意識到這實際上並不是真正的嬰兒,而是一個完全逼真的真人大小的人造嬰兒。它是某種塑料。我們目光接觸了幾秒鐘,我很想問她發生了什麼事,但由於她嚴肅的表情,我決定不這樣做。

19. 現在我不能不再想她了。當她搖晃那個嬰兒時,從她身上散發出一種奇怪的沮喪光環 - 讓她一直困擾著我。她正在做某種精神治療嗎?

20. 想著抱著假嬰兒的女孩比想著拖車上賣抹布的男人更難過。

21. 我在其他地方寫過關於家貓的邪惡,貓在台灣很受歡迎,所以我不會在這裡添加任何關於這個主題的東西。當然,一般來說,貓應該是非法的。

22. 我向北跋渉,天氣變冷了。河流被冰覆蓋,我釣不到什麼魚。當我受苦時,怪物很高興。他寫道:“這只是一個開始!你將遭受更多的苦痛!"

23. 噢,讚美寒冷的北方!

Eric Mader 枚德林

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

大腸王: Taipei Statements 12/07/18

1. Yes, as a Westerner who’s lived here decades, I do love Taipei, and Taiwan in general. But of course there are some things that irk. That’s how it is with any place. And I have some suggestions. Today I’ve been jotting them down.

2. That smoking is not allowed on the Taipei MRT is reasonable. I get it. But I think there should be one day every year when smoking is allowed. In fact, on that day, smoking should be required on the MRT, just to balance things out.

3. This rule would be universally applicable. Which means: On that day children--yes, even babies--would be required to smoke on the MRT. 

4. Those smoking Cuban cigars would ride free.  

5. You see how interesting things would be if I were in charge? 

6. Louis Vuitton bags are ugly and crass. There are too many in Taipei. I know it’s worse in other Asian cities, but still. I myself do not speak to women carrying LV bags. I will not give such women the time of day. The larger the LV bag, the more this rule applies. 

7. Hermès, Michael Kors, Fendi--all these bags are acceptable. But dump the LV bags. What were you even thinking?

8. Since your garbage trucks here already have music, why not have some garbage trucks with live music? There could be a little stage on top of the truck. The band would crank out tunes as the garbage collectors made their way from neighborhood to neighborhood.

9. A new local musical genre might arise. 

10. Taipei traffic isn’t great, but it’s not horrendous. The worst drivers in Taipei are men. No surprise there. But in Taipei, I’ve discovered, the very worst drivers are situated at opposite ends of the class spectrum. In Taipei, taking the cake as very worst drivers, there are the men who drive the black Mercedes, and the men who drive those little blue pick-up trucks. 

11. The assholes in the black Mercedes clearly think they’re too important to follow traffic rules. As for the blue pick-up drivers, they seemingly don’t know the city even has traffic rules. 

12. These two classes of drivers, to be identified by vehicle, should be compelled by law to gather once a year in some central public square, dressed only in their underwear, for a ritual public beating.  

13. The beatings must be televised. 

14. Sogo elevators are hellishly slow. When they have the elevator girls working them, they’re even slower. Nobody fucking needs elevator girls, okay?

15. A few days ago, I suddenly realized that the old guy who pulls himself along on a cart on Roosevelt Rd. selling washcloths has not changed one tiny bit in twenty years. Which is impossible. I'm starting to suspect he is an alien sent here to spy on us. 

16. Oddly, this morning I saw him on his cart on Guangfu S. Rd. Is there maybe more than one?  

17. Today on the MRT I saw a sad, frightened-looking woman about 22 who was cradling a baby in a blue blanket, occasionally rocking the baby back and forth. The woman was well dressed, and seemed normal, except for the sad look. 

18. When I got closer, I realized it wasn’t actually a baby she held, but a perfectly realistic life-sized artificial baby. It was plastic of some kind. We made eye contact for a few seconds, and I was tempted to ask her what was up, but because of her serious look I decided not to.  

19. Now I can’t stop thinking about her. The odd aura of dejection that emanated from her as she rocked that baby--it’s stuck in my mind. Was it some kind of therapy she was doing?   

20. To contemplate the girl cradling the fake baby is far sadder than to contemplate the disabled man on his cart selling washcloths.  

21. I’ve written elsewhere on the utter evil of house cats, an unfortunately popular thing in Taiwan, so I will add nothing on that subject here. Of course, in general, cats should be outlawed.

22. As I traveled north, the weather became colder. The rivers were covered with ice, and I could get no fish. The monster was happy when I suffered. In one message he wrote: “This is just the beginning! You will suffer much more than this!”  

23. Oh, for the frozen north! 

Eric Mader


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