From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fieldnotes From History (17)—Rain

[a] Rain RF
Part of an occasional Round and Square series that follows the blog’s main theme (east meets west, round meets square, and past meets present), these snippets from my early fieldnotes are reproduced as they were written by hand—and then revised on an ancient desktop computer—during my first fieldwork stay in Taiwan (1985-1987).  All entries are the way that I left them when I returned to the United States in 1987—some nicely-stated and some embarrassing. Although the series began with my assumption that the entries can stand alone, I have found that separate comments and notes might help readers understand a world that is now, well, history. These are always separate from the original fieldnote.

[b] Storm port RF
The greasy streaks of rain from an earlier fieldnote (#15 in this series) got me thinking...and asking questions. The constant rain in Jilong and the generally wet Taipei weather of late May also spurred me to start asking questions. They began with climate and quickly turned to belief—that is what really got me going. Why does it rain, and when? 

My first thought when "Mike" told me about the confirmation of belief (in the note below) was to think about how we confirm these things for ourselves everyday. For example, the liberal arts college graduate who gets a good job "confirms" the belief some of us have that this is a special form of education. For the skeptic, the unsuccessful graduates confirm another belief. For the New York Jets fan of a certain age, Joe Namath's guarantee that the Jets would win Super Bowl III confirmed the belief in the Broadway Joe oracle. In all seriousness, this was the fieldnote that got me thinking that these are everyday, and not "supernatural" matters. Belief confirmation happens in education, politics, driving, reading, pet care, and entertainment. It had never occurred to me before this note that it was a general process.
—It rained a great deal between January and mid-April 1985 (before I arrived), but I can find no records that show eighty-five straight days of rain. Of course, belief works in many ways, and counting is sometimes secondary to the ideas that are being set forth.
—I haven't (yet) tracked down documentation for the cockroach variety assertion. But I will.
—Jilong is the Pinyin romanization for the northern port city. In Wade-Giles romanization, it is "Chi-lung," and in the old "postal code system" it is "Keelung." All three were used (often chaotically) in Taiwan at the time.
—Jilong is often called the "Rainy Port" (雨港) in Taiwan.

1 June 1985
Sunday, we had the first rain since we arrived. I was in Jilong (Keelung) at the time, where it was also raining.  Jilong is the city of rain and cockroaches. It gets more rain than anywhere in northern Taiwan, and has all four-hundred species of cockroaches found on the island. Perhaps the dry spell is over. 

Before I arrived in April, however, Taipei had its spring rains—eighty-five days in a row. Mike[1] told me that the people (the ones he called "superstitious," at any rate) believe that continuous rains occur because a god has been offended, and that they will continue for ninety days or so until he is appeased. I have always been intrigued by the dynamics of belief justification, and this one fit right into the ol' supernatural pattern.
[1] An American acquaintance; I have modified his name here.
[c] Jilong (Chi-lung...Keelung) RF

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