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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fieldnotes From History (22)—Typhoon

[a] System 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] Force RF
This entry is the most specific of the bunch that marked my "return to writing" in November 1985. There is nothing remarkable about it, but it does remind me that I was always trying back then (as I am now) to give more than "data." I had been (and still am) profoundly influenced by the great nonfiction writers of that era—John McPhee, Ved Mehta, Tracy Kidder, and Richard Rhodes, among others. I wanted to combine a journalist's eye for "story" with a novelist's sense of detail...and topped off with theoretical analyses influenced by sociology, literature, and anthropology. Of course, none of that "shows" in this (or really many other) notes. For me, though, this brings back memories of my obsession with writing about the world around me. These observations are nothing special (not even very good), but I can read between the lines to sense what I was trying to accomplish, and why it mattered so much to me back then. 

Typhoon Nelson made landfall in Northern Taiwan on August 23, 1985.
An 8.0 earthquake hit Mexico on September 19, 1985.
Severe winds killed thousands in Bangladesh in May 1985. The reference is embedded in the link I have provided. Look for "May 1985" in the text (fifth of seven paragraphs).

Related Fieldnotes: 1   2   3   4   5

2 November 1985
Taipei   (4 of 5)
The Taipei summer had its share of minor natural disasters. They were nothing remarkable, compared to the horrible winds in Southeast Asia in May, or the earthquakes in Mexico in September, but they kept me vigilant. Taiwan had more than its share of shallow earthquakes, lasting from five seconds to half a minute, and a few typhoons. Most of the typhoons that hit the northern tip of the island are minor; they usually veer off at the last minute and head for Japan, Korea, or the mainland. 

In late August, however, Typhoon Nelson did not veer off. The eye of that medium-strength typhoon blew its one hundred mile-an-hour winds right through Taipei and the rest of the island, sparing only the southern tip. Typhoon Nelson was not nearly so strong as the famous 1968 Typhoon Gloria, which left downtown Taipei in thirteen feet of water. It was no slouch, though. Island-wide, seven people were killed, and twenty or more injured. The winds destroyed ninety percent of the trees along Zhongshan North Road, near my home, and wrought havoc on building sites, shop signs, and anything left unattended in the open. One of my students lost most of the roof off her house. 

Most people, like me, however, just had a day off from work and school. I was without electricity and water for about four hours, and didn’t have a phone for most of the day. Otherwise I just watched the storm destroy most of Taipei’s already withering plant life. By midday I could walk outside and examine the damage. A row of palm trees had been blown so hard that they lurched forward and broke windows in my building (my quarters were untouched). A bed of tulips had all heads snapped off, and they floated in a pool of muddy water. The underpasses, which have been carved underneath all the major thoroughfares in Taipei for safe pedestrian passage, were filled to the sidewalks, like small subterranean rivers. For days, uniformed National Guard-types patrolled the streets, cleaning up dead trees, branches, and water-damaged sidewalks. The rains continued, intermittently, for the next three days, but the damage was over by noon. The air was a little cleaner for a few days.

Related Fieldnotes: 1   2   3   4   5 

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