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 22, 2011

Fieldnotes From History (23)—Earthquake

[a] Rattled 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] Jarring RF
This is the last of the November 1985 fieldnotes that got me writing again (I explain this in detail in the comments for the second "related fieldnote"). It reminds me of T.S. Eliot's final stanza from "The Hollow Men." This is the way these fieldnotes end, not with a bang—earthquake or not—but a whimper. There's not much here, but I include it as, well, the last of five fieldnotes that started it all...over...for me in late 1985. 

The only thing even remotely interesting here is that, no matter how common something might be (from seeing snow to experiencing an earthquake), we all experience it ourselves for the first time. There is something here that might be worth pondering—what is the relationship between cliché (the ground shook beneath my feet) and what is for the individual a singular experience? More on that later. 

—I do not remember a precise date for this earthquake, so I cannot check the records (I was remembering it in November, four months later). I recall seeing in the paper that it was a 5.1 at the epicenter, but no more than 3.5 in Taipei, where I was living.
—I need not (but will do so anyway) remind readers of how serious earthquakes can be along the Pacific Rim.

Related Fieldnotes: 1   2   3   4   5

2 November 1985
Taipei   (5 of 5) 
One night in June, at 1:30 a.m., the bed started jiggling. Then the windows started rattling and the birds began chirping and clinging to the sides of their cages. It was an earthquake that, I later found out, measured 5.1 on the Richter scale at the epicenter. It was over in a few moments, and wasn’t anything like a 5.1 in Taipei. It was, however, my first earthquake. I never thought of them as being eerie, but I became more nervous with every jostle.

Although the insight is unoriginal, we all experience these things for ourselves; it is a strange feeling to have the solid earth below you, vibrating. Since then, there have been several more, most lasting only a few seconds. Aside from tipping over a bowl of mangoes in the refrigerator once, there has been no damage.

Related Fieldnotes: 1   2   3   4   5

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