The human comedy
As an editor at a newspaper, many stories come across my desk that seem like they’ve been pulled from a comedy script. Those that I like most are the paradoxes and coincidences that show us that no matter how seriously we humans tend to take ourselves, life tends to have the upper hand and does so with thunderous laughter. Here are three gems that I came across recently.
In late January this year, Taiwan and Israel held their ninth economic and technological cooperation conference. Two-way trade between the two countries for the first 11 months of last year amounted to a little more than US$1 billion. The conference was therefore held to strengthen the links between the two states and encourage further investment and cooperation. There is no small irony in the fact that among the Taiwanese delegation to the conference was the Vice Minister of Economic Affairs, Hsieh Fa-tah (謝發達), whose first name, once Romanized, is oddly reminiscent of a certain Palestinian liberation movement.
The second one occurred yesterday in Grenada, a Caribbean state that in the mid-1990s switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing. For the past years, Beijing has been financing various projects on the cash-strapped island, including a sports stadium whose construction was recently completed. To celebrate the even, a ceremony was held, with the president and various high-ranking Chinese representatives in attendance, including the Chinese ambassador. A band was brought in to play national anthems. The look on Chinese officials’ faces must have been priceless as they struggled to keep their composure upon being served not the Chinese national anthem — but that of Taiwan.
The last one also took place yesterday. During the past week, the Taipei International Book Exhibit was held at the Taipei World Trade Center, close to where I live. This year’s theme was Russian literature, much of which has only begun to be translated into Chinese. In the afternoon, a British man who has made it his mission in the past years to save Japanese forests from the axe by purchasing them held an questions-and-answer session — in Japanese — with the media. Of course, the Taipei Times was there and coverage appeared on page two. Now, another feature of page 2 is the Lunar Prophecy box, which is offered every day and is based on sage advice found in ancient Chinese tomes. The Lunar Prophecy is twofold: it tells people which activities the day is good for and which ones it is bad for. So, as the reader moves his eyes from the story about the man who tried to save forest from being cut toward the Lunar Prophecy box, what does he see under “today is a good day for…”?
Cutting down trees.