Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More found photos of life in Taiwan, back in the day

I hope everyone is enjoying the end of the year! The last week was a busy one for me... and I just came down with a cold (boo), so this is just a quick post of more vintage photos found here in Taipei.

Found photo: Girl with flowers

Found Photo: Rock wall

Found Photo: Sequins

Found Photo: Pretty lady

Found Photo: Hairband

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Music: The Minnesota Voodoo Men

A few days ago, I went to an event called Rock 'N' Roll Circus here in Taipei, where I was introduced to Japanese mod rockers The Minnesota Voodoo Men. I was immediately enraptured. They perform wearing matching tailored mod suits with skinny ties and highly-polished black winklepickers. And their music is awesome, too! Check out these photos from their MySpace page.

I managed to get a few photos with my new heroes last Saturday.

Rock 'N' Roll Circus 2009

Rock 'N' Roll Circus 2009

Their names are Ringo (bass), Pete (drums) and Fabian (guitar). I had a hard time finding their CDs in Taiwan and only managed to snag their latest EP, "No Matter," at the show itself. But you can listen to some of their tunes at their MySpace or on

Monday, December 21, 2009

Taiwan Best Blog Awards results!

Cross-posted from Shu Flies (舒飛)

wink, wink

The results of the Taiwan Best Blog Awards are in at Taiwanderful! Shu Flies (舒飛) won the overall popular vote and tied in the peer-judged award for best personal blog with The New Hampshire Bushman. The overall popular vote is pretty mind-blowing (my parents have only one IP address between them) and sharing the peer-judged award with a long established and popular blog like The New Hampshire Bushman is truly humbling. A huge thank you from Taroko George and me to the Taiwan Best Blog Awards judges and everyone who voted for this blog (if you did, please let me know so I can thank you personally), and congratulations to the other winners!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Vignettes from my home office

Cendrille print and secondhand cat
Cendrille print

My home office/craft room window


Kissing whales and Treeson

Knitting needles

Brushes and Ikea nesting dolls

The secondhand owl and the pussycat
This was after I bought another cup for my make-up brushes because the sushi mug was creeping me out.

Totus Mel tatted necklace and tourmaline
Totus Mel tatted lace choker and a tourmaline necklace I made

Looking at these photos makes me want to clean my home office. It's gotten quite messy such I took them!

(If you are interested in reading about my life in Taipei, please visit my other blog, Shu Flies (舒飛) and, if you like what you see, vote for it once every 24 hours in the Taiwan Best Blog Awards!)

Monday, December 14, 2009

12.2.2009 The Dyes of Our Lives

Dress: Oasis, cardigan: Thakoon for Target, tights: H&M, necklace: H&M, scarf: Muji, shoes: Sogo Zhongxiao

Fashion for me is all about safety nets: my trusty black cardigan, my go-with-everything cream pumps, my beloved wood grain headbands. I haven't tried out a lot of trends, including mixed prints, because they stray too far from my beaten path. Part of it is insecurity; part of it is sheer confusion. How the heck do you mix prints???

For my first attempt, I made sure my two main pieces were in a similar color family, and that one print was larger than the other so the two fabrics didn't blend together. I then "weighed" everything down with a gray scarf, black leggings and basic black pumps. I think this outfit was successful because I felt comfortable in it and not at all self-conscious.




My necklace and leggings are both by H&M. One of the interesting things about living in Taiwan is seeing H&M items marketed as luxuries. There are H&M's in Hong Kong and China, but none in this country. Importers bring items over and sell them in boutiques or pop-up stores for hugely inflated prices (I saw a flimsy cotton madras blouse selling for the equivalent of US$75).



I'm trying to figure out what dyeing techniques the prints on my dress and cardigan are trying to mimic. My best guess is that the dress is supposed to look like ikkat, or some other form of resist dyeing. I love my Thakoon for Target cardigan -- I thought it was hideous when I first saw it, but the funny sand dollar-ish pattern grew on me and I knew I couldn't return to Taipei from California without it. Have you ever had that experience with clothing -- something looks so unattractive at first sight that you end up becoming totally obsessed with it?

By the way, please remember to vote for my blog about life in Taiwan, Shu Flies (舒飛), once every 24 hours in the Taiwan Best Blog Awards if you are so inclined. Thank you!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Legumes of the Week #10

Yongkang St. (永康街) playground

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Video: The Taiwan Song (台灣小調), 1959

When I first stumbled upon this YouTube video of Grace Chang (葛蘭), a Hong Kong actress of the 1950s and 1960s, I nearly started crying tears of joy. A song about how beautiful Taiwan is, gorgeous 1950s fashions (including lots of menswear), all in fabulous color... what's not to love?

As I wrote a few days ago, finding images of Asians and Asian Americans doing normal, everyday things (hopefully while wearing wonderful vintage fashions) is a new passion of mine. It is the logical result of being a lifelong vintage lover (well, lifelong since age eleven!) who now lives in Taiwan, and it is also a way of reconciling the conflicting feelings I have about collecting things from an era when so many people who looked me were repressed, abused or worse. A couple of my vintage photos were featured on Fashion for Writers and Threadbared. Jenny on FFW wrote a really great post on the emotional impact of being exotified and I cannot wait to read what Threadbared has to say about the politics of vintage.

(And please vote once every 24 hours for Shu Flies (舒飛), my blog about life in Taipei, Taiwan. To everyone who has already voted -- thank you so much! Your support really warms my heart. The weather is chilly here in Taipei, so it needs all the warming it can get!)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

11.28.2009 Acid wash dumplings

Fascinator: Giant Dwarf, acid wash hoodie: American Apparel, long-sleeved t-shirt with appliques: Booday (蘑菇), tulle skirt: sold as a crinoline with a dress from Epanouir, tights: night market, shoes: Aldo

I feel like this outfit goes against the grain of what I usually wear, but I love all of the elements and I had a fun time with it (well, until my cat discovered that tulle feels really nice underneath the claws).


My t-shirt is from Booday (蘑菇), a really cool Taiwanese brand that I have to post about soon (until then, you can read my article about them). The appliques on it are of dumplings. I have a really weird relationship with dumplings. I never crave them, but when you set a plate of dumplings in front of me, I will stuff myself until I burst. When I was little, my Mom and aunts would get together before a dinner party and make dumplings by hand, stuffing each with just the right amount of meat and then sealing the edges of the flour wrap with a swipe of water before briskly squeezing it into a row of dainty pleats. My dumplings, on the other hand, always looked a little bit lopsided and I constantly tried to sneak a taste of the raw pork filling, much to my mother's horror.


My fascinator is from Giant Dwarf. The pure wool felt is enough to keep my head warm during Taipei's bone-chilling winters (it never gets that cold, but the damp really cuts through you) without feeling too bulky. And the bright colors and cute round flowers always brighten my day.


Switching topics... please vote once every 24 hours for Shu Flies (舒飛), my blog about life in Taipei. I'm in the lead, but there are a lot of great blogs competing, so I want to do everything I can to stay ahead! To everyone who has already voted -- thank you so much! I can't tell you how much it means to me.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Music: The Long Lost

I just discovered indie pop husband-and-wife duo The Long Lost. I am enraptured by Laura and Alfred Darlington's dreamy, whimsical, lyrical, wistful and slightly surreal songs -- and the gorgeous, mid-19th century influenced aesthetic that they create in their publicity photos.

All preceding photos from The Long Lost's Myspace

Above photo from here

These photos remind me of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the 19th century English art, literature and poetry movement that counted John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti among its seven members (and unofficially included Christina Rossetti, one of my favorite poets)

My favorite from The Long Lost's eponymous debut album is "Cat Fancy," which is offbeat and a bit kooky, but reminded me of our recently departed cat MeiMei. I'm not ashamed to say it moved me to tears when I heard it for the first time:

For more of this wonderful group's music, check out their MySpace.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Please vote for Shu Flies (舒飛)


As some of you know, I keep a blog called Shu Flies (舒飛) about my daily life in Taipei, Taiwan. On it, I write about Taiwanese indie shops and designers and cool things to see and do in the city. I also record how living in the country of my parent's birth as a US-born Taiwanese-American has impacted my sense of identity and the things I've learned about Taiwanese culture since moving here. Sometimes I just look for the extraordinary in the everyday.

Shu Flies (舒 and Shu are my last names in Chinese and English) is a big part of my life. I've entered it into Taiwanderful's annual Taiwan Best Blog Awards. If you are interested in Taipei and find Shu Flies (舒飛) interesting or helpful, please vote for me. I am currently only six points away from first place, so your support will really make a difference!

The voting process is simple: to the left of my blog description is a salmon pink box with my current points tally. Underneath is a plus sign; just click on that and your vote will register. You can vote once per day from an IP address, so please make sure to check in again! You are also allowed to vote for multiple blogs, so if you see anything that catches your eye, make sure to let them know your love!

(By the way, I've heard feedback that the site might not work on certain versions of Internet Explorer, but it works fine on Firefox and Safari).

I truly love my life in Taiwan. It's an amazing country. Living here and learning about my heritage has been a wonderful experience. I'm not saying that it hasn't been grueling and even heartbreaking at times. It's hard to realize that I'll always be a minority wherever I go, even in a country where almost everyone looks like me. Learning how to cope with that was just as important as learning Mandarin, however, and I am grateful for that lessons and others. I think the best way to explain my experience here is that there was a piece of my heart missing I didn't even know about, and I found it when I came here. I hope this comes through in Shu Flies (舒飛) and here on The Renegade Bean.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

11.27.2009 Dot Matrix

11.27.2009 Dot Matrix
Dress: Dearilou Vintage on Etsy, cardigan: Banana Republic outlet, celluloid brooch: vintage jewelry stand in Shida Night Market (師大夜市), hairband: Korean accessories seller, also in Shida Night Market, shoes: Aldo

Remember those dot matrix printers offices had back in the 1980s and early 1990s? My parents owned a small business and they would often take my brother and me to work instead of finding a babysitter. We would make the most idiotic banners using Print Shop (a software that had a really huge selection of clip art and fonts by the standards of that time) and hang them all over the place. I'm pretty amazed my Mom never chewed us out for wasting ink and paper (then again, she probably figured it kept us from running all over the place and laying waste to the supply cabinet).


The polka dots on this vintage dress randomly reminded me of the fun times we had abusing our parents' office equipment.


I'm also wearing a lovely celluloid pin I purchased from my vintage jewelry pusher, er, dealer in Shida night market (師大夜市), as well as an equally cool headband from a Korean vendor who brings back accessories from his home country.


He told me that these leafy bands are all the rage among Korean pop stars and actresses! Speaking of which, do any of you watch Korean or Taiwanese soap operas? I used to turn my nose up at them for being too campy whenever my parents rented videos... until I realized that was the whole point! I'd like to start watching them again, so any suggestions would be appreciated.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Borrowed memories of a time long ago






I recently discovered a couple shops here in Taipei that sell vintage found photos. This topic really deserves a longer blog entry (and hopefully I'll have time to write one soon), but I find it very moving to see people who look like me doing normal things in time periods that I enjoy from a historical and aesthetic standpoint.

It's a rare thing. For example, I only recall Asian Americans being featured three times on as many seasons of "Mad Men": the "Oriental family" in Pete's office when he returned from his honeymoon, the waitress in a tight qipao and the (off-screen) Chinese driver that made Sally giggle. The series is one of my favorite TV shows, but it also reminds me that Asian Americans were marginalized (or worse) during the era it depicts. And, of course, depictions of Asians and Asian Americans in actual vintage US films are also problematic, to say the least.

I often find myself feeling very conflicted about my interest in vintage style. How can I enjoy things from an era when Asian Americans were repressed, socially and legally (as with the Japanese internment camps and the Chinese Exclusion Act), and when many Asian countries suffered sociopolitical violence that traumatized millions of people, including members of my family? But secondhand and vintage items have had an emotional resonance for me since I was very young and, though it's hard to explain, I can't imagine my life without them. This is more than a hobby for me -- it's part of my identity.

Perhaps it is a bit trivial, but when I see photos like these or watch a movie like "Stardust," it feels like a relief, or validation of a sort. I don't have access to a lot of my own family's old photos for various reasons, so these pictures are almost like an emotional surrogate for me. Here is something I can enjoy wholeheartedly and relate to on a more intimate level. I have a lot more of these photos and I am looking forward to sharing them here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

11.21.2009 Wedding banquet on it


Ha, sorry, that's the lamest post title ever. But dumb puns crack me up! Ron and I held our Taipei wedding banquet one week ago. We were married in May, but this banquet was for our relatives and friends who couldn't make it overseas to San Francisco. It was held at the Grand Hotel, a Taipei landmark.

Traditional Taiwanese wedding banquets often include 5 or more dress changes for the bride, but since our banquet was smaller and more informal (and I'm lazy), I only wore two dresses: my traditional red qipao and a vintage blue silk satin cocktail dress.

With my Dad and Mom

I had my qipao custom-made at a store in Taipei (there is an English Web site, but if you need something translated, please leave a comment). It is gorgeous and fit wonderfully, but I made the mistake of choosing a brocade that was very stiff. I only saw it on the shelf and didn't think about how it would drape on my body. On the other hand, a qipao's job is to "hold" you in and "mold" your figure. Sounds creepily like a full body cast, right? But that is supposed to accentuate your curves.

Here are some photos of my qipao in action at our May 16 wedding. I was sorta able to do the can-can with my cousins and aunts in it!

5.16.2009 Ron & Catherine

5.16.2009 Ron & Catherine

I ordered my second dress from CalendarGirlVintage on Etsy because I really wanted a vintage dress as my second outfit. Their customer service was wonderful. I didn't want to distract from its unique shelf neckline, so I wore my dress with a simple crystal necklace and earrings that I purchased from a Korean vendor in Shida night market who imports accessories from his home country.





Our banquet coordinator tried to kick us out early by making Ron and me stand by the door with a tray of candy as a cue for guests to leave, but none of them even noticed us standing there because they were still eating and talking. So Ron and I took advantage of our impromptu alone time to take dorky photos of me with my candy stash.


At this point, one of my cousins walked over and said, "What are you doing!?! We're taking family photos! Hurry up!"

Our photos don't do justice to the dress at all, so here is a picture from CalendarGirlVintage's listing.

The neckline is amazing -- almost like origami -- and there are multiple darts on the bodice and all around the waist to make sure it fit like a glove. Satin is an extremely hard fabric to work with, so I really commend the person who made this dress so many years ago.

It's been a crazy week for me. I went from the high of the banquet and my parents being in Taipei to the deep sadness of having our family's beautiful cat, MeiMei, pass away so unexpectedly. But the banquet was a truly great experience and a wonderful memory, just like our wedding last spring. One of the reasons I wanted to move to Taiwan and learn Mandarin was because I wished to have a closer relationship with my relatives. I don't get to see them often and it was a treat to have so many of them under one roof. Our San Francisco wedding and our Taiwan banquet were different in many ways, of course, but both of them felt authentic to our relationship, and the mixture of cultures that we both carry into it (and the fact that I got to wear a vintage dress was awesome, too).