Saturday, July 18, 2009

Some 40 years ago, 'Woodstock' changed the U.S., and maybe Taiwan....

Photos Above: American expats in Taiwan: Jerome Keating, Eric Mader (their quotes below, among many others)


Some 40 years ago, 'Woodstock' changed the U.S. and Taiwan (maybe)

WEBPOSTED : October 15, 3009

NOTE: Trista di Genova has done a much better version of this report over at her blog, where she heavily edited and revised and revamped my original piece -- and I am so glad she did! -- and turned it into something worth reading now. So please go here instead:


TAIPEI, TAIWAN -- Despite the cultural differences
between what life was like in Taiwan in 1969 and how the U.S. was
transformed by that year's Woodstock musical festival, Taiwanese
filmgoers and book readers can now see what
the fuss was all about.

In those days in Taipei, the central government used the
local newspapers to characterize Woodstock as "a hippie
invasion" and most young people here had no idea what was really going
on there.

Even Ang Lee (李安), who would grow up to become one of Taiwan's most
famous film directors and make a name for himself in Hollywood and
Cannes, did not know what Woodstock was really all about at that time.

Now he does. Lee's humorous movie about some Woodstock shenanigans --
titled "Taking Woodstock" [胡士托風波] -- opened
in the U.S. last summer and opened here in October.

"Taking Woodstock" was a book before it came Ang Lee's latest movie. Elliot
Tiber, now in his 70s, wrote the book a few years ago, and it was
translated into Mandarin this year
by Josephine Liao and published locally by Yuan-Liou Publishing
in Taipei.
The book is subtitled in English on the psychedellic-art
Mandarin-language cover: "A True
Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life."

Liao, born in Taiwan three years before Woodstock, graduated
from the University of Washington in Seatlle with a degree in
comparative literature in 1990 and has been active in the translation
field here since then.

The book's English title, "Taking Woodstock'" -- and by extension, the movie's
title, too -- means two
things, according to the book's U.S. publisher.

"It means taking stock of your life and, in a sense, taking control of
destiny," Rudy Shur said in a recent email. "Anthony Pomes, our
marketing director,
came up with the title, and Ang Lee used it for his movie as well."

When a reporter asked several expats here if Woodstock was a part of
their lives and how it impacted them, several emails told their stories.

"I was six years old in the summer of 1969, so I guess I was mostly
grubbing around on the floor and in the back lot of the apartment
complex in St. Louis where we lived," said Paul Cox in Taipei. "I was
entirely unaware of

He added: "While I don't listen directly to a lot of music from those days
anymore, a lot of the music I do listen to was influenced to a certain
extent by the music of those days (Hendrix, Santana, Dylan, as well
as blues and jazz musicians who were the inspirations for those
guys -- Buddy Guy, Albert King and John Coltrane, among others). I do still
enjoy the Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Santana."

"Maybe a bit of the Woodstock spirit lives on in the rock and other
kinds of music festivals around the world, including the annual ones in
Taiwan such as Ho Hai Yan, Formoz, Migrant Music Fest, and Peace
Fest," Cox added.

For Jerome Keating, Woodstock was close but "too far away" as well, he
said, noting: "That summer, I was just starting my doctoral program at
Syracuse University, so the concert was not too far away from where I
was, but I could not spare the time to go there."

"I still like the songs of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez," Keating, the author of three books about Taiwan, said. "The
songs expressed a philosophy of protest and need for change in
priority of values. The Sixties included the civil rights movment and
the Vietnam War protests, of course."

When asked if he felt that the philosophy of
hippie life had any
impact in Taiwan, Keating -- who worked as a university professor here and was former manager of technology transfer for Taipei's MRT systems -- noted: "Hippie life and freedom was more a
symbollic challenge to re-examine people's and the government's
priorities; it did not advocate permanency of a new structure. How it
affected Taiwan? That's hard to say. Taiwan at that time was under
martial law and the Kaohsiung Incident was still a decade away. Was
there a ripple effect? Perhaps."

American writer and teacher Jeremy Hammond was born eight years after Woodstock,
he said, adding: "Although, of course, I had heard of the event, I
only really became aware of what it was much later in life as a result
of my love for some of the music from a number of musicians who
attended, particularly Jimi Hendrix, The Who,and Credence Clearwater

For Gerrit van der Wees of Holland, who now works for the Formosan
Association for Public Affairs in Washington, the summer of 1969
brings back old memories. "Woodstock was a statement against
the establishment of those days, and it questioned authority,
especially in regards to the Vietnam War. Many of the songs at
Woodstock were anti-war

"In the summer of 1969, I was just on my way back to The Netherlands
from spending a year in Houston, where I worked on the Apollo
program," he recalled.
"After finishing my work there, I drove through the U.S. for a few
weeks, travelling
from Texas, through New Mexico, Arizona, and up to Wyoming and Montana.
In fact, during that trip, I met quite a number of folks who were on
their way to
Woodstock, driving beat-up Volkswagen bugs and even old buses."

"In 1970, a year later, I went to a Woodstock-like event in Rotterdam,
in my native Holland, where we listened to
the Byrds and other bands," he said. "But after a while, the hippie
movement drifted too far
in the direction of 'anything goes' and it lost its original purpose, I think."

When asked if Woodstock had any impact on Taiwan, van der Wees said:
"I really don't know if or how it affected Taiwan, since I didn't get
Taiwan until 1977, and I didn't really get into Taiwan life until 1979, just
before the Kaohsiung Incident."

For Eddie Tsai, a Taipei native who graduated from Chung Cheng
University in Chiayi in 2008, Woodstock was something he learned about
from his father and uncle.

"I wasn't even born yet, in 1969," Tsai says.
I learned about Woodstock frm my dad and from some books about
American history.
I am sort of liberal in my own thinking, this was the way I was
raised, and I always admired what many young people in America did in
the Sixties, way back then. I like those concepts of 'freedom'and
'simple living' that hippies talked about -- and lived. But those
ideas are hard practice in Taiwan's society."

When asked what music he liked from those days, Tsai said that due to
the influence of
his father and uncle, he knew the songs of Bob Dylan. "I still listen
to his song titled "We Shall Overcome". Even now. I like it."

Asked about Woodstock's influence on Taiwan, in 1969 or in the
following years, Tsai said he felt that the music concert and the
worldwide publicity it engendered on TV and in newspapers at the time,
had almost no impact on Taiwan.

"You have to understand, at that time, Taiwan was pretty much a closed
society, especially to Western culture or ideas," Tsai said. "The
government in those days even treated what was called 'the Beatles
culture' as an enemy, as forbidden fruit, and there even an
'Anti-Beatles movement' in Taiwan, where police would stand on the
streets in Taipei, and they saw any young guys with hair similar to
the Beatle's long hair, the police would bring the young men back to
the police station and cut their hair. Maybe Ang Lee knew about this,

"So, in general, I don't think Woodstock had any impact on Taiwan," he
said. "And today, as you know, most young people don't care much about
the history of Woodstock, it is a forgotten era, even in America.
There are few people here who really know anything about Woodstock,
and as you know, Taiwanese young people are still very conservative in
many respects, and they always listen to what their parents tell them.
Just like the lyrics in the Jay Chou song titled 'Listen to What Your
Mother Told You [聽媽媽的話]."

Don Shapiro, editor-in-chief of Taiwan Business Topics magazine now,
was spending the summer of 1969 doing a fourth-year Chinese-language
course at Columbia University, preparing to head to Taiwan that fall.

"I remember reading and hearing about Woodstock when it was going on
-- particularly wondering how a New York state farm could be big
enough to accommodate the huge crowds that reportedly turned up," he
said. "I did like the music of the Woodstock groups, particularly Joan
Baez, but my tastes now run more to classical and jazz."

"Woodstock was part of a whole trend in the Sixties to break down
cultural barriers and to question what had been the conventional
wisdom," Shapiro added. "It had a big impact on the U.S. and then
gradually on the rest of the world, including Taiwan. Without that
change in mindset, the U.S. wouldn't have equality for women or the
widespread acceptance of homosexuality that exists today. And America
certainly wouldn't have an African-American as president today."

Louise Bystrom, who hails from Sweden and edits Taiwan This Month
magazine, says she was in her middle teens that summer of 1969. "I
just turned fifteen at the time and was still living with my parents,
of course. I didn't understand the real impact on what was going on at
Woodstock. In addition, at that age and that time, I was very
conservative, much more than what I am now, so all those strange
clothes and flowers and people walking around naked that I saw on
television, it was nothing I could relate to, personally. But, of
course, I was curious about all that. Later, the influence of
Woodstock filtered into Europe and Sweden, and it began to have a
greater impact on my life, but not in any big way. However, I still
listen to Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and I enjoy them, but I don't have
their CDs at home here."

When asked how Woodstock might have influenced Taiwan, Bystrom said:
"From what I can see, it hasn't had much impact on Taiwan at all.
Taiwan's society is still very conservative and traditional. Here,
young couples are just beginning to hold hands in public, and it's
still unusual to see people expressing their real emotions in public
or in private."

Brian Funshine, a Taipei musician and voice-over actor, has his own
take on Woodstock, noting: "I was born in 1972, and my parents weren't
at all hippies, but my life has been profoundly influenced by elements
of the 'love generation', which Woodstock helped promote, beyond a
doubt. With so much of the East and West coming together, perhaps this
was one reason I pursued such interests as yoga, world music,
international travel, meditation, and a general sense of
open-mindedness. I believe that the Woodstock era also contributed --
deeply -- to the current movements of compassion, humanitarianism and
a new respect for animals and the environment in Western societies."

For another American expat who spent long periods in Taiwan, the
Woodstock festival itself had no direct impact on his
life, he said, but the longtime friend of Taiwan, who has visited here
many times over the years and is the author of several books about
this island nation, tells a good story full of interesting

"I was a nerd," he said in an email note. "In the summer of 1969, I
was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and I had a four year old
child and a wife who was in graduate school at Harvard. I was
finishing my Ph.D. thesis, which I completed the following winter.
Woodstock had no direct impact on my life."

"I was into classical music. My first companion had no
aesthetic sense at all. She did not care for any music or art. We
were intellectual soul mates. We studied and went to Ingmar Bergman
movies from Sweden. Most of us in the China field were not very
cultural or modern. Learning Chinese took up all of our energies.
Also my companion was a graduate student and I was getting a job teaching.
We were not part of the undergraduate community, so were not even into
the Kingston Trio. But the Weavers and Pete Seeger were my favorites.
I did enjoy the Bealtes," he said.

"The hippie dress -- or undress --was not a fantasy of mine. As for
drugs, I took the Jewish very of things: my brain was all I had. To
screw up my brain with drugs was a form of suicide, I felt. Also, I
had two children then. We had a natural child in 1965 and then we
adopted a two-year-old African-American boy in 1971. Preparing for
that, and being pioneers in this type of inter-racial adoption took up
a lot of time.," he recalled.

"As for nakedness and the Woodstock days. You might ask a longtime
expat in Taiwan named Lynn Miles. He went on a day-long hiking trip
with me and my students one day outside Taipei, in the mountains.
Lynn swam in a mountain pond in the nude. My Taiwanese students wore
clothes. Then we ate a picnic lunch while sitting on the rocks. Lynn
did not bother to put his clothes back on. This seemed natural to
him. My students thought it was weird, but nobody complained."

"I can tell yoi another post-Woodstock story about Taiwan, and it's
about Lynn Miles again. When we went on our class field trip, as I
described above, Lynn arranged for the students to go in a van up in
the moutntains. The American guy that he got to drive the van was
smoking weed. I followed on a motorscooter. And me, as a non-drug
person, I was terribly angry later when I heard about the weed being
smoked in the van. But one else seemed to mind."

My second companion was really part of that Woodstock era culture.
I was born in 1938. She was born ten years later. Culturally and
Woodstock-wise, we have two different anchors. The Vietnam War
affected me much more than the Woodstock era did."

Another longtime expat in Taiwan who didn't wish to be named in this story, said from his home in urban Taiwan that the music of the Woodstock era helps to keep memories of 'Tricky Dick' Nixon, Gen. William 'fierce fire fight' Westmoreland, and the Kent State shootings from fading away."

"I still listen to Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar, the Who, Santana and other artists from the days of Woodstock. I was just watching some Richie Havens videos from Woodstock on YouTube not too long ago," he said.

When asked if he thought Woodstock had any impact on Taiwan, he said: "I've never noticed any. Spring Scream -- [Editor's note: a yearly concert in Kenting promoted by expats Wade Davis and Jimi Moe since the mid-1990s] -- is probably the closest thing a small minority of Taiwanese have ever had to the Woodstock experience."

He added: "Taiwanese were struggling too hard during those years to worry about the 'freedom' to go naked. The KMT had used up all of Taiwan's resources, people had been wearing underwear made from sacks of flour donated by the US, and everyone's living room was a 'factory.' There was no time for 'fun.' The lifting of martial law and the White Lily student movement were still two decades in the future."

For Syd Goldsmith, who served as director of the AIT branch office in Kaohsiung from 1985 to 1989, first came to Taiwan in 1968, he said. "I barely had heard of Woodstock at the time," he added.

"The songs of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were good, and I liked them, but
I can't remember when I last had a chance to listen to them,"
said Goldsmith, who is the author of a prize-winning novel about Taiwan
titled "Jade Phoenix."

Don Silver, an editor for Taiwan Review magazine in Taipei, was just
seven years old in the summer of 1969, he said, so he was "too young
for Woodstock to have any impact."

He added: "My parents are pretty conservative, so I can't even recall
any conversation about it at home. The summer of 1969, the thing I
remember is the moon walk -- the first time I'd ever stayed up so late
to watch TV -- 11pm, waiting for the moon monsters to attack the

Silver said he "still listens to Neil Young on occasion, as well as
Dylan's new stuff -- his last CD was pretty good."

When asked about Woodstock's impact on Taiwan, if any, Silver said:
"If the US was in the 1960s at the time, Taiwan was in the 1950s, and
probably stayed that way until the late 1980s. I do think that young
people in Taiwan today are kind of Woodstockish --looking around at
the area near the Red House in Ximending shows me that they're much
more individualistic, more free-spirited than their parents. Not much
tie dye, though..."

For Trista di Genova, an American writer,
artist, musician and filmmaker here, said she was "the proverbial twinkle
in my
father's eye at that time" noted that she has asked her father "and
many, many other people about their recollections of Woodstock, and
everyone has had the same thing to say: It was a major musical and
cultural event."

In a recent email, she said: "I'm listening to Donovan right now.
Music lovers everywhere are still mining through the mountain of folk
tales, poetry and iconoclastic sentiments that come from that era.
Myself included! It would take a lifetime."

When asked if she thought that Woodstock had influenced Taiwan at all,
she replied:
"Absolutely not. Very little. It was a shock at first to realize this
is one of the few places on Earth that never experienced a rock
revolution. As a result, the music here in Taiwan is little more than
a time capsule from the 1950s, with very few changes or
experimentation over time, compared to the West. Taiwanese people --
except for a tiny fraction of cool, tuned-in young folks -- rarely
know or even recognize the names of any of the multitude of bands that
transformed American and Western culture."

For Bo Tedards, Woodstock happened before he was born, but he says: "My mother always says she blames me for 'missing the culutral event of
my generation,' because she was eight months pregnant with me at the

When asked how the Woodstock era and the 1960s might have influenced
Taiwan, Tedards, who is a longitme social activist here, said: "It's hard to say how or whether
Woodstock had any direct effect on Taiwan or the Taiwanese people,
since those days were the depth of the White Terror period here.
However, at least one group of Taiwanese activists living overseas was
inspired by the events of 1968 -- not Woodstock per se, but the more
militant, political 1960s movements in the U.S. and Europe -- to take
matters into their hands, and that's the group who attempted to
assassinate Chiang Ching-kuo in New York."

Tedards went on: "It might be true -- but also pure speculation on my
part -- that the hippie, or at least the progressive culture and
counterculture of the 1960s influenced the emergence of social
movements here in Taiwan in the late 1970s, with a bit of a lag time,
of course. Michael Hsiao has written how these social movements in
Taiwan began with the literary and cultural movements first, so the
news about Woodstock in 1969 might have been an entry point for such
ideas here in Taiwan, but again, I'm just speculating."

"But there were also indirect effects, I think, such as when Taiwan
absorbed later waves of U.S. popular culture, which themselves were
influenced by Woodstock and the Sixes," Tedards said.

David Reid, who hails from Australia where he was born in 1973, said
that he still listens to music from the Woodstock days -- "Neil Young
(he was with Crosby, Stills & Nash), Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin."

Reid, who is a blogger and a master's/post-graduate student at
National Chengchi University here, notes: "At the time of Woodstock,
Taiwan was still under the
dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek. White Terror and and the lack of
freedom associated with it were hardly the conditions for a
counter-cultural movement to flourish."

For Eric Mader, a writer in Taipei, Woodstock happened when he was
just three years old, and he noted with humor: In 1969, I was three,
so if I took my clothes off it didn't quite have the same charge to

But Mader added: "I will say, however, that when I was in high school
in the 1980s, Woodstock was much on my mind, as was Sixties music. I
had an album collecting the Woodstock performances and was part of a
large contingent of classmates in my school who admired the 1960s and
the music and the politics too -- the countercultural stance in

"I loved listening to the Doors, the Who, Pink Floyd,
CSN and Y, and others whose albums -- and lyrics -- I basically had
memorized. Which is somewhat odd, considering that Madonna and 1980s
pop were everywhere on the radio and TV. But my group of friends at
high school were quite entrenched against that Madonna pop stuff."

"It's hard to assess how the 1960s and 1970s of the Western world
impacted contemporary Taiwan," Mader went on. "In a way, the
generation now of older middle-aged Taiwanese seems to have no
connection whatsoever to what went on in the U.S. and Europe back
then. Taiwan was under martial law and censorship in 1969, of course.
And the younger generations here who now get washed over by wave after
wave of retro-Western fashion -- they don't have a sense of what, in
terms of ideological conflict, was behind the 1960s. They certainly
don't have any sense of critique of the commodifcation of people or
music. There is no notion that a singer, for instance, might have good
reasons not to do TV commercials for MacDonald's."

"However, I think in the last few years Taiwanese youth have been
actively exploring a broad range of music and fashion styles. Events
like the Hohaiyan Festival, which has been going for about ten years
now, might be Taiwan's version of Woodstock."

For a Taiwanese book editor in Taipei who is now now in his 50s,
Woodstock had and has little meaning for him, he said in a recent

"To be honest, Woodstock means almost nothing to me," he said, and
then explained why, noting: "In the summer of 1969 , I was around
fourteen years old, and lived in a small city in central Taiwan in
Yunlin County. As a teenager there, I knew almost nothing about the
world outside Taiwan, and as you might know, Taiwan itself was
basically sealed off from the world by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek
and his KMT party."

"In fact, the whole of Taiwan seemed to be Chiang's exclusive and
private domain, at least that is how he treated it. The next year,
Phenn Beng-bin (Peng Ming-min) escaped from Taiwan, then a big prison,
though our home. It is until much later, when I was a student in
college that I found that there had been two classes in Taiwan: one
class including most native Taiwanese and a few poor or "ordinary"
Chinese exiles, the other was the ruling class, many generals
included -- and, yes, today I'll call them the high class mainlanders;
their lifestyles were totally different. Most of us knew not much
about outside world, except what the KMT propaganda wanted us to know. I
don't believe they would tell us anything about Woodstock. Until much
later, I realized that there were a few richer, more educated native
Taiwanese families had another lifestyle. But at that time, I knew
not much about that.

Perhaps it was until when I was in college in Taipei that I heard
about Dylan and Baez. But I was not much in with music. It listened to
their music only when my college friends played it. I seemed from
another world and was still there, things in Taipei seemed still very
"foreign" to me. I knew that some friends from the South and the East
seemed quite familiar to that. But I was not and still am not. A few
weeks ago, in a luncheonette near my office, I heard a song that
seemed familiar, but I thought that American Country songs are all
similar to me--sorry for this. Only that I thought I liked the voice.
So, I told my co-worker who had the dinner with me that the voice was
beautiful. My younger co-worker cocked her ear and tried to listen to
it more clearly among noise. And then she said, "Oh, yes, it's Baez."

"Although I am not sure that Woodstock had much of any impact on
Taiwan, when I look around at some of my friends, then maybe, yes, it
did influence Taiwan in some ways. Maybe not so much in terms of
people taking their clothes off in public or at music fesitvals, but
the music of the Woodstock era does live on here. And, you know, when
I was in college here in Taiwan, I read books about existentialism,
phenomenology and post-structuralism. Do those things have anything to
do with the Woodstock era? Maybe. Maybe in this way, Woodstock did
influence Taiwanese artists and intellectuals and musicians."

For Brian Chiu, Woodstock happened before he was born, but he does
have some thoughts to impart. "I was minus three years old in 1969 and
an accident waiting to happen," Chiu said in a recent email. "But my
parents were the Taiwanese equivalents of 'hippies', and they may have
heard of the concert in America. My folks used to play the Byrds, some
CSN, and lots of Beatles/Lennon on Sunday mornings. I still like the
Byrds and CSN -- in fact, folk and bluegrass, in general."

"From what I've heard, freedom was kind of illegal in the 1970s in
Taiwan," Chiu went on. "My uncle got free room and board at a
political prison on Green Island for wanting freedom and love and
fields of flowers -- and he sadly lost his mind in there. A few of my
dad's friends lost their lives in those times of martial law and white
terror. For any aspiring hippies in Taiwan back then, I'm afraid it
was a more grim affair than "free love" -- any extra-state body (such
as a free-love hippie commune would have been seen by the authorites
as sedition."

"Music in the park? The closest we came to music in the
park back then was probably that old catchy patriotic tune about the
superiority of the Chinese race (down to the very controlling-preoccupation
with hair color and eye color) that they taught me to sing in school
when I was 'young and impressionable' in Taiwan. "

"However, I think
that the Woodstock 'philosophy' did guide my parents to react to my
singing those patriotic songs in horror and move us all the hell out
of Taiwan. So we came to America. One Woodstocky memory I have as a
kid in California was in high school in San Diego, being dragged by my
parents to boring evening gatherings where political speeches had
acoustic guitar accompaniment."

For longtime expat Adam Guenther, Woodstock brings back memories, too.

"I grew up about 50 miles from Bethel, New York -- the location of the site of Woodstock, as you probably know -- but I was only nineyears old at the time," Guenther said. "Back then, the big thing for me was the Apollo moon landing and the Mets who won the baseball world series in 1969. I can also remember the Vietnam war problems that were in the news all the time. I knew the Woodstock festival was going on and saw some of the clips on TV, but as I remember, it was raining most of the time and didn't look like much."

"Music-wise, I didn't really pay attention when I was nine years old, except for what my mother played on the AM radio -- Yellow Submarine by the Beatles stands out for some reason. I never really got into the 1960s music, well, maybe Neil Young and a few Dylan songs. I really started listening to music around 1977 or so when 8-tracks faded out and cassettes (and vinyl) were big."

"Basically, Woodstock it didn't have any effect on my life," Guenther said. "I think for the Taiwanese, it would be seen that they wouldn't have any clue as to what it meant. They don't really care about freedom, only money. Look at the way they are letting the KMT sellout the country to the PRC. It's so disappointing and depressing for me to see that most of the people just don't care. I've gotten to the point where I don't care anymore either. Why bother?"

For Martin de Jonge, a Canadian expat who works in Taipei and lives on a beach along the north coast, Woodstock has a place in his life, too -- and when interviewed recently by email, he volunteered the information that his sister in law was the set decorator for the new Ang Lee movie about Woodstock. Small world, indeed!

Just twelve years old at the time, he recalls today: "I was in Canada just over the border from Buffalo, only a few hours drive away from that festival that bonded the more idealistic and hedonistic members of the North American baby boomer's bourgoisie. I had turned twelve a few months before that, and I don't even remember my parents or anyone else mentioning Woodstock, but in retrospect I'm just amazed that even though I was so young I didn't hear about it until a few months after it'd happened. Still, I was so impressed by the very idea of it that I even bought a book called ''Woodstock '69'', with stories and pictures of the four-day affair, from my elementary school's book-of-the-month club."

De Jonge adds: "Bubble gum music was at the height of its popularity during that weekend in the middle of August in the summer of 1969, and I remember very well listening to the number one pop tune on the local radio station: "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies. Andy Kim's "Baby I Love You" was also in the top ten. Other songs frequently airing included a rollicking part-medley, part-original romp called "Good Old Rock 'n Roll" by Cat Mother & The All Night News Boys and an off-the-wall song about the future by Zager & Evans entitled "In The Year 2525". Other notable songs in the top 30 included The Rolling Stones immortal "Honky Tonk Woman", Bob Dylan's lethargic "Lay Lady Lay" and my favorite at the time, "Laughing", by The Guess Who.

"I grew up in reverence of the Woodstock generation, which for all its claims of love, peace and understanding never quite accepted me -- I was a little too young for it," de Jonge notes. "That group just considered me a little punk."

"And so it came to pass," he adds, " a mere decade after Woodstock, I was a singer in a punk band. Already by that time, hippies just made my eyes roll. Didn't anyone tell them they *gave* peace a chance?"

When asked what music from those days he still likes to listen to, de Jonge said: "I no longer listen to any music of that era. And if I catch myself experiencing nostalgia over songs from that time playing in a public place, I give myself a good, swift kick in the ass, because culture, especially pop culture, is meant to progress, and time and emotion are far better spent seeking out and appreciating the new than reminiscing over and getting mired in the old."

He adds: "I remember one night in 1996, on one of my first days in Taiwan, three of four foreigners sitting at the bar at 45 right around closing time, arms around each others' shoulders, all singing a very drunk, off-key version of Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone". The first thing that struck me was that those guys had cloistered themselves in a foreigners' bubble way, way too long. The second thing was that clinging to old pop culture is really maudlin and puky. I vowed right then and there that I would never, *ever* be like them. So far, so good..."

When asked if Woodstock has any impact on Taiwan at all, de Jonge said: "I'm not sure if "hippie life and freedom" ever really took hold in Taiwan. Elements of that era have certainly been subsumed by the mainstream culture here, but never to the effect that they've had any lasting meaning or strength. Taiwanese have certain images of the Sixties from the most popular of pop music and films from the Sixties and later music and film portraying the Sixties, but I don't think the Taiwanese ever internalized the spirit. The individualism, the "do your own thing", the rebellion against parents, political confrontation, and other things, those things are anathema to Taiwanese life."

What about the public nudity that Woodstock promoted, on the side? "As for nudity, Taiwanese bathe and shower with their children right up to the time when the children start to approach the age of puberty, which wouldn't be comfortable at all for most Americans; but public nudity to Taiwanese is considered freakish -- when Taiwanese see nude Europeans on the beach in Thailand, they start *photographing* them, like they're at a circus," de Jonge said.

"Respectable adults in Taiwan dress very modestly. Showing cleavage in middle-class environments such as offices and educational establishments, as common as that is in the West, is considered very sluttish in Taiwan. And nudity as a social expression of personal freedom is something I don't think I've ever heard a Taiwanese champion, let alone defend," he added.

"Nevertheless, personal freedom nowadays does have a certain social cachet, as exemplified by t-shirts you see Taiwanese locals wearing. Quite often I've seen t-shirts in English -- and the writing, by the way, is getting a little better over the years -- expressing things about freedom of conscience, freedom of thought and freedom of lifestyle, but I would guess any connection between that and any genealogy of ideas tracing back to the Woodstock generation is a strawclutcher," de Jonge concluded.

How the Mandarin translation of the Woodstock book by Elliot Tiber -- and the movie by Ang Lee -- will be received by Taiwanese readers and moviegoers in Taipei will be interesting
to see.

"Woodstock is not really very well understood by most
people in Taiwan, but the movie, and now this book, will help to serve
as a kind of cross-cultural guide about what hippie and
'counterculture' life was like in
those days,"
said a Taipei publishing industry source.

1 comment:

dan said...

Trista di Genova has done a much better version of this report over at her blog, where she heavily edited and revised and revamped my original piece and turned it into something worth reading now. So please go here instead: