The Return

After making my semi-retirement announcement early in 2000, I've decided to take myself up on my "50% chance ever updating this site again" and post a few new reviews. It's going to take some time, however, since in my abscence I haven't maintained this site at all and am now backlogged with quite a few reader comments that will take me some time to post (does anybody know how to cut and paste comments from email automatically? Because so far I've had to do the grinding work of posting all my reader comments manually, which is a real time-consumer). Life in Taiwan has its ups and downs, which would take another entirely new website to describe in full, but here are a few basic nutshells. Slowly learning how to speak Mandarin and overcoming my aversion to eating fish whole (fish heads, rolly polly fish heads), mastered the art of eating sticky rice with chopsticks, getting sick of being called the fat foriegner because I weigh more than the 95 lbs. all Chinese people do. The people are extremely friendly, but you're never sure if they are genuinely being nice or only exercising the fabled Oriental custom of smiling when inside they want to tell you to go to hell -- ah, the inscrutable Orient is a truer cliche than you'd guess. Unbridled laissez-faire capitalism is the way in Taiwan, bordering on anarchy with its riot of street vendors and jostling traffic (#1 rule of Taiwan traffic: there are no rules. Zip. Nada. Motorcycles roll down sidewalks if they feel like it. A stoplight is merely a suggestion to look both ways before you barrel through). Pubs are very expensive, but I can afford them since the money is easy with English teachers in such high demand, and they're good places to hang out and talk with fellow Americans and ex-pats from the Her Majesty's Commonwealth of Nations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, UK). Chinese girls think that every white guy looks like a handsome movie star, which can get kind of ridiculous -- sigh, well, I guess I just have to dutifully beat'em off with a stick, then. If you're a black guy, Chinese boys will automatically think that you're Michael Jordan. Very industrialized and polluted, Taiwan isn't a pretty place, but so far it's been good to me. Seeing the world and expanding your horizons is always a good thing.

Now as to how living in the ROC relates to my website: firstly, musical tastes here are abysmal. Rock, especially hard rock, is not very popular among East Asians, who prefer the softer rhythms of adult contemporary and Eurotrash disco pop. Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Boyzone are all huge here, which is enough to drive one insane -- and their Chinese-language pop is even worse, a Velveeta imitation of what was originally crap in the first place. There is no good radio on the entire island. Since I only carted about 200 or so of my tapes & CDs on the airplane, I'm an ocean and half a continent away from most of my 2000+ collection. I've bought a handful of CDs here, and only a handful, since finding a decent record shop is shockingly difficult on an island of 21,000,000. With all that in mind, don't expect a hundred new reviews from my site -- right now I'm just going to review the new CDs I've bought in the past few months, plus a few I brought with me but didn't get around to reviewing before I left the States.

Since I started this knockoff of Wilson & Alroy & Mark Prindle way back in early '98, what seems eons ago, the world of web reviewing has changed a lot. Prindle's now retired and W & A, while still churning out new reviews with robotic efficiency, haven't covered any interesting new records in quite some time. Of the second wave of web reviewers -- myself, Bryan B., and George Starostin -- only Starostin is in full health, having maintained an amazing site that makes all other competitors look like rank amateurs. I don't know how George does it, spending such a vast amount of time slavering over his website, cranking out new reviews nearly every day and simultaneously finetuning his older reviews -- I, and I doubt anyone else out there, couldn't possibly keep up with his frantic pace. Like everyone else, I have no clue what happened to Bryan B., who seems to have vanished off the face of the earth. Bryan was certainly one of the more interesting and genuinely nice characters I've met on the net, and he will be missed. As for me, I've been preoccupied for the past half year starting my new life on the other side of the globe, and suffering burnout from the whole web reviewing business. Now there's a plethora of new web sites reviewing rock & pop records following in the tradition established by such trailblazers as M.P. & W. & A. (the 2 original websites, accept no substitutes) and such 2nd-hand imitators such as myself (the infamous 3rd man of web reviewing, since my site was the third, after all). Taking one good look at my page, doubtless many thought to themselves, "If this idiot Burks can publish this drivel, anyone can! I'm going to start up my own site this week!", since they all did seem to set up websites. Some of them are good, some of them are bad, of this 3rd generation of web-reviewers -- I won't talk about the bad ones, but I'll just say that Cosmic Ben and Nick Karn have turned out some mighty fine and respectable web pages that you should check out if you haven't already. Also, since Mark the Prindle has retired and become a crabby, bitter old man, Rich Bunnell has done an excellent job of inheriting the Prindle Review Archive, even improving it in some ways (that new additions page is a real help, Rich).

Anyhow, that's the scoop. As they say round these parts, "Bye-bye" (there is a Chinese word for goodbye, but for some reason the Taiwanese prefer to use the adopted English version, for some odd reason).

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