December 31, 2010

Celebrating 100 years of Chinese democracy

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It's New Year's Eve and I'm spending it in Taipei this year.  I have wanted to watch the fireworks at Taipei 101 ever since they started doing it, but for one reason or another I have always ended up elsewhere.

Tonight, on the eve of the 100th year of the Republic of China, there would be a spectacular fireworks display.  The organizers have hired Cai Guo-Qiang (蔡國強) for the job.  For people unfamiliar with his art, he was the man behind the fireworks display at both the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China (not to be confused, of course, with the Republic of China...)

One of my friends lives close to Taipei 101, with an unobstructed view of the skyscraper right from the comfort of her apartment.  She agreed to host a small and quiet gathering tonight, and we would have a relaxing meal while we waited for the countdown.

We nibbled on some cheese that I bought from Classified in Hong Kong.  Surprisingly I passed on the Comté, because all they had was the young stuff.  I bought some Mimolette Extra Vieille, Manchego, and Tomme de Savoie fermière - all of which were delicious.  The Coulommiers was disappointing as it was not ripe and ready... should have picked another soft cheese that was already runny.

There was a simple salad tossed with some sliced pork which had been blanched.  Something to fool us thinking that we're having a balanced meal...

It's been years since I last cooked a risotto, and I probably should have practiced a little before making seared scallops on lemon and spinach risotto.  I totally didn't prep my ingredients and ended up scrambling towards the end... which meant overcooked and mushy risotto, instead of al dente that I was shooting for.  My friends were polite enough to finish what was on their plates...

The final course was lamb chops, which were pretty delicious on their own but even better with the onion and garlic gravy.

There was, of course, some wine to go with tonight's festivities.  We started with a bottle of 1988 Clinet, which I decanted about 2 hours before finally drinking it.  Ripe and sweet nose with smoke and minerals.  A little alcoholic.

1992 Beringer Nightingale - I've been saving this for a few years and finally got around to trying it.  Nose of plastic, botrytis, honey, orange blossom, nutty and a little sharp.  Very sweet on the palate, the way I like my sweet wines.

We toasted in 2011 with a bottle of Duval-Leroy Brut "Design Paris", which was pretty classic in terms of is yeasty nose and acidity. The silkscreen bottle was designed by American painter LeRoy Neiman and is meant to evoke the City of Lights.

2008 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc - always a crowd favorite, with its classic nose of pipi de chat, minerals, flint and muscat.

I had originally brought both of my cameras - each with its own tripod - with me on this trip.  The plan was to set up both cameras so I could record the evening with both still and moving images.  Alas, I discovered earlier today that the battery for my EOS 1Ds Mark II is totally dead... so I abandoned plans for photography and elected to shoot video with my EOS 7D.  A few minutes before countdown started, I finalized the camera set up, opened up the window, and waited for the magic.

The fireworks program tonight was different from previous years.  In addition to Taipei 101 itself, launchers were also placed at a couple of other locations nearby.  Cai Guo-qiang's signature "dancing dragon" circled up and down Taipei 101 a few times.  The crowd shouted its approval.  And I ended up with a 7-minute video footage.

When the show was over, Taipei 101 remained fully lit for the next 2 hours with the words "100 R♥C" near the top.  We are now in 2011, the 100th year of the Republic of China.  It has been a century since Dr. Sun Yat-sen led revolutionary efforts which brought an end to the rule of Qing Dynasty emperors, and I hope that I will be able to see democracy flourish in the People's Republic of China within my lifetime.


Lacie said...

While there is no doubt that the current ROC Taiwan is a lot more democratic and free than the mainland, the old ROC (even in their early Taiwan years) was nowhere close to democracy.

Anonymous said...

i missed the fireworks-- did you post a copy of the video anywhere? thanks, and happy new year! the ox.


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