27 Oct 2006

Eliminating 'Difference': C.R.A.Z.Y.

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, C.R.A.Z.Y. captured a young gay man's early life in 1970s Montreal. Being gay is hard, and that means 'being different', whether you live in the 70s or now, in Montreal or anywhere else.

I saw this film couple days ago, and the topic, difference, attracts and entices me. Imagine yourself born on Christmas day. Doesn't this make you different enough? Zachary, the main character in this film, is such a blessed child. He survived from his father's carelessness, dropping him on the floor on the day of his birth. Consequently, his mother started telling him and others that he has special healing power from God. All mothers are the same, and they just love their kids. However, this causes troubles to little Zac. His birthday is always a big family reunion, and when whoever is bleeding, he has to pray to heal them.

Zac is not just different in this way. The director highlights 'difference' in the mental development of Zac's childhood. Every father expects his boy to be like him, a real man. Little Zac failed his father's expect when he was accidentlly caught wearing his mother's pearl necklace and lipstick. He was only trying to be mom taking care of his baby brother. This is not acceptable for all dads, especially this one who has five boys. His father tried so hard to convince himself that Zac is a normal boy. He always paid good attention to what Zac likes and gives him related presents on his birthday. However, what little Zac wanted is the present the girls have in the next room, and he wished he could go and play with them instead of staying with others listening to his father singing Charles Aznavour's 'Emmène-moi au bout de la terre', which had become a nightmare for everyone on Christmas Eve. In his childhood, Zac was angry at and confused about his father's attitude, and therefore, he broke his father's favorite Patsy Cline record. This action brings the gap between Zac and his dad, but it also starts Zac's journey to recognize his true self.

In his teenage time, Zac and his brother, Reymond, have become the taboo in the family. Raymond is such a macho guy who indulges himself in drugs and sex all the time. It seems he is the least favored son but in fact is the one who receives most of his father's manly attitudes. His representation contrasts with Zach's, whose preference was the music of David Bowie's 'Space Oddity'. He dressed himself as an androgynous rock star that points out his confusion of showing his true sexual preference and at the same time shows the difficulty in identifying himself with his father and brother. As a teenager, most of us have being through this phase of confusion, but being gay makes the whole situation worse. Zach was rumored to be gay in school, and rumors spread. How could he position himself when he is not even sure about his true sexual preference? Father got angry and suspicious, mother was sad, and brothers fought. Though the film did not put much emphasis on the brotherhood, it shows us Raymond's silent recognition of Zac's sexual preference. Despite his drug addiction and bad attitudes, he loved his brother and protected him from rumors.

Though Zac tries to convince himself he is normal as other boys, he could not fight his temptation for man. He had his first oral with his schoolmate in his father's car. His father sent him to the doctor and got the answer that Zac did it on purpose. Of course, this is not acceptable for the father, but this gives Zac the chance to face who he really is. Can we change our sexual preference? Is it a sin to be born to love the same sex? Zac still tries to divert himself back to normal, but it is not successful. The last big argument he had with his father encouraged him to leave the family and country to search for his true self. This reflects what his father always sings in Christmas, 'Emmène-moi au bout de la terre', that is, take me along to the end of the world. This argument came from a rumor that says Zac was making out in the car in his brother's wedding. Though it is ture that Zac was with the man he secretly loved in the car, they did not commit any sexual behaviours. His father did not want to listen to his explain because he had already known that his beloved son is different, different from all other boys. Parents all know their children, and it is only the matter of time to accept that my children are different from others.

This adventure Zac had to Jerusalem is crucial to him. He finally sees and recognizes himself through this experience. Though his sexual preference is different from others, he will only be considered different when he sees himself as different. Only by embracing your difference that you could gain the courage to open up yourself and welcome the world. This journey helps him confront his homosexuality, and it also helps him see that love is the power to heal wounds, and the family is the only place where provides us love and strength. However, it is quite smart but ironic here that the director places Zac in Jerusalem, such a religious holy place, where he finally recognizes his homosexuality. Isn't this an answer to the question that it is not a sin to be born to love the same sex? After all these endeavours, recognizing one's true self is way more important than being gay or not. God and Buddha love all human beings, not regarding your race, power, sex and sexual preferences.

In the end of the film, Zac said it took him 10 years that he could finally take his loved one home. Time heals, and time erases difference. Being different today doesn't mean being different forever. If we face difference courageously, we will succeed in finding our true selves and gain more from the experience. This film does not just show us a young gay men's journey of being gay, but presents us a true father and son relationship in which both are learning to accept difference. It provides us an excellent chance to look at homosexuality as 'not different', not just in 1970s Montreal but in every places in whatever time. Supporting homosexuality can eliminate difference and help us make better humanity.

Check information of this film:

Official Website of C.R.A.Z.Y.
C.R.A.Z.Y. info on Internet Movie Database

26 Oct 2006

Trick or Treat

Halloween is coming! Most kids, maybe some adults like me, are expecting this holiday. This is a fun night for both kids and adults. For kids, they go out in their costumes for trick-or-treat, and for us, adults, we go out for a crazy and fun Halloween party.

What if there aren't any Halloween parties to go? No worries! Try online games. Zeeks Games provides different kinds of easy-to-play online games. Transylmania is one of them and is cool for Halloween. I Iike the design of this easy game, especially the cute little vampire. Sometimes, it is just nice to play some silly games after work.

Happy Halloween to everyone!

19 Oct 2006

Online geographical game

geosense.net is an online game designed to test your geographical knowledge. I read about this game on the newspaper. After I tried that, I found my geography is actually not that good! I could identify the country easily from the world map, but I had a hard time finding out the exact position of the city on the map.

I think this programme is in fact a very good tool for young students to learn geography. Through this online game, they could easily and happily absorb basic geographical knowledge. It is truly sad to say that most students in Taiwan know nothing about geography. Once I asked a junior high student where the capital of the USA is, and he told me the capital of the USA is New York. This is ridiculous. Most of them can only find the major countries, like Taiwan, China, USA or UK, on the world map. Beyond these common big names, other countries are alien to them. When they don't know the names of the countries, how could they identify them on the world map, let alone the cities.

The current inadequate educational policy in Taiwan results in poor performance of the Taiwanese students. The government focuses only on the teaching of what Taiwan is and tries to insert the dishonest national identity into the new generations. Students have to learn everything that is about Taiwan, like literature, geography, history and Taiwanese language. When it comes to the learning of other countries, such as world history, world geography or world literature, it is always only couple pages on the text book. It seems to introduce them is enough. Students are not required to learn in detail what the world is, but are required to know every little detailed thing about Taiwan. I am not suggesting that learning the required knowledge of Taiwan is wrong, but we also need to learn other knowledge that could equip us well in the international society. Geographically speaking, Taiwan is only this big. If we only focus on Taiwan without gaining further knowledge concerning the world, how could we compete with other countries? My next question to the government would be, 'Do you really think that Taiwan is the centre of the world?'

I would say, we could try to make Taiwan the centre of the world, but if we carry on this inadequate policy, we would be nothing and slowly disappearing form the international society, which is already happening now. After all, in this highly competitive globalised society, who cares about Taiwan! Only those who practice right policies and truly lift the educational level of their people could finally be the star shining in the international society.

6 Oct 2006

Chien-Ming Wang, you are really good

I am never a beaseball fan, but Wang's performance makes me wanna spend my time before the tele. Maybe it is because he is from Taiwan, and I feel the need to salute him for his always cool and focused performance. However, despite his attitude on the field, he has a special charm when he pitched that naturally attracts the audience's attention and even leads the whole team to perform their best. Is he a natural born pitcher? Undeniably yes, but I stronly believe the great success comes from his commitment and endeavour. What I appreciate him the most is his humbleness that brings him good fame in this competitive career. I love the Nike advertising slogan I read on the local newspaper that goes "Taiwan may not produce another Chien-Ming Wang, but great efforts can". This is very true, and we have seen it in Wang. Well done, Wang! I hope to see you wearing the MLB World Series Championship Ring on Oct. 29.

4 Oct 2006

Happy Moon Festival

This Friday is the 15th day of the 8th Lunar month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which is called Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival. This is a very important festival for Chinese people, and we usually have family reunions to celebrate full moon. On this day, all of us will eat lovely moon cakes and try to identify the shadows on the moon as Chang'e or the Jade Rabbit. I kind of feel sad for Chang'e. Imagine yourself floating to the moon and staying there forever. If you are interested in these myths concerning the Moon Festival, you can find them on Wikipedia. Anyway, I still like moon cakes though they make me fat.

Happy Moon Festival
to all my dear friends

2 Oct 2006

Cultural and Creative Industries

The idea of promoting cultural and creative industries has become the major investment for most developed countries for about a decade, especially in northern America and Western Europe. Of course, both Taiwan and China also participate in this new trend and invest in this new industry. It has been about 10 years since the beginning of the competition between the two countries in this filed, and we have seen very different results in both investments.

Yesterday I read a long report about this issue on the local newspaper, and later the night I watched a short news programme on this topic again. Both have very harsh but precise comments on Taiwan's failure in this field. I don't really know why this topic suddenly becomes the focus for the local news. I can only guess, because of the current unstable political situation, the news channels and newspapers want to point out how incapable the current government is. The success of China in this field highlights the failure of the policy making and execution in Taiwan.

What is "cultural and creative industries"? According to the description of this term on the UNESCO website, its meaning is as follows:
"this term applies to those industries that combine the creation, production and commercialisation of contents which are intangible and cultural in nature. These contents are typically protected by copyright and they can take the form of goods or services. ...(It) may also be referred to as 'creative industries'. ... Cultural industries add value to contents and generate values for individuals and societies. They are knowledge and labour-intensive, create employment and wealth, nurture creativity - the 'raw material' they are made from -, and foster innovation in production and commercialisation processes. At the same time, cultural industries are central in promoting and maintaining cultural diversity and in ensuring democratic access to culture. This twofold nature –both cultural and economic – builds up a distinctive profile for cultural industries. During the 90s they grew exponentially, both in terms of employment creation and contribution to GNP. Today, globalisation offers new challenges and opportunities for their development."
In other words, promoting cultural and creative industries in fact creates employment opportunities for the public, strengthens the economic development of the nation, and raises the visibility of a country in the international society. The outcome of investing in this field is positive, and this is why, after the traditional industries move to cheap places for cheap labours, most developed countries would focus on and invest in this new field.

Let us analyse the UNESCO definition of this term more. It says cultural industries promote and maintain cultural diversity, and it ensures democratic access to culture. This is a very important concept for us when we are positioning ourselves in globalisation. How do we maintain our distinctive place without being marginalised in the process of globalisation? I believe most people would say building up the political and military power would be an advantage to maintain a country's international place. Many would suggest to develop the high tech industries or the IT related ones so as to secure the country's economic progress. Yes, I agree with both ideas proposed, and I firmly believe that these two measures would definitely bring good effects to both the public and the country. However, we seem to forget one very simple idea that can lift a country's competitiveness effectively, that is, the power of creativity and culture.

As explained by UNESCO, creativity is the raw material that generates culture, and culture adds values to the society. Due to this close relationship, creativity and culture are tightly linked that cannot be separated for discussion. If we invest our time and money in this field, we certainly will gain great values from it, and this great value will strengthen the society. A society would be free from the danger of being marginalised because it recognizes its culture. A society would have good confidence to compete with others because its value-added culture has become the true identity of the society. All we need to do is to allow the expansion of creativity, to build up good educational strategy for creativity, and to fulfill the needs of creativity. Though values gained through this measure would never be as concrete and solid as those gained through military or high tech industries, they are in fact more effective and perpetual. Therefore, I would argue that the best way to secure a country's place in globalisation is to promote cultural and creative industries.

Taking the Edinburgh International Festival as an example, this is the most famous international arts festival in the world. Its mission is to
"promote the cultural, educational and economic well-being of the people of Edinburgh and Scotland"
Starting from a very basic idea, the festival positioned itself as a platform for performing arts on the fringe and to promote cultural activities in the region. After years of development, this fringe festival gains good support from the government and attracts the international attention. Now it has become the leading arts festival in the world and represents both the arts scene and cultural industries of UK. Its success not only guarantees the country's place in globalisation but also fosters the economic growth in the country. Same story is happening in China now. The 798 SPACE in Beijing is on its way to be one of the most important cultural symbols of China. Its mission
"to host high-level cultural and commercial activities"
reflects what cultural industries can bring about. When this space gains its fame and attracts more tourists, we see new restaurants, cafes and bars opening, and this creates new employment opportunities. In fact, who benefits from this new art scene? It is the public, the municipal government, and even the whole country. As a result, its success represents what China can offer culturally. This invisible power not only promotes the cultural and economic well-being of the Beijing public but also lifts China's cultural position to the level of London, New York or Tokyo.

There are many successful examples in the world, and I have found the government's policy making and execution play the key to success. As I have mentioned, Taiwan has devoted almost a decade to promote cultural industries, but at present we have only produced a few internationally well-known ones, and they are all suffering to survive due to the lack of governmental support. We have set up many policies to promote our cultural industries, but most policies contradicted to the notion of promoting the cultural, educational and economic well-being of the public of Taiwan. Instead, what we have done is always about presenting big shows and conferences without giving references to what Taiwan is culturally. These big shows and conferences are always about what is the trendiest or the most discussed in the world. When an event cannot achieve what is expected, such as the participation of the public, their solution is always to invite a pop star to give a performance. How could this lift the cultural well-being of the public of Taiwan? Can a pop star performance innovate our creativity? The worst is the central government, for no reason, thinks cultural industries should be the responsibility of the local governments and is not keen on organizing policies in this filed as the main focus for national development. As a result, we can have more than 100 cultural activities in a year, all named as international festival or international conference. The funny thing is that almost none of these activities can survive in the next year. This is plainly wasting money and resources.

We do have some good examples in Taiwan, but all of them do not receive proper respect and good support from the central government. The most famous one would be the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan. Even these groups have gained their international fame and are regarded as the representation of Taiwan culture, in politician's point of view, cultural industries are still not worth talking about. This is really sad. How could we expect the country to be strong when we are not taking our culture and the development of it seriously? Frankly speaking, Taiwan does not have any international influence despite the IT industries or maybe our foreign savings. Worse than that, we are already losing our advantage. Moreover, we cannot compete with other countries politically or militarily because we are not even recognized as a nation-state. We should really take our chance to build a society where creativity is freely expressed and culture is progressing. I believe in the twofold nature of the cultural industries. It can help the economic development in the country and can guarantee the country's international place in globalisation.