27 Dec 2007
In fact, besides the scenery, there's basically nothing to do. All you do is walking! I quite like walking there because the train tracks are right in the middle of the village, and if you are lucky enough, you get to see Formosan Blue Magpie (台灣藍鵲)! I was really excited when I saw them flying in the sky. By the way, the air is so fresh and the water is so clean. It is a paradise. However, being a city boy, I guess I can only handle 2 nights there! I probably will go mad if I live there.
I was so amazed to see dogs sleeping like that (like corpse!) on the train track! I guess they know exactly when the train will come.
Wong Ku Station (望古站), what a tiny stop!
Waterfall! A pretty interesting one, which looks like eyes!
Mountains there are so pretty, especially when clouds start to swamp around them. Lovely scene, which is like a Chinese painting.
Palace Restaurant. I believe this is the most famous restaurant in that area. It is a traditional Japanese house with a lovely Japanese garden. The house is very clean and beautiful. The food they serve is amazingly tasty. I tried the steamed taro with ribs. Yummy!
I stayed in Tokyo Guesthouse, which is right behind Ching Tung Station. It is very small but very clean. The owner of the guesthouse is so nice. My friend wanted to fly the sky lantern (天燈), and she taught us how to do it. Comparing to other guesthouses around, Tokyo Guesthouse is really the best option in Pin Xi. She told us the best time to visit is around the 15th of lunar January, which is around the Lantern Festival. During that period of time, we can see tons of sky lanterns flying on the sky at night. I am thinking of re-visiting the area on that time. It will definitely be a wonderful experience.
12 Dec 2007
眼跳法 (The reading of twitching eyelids)
子時 (23:00~01:00)   左有貴人 右有飲食
Left: Will receive help from other people     Right: Will have the chance for a good meal
丑時 (01:00~03:00) 左有憂心 右有人思
Left: Will worry about something     Right: Someone is missing you
寅時 (03:00~05:00) 左有人來 右喜事至
Left: Someone you expect will come     Right: Good fortune is on its way
卯時 (05:00~07:00) 左貴客來 右平安吉
Left: Someone who will help you is coming     Right: Will be safe and good
辰時 (07:00~09:00) 左遠客來 右主損害
Left: Friends from far away will visit you     Right: Will receive damages
巳時 (09:00~11:00) 左有飲食 右主凶惡
Left: Will have the chance for a good meal     Right: Will receive bad fortunes
午時 (11:00~13:00) 左主飲食 右有凶事
Left: Will have the chance for a good meal     Right: Will hear about something bad
未時 (13:00~15:00) 左主吉昌 右有小喜
Left: Good fortunes     Right: Small nice things will happen
申時 (15:00~17:00) 左有損財 右有女思
Left: Will lose money     Right: Your partner is missing you
酉時 (17:00~19:00) 左有客來 右遠客至
Left: Will have guests visit you     Right: Will accommodate friends from far away
戌時 (19:00~21:00) 左有客至 右主聚會
Left: Will accommodate guests     Right: Will have the chance to attend a gathering
亥時 (21:00~23:00) 左主客至 右主官非
Left: Will accommodate guests     Right: Will have legal issues
Do you remember February 1993 in England , when a young boy of 3 was taken from a Liverpool shopping centre by two 10-year-old boys? Jamie Bulger walked away from his mother for only a second, Jon Venables took his hand and led him out of the mall with his friend Robert Thompson. They took Jamie on a walk for over 2 and a half miles, along the way stopping every now and again to torture the poor little boy who was crying constantly for his mummy. Finally they stopped at a railway track where they brutally kicked him, threw stones at him, rubbed paint in his eyes, pushed batteries up his anus and cut his fingers off with scissors. Other mutilations were inflicted but not reported in the press.
N.B. :- Remember, a 3year old cannot possibly defend themselves against a 10 year old, let alone of 2 them.
What these two boys did was so horrendous that Jamie's mother was forbidden to identify his body. They then left his beaten small body on railway tracks so a train could run him over to hide the mess they had created. These two boys, even being boys, understood what they did was wrong, hence trying to make it look like an accident.
This week Lady Justice Butler-Sloss has awarded the two boys ( now men ), anonymity for the rest of their lives when they leave custody with new identities. They will also leave custody early only serving just over half of their sentence. They are being relocated to Australia to live out the rest of their lives. They disgustingly and violently took Jamie's life away and in return they each get a new life!
Please.... . If you feel as strongly as we do, ( and if you haven't already signed this petition ) that this is a grave Miscarriage of justice - Hit the forward button and add your name at the end, and send it to everyone you can !
If you are the 700th person to sign, please forward this e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org and mark it for the attention it to Lady Justice Butler-Sloss.
30 Nov 2007
Among all these parents, one mother impressed me greatly with her words. She is a very special person. In our religious belief, some people are considered as special ones because they can hear or see gods and goddesses who have chosen them as their representatives in this world. So they will act as a mediator between people and the divine power so as to help people lead a better life in this world. This mother is such a person. She claims she can hear Guan Yin（觀音）, the bodhisattva of great mercy and compassion, the most well-known and worshiped deity for Chinese. When his only son confessed to her one day that he is only interested in men instead of women, she was so shocked and felt that her life started to crumble. This brave mom prayed to Guan Yin and asked if she had done something really bad that caused such a terrible thing to happen. Then one day, she heard Guan Yin talking to her.
Don't be scared and sad. The world is changing now, and everything is different now. If your boy is interested in men, then why don't you support him and protect him. If he can receive great happiness from being with another man, then why don't you be happy for him as well. Isn't seeing your boy being happy the most important thing for you? If you force him to be with a woman, he will not feel safe and comfortable, and this only causes problems that makes his life difficult and sad. Be a brave mother, support him and be happy for him!
She said she cried when Guan Yin told her this. But it is these words that changed her perspectives and gave her strength.
We don't know if this story is real, but what she tries to deliver is so positive and constructive. If the deity considers homosexuality as "just two human beings who feel and care for each other", why we try to make such a relationship a sin, a taboo? I am not concluding that the Buddhist deity totally promotes homosexuality. I am only saying that homosexuality is also about two human beings deciding to be with each other, just like heterosexuality.
We need to educate people, especially those who thinks homosexuality as a sin, that two men or two women being together are just as normal as a man with a woman. We need to educate the younger generations not to hate or tease gay people. I feel so sad when I hear kids making fun of the word "gay", and I always tell them the meaning of this word is "pleasure and cheerfulness". If we can have more parents to support their gay children, these young gays will not need to go through difficult times when facing their sexuality. If we can education our young generations to look at this topic without prejudice, definitely we can eliminate hatred towards gay people.
I always believe that taking breaks is an expression of our attitudes towards our life and the photos taken are evidences of our life experience. Images I took are always random ones. However, it is these random images that truly reflect my feelings, emotions, and mind. Of course, we are human beings that rely so much on words, which I consider a good means for us to preserve our fragile memory. Words are used to describe these image. They help me remember what I thought and felt at that special moment. Moreover, due to our good habit to think, I can always develop more for these random images, which means that my mind start to link what I thought to what I see and what I have experienced that finally constructs a little plot for these random images. I love images with plots. It makes these images interesting. I guess this is why I do not appreciate post-modern arts, which is always about what you see is what you get! I always think, "What you see isn't always what you get!"
懸吊空中的炙熱太陽終於在晚間 8:45 沒入地平線之下。希臘的夕陽真的很美，它的美讓人忘了呼吸，讓人忘了時間的存在。呆坐在沙灘上，眼睛直直地望著沈入海中的橘色光輪，剎那間意識到海風早已轉涼，肚子也開始咕咕叫了。此時好友正從海中走向我，遠遠的就大叫「吃飯時間到了」。就是喜歡希臘人隨性、大剌剌的個性。不管有多煩惱、多苦悶，下午悠閒的游泳、晒太陽是一定要的，而晚上的娛樂活動更是不能少。清涼的夜晚才是一天的開始，是一天的精華；一路吃吃喝喝到凌晨，誰管明天還要上班、開會。「活在當下」真是讓希臘人發揮的淋漓盡致，而這種生活態度還真不錯。不就是過日子嗎，一定會遇見煩惱痛苦。好過是過，歹過也是過，何不放鬆自己好好享受生命的美麗！
8 Nov 2007
We just received this email from Asma Jahangir, head of the Pakistani Human Rights Commission and the UN's Special Rapporteur for freedom of religion worldwide. Now under house arrest in Lahore, she's one of many Pakistanis urgently asking the world community to raise our voice:
There is a strong crackdown on the press and lawyers... The Chief Justice is under house arrest (unofficially). The President of the Supreme Court Bar (Aitzaz Ahsan) and 2 former presidents, Mr. Muneer Malik and Tariq Mahmood have been imprisoned for one month under the Preventive Detention laws...
There are other scores political leaders who have also been arrested. Yesterday I was house arrested for 90 days... the President (who has lost his marbles) said that he had to clamp down on the press and the judiciary to curb terrorism. Those he has arrested are progressive, secular minded people, while the terrorists are offered negotiations and ceasefires.
Lawyers and civil society will challenge the government and the scene is likely to get uglier. We want friends of Pakistan to urge the US administration to stop all support of the instable dictator, as his lust for power is bringing the country close to a worse form of civil strife...
In oder to maintain his power, Musharraf suspends Pakistan's constitution and shuts downs the media and basic freedoms. The martial law he declares allows him to be the real ruler of the country. According to the mail, he seems to be connected with the Taliban, which makes his actions even worse. If the western power still supports Paskistan by offering military aids, under the control of such a tricky man, the aid would probably go to the Taliban. If so, how can we really stop terrorism when the aid to stop terrorism is becoming the aid for terrorism?
5 Nov 2007
Petition To World Leaders:
Climate change is the greatest threat facing our world today - and we are almost out of time to stop it.
You must tackle this problem now, decisively and together. Start working toward a new global agreement this year. Set binding global targets for emissions to avert catastrophic climate change. Take bold action immediately - and we will join our efforts with yours.
8 Oct 2007
Indeed, this is what we human beings are. We always choose to look at the pretty side and ignore the dark side that actually constructs our life. Therefore, we seal whatever that is considered as inappropriate and wrong, and we pursue a fantasy that is so perfect in which nothing wrong would be shown and everything would be fine and beautiful. However, such a fantasy is only a lie, and lies can never survive the challenge of time. When such incidents happen, it is a time that we shall all face our true self, and it is also the time that we see how fragile human nature is. The story of Heights is a good representation of this weak human nature, and its aim to bring up such issue is to remind us that we shall be true to ourselves. Fantasy will never last long, and the consequence of it always brings us the unbearable failure.
Everyone is the victim, and everyone is the wrongdoer as well. We become victims because we never really face our past. Due to our lack of courage to face the past, we suffer from our actions of trying to build up a fantasy that is untrue. However, this action also makes the victim a wrongdoer. This victim/wrongdoer relationship produces tragic heroes, and Jonathan, a closeted gay man who pursues a fake but wonderful straight life, is the tragic hero in this film. We are not sure if he is truly in love with Isabel, but he does show his affection to her. They really share a perfect life, which is what they have expected. He has such a good intention to build up a family with Isabel. However, he ignores what is truly buried inside his heart, his true self. Jonathan is in fact a homosexual who is still having an affair with his neighbour, Alec, a young actor who has been suffering from Jonathan’s indecisiveness. Jonathan is cheating on his fiancé over another man, and this cheating is what makes his real life a false fantasy. Because of our social norms that consider homosexuality as impure and sinful, he seems to consider his true self as inappropriate and ugly. Living in this homophobic world, Jonathan is a victim who suffers. He tries his best to hide himself so as to keep his real life as perfect and beautiful. For this reason, when his affair with another man is finally revealed, he said to his fiancé that what happened is a shame. But this is his true self. Denying his true self for the false fantasy meaning denying his true existence in the reality. All his words and actions would naturally become meaningless because he is living in this fantasy that is just untrue. His actions and words make him the wrongdoer, who is responsible for the tragic incident. In order to protect his position as a victim and to ensure his social status in the society, he chose to lie to his fiancé, and this action has led him to the unbearable failure, to be the wrongdoer.
Can we blame Jonathan for being such a liar to his fiancé? Can we blame him for doing what he has to do to survive in the straight world? He can easily choose another life, which is a happy gay life with Alec. If he did, he could have shown the world his true identity. However, after having a good job in such a competitive society that normally rejects homosexuality in general, can he really give up what he has already built up and being what he truly is? When this question comes up, I believe most people would choose to maintain what they have had as Jonathan did. This is not about right or wrong; it is always about if you have met the right timing. With the right timing, the false fantasy could be maintained, and the secret private life will not be brought to light. If you are unlucky, like Jonathan, this only leads to one result, that is, you have to choose sides. In fact, when such a circumstance happened, you cannot freely choose where to go. You always have to just accept the result and wait for the verdict from the other victims who suffered from your actions. In this film, Jonathan is lucky to have Alec who is still willing to take him back. But will we all be so lucky like Jonathan?
This kind of problem that would have such a great impact on our personal life usually leads us to the state of being indecisive. It is this being indecisive that truly reveals our fragile human nature. Human nature is fragile because we are used to lies and false fantasies. We consider fantasies the power that encourages us to achieve all kinds of material satisfactions. But we must not forget that the satisfaction of material reality is not the true reality we live in. As mentioned, lies make everything meaningless. A life that is based on false fantasies would be a life that is completely meaningless, and therefore, all material achievements in this life are only vague ones that are alienated to us. So it would not be difficult for us to understand why Isabel determined to stop the relationship and why Jonathan chose to go back to Alec. Their crisis is in fact the best chance for them to examine their false fantasy and to finally see what they are and what they truly want to do. Though human nature is fragile, it can be amazingly strong when we finally identify with our true self.
By projecting Jonathan as an indecisive character, Heights shows us how ignorant we are trying to live in lies and false fantasies. Even we try so hard to protect this fragile bubble it still bursts. Only when we live a life that is true to ourselves could we be free from any forms of suffering. This is not a film that tells us what to do and how to do; it is a film that uses real life as a reflection to remind us that our past and our true identity must not be ignored.
Glenn Close is superb. She is such a great actress whose gestures, even just a glance or a single posture, are already full of energy that is totally theatrical. She plays Diana, Isabel’s mother, and her role in the film is just perfect for her. Playing as an actress, a master for performance, and a director, this role highlights Glenn’s ability as a professional performer. In the meantime, it is such a great pleasure to see Isabella Rossellini in this film. Though I am never impressed with her acting, especially comparing it to her mother, Ingrid Bergman, it is always good to see this beautiful actress on the screen.
4 Oct 2007
The UN special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, has returned to New York to report the situation in Burma. I really don't know if his meeting with the regime leaders could change anything at all. From what we have heard on the news lately, the junta determined to clamp down this protest, and they really did. Almost all monks in Burma are mysteriously gone. Hurting and killing monks is obviously a sign to tell the world that the junta doesn't care about their Burmese Buddhist tradition. They would do whatever it takes to clamp down this protest so as to maintain their legitimate power over Burma. Indeed, we saw it, and worse than that, we saw a Japanese reporter being shot within a short distance. Of course, Japan has declared their outrage, but for this shameful junta they simply responded with such a lie, "It was an accident, and he shouldn't be there". This is just ridiculous! They kill people just like killing ants, without a blink at all. What is human rights? Sorry, it doesn't exist at all in Burma!
Today I read a report by a journalist who went to cover the story. His report said when he was there, most people he met told him that they actually expected military force from the western world or the UN to stop this junta. Nobody wants war, but when somebody clearly expresses this intention, then the situation these people are in must be really difficult. This is why they rather suffer from war than live under this junta. This is a message that requires our attention, and this message shows how Burmese yearn for freedom and democracy. All sanctions and condemnations conducted by the world will not change the current situation in Burma, and these sanctions would only make people's life there more difficult. We don't know what this UN special envoy would report to the members of the UN. However, we are quite sure that everything he saw in Burma was deliberately arranged by the junta. Again, this diplomatic action is not successful because it doesn't carry any true voice from the people in Burma.
However, it is such an encouraging news that the UN envoy had met Aung San Suu Kyi. In a sense, this could be interpreted as a friendly response from the military junta. But we should remember that she is still detained and watched by the junta. What can she really say when she is not able to freely express her concerns on Burma?
So, as the journalist concluded in his report, "the protest is officially ended". Burma hasn't changed at all. Those monks and protesters are still mysteriously missing. Human rights is still only a joke there.
3 Oct 2007
The complete name of The Vajra Sutra is The Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra , 【金剛般若波羅密經】. It is also named The Diamond Sutra. This sutra is extremely important in Buddhist studies because through its dialogue form it introduces us the true Buddhist wisdom. This wisdom is nothing about worshiping gods; it is a teaching that guides us to look into our very own self and build up strong will so that we can perceive this subjective world with a true objective mind. This wisdom, though Buddhist, is beyond Buddhism; it is a philosophy that applies to everyone, regardless of ethnic, cultural, and religious background, who lives in this material world. Reciting and contemplating on it would help us look at whatever happened with objectivity which means we will not again use our subjective eyes to interpret any physical existence.
Indeed, when we stop interpreting things subjectively, we start to see new possibilities that are blocked by our subjective mind before. Subjectivity is nothing that we can truly abandon. We are human beings with the ability to think, and therefore we can never be truly objective. A subjective mind is always about what we desire. When desire stays in our mind, all we want is to fulfill this desire and the experience of it is loss and unhappiness. Because of the unhappiness caused by loss, we crave more and we are further away from the true wisdom. Lord Buddha stated that clearly in this sutra, and therefore he constantly told his disciple to give up this habit of trying to use our senses to perceive the meaning of dharma. Dharma is such a great wisdom that only when we try our best to be objective could we have the chance to be enlightened by it. This is why Lord Buddha taught us to give up our subjectivity, to learn to be objective. In his opinion, dharma is not a thing that we can crave and get; it is hidden inside all of us. It is a wisdom which we can develop through our contemplation on who we are and what we are.
Being a Buddhist believing in the teaching of Lord Buddha, I have the habit of reciting sutras and mantras. I don't see myself a very clever person who can easily pick up the meaning of these words, but I try my best to learn and understand them. It took me two years to study The Vajra Sutra. I recite it every day and contemplate on the meaning of the verses while I recite them. It truly helps me get rid of my old habit of being extremely subjective. It calms me down and now I seem to be more peaceful than before. I don't get angry easily, and I don't really crave for material satisfaction now. If you put it in a kind of superstitious way of speaking, my studies on Buddhism truly transforms me to be a better person, and it does make my life more easier. However, I firmly believe it is my understanding of these words and verses that leads me to look at myself and the world with different perspectives.
I found these two four-line verses in The Vajra Sutra very interesting and highly inspiring:
One who looks for me [the Buddha or Dharma] in forms,
Or seeks me in sounds,
[Would be] Practices a deviant path
And will never see the Thus Come One [be enlightened by dharma]
All conditioned dharmas
Are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble or a shadow,
Like dew or like a lightning flash.
Contemplate them thus
I am still on my way to be more objective. This is a long journey for personal development. I have started it, and my studies on Buddhism has given me a good belief on it.
27 Sep 2007
An injured monk receiving medical treatment, AFP, 27/09/07
Unfortunately, the junta chose the worst way to crackdown the protesters. For Buddha's sake, they are monks. They didn't do anything wrong. They just walked on the street and prayed. That's it!
Being a Buddhist, I firmly believe that if you attack a monk, you are doomed. How can you attack someone who has devoted himself wholly to the teaching of the lord Buddha? In this case, the junta would eventually fail because they are conducting such evil actions against monks, against Buddhism.
Though the international community is trying to sort out the Burma crisis, I don't see economic sanctions as good measures to solve this problem. Economic sanctions would only make people's life there more difficult. Only up to certain levels would it affect the junta and its leaders. Mostly, it would be the Burmese people who suffer from sanctions.
China is really the key to this problem. It is such a shame that China only said that they wish to see stability in Burma and declared that they do not wish to be involved in other country's internal affairs. It is not hard for us to know why they have such cold reaction towards this issue. It is all about the 2008 Olympic Games. In fact, I personally think this is a great chance for China to improve its bad image on humanitarian issues. China has such great influence on Burmese junta, and if they want to, they truly can help the junta find a way to cease the crisis. So far, we have known UN has decided to send their envoy to Burma. However, I don't think UN can be a good help without a strong support from Chinese government.
We really cannot do anything to help the monks and people in Burma. All we can do is only be highly supportive. I would pray to Buddha and pray for the people there. Hoping that no more violent crackdown would be on news again. I am also so hoping that the junta can realize the people power is way stronger that they have anticipated. They must stop attacking those monks, and they should return the country to its people.
According to news, Aung San Suu Kyi has been moved to the prison, but no one can confirm if this is true. If it is true, then the junta must have known that the power form the monks and people can throw them out, which is why they decided to move her to the prison. In fact, it is an useless action because Suu Kyi has lived in the heart of all Burmese, and keeping her in the jail would only provoke the protesters further that definitely would form a strong power to overthrow the junta. But, this for sure would go through violent phases. Indeed, no one wants to see more bloody scenes, and we are hoping that it will not happen.
Let us all loudly say the mantra of Avalokiteshvara（觀音菩薩）:
Om Mani Padme Hum
The meaning of this mantra is, as H.H. Dalai Lama explains,
Om: the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha
Mani: an altruistic intention to be enlightened, that is compassion and love
This is a practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha. (see the meaning of this mantra on Wikipedia)
The power of this mantra can help us support the monks in Burma. Reciting it will give us good belief and support. Only when we have built up our own belief can we truly support the monks and people in Burma.
26 Sep 2007
Sure he does. Ahmadinejad's speech at Columbia clearly shows us what 'dictator' means. As New York Time concluded,
"There are many reasons we find Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies and pronouncements loathsome. High on that list are his denial of the Holocaust, his call to wipe Israel off the map and his country's sponsorship of terrorism. Equally loathsome is Iran's denial of basic civil rights to its citizens, including the right of free speech." Editorial, New York Times, 25/09/2007
The Holocaust is a fact that is not old enough for us to forget. Some of the survivors are still alive. Denying it means to deny history. How can we deny history? If we do, we would be living in make-believe where everything is controlled by the one who creates this delusion. It is obvious that creating delusion is the easiest way for this man to satisfy his own needs and desires. In other words, he is manipulating the truth by hypnotizing himself and his people so that he can achieve the ultimate resources and power. He is making himself a human-god whose words are the only truth, and surely he controls everything in his regime. Certainly, whoever is against his will shall deserve punishments. Isn't he a true dictator?
It is not hard for us to imagine living a life under such a dictator. You must comply with whatever he said. There is no space for discussion. By using Koran as the principle, Ahmadinejad imposes his ideas on this religious teaching and forms a pure Islamic world, as he called, whose fundamental proposition is not quite the same as what Koran originally said. Indeed, we human beings used to interpret sacred words with our mindset and give final conclusions that favour us only. In order to establish a pure Islamic world, he has made his country a weapon that aims at all non-Islamic countries. What a sacred mission he has that could make Iran a total offering to Allah. Due to the war that lingers for so ling, hating America and other western power has become the norm for most Muslim counties. Ahmadinejad's words and actions only make Iran more noble to its Muslim allies. This is why he insists on the development of nuclear weapons. This is why he supports terrorism. We shall never forget that terrorism is the term we use to signify those Muslims who intend to attack non-Islamic countries. No wonder, Ahmadinejad would support them because they are all Muslim brothers.
So horrible when sacred words are misinterpreted in such a way. Does Koran really teach people to hate each other, to kill each other? Shouldn't religion be about love and peace? Isn't religion a good support to human rights? We can never find a logical answer to these questions concerning what happened in Iran. It seems Ahmadinejad doesn't believe in love and peace. He probably thinks human rights is a ridiculous term that doesn't exist in this world at all. He is such a bad liar when he said "We don't have homosexuals like in your country" in his speech at Columbia University. In November 2005, two young men were executed for the crime of penetrative sexual acts between men. There is one more case in March 2005, one in 2004, and another in 2003. (see reference published on Human Rights News) Again, we see how a man manipulates history and hypnotizes himself. In fact, because of his ability to manipulate truth and his determination to practice his dictatorship in Iran, I believe in his words that there are no homosexuals in Iran. He has killed them all!
All his words in that speech only reaffirms his position as a true dictator. All those words only highlights his image as a liar and as a threat to the rest of the world. Though there are quite a lot of attack on Columbia University, I firmly believe that they have done a good job. Without having them inviting this person to give a speech, we would never have the chance to see how bad he is, how terrible he can be. It is always better to know then not knowing. Being ignorant only brings us more trouble. Only when we get to know what he is like could we figure out certain ways to prevent what he may do in the future. In the meantime, Columbia University has shown us what "freedom of speech" is. Everyone has the right to talk and present their ideas. If we don't let him talk, then wouldn't we be like him as well?
24 Sep 2007
Buddhists monks and their supporters in Yangon. Thousands of monks have marched in Myanmar's main city Yangon on Monday, piling the pressure on its military junta after a weekend that saw the biggest show of dissent in nearly two decades. AFP, 09/24/2007
Graphic fact file on the anti-government protests in Myanmar spearheaded by Buddhist monks. AFP, 09/24/2007
Buddhist monks rarely express their political views or join any political activities. If they march on the street and clearly express a certain political view, that means the leader of the country is really causing troubles that brings only misery to its people.
Monks in Myanmar must have had enough from the military regime. This is why they decided not to receive any offerings from anyone who has any connections with the regime. This is a very serious protest because receiving offerings, called alms, is an important tradition in Buddhism. The public offer their food or whatever to a monk, and the monk will pray for them that can help them to be closer to the Lord Buddha. Through this, the public receives peacefulness from the monk. For monks, they would not care who you are or what you have done; all they do is to pray for you, to bring peace to your heart.
Supposedly, you can be a very bad person, but the monk will still pray for you. Because they want to help you become a better person, and in the meantime, to help remove sins you have committed in this life. In other words, monks are generous, and they always do good to people without asking for rewards. This is the teaching of the Lord Buddha; it is what they have to do, and they will always do it.
It must be very difficult for the monks in Myanmar to make such a decision. Refusing alms is against the teaching of Buddha which could be considered as a crime for monks. The question here is why they would do such a thing that will affect their practice of Buddhism? I guess the answer is all about Myanmar's ruling junta. It has done no good the country, and it has led its people to poverty and hardship. It is this reason they marched to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader who has been detained for almost 12 years. Though these monks did not say anything but only pray for Suu Kyi, this action can be interpreted as a request for the need of Suu Kyi and of course the need for democracy in Myanmar.
The protest still goes on, and there more and more monks, even the public, joining the protest. No one would ever know if the junta would take any violent and bloody actions. We can only hope that it will not happen. The international society, especially those so-called big countries, should support the action taken by these monks and protect them from any possible military assault.
Free Aung San Suu Kyi!
A Myanmar activist holds a potrait of Myanmar's opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok. Thousands of monks have marched in Myanmar's main city Yangon on Monday, piling the pressure on its military junta after a weekend that saw the biggest show of dissent in nearly two decades. AFP, 09/24/2007
19 Sep 2007
I heard this song when I was in Greece. Once I heard it, it's like brain tumor that stays forever. I just love it, and I really can't say why. The rhythm is pretty and the words are poetic. Though it seems quite gray, it doesn't really get you that desperate feeling. It is more like you have finally realized that life is full of different kinds of difficulties that we all need to learn to let go. Only when we finally let go of all those trivial feelings could we truly relieve ourselves from all forms of confines.
Here is the lyric,
In any other world
You could tell the difference
And let it all unfurl
Into broken remnants
Smile like you mean it
And let yourself let go
'Cause it's all in the hands of a bitter, bitter man
Say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in
Take a bow, play the part of a Lonely, lonely heart
Say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in
To the world you thought you lived in'
I tried to live alone
But lonely is so lonely, alone
So human as I am
I had to give up my defenses
So I smiled and tried to mean it
To make myself let go
'Cause it's all in the hands of a bitter, bitter man
Say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in
Take a bow, play the part of a lonely lonely heart
Say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in
To the world you thought you lived in'
In any other world
You could tell the difference
"I never ever, I forget my story.
My face is no sad, but inside, I am sad."
17 Sep 2007
... It was not until last week that I have to know the truth (from one of my colleagues): his wife has suffered from cancer. I was so shocked by the news. For over a week, I have been thinking of the meaning of life. What is the most precious thing in life? A decent job, money, a partner or self experiences? Jobs and money are necessary for survival but they are not everything. A partner is so diffcult to find. It may be self experiences that really count in the end. After all, life is so short and full of the unexpected ...
Some words I say:
I am so sorry to hear news like this. I hate to know people suffering from any kinds of disease or from any kind of uneasiness. I guess that is my personality. I am quite easy to identify with those people. However, they do suffer, and there is nothing we can do for them. All we could do is to give our support and to be strong for them. I guess this is why I want to work for NPO/NGOs. At least, working in these organizations gives me the chance to be there for these people.
Just look at those poor man in Darfur; genocide is way more scarier than any kinds of physical disease. They need our help in whatever ways that can at least help them feel that life is still worth living. Of course, this is very different from your story, but I want you to know that the meaning of living a life is not just pursuing something so trivial, such a money, position, and material satisfaction. Indeed, material part is important for our living in this world, but it is not the only thing that we should look on to. We are human beings, and we are born with the ability to love and give help. To love someone, like a partner, or to love every living thing. To help whoever needs help. This is a belief that we should always bear in mind.
Of course, you can practice this through material ways, but I firmly believe if you practice this through your heart, your mind, and practice it in everyday life, such as being a good support for the one you care about, then what you receive would be more precious than what you give. Don't we usually hear "I’ll be there for you" in movies? Dalai Lama also says that "offering our support without us being realizing that we are actually offering support always gains us delightful feelings that make us happy." Isn't being happy the only goal that we all try so hard to look for in this life? When a person feels happy, naturally s/he thinks whatever actions s/he does is full of meanings that inherently makes his life meaningful.
Back to your story, I believe your friend is not asking for assistance. He is only telling you something that has become so unbearable in his heart. He is only sharing his feelings with you. Nothing you can do to change the conditions of his wife, but your support would give him strength that helps him to be strong in front of his wife. When he is strong, he can stand by his wife and help her face the unexpected future. Sometimes, I feel cancer is the disease Buddha gives us to remind us what we have lost, namely, love. Cancer patients are weak, both physically and mentally. All they need is the will to live. There are cases that cancer patients survive their disease because of their strong will to live. According to these case studies, the result shows most of these patients receive strong and good support from their friends and relatives. Instead of feeling terrible, we need to offer our love/support to them, be there for them.
I am reading Zhuang Zi （莊子） now. His words are smart, and he does enjoy playing with our trivial notions on the meaning of life and the universe. What is life? Is it something that you really can pursue and change? Why does he tell us to comply with the rules of the universe? Is it because we are never able to overcome nature? But why do we always try to succeed the nature? Don't our trivial goals only bring us unhappiness due to our constant failure to achieve these goals? Isn't life full of delightful feelings and happiness when we finally start to comply with the rules of the universe, or in other words, when we finally stop pursuing trivial things?
I found Zhuang Zi's theory quite similar to the teaching of Buddha. They both ask us to learn to quit our trivial habits in this life and to look at the world we live in. They both mention that the meaning of life is tightly bound to our notion of being happy in our everyday life. Of course, they are not saying that we should pursue happiness. They both highlight the idea that if we can comply with the rule of the universe, naturally we will stop craving, and this would definitely bring us peacefulness. Doesn't a peaceful mind make us happy?
7 Sep 2007
Nessun Dorma, Let No One Sleep, in Act III in Puccini's Turandot is probably the most famous opera aria in the world. I believe most people, me as well, know this aria from Luciano Pavarotti's amazing performance. His powerful and passionate voice is like magic that enchants everyone's ears, that penetrates everyone's soul, that seduces each of us to fall into the art of opera. In the statement mourning Pavarotti's death, Royal Opera House (Covent Garden) said,
Luciano Pavarotti was one of the finest singers of our time; ... [He] was one of those rare artists who affected the lives of people across the globe in all walks of life. Through his countless broadcasts, recordings and concerts he introduced the extraordinary power of opera to people who perhaps would never have encountered opera and classical singing, in doing so he enriched their lives. That will be his legacy. ... He had a unique ability to touch people with the emotional and brilliant quality of his voice. He was a man with the most extraordinary gift but with the ability to contact with anyone. He will be truly missed by millions.
True, he will be missed by millions.
Sad that we have lost such a great tenor. I remembered not long ago we just lost two great film directors, Bergman and Antonioni. 2007 has become a sorrowful year for all of us. It is sad to know people die, but it is even worse to fully understand that what we no longer have is their experience, knowledge and artistry. What worries us most is if we have any successors to these deceased masters. For the films industry, we have started to see some good directors showing their talent and creativity. However, in opera singing, the lack of new good tenors with powerful and magnificent voice connotes the decline of opera in modern time. In fact, the lack of tenors and sopranos is not the only reason that results in the decline of opera. It is our popular culture that brings opera to the end. Not only opera has this problem; most traditional performing arts face the same difficulty to survive now. Every time I hear the decease of a mater of a certain arts form, the same worry would pop up again.
Indeed, Pavarotti's voice is unique. It is "God-given glory" as Placido Domingo addressed. Now God retrieves his property, and we are only left with the recordings of this voice.
3 Sep 2007
The news from the Bangkok Post: AoT gives sleeping pills as panacea
In fact, I have just visited this airport this July, and I am so disappointed in the service of the airport. It is just way too big without clear directions. It takes forever for transfer, and going through the security check point is such a pain in the ass. Moreover, It was so cold in that airport. The use of the air conditioning seems free there, and this is just so environmentally UN-friendly.
This airport should develop a proper plan to reduce the noise and air pollution caused by planes. They could have worked with private sectors or international groups to help the residents around the airport. Simply offering earplugs and sleeping pills is not only incorrect but irresponsible, and this may cause serious problems in the coming future. Long term studies on these pills show no encouraging results. It is even deadly for chronic use of these pills. (See The Dark Side of Sleeping Pills by Daniel Kripke, M.D., paper revised in Aug 2006) If the Airport keeps feeding the local residents sleeping pills, they definitely will pay more in the coming future.
31 Aug 2007
Note: Images from AFP (Agence France-Presse) & Yahoo News Taiwan
Though two of the 23 Korean hostages were unfortunately killed by the Taliban, the rest of them are all free now. They are safe and ready to return to their family. They must have suffered the great torture, both physically and mentally, from the Taliban whose notorious bloody actions for establishing a pure Islamic country have hurt and ruined so many families.
I am happy for those hostages who are safe now. However, the negotiation between the government of South Korea and the Taliban has become a serious problem. In order to rescue these hostages, South Korea has agreed to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in the end of this year. This seems that from now on Taliban can always target on humanitarians, missionaries, and all other volunteers working for international organizations. This is not a hypothesis; it has already happened.
It sad to read news and look at the images about Afghanistan. People there have suffered so much from the extreme control of the Taliban and the war inflicted by the U.S. Even though we see a new government for this poor country, we have not yet seen any progress concerning the country's welfare, let alone the idea to defeat the Taliban. What could we really expect when this group is still so active? Is it really possible to successfully defeat them?
Now we have a new issue coming, that is, this group has found another way to challenge the power that aims to destroy them. This new threat is way more serious than the old tricks, and it truly effects the international rescue actions in Afghanistan. How the super power responds to this new threat is what requires our attention.
23 Aug 2007
Who is Matsu?
Matsu is the goddess of sea in Chinese folk religion. She was a real person dated back to early Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 AD). Her name is Lin Moniang（林墨娘）born in a fisherman family in 960 AD. She died at the age of 28 in 987 AD. According to the legend, she climbed to the top of the cliff and flew to heaven. When she was born, there were strange things happened in the village, and people believed that this baby was special. She was smart, and very naturally she knew about medicine and supernatural power. Therefore, she constantly prayed for her father and brother's safety as well as all other fishermen while they were out in the sea. Every time she prayed, the bad weather would change and the rough sea would turn smooth. In addition to this, because of her ability to help people in the village, she was believed to be having divinity. So when she flew to heaven, people knew that she had become a goddess.
Her ability to help people and her supernatural power had been widely discussed. Slowly, people started to believe that she is the goddess of sea who had the power to save and help every individual who suffers from pain and misfortune. She started to gain popularity after Song Dynasty that made her one of the most famous goddess in Chinese folk religion. Not just people who work at sea worship her, almost every Chinese knows her and worships her. Even the emperors (such as in Ming and Qing Dynasties) believed in her divinity and named her the Heavenly Empress（天后）.
Matsu is a very important icon in Taiwan. Her temples are almost everywhere, and everyone here knows Matsu and believes in her power. In Taichung（台中）, there is a would famous Matsu festival held by Chenlan Temple （鎮瀾宮）every march. This religious festival not only represents our strong belief in Matsu, but also represents the recognition of Taiwan. It holds all Taiwanese together as a group power to thank Matsu for her protection and compassion. Through this activity, we share the same belief and ideas that in fact reinforce our recognition of Taiwan and our identification of this land. Therefore, when this festival starts, we always see politicians joining the activity, and Indeed, the reason for them to join is to hope that Matsu could protect them and help them win the election. Moreover, they naturally would use this opportunity to deliver their political views and gain the trust from all participants. Honestly speaking, these politicians are truly manipulating this religious icon for their own interest only, which contradicts to Matsu's image of compassion. I wonder how Matsu would feel when she realizes this!
However, as my title goes, can Matsu helps us win a seat in the UN? I guess the answer is no, and this is only another trick played by those tricky politicians.
Why do we really need to join UN when we have been on our own for so long? We still survive! Besides, UN is such a huge organization that doesn't really produce anything efficiently but full of all corrupt situations within its structure. Why do we want to join this organization when we will not be benefited from it?
For those who insists in joining UN, their main concern is on Taiwan's independence. But this is such a ridiculous logic. We are in fact independent now. Joining UN will not make us more independent. It in fact will cause more international troubles that would truly damage our current independent status. The second ridiculous logic they hold is that we must change our name so as to show our independence. They argue that our current name only causes confusion, so we must let all other countries know that we are "Taiwan". True that we do have a name that is not recognized by other countries, but everyone knows Taiwan, and we are already using it as an unofficial name for this country. Why do we want to change the current status and go to the direction that leads Taiwan to destruction? It is never about the name; it is always about the cross-strait situation. China is way stronger than us now, both politically and economically. They are fine with us using Taiwan unofficially. If we start to change this situation, no one knows what kind of damage would bring us. Then why do these politicians want to put their people and the country's future in such a dangerous state?
I could never understand what these people think in their head! By the way, though I believe in Matsu, and I truly think that she knows all languages, I don't think she is able to get us a seat in the UN, not even you bring her statue to the headquarters of the UN in New York, which is what they planned to do and will do couple months later. My reason is easy to understand. She certainly has the power to help us, but for those foreign countries, they don't believe in Matsu! When they are not believing in this god, how could you expect them to receive the message from this god and do what she wants them to do! Taking the whole issue with a superstitious consideration, we could easily know that this effort will surely be a vain attempt. The bottom line is that this is only another politicians' manipulation of Matsu image for their personal interest.
10 Aug 2007
96% of university entrance exam takers can enter the university now: is it a good sign for higher education in Taiwan?
According to the Department of Higher Education in Taiwan, there are 158 universities in Taiwan including 2 Open Universities and 7 special universities/academies for the training of the police and military. If we count in 15 vocational colleges, which are junior colleges for junior high students, the total number of higher education institutions is 173. Do we really need so many institutions for higher education?
We shouldn't be shocked by this terribly low entering score. There are too many universities here, and each of them wants students. When they cannot get the funding from the government, when they are having difficulty raising money from private sectors, the only way for them to survive is to get as many students as possible. So they keep opening new departments with fancy names that can attract high school students. When the offer is way more than the real needs, in order to take enough students to keep the new department, new universities risk taking in students who are truly not able for higher education. This explains why the entering score for universities is getting lower every year. Not surprisingly, now we have universities with students whose education level is only in junior high school. They don't speak and write English, they totally have no idea of algebra , they cannot identify Dubai on the map, and the worst of all is that they can't even talk and write Chinese, which is their mother tongue.
I agree with the idea that everyone living in this society deserves the right for education. However, what happens here now is not the correct way to do. The ministry of Education should set up standards for universities. They can group them into research universities, vocational training universities and community colleges. Research Universities are set up to further all types of research that can foster the academic quality of Taiwan. Vocational training universities provide students with all required skills and train them to be professionals for their future career. Communities colleges should act as an alternative that provide basic training and knowledge to those who are not qualified for higher education but want to learn and develop their skills. If we do so, each university will has its goal and target students, and students will be guided by parents and teachers to select what really is the best for his/her future. We would be able to avoid such a shameful score.
In Taiwan, what we have now is a very tricky policy from the Ministry of Education. They provide NTD 50 billions for universities that are evaluated as the so-called "good universities". The purpose of the Ministry of Education is awkward here. It is a good intention that they give this money to help universities to be ranked as one of the top universities in international ranking. Indeed, if a university receives a high rank in international ranking, the university must be good in its teaching and research qualities. When they use this money to build up their strength, they are truly fostering the academic quality of Taiwan. However, what about all the other universities? The ministry seems to ignore them completely. If you don't help them and you ignore them, they will be just like this, in such an awkward situation. They still try hard to survive, they still take in low quality students, and they still try to compete with good universities but keep failing. This only brings one result, that is, they can never contribute to the academic environment in Taiwan but only produce bachelors without proper knowledge and professional skills.
It is truly sad that the policy makers do not see this truth. They are totally blinded by politicians and businessmen. I believe some of these new universities are not set up to provide qualities but only to gain money. University education is way more expensive now, and the tuition fee is getting higher every year. For those who consider education as business, this is really a good chance to make money. Corruption has found its way into the academic field already. How could we expect new changes to be happened in higher education when policy makers are so corrupt? Is it possible for us to have a healthy higher education when the whole government is so corrupt? Maybe it is a good thing for the new generations in Taiwan because everyone can go to the university now. However, it is also such a shame. Taiwan probably will become a country with the highest unemployment rate for bachelor holders in the world. By that time, we will have beggars and homeless people with high degrees everywhere!
1 Aug 2007
It was when I was still a film student that I heard about Michaelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman. I still remember the first Antonioni film I saw was Blowup, and for Bergman was Persona. How interesting, both films are released in 1966. Blowup is Antonioni's first English film, and it is famous for its controversial theme and scenes that still draw the interest of modern film workers. Persona is what Bergman himself considered the most important film he ever made that actually saved his artistic life. Both masterpieces are regarded as the director's rep work.
Who would ever know that these little coincidences could lead to their decease on the same day!
Indeed, I do get this strange feeling when I read about their death. It feels like falling into a huge hollowness that sucks you in and drowns you. True that I don't know them personally, but I did have their films accompany me throughout my college days. They were always the topic we talked about. We always chose their works to write about. They seemed to be around our life all the time. That truly made you feel that you are so familiar with them. In fact, when we are so engaged with someone's works, we start to establish a special connection with them. This connection is a communication, is a dialogue between the screen and us; though it is only a one-way communication, it allowed us to get to know what the director wants to express, to know his/her ideas better. Therefore, after seeing their films, after trying to establish all different kinds of dialogues with their films, I felt that I had known them, that they were already a part of my life. I guess this is why I get such a horrible feeling after knowing their death.
A memory is something you have or something you have lost?! I guess it is both. Even though I still have my memory of both great directors, we have lost them forever. It is always possible to "retrouver", but all we can find now is only the memory.
24 Jul 2007
Kea, remote beach
Gulf of Corinth
Gulf of Corinth
Oranges in the Archaeological Museum
Zeus or Poseidon? Archaeological Museum
Mount Lycavittos, Athens
Palea Fokia, Attika
The painting I made as a wedding gift for my dear friend
Finally, my summer holiday to Greece is over. Though I am back to work now, subconsciously I am still following the Greek time. Indeed, my mind and my soul are left in Greece; all I have here is only my empty body that tries so hard to cope with this busy but boring lifestyle.
Greece is so beautiful! Its beauty is hard to describe in words. This beauty is not just the breathtaking scenery; it is a combination of the scenery, the food, the hospitality of Greeks, and their fabulous casual lifestyle. When all these elements come to you as a whole, you really feel like you are in fact standing on the land of all gods. Indeed, Greece is the land where all gods plan their tricks on human beings. It is a place that is filled with history, culture and tradition. This only gives extra flavour to this land and makes it even more charming.
Greeks are beautiful people. They have honey skin, tall figures and amazingly pretty faces. Is it because they are the descendants of all gods? It is so true that most men there have this Apollonian body and face, and most women share the figure of Aphrodite. More than that, their lifestyle indeed reminds us the god of wine, Dionysus. It is so amazing that what we read from the Greek Mythology is vividly portrayed right in front of our eyes. Or I should say that it is ancient Greeks who implanted their true personalities in these imaginary gods.
I am very lucky to have my special Greek friends, and through my dear friend I make more new friends there. These lovely people wholeheartedly welcomed me to stay at their beautiful summer houses. They have given me a very unique travel experience, which means that I had been living like Greeks in Greece when I was there. I love it so much that I am seriously thinking of my retirement in Greece in the future!
The food there tastes divine, especially feta cheese and Greek sweets. How sad that I was not able to take those delicious cheese home. I like the way Greeks have their meal. They don't have dinner till late at night, and it takes as long as you like to finish dinner. For a slow eater who has late dinner like me, it is perfect. I found their food very healthy. Extra virgin olive oil and lemons are the must, and you always conclude your dinner with amazingly tasteful sweets. Good selections of sweets there, but my favourite is always Kadaifi, which I called the hairy stuff. I guess I like it because it is so hairy, like most Greek guys.
Some may say that Kadaifi is Turkish. Whatever its origin is, they can be bought everywhere in Greece. Food is a medium that helps erase the difference when two different cultures meet. It mingles two different cultures. Through the communication of how food is made, people perfect their skills and produce even tasteful food. Kadaifi is a perfect example! Even though both Greeks and Turks are still somehow quite against each other, both parts share the same food, and all these dishes are just amazing. This is only my opinion, and I am not trying to say that Greeks and Turks share the same quality. I have learned my lesson, that is, never try to raise the topic of Greeks vs. Turks and the Ottoman Empire. It can go on for ages, and you will be bombarded with complaints for sure!
I envy how Greeks live their everyday life. They go to work, but after 4 or 5 pm they will go to the beach for a swim. They are so lucky to have Apollo Coast that goes from Pireas all the way down to Cape Sounio, which is about 80km. Along this highly developed route, you find all kinds of beaches where you can go for a swim, for snorkeling, or just for sunbathing. When the sun goes down, which is about 8 to 9 pm, everyone leaves the beach for dinner and clubbing. No wonder Greeks have great figures and are nicely tanned! If I have lived there, I would have done the same as well! Will you be tired after all these activities? The answer is no because during the weekend time, everyone will be heading to their summer houses for a nice sleep and of course, again, a nice swim and sunbath. This is such a wonderful lifestyle. I really love the summer time there!
What a country with those cute and fun people. I am very excited about my Greece trip next summer. My dear friend has invited me and we are planning to go to the islands. I did not go to any big and famous islands because the price has gone ridiculous. It would cost me 150 Euros just for the boat fair. My friend said that I should do islands next year. Indeed, the price is way lower if you book them ahead. Everything goes expensive in the summer. I hope that I can stay longer next year because Greece has so much to offer, like the slogan goes "Five senses to explore; one country to discover!"
I am now so in love with Greece.