29 Dec 2008

中文/英文:針對回文者的回應

Anonymous said: 那你说美籍华人怎样中文不好,英文学得好呢?不一定要中文不好,英文一定不好。这是两种不同的语言。

原文:學英文 :【中文不好,英文一定學不好】

首先,我必須說明我的立場。原文論述的對象是現在台灣中小學生,而論述的內容則是他們的英語學習情況。在台灣英語是第二語言,而此條件定義了學習者必定不是以英語作為思惟的基礎,也因此,學習者於思考時運用的語言必然是國語(中文),亦即是他們的第一語言。(在此或許又會有不同的聲音出現,因為許多台灣人認定其第一語言為台語、客家語或是原住民語。我尊重各種不同的立場,但我們必須承認中文╱國語仍是中小學語文教育的主幹,亦即是間接承認其第一語言的地位。)

這位不具名回文者提出了十分正確的論述:英文與中文「是兩種不同的語言」。但令人匪夷所思的是,他╱她卻是以「美籍華人」作為評斷中文能力與英語學習間的關係。首先,不知回文者是否只是為了抨擊我的觀點而回文,同時的,我也懷疑他╱她是否讀完原文。

所謂美籍華人,就常理以及直觀上的判斷就是具有美國籍的華人。先不論美籍華人是否是第一代、第二代,也不論是否是混血兒,此一名稱賦予大眾的直覺反應是生活在美國,並以英語作為是第一語言的華人。當然的,美籍華人同時也可能包含那些具美國籍,但卻生活於大中華區的華人。雖居住地在大中華區,其家庭背景、生活環境仍因其美國籍身分而可能是以英語作為主要溝通工具:如父母親或親戚因素、就讀學校、工作環境與朋友關係。不論居住的位置再哪裡,英語必然的成為這些人的主要語言,而他們對英語的熟悉度與認同感,勢必強過在台灣以中文作為第一語言的學習者。因此,回文者說他們中文不好但英文卻很好的論述,實是不當,並且是幼稚、不明事理。換個角度想,這問題會變成:為什麼美籍華人英文好,但中文卻不好?因為中文不是他們主要使用的語言。

回文者說英語與中文是兩種語言,兩者之間的關係是無法比較與評估的。如果評估的對象純粹是單純使用英文的或中文的個體,當然地這種對語文間關係的評論是不具特殊意義的。然而今天我的對象是以一種語言為思惟基礎來學習另一種外來語言,此時兩種語言間的關係必然的會成為需要被探討的問題。我們須要了解為什麼某些人英文學習會出現重大問題、為什麼無法對英文產生熟悉感、為什麼理解英文是天方夜譚?理解上以及學習上的問題是否是起因於對語文使用的不熟悉?是否是於思考上、邏輯推理上出現阻塞?這些問題都可以被歸納至個體整合的思惟能力上,換句話說,也就是自身對用來思考的語言即已出現問題。畢竟思惟仍是藉語言使用而進行的,它無法脫離語言而獨立存在。就如同對現實世界的認知一般,認知系統最終仍是依賴語言使用而運作。這就是為什麼原文提出了中文沒學好、不會使用,將造成英語學習上的困難。

有些人可能英文比中文好,而且中文還真的很糟糕,但這些人畢竟是少數。對這群人我們可以說他們在語文學習上是具先天優勢的。然而大多數的人是英文學不好的人,而其原因不可能純粹是英文學習(背生字、練習文法、口語對話、學習態度等)的問題。事實上,當我們仔細去研究這些人於中文學習上的狀態時,將發現很多是連中文作文都有問題的。我所強調的很簡單,當無法順利、流暢的使用作為母語的語言時,要如何能學好外來語種,更何況身處的環境並不以外來語種作為溝通工具?

16 Dec 2008

I La Galigo -《加利哥的故事》:跨文化的新混種表演形式 (Hybrid)

對所有的觀眾而言,看完《加利哥的故事》後一定會感覺這齣戲很特別,舞台上所演出的並不是一般傳統的、大家習以為常的戲劇表演方式,而是一種無法被清楚界定出來的劇場呈現模式。說它是戲劇,藉講述者交代被刻意精簡過的情節、缺少角色個性及模仿的(高度型式化)演員演出、並不斷穿插不同類型的舞蹈形式,好像並不符合傳統敘事劇場的結構。說它是音樂劇,它卻又沒有利用音樂來交代情節主題,並且不斷利用講述者、演員行動及燈光變化來打斷音樂的連續性。就演出形式而言,很明顯的它更不是歌劇、舞劇。就一般觀眾而言,他們也許可以說這就是「表演藝術」,但對已具備相當戲劇知識以及觀戲經驗的觀者來說,這種說法太過籠統。《加利哥的故事》作為「表演藝術」具備了什麼獨特性?這是我們所關切的主題,唯有藉由分析它到底要對觀眾傳達什麼、如何傳達,我們才能了解它到底是一種什麼樣的表演藝術。

表演的「形式」及「意義」(內容)是緊密相關且相互影響的;形式即是美學的展現並且蘊含著意義,然而意義的存在卻又引出形式的轉化(關於型式與內容的理論性爭論以及兩者間與美學的關係,可參考朱光潛《談美》;文化社會學者Pierre Bourdieu也曾就Flaubert的作品申論型式與意義的關係,並探討此種關係如何受社會狀態與階級變化的影響而轉變,進而開拓出新的美學意義,參考Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature)。《加利哥的故事》所要表達的是它已具備的整體的表演形式,而其意義來自於形式轉化後的獨特性。觀眾看見的是它的美學展現,這種美學展現不僅抒發、強調文本中的情感,更是它所欲傳達的意義。羅伯.威爾森認為「藝術的價值即在於其自身的形式之中」(Maria Shevtsova, Robert Wilson, London: Routledge, 2007: 52),而他也堅持他的表演都是「形式化的」、「並無其他特別意義」(同上:53)。這種觀點的發展來自十九世紀末開始的寫實主義(反對浪漫主義的資產階級戲劇 - Bourgeois Theatre),然而此種觀點的成熟實質上包括了對寫實主義的反動(如象徵主義的興起)以及之後蓬勃發展的實驗劇場運動(雖說Mayerhold, Artaud, Brecht, Tairov及其它偉大的導演們早已是我們所認知的主流,但再他們的時代裡,他們實驗性的實踐 - 發揮其理念於劇場中 - 確實顯示出實驗劇場的精神)。不同的觀念不斷相互衝擊,創作者持續的實踐理念,因此不僅追求劇場自治的目標越趨明顯,也提供現代新導演養分與基礎。當然的,每一場演出都有其特定、所欲傳達的意念(通常是導演或劇作家的意圖,也或許是對當時社會、文化或藝術的批判),而整體演出中的各個元素都是意圖突出並強調這個意念。因此,當我們試圖去分析威爾森《加利哥的故事》時,首先須將整體表演拆解並重新結構,才能看出其表演形式的獨特之處並了解其獨特的美學意義。

如威爾森所言「愛是永不止息」(《加利哥的故事》節目單,2008:6),《加利哥的故事》所要傳達的基本訊息就是愛的力量。因為愛的力量,中土世界得以繁榮,金色雙胞胎誕生。也因為愛,造成兄妹間的分離、中土世界的混亂,最後成為無神的世界。就劇情的結構而言,羅達.葛羅爾的劇本將原本達六千頁的神話史詩,精簡為以兄妹間禁忌的愛為出發點的傳說故事。精簡後的內容保留了史詩的核心,更因故事的濃縮使得愛的力量被突顯了出來。劇本於表演中的獨佔地位被削弱了,而劇本釋放出的空間則由威爾森的舞台創造力填滿。就舞台展現而言,演出前的紗幕上填滿了難以辨認的外國文字,這明確地告訴觀眾這是一齣跨文化的演出。雖然是鏡框式舞台,簡單乾淨的舞台空間卻打破傳統,呈現一種儀式化、神聖的感覺,點出史詩的特性與舞台上即將發生的神人關係,更明白說明這不是傳統文化的再現,而是一種新的、超越文化限制的威爾森式舞台展現。右後舞台有一道突兀的樓梯,它超現實的存在好像要告知觀眾這是一個神人互存的世界,而最後樓梯昇起象徵了神決定離開中土世界。講述者坐在右前舞台,他走出了鏡框的限制,也打破了劇場的幻覺,就像布萊希特(Bertolt Brechet)的演員一樣,他不斷告訴觀眾事情是這樣發生的。左後舞台的樂隊不斷運用音樂的力量強調舞台動作的情感,而極簡的舞台空間突出了音樂的複雜性。樂師的位置是獨特的,而他們更換樂器的動作再一次打破幻覺。不僅是傳統印尼音樂被使用,利用傳統樂器創新傳統音樂更是反應布吉司人文化的獨特性。而燈光的使用則是威爾森最吸引人的地方。燈光不再只是照明,它變成了演員,而每一次燈光轉變,都是不同情感的表達。它不只代表了某一個角色的特性(如灰色代表神的世界與Patatoqué、紅色為Batara Guru),更強調了演員演出(如用聚光燈強調金色雙胞胎的不願出世、天幕顏色轉換帶出Sawérigadin的沮喪與憤怒)與音樂進行(如開場時的明暗、戰爭與換景時燈光的迅速變換)。將燈光轉化為演員演出情感,這似乎實現了阿皮亞(Adolph Appia)燈光的理想。

然而整齣戲中最能突顯形式獨特性的莫過於舞台上演員的行動與道具的使用。去除語言使用,藉身體的動作傳達情感是威爾森演員最重要的特質,也因情感需要被累積,所以他的演員時常出現極度緩慢的行動,而「慢」也成為了威爾森式表演的一大特色。與其說是表演,演員舞台上的動作是形式化行動的組合與再組合,其目的在於帶領出行動內蘊的情感。這些行動組合具備了如同梅耶荷(Vsevolod Meyerhold)所謂精準的、高度形式化的特性。除了姿態展現(表達角色特性,如Patatoqué立於代表神的昇降台或稻米女神的坐姿)以及因戲劇需求而出現的模仿性行動(傳達特定情緒,如角色間對話的動作、戰爭及日常行動的誇張模仿或像Wé Cudaiq的立姿與手勢),更利用舞蹈延續部份或整體情感。舞台上的舞蹈經常是某一姿態或行動的延伸,它可能是快的(戰爭或濃烈的情緒)、慢的(哀傷、失望或期待),而它的形式混合了傳統印尼舞蹈、東方形式化動作、芭蕾、現代舞以及純粹律動。形式的混合反應出威爾森對劇場的理念,它不是製造幻覺的工具,而是引發情感的空間,而這需要運用所有可以引發情感的媒介(尤其是舞蹈)。另一項媒介就是道具的使用,而演出中道具的使用就像是劇場空間內的裝置藝術(如精細雕琢的生命之樹、由演員手執的鳥類模型、代表神的昇降台以及代表海浪極度輕盈的布條)。雖然像裝置藝術,每一項道具都有功能且輔助劇情發展及整體情緒傳達(如生命之樹的終結與分解)。 除此之外,高度藝術性的服裝、化妝與面具(如Wé Cudaiq精細製作的禮服與代表不同動物的面具與化妝),它們本身即代表角色特性或傳遞出特定的情感,搭配上演員行動更突顯出形式化的表演性質。事實上,就連演員本身的行動都便成了裝置藝術,動靜之間取決於情感延續或斷裂。演員、服裝、化妝、面具與道具共存於舞台空間,地位相同、目的相同。不同形式並列於舞台空間,他們並非相互融合,而是各自以其特有方式具體化共有的情感。

威爾森的劇場是一個具備了多重形式同時並存,但卻充滿力量與情感的表演空間。這是一個無法被明確界定的表演形式,而是跨越了文化與型式限制的新混種表演形式。它的目的不在於再現文本的文化背景。它純粹只是要藉導演的劇場理念介紹即將失傳的史詩,並傳達出文本中特殊的情感力量。威爾森對演員的要求與運用演員的方式,以及他對劇場呈現的理念,反應出克雷格(Edward Gordon Craig)的導演藝術家觀念。將劇場空間中的所有元素加以整合,並混合各個獨特的表演形式來強調情感表達,此種「完全劇場」的觀念,呼應了華格那(Richard Wagner)的總體藝術。雖然與華格那以音樂為主的取向不盡相同,但威爾森的劇場表現手法證明了他是一位真正的劇場藝術家,而新表演型態的創立,也勢必對現代戲劇產生一定的影響。

3 Dec 2008

Should we believe in the Michelin Guide on its new investigation of Chinese food?

"You don't have to be French to appraise French cuisine and you don't have to be Chinese to appraise Chinese cuisine."

That sounds fair, but that is also a false consciousness. I believe a 'non-French' criticizing French cuisine in front of a 'true-French' would definitely be harshly ridiculed. So when Micheline awarded three stars to the Cantonese restaurant, Lung King Heen (龍景軒), in Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, it must prepare itself from the possible criticism from both Chinese and Cantonese speaking readers.

First of all, the guide and the inspectors probably did not have sufficient understanding of the dining habit of Chinese. We rarely dine at a hotel restaurant. Usually it is special occasions, such as wedding banquets, that will bring Chinese to those restaurants. The reason of not going is nothing about pricing but 'habits'. It is normal for Chinese to consider these restaurants as places for tourists due to their location within the hotel. It is because of the size of hotel restaurants and the prestige of international hotels Chinese choose them for holding banquets. Though the quality of food is often considered, it does not mean these restaurants would be the first option for Chinese when they want to 'eat out'. If you travel to Hong Kong, you will be amazed by the long queue outside of some very famous but 'small' restaurants. These restaurants offer what the locals, the Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese, and the overseas Chinese, consider 'the best Chinese/Cantonese food'.

The problem arises. Why these truly great ones are not awarded by the guide? Why aren't they investigated by these prestigious Michelin investigators? Of course, we cannot deny the quality of food offered by Lung King Heen in Four Seasons. However, what I could not understand is how such a restaurant that is not overtly acknowledged by Chinese as top over the top would receive a three-star status!

Let's come back to the notion of false consciousness. The guide creates a fantasy for its readers. Through its star system, it classifies the taste of food of these restaurants as 'divine', 'super good' and 'good'. So, what it suggests is only these listed restaurants are good ones, and the rest can be completely ignored because the food is not even 'good'. In the meantime, through the investigation of its investigators, the guide also guarantees the service, environment, and taste (which is used here to connote 'the value of life-style') of these restaurants. While the guide lifts up the value of these restaurants, it at the same time devalues the others. Therefore, what the guide reveals is a superficial world whose standard of value-judgment is no longer based on the quality and taste of food, but on the quality and taste (life-style) of upper-bourgeois society. It is through the strategies used to devalue could the upper-bourgeois society maintains the distance between itself and the unspeakable and inappropriate others. However, what is tricky here is the deceptive nature of the use of strategies. It is never obvious and always hidden behind a veil. As the guide shows us, it never tells you what is not appropriate. All it says is something good and prestigious, and all it tries to sell is these good and prestigious products. Since the nature of these products are highlighted, it becomes a fantasy that must be pursued. Pursuing this fantasy is nothing different from the accumulation of capitals. Pursuing leads to accumulation which is the nature of capitalism. Only this time what has been accumulated is something symbolic.

The guide helps to reinforce the consciousness of the upper-bourgeois society, which is also a class consciousness that has been applied to their domination of the world. Through the publish of the guide, it strengthens its status as a prestigious guide specially for the prestigious readers. Within this cycle, everything has been fetishized and nothing is true and about the real society. As for the other groups/classes, due to the power of media, the dominated status, and the same living environment as the dominant class (a world of commodities), they naturally follow that consciousness taking the world as a fantasy that must be pursued. However, since they lack the proper capital and knowledge to conduct such actions and maintain their positions, what they have developed is only an ideology, which is a set of obscure consciousness that is borrowed from the upper-bourgeois society. This ideology is a false consciousness that has been manipulated by the upper-bourgeois class for too long and has been turned into rules by which other people must abide (and naturally we all abide because of its been turned into norms).

There are more great restaurants in Hong Kong, and the taste of food of some restaurants should be way better than the one that is recently awarded three stars. How could we trust those stars? How could we listen to those so-called experts who probably don't even know what Chinese food is? After all, there are so many different types of Chinese food, and each has its own special taste and exquisite quality!

14 Oct 2008

Gays in Films: with reference to Eternal Summer and The Love of Siam

When films stop hypnotizing their audiences with a colorful gay life filled with camp and stereotypes, we start to realize what we normally consider as abnormal, crazy and inferior is actually no less grotesque than what we really are.



As modern man, we claim to be tolerant of all sorts of things happening in this modern world. We also claim that we have the ability to tolerate and accept different ideas or actions. However, what traditional norms teach us remains the truth, and we never live without being manipulated by these norms. Because norms have such power over our thinking and behaviour, we naturally evaluate everything around us according to the value these norms bring us. This explains why certain ideas or actions are considered different or even unacceptable. When ideas and actions are measured against traditional norms, their value has been inserted with what is socially acceptable and what is traditionally incorrect. Norms become rules. Even though we think we modern man are different and open-minded, old way of thinking and habitual behaviour still haunt us and we live so unconsciously by these rules.

Indeed, homosexuality is the victim resulted from these rules. It cannot be explained and reasoned through traditional norms, and therefore its value is traditionally incorrect and socially unacceptable. Biology teaches us that only the unity of a man and a woman could bring a new life. Rules further this statement by saying this unity creates a family in which father, mother and a child construct a trinity which perfects the God. Perfecting the God perfects the form of human beings, and the structure of this unity becomes the most important foundation for the construction of human society. According to this way of thinking, homosexuality should not be allowed because it breaks the rule and therefore it prevents human beings from perfecting themselves which would further ruin the structure of human society.

Human beings are animals with conscious thought and the ability to express emotions. It is in fact a natural thing for a man to be emotionally attached to another man, or a woman to be deeply in love with another woman. When this happens, it is such a difficult task trying to suppress these natural emotions. Can we really judge that this sort of emotion/love is wrong just because it is against the rules, against what norms teach us? Yes, for those who live by rules can, and they do whatever they can to turn this natural emotions into evil thought and disgusting actions. When they are unable to stop it, they make fun of it which makes them silly and ugly. They try their best to degrade such natural human emotions so as to maintain their rules. In fact, what they are protecting is their dominant power over the world.

Hence, whenever a gay character appears in a film (especially regarding mainstream Hollywood films), his behaviour is always related to the idea of camp. His appearance and character is always stereotyped. This seems to tell the viewers "look, that is a gay man" or "look, that is a lesbian". Are homosexuals different species from the outer space? No, they are just human beings who happen to love the same sex. They are neither abnormal nor crazy. The reason we see crazy characters in films lies in the fear of those who live by rules. Because of their fear they must place homosexuals in an inferior position so as to educate the public that homosexuality is incorrect that should be mocked and punished. This prejudice reinforces the stereotype of homosexuals, and thanks to this prejudice homosexuals become a grotesque group of people lacking flesh and blood in mainstream films.

Under the commercial pressure and the control of the dominant group, mainstream films probably have no other solutions to deal with gay characters. Even worse than that, they probably have to invent one such character so as to elevate the importance of other characters and the rules. The most obvious example is Anthony and Standford in Sex and the City. They are totally useless (of their function) in the film and are clear examples of stereotypes. Of course, there are great gay mainstream films, such as Philadelphia and Brokeback Mountain, but still we see the power of norms in these films. We can never live without it intervening in our thought. The struggle of sexual identity, the reluctance of admitting this forbidden love, the problem encountered in public life, and the death that seems like an unavoidable destiny for all gay people. Among these, death is the most harsh punishment for breaking the social rules, and the most extreme condition is to impute AIDS to gay people. In general, Hollywood presets us through its released films a pretty negative attitude towards gay people. We cannot blame them for doing so. After all, those films are made to suit the public taste.

Being placed in an inferior position or being doomed to a difficult life or a terrible destiny seem the only topic that is suitable for gay people in films. Though I personally consider Eternal Summer and The Love of Siam highly beautiful and successful, they still could not escape their destiny, that is, showing the public that gay love just doesn't seem right for our current society. True, at the present moment, it is still such a long way for those following rules to take gay relationships as healthy and normal and to look at this condition without any prejudice. Since we can never be free from the power of social norms, what we could do is to accept it with conditions. By still giving cruel destinies to the gay characters, we take the chance to educate the public that gay people deserves their right to be taken as normal human beings.

Both Eternal Summer and The Love of Siam dealt with coming out issues and both really show us the cruel destiny every gay person will eventually meet. The director could have shown us a happy ending that makes us feel that everything has changed, including the mentality of human beings. However, directors of these films chose to show us what young gay man would face if they decided to step out the closet and face the crowd. At least, the topic chosen gives the public a chance to see that gay people are not just stupid and crazy as those in Hollywood films. Through the acting and the plot, the public gets to know that gay relationship is exactly the same as straight ones, and the emotions expressed are just normal human emotions. There is no stereotyped promiscuous gay relationships anymore, nor is there flamboyant young gay men. What is presented is only a pure but aching love.

Both films have quite a lot of similarities. They are all produced in Asia, they all deal with young gay man, and they all present a relationship that is obscure and depressing. The tone and pace of both films are almost the same and the use of highly sad but beautiful melody reinforces their similarities. Probably the similarities come from the cultural background of directors. What directors try to locate is the psychological development of these young gay men. How they confront themselves when they realized their sexuality. How they approach the possible solution when they try to adapt themselves in the society. Though the outcome is full of pain and sorrow, at least they learn their way to survive all difficulties. The slow pace in both films helps develop the plot and clearly shows the psychological struggle of the characters. The blue tone in Eternal Summer reflects the memory of characters which intensifies the relationship that eventually leads to nowhere. The green and bright tone of The Love of Siam indicates the attitude of characters, their way of dealing with troubles, and the learning they cannot avoid. Both films use music to elaborate emotions. Music is not just a decoration but becomes the soliloquy of these confused and terrified young men.

Though these films cannot avoid giving its gay characters a harsh and difficult life, they at least tell the public a different story which may, in a very slow way, change the public's prejudice towards homosexuality. Though these films follows the old path of Philadelphia and Brokeback Mountain, we must not forget that changing people's idea is never an easy task and it requires a lot of hard work. In fact, such films being produced, released and welcomed in Asian countries is already a success. This means the old and conservative society has opened its door to something new and different. A change is a sign of new hope. This means maybe someday we can see Taiwan pass the law for same sex marriage, giving homosexuals its rights to live as the others. Rules can be changed we should do our best to change those inadequate ones.

23 Sep 2008

趕走了壞總統,卻來了個笨總統!

說馬英九是笨總統,實是一種恨鐵不成鋼的心態反應,然而馬英九最近的作為真的是笨總統的最佳代表。

曾幾何時,他的溫文儒雅、風度翩翩是如此吸引著台灣的選民,也造就出七百多萬選票的記錄。七百多萬選民賦予他艱鉅的重責大任,希望藉由他的清廉、穩重與睿智,將台灣的政壇與經濟帶出陳水扁時代的貪瀆、胡鬧與悲情。然而,誰也沒料想到溫文儒雅竟是懦弱的假象,而風度翩翩竟是徬徨無知的偽裝。因為他的懦弱,使得弊案無法以迅雷不及掩耳的速度偵查完畢,更無法對貪贓枉法之輩做出最嚴厲的處分;也因為他的徬徨無知,導致他成為總統府裡那不食人間煙火的理想主義者,好像只要有理想一切都會成功,而一切問題都是可以用理想來解決的。

治國不是在寫博士論文,不是用想的就可以做好,也不是待在辦公室建構理想就叫做治國。總統的任務不是每天去參加一些莫名其妙的餐會,也不是每天跟高層閣員關在辦公室討論與實際民生實無絕對關係的理想。當然的,理想是不可或缺的,有了理想國家未來發展才有目標與希望,但這不能夠脫離掉現實的社會狀態與人民迫切的需要。雖然當前政府推出的政策對台灣發展實有益處,但實際運作上卻是漏洞百出、脫離現實。試問,如果執行上出現誤差與不適,那以建構出的理想化政策是否需要適度修正,或是需要重新檢討?如果當總統真的是在寫論文,如果當前政府執意繼續這似乎完美,但卻無法實際解決問題的理想化政策,那我可以確定馬英九這篇如何當總統的論文是必要被退件重寫。

最近的毒奶粉、毒奶精事件再次顯露出當前政府對民生事件的無知與無能。怎麼一件單純的民生事件會讓政府如此的慌張失措?為什麼?是否就像俗語說的:「什麼人玩什麼鳥」,因為在上位者的個性、想法使然,因此他找來辦事的人也都是像他一樣的個性與想法。這樣一種懦弱、無能的政府,我要它幹嘛?可否請馬英九快一點振作起來,可不可以果斷一點、勇敢一點,可不可以有魄力,可不可以拿出當總統的樣子?不要在當躲在城堡裡的公主了,「be a man and show your guts」!

9 Sep 2008

I want a beach holiday now!

Beautiful Koh Chang!





It is such a beautiful island. Though it takes forever to travel down there from Bangkok (9 hours, including the time when the bus broke down and then caught fire. How lucky we were!), I would love to go back once I have the time and money. Nice beach, warm water, excellent seafood and Thai curry (more like Cambodian style, a bit sweet and more creamy), and wonderful (cheap as well) massage! Such a great place to relax our totally exhausted body!

2 Sep 2008

Poverty vs. High Fashion: how naive fashion can be

Vogue India editor Priya Tanna's message to critics of the August shoot: "Lighten up," she said in a telephone interview. Vogue is about realizing the "power of fashion" she said, and the shoot was saying that "fashion is no longer a rich man's privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful," she said.

"You have to remember with fashion, you can't take it that seriously," Tanna said. "We weren't trying to make a political statement or save the world," she said. International Herald Tribune 2008/09/01


Of course, the chief editor, the fashion editor, the photographer, the models and even the costumers and make-up artists don't have the intention to make any "political" statement in those pictures. What they think and want is only to give an image that can highlight the beauty of those fashion products, especially when they are all made in the style of so-called "ethnic". However, what is very wrong in these pictures is their very bizarre and even sick sense of beauty. Do they really think the contrast between poverty and high fashion in those pictures could help gain more potential costumers? In fact, instead of promoting fashion products, the contrast in these pictures seems ironically to mock the fashion industry. The laughter the woman made in the picture seems to laugh at those who purchase these somehow useless luxurious products.

It is extremely naive to say that high fashion can be enjoyed by anyone when "the power of fashion" is clearly pointed out. It is just illogical. If I had the money and were the person who has the privilege for such life-style, I wouldn't want other people to copy my life-style and dress as I do. Such distinction must be retained, and it has always been retained in the society since our society, whether highly developed or not, can never escape the condition of being classified. In this classified society, those who obtain the power and are thus the privileged class always try their best to make themselves different, and in order to do so, they must create something that can only be owned by themselves. This ownership, due to the scarcity of products being owned, defines the value and the status of the owner in the hierarchy. In fashion, a special industry that serves this specific class, we always see big brand names producing products highly "valuable" in quality but very "few" in quantity. Only by doing so could these brands, involving in this competition for being recognized as high fashion, survive and carry on their service. Therefore, we see the power of fashion is manipulated by those who want it and those who can have it. It is not available for every agent in the society. When the middle class only have limited access to high fashion, let alone the others. So, it is just naive to say that "fashion is no longer a rich man's privilege".

The second problem with these pictures are on the use of poverty. The editors in Vogue India must be very insensitive towards the food shortage and poverty problem happening in the world now. How could the editor tell the public to "lighten up" when the issue of poverty is manipulated in this way? Indeed, those models must have got paid by posing for the picture, but what concerns us is being a published media their use of poverty to highlight the wealthy life-style is irresponsible and leads the public to ignore the real problem. Moreover, this use of poverty also causes a highly sensitive issue, that is, treating the poor as a tool just to satisfy the weird and distasteful taste of the rich. We need people to care about the global problem, but the message in these pictures only say "we are rich because we are and therefore we can exploit whoever and whatever we can". As the editor said, no "political statement" is intended in these pictures, but she should know that messages are naturally transmitted and reinterpreted when pictures are made public. Even though you don't intend to give any ideas in the picture, since it is a public one, it is open to all who wish and have reinterpreted the message in it. Of course, we don't need to "take it seriously" because it is just a fashion magazine. We are not asking these fashion magazines to be educational, since it will be hard for them, but at least they can be more sensitive towards different real-life problems.

"You have to remember with fashion, you can't take it that seriously", this statement seems very wrong. Does it mean that fashion is not important and should be treated as something stupid and useless? Does it mean that those who love fashion and are involved in fashion are not serious people? Does this mean that this business is "not serious" at all? Does it mean that Vogue, being the most influential fashion magazine in the world, should be looked at in that sense? It is just amazing to hear such words form the editor of that publishing house. Instead of giving excuses and defending their obviously wrong approach, Vogue India, and even Vogue headquarters, should just simply apologize for their wrong approach. The statement just makes the whole incident ugly and may hurt to a certain extent the image of Vogue.

26 Aug 2008

菩薩說:「不要煩惱」!

雖然是不太可能會發生的,但仍是抱有那一點點的希望,希望我就是那幸運的頭彩得主。中了頭彩就再也不須為了錢的事擔心,無債一身輕,也可以安心去做一直想要做的事。雖然還沒中,光想就已經很爽了。

錢雖不是萬能,但沒錢卻是萬事不能。其實我也不貪心啊,就只希望不要被錢追著跑。反正好手好腳,也有那麼一丁點兒的一技之長,賺錢對我來說根本不是問題。但是現實生活總是如此殘酷,平安悠閒的日子總是會遭遇那莫名的晴天霹靂;就好像日子過得很悠閒,連神佛都忌妒了起來,非要丟一份苦差事給你,非要你從那清幽的幻境中醒過來,然後用那正面鼓勵的語氣對你說:「吃得苦中苦,方為人上人」。見鬼了,我從來也沒想過要當人上人啊,不過就奢望能清心寡慾的過我想過的日子啊。怎麼事情會變得如此複雜?

事實上,接到的苦差事基本上是無法用人力來解決的,唯一出路就是「中樂透」。能試的方法都做了,狀況仍是沒有改變,因此在我左思右想、考慮再三之後,我決定去廟裡求個籤詩,希望神佛能行行好指點我到底是該怎麼做。剛好有人提議高雄前鎮區草衙的觀音廟「朝陽寺」很靈驗,既然跟觀音菩薩有緣份,不妨就去那兒求吧。

在跟菩薩稟明來意及所求事項後,我拿起筊杯問是否能賜籤指點,菩薩很爽快的答應了,而過程很順利、也很快。雖說第一支籤一直出現笑杯,在我告訴菩薩「如果不是這支籤,直接給蔭杯」,很神奇的杯一下去就是蔭杯。之後連續三籤都直接給蔭杯,到第五支籤就直接出三個聖杯。抽到的是第四十五籤,詩云:

花開今已結成果
富貴榮華終到老
君子小人相會合
萬事清吉莫煩惱


好詩,花開富貴,榮華到老!原本我以為小人意指惡人,不過在google它的意思後才知道小人乃指小孩,其寓意來自「孔夫子過番逢小兒」。

雖說抽到一首好籤詩,但這並不代表一定會得樂透。可能只是菩薩要我不要煩惱,諸事皆吉,就算困難重重,也能得貴人相助的吧!只不過現實問題仍未解決,如何能不煩惱呢?真是難啊!

18 Aug 2008

海外帳戶做什麼用?

今天如果我真的很有錢,我想我會去開瑞士銀行的帳戶。因為就算那1%的管理費看起來似乎是很多,總資產的投資收益應該能夠支付,甚至是遠大於那管理費的金額。(如果錢進了投資銀行反而變薄了,那誰還會敢把錢放那兒,投資銀行的面子、聲譽往哪兒擺?)更何況先決條件是「我已經有錢到可以去瑞士銀行開戶了」,那我還會在乎那區區的管理費嗎?問題並不是在於瑞士銀行的帳戶上,而是為什麼存入「瑞銀帳戶」(請謹記,那不是一般的商業銀行,而是服務極度有錢、並同時熱衷於不斷累積財富的有閒有錢人的私人高級俱樂部)中的錢會一次以如此大筆金額(例如說2000萬美金)轉出?同時的,會使人注意且懷疑的在於這轉出的對象,竟是通常為了避稅(甚至有可能是以洗錢為目的)的境外公司。這種不合邏輯、且引人注目的做法,不知是貪贓枉法的人想太多了,還是他們的腦袋就真的只有那麼丁點兒大。最可笑的是,偷吃完還忘了擦嘴,還四處炫耀偷來的東西。雖說他們是打死不認帳,好像沒法子制他們(就像藉出國以規避查緝、或是藉道歉以擾亂視聽),但別忘了現世報這種東西真的是存在的,否則怎麼事情會突然【ㄅㄧㄚ、ㄎㄤ.】呢,還是從國外丟臉丟回台灣呢?

道歉誰都會講,什麼時候都可以講。問題是,道歉的內容是否傳達出真心真意的懺悔,還是不斷的試圖掩蓋,甚至是企圖引導偵辦、扭曲事實。就這一點來說,道歉者的態度實不可取,也凸顯了道歉者的無恥下流。真是什麼人玩什麼鳥,一家子都同個樣子。如果沒做壞事(就算做了,至少是天衣無縫且利益均分),別人幹嘛沒事找你們家麻煩?如果真沒做,幹嘛攜家帶眷逃亡國外?讀書有需要連保姆都帶去嗎?真是暴發戶的行為!(這時候,法國社會學家Pierre Bourdieu關於taste品味及hierarchy社會層級的論述,真是實用啊:個人慣習habitus是與生俱來的,並隨著人的成長而不斷變化,但層級間的差異是無法抹滅的。因此,就算一個人得到了政治及經濟的資本而晉升上層社會,此人仍是不為上層階級所接納,因為在舉手投足間,此人會無意識地透露出其低下層級的特性,而此特性是永遠不會被上層階級所接受的。換句話說,他只能模仿上層階級的生活行為與品味—成為純粹追趕品味流行的文化消耗者,但卻永遠無法成為生活行為與品味的生產者。此為簡略敘說Bourdieu的理論,關於distinction以及habitus的論述,見La Distinction, critique sociale du judgement, 1979,英文版本由Richard Nice翻譯,Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, London: Routledge, 1984,無中文譯本。)

這一家子真是厲害,一個謊蓋一個謊,越說越多,也就越說越真。就像【紅樓夢】裡點出的「假作真時真亦假,無為有處有還無」,這一幅哲理深奧的對聯道出了賈家興衰,似乎也呼應著現世裡這一家人言行舉止的矯揉造作。不該是他們的,永遠都不會是他們的;假或許可以成真,但無就是無,強奪毫取的結果,在這講法律的社會裡一定要付出相對的代價的。

15 Aug 2008

Just need a shout! 總是應該如此困難嗎?

古人說:「人生不如意事,十之八九」,我想在現代生活壓力下,這句話應該改成「人生不如意事,十之九點九九」。為什麼生活變成是一種無法解決的痛苦?這種痛苦的持續使人喪失「積極的」活下去的勇氣,更可怕的是它使人開始放棄「生活」,放棄試圖轉換苦痛的努力。也因為自身無法轉換痛苦與憂慮,只好求神拜佛,試圖藉由宗教的力量得到心靈上的安慰。

事實上,人是自覺的,並不是純粹的盲目,所以人都知道這種宗教性的心靈安慰是無法抹滅掉實質心靈的煎熬與不安。更由於心靈的安慰劑對實際生活並無功效,所以開始懷疑宗教,甚而批評它,抑或是貶抑它。被丟棄掉的神像不就是個實例嗎?宗教是否有其效用,實是見仁見智。最近我常在想,也可能是因為農曆七月的關係,若是鬼(無形的眾生)存在,那神明應該也是存在的。若是無形眾生有穿天透地的能力,那神明更應具備了廣大無邊的神通力。這不是存粹的迷信之說,而是藉由相對對比的推論。換句話說,拜神問卜應該是有效的,不是嗎?然而,何以如此多的神明,懷著強大的感應神力,卻聽不見世間眾生的苦痛、無法抑或不願幫助眾生呢?我不認為我是個迷信的人,畢竟學社會科學的背景讓我只看事實存在的必要性。就是因為在這玄密的神靈之說中,我看見了事實的存在,使我不得不相信它。雖說相信,懷疑的心仍是蠢蠢欲動,也因此問題不斷跑出來。是我不正常嗎、瘋了嗎?

或許吧,當壓力大到我再也無法承受之時,也許瘋了是最好的解決之道吧。到底求神拜佛有沒有效?到底修心、修行是為了什麼?若現世、當下問題無法解決,哪還有心力顧及來世呢?難道不應該求當下的順遂圓滿嗎?所求不遂正是苦痛的來源,所以要求啊,但是神佛有聽見嗎,會伸出援手嗎?

7 Jul 2008

In the world of Sex and the City

I always like Sex and the City. Though I firmly believe the movie is truly lacking taste, in whatever sense, I still like it. I guess this is because I am so intoxicated by the current social fashion that leads us to go after brand names and pursue a fantasy life only aiming at fulfilling all our material desires; in other words, I am such an obedient citizen in this world of consumerism.

A movie that gives us a fairy tale trying to evoke romanticism can never be a wrongdoing. Sex and the City satisfies us by confirming a happy ending between Carrie and Mr. Big. All obstacles they met intensifies the bond between these two single New Yorkers and makes their marriage at the end highly sacred. Marriage is sacred, as I believe those who approach it through a religious and moral perspective would say so, but the one we saw here is sacred with a different sense. It is sacred because it is a marriage, it is sacred because this marriage compensates them for all difficulties they had encountered, and it is sacred because we have had this idea of marriage being sacred since religion interfered in our way of life. If Carrie really thinks that their decision to be together is based on two adults agreeing to live together, why bother to conduct such an action of 'getting married'? In real life, this question would not sound weird, but in a movie that is expected by people of whatever kind this question should not exist but be replaced by a happy marriage. They must be married! The form is not important as long as their marriage is witnessed by a legitimate power. Therefore, this marriage responds to Snow White and Cinderella preaching the idea of fantasy life that is in essence hollow and meaningless. In order not to provide the audience a meaningless world but to satisfy their taste for romanticism, the movie must present a wedding that could bring the audience to tears which can reinforce the sense of sacredness in this wedding ceremony.

A world of illusion was created and the audience all indulged themselves in this false reality. Indeed, there is nothing wrong for a movie to create such atmosphere that fulfills audience's dreams and unsatisfied desires. This movie is centred on Carrie and its only theme is to tell its audience that Carrie and Big are finally married. All other characters are obviously decorations lacking their flesh and blood. Unlike the TV series, which is more about real life and gives other characters their personality and emotions, the movie has gone into the direction of presenting a total meaningless fantasy life. Its storyline is a pure melodrama that is so irrelevant to our real life. The idea of 'everything will be as perfect as we hope' is such a cliche that sounds naive to the modern audience. The spirit of praising the right of being a single woman has been diminished to the great in the movie. Only at the end we see Samantha finally expressed this idea. The weak storyline turns Sex and the City into a cheap melodrama that kills the original spirit of the TV series.

Due to the lack of a strong storyline and the creation of a fantasy life unreal to our modern audience, the movie seems quite distant to our real life. As a consequence, this movie didn't give us anything but a vague and hollow emotional experience. However, the power of consumerism functions very well in this movie. It is amazing to see how this movie advertises fashion brands and other commercial activities. The most interesting one is on Carrie holding a new Chanel bag shopping for a dress in Diane Von Furstenberg store. In this scene, Carrie tried her best to show the Chanel logo on her bag, and the camera accidentally panned to the window on which the name of the store is printed. The other scene would be Samantha, due to her frustration with Smiths, shopping overly in Gucci and then having the concierge carry all bags to her car. And of course the scene of the New York fashion week is another example. I guess the advertisements of these commercial brands and activities are the most 'realistic' part of the movie, which is also the only part that matches the original spirit of Sex and the City and draws the attention of modern audiences. This presentation of commercial activities is a reflexion of our modern consumer culture. It vividly shows that these refined clothes, shoes or bags symbolize a person's taste and social status. When a person is rich enough to purchase these items, they should because they make a person happy and beautiful. In the other way, if a person's financial condition is not that good, then there is another way to enjoy these objects, that is, to rent them from the internet. Carrie's personal assistant is such a type of person. She thinks that using these bags are necessary and she should rent one when she is unable to afford one. She was so happy to receive her first LV bag from Carrie. All these indicates that the satisfaction of material desires is the source for happiness and we, being sensuous beings, construct the meanings of our life through such an action. In other words, the movie presents us who we really are and how we live our material life. Again, this should be considered as the most and the only realistic element in the movie. The value of the movie lie in this approach. It is not to comment whether this life-style is good or bad. It is simply presenting it because it is truly how we live, especially for those who live in big cities who has the information for material life which is considered by them as a way of life-style that provides them a status and taste in life. Besides this element, there is nothing in this movie that can be taken as real and related to our daily life.

In fact, when the storyline of a movie cannot construct meanings for its audience, it turns into a melodrama in which a fantasy life that is both meaningless and detached from reality is created. This type of drama can only be taken as a pure entertainment without any taste and artistic value. It is nothing special, and you can laugh or cry over it without worrying you may need to use your brain and gain further feelings. However, presenting something real and close to our life would definitely lead a movie to another direction, which would bring certain emotions or ideas to its audience and make them think after they go out of the theatre. Most movies fall into both categories meaning they acquire both quality. When a movie has more realistic element than the fantasy one, it probably would be considered as more artistic and meaningful than those whose fantasy element outweighs the realistic one. As for Sex and the City, it is obvious that its fantasy world is very well constructed. Though there's a message about consumerism, it is hidden under the hollow and meaningless storyline and would easily be overlooked. Besides, it is not the intention of the movie to criticize consumerism. It presents it because it is what happened amongst us in our modern everyday life. Hence, this movie is still only a fantasy that aims to give its audience a definite answer to the unsolved problem between Carrie and Big.

17 Jun 2008

Epiphyllum 曇花一現!

Epiphyllum Blossoming! The flower looked amazingly beautiful and elegant with pleasing fragrance. I didn't even know there were buds. This type of flower just enjoys giving surprises. Their buds are always hidden in between their huge flat leaves, and the blossoming will only happen at night. What's worse is the blossoming only lasts 4 to 5 hours, meaning the flowers die before dawn. We will never get to see their huge and fragrant flowers during the daytime.




27 May 2008

站筊 - A standing divinity cup: a miracle



First of all, I guess I need to explain what this thing is. It does not have a proper English name. I tried to google it but can only find "bamboo rope", which is quite incorrect. "Bamboo Rope" means something else and it refers to the object described in an ancient Chinese text. I also found another one "divinity cups" that seem quite correct for the meaning of using it. So let's call this object "divinity cups".

In Chinese tradition of praying, "divinity cups" are very important. They are used as a means to communicate with gods and goddesses. If you have a certain question, usually a yes or no question, you can pray to the gods and ask them to give you the answer by using this object. They consist of two pieces with the same shape. Using it is very simple and all you do is throw them on the floor. If one piece has the flat side facing up while the other one's flat side faces down, then this is considered a yes answer. If the flat side of both pieces all faces down, then this is a no answer. If the flat side of both pieces all faces up, then we call this answer "a smile" which means your question is not clear, or the gods consider the question inappropriate. If this happens, you need to ask the question again or reformulate your question.

The procedure of using "divinity cups" is debatable. Most people, especially those who work in the temple, say that for yes answer you must get three yes in a row, meaning throwing them three times consecutively all with yes answers. If you get a no answer for the first throw, then the answer is no for sure. As for the smile for the first throw, you must repeat your question again or ask in another way. However, there are also some who think only getting one yes would suffice. For me, I go for three yes since it is never that easy to get a yes answer from throwing this object. Getting three yes in a row could really mean the answer should be correct.

But in my case, what we have talked about is not applicable because I got a standing one! Scientifically speaking, the possibility of getting a standing one when you throw them on the floor is almost close to zero. The endings of the piece are sharp angels. It is not possible to put it in a standing position, let alone throwing it. But I got this, as the picture shows, a week ago.

This has meanings! We learned from the elderly that if such condition happens, the god must want to indicate something. So I went to the great Mat-Zu Temple in Tainan (台南大天后宮). I asked Mat-Zu (The goddess of the sea and the queen of the heaven, 媽祖) if this standing divinity cup means anything. I used another way to ask for answers, that is, to ask for a poem from the goddess. After drawing for more than 20 poems, I finally got the one. It was a great one saying something amazing and great will soon happen to me, my future will be prosperous, and I will have what I wish come true. I am very happy!

Indeed, as the elderly says and the staff at the temple as well, a standing divinity cup is a miracle and a good sign. This way of saying corresponds to the poem I received from Mat-Zu. I believe in it and I am so happy that such miracle really happened to me!

A Chinese bulbul nest at my garden!

Couple weeks ago, I found a well built bird nest at my garden. It has a shape of a bowl, a perfect shape indeed, with some feather decorated around the nest. I totally have no idea when it was built, and it seems like it was done within a night. The location of the nest is interesting because it is on a very small tree which is only a bit higher than me. Though the nest is covered by branches and leaves, I can see what's inside the nest very easily.

I was wondering what made this nest. The birds were never here after they built the nest, and this really confused me. About two weeks ago, I finally got to see my guests. I was curious so I googled online and found out they are Chinese bulbuls (白頭翁). I guess they weren't here before because they haven't decided if this is the place to stay.

After spending couple days observing this couple, I finally decided to see what is happening there in the nest. Being curious, I crept towards the nest and had a peek. There were four small eggs in crimson and white colours. Amazing! Since then, I noticed the bird was always in the nest.

About five days ago, I found the bird was not in the nest. So I did the same thing again, and this time I was so thrilled to see four newly hatched tiny chicks.
Their eyes were still closed and they looked totally naked! in fact I was quite frightened by their look.

It is amazing to see how quick they grow. Only four days, they look so different.






I guess my action around the tree irritated the parents. They just came back to feed their chicks and was not happy to see me taking pictures of their babies. Though both of them had food in their beak, they were still making sound, more like a yell, trying to threaten me away. All right, all right, I'll go away!
It is very touching seeing the parents feeding their chicks.



Now I am expecting the time when the chicks have their feather fully grown and ready for their flight. I guess I will be very sad when they fly away. This small family has become a part of my family, and we are all so used to their noisy singing in the morning.

Some people say that it is a good sign to have birds building a nest and producing offspring at your house. I stick to this idea, and I really think this small family will bring us good luck.

16 May 2008

Where are the theatre audiences in Taiwan now?: on the cancellation of Isabella's room

The director of the Taipei Arts International Association (TAIA) regretted to announce the cancellation of the performance Isabella’s room in Taipei. Isabella’s room is created and directed by Jan Lauwers who established Needcompany in Brussels Belgium in 1986. The main reason for the cancellation is on the fire of the theatre in Seoul Korea, which forced that theatre to cancel the performance and withdrew from cohosting this production. Though TAIA decided to put on this production in Taipei by themselves, they still could not overcome the financial burden arising from putting on an international production. Indeed, it is never an easy task to fly international theatre groups to Taiwan for just couple days performances without having sufficient financial support from business corporations or the government. Besides that, ticket sales is always a huge concern for those who aim to promote good art to the people in Taiwan. In this case, due to the unsatisfactory ticket sales of this performance, TAIA finally decided to quit it.

"Where are the audience?", the director of TAIA told the news journalist. I have the same question in my mind as well. It seems they only show up when the performance is done by someone important, someone they know very well, someone who has been frequently talked about. It is never about the performance itself but always on the name of the group, the name of the director/choreographer, and the name they should know. Take Cloud Gate as an example, as I have observed, their performances seem always successful because the tickets are hard to get. Whenever you attend their performances in Taiwan, it is always full house. As for open air performances, it is basically not possible to get a place to stand or sit if you are there only 30 mins beforehand.

This is a good sign indeed because it says the people in Taiwan do have a sense for arts, and Cloud Gate really does a good job to promote modern dance to these people. Their dance is beautiful and is full of symbolic meanings which aim to examine and reevaluate contemporary social fashions and modern life. It lifts up the artistic taste of Taiwanese. However, if the people here do have that sense for arts and theatre, why only certain groups with big names can attract the audience. This should be the question we should all bear in mind.

Take Le Theatre du Soleil as another example. Their production Les Ephemeres attracted many theatre goers when it was performed in Taiwan. Its performance was very successful. However, as I was there, I noticed the whole performance (6 hours long in total) was presented only three times among 6 days schedule. (The National Theatre of Taipei broke it into two parts and separated them for three days performance, which is common for presenting this production.) Since Ariane Mnouchkine intentionally designed a small auditorium, the total amount of audiences for this production in Taiwan should not be big. Furthermore, when I attended the performance, I found most of the audience were either theatre participants or students. Of course, there must be some people who do not fall into these two categories, but it will not be hard to guess the social and cultural background of these people. They came because they knew the group. What is funny during the intermission is because of the huge white tent used for the performance, most passer-by asked the staff what that thing is for and what this group is about. Some of them even guessed this occasion to be a circus and said they know that name. I guess it is because Le Theatre du Soleil recalled their memory of the great circus Le Cirque du Soleil.

This misunderstanding raises interesting questions. Do Taiwanese go to the theatre for arts, for entertainment, or just for the name? Do the people in Taiwan really have a taste for arts? In fact, before the Les Ephemeres was presented, it was hugely reported on TV, even the news channels. But still, we saw people talking nonsense right outside of the tent. They don't care if this is arts, all they care about is if this is what they have known. If they don't know it and it belongs to the field of the arts, they would just walk away. If it is about arts and it is what they have heard of, then they will talk about it and maybe join the activity. Because that is something they already know, so they must participate in it so as to be in the same level as the others. This reaction reveals the cultural competence that happens all the time. This symbolic competence guarantees a person's right for the better, and it offers symbolic power to the person which puts him/her in the right level in which he/she expects to be. All the information they gather and learn of is from the media, education and interpersonal communication. The formation of their mentality is attached to their family, social, cultural, and economic background. These two factors deeply influence their actions towards arts. This is why they have difficulties participating in cultural activities when these activities are unknown to them. When the government and the media take arts as secondary and never really develop a healthy policy to promote arts, no wander performances cannot attract enough audiences. This explains why promoting arts in Taiwan is such a mission impossible.

I was very sad to hear about this performance been cancelled. Tough I have not yet seen Isabella’s room, I believe it is a very interesting production. If the government has had a healthy policy for the arts and urged the educational system to place the arts as one of the priorities, arts in Taiwan would have been more lively and progressing. We all deserve the right for appreciating arts, and arts can help construct a more civilized and harmonious society. Everyone is a potential theatre audience; they just haven't realized that yet!

14 May 2008

Let's pray for those who suffered from the earthquake and the cyclone

It is always sad to know people suffering from natural disasters. The earthquake in Szechuan and the cyclone in Myanmar have taken away hundreds of thousands of precious lives. According to the news last night, Myanmar has so far lost almost 68,000 lives. As for the earthquake, the number of fatalities is still increasing reaching 12,000.

I am a Buddhist, a sincere one who reads Buddhist sutras everyday. My Buddhist study taught me to respect monks and nuns. Not long ago, I was in shock seeing the Chinese police violently suppressed the Tibetan monks. Though the Chinese government said that there were only few casualties and the monks were safe and unharmed, some of the monks told the foreign journalists that the police actually attacked monks and killed them. Then, few months ago, the Saffron Revolution in Myanmar led to the disappearance of thousands of monks and nuns. It is not difficult to guess where these monks and nuns are now. We can never trust a word from the brutal military regime of Myanmar. I am referring to these two incidents because Buddha taught us to treasure lives, especially those who devote themselves to the teaching of Buddha. Moreover, according to Buddhist scriptures, humiliating and killing monks or nuns are serious crimes, which will bring terrible consequences.

We always say that in this modern world nemesis will not come after your death because there are just too many evil actions. Now it will come soon after the evil is practiced. Though I hate to think in such a negative way, I kind of think what happen now seems to reaffirm that statement. Both Myanmar and China pay the price for what they have done to the monks and nuns. In fact, I think this thought is contradictory to the teaching of Buddha. He taught us to love and treasure lives. Then why such sad disasters happen, not to those who practice evil but to the innocent people?!

I cannot figure out any possible answers. I guess if I could, I would be one of the Bodhisattvas. All I know is to pray and try to help those who are suffering now. I believe the existence of these divine beings, and if we pray sincerely, they will help those people. For the dead, Bodhisattvas will lead them to the pure land, and for the others, Bodhisattvas will give them courage and strong will to restart their new life. "Om Mani Padme Hum"!

13 May 2008

The Secret - Thinking for the Positive and Be Sure of It

I have just read The Secret, edited by Rhonda Byrne. I found this book very encouraging, and reading it reinforces my belief in the inner power. I always believe in the power of thought and feelings. This belief derives from my contemplation on "I think, therefore I am" proposed by Rene Descartes. What The Secret elaborated is highly similar to Descartes' "Thinking Thing". Descartes believed that if a person wonders whether or not he/she exists in the world, this doubt is his/her thinking, which reaffirms his/her existence in the world.

As a thinking thing, we human beings are born with the ambition and power to manipulate material objects around us. Our intention is to conquer the nature. However, being a thinking thing also leads us to wonder if this ambition can be succeeded. Hence, we set up limits for ourselves, which are perfect for us to explain our failure in trying to achieve what we desire for. Because we are unsure whether or not God exists and we constantly encounter failure, we slowly conform ourselves to the rules set up by the church. Limits, rules, whatever forms they represent, are not bad because they help constrain us from doing something immoral and evil, but we have to admit it is them that stop us thinking and lead us to live a life that is the copy of others and full of negative perspectives. When we don't think anymore, we become nonexistent beings.

Through the positive conversations and statements, The Secret showed us what we human beings truly can do. This book told us we have the power for change. Our life is controlled by ourselves, and we all deserve a better and happier life. All we need do is to set up a goal and think about it. Never think about anything negative or destructive. Hold this happy feeling and deliver it to the universe. Slowly, we will have what we want come true. I guess the reason we can achieve our goal is because we are facing our life with a healthy and positive attitude. With this attitude we will not lose ourselves. Also, this attitude gives hope that pushes us to achieve our goal.

There is nothing magic and mythical in this book though what it talked about sounds like that. It is in fact about how we should use our mind and thought to make our life easier and happier. I like what it said, never worry about how this achievement would come, only concentrate on what you want and think that you have had it. It does give a wonderful feeling when you have that thought.

24 Mar 2008

Proud to be a Taiwanese

Thank Buddha, Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was elected the 12th president of Taiwan ROC. And finally, Taiwan has a president whose behaviour, mentality, and mannerism truly matches what a president should be.

Mr. Ma brings us new hopes for Taiwan's future development. We, Taiwanese, have suffered from the economic and political downfall for the past 8 years. The government led by DPP only brought us difficult lives, only lowered our living quality, and the worst of all, only gave us a shaky regime. Many who support DPP and Frank Hsieh may oppose to what I said here, but if we really look at the people around us, think about our everyday life, and compare Taiwan to other developed countries, then we know what I said above are solid facts.

After 8 years of suffering, Taiwanese can no longer take it anymore. This time we used our legitimate power to show the government that we have had enough. Winning by a 16% margin, 220 million votes, KMT not only succeeds in taking back the government, but also succeeds in winning the people's heart again. Though it is a good teamwork that helps KMT win this election, we can't deny it is also Mr. Ma's charisma that completes such a difficult mission. This election is not just a dream come true for those who really concern Taiwan's future, it is also an excellent demonstration of how democratic this society is.

However, some radical supporters of DPP have shown us really bad attitudes. They have used horrible words to humiliate the people of Taiwan. It seems that only when their candidate wins the election could Taiwan maintain its democracy. How ridiculous! Didn't we all vote? Wasn't this an election that is based on people's free will? There's a woman, who has lived in Japan for most of her life, saying that she will give up being a Taiwanese because she could not stand Taiwan being "not Taiwanese" under Mr. Ma's presidency. This sounds just like a crying kid whose toys were taken away by the teacher. It is totally childish. I don't understand this logic and I am so curious about her logic. If she doesn't want to be a Taiwanese, go back to Japan and shut up! Stop giving irresponsible comments. Stop humiliating the people of Taiwan. We don't need a foreigner to tell us how to live our lives.

After the election, Mr. Shieh said that losing the election is only his and the party's failure, not the failure in Taiwan's democracy. I agree with him totally. At least, the candidate showed us a good attitude, and we should praise him for his frankness. His words highlights Taiwan's democracy.

Now we have a president that we want, and we all have a great expectation on him. This will not be an easy job, and he has to work very hard and be very careful. I have the faith that he can do it. From now on, Taiwan is different. Change has started, and we are ready to head to a prosperous future.

20 Mar 2008

Is riot necessary?

It must be really hard for Dalai Lama to say that he would consider retreating himself if the insurgents in Tibet insist on the use of violent means. After hearing his speaking with BBC and CNN, I started to think about if riot is the only way for Tibetans to seek independence.

Dalai Lama is a Buddhist monk. According to the principle of Buddhism, killing is not allowed and should be avoided. Therefore, how could he stand out for the riot which will definitely cause lots of casualties? As a religious leader, this is against his religious belief, and as a political leader, it is also against his concerns for the welfare of all Tibetans.

What China has done in Tibet is certainly wrong. The way they dominates that land is truly what Dalai Lama called "a cultural genocide". However, this dominating power is way stronger than the dominated, and it is truly useless to fight against it. Of course, due to the coming Olympic Games, China probably will not dare to start another military suppression like the one happened 20 years ago. But we should all bear in mind that China has never really cared about their human rights records. Giving a riot and using your human body to fight against machine guns is basically committing suicide. Besides, this gives China a very good reason to "destroy all possibilities that will cause any instability in China". Indeed, Tibet now is a part of China and that saying shuts people up. No other country would dare to interfere China's domestic politics.

So, as a spiritual and political leader of Tibet, Dalai Lama would never put his people, even any living being, in such a risky situation. What else can he do besides telling people not to start a riot? If Tibetans still consider Dalai Lama as their leader, they should really think about cooperating with Dalai Lama. In fact, I believe those who participate in the riot and accuse Dalai Lama of not being supportive of Tibet's independence are ignorant and unreasonable. It is these people with their aggressive behaviours that reinforce China's belief that Dalai Lama, as an exile leader, is responsible for any violent disturbance happened in Tibet.

China, in the meantime, should really start the conversation with Dalai Lama. Since he has expressed his point of view on the current situation in Tibet and has urged Tibetans not to show any unreasonable actions, the Chinese government should take this chance to communicate with him so as to seek possible solutions to Tibetan problem. This is a great chance for China to show the international society what a powerful and civilized country they are. Olympic Games is coming, and if China really starts the conversation with Dalai Lama before it, this would add good points to the reputation of China. For a country that is progressing greatly now, winning a good reputation in the international society is definitely positive to the economic development of the country. It can also bring good effects to the tense relationship between China and Taiwan, which is another big problem that waits to be solved in the future.

10 Mar 2008

原來一筊就可以了!

長這麼大、求神拜佛那麼多年了,到昨天我才知道,原來在廟裡擲筊問神明事情,只要有應一筊就可以了。求籤詩才需要請神明連續應三筊。不過媽祖廟的工作人員有說,不管是求籤或問事,都要先點香拜過,然後擲筊先問神明現在是否在廟堂大殿。如果神明應筊,才可以開始問問題或求籤;如果沒筊,那就要先等一下,不可貿然問之。其實拜拜的規矩還多的,不過我相信心誠則靈;只要帶著虔敬的心去參拜,神明都會保佑我們的。話雖如此,規矩不知道的就算了,知道的就應該要好好遵從。不管是媽祖還是菩薩,都應該不喜歡明知故犯的人吧!

29 Feb 2008

關於萬人考大學活動

目前學生程度差是事實。學生程度不佳是整體教育制度不健全的結果,並對〝大學〞產生一定程度的傷害,但高等教育品質低落並不完全是學生的錯。辦學績效差、 研究素質差,這不是單以學生素質差做藉口就可以說得過去的。辦學及研究是大學內部人士的表現,這與學生表現並無太深入的關連性,反而是與主事者、師資、論 文發表、及研究成果密切相關。所以現在劣質大學以學生表現作藉口,企圖掩飾本身能力不足,實在是丟臉。

我舉雙手贊成萬人考大學活動這個部落格提出的大學改革觀點,因為目前高等教育的整體品質,簡直是到了可笑的地步了。不過再去考一次大學是沒什麼意義的,這對大學退場機制也沒有幫助。就算把爛校爛系都填滿,讓他們招不了生,他們仍能藉由推廣教育中心、學分班、或碩士班苟活下去。爛大學還是會存在著,難道要一直考下去嗎?最好的方式其實還是以大學評鑑做基準,配合教育部的行政權,直接對狀況不佳的校系減招、停招,之後推動大學合併進而將爛學校淘汰掉。不過要現在這樣一個政府去作對的事,我看是比登天還難的。

現在的政府那麼喜歡公投,那何不去搞個【劣質大學退場公投】呢?最好在綁上總統大選,不就一次將所有問題都給解決了嗎?

25 Feb 2008

品德教育的重要性與「身教」的影響性

當教育部官員口出不堪言語時,相信大多數的台灣民眾,不僅是心中充滿著訝異,更是憂心如此現象將對下一代產生多大的影響。教育部的官員是教育的守護人;他們的責任在於推動更優良的教育體制,在於培養新一代成為具備良好知識與健全心態的國民。這些官員們皆是受過高等教育的專業人員,他們早應具備對全國大眾負責的基本觀念。除此之外,由於擔負著如此重責大任,他們必須更小心自身的行為言語。因為他們說的每一句話,做的每一件事,皆會被全民以高標準檢視。然而最近教育界出現的現象,實在令人懷疑這些人是否勝任教育監督者的角色。這不禁令人擔憂,是否台灣的整體教育水準向下沈淪,走向以仇恨、以負面性思考為出發的劣質教育。

「身教大於言教」,以身作則應是從事教育者皆應謹記的道理。若是從事教育者本身的行為言語出現偏差,想當然的被教育者的言行舉止定會受影響。現在的新一代,不論是言語上或行為上常出現偏差性行為。先不論這些行為是否是模仿自媒體上的報導,但媒體的報導絕對會影響兒童及青少年的行為舉止。當然的,媒體具有對事件誠實報導的責任,而一般大眾也絕對有知的權力。問題的癥結點在於,被報導的對象是擔負教育責任的政府官員。他們負面性的言語及行為,不啻是對從事教育工作者的侮辱,更是點名教育事業嚴重失敗。

現在常聽見學生們,用電視上聽來的字眼開玩笑。這些字眼很明顯的已經影響了新一代,也變成了玩笑用語。事實上,難聽的字眼並不是第一次被使用。他們變得如此流行的原因,主要還是在於媒體的強力報導及說話者的專業身分,這強化了這些負面性言語的影響力。就算學校教師用更多的方式來導正學生,效果仍有限。因為兒童及青少年的邏輯思考仍在養成階段,容易受強烈性言語的影響。一但接收到強烈性言語,便會試圖模仿並使用。除此之外,新一波教改後,我們發現新一代的學生極度缺乏判斷是非的能力。以往的倫理道德教育(如國文課程、公民與道德等)大量削減,卻不見強化思考邏輯的訓練,取而代之的是打著強化在地認同,但卻是教導族群分裂與仇視的負面性教材。這些無意義的教學,無形中剝奪了受教著知與學習的權力,更可怕的在於訓練出來的,是一批無自我意識及判斷力的新一代。在這種情況下,所有負面性影響深入於學生的生活中,偏差性行為也隨之產生。這種教育模式,不就像當年中國紅衛兵的養成嗎?

現在的政權早已徹底摧毀台灣的教育,這一代的受教者早已成為政權擁有者的失敗實驗品。八年的時間,教出了對自我傳統文化毫無認同感、無自我意識、無批判性邏輯,並只會運用負面性思惟的學生。相信目前的教育工作者,對教育事業必定感到一種莫名的無力感。然而教育為萬年事業,沒有教育就沒有國家發展。我們只能期望未來新政權能及時挽救當下危機,期望他們能運用兼具能力與品德的教育官員。唯有在上位者能以身作則,台灣教育才有希望,才能真正培養出優秀的下ㄧ代。

19 Feb 2008

Pilgrimage: Ma-Tzu(媽祖)& FIve Heaven's Delegate(五府千歲)

On Sunday, Feb. 17th, I had my first religious pilgrimage. It was fun, and I was so amazed at what I saw. Being a Chinese living in Taiwan for all my life, I thought I know my own culture. But after joining this pilgrimage, I realize that what I thought I know is only a small part of this great culture. The pilgrimage is not just a journey we make to visit the temple. It is in fact an expression of our sincere devotion to the Gods and our ambition to maintain cultural traditions, which is truly a visual presentation of our spiritual beliefs. Isn't this spiritual belief an inevitable element that constructs our culture? In other words, my experience is indeed an experience of the Traditional Taiwanese culture, and it guides me to have a deeper understanding of our traditional culture.

This pilgrimage is held by a temple in Ku-Shan, Kaohsiung(鼓山清雲寺). They hold this pilgrimage every year during the Chinese Lunar New Year. The main destinations are Chao Tien Temple in Peikang(北港朝天宮) and Tai Tian Temple of Nan Kwun Shen in Beimen (北門南鯤鯓代天府). On the return leg they also visit a small temple close to Nan Kwun Shen named Bao Ang Temple(蚵寮保安宮).

The journey is to take the Gods back to the temple where they are from. It is also the chance for all supporters of the temple to visit other temples and to gain good luck and good fortune. Gaining good fortunes through worshiping and visiting temples is a historical cultural tradition which derives from agricultural society long ago. However, I found that we can interpret the meaning of this journey differently. It is a trip, a trip equipped with good reasons. It would be difficult for people to go traveling in the old days due to the lack of transportation means and the hardship of living. A pilgrimage hence becomes the chance for people to release themselves shortly from difficult realities. What is interesting here is this idea is not exclusive to the old days only. What I saw on the day of our pilgrimage still shows certain levels of this idea. After praying to the Gods, almost everyone rushed to the store to buy souvenirs. Instead of considering the pilgrimage as a sacred mission, the vibe of the participants is more relaxing and entertaining.

Chao Tien Temple is always busy like this during this period of time every year, and it will last until the end of March. This temple, built in the late 17th century, is dedicated to Ma-Tzu, the Goddess of the sea, the empress of the heaven. In Taiwan, many temples for Ma-Tzu originated from this one, so all these temples have to come back here every year. Visiting their source is the root of this kind of pilgrimage. And this activity brings tons of people into this small village.
The temple is currently under refurbishment. In oder to maintain the complete look of the temple, they put a huge photo in front of it. Since this is my first time there, I was quite sad that I could not see the building. But at least the picture gives me the idea what the temple looks like. I shall visit that place again when the construction work is complete.
People are all trying to get into the main shrine. The temple is quite small, and it is interesting to see all these people (including me) trying to get into there.
When a God arrives, they will first play the drum and then the bell to welcome the God. Then the God will be removed from his/her palanquin to the table in the main shrine. The Gods stayed there for 15 minutes. I am not sure if the timing is sufficient for these Gods to chat! The interesting thing is whenever a God arrives or leaves, they always announce through the speaker where the God is from and what the God will do now.
A mix of people and different Gods.
The main shrine in Chao Tien Temple. There are in total 7 Ma-Tzu statues inside the casket.
The backyard of the temple. I love the shape of incense burners in this temple.
When we were on our way back to the buses, there are more people coming into the village. This is going to last until the end of March.

The palanquins from our group. The first one is for wooden plates, which are used to indicate the presence of the heavenly troops whose function is to work for the Gods, and the second one is for Gods.

After Chao Tien Temple, we headed to a small one named Bao Ang Temple. They went there because after a year's service, the heavenly troop has to change. So they have to visit this temple to receive another troop from the Five Heaven's Delegate.
When we got there, the leader of the group started to communicate with the Gods. This is a highly formal ritual. The leader started to move in a rhythm like dance and used all different kinds of weapons to show the divine power of the Gods. The palanquin for wooden plates would run towards the leader whenever the leader said something or set small firecrackers. After this, the palanquin ran to the table and started hitting the table. This is like coding. Then another man appeared to explain what the palanquin indicated through this action. We didn't get to see this part when we were in the previous temple, and I believe they did not practice this there, either. There were too many people, and I guess it is not allowed there. Ma-tzu has a higher status and probably it is not considered as respectful and appropriate to show any violent scenes in front of her.

Then when everything is done, all the men removed the Gods and placed them inside the temple again. For this, the process is exactly the same as when they were in the previous temple.

After a 15 minutes stay, we left that temple and went to the last one, Tai Tien Temple of Nan Kwun Shen. This temple is special for the Five Heaven's Delegate. According to the legend, they were all worriers who had great contributions to the country (or the local area). Due to their great work and good intention to the welfare of people, the Emperor of the Heaven(玉皇大帝)granted them the power and status to be the representative of himself in our world. Therefore, these Gods are also widely worshiped in Taiwan.

Nan Kwun Shen is also built in the late 17th century, and it is like the headquarters of all temples for Heaven's Delegate. It is huge and the decoration in the temple is such a precious artwork. Unfortunately, the temple is also under renovation now, and they are in the process of building another temple dedicated to the Emperor of the Heaven at the back of its main building.

There's an interesting legend about this temple. At first, there was a lower status child god occupying this land. When the five delegates traveled to this area, they though that this place is perfect for their temple. But the child God didn't want to give the land to them, so they started a 3 day fight. Of course, we cannot be sure who actually won, but the legend said that both of them reached an agreement, that is, the front (the bigger part) of the area would be used by the delegates and the small part at the back shall be for the child God. So the temple in fact is composed of two different temples, and if we count in the one that is under construction work now, it will be three in total. So people there always say if you visit this temple without paying your respect to the child God, you will have tummy ache! I don;t want a tummy ache, so I did not dare to disobey this rule. This thing is used to light up incense sticks. This is so special. I don't know how this works. All you do is stick incense sticks upside down into this thing for a while, then they will be lighted up. It seems like they burn coal inside it.
The leader of the pilgrimage practice the same ritual again. There were a lot of people in this temple, and during our stay there, new groups kept coming in.

I was really enjoying this pilgrimage, and I think I will join them again next year. Seeing the ritual being practiced right in front of my eyes is such a fascinating experience. Being a Chinese, I believe in the old Taiwanese saying, that is, "Once you pray to the Gods sincerely, you will be blessed and protected by them."(有拜有保庇)

13 Feb 2008

跟土地公公、婆婆借金:竹山紫南宮

大年初三,雖然天氣陰冷,想在家嘛也是沒事做,就決定北上紫南宮去拜拜。經過電視節目的報導,紫南宮早已是名聲大噪,我也是在看了關於土地公公借金的報導後才知道這個地方。不過假日去真是個錯誤,尤其是因農曆年長假,竹山真的是人滿為患。剛從南二高下竹山交流道就開始塞車,本來我想是因為集集與溪頭也走同一條路,但塞了一小時終於到目的地後,我們才發現幾乎所有車都是往紫南宮方向。下車後的景象更是嚇人,滿滿的都是人。好不容易擠到廟前,那人擠人的情況,加上人手一把香,真令人想打退堂鼓。不過想想都到了,就拜吧。

買了金紙,燃了香,我們很勇敢的往廟裡走。好不容易擠進去後,發現金紙根本沒地方放,大家都是往神桌上丟。這次拜拜就像是在打仗,速戰速決。出來後我跟我姐想,既然都來了為何不求金呢?所以我們又很努力的擠進廟內。求金的方式其實很簡單,先對土地公公跟土地婆婆稟告求金目的及用途,之後直接擲茭,第一次就允聖杯即可得600,第二次才得聖杯就只有500,依次遞減直到金額為0。但這次情況不同,這麼多的人擠在裡面要怎麼求啊?

當我們終於擠進那窄小的主殿裡,聽到此起彼落的擲茭聲,但卻找不到茭在哪。這時我突然靈機一動,跟隔壁正在擲茭的阿桑借。我想是土地公公跟婆婆有保佑,阿桑很爽快的答應我們。很順利的我跟姊姊都有借到錢,而且從擠進去到求到錢出來,前後只有10分鐘。在那樣人擠人的情況下,我想我們算是很有效率的,之後我們就去排隊領錢嘍。倒是排隊領錢比較花時間,而且他們的做法就像是去銀行開戶一樣,要準備駕照、身分證或健保卡,否則是領不到錢的。最重要的是這借到的錢,必須於一年內歸還,還金金額隨喜,但一定要大於借來的金額。還有,土地公公的錢是用於正途上的,所以不可以買樂透,更不能賭博。

就我讀到的相關報導,2006年紫南宮借出2300萬,收回3000萬,而廟方也將大部分金錢運用於慈善及社會服務上,尤其是著重當地的服務。其實這廟方借金做法,雖無法判斷是否真是神明指示,其運用及社會效益是具相當正面性意義。至少它給了許多人一個希望,一個能夠重新找回信心與力量的機會。其實這個土地公公、婆婆銀行真的很賺錢,看他們新建的廁所(金筍迎客),不是號稱六星級而已,它真的是六星級,男廁裡面還有噴水池呢!

希望這次土地公公、婆婆給我的借金,能幫助我在這金鼠年賺大財,能心想事成、一帆風順。我也一定在規定時間內,歸還借金並好好答謝土地公公、土地婆婆!













11 Feb 2008

Meinong (美濃), Lovely Comos

Interesting plant. I have no idea what this is, but the colour of the flowers (they don't really look lke flowers) is perfect for Chinese New Year.




Chong-Cheng Lake (中正湖). Though the weather is not good, quite gray, it actually gives a pretty poetic tone.




Cosmos, amazing! I love these flowers. They are blossoming happily and proudly in the cold wind. Their blossoming gives us a sense of warmness and the hope for the future.







I love my Nokia phone. Though the camera is only 1.5 megapixel, the quality of the pictures is pretty good.