A Bowl of Rice

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Location: Ontario, Canada

Paying Fancy Prices to Pretend that I Have A Fancy Life

2005/03/31

Boundary Up or Down

The ball of today's seminal was kicked off by a project on Masterbation. The presenter was trying to look into how masterbation was considered a second rate sex and to question the boundary of sex and gender. By doing this, she brought up a concept 'ASEXUALITY', which was kind of new for me. It refers to people without particular sexual orientation, opposed to heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality. At first, it was a hilarious term for me. After more than one thought, this term sounded ironic.

She meant to tear down the boundaries. However, she was actually building a new boundary in her work. Sometimes I think, one fascinating part of social science is actually to creat new categories, in which we can insert our explanation and creativity. By doing this, the society is misguided. Now we need to remedy the pains we brought to the society.

How can we remedy these? Not through bulding up more catergories (at least this is not a direct way). Instead, we should re-articulate and re-configure current categories and boundaries, to inform the public that there are actually no value difference between different categories, just like apple is no better or worse than pear.

Is this the history of social science: first building up boundaries and then tearing them down? Awsome, huh!

2005/03/29

Torn

When one feels excited and depressed at the same time, it is called 'torn'. That is exactly what I feel right now. So I decide to take this afternoon off and take down things that tear me apart.

A lot of things going through my mind were inspired by reading Horoswitz when I prepared for teaching student movements of 1970s in America. Horoswitz's description urged me to be creative, critical and even radical (though his argument is conservertive). It is exciting that my students felt the same way. One student actually came to me after class and told me he felt depressed by reading such materials because that made him lose balance, and faith in this world. The first thing I felt when I heard that was happiness. He was thinking like a sociologist, which was exciting for me. Besides confirming his talent and quality as a sociologist, I told him we kept criticing society neither to show how bad it is, nor for fun, instead, we did it for a better society. The best way to do that is to learn and understand the world anew, like a new-born baby. We need to put ourselves into a 'strange' and 'unfamiliar' situation to see how things going on. This kind of thought loops back to a novel I am reading, called The Disposesessed (which I would try to write a review when I finish). But to do this sometimes is not easy for researcher. It is like one needs to give up what he/she already has and starts all over again. That is at leat my case right now.

Another thing occurred to my mind is the domination of 9/11 discourse in my field of research. I used to take it without a doubt, like that way I take 1 plus 1 equals 2. Based on the above philosophy, I need to give it up and start to ponder why 9/11 really matters, any factors other than 9/11 contribute to the current condition of the world and etc. I see what I am doing, to destruct 9/11. But another truth is that I don't want such an American discourse to reign a field, or even a discipline, a whole world.

The most striking thing happened after I decided to pursue a totally different topic as my own project. I didn't realize its complexity until I talked to some faculty members. The excitement suddenly gave a way to depression. The struggle between faculty members are so sensitive that even a tiny change, such as the change of topic, the person you talk to, would light the fire. I do not want to explain the details. But I want my project to go on, as well as resources to support me and my project. Hopefully, I could find an 'easy' way to do that. But how?

2005/03/28

Shave Bald For/On Easter

On Easter, I shaved my hairs which I just hilited last month. A freak pays so much attention on hairs. Though I miss my hairs, I feel relived because I do not need to psycally worry about my hairs. Oops! It has been a long time since last time I wore bald. Posted by Hello

2005/03/27

Slap Me When I Talk Like This

Most of my previous posts are about the science hegemony and my resistence to it. Look at the language I used in thoes posts, stuffed with 'ten-dollar' words. This kind of 'academic' and 'scientific' language also need to resist, if I really want to make my points. The writing style and the metophors I use should also stand out for my argument, besides being used simply as expressions. That is, if I were a killer, I wouldn't spend as many saliva as bullets. Bullets would be my words. Shazam, I finally understand Donnal Haraway and her special writing style. So next time when you see me using 'scientific' and 'academic' words, please slap me right on my face.

Wait a second. My logic here is sort of twisted and circular. First I said something. Then I said something against my former statements. Now I am circling back again. What am I thinking? Why do I spend sleeping time on such wierd thinking? Slap me again.

Well, just slap me whenever you see me.

2005/03/25

Documentary:Super Size Me

Inspired by Random Meanderings, I decided to watch Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, a documentary movie against fast food and its giant McDonald. My original suggestion was to have McDonald as dinner and then watch this movie. But my friend thought it 'unhealthy', so that we ended up having Greek lamb, which was very tasty by the way.

Morgan did a incredible experiment on himself by eating only McDonald's food (including water) continuously for 30 days. The ends justified, of course, his assumption that fast food is dangerous. He also interviewed different groups of population across the States to demonstrate how fast food, especially McDonald, are inappropriately marketed.

Who is to blame, but capitalism?! I will drop this issue, anyway.

One thing striked me when I watched this movie was another blindness of American people, including Morgan: the belief in science. Morgan's experient was witnessed by three doctors and their exams for him. American also develops a detailed list nutrition for the public to follow. If they fail to follow the list, they are leading an 'unhealthy' life. Children should do exercise for at least'30 minutes a day', if not, 'unhealthy'. Thoes who do not know what calorie is are in the category of danger as well. What is health to do with knowing about calorie. My mom has been having a wonderful life without even being informed anything about calorie. She is not fat, actually, quite slim. Calorie is just a tool of measure fat. What is the power of it? If I want to measure fat or heat, I can use anything, like to use apple or candle. How did these knowledge reshape our life, reform our standard of 'health' and 'good'?

I doubt the reliability of such knowledge. Going through the history of knowledge and science, nothing is stable and permenant. I am pretty sure that someday these knowledge would fall down. My major concern is how knowledge was indoctrined into our society and lives, and how we can resist it. Foucault suggests no need to fight agianst it but live with it. However, knowledge and science are so pervasive that they even shut down other choices. It is not we who live with them, instead, they are living us. We need to fight and get out of the box.

Seminal: Education and Citizenship in the Digital Age (by Darin Barney)

Darin Barney's vision of technology refreshed my view. After reading Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs: The next social revolution, I was pretty convinced that technology will empower 'the mobs' although I did feel that Rheingold was a little technological determinism. However, Barney's argument is quite opposite. For him, technology could be 'beneficial' or could be 'neutral'. The fact, as he argues, is that technology provides challenge to our society, specifically to humanity.

Barney's talk starts with the notion of citizenship. In his work, citizenship is republican/democratic citizenship, which emphasizes participation in public judgment as to ends. This theory, I would argue, is specific to western society. Although it is now used universally, it is reinforced into the eastern world. I recalled my friend's project on the public participation in the urban planning in Shanghai city. He travelled half the world from Canada to China to do this research. His finding was ambiguous, I think. On the one hand, his productivity came from the interviews with some 'angry' and 'radical' colledge students; on the other hand, the researcher himself felt 'the white domination' after he presented his finding to Shanghai government. Nevertheless, this notion of citizenship does develop in Chinese society, especially in college, no matter where and how it came. But this theory still needs to be examined, at least in Chinese society, to see its real influence. Barney's idea that citizenship needs to be cultivated could annihilate my argument. Unfortunately, the cultivation of citizenship and the necessity of citizenship are still quite 'western'.

Another interesting concept is 'technological society'. Technology becomes the setting of citizenship. In other words, such activities as economy, culture, education and etc are bound with technology, and they are reformed to fit into new technology. In such a society, technology means 'self-realization' and 'a good life'. In this sense, technology shuts down humanity. This argument is similar to my previous post on the relationship of humanity and science. However, deep in my heart, I still feel the power of 'smart mobs', who are not easy to deceived by technology. A good example will be Barhey himself. He was sitting there and presenting his critique of technology to a bunch of people who 'happened' to share the same idea. It was not a coincidence.

Education is another key word in Barney's presentation. For him, the real question should be asked about education is what kind of 'subjectivity' it cultivates or does not cultivate, instead of what skills are being instructed. Of course, to build in the capacity of using technology is important in order to augment the capacity of citizenship. The most important thing for education to do is to reopen the discussion of humanity: 'what is a good life'. There is no finite answer to this question. But the continuous thinking and exploring is a means of humanity.

I cannot say any more about this seminal. I really like his ideas and what he is doing. Below is his abstract of his work:
This talk investigates the role of education in addressing the challenges posed for citizenship by technology. Drawing on a republican theory of citizenship that emphasizes participation in public judgment as to ends, the chapter identifies three ways in which technology challenges citizenship: as potential means of citizenship practice; as a potential object of political judgment; and as the necessary setting of citizenship activity. I then proceed to examine possible educational responses to each of these challenges. These responses include technological facility, critical technological literacy and immersion in the humanities. It is argued that while the practical and epistemological contradictions between these responses are significant, the demands of citizenship in technological societies are such that an accommodation between them must be sought. I conclude by assessing the chances for such an accommodation in light of recent efforts to orient education more fully towards the perceived needs of “innovation” and the “knowledge” economy.

2005/03/23

Don't Panic, China

I did not notice the seriousness of the crack-down of several universities' Bulletin Boards on March 18 (including Tsinghua University, Peking University, and Nanjing University) until I read China Digital Times and Rebacca. Students at Tsinghua folded paper birds and gathered at field to express their grief.

These Bulletin Boards used to be open to the public now are only available to students from inside the campus. The government's action is based on several 'ridiculous' assumptions. First, they suppose the influence of elites in China and they assume that students from top universities are elites. This is partly right. Students with good educations and relatively abundant resources do have their own minds, considering the fact that most modern revolutions since last century started from students. Chinese society benifited from these revolutions. The govenment cannot stop them thinking but wants to keep these thoughts in the the 'Ivory Tower', so that people from outside cannot be 'enlightened'. Actually, they are much more smater people outside, who are more sophisticated and more responsible than the students. People don't need to be 'enlightened'. Instead, they decide the trend, rather than the government or students.

A second assumption of such action is technological determinism. The government notices the power of new technology, especially internet, which makes them believe that internet is the only medium for free communication (and the only medium they don't know how to fully control). We need to keep in mind that people can communicate as long as they feel the need, wheareas of the media. The intensify of control can only irritate some desperate people and thoes who are always against Chinese government.

According to this assumption, the government decides to 'de-virtualize' China. They know internet cannot be abandoned so all they can do are to block 'inappropriate' sites, to shut down public forums, and to connect virtual ID with its opponent in the physical world. From Danwei I heard this:
All students who still have access to the BBS will apparently have to register with their real names if they want to continue posting to the BBS.

Furthermore, China government is commanding all internet web sites to register(including personal web sites). In Issac's post Red Terrorism, he mentioned:
Another funny thing is that China government is commanding all internet web sites to register(including personal web sites)[via zheng]. If you have a web site hosting in China, e.g. abc.com, you should register under China gov central database first. They want to control the whole internet in this way, but I think it's so foolish they didn't understand how huge the web will be and the explosion of internet objects will eventually flood their stupid effort.

I am not sure if this has been enforced in China or not. But I cannot open my friends' blogs for a while. I hope their sites would be resumed soon.

Last but not the least, I wish both sides (government and students) would calm down and take more than one thougt of this event. We need a peaceful China, instead of blood and tears. Moreover, don't give opportunities to thoes who are against China.

2005/03/22

Advices from A Sex Offender

When I turned on TV as the background noise tonight, a 'terrific' piece of news from CNN attracted my attention: A sex offender sitting in the broadcasting room and having a talk show with the host. Again, the power of media. Even the crime was willing to do a personal show and looked quite calmed and sophisticated.

Another 'terrific' part happened when the host asked the offender to give advice to the parent audience. Once again, the offender did give out advices, like some expert invited to such a TV show. His advice for parents were:
  1. Teach your children to keep boudaries and limits;
  2. Teach the children to keep self-value;
  3. Teach by example.

Well, even these advices are 'terrific', aren't they?

2005/03/21

Fear of Humanity: A Side-Eeffect of Science

'To Predict the world' was the project I assigned to my students tonight. We were discussing Holocaust and 'Sanctioned Massacres' during wars, especially in the second world war. After reading Niall Ferguson's article Sinking Globalization, which compares current world condition with that before the first world war, we started to discuss the possibility of a third world war. Hopefully, most of students thought it was not likely to break out a world war for a while because different powers in the current world were still woven together. For the same reason, there is no stable allience system in the world (there are different opinions within NATO regarding such issues as war against Iraq).

Ferguson's argument is conservative and capitalism-centered. It is also funny that he compares Al Qaeda to Bolsheviks, and Osama bin Laden to Lenin:
Like the Bolsheviks in 1914, these Islamist extremists are part of an underground sect, struggling to land more than the occasional big punch on the enemy. But what if they were to get control of a wealthy state, the way Lenin, Trotsky, and company did in 1917? How would the world look if there were an October Revolution in Saudi Arabia? True, some recent survey data suggest that ordinary Saudis are relatively moderate people by the standards of the Arab world. And high oil prices mean more shopping and fewer disgruntled youths. On the other hand, after what happened in Tehran in 1979, no one can rule out a second Islamist revolution. The Saudi royal family does not look like the kind of regime that will still be in business ten years from now. The only monarchies that survive in modern times are those that give power away.

If there were a world war, it would still be a war between capitalism and conmunism according to Ferguson's article. The truth is, however, that Islamic extremists like Osama bin Laden are simply agianst the United States' arrogant foreign policy rather than its capitalism. The difference between Lenin and Osama bin Laden is that the latter is not as constructive as the former though they are both destructive and desperate. Lenin did build another powerful system while it is not promising considering what bin Laden has done so far and declares to do in future.

Back to the issue of holocaust. I was wondering how such horrible practices would happen. How could they think of erasing a whole race or religion? And how could they really murder their fellow human beings? It is argued that through 'authorization', 'routinization', and 'dehumanization' this practice becomes possible. We have heard a lot about the mis-categorization and stereotype of human groups, so is argument agianst authority. Thus, I am going to focus on the process of routinization.

Routinization is with the rise of science and reason. In other words, the development of science and the emphasize of ration gave birth to 'procedure' and 'routine'. However, the development of reason has its own medicine. Routinization actually stripps agents off their own decisions. All they need to do is to follow the routine and the procesure. In the battlefield, soldiers kill according to how they are trained. The same thing happens in different disciplines. Following the routine, on the one hand, embodies 'the professional', and on the other hand, decontexturizes unique events. The fear of humanity and personal feelings suffice in the modern society.

How can we stay professional and keep our reasons at the same time? That reminds me of my student's question: why are sociologists interested in the issue holocaust. Before we are social researchers, or economists, or politician, we are first of all human beings with emotions and reasons. Don't be afraid of our humanity. It is not going to take us back. Last but not the least, without being a sophisticated human being, it is impossible to be a good researcher/economist/politician.

2005/03/19

Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

My words are overwhelmed by this song Everybody's Free. It is from the album of Something For Everybody by director and composer Baz Luhrmann. My friend gave me this song at Christmas. What a pity that I do not get to listen to it carefully untill now.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of '99, wear sunscreen.If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked…. You're not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing everyday that scares you

Sing

Don't be reckless with other people's hearts, don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss

Don't waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind…the race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch

Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life…the most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees, you'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't, maybe you'll have children,maybe you won't, maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…what ever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else's. Enjoy your body, use it every way you can…don't be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it's the greatest instrument you'll ever own..

Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they'll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go,but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you'll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair, or by the time you're 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen…

2005/03/18

Can you walk by without me grabbing you

Beaver Tail Posted by Hello

Rebirth

This site is a rebirth after I quit blogging for a while. During this silent period of time, a lot of things have been going through my mind. Although most of them are personal issues, they all unfluence my view of the world and the current events happening out there. There is a need to express myself.

In today's seminal, we got to touch the topic of 'value-free' in 'scientific' disciplines. 'Value-free' has been deemed a significant principle of science and reason even since Aristotle. It is more emphasized in the modern society. However, in practice value-free is hardly possible although it is pursued by many people. With different opinions and attitudes, however, the world would actually be complete. It is also evident that we are making judgement all the time, from the clothes we pick today, to the coffee we drink, to the weather we encounter. We are bound with attitudes. Why do we fear showing them?

Being anti-'value-free', I am becoming a rebel. Moreover, the idea of 'rebel code' is also from the song by Chumbawamba:

Rebel Code

Dreaming that you're quietly driving by
Waking, wiping sleep out of your eyes
Watching firey cocktails in the sky
Rebel code, rebel code
Huddled in the cellars underground
They're tapping out a code to bring you down
Hacking into every home in town
Rebel code, rebel code
(Chorus)
One mic, three chords, our memories stored
Rebel code
One song, two words, no chance to get bored
Rebel code
Stalin waits forever at the gate
We simplify, we complicate
The urge to break, the need to recreate
Rebel code, rebel code
Changing everything that they were taught
Alcohol and fire and ones and noughts
Something in the water and the bones
Rebel code, rebel code
(Repeat chorus)