A Bowl of Rice

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Location: Ontario, Canada

Paying Fancy Prices to Pretend that I Have A Fancy Life

2005/04/27

Oops! I Did It Again

I went to an Open Sing for the first time in my life this evening. To be honest, no matter in Karaoke or in choir, I prefer to sing solo. But I appreciate the opportunity to try something different, in this context, to learn Canadian sing-along folk tunes and easy Jazz standars. Critized of singing during the shower, I finally got a chance to sing aloud without complaints. And I am pretty happy with that.

I had a wonderful time there except only one problem. I was the only non-Caucasian in the Open Sing. People smiled to me, talked to me but they also avoided to sit next to me. I had a feeling of being marginalized. This was not the first time I had this feeling. I can still remember on St. Patrick's Day, I went to an Irish bar and regretted that I went to celebrate. Irish stared at me as if I were alien. I drank up and took off as soon as possible.

This is the situation I don't know how to deal with. I try to be open to everything, don't wanna be a stubborn "Chinese". But what people see me is my skin color and that's all they see. On the other hand, they don't do anything rude or wrong. They just do something they feel comfortable with- sitting next to their people. I cannot kidnap a person and tie him/her next to me. But I do smell something not quite right in the air. Well, I like to put myself in a totally strange environment. I ask for it and I get it. What else can I say.

2005/04/24

It's Pimple Season

"What's wrong with your face?" My friend freaked out.
"Er... I know." I instantly covered those red bulbs on my face.
"What happened? Anything you wanna talk?"
"No, just pimples. It is the season."

Pimple is pimple, no other 'tough' things underpinning it. By saying this, I am starting to challenge the validity of medical knowledge, or knowledge in general.

What do we learn from school? We learn to make connections. We learn to find the relations between several seemly irrelevant things. As a result, pimple must be connected with the food I ate lately, or my life-style, or difficult things I am going through, or even my gene traced back to my ancesters for several generations. If someone can integrate such detailed and dispersed connections into a system, like Marx, Weber and Foucault, to name a few, then he/she becomes the master. Religion ascribes all the connections and reasons to an absolute God. Modern knowledges explain the world in a relatively fragmented system. Although they avoid the simplistic and ultimate reason, these knowledges still draw heavily on 'connections' and 'reasons' between things.

But what if pimple is just pimple? What if something just happens for no specific reason? What if there is no reason, no connection? That requires us looking into every tiny thing in a new way, without the influence of the 'diagram' of that field. The hegemony of diagram actually terminates knowledge before it happens. The rule and the connection is already set there, waiting to be applied to the specific case, e.g., pimple. True knowledge stems from the uniqueness of every case. For example, pimples on my face on April 2005 and pimples on my face when I was 16 are different, hence need to be treated differently. If the reasons are the same, one bottle of Clean & Clear would work on thousands of pimples on thousands of faces. However, the fact is that Clean & Clear may work at the age of 16, but might not this time. There is no absolute connection or reason beneath pimples, nor other things.

So why not quit looking for any reasons or connections? Before we quit them, we need to find a substitue for them, in other words, what we are looking for when studying if not connections. This is also the critics to Post-modernism. They tear down everything, replacing those with nothing. If the reasons for my pimples are not important anymore, what is important? I eliminate the knowledge of pimple in the way of causalily here, and I am sure I would be uncomfortable with the knowledge of representing my pimples in any visual way, I don't want any song written on my pimples either. What other knowledge can be made out of my pimples? I think here the agent's preference is important. That is, what kind of knowledge "I" want to build? Agent has been out of the picture of knowledge for a long time since the ration and reason are pursued. Modern knowledge is against personal explanation for the sake of 'unbias' and 'reason'. I propose to call agents back.

In the case of my pimple, "I" want to erase them. Thus, "I" went to get a Clean & Clear this morning (please notice several agents I mentioned here, I, Clean & Clear, this morning, among which I is the most important coz I decided the action of purchasing this morning and chose Clean & Clear).

2005/04/19

Anti-Japanese in a Civilized Manner

Today my friend sent me a power-point of 4/16 anti-Japanese Demonstration in Shanghai. I have to admit that it was the first time I saw Chinese people bound so closely and that I was a little surprised, in a good way. What's more, some students raised "anti-Japanese in a civilized way (文明抗日)", which is really mature and responsible.

Media in North America critized Chinese government failing to control the mobs. I disagree. First of all, 170,000 people in Shanghai attended the demonstration in the end. It would direct the fire to the government itself if it tried to stop the demonstration. Second, what if Chinese government did stop the demonstration? China would probably be critized as "brutal", "no human right". I feel irritated at western reports on China sometimes.

Anyway, throwing rocks and eggs cannot accomplish anything, but ruin the image of China (although whatever we do is universally critized). People expressed their feelings and now it is the government 's responsibility to take care of everything. Any more violent actions would put Chinese people in an awkward position. For Japan? It is not worth it.

To protest against Japan is not the ultimate solution. What we need is a peaceful environment for the development of a stronger economy. Swtich the anger towards constructive and positive
energy. Let's be mature and responsible Chinese and look at the long future. I am proud of you, sweet mobs.

2005/04/18

Unconscious Highlights

I have been complaining about this city since I arrived here and I noticed that I missed the beauty of this place when comparing and complaining. After reading Donna Haraway, I tend to think every non-human, including a city, is equal to human and that there should be no hierarchy between human and non-human. (That does not mean I am anti-humanist.) According to this theory, I should like Kingston better than Shanghai. Shanghai city itself is a projecte full of human purpose and hierarchy of human over city, while Kingston is a place with less such obvious hierarchy (although it was 'planned' as a university town). Besides, you cannot imagine how thirsty of sun-shine I am after several months' snow. So I grabbed my camera and started to make friends with this city and entertain it.

Stairs
Edge

2005/04/17

From Board Game to Fetish

Last night I played a western board game for the first time in my life. Basically, it was about English words. Give you a word, and you guess what it means. Or given the meaning or a situation, you tell what the word (expression) is. It was fun. I got to play a tongue-out dog. In addition, I learnt some expressions, e.g., bull in a china store, a dog and pony show, three sheets in the wind, etc. And it was no surprise that I sucked at this game.

It is interesting to retrospect the assumptions behind this game. It is a game with the fetish of words (although it also relies on team-work and good fortune). Thoes with the best knowledge of words get rewarded and win the honor. It reminded me of an ancient Chinese game I played when I visited Shaoxing several years ago. People, most of whom were 'educated', sat on the stones along a tiny domestic garden river. Every minute 'servants' put a cup of wine in the river and let it float along the river. If the cup of wine stopped at someone, this person needed to say a poem rhymed to last person's. If he/she failed to do this, he/she would be punished to drink the wine. I was happy with the fact that I drank a lot of wine that day.

This fetish of words is not restricted in the circle of 'educated' persons. Instead, it is the foundation of the whole society system throughout the human history. Man hasn't hesitated to use words since our ancesters started it. It must be killing people when they come across something with no name and no discourse on it. "What the hell is the big humping rat?" "Kangaroo (Australian aboriginal language of northern Queensland, means I don't know)." "Oh... it is Kangaroo." Then they started to study 'Kangaroo'. Natural science develops quite this way, so does so-called social science. Without words and naming, knowledge seems impossible.

On the other hand, this fetish is sustained and promoted throughout the social life. Kids with a good command of language are labeled 'intelligence' and 'with a bright future'. Then we play games mentioned above. President candidates travel around and give public 'speeches' to convince the public to vote for them. This talk-show kind of politic system is considered 'democracy' and better than any other form (wow!). To some extent, the current conflicts between China and Japan are also a battle of words - history books.

Good or ill, we make too many things out of words. Maybe it is time for us to be more creative, and try something new, other than words. It leads to the realistic question that "Is the world possible without words?"

2005/04/16

Reading: ME++

William J. Mitchell's book Me++: the Cyborg Self and the Networked City demonstrates how new technologies shape our existence. In the chapter of Shedding Atoms, Mitchell creats a new calendar: B.D. and A.D. which stand for Before/After Dematerialization respectively. According to his research, the history of technology is a history of dematerialization, from texts and paintings on the walls and ceilings, to paper, to such portable devices as disks and UBS, then to digital reproduced and transported in cyberspaces. The geographic and physical existence disappeared around Y2K in the old calender (Mitchell 2004:100).

With the dematerialization, our social life is reshaped, e.g., the mobility of producers and comsumers of information is enhanced. Nevertheless, the tech-determinism over emphasizes the influence of dematerialization. Digital existence still needs to be embodied. We still need to pay to materialize the digital texts and images. Actually the whole dematerialization is based on more complex materials, for exmaple, computer, MP3 player and other such expensive items, although the reproduction and distribution of digital information becomes cheaper and even cost-free.

One should also concern the power relation in the A.D. The new power relies on the the accessibility and, more importantly, the speed of accessing. One would gain the power if one is quick at learning getting familiar with the new environment and new technology. Then the next question that should be asked is whether new technology is equally available and accessible to all people or some groups gain privilege. declares thatonce the universal use of internet is achieved the poverty will be solved. However, it seems there is no change in the accessibility of resources as before. Neither is the power relation in turn.

The rise of cyberspace brings the issue of boundary into the spotlight again after several waves of feminism. Many boundaries are taken down as the blurring of identity in the cyberspaces. However, another dichotomy is built at the same time. That is the binary of physical existence and cyberspace. This is well evidenced by the notion of 'dematerialization'.

Mitchell's interesting argument does give us a clue. A new angle of looking into the technology's influence is opened up. Beside the research on the technology side, the physical architecture and city side are also worth examination. In the era of paper, library was the landmark. Then libraries needed to be reformed to provide survice of online searching. Banks and theaters, which used to be the center of a city, are taken back. Instead, ATM, credit card, walkman, and MP3 player become pervasive. We are approaching the condition of 'walking architecture' as designs are off the wall and into the skin zone (Mitchell 2004:82).

The architecture and technology are co-evolting in the Whiteheadian style. As the development of dematerialization, the ancient distinction between settlers and nomads is eroding. The doctrine of urban planning in 20th century was the well-defined and seperated or fragmented spaces. Living, business, entertainming spaces were seperated from one another. However, digitalization and internet redefine the land-use zoning as versatile and compatible. A room can be either office or play-ground since people can work, chat as well as play on their computer. This is a new kind of opportunity to recoup the 'right to the city', which Henri Lefebvre terms as 'diversification of space' in which the importance attached to functional distinctions would disappear.

Reconfigure Human being

Mitchell envisions an extreme electronomadics ( 'against program') . In this concept, the traditional mind/body disctinction can be reduced to software/hardware. "Mental life is just an affair of bits in the brain; you might strip them from this squishy substance and download yourself onto a disk... the equivalents of WORD files of memorized text, JPG files of visual memory, MP3 files of unforgettable tunes, EXE files that specify how to get things done, and so on." In this sense, we are free from our 'dying animal' body. This reminds me of the case of Terri Shiavo. What really matters, the dying animal or the 'software' that she accumulated but lost? (gotta go, no time to think about it now)

This argument also reminds me of my last year's paper on cyborg. We already became cyborg as our ancesters started using tools. In this sense, we are still not post-human, but the extension of our ancesters. In turn, we have never been modern.

2005/04/13

Celebration

On my way back from friend's 25 year-old birthday dinner, the issue of celebration roamed in my mind: what are people celebrating for, how do they celebrate it, and who are they celebrating with?

In the context of birthday, I think, we are celebrating life, which is the most magical thing in the world. To some extent, we are all survivors who are continuosly struggling with germs, disasters, wars and even accidents. Turning 25 is my friend's personal record of surviving. For common people, to keep alive and survive another year is really a big achievement. My friend chose to celebrate this with friends in a Thai restaurant.

It reminds me of my 23 year-old birthday a couple of month ago. I think special events need to be celebrated with special people who really care about them. So I am glad that my friend had so many people who cared about his birthday. I was not as lucky as he, however. I did not want to call a bunch of people who just showed up, got drunk and then left. If I just want to get together with people, I can do it other time but my birthday. It is better for me not to celebrate it than to do it nonchalantly.

Maybe I make too much a big deal out of things. The real question here is 'WHO CARES'. I talked to my supervisor about my project and my concerns, he told me it was 'JUST a master degree, not a big deal'. 'Oh...right.' We are all waiting for and looking forward to special someone to share special moments. Unfortunately, not all of us can realize it. In the movie of Sideways, Miles opened his 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc, which he had saved for a long time for special someone, in a fast-food restaurant and drank it alone. But he is not a loser. He is just not as lucky as some other people. I applaund for him because he wakes up and deals with it. To celebrate, in this sense, is a 'luxury' practice which not everyone can 'afford'. I am sincerely happy for my friend. He is the lucky one.

Another thing, today I was deeply moved by a simple message from home country: "last year the same day '4.12' you got Queen's offer, I still can remember~~."

2005/04/12

Music: English Rebel Songs 1381-1984

I happened to find this album. This 2003 version has two more songs than the original 1988 version. "13 Tracks Originally Recorded in 1988 as a Homage to the Tragedies and Triumphs of the People who Shaped England (Amazon)." Different from Chumbawamba's punk style, this is a collection of old folks and the singing is very peaceful, although they are rebel songs. Click on the two songs below from this album and listen to them (you can also download them by 'right click' and 'save as'), you wouldn't regret it.

To the Mobs!

2005/04/11

Wash Hands Before Tequila

Tequila is something I heard a lot but seldome got a chance to try. Fortunately, I tried it this weekend. It was unbelievable that people would invent such an 'abnormal' way of drinking.
- First, you lick the salt on your hand. Then you drink up Tequila very fast. And then you bite the lemon. Everything must be done very fast.
- Okay, I get it.
- So, are you ready.
- Yes.
- First, lick the salt on your hand. Do it fast.
- If we are going to lick it, we need to wash our hands first, right?
- hahaha...
- (Embarrased) I was just kidding. Okay, are you ready?
...
Why was washing hand before licking it so funny? Isn't it common-sense? This time you people got me. I will wash my hands and not feel guilty or not cool next time, whatever others' reaction is.

2005/04/10

Word Power Makes Easy?

When my student argued the inequality of media coverage of women's sports, she presented a research on a popular sports magazine saying that reports on men's sports relied largely on texts to introduce the sport and the athletes while reports on women's sports events preferred pictures to texts. She meant to demonstrate the gender bias in media and sports. However, I gathered another hierarchy in her argument: the hierarchy of words over pictures (in this context) and other media.

How did 'word' gain such a power? Both word and picture are representation of the reality (it there is reality). Then how come is word socially preferred? You could argue that in fashion magazine photos are more important than texts. But publishings with more pictures than words are deemed to be 'superficial' and 'non-serious', while academic journals, which use overwhelmingly words, are socially worshipped. The requirement of the project for my students is also reinforcing such hierarchey in the way that only journal articles can be used in their papers.

Back to the question of word hegemony. Maybe word is considered to convey the exact meaning and thus considered more stable and useful. This point of view ignores the interpretation of human actors. When we read texts, we are actually creating our own interpretations, which could be overlapped with others' interpretations. But so is it when we watch images, listen to sounds, and etc.

In addition to no adventage on word's part, word and text are problem makers most of the time. If I give my mother an English fashion magazine, she would probably drop it two seconds later. By inserting texts in the pictures (although only a small portion), the photos become less important while the symbols of words are emphazised. Because the symbols are in English, which my mom is not familiar with, the photos also become 'English' and 'unreadable' for her. If the education system did not rely heavily on language, but equally on different media of communication, I and many international students would not face such a big language problem which actually 'disablilizes' people who are not good at language or words. In this sense, I think The Untitle Project, which takes out the texts from differen urban settings, is a terrific idea. The project deconstructs the hegemony of words, and at the same time promotes an equality between different forms of communication.

This entry does not mean to cut word out of the whole landscape. Instead, it encourages the harmony between word and picture and other media. The problem right now is that the society leans way too heavily on words than others and such preference causes social problems as stated above.

Last but not the least, I use the form of words to showcase the hegemony of words and texts for two main reasons. First, I couldn't find other forms to express myself probably because I am socialized this way under the power of words. Second, it would be neat for word to reflect and fight against its own hegemony. Maybe next time I should explore how to do academic in a proper and unbiased way if I can figure out.

2005/04/09

12 Steps to Become Weird

Since Thursday night I started to hang out with a bunch of 'weird' people. Strikingly, we really hit it off: Dirty talk, Beers, Marijuna, strange thoughts and conversations. I was raised in a proper way, expected to wear suit and tie and talk elegantly in a bright office. My parents must be very disappointed if they find this out. "Perfect, our only child is hippie." I can imagine them saying this. I do not know how I feel about this. But it would be interesting (or more weird) to explore how I became weird.

Basically there are 12 steps. Actually I just made up this number so now I need to fill it up. Why 12? It sounds a magic number. There are 12 holoscopes (both Chinese and Western), 12 lunnar hours (one lunnar hour equals to 2 hours) a day, 12 months a year, 12 years is a circle of life as said. Anyway, I also went through 12 steps to become weird.
  1. Normal - Start to pay attention on my body and dream about future
  2. Narcissism - extremely obssessed with myself
  3. Hate Others - everyone else is stupid
  4. Stop casual talk - what is the point of discussing weather and what we have for lunch
  5. Search for uniqueness - walk out of the line, avoid mass media and mass culture, wouldn't admit it even I really like Christina Aguilera, look for weird and ugly stuffs and identify myself with them
  6. Alone and Lonely - most importantly, be pround of being alone and lonely because loneliness means I am different from the average people
  7. Read Philosophy - to kill the loneliness
  8. Study Sociology and Philosophy - a gathering of weird people and weird thoughts
  9. Hate myself - be mean to oneself, be sacarstic to everything I do, physically deform myself (hilite, shave bald, try to gain weight)
  10. Collective weirdness - hang out with weird people and be comfortable being with them
  11. Dirty talk - the people I hang out with use f*cking in front of every word, I use it more creative- in the middle, e.g., abso-f*cking-lutely. can't express myself properly without these words
  12. Marijuna - no matter how awful it tastes, just be cool and smoke pot

Are these what I want? Everytime after Marijuna, I felt sick for the next whole day, couldn't breathe. Everyone in this group seems to have strong opinions, but who cares. I used to be like an angel but Marxism drugged me. I need to read some Buddha and Taoism.

Why Do We Hate Japan

By April 4, there had been 27.3 million online petitioners, most of whom were from China, and several street demonstrations against Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, while the Chinese central givernment's attitude is still unclear. Foreign residents in Beijing are advised to avoid the Zhongguancun Hailong Plaza electronics market in Haidian between the morning of 9 April (Saturday) and the even of 10 April (Sunday). It is indicated that this is to be the location of an anti-Japanese demonstration during the weekend. As reported by Angry Chinese Blogger (a foreign resident teaching language in China):

Though this weekend's hostilities certainly weren't the first anti-Japanese protest in China, most prior anti protests have been on a much smaller scale, and have remained peaceful...To date, much of the anti-Japanese sentiment expressed outside China's leadership and media has been credited to young unmarried males from the lower or mid middle classes, and it was broadly noted that the rioters were almost exclusively young male city dwellers who would have had no experience of Japanese aggression, and whose parents would not have experience it either.
Why does such a 'lay-back' generation, which is always critized as 'politic awearlessness', suddenly become political? Why do we hate Japan even it is quite likely that Beijing would finally vote for Japan's bid?

I personally have very close Japanese friends who are polite and open-minded. But for Japan as a nation, I do not have many good words. After invasions, two world wars, domestic war, culture revolution and cold war, China fell down to the status of a less-developed country from the arrogant Middle Kingdom. What we learn from history books makes us feel defeated and depressed. Most Chinese people feel unconfident in front of other peoples. On the other hand, we are looking forward to the resuming of Chinese power, considering the rapid development happening in China. Most young Chinese notice that we need a peaceful and stable environment for further development. Thus a war between Taiwan Strait is almost impossible even though we all want to slap the recessionists in Chinese Taiwan to death.

However, Japan's current policies are to challenge and irritate our tolerance: denial of its crime in the war, intervention in China's internal affairs, withdrawl loan to China and so on. Its development is through restricting and (invading during two world wars) its neighbour countries. The growth of such a destroying power will certainly threaten regional safety and development, including China. No wonder South Korea, People's Republic of Korea and Singapore have officially declared that they would veto Japan's bid for permanent seat in UN Security Council.

Moreover, Japan's joining in the Security Council will further break the balance of world affairs. To grant Japan a permanent seat equals to grant the U.S. another seat. Maybe Angry Chinese Blogger is right, the current 5 permanent UN SC countries all have 'brutal' histories. So is Japan. But this cannot be the reason why Japan should be granted the permenant seat. UN needs to reform to reconstruct the balance, rather than leaning more on one side. Considering the relationship of Japan and the U.S., it is not a good step to recuit Japan into permenant UN SC. That would not make things better.

It is sad that China would probably vote for Japan because China's governemtn does not want to be the enemy of any big countries. I still hate politics but have a warn to China's government: Don't break your people's heart, don't make us lose confidence on you. To vote for Japan can only make the government a loser in its citizens' eyes.

Updated at 2:50 EST, April 10, 2005

2005/04/08

Dismantle 'STUFF' & 'SORRY'

This topic is inspired by Sven's comment on my previous post Etopia: What is your favourit word in english? This question circled around my mind and two words pop up: STUFF and SORRY. I like the former one while the latter word makes me frustrated. Although I don't like some words, I still use them in my everyday life. Hence, basically I am still a disciplined 'docile body', but with some weird thoughts sometimes.

STUFF

'STUFF' is a neat word, which I am particularly obsessed with. Whatever one wants to say but could not find a proper name for it, one can use 'STUFF'.

-What's the STUFF on her face?
-You know, that STUFF...
-Oh, that STUFF, erw...

Besides its omnipotent, it is also a word without any boundaries. It can refer to both good and bad things. It can be used to describe both female and male things, body and mind, etc. It transcends any restrictions. Thus, STUFF is the nature of ontology. By applying STUFF, one is not confined in certain circles. In this sense, STUFF also sets minds free.
-Hey, What do you study? What are you doing?
-I am doing STUFF.
-Okay, then what is your major?
-I major in STUFFOLOGY, if you want me to put it this way.

See, the gap between academic and average is also filled by STUFF. No matter you are a professor, a lawyer, or a cleaner, you are doing STUFF. So there is no difference between these STUFFs. If I had a business card, I would put STUFFOLOGY on it, just like what I do here.

SORRY

I also want to explore a word I dislike: SORRY. I am not sure when people say SORRY, they really mean it or saying it is just their habit. I don't caculate how many SORRYs I would encounter everyday. But it is so pervasive that I even do not notice when people say it.

It is funny that people think they can use SORRY to compensate their behaviours. If you feel SORRY, do not do that thing. Moreover, if SORRY really works, we don't need police, law and prison any more.

If strangers saying SORRY to one another is not an issue, I also know that there is a kind of relationship in which people say SORRY more than any other word. This is what should be SORRY for. There is no sadder situation than this. Why not name oneself SORRY if one is very much into this word? That would be more lovely.

2005/04/07

Etopia

This title could be confusing. It does not mean technological society or digital world. Here it refers to a world stuffed with English. Many things inspire me to discuss this topic, in English (of course) which is my third language. The first input came from Lifeweek Magazine this week's special report. A second reason is the fact that I am struggling in an English world (or I should use the term 'Etopia' here) where the most significant problem for me is language. A friend actually complimented on the progress of my English. The book From East to West which I reviewd a couple of days ago also touches this issue. In one of the 15 lives, the soul was born in India but he chose to write in English because he wanted to unite the world in order to realise the horizontal Self.
Stemmed from British Island in 5 A.D. when only spoken by English, Welsh, and Scotish, English now is sweeping all over the world. The influence is much bigger than Tsunami. I didn't notice the influence until I read the statistics: there are 400 million native English speakers, 250 million use English as second language, 1 billion are learning English, 1/3 of the global poplation are expected to speak English in 2050 (Statistic from Lifeweek Magazine). That looks stunning.
But I doubt the truth behind these numbers is not as surprising as the numbers themselves. I have been learning English for a long time, as early as the age most Canadian starts learning French (maybe even ealier than that), I still speak broken Chinese English, which pisses me off especially in such an English dominant country. So are my friends and most non-native speakers I know. 1 billion, 1/3 world citizens, can they communicate in English after they learn it? Will they have the chance to use it? Maybe as one British official said, the only universal known English is 'F*ck' (he also mentioned 'Football', which is obviously debatable even within English speaking countries).
Many argument are made about the hegemony of English which will jeopardize culture diversity. I also doubt that. A vivid culture needs to grow and suck in new elements. If one language or one culture stays put, its destination is not far away. Basically, I do not agree to most culture purifiers or defenders. I remember my Chinese teacher in high school wanted to talk to me because I used such imported or new vocabulories as 'cool' in my paper. I am never afraid of using new words once I know how to use them properly and beautifully. It is sad that I cannot do this in English, a language which I still cannot even catch its tail. I hope someday I can also play with English as the way I play with Chinese.
Etopia, right, it is the title of this post. But it is just another language game, isn't it? I think many things in this world are made belive by the language/words we use/creat. Such a word, once broadly known, will frame our view of the world. Thus, I believe the society is basically a word-world system. Sorry, I am not a realist.
If you happen to finish reading this entry, I request you to teach me an English expression (of course, you can also leave comments). That would be highly appreciated.

2005/04/04

Farewell, My Kids!



Kids: Wéi, Can we get our papers back?
Me: Sure, but not right now. I will hand them back to you right before you are ready to leave this classroom.
Kids: haha...
Me: I have a request. This is our last class this term and probably the last time I am seeing you. You are my first students and I am so gonna miss you. Do you mind if I take pictures with you guys?
Kids: No, we would love to.
Me: You guys don't know how much we Chinese like taking pictures.
Kids: haha...Do we need to pile up?
Me: Up to you guys.
Together: Cheers.
Me: Hey, Jess, your fingers cover the lan.
Jess: No, of course not.
Together: haha...
Me: Good luck, guys.

Those whom I failed, please don't hate me.

2005/04/03

Back-Off, MSN Messenger

It is 1:35a.m. EST when I start writing this. The reason I stay up tonight is that I spent the past 4 hours searching software to check if anyone blocked or deleted me from their MSN messenger list. It sounds psychic in the first place. However, all I feel now is that I am pathetic.

I am shocked the fact that from some point I started to use technology to measure and judge people's relationships with me, rather than my intuitions. This kind of thing usually happens when people do not trust others, or rather say, themselves. A doubtful wife would hire a detective (which is a representitive of certain technology) to follow her partner and find out his affairs. I find some resemblance between this and my practice tonight. However, hiring a detective happens rarely, only in extreme situations, while checking messenger list and people's reaction to my appearance on line became routine.

  • If someone logs off right after I sign in, I would assume he/she is avoiding me;
  • If someone does not return my message for a long time, he/she is not liking me;
  • If someone is on line but set as 'busy', it is quite likely he/she does not like me at all. My assumption here is that if one is busy, why is one in MSN messenger. People go to MSN for chatting and enterntaining, right?
  • If the conversation with someone in messenger is not continuous (a response every minute or so), he/she is not taking me seriously.
  • If someone on my list never greets me in the first place, he/she does not care me at all.
  • ...
  • If someone does not initiate a conversation for a long time, he/she must have already delete me.
  • If someone does not show up for a while, he/she probably has blocked me.

I have no idea how I do this, but I do read a lot from people's reaction to me in MSN messenger. It is frustrating sometimes. The instant messege technology does not facilitate my life, instead, it drives me into the crazy game of 'guessing' and 'detecting'. Technology reshaped my way of thinking. Originally, I only needed to use my eyes, ears, and other natural (but magic) senses. Then I started to employ technology as a dimension. Further more, the spy technologies are pursued and I sort of count on them. All my five (maybe six and seven) senses are put afterwards behind my mind.

Noticing all of these tech-maniacs, I cry for my 'life' back. When I say 'my life', I mean my natural and magical sensing system, I mean my eyes, my ears, my nose, my hands. I am not cyborg-phobic. I already paid fancy prices for my technology part and thus it is spoiled. Now I need to spend time with the intuition part of me. So back-off, technology.

2005/04/01

Reading: From East to West: Odyssey of a Soul

I started reading this book From East to West: Odyssey of a Soul while there was a chance for me to get to learn Critical Realism, a relatively new school of philosophy. It was not easy for me, at first, to accept Critical Realism for several reasons. First, I identify myself more as 'Constructionism' and 'Post-Modernism', whose ontology and epistemology are opposite to any 'Realism'. A second reason is the resemblance of Critical Realism and Marxism. After years of Marxism, I am getting bored of its theory. But Roy Bhaskar's From East to West, the fifth stage of Critical Realism, trencends its previous argument, close to Buddism, which I found peace while reading it. For the same reason, this book was critized by many other Critical Realists.



The structure of this book is also worth noting. The former part of this book is theory, while the rest is a novel about 15 lives of a soul, set from east to west, from ancient to modern. He uses novel to explain his new thoery, I think, is to acheive the horizontal self-realisation, which is to let the public and others to know his philosophy easlily.

The major argument of this book is that we human beings are god-like and free. However, because of attachment and aversion, we are illusioned. What we need to do is through action/inaction and learning to unveil and purify ourselves, thus, achieve self-realization and the god-like self. In addition, we need to achieve the universal integration through unconditional love.

Human bondage is characterised by avidya, maya, attachment and object referral; the desire to have, rather than to be (subject referral); the confusion of Self with possessions, money and so on; the failure to let go (the blocking of God-nature, dharma, soul force and spontaneous right action by heteronomous orders of determination and constraint, karma, excess baggage, and so on); and confusion over identity as much including self-identity, sexual identity and ambivalence over self, love, God and so on (Bhaskar,2000:108).

Critical Realism, in this sense, develops from a academic epistemology to a practical instruction. This is also the way Bhaskar unites the academic and the ordinary.

To trenscend different binaries, e.g., male/female, yin/yang, mind/body, east/west, etc, is the goal of Critical Realism. For this purpose, Bhaskar argues that god is ingredient in everything. So we are essentially the same (although we are also unique, which he reiterates in his book). The metaphor of 15 lives of a soul brodens our view of 'I'.

Hegel was very wise to see that 'I' indexes both someone unique, someone in particular and everyone and anyone at all (and does so in the same particular way)...We have all been rich and poor, male and female, oppressor and oppressed, and so on. Anyone can play any role in the holistic performence which is life, and a particular life in a particular Life in the odyssey of some particular, concretely singularised soul (Bhaskar, 2000: 102).

From this perspective, we are so small. Hence, we need to learn to forget our past and forgive. Because any resentment or attachment make no sense in the meta-history.

The division of east and west is the different focus of realization. In the east, a vertical real-realisation is ecouraged. That is from self to Self to God. A horizontal realisation is enforced in the west, which is to broadcast one's belief and influence others. Bhaskar creatively combine these two realisation together. However, his knowledge of Taoism, Zen and Buddhism is not very accure, at least no better than mine. Taosit, Zen, Buddhism belong to average people in the east, in their everyday practice while philosophy in the west is only confined in academic. Without noticing this, we cannot grasp the nature of yin/yang and the like, which I find myself getting close to from the practice of Chinese cooking.

To change the world, we should start from changing ourselves. To forget past, to accept ourselves, to forgive others, and in turn to love unconditionally. This theory contradicts from my discipline (which pushes me to think my position in the 15 lives), however, I do find peace in this book.

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