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Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Dream

I was in college. I was sitting in a bright and small-ish classroom. He appeared as my favorite professor, standing at the podium and telling us that this would be his last class.

My heart sank: Gone? Really? Forever? Is this farewell? I teared up. Disappointment swept over me.

The sun shone through the window behind it. He seemed ... happier, more open, and more "readable" than his usual self, which always seemed mysterious and impenetrable like a dark pond with unknown depth. He talked like a Californian, about nature, environmental protection, organic living, etc., etc.

(After I woke up, it struck me that the California element probably came from the memory of attending a college in Southern California, although at that time I had no idea about all the Californianisms.)

...

I walked through a narrow corridor and came upon a small ice skating rink. Brandon Mroz and another skater (must have been Ryan Bradley although I could not be sure) were practicing on the ice. Tom Zakrasjek and his permanent maid Becky Calvin were standing at the other end. Suddenly Brandon skated over and winked at me. I was so surprised that I forgot to acknowledge the wink.

I continued walking down the narrow corridor. Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and saw a rather thin Jeff Goldblum. He looked shorter and thus more approachable than his purported self (I have never seen him in real life, but I heard he is quite tall). He smiled at me conspiratorially, "We can't just let him go, can we?"

I immediately understood what he meant but feigned ignorance. "Who?" I said, my heart pounding. He pulled me into a glass, window-less room and sat me down, and handed me a piece of paper. It was a petition to the professor, asking him to stay. I realized that I was supposed to sign it. "We can't let him get away from us, can we?" He said again with the conspiratorial smile and a twinkle in his eye. "We have to find him first," he said, and then instructed me to go to so-and-so building where the faculty offices resided.

...

I was walking down the corridor again and entered a large office with a sea of cubicles and bright lights. People and noises were all around me.

Suddenly I saw the professor's back in front of me. Nervously I called out to him, "Sir! Sir!" He turned around briefly and I blurted out, "Mr. Goldblum has been looking for you. He asked me to find you and tell you."

He nodded and received the slip of paper. I quickly turned around and walked out of the office. Why did I have no courage to beg him to stay? I so wanted to say the words, but my tongue was tied and my heart heavy.

Will he stay? The question remained hanging in the air.

In an office nearby, I found an album of his photographs --- not ones of him but rather photos he owned. They were beautiful and whimsical. In one photo was a bunny rabbit sitting in tall grass, who was gazing between the blades of grass at a man walking by. The man was shorter than the grass. In another photo, a beetle (or perhaps a ladybug?) was standing next to a man riding a donkey. Both the man and the donkey were a tenth the size of the bug.

I understood. "Nature is larger than man."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

How We Decide

抢在图书馆到期死线之前把这本书看完了。

实际上最近出了不少类似话题的书,至少有三本是题材和内容相当接近的:Blink (Malcolm Gladwell), How We Decide (Jonah Lehrer), The Emotional Brain (Joseph LeDoux),甚至他们引用的研究试验文章也都有所重叠。LeDoux 的那本应该是最早的,他是正式的神经心理学家,自己做研究的,我一直打算看但是还没看。另外两个都读过了,Lehrer 有科学试验的训练和背景,所以他的书含有较多的技术内容, dopamine 啦,脑神经区域啦,有提到但是不需要读者上过大学或医学院一年级的解剖生理课。而Gladwell 坚决不用生词儿,甚至很少描述脑扫描试验(虽然我相信他一定读过这方面论文),他的书最文艺,最娱乐,最“不科学”。

按理说,我应该最不喜欢 Gladwell 的书,但实际并不,我很喜欢他的书,虽然他的解释的方式常常很不科学很不严谨,但是效果非常好。把 Blink 和 How We Decide 两本书对照着看,感觉很奇异。

TBC.

Monday, January 25, 2010

滑冰的男孩子的妈妈经

朋友给我发了一个网页,是几年前在一个叫做 Unseen Skaters 的网站上的论坛上的妈妈经,几个妈妈讨论如果儿子喜欢搞花样滑冰,周围人不支持,爸爸害怕儿子是弯的,受到旁人讥笑欺负怎么办,是不是应该不许他练,保护他不受到学校里的蠢男生们欺负。(我还认识另外一个朋友,这个网站的站长,自己是没孩子的,但她经常志愿帮助默默无名的小选手和他们的家长。)

说实话这些真实的讨论把我给看哭了,简直就是现实版 Billy Elliott,咋没人来取材写个剧本呢?支持儿子搞滑冰的妈妈和男孩子都太有勇气了。

This shouldn't be an issue about sexual orientation. Skating is a SPORT. The fact that it is designed to ultimately look easy - and the fact that costumes and music play into the equation - gives an impression that it is a "sissy" sport for guys. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When we were in Portland in 2005, some of the practice ice was in a rink located at a shopping mall. The skaters that took early morning ice didn't have a lot of room to work in and the people who came in to watch at 6AM were an interesting mix of the Portland population. I was standing by the railing watching my son and several other jr and sr men practice. A motorcycle guy (I'm not stereotyping; he was talking with his friend about his bike) came and stood beside me. I was fully expecting to "do battle" over any comments made. Instead, this guy and his friend watched and the only thing they could say was, "I didn't know this was what skating is. These guys are good. This is hard stuff."

Depending on the skaters' levels, three to four rotations in a jump are completed in approximately one second; it is 8 times your body weight every time you land a jump; depending on your level and your coach, approximately 20 - 30 jumps are attempted on a 45 minute session for between two and four sessions per day. There is core training, weight training, stretching, warm-up, cool down, aerobic and anaerobic training. Skaters at the competitive levels are some of the most highly trained athletes in sport.

If you have been around this forum for awhile, you know my feeling on this subject. My son went through a lot of mental and emotional torture in his old community in order to skate. You do not force a boy to skate; they choose this sport. If they really want to do it, support it 110%. Do not waiver. Be PROUD to tell people your son skates. If it is something you want for them but they are not committed to, rethink your motivation. If they stay in and compete, they develop lifelong friendships, they learn discipline and organization and they learn to be tough-skinned - something that pays off later in ones working life.

In those early years, when my son had to enter the rink through the Zamboni door in order to avoid running the gauntlet of hockey players and their fathers (and some mothers) who were merciless in their comments, I told my son to remember that "Success will be your best revenge." Now that he is a Seen skater, he goes back to his old rink and club annually to do a show and raise money so other boys (and girls) can skate. And guess who's in the audience paying money to watch and asking for autographs? Some of the SAME people who, years ago, taunted him and made his life a nightmare for a long time.

Skating is a sport-a tough sport. It's more than tough physically (you can look at our medical and PT bills - or your own, I'm sure!); it's tough mentally and emotionally, for boys AND for girls. It's not about glitter and costumes and music. That doesn't determine your orientation. It's about commitment to something you love to do. Wouldn't we all be so lucky in life to find something we truly love to do, learn it, succeed in it and then move forward with our lives knowing that we did it the best we could.

Sorry for the soap box. It's a passionate subject for those of us who support our sons' commitment - or any skaters' commitment.
写这段话的妈妈的儿子现在是两届全美冠军以及奥运会代表队成员。

Sunday, January 24, 2010

This and That, Knick and Knack

一个多星期的花样滑冰马拉松(都怪美国滑冰协会把全国赛拖这么长时间)算是告终了。下星期有四大洲比赛,但是参赛者大多是三流选手 --- 奥运就快到了,即使是替补选手都宁可在家训练而不是跑到韩国比赛 --- 所以没啥看头。打算有空的时候瞄一眼全国赛上错过的 novice dance, junior ladies 之类的比赛,顺便找找加拿大全国赛的视频之类。

不过也许不一定会有空,"How We Decide" 这本书快看完了,下一本想看The Girl With Dragon Tattoos。还要记一笔,读一下 Joseph LeDoux 的 "The Emotional Brain" 这一本。

在电视上看见BBC新版 Emma ,果然如 CAVA 所说,好难看。女主角成天咯咯傻笑,扮现代派,其实搁在现代也一样让人受不了。大家都很 self-consciously overact。所以拍喜剧是一件难事,一不小心就过火了。故事原来就有点傻呵呵的,这么一搞简直弱智了。原来又重拍了 Persuasion,这几年拍了有三四版了吧?BBC 真的闹剧本荒还是怎么的。

不过下星期最重要的事情是补觉,打算天天十一点上床,把过去十天乱七八糟的作息给补偿回来。

Friday, January 22, 2010

Immigrants




几年前参加一个电影讨论小组时,谈到移民题材的电影,主持讨论的人问我最喜欢的移民电影是哪一部,我不假思索地答:The Godfather 2。她表情意外地看了我一眼,我才明白她以为我会答喜福会之类关于华裔或者至少是亚裔的移民电影。

今年的冰舞节目里,意大利选手 Faiella/Scali 的自由舞广受赞扬。没看见之前就听说是关于移民题材的,我登时联想起 The Godfather 2。结果一看,还真是把教父续集里soundtrack的一部分拿过来用的。当然不是教父主题旋律,那个会让人联想到黑手党 --- 这是不可以滴。所以基本上是重复使用教父2里面回忆怀旧部分的旋律。作为整个自由舞的音乐,材料嫌单薄了一点,tempo 和旋律都重复好几遍,缺乏变化。但是Nino Rota的音乐本身是很好的,又跟选手自己的心情和背景十分贴切,所以效果不错。

这个节目在Youtube上有视频

Monday, January 18, 2010

反高潮

从星期五到昨晚,不,今早凌晨两点,一直在看全国花样滑冰比赛转播(双人滑和男单项目)。比赛间隙中在相关网站上看别人的言论和现场冰迷报告的花絮谣言之类;因为加拿大全国赛也是周末进行,还经常去看那边的排名的当场报道,不过因为CBC不许外国IP上网看他们的转播,只能查分数。

现在脑子过度饱和了,十分麻木,dopamine 持续释放,显然超载放光了。特别是今年男单比赛中Jeremy Abbott蝉联冠军,青少年组里又是两个非常有意思的15岁小孩儿获得冠亚军,兴奋过度了我。

前几年只能靠network TV施舍的那两三个钟头的转播,每个项目只能看到最有名的五六个选手已经很运气了。现在网络发达,Ice Network转播全部的比赛,每项比赛的每个选手的节目都在网站上,可以看直播也可以时候看录像。Novice, junior, senior 三个级别的比赛都在上面。根本没工夫全看,只能挑几个有兴趣的重点看看。

今年的比赛在华盛顿州进行,比东岸时间晚三个钟头,因为比赛太多,有些项目不得不安排到晚上九点以后,加上时差,星期五和昨晚我都看到凌晨两点。真是昏天黑地呀。

这星期休养生息,从礼拜四开始又要比赛下半部分了,女单和冰舞。女单还好,冰舞又会让我兴奋过度。所以现在要 lay low,歇着脑子里的 dopamine neurons。

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Everything I know about music I learned from FS


从花样滑冰网站上看到有人推荐 Tom Lehrer 的搞笑歌曲,真的不错哎,好好笑,特此记录。

例如 Masochism TangoLobachevsky

Tom Lehrer 网站: http://www.tomlehrer.org/

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

抓狂

这礼拜无心工作,抓耳挠腮,狗急跳墙 --- OK 最后那个成语用得不太合适。本周末美国和加拿大两边同时进行花样滑冰全国锦标赛,因为是奥运年,竞争特别激烈,很多被我关注多年的选手。最后总会有人欢喜有人愁,有人得到温哥华机票,有人只能呆家里。每天上FSU网站看别人讨论“明天飞去/后天飞去”比赛城市,当地有什么饭馆儿,怎样将水和食物偷渡进体育馆(一般不许外面的食物进场,而看练习加比赛常常是一整天一整天的),十月份在 Skate Canada 认识的冰迷今天还发消息给我,说明天过去 London Ontario ,整个周末看比赛 ... 看得我心痒难熬,恨不得立刻也飞过去。全美赛在 Spokane, Washington,太远了。

Monday, January 11, 2010

不是关于 Avatar 的文章

对这部电影我的评价很低,不过还没到当年看 Titanic 心头火起的地步,就讥笑两句罢了。

电影太长,又没有被强烈吸引,一边看一边就走神儿了,自娱自乐地想别的事儿。想到的事情之一是世界历史中技术先进的外来军队攻打占领技术落后的土著的实例,什么是关键因素呢?武器的先进只是一方面,进攻者也有弱势的地方:长途跋涉而导致供给不足,兵卒劳顿士气受到影响,而且经常人数上不占优势。在脑子里草草地过了一遍过去五百年殖民史,嗯,欧洲殖民者在非洲、美洲、澳大利亚的成功率满高的,我觉得关键一点是武器技术的差距非常大。感谢中国人的发明,进攻者掌握了火枪和火炮的技术,武器优势高出对方一大截,差距太大而不能逾越,此其一。当地土著虽然总人数占优势,但是历史上一直是很多部落共存,一盘散沙,根本没有统一的历史,所以不能凝聚起来抵抗外敌,在北美某些印第安部落被英国政府收买分化,此其二(所以征服中国印度之类的国家难度比较高,即使是多民族的印度,也有大块统一历史和民族 identity)。在某些特例中,例如北美,殖民者大量输入新移民,或者输入从非洲贩卖过来的奴隶,并且屠杀土著,迅速地抹平了双方在人数上的差距,此其三。

但是,殖民攻击者也有惨败的经验,即使追溯到古代,战争技术先进的古罗马和蒙古帝国仍面对维持版图的麻烦,现代的俄罗斯帝国也有自己的麻烦,分分合合。更近代一些的,法国和美国在越南惨败,苏联和美国在阿富汗惨败,美国连个伊拉克都搞不定,似乎殖民主义已经很难依靠军事力量来贯彻和维持了,虽然他们技术上的优势仍然非常明显。很可能日本占领中国也是终究不能长久的,虽然太平洋战争加速了日本军事力量的瓦解。另一个略微早一点的例子是英国殖民者在新西兰基本上没讨到好处,毛利土著虽然也部落分化不团结,但是跟和平温和的澳大利亚土著不同,他们骁勇善战,而且吸收学习火枪武器非常快,英国人只好妥协,后来逐渐以文明和制度占了上风,但在战争中真没占到什么便宜。

战略战术这类理论我是完全不懂的,但是远交而近攻以及马背上难治天下这类道理和逻辑还算明白。从越南开始,游击战的功效已经广为流传,帝国主义先进势力还真不方便打长途而长期的战争。自从传统的殖民主义在1940-1950年代前后逐步瓦解,外来军队与土著的战争形势就跟过去不一样了,也许跟世界其他因素的变化也有一定关系 --- 不过孙子老早也讲过瓦解对方内部的重要性。男生里面虽然有大把大把的战争迷,讲起啥啥战役起来头头是道如数家珍,但是持宏观角度的人很少 --- 战争不是孤立存在的电脑游戏,而是牵扯到内部的经济社会状况和对外国际关系,包括民族主义(中国人从自己角度出发常以为欧洲人或者印第安人就没有各自内部民族主义或者都是铁板一块)和历史纠葛等等因素,决定战争胜负的因素往往不在于军事,会打仗不如会搞政治 --- 这并不是贬义。

如此结合现实的考虑,George Lucas 倒是想过,在 Return of the Jedi 里面就是用近似儿戏般的手法讨论了他那一代非常熟悉的对越南战争的记忆。可是 James Cameron 显然是想都没想过这些问题。

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Malcolm Gladwell: What the Dog Saw

我觉得这本结集出版的书其实比他过去三本更好看,因为全部是 anecdotes,没有过份归纳推理的普遍结论,反而容易接受。他看人看得很仔细,很深,描述手法很细腻,很生动,例如对驯狗专家 Cesar Millan 的描写,太有意思了。

过去某一次,忘记说到什么话题,好像是关于进化论或者基因学,网上有人说,这太复杂了,我看不懂,如果你不能把这事儿简化成我一看就懂的道理,我就没法接受道理的真实性。可是,现实是,世界上的很多事情本来就是很复杂的,掺和其中的因素很多而且互相作用,不可能简化成牛顿力学三句话,通俗到人人都看一眼就明白。例如,美国政治(别国政治肯定也很复杂,只不过我不够了解没有发言权),进化论,气象学,genetics & epigenetics 对生理结构和功能的作用,人脑的结构和功能,以及全部心理学,复杂是客观事实,越简化通俗,离事实越远。拒绝接受世界的复杂性而坚持只接受和相信简单易懂三句话可概括的道理,最后总会在某些事情上捏紧了谎言而摸不到真相,就好象拒绝承认和接受一只活大象十分巨大,不可能握在一只手掌里让你全面地认识,又拒绝移动你的手掌,那你只会坚信大象长得跟一条蛇或者一根柱子一样。很多人把 intellectual laziness 当成是个人自由权利。蠢。

心理学很复杂,大家现在的了解还非常非常肤浅,这时候急着总结规律和理论,得出的结论肯定是错的,不着边际。一大原因是 consciousness 是个大大的伪君子,一个谎报军情的骗子。虽然弗洛伊德老先生一早提出潜意识的理论(他的理论中唯一靠谱的成分),但是他和大家也都依赖 consciousness 去了解认识 unconsciousness,问题是这个 consciousness 的能力有限而且非常容易误入歧途,自欺欺人,三分事实七分瞎编,非常不可靠。我们对自己的了解于是至今非常肤浅并且充满了误解和谎言。

Gladwell 的很多文章里都含有对意识(以及集体意识哄抬推广且坚信不疑的 conventional wisdom)的调查和颠覆,我们并不是 consciousness 骗我们相信的自己,而是未曾了解清楚的另一个动物。在 The Tipping Point 和 Blink 中都有一定的讨论,即意识的不可靠。实际上我们的感情、行为和情绪,被 unconsciousness 控制决定的成分远远超过了 consciousness 所知道的,而 consciousness 还在蒙自己,以为自己才是主宰,the decider。

Gladwell 也好, Daniel Gilbert 也好,还有 Johan Lehrer ,我爱看是因为他们常常指出,大众一厢情愿的铁杆信仰,经常是 full of shit。

**************************************

Gladwell 有一个罕见的特质:他描述一些非常人,extraordinary people,然后指出他们不是常人,而常人也无法变成他们。所以他的书不是 self-help,不是提出怎样改变自己跟伟人靠近,没有贡献出炮制完美人生/个体的菜谱。他只是好奇而饶有兴致地了解和描述他们,但是完全没有兴趣教读者怎样变成超人。这一特点其实在 The Tipping Point 中即有体现,在 Outliers 中更加明显,What the Dog Saw 恐怕是最强烈的。

换言之,他不嫉妒。

于是我联想到,或许这是为什么嫉妒在中国人集体心理中那么强烈而普遍的原因,因为中国集体心理的一个最基本的信念是:大家都是一样的。由此,人类生存状态和心理是独木桥,大家的区别是在梯子上站哪一格,高还是低,是一维且单方向的空间。这样,每个人的存在都依据相对他人的高低(或前后)而定,如果甲跟乙有所不同,唯一结论就是甲>乙或者乙>甲,不可能不同但是无高低之分。这个衡量的准则么,当然是最明显最简单最方便的:谁的生存条件最优越(例如,银行存款数字)。如果把人类个体的现实状态极度简化成一个数字指标,并且如中学同年级分数排行榜那样1234地一维空间列出来,那么任何人都变成了一个数字,唯一的生存意义是爬过别人的头,提升往前几名,而且每个人都无法逃离嫉妒的现状,因为在你头上一个的阶梯总是站着另一个人。一个线性单方向的集体心理氛围,嫉妒与攀比是自然而然的结果。

所谓普遍并不等于人人都如此。记得大学里认识一个女同学,还是上海人(dominant攀比文化),完全没有受到集体心理的暗示和影响,完全不在乎任何形式的攀比,不嫉妒任何人,连上车都拒绝跟别人去挤,完全不在乎迟到啦,落于人后啦,此类具有象征意义的现象。她经常迟到,迟到后笑嘻嘻地道歉一句但完全没有明显的内疚和自责,但是大家都爱跟她亲近。当时我非常惊奇她能够在如此剧烈竞争内斗的世界里悠闲自得地生存下来,后来混熟了发现她父母也是悠闲自得的人。可见 extraordinary 的人罕见但从未绝迹,即使在强迫人人统一行为和思想的环境里,仍有漫不在乎地与世无争的闲云野鹤活得好好的,并没有象代代流传的教诲所说的那样早已被淘汰消灭。

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

近期读书

本冬季第四次感冒,东岸从南到北一溜冻死人的冷,所以想看的电影至今一个都没看成。先把2009年看过的电影中喜欢的列一列:
The Hurt Locker
District 9
Goodbye Solo
Cold Souls

眼下正在读 How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer,关于脑神经研究的通俗科普书。且在图书馆排队等 Malcolm Gladwell 的新书(旧文章结集) What the Dog Saw。在 San Diego 的时候,坐在书店里翻了翻,很有趣,当时差点下手买了,但是想想家里堆了满地的书,叹口气还是没买。

新年没过几天,少花钱的打算已经泡汤。二手老爷打印机终于坏掉,还得买新的。

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