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Tuesday, 12 May 2009 01:35

To Meditate is to Listen

And other ways of calming the mind

Attached media :
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Tuesday, 05 May 2009 00:13

Meditation is an active 'living the moment' process

Julia Anderson introduces her influences in meditation.

For more information on ’The Work’ by Byron Katie, click here to visit her website.

Eckhart Tolle is the author of the book ’The Power of Now’.

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Thursday, 23 April 2009 23:42

A little county goes a long way

When many of us think of Taipei, the area that encircles the Taipei city is not what would usually come into mind. Though more and more, it is seemingly obvious that one should pay attention to the land space that is home to over 3,8 million people. This location is none other than the Taipei County.

The county controls ten county-controlled cities(縣轄市), nineteen townships (鎮) and a thousand over villages (里) which include some of the key tourism areas such as Tamshui, Wulai and Fulong. In the time of the Dutch colonisation, the principal inhabitants were the people of Basay, the Attayals emerged in the south of Taipei County soon after. Han Chinese eventually immigrated to the region in the mid 17th century, and aboriginals were consequently compelled to assimilate or immigrate to the mountainous regions.

It was not until the late 19th century that the term Taipei came into use to describe geographically the location of Northern Taiwan, and the cities of Hsinchu, Yilan, and Danshui formed under Taipei’s government. Shen Bao Zhen (沈葆桢), the imperial envoy of the P.R.C under request, set up the Taipei government/bureau (辦務署) which governed Hsinchu, Danshui, and Yilan.*

Taipei County experienced further change and division following the Japanese occupation in 1895, Keelung, Yilan and Hsinchu were established and Danshui emerged shortly after. From 1897, the Taipei bureau (辦務署) was abolished and all thirteen counties of Taipei – Shilin, Xinzhuang, Huwei, Jingwei, Taoziyuan, Sanjianyong, Shulinko, Zhongli, Keelung, Jingbaoli, Dingshunagxi, Shuefanjiao – came under the jurisdiction of the Taipei administration (轄區).*
During the reformation in 1920, the Taipei county became attached to the state of Taipei (台北州) whose administration was overthrown during the war in 1945. The years that proceed the war involved the re-grouping of different cities into a larger area: The Keelung area and the Qidu area became known as the city of Keelung, while Danshui, Shilin and Beitou were under the planning of the Yang Min Shan Management Bureau, formerly known as the Cao Shan Management Bureau.*
In the 50s’ Taipei County saw more and more reforms concerning the arrangement of cities, townships and villages into counties and eventually became the Taipei County that we have today. With the vision of a Greater Taipei in mind, the current Taipei County government wishes to include all townships and villages into the limits of Taipei City and become known as a whole administrative region.

*Names of townships and villages in Chinese: Keelung (基隆),Yilan (宜蘭),Hsinchu (新竹), Shilin (士林), Xinzhuang (新庄),Huwei (滬尾), Jingwei (景尾), Taoziyuan (桃仔園), Sanjianyong (三角湧), Shulinko (樹林口), Zhongli (中壢), Keelung (基隆), Jingbaoli (金包里), Dingshunagxi (頂雙溪), Shuefanjiao (水返腳), Qidu (七堵), Yang Min Shan Management Bureau (陽明山管理局), Cao Shan Management Bureau (草山管理局)

Thursday, 23 April 2009 20:49

From Shanghai to Athens

In this article (in French), Benoit Vermander explores the changing nature of the city as a "political laboratory", wondering whether the philosophical ground on which the Greek city was conceived and built is still relevant for framing the nature and mission of contemporary metropolises.
Download here the article (In French)

Wednesday, 22 April 2009 23:31

Blood river train

When time works against us
and weighs at the heart
somewhere in a foreign land,
night turns to day, and
the fashion in shop windows
I pass on my way from work
in Paris, London or New York
where I live into djellabas, the smell
of restaurants into kuskus
on market day,
hands out, stretched
to accept this gift of walking
in the shadow of African people,
with their fear of anchored boats
on coastal fronts. History
is in the present. On
a young night that is day
I go inland where spear fights musket,
and I join the battle on the river
that filled with blood, our phagocyte
impi sieging their laager in anger.
On the metro of the morning,
Le Monde in my hands and
work on my mind, there’s always
a part of Africa that yearns
for me, for my presence, my flesh,
beyond the clatter of the train
needling beneath the capital
into the reconciliation of our time,
before the evening of my days.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009 20:12

Global and Compact: the Future of Metropolises

In 1991, a book by Saskia Sassen, The Global City, signaled the coming of age of metropolis as key actors of the globalization process. Information technologies, intimately linked to the globalization process, were producing a phenomenon of “metropolization”, i.e. an accrued concentration of services and decision centers in giant cities that form together a “global network.” London, San Francisco, New York, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai… Such metropolises are indeed the places where the future takes shape – they are also those that provoked and nurtured the current financial crisis…

Nowadays, more than half of the world population lives in cities, and a growing number lives in very big ones. The ills that come with it are well known: slums are growing, the countryside sees its vitality depleted; the accumulation of powers in metropolises erodes the power of nation-states and international organizations; the fierce competition between giant cities may generate useless investments; and finally, even in democratic countries, local governments (especially the ones managing metropolitan cities) are not always fully accountable.

At the same time, global cities can be agents of sustainable development, and thus lessen or even reverse the social ills they are creating, if they become at the same time compact cities. Compact cities are the ones that invest in state-to-the-art public transportation systems, water sanitation and green housing projects. Compact cities are also places where the integration of populations from different background is fostered through educational, social and cultural policies. Finally, compact cities design developmental strategies with an integral and humanist outlook. Amsterdam and a few other cities are tentative model to this approach.

Besides, global cities show a propensity to learn from each other. “Good practices”(lease of bikes, green building techniques, patrimony conservation) are observed and reduplicated from one metropolis to another. The networking between cities can thus become a positive aspect of global governance. This will also mean that cities will progressively enlarge their outlook, paying more attention to the impact of their policies on their fragile hinterland.
If metropolises become at the same time “global’ and “compact”, there is a chance that urban development will be sustainable indeed. The fact is that giant cities have already become driving forces of globalization. The challenge remains to assess and to shape the model of globalization that they will eventually impose on all of us.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009 19:43

The montagnard people of Vietnam

Northern Vietnam, bordering mainland China, is the village of Sapa. Sapa is known for being the coldest area in Vietnam. Not only for that, in this town and area, live the Black Hmong and Red Dzao tribes. People from these tribes are easily recognizable from the traditional clothes they wear.

The black Hmong wear black and dark blue clothing, and their hands are often all blue from dying fabric.
The Red Dzao wear black and red clothing, and a red scarf winded around their head, held by silver pins, with tassels and small bells hanging over the neck. They also shave their hair up on the forehead as well as their eyebrows.

Both Hmong and Dzao wear beautifully handmade silver jewels, which they sell all around the village of Sapa, along with fabric, clothing, bags, shoes and etc – all of it handmade.
One would think that they dress like that only for show in order to sell their products, and then go back home and dress “normally”. As far as you walk, drive or ride your bike around Sapa, people all dress and work according to their traditions, even in the most remote villages.

A few hours ride away from Sapa is Bac Ha, famous for its market, where another tribe lives – the Flower Hmong. Most are dressed in pink, with a bit of red, blue, yellow, black, green, and orange, thus the name.

Bac Ha is, like Sapa, a very popular touristic place, but the people seem to pay little attention to the tourists. Of course they do try to sell their products to foreigners, like in every other country, but they still maintain their way of living, and you will see people buying horses, dogs, fruits and vegetables in their traditional outfit, taking little notice of the cameras shooting them.

The village of Sapa is a good place to have an overview of the Montagnard (mountain tribes) still living in Vietnam, and most importantly, one that has yet to be contaminated by western culture.

Attached media :
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Thursday, 09 April 2009 20:19

International Events and Urban Development

Large-scale international events, such as World Expos, Olympic and Para Olympic Games, International Fairs, world political or economic summits, have become a leading factor in the shaping of the image of a city as well as on its urban and cultural development. The way a city represents itself and the way other communities look at it are partly linked to these international events and articulate into a “narrative” that, step by step, shape an identity, both local and global. No wonder such events generate a fierce competition among cities and that such events are often awarded at extravagant prize.

Thus, from the start, a cautionary word is in order. If there are indeed a good number of “success stories” linked to the organization of a local event, there are also many stories in which the hassle of the organization process, the exorbitant rise of local axes, debatable urban construction, low attendance and post-event recessions might have on the whole a more negative impact than a positive one.

Furthermore, we are now in the midst of a severe international crisis, and nobody knows how long this crisis is going to last. It might indeed generate extra public spending, but also more parsimony in expenses, both private and public, less international travel, and, on the whole, a cautious attitude of all partners involved. If international events were a fixture of urban development during the last three decades or so, I doubt that it will truly keep this function in the foreseeable future.

Said it otherwise, the problem nowadays is not to replicate success stories, as conditions and contexts are rapidly changing, but rather to reflect on the way international events are presently desirable and, if so, how they can be integrated into an integral and sustainable city development.

An “integral’ development refers to a process in which (a) all parts of a urban territory are treated as a systemic whole and regarded as equals, (b) the interactions of cultural, social, environmental and economic developments are taken into account, paying special attention to the negative aspects that transportation planning for instance could have on habitat, tradition and ecology; (c) the actors share a long-term vision of their common future that does not rely on events and deciders from the outside. In other words, integral development fosters the inner vitality of a territory. As to “sustainable” development, it refers to a time concept: whatever the attractiveness of such or such event, or of a strategy of rapid development, the basic question that animates the decision-makers should be: what city are we preparing for our grandchildren? It is surprising to see how this simple question might sometimes change the perspective, and weigh on the course of action that was originally planned.

Large-scale international events and the shaping of urban culture

For some time now, it has been recognized that an international event taking place in a given city is truly successful if and only if the city population feels truly involved into it and plays the role of actors in the preparatory process as well as during the event proper. The Olympic Games of Sidney certainly were remarkable on that respect. International events should help in the fostering of a participatory local culture.

The question remains: what is a participatory local culture, and how requiring should decision-makers and actors be if they truly want to make sure that their city becomes a model of local democracy in all preparatory and implementation processes?

The point, here, is not only that there is a moral and political imperative to require citizens’ approval on the choices that ground their future, it is rather that active citizens’ participation is favorable to higher-quality local development. Ensuring a continuous flux of information and feedbacks, enlisting the cultural riches of actives, informed citizens, diversifying the resources that contribute to a more balanced model of development, all of this has remarkably long term effects on a city’s overall health and level of consent. Citizens’ participation is per se a factor of sustainability: it reduces risks of corruption, hasty decision or dominance of industrial lobbies. It ensures that concerns about air and water control, schooling and quality of life are sufficiently taken into account. It helps to envision a larger array of alternatives on developmental issues and to balance the economic, social and cultural dimension, all of these dimensions being necessary for achieving humane, integral growth. Finally, citizens’ participation raises their overall level of satisfaction, as participants feel that the city that takes shape under their eyes is really theirs, and that they are the actor of the public space in which they work and live.

Said in another way, the first asset that a city should make use of, when planning for its future, is the cultural diversity that exists in its midst. Enhancing diversity is the best strategy for fostering sustainability. Now, international events can be a positive factor for enriching this participatory local culture - or they can impede its healthy development. I suspect that often such events have been an impediment, whatever the discourse on citizens’ participation. First, most of the time, citizens are not consulted when it comes to cities applying for hosting such or such an event. Second, they have no say in the budgetary choices that are subsequently made. Third, their participation is often reduced to playing tour guides to the international guests who will come to the event.

On the other hand, the hosting of international events indeed enriches the worldview of local citizens confronts them to a variety of experiences, and makes for a richer, prouder local consciousness. At the end, the quality of the event (the way manifestations are managed and enriched, the meaning of the event taking place, its inclusion into the public space and respect for the history of the place and the memory of its inhabitants) is what will help a city to nurture a richer and livelier local culture through international events. Let me stress that international events per se are not sufficient for enriching local culture. Quality management is truly the key. And quality management is largely independent from budgetary investment. Conceptual imagination is the rarest and most precious resource. In that sense, the sooner you make citizens participate in the event, the richer the event might become. Therefore, it is better to plan citizens’ participation from the start rather than limiting it to the implementation of the event proper.

Large-scale international events and public constructions

The set of principles I just sketched out when it comes to local cultures largely applies to public constructions. The principle of “sustainability” has special relevance when it comes to building for international events. Looking back at previous large-scale international events, it is obvious that the improvements most beneficial on the long term to ordinary citizens were the ones linked to investments in the transportation system.
When we look at developed Asian cities today, we see that the network of public transportation is fairly well planned and advanced, even if much work is still to be done. But, obviously, a change of framework and priorities is neither desirable nor feasible. Furthermore, it does not seem that these cities are lacking much in large-scale public buildings. Where is the need most pressing? It is in the field of private buildings that would be ecologically friendly and aesthetically harmonious. It is in the reworking of our public space around residential and industrial areas at the periphery of the centers of power. In other words, the bettering of our urban environment goes through a series of small-scale improvements, oriented towards green buildings and modern industrial zoning. If this diagnosis proves to be true, then it becomes quite difficult to discern in what way international events are truly helpful in the process of the integral and sustainable development.

Large-scale international events and regional cooperation

One of the most interesting developments in the history of international events is the association it sometimes creates among what I would call a “network of territories.” After all, the virtualization of the world also positively affects international events. Conferences, summits, or even international trade fairs can happen simultaneously in various parts of a country, or even various parts of the world - sharing events, using large screens, exchanging data and news, sharing costs and benefits also. One of the best recent examples has been the European Football Cup jointly organized by Switzerland and Austria. Let us also remember the World Cup jointly organized by Korea and Japan.
Cities should look for opportunities to organize exactly this kind of cooperative, regional events while conjointly asking themselves “what kind of international events will prove to be more meaningful on the long run?” Let me just mention a few field around which the future of humankind might be at stake, and which may be subsequently privileged when sponsoring international events:
- green buildings, and environmental innovations and regulations in general;
- the future of islands and coastal areas in face of global warming;
- the social responsibility of entrepreneurs;
- conflict resolution and peace building;
- the follow up of the Millennium Objectives, especially in the field of access to clean water and quality medication to all;
In other words, it is not enough to organize international events, the point is to show a real international spirit, one oriented towards global challenges and creative ways of tackling them.
International events are meaningful and helpful as long as they promote three basic objectives:
- cultural diversity and creativity;
- sustainable development
- citizens’ empowerment.

International events should not be looked after for the sole objective of enhancing a city’s visibility in the international arena. The first step in the process should be to look whether the planned event fosters indeed the objectives just mentioned and to decide accordingly. This way, much waste could be avoided, the events’ implementation would be creative and participatory, and the efforts finally deployed would prove to be truly fruitful

Tuesday, 31 March 2009 07:36








Monday, 30 March 2009 07:22


字典裡說,所謂的想像力,是一種以心智的創造力面對並處理現實的能力。關於這一點,詩人狄金生(Emily Dickinson)另有一番介說。她形容自己棲身於可能性(possibility)當中,說那是「比現實(prose)更美好的居所」。佛斯特 (Robert Frost)不也說過「詩(poetry)隨著轉譯而失去」之類的話嗎?這樣的話似乎暗示著,詩裡存在著某種只能意會卻無法言傳、只能藉由想像力來捕捉的東西。




Va’, pensiero, sull’ali dorate...





Sunday, 29 March 2009 23:17













選擇實力派演員擔任聲音演員(而不只是配音員),則是《崖上的波妞》另一個值得稱道的重點。除了兩位主角分別由童星擔任聲音演出,以聲音演出雙方家長的演員,更是陣容堅強:母親分別由演出日劇《長假》(LONG VACATION/ロングバケーション)的山口智子,及演出《女王的教室》(女王の教室)的天海祐希擔綱,各自鮮活地表現劇中人物個性;父親則分別由棒球明星轉戰演藝界的長嶋一茂及諧星所喬治(所ジョージ)演出,也展現出截然不同的父親典型。原汁原味的對白緊扣著情節發展,確實令我感受到超越語言限制的豐富表情。


一如《崖上的波妞》日文正式網站(official website)所言,本片是為了這個「精神病與不安的年代」(神経症と不安の時代)而製作。那麼就讓我們在這個混沌不清的世界裡,先設法看清自己,才有辦法面對一切。


Sunday, 29 March 2009 21:22







然而,在崇尚解構的後現代文化裡,提問大學之道或提問該怎樣活著的問題,是相當困難而嚴峻的挑戰。很多傳統的價值規範或禁忌都隨著「大家都這麼做」、「只要我喜歡,有什麼不可以」、「只要我敢,你又能奈我何?」的時代文化而快速地禮壞樂崩…,婚前性行為、婚外性行為似乎成了普遍而正常的現象。連部分倫理學家也開始主張雜交(promiscuity)的正當性,並設法合理化戀童癖(pedophilia)或人獸交的行為。很多所謂去污名化的寧靜革命正在悄悄進行中。以戀童癖來說,不少論述開始使用「跨代親密」(intergenerational intimacy)這樣的概念來中性化相關的行為。為了消除人們的「偏見」,娼妓的污名也已被「性工作者」所取代。與之相對的,「嫖妓」也有了「購買性服務」的新說法。


再好比面對長期癱瘓在床的病人,例如《點燃生命之海》(The Sea Inside)電影中那位受傷而全身癱瘓二十八年的西班牙人,或《潛水鐘與蝴蝶》(The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)裡的Elle前主編尚‧多明尼克,當他們要求自殺協助時,我們該做什麼?站在哪個位置上?Pro life或Pro choice?這些都不是容易回答的問題。明辨是非說來很輕鬆,但在不足外人道的人生點點滴滴中知善知惡,是不容易作的功課。這是人生第二個大哉問。








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