Thinking on Photography   Leave a comment

If literature has engaged me as a project, first as a reader, then as a writer, it is an extension of my sympathies to other selves, other domain other dreams, other worlds, other territories.

                                                                                                         — Susan Sontag

 Susan Sontag’s On Photography makes her become the winner of the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for Criticism in 1997. It is a book of penetrating thought about the representation medium — the photograph. The New York Times Book Review comments that “every page of On Photography raises important and exciting questions about its subject and raises them in the best way.”

All from Plato’s Cave

The enlightened returns to tell all his friends in the cave of what he has seen but he is mocked by those who cannot see their own ignorance. Prisoners in the dark cave interpret the shadows as the true reality. This is what happened in Plato’s cave. However, the things changed.

How could the enlightened convince the ignored in the cave? Here comes the camera, carrying the vivid photographs. Since Plato’s cave, human being has been seeking for the truth. But even one has actually experienced, how could others accept it as well? Without any proof, it’s ridiculous to make others believe in. However, the magic photos could do, accompanying with the popularity of taking photos to prove to others. It all begins from Plato’s Cave, and from human being’s immense curiosity as well as the desire of representing themselves and the surroundings to others.

As the industrialization speeds up, photography, widely practiced amusement as sex and dancing, is endowed with social functions rather than the superior art that enshrined in the museum. Sontag concludes that photography is mainly a social rite of family life, a defence against anxiety for busily working people in journey, and a tool of power to record and testify. Just pick up the second function with my own experience for example. When I go travelling, the unique thing I should never forget to take with must be the camera. During the journey, I ‘stop, take a photograph, and move on’. As Sontag states, travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs. It’s a way of certifying my experience, by means of showing the pictures to friends and parents, undoubtedly. 

Seen to believed?

The ignorant in the cave do not believe what the person says from the outside world. They believe that the shadows in front of them are the reality, which they could exactly see with their own eyes. There seems to be no exception for human being. People believe in themselves, precisely, their own eyes. But is seen to be believed? To answer this question, we’d better first explore how photographs relate to the reality.

On one hand, the photograph has a more innocent, accurate relation to visible reality as it records the moment. On the other, we could not see the really happening scenes but an invisible — chemically treated and processed — paper. As Sontag thinks, it is a ‘frozen time’, but never of the present. It’s a past going-on event even if it happened in the real minute a few seconds ago, it has passed away exactly. A photograph records a past moment, existing in passed time, and “gives people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal”.

The photographers are born to take fantastic pictures for the spectators; the portaitee want to give a “great” image to the “audience”; and the “audience” would love to enjoy the “reality” in the “invisible” paper. The whole photographic enterprise is trying to show a reality to the world, just like any other medium. But it’s not a reality at the moment. Therefore I accept it as a representation unnecessarily follows without a code. And a message within every code in the photographs is the key to interpret the reality.

A Naked South Vietnamese Child

In 1972, the famous photograph did shock millions of Americans and to some extend, it influenced the process of the war. We say the photograph is the work of the photographer; it’s his observation and his understanding of the barbarities of the American soldiers. He wanted to expose it to his audience and to recall the conscience of every human being, what successfully achieved and became a classic in the photographic enterprise.

Barthes suggests that photograph is the fact of social observation which is immediate rather than the photograph. I view it as the “conceptual map” of the system of representation in our heads. In the case of the photograph of the horribly painful Vietnamese girl, we interpret it with our conscience — the sense of justice — in the heart of all human beings

The pity is that the impact of pictures is no longer so strong as years ago. Sontag concerns that “the vast photographic catalogue of misery and injustice throughout the world has given everyone a certain familiarity with atrocity, making the horrible seem more ordinary — making it appear familiar, remote (it’s only a photograph), inevitable”. Sontag’s alarm thirty years ago is really a satire to the world today.


Posted 05/12/2010 by audreymu in 未分类

Chinese girl die from cosmetic surgrey   Leave a comment

Just like the song she performed at the 2005 talent show Super-Girl, her death seems a myth today. There are several editions on the cause to her death in the media, but the results will never find out since Wang bei’s family cremated her before the public investigation.  

Liumeizhang, Wang bei’s uncle who has been negotiating with the hospital said the family is quite satisfied.

Although the family is satisfied with the hospital, the hospital and doctor still need take responsibilities.

What doctors said


Wang Liangming, the doctor in charge of the surgery, has a profile revealing he’s a plastic surgeon who does mainly breast implants. But when asked whether he has the certificate to shave jawbones, like the one he did for Wang Bei, he says,

“Usually a plastic surgeon can process such an operation when his ability comes up to a certain degree. There are no absolute stipulations. It’s just depends on the level of your skills that you’ve learned. I myself don’t know anything about the specific clauses from the health departments or whether they have such definitions or not.”

The government’s responsibility
Well, the public heard about many cases that patients were not satisfied with operation results or they ruined their faces by the surgery. Nevertheless, for the first time, a young girl’s life disappeared under the knife of the doctor. The advertisement billboards of the All Beauty Plastic Surgery Hospital can be seen everywhere in the city of Wuhan. But an anonymous local health department official says the hospital didn’t sign up with the local health department. The hospital’s website is already inaccessible, and the luxuriously decorated hospital has stopped its business. During the first few days after the accident, the local media didn’t expose the story until after the news leaked from sina twitter.  When people question what the local administrative department did to supervise the market, the anonymous local health department official explained,

“The hospital has achieved their legal certificate for surgeries in this field. But that doesn’t mean they can open a branch here since they’d have to sign up with the municipal government‘s health department first. But they didn’t have such a record with the health administrative department. ”


The worried situation in China

In China, the plastic surgery market is booming. Data from the China Plastic Surgery Association shows, three million people in 2009 received such surgery, and the number continuously doubles and triples. Yet, slack supervision over the market and malicious competition triggered endless operation accidents. Until now, the industry lacks uniform standards to make proper judgments. Xiong Minggen, president of a plastic surgery practice in Guangzhou, says,

“The Cosmetology industry is very special. It has a beauty standard problem. For example, the doctor thinks the surgery is perfect, but the patient is not satisfied with the result and such disputes are mounting everyday.”

Sadly, beside the celebrities, young people especially college graduates have the desire to look better through plastic surgery. Yu Lee, a future graduate from Peking University said

And their parents agree them, Saying it’s a good way for them to find a better job and a better boyfriend.

The Ministry of Health held the first national meeting to discuss all types of problems with plastic surgery in China. The government indicated they will put greater effort to complete laws and regulations soon. But it seems such action is already late. Moreover, the protity for the government is to help young girls abstain from plastic suery addiction.

 A friend of the late-Wang Bei says she can’t accept the truth.

“She was a chipper and optimistic girl. I don’t know what to say. I hope it was a lie and she is still alive. But I know she no longer can come back.”

link for the audio piece

Posted 02/12/2010 by audreymu in 未分类

Crazy house price in China   Leave a comment

My college classmate writes an E-mail to me saying the house price is extremely crazy. They had no choice but trying hard to save money for the high mortgage. The housing price reaches to more than 1,000 pond outside fifth ring road of Beijing.  

The Crazy Price

Housing prices in China accelerated in December, climbing 7.8 per cent from the same month a year earlier and prompting a flurry of new government measures as Beijing attempts to slow soaring prices without derailing the economic recovery. Commen people can’t afford a small house in Beijing at all.

The Reason

Housing problem comes hand in hand with population naturally growth. Despite the mushrooming high building, the provision of living space still falls far short of demands. And since the world is advancing, people are no longer reconciled to living in shabby shelters. They look forward to decent dwelling places which can protect their dignity.

People have offered many solutions to this problem. I think building satellite cities in the suburbs is more practical. The fresh air and beautiful scenery will be appealing to the cities citizens, who suffer from air pollution, noises, etc. in the overcrowded city. With more people leaving the city, more space will be available for those remaining. The housing problem in big cities will thus be solved.

Now, you may ask “That is for rich people. What about those people who can not afford to have a car or pay the expenses of transport. In my opinion, the government should Stop Subsidizing Builders and Give Families Housing Vouchers

In the meantime, I’m against the idea of utilizing the underground space to solve the problem. We can imagine how uncomfortable it will be to live under the ground, having to probe in the dark. The air there will be very stuffy, and the cost of building underground houses will be tremendous.

In brief, building satellite cities can not only improve the housing condition in big cities, but also provide a much better living environment. But the housing problem is very complicated. Perhaps people can hardly rely on only one way to solve the problem completely.

Posted 01/12/2010 by audreymu in 未分类

Why BBC’s Pride and Prejudice successful   Leave a comment

I spent the whole weekend watching BBC Drama Pride and Prejudice. It must be admitted that it is a huge success.

 It has many fans all around the world. So why is it so popular? What the elements of its success? In my opinion, there are two major elements: the drama itself and the market strategy.

The drama

The 1995 edition is in high quality. This edition adapted by Andrew Davies, directed by Simon Langton, starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. They performed Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. There are 6 episodes and 50 minutes for each. The 1995 edition was on BBC1 form September to October, lasting about 6 weeks and there were 10 million audiences or so. Almost all the newspapers in Britain talked about the topics appeared in the edition, such as ‘marry for money in 1990s’.

All the aspects of this edition are successful. By using those key concepts in Television studies, we can dig out the reason why it is so popular.

First, Narrative approach. TV drama is a kind of narration. It has a beginning and end, cause and effect. Those professional actors gave us a perfect narration of the story.

As Todorov argued that all stories begin with an ‘equilibrium’ where any potentially opposing forces are in balacnce. While in the adaptation of 1995 edition is closed to the original work, all the major and important plots are the same as in the novel. As for the impersonators, not only the two portray characters but also the other supporting characters are in high stander of performance. From the beginning—the equilibrium to the break of the situation, till the end—the happy ending, this movie gave people a romantic story with contradictions.

Second, Mise en scene of the 1995 addition is perfect. The country houses, landscapes, furniture and costume that put on display in the serial have provided the necessary qualities for ‘heritage export’ and these things set off the old-fashioned love story, the high-culture and romance of the story. For example, the selection of the location of Pemberly and Netherfield is measurable. Especially there is a river at the gate of Pemberly that represents the character of Darcy. With the creative ideas, Darcy swam in the pole and then he met Elizabeth outside Pemberly in the forth episode. That’s a romantic and modernistic scene, and it attracted a lot of female fans, although it was not in the original work.

The language is the soul of drama, and music can make drama more affecting. In 1995’s Pride and Prejudice, the language and dialogue are nearly the same as in the novel, so that it can represent the characters’ personality. And the music is basis on piano melody, and all the songs and music represent the musical culture in 18th century. Music brought viewers back to history.

Last, the successfully representation of women gender. Ehle is not handsome as they say in the drama. But she is the fit person. Through her performances, we see a vivid Elizabeth. It is Darcy who is prejudiced against a lower social order, and it is Elizabeth who is poor but proud in the face of his prejudice. The 1995’s edition shows the binary opposition of the prejudice and pride, Darcy and Elizabeth. What’s more, women are no longer portrayed as sexualized and trivialized, but intelligent and independent.

With the development of commercial television, the competition in the free-market of drama is stinging. The BBC, the ITV and the Channel 4 in Britain were the major competitors in 1990s. Meanwhile, the ABC, the CBS and the NBC from America also involved in the competition. So the rating war became the point of competition. Thanks to the good quality of the drama itself, the 1995 Pride and prejudice was popular in Britain. But the question is how it also success all around the world.

The market strategy

The TV organizations had to know the market—they must know what the audiences wanted, what were they interested in. So the consumer culture took the place of producer culture.

In Robin Nelson’s book TV Drama in Transition, he identifies a paradigm shift in television drama production in the 1990s.…in the post-Thatcher, post-modern 1990s the onus shifted to the audience, or to the ‘consumer’ to use the new market-driven terminology, as the television companies became increasingly conscious of the need to win and retain audiences in a fragmenting broadcasting environment.

Under this circumstance, the BBC approached to a more ‘cost-effective’ programme making ideas. Meanwhile, the market-led approach to television drama was also a factor in the revival of interest in costume drama in 1990s. So costume drama became a very important element in the competition of drama. The BBC focuses on the adaptation of classic novel and makes the drama in high quality, and their costume dramas are successful such as Pride and Prejudice. The competition in the free-market advanced the success of Pride and Prejudice.

Furthermore, it competed on the International Market. The global attraction of drama advanced the export of drama. Under this circumstance, Pride and Prejudice was extended to the international market. ‘In the mid-1990s, adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, not only reaffirmed the status of the BBC as the cornerstone of national broadcasting, but also confirmed its cultural prestige overseas. It also, of course, secured it a healthy slice of the substantial international market in ‘quality television’. The costume drama like Pride and Prejudice contained many elements of British traditional culture. As a result, BBC was not only selling the drama to other countries but British culture as well. When more and more people have interested in the British culture, they will import more quality drama. That is a virtuous circle in global marketing. With the exporting of 1995’s Pride and Prejudice, BBC educated people widespread with British history and culture.

As a whole, Pride and Prejudice is a great drama. The 1995 edition is in high quality and it extended the British cultures. And it became one of the most famous and successful drama around the world. Its success set an example to all the other costume drama producers all around the world.

Posted 28/11/2010 by audreymu in 未分类

Chinese Teachers Should Put All Efforts to Teaching   Leave a comment

“I don’t want to stay in school any more” “Good teachers are all working outside of school” “They didn’t fully concentrate on us” “They are always too busy to teach” Those were the comments of my high school classmates They complained when we got together this summer vacation. I found them frustrating more than exciting towards the college life.

The recent situation

Many teachers are always being busy, especially those famous ones. Even though we admire them and want to see them frequently, we barely see them actually. They are busy with their social work—their lecture, their book, their film, their money, their fame……

Yep, doing social work can make teachers close to the society, that being so, they can bring nowadays situations and new ideas to their students. But deep in mind, students get little about the master minds and their spiritual worlds are hardly being touched. What students feel stronger and stronger is trying to be famous, and then you’ll earn a lot of money and respects. As a result, our society becomes more and more utilitarian.

Furthermore, students always chasing for those material things, will no longer want to struggle to get higher in the academic level. Thus, we stopped our steps to going forward, inventing new things, creating unique ideas. Continuing, our society will stop developing. By then, money and fame means nothing.

What do students think

In students’ opinion, we come to school in order to get knowledge from our excellent teachers. Our admiring towards them is because they are teachers, they can teach us what we want to know but we don’t know, not because they are celebrities or their social working experiences, etc.

Teach is a teacher’s naturally obligation. To convey what they know to their students. Sometime they need to get touch with the society so as to give their students vivid examples and teach better. However, if teachers treat the social work too seriously, they are losing the point. For instance, a teacher cancel large amount of classes, just for the publishing of his/her own book. Under such circumstance, we’d like to call him/her a writer rather than a teacher.

What a shame if a teacher was treated as a writer or an actor or a lawyer ……rather than a teacher. Teachers like these should feel sorry for the title they have as teachers. Therefore, teachers should find a balance between teaching and social working.

If I were a college teacher in China

If I were a teacher, I will concentrate on teaching and put all my efforts in preparing and researching for my classes. Even though sometimes I need get information from the society, always bear in mind everything I have done is for my course, for my wish to teach better. Having this orientation, I will never miss the point.

I will be always teaching my student what I know and be responsible in what I say. What’s more, I will encourage them to do the social work as interns using the knowledge I taught them. If they were confused or the rules of thumb didn’t work out, I would try with them. Because I believe the ideal teacher is the one putting all effort to teach.

Posted 25/11/2010 by audreymu in 未分类

Forever Ethics   Leave a comment

Technologies are everywhere today, from science filed to our daily life, from researcher center to our home. Technologies did affect our social custom!

High technology is everywhere

If you pay attention to our life, you will found what we drink is high-tech healthy soft drink, what we eat is high-tech GM food, what we wear is high-tech nanometerial clothes, and what we use to paying check is high-tech fingerprint system…… Enjoying in such technologies, we are not only satisfying but take for granted. Gradually we have been changed even though we are the creators of high and new technologies. For instance, we no longer fix date with someone several days before the very day, because of the popularization of cell phones’ use, we can get contact of our partners anytime. Another example, instead of writing letters, we use net meeting to see each others. There are a lot of similar examples……

In some way, the technologies have determined our social customs. Because of the effect of high technologies, we are changing little by little. 

  New development in terms of ethics

According to the basic knowledge, ethics come from the social customs. Therefore, if our social customs are changing, ethics will definitely be affected.

We no longer think the housewives should do housework, instead, if wise enough, they can dominate the robots to do those works well.

However, it will never change our ethics totally. For example, thousands of years ago, Confucius‘s theory considers filial piety, loyalty and humility as most plausible virtues. Later it has had been deeply in every Chinese people’s mind and then had crucial impacts on Chinese customs and ethics. And then, as universally acknowledged the reason why china had been a country of monarch for over 3000 years is that the loyalty advocated by Confucius, although it is indeed overemphasized as we know. Such so-called virtue later had become the mainstream ethics of the nation of china. From above, we can see ethics produced by history and is an important part of a nation’s culture. As a result, it can be affected but never changed or determine by anything.

What’s worse, the technologies have already brought a

 lot of practical problems. For example, Privacy of communication is an important ethical topic in today’s society. Computer technology, with its many aspects, like for instance communication passed on computer networks, has raised new ethical problems concerning privacy, since a large amount of

personal information passes computer networks each day. Computer ethics, which includes privacy, is a fairly new area within applied ethics, raising new types of moral dilemmas. Some hackers had done extremely out of ethical. What’s more, the controversial problem—-clone human beings. Just assume when you are strolling in the street, you find a person same like you, can you describe your feelings then?

Therefore, we can draw conclusion from above. Towards the technology, ethics are forever. Even though they have had great effects on ethics, technologies will never ever change the ethics!

Posted 22/11/2010 by audreymu in 未分类

Cherish what we already have   Leave a comment

Today I watched a movie about Forbidden City called –The Last Empire. Those beautiful scenes impressed me a lot and provoked me thinking— what if the amazing place disappears with the feudal dynasty?

Modern Development VS Historic building

Recently, it is increasingly acknowledged that modern development should take the position of historic building preservation, for the reason that the latter cannot satisfy the extending demands of society, but is this the case? Too much emphasis on modern urbanization must obscure the precious value of historic architecture.

Combined Old with New 

However, I believe that the preservation of historical building should be given precedence over modern construction.

Common sense tells us that the architectures built long ago, represents the past honor of that country. As the saying goes,” historical buildings are textbooks recorded on stones.” Take the Pyramids of Egypt for instance, these huge buildings, yet, do not involve any functions that contemporary individuals need, but hardly can we help to call them the greatest miracle on the earth. Once damaged, such buildings can never be rebuilt, and that will be our forever pain. Such tragedies almost happened everyday in different corners of the world as far as I know. Old temples is destructed where skyscraper stand up instead. As people pass by, their first response may compliment the city becoming boom, but soon they find that there is no place to find their roots where the predecessors used to prize.

In addition, with the steps of globalization and urbanization, metropolises in different nations become more and more similar, only the characteristic historical sites are attractive to visitors. The typical example of historical buildings accelerate tourism is the Forbidden City in Beijing, which is the largest royal palace in the world. And during the 2008 Olympic Games, thousands of tourists visited this capital of China, and what mostly draw their sights was not the modern but the places full of archaic legends. Without these history carriers, no city can develop flourishing tourism successfully, that is why many cities, even the completely new, try their best to preserve constructions with historical significance. That’s called specialty.

Admittedly, it is true that there usually conflict between old buildings and the construction of new ones, since the space of a city is very limited, and the old one can hardly sacrifice the increasing modern need, but destruction will never be the best solution to this problem. Using advanced technology of architecture, contemporary demands can also be served without damage the significant old buildings. One of typical examples to illustrate this standpoint is the rebuilding of the Louvre, the most world-famous museum located in Paris. Designed by Leoh Ming Pei, an outstanding American architect of Chinese origin, a magnificent glass pyramid stands in front of the Louver, which not only extends the capacity of tourists but also make the old building looks more beautiful and mysterious. Without discussing this case, the arguer blanket assertion that modern development should be superior to the protection of historic building goes too far.

Taking account all these factors, we may come to the conclusion that the preserving historic is more important than developing the new one. To reverse the trend that construct modern building to replace the old ones is not a light task, it entails a different attitude towards using more reasonable methods, such as advanced concepts and technology in architecture, to solve the contradiction between the preservation of historical sites and the development of society.

Posted 21/11/2010 by audreymu in movie