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Daily Archives: May 28, 2021

Chuckles of the Day




Husband and Wife

A man said to his wife after many years of marriage “I don’t know how you can be so stupid and so beautiful all at the same time.”

His wife responded, “Allow me to explain. God made me beautiful so you would be attracted to me; God made me stupid so I would be attracted to you!

* * * * * * *

A husband read an article to his wife about how many words women use a day … 30,000 to a man’s 15,000.

The wife replied, “The reason has to be because a woman has to say everything twice.

The husband then turned to his wife and asked, “What?”

* * * * * * *

Ole and Lena had married under none too happy circumstances and their married life had not been anything to brag about either. But when, after they had been living together for thirty five years, Ole went to the local judge to ask for an annulment, the whole town gasped with amazement.

A date for the hearing was set and when the time came the judge demanded to know the grounds on which Ole based his demand for an annulment.

“It’s like this, your Honor,” answered Ole, “I’ve just learned that Lena’s father never had a license to carry a gun.”




中國娼妓史與晚唐雞蟲:李商隱

李商隱 無題兩首其二

重幃深下莫愁堂,臥後清宵細細長。

神女生涯原是夢,小姑居處本無郎。

風波不信菱枝弱,月露誰教桂葉香。

直道相思了無益,未妨惆悵是清狂。

學術風流,娼妓有史

之前論及李商隱〈流鶯〉時,涉及妓女、文人之間的特殊關係,文妓同悲「不遇」佳人。

我們常常會以今度古,視妓女地位卑賤,純粹只供男人發洩情慾的工具。妓女本有高低之分,像香港「一樓一鳳」價格各有差異,上至酒店妹下至唐樓北姑,尚有其他賣藝不賣身PTGF者流,遠比想像更加複雜。那麼,古時妓女又是怎樣的存在呢?

民國學者王書奴有一奇書,《中國娼妓史》。王書奴的學問相當有「科學精神」,大膽假設,小心求證,深入「研究對象」,浪蕩十年,如國安處長,隨時食女多過你食飯,人生經驗化為此書的重要基礎。

中國最初出現的乃是「伎」,不分男女,指原始宗教儀式中跳舞唱歌的人。這些宗教儀式是相當「神聖」,向萬有之靈致敬,模仿至高無上的造物主,「伎」作為儀式中的重要人物,地位崇高。

自中國周代的「軸心突破」,禮教之理性文明興起,社會對這些「伎」漸有不同定義,春秋時代即有官妓制度,正式由「伎」轉為「妓」,以女性為主。古時妓女大致可分作四類:一、宮妓,又分可出官門和不可出官門。二、軍妓。三、家妓,豪門貴族專享。四、私妓,自立門戶做生意。

晚唐孫棨

三皇五帝夏商周,每個朝代都可以寫出一部專書,很難概括言之。回到唐朝,妓女地位不低,設有官妓一職,著重才藝。妓女要學曉琴棋書畫,不少妓女都有詩作流傳後世,薛濤即為一例。

晚唐長安的「教坊」專門訓練、管理妓女,「攞正牌」將嫖妓合法化。根據近代女性主義面對妓女的態度,除了批判賣淫、物化女性,其實有另一主張是維護這群女性的權益,讓她們可以在有一定規範、保障從事性工作(Sex work)。

如此看來,中國古代的官妓處境,至少相比民間私妓、軍妓好多了。

唐代有像王書奴之輩,孫棨把他見證的晚唐妓女文化,寫下《北里志》。這本書絕非像時下流行的「叫雞指南」,反而接近向西村上春樹〈東莞的森林〉,記錄文士和歌妓的互動,具有田野調查式的實地記錄;又如電影《金雞》,反映了時代的變化:

京中飲妓,籍屬教坊,凡朝士宴聚,須假諸曹署行牒,然後能致於他處。……諸妓皆居平康里,舉子、新及第進士、三司幕府但未通朝籍未直館殿者,咸可就詣。如不吝所費,則下車水陸備矣。其中諸妓,多能談吐,頗有知書言話者。

簡言之,晚唐長安官妓主要的服務對象有三:一、剛考上進士的文人。二、至首都長安考科舉的讀書人。三、豪門貴族。

「唐代進士與娼妓」是文史界相當熱門的議題。官妓Sell的不單單是肉體,更重要是Sell她們的談吐、才學,絕不簡單。

斯人遠去,愛情想像

無題兩首其二(重幃深下莫愁堂)

重幃深下莫愁堂,臥後清宵細細長。

重幃:室內多層的窗簾。
莫愁堂:莫愁本是以前有名的歌妓,後成妓女之代名詞。

「無題」充分表現了文學的多向詮釋,沒有標準答案,只有更好的解讀。

上次談過的無題其一(鳳尾香羅薄幾重),現在來看無題其二。既是「無題」,千古以來皆有不同詮釋,我們不妨把無題兩首結合理解,或會更能理解其中深意。

無題其一「何處西南待好風」抒發對情人的思念,在無題其二,則描述了李商隱思念之深不見底,惆悵清狂之狀。

相信你我都曾經如此。相愛之人,離你而去,或是對方決絕,或是為勢所造,或是因了解而分開,上一刻還在熱戀纏綿,轉眼間已經分飛四方。理性壓不下回憶,遙想斯人,當我受思念折磨得痛不欲生時,此刻,你到底在做些什麼呢?

也許這刻你 仍然尚未發覺

家中有這一個訪客 時時漏夜冒昧探你

將瑣碎東西帶走 然後又放低

在你的唱機放低唱片是我

算是暗中 一起分享過首歌

痛苦之人透過想像對方的日常生活,嘗試捕捉那種昔日的心靈撫慰,詩人在層層疊疊的簾幕之間透視愛人身影。 她在半夜間醒來,是否和詩人一樣寂寞難耐,時間亦難耐?「細細長」是一種寂寞心理之反映。

老姑婆,女無歸

神女生涯原是夢,小姑居處本無郎。

「神女」、「小姑」都是特別的文化象徵。

戰國時代,有位文人宋玉鍾意FF神仙和皇帝戀愛,如果他看到台灣同性戀婚姻合法化,其他人大驚失色,大概會笑而不語吧。 人神戀可是比男男、女女戀都更加前衛,代表作是《神女賦》、《高唐賦》。

旦為朝雲,暮為行雨。朝朝暮暮,陽台之下。

巫山雲雨,如今還有人拿這四字詞形容性愛之歡愉,來自於此。後世文學不少都以仙女、神女作為妓女的代名詞。六朝《神弦曲.青溪小姑曲》其一曰:

開門白水,側近橋樑。小姑所居,獨處無郎。

據《粵典》解釋,「老姑婆」意指「冇結婚嘅老女人」。老一輩的人常說老姑婆梳起唔嫁,一齊住喺姑婆屋楔杜罅。「小姑」意思相近,專指少女未嫁,故「獨處無郎」,愛情上沒有完滿的歸宿。

妓女的愛情生涯,往往都「原是夢」而已。夢境虛幻,終有醒的一天。古代女性,社會建構、導向的夢想是有一個完整家庭,但要從良,又談何容易呢?

此句盡見李商隱對情人的憐惜之情。妓女之愛,始終登不上大雅之堂, 要登堂入室真是難上加難。「神女」、「小姑」兩典,都得不到歸宿,「男有分,女有歸」的失落,乃古代女性一大缺乏之象徵。

愛情名句,溝女必用

風波不信菱枝弱,月露誰教桂葉香。

月露:月光下的露水。

讀詩,不論古今中外,都講求要從實解中看出它的虛意。

風吹菱枝,露水沾草,本是客觀的實際情況。但「不信」、「誰教」卻是詩人主觀之情。

「風波」是外在環境,妓女悲慘的一生。這種困境摧殘了脆弱如「菱枝」的愛情。詩人借事物間共同相似之處,形容他所面對的愛情悲劇。

「月露」為雨露之恩,男女歡愛。香港人不是常說:「做咩咁Dry?」大抵也是上承此種說法,愛情之Wet,自古皆然。「誰教」反問:誰能像露水一樣愛護桂葉呢?李商隱式性暗示,如果可以,他當然願意Wet Wet。

這也是李商隱名句之一,大家如有需要,不妨拿來對情人讀讀,即時止Dry。

不狂似狂,如今白痴

直道相思了無益,未妨惆悵是清狂。

李商隱一早明白,他經已迷失在.* 這場﹍×°愛情遊戲……

兩人之間從來不有完滿結局,不可能會白頭到老,這種違反倫理的愛情關係,又怎可能公諸於世,有好結果呢?

所以他好灰、好絕望地說:即使抒發再多這種相思之情,又有什麼用呢?

下一句卻是相反意思,「未妨」,描述了他矛盾的心理狀態。像他這種浪漫多情的人,即使明白沒有好結果,感性依然壓倒理性,根本停不了去想念別人。

「清狂」意指「不狂似狂」,不是狂人卻言行癲狂,是「如今白痴也」,為愛情而痴狂。

Well,或者他曾經像《國產零零漆》豬肉佬一樣說過:「我仲以為我哋嘅交往係建立喺感情之上,估唔到原來只係一盤生意。」不知何時,會有人寫出一部《香港娼妓史》呢?

這種沒有BBQ式結局,又不受控的愛情思念,造成詩人惆悵悲愁之情。其實,又何嘗不是你我曾經感受的無奈痛苦?忘了愛,過去的就讓它過去,曾經畢竟只是曾經……


Source : The Stand News

With China’s Digital Yuan, Think Surveillance

Milton Ezrati wrote . . . . . . . . .

Ever since China launched its digital yuan in 2019, western commentary has reacted to the initiative with waves of nonsense. Many of these articles suggest that the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has stolen a march on the West. Many claim that China’s digital effort will secure the yuan global status and enable it to supplant the dollar as the world’s premier currency for international reserves and transactions.

The venerable Economist magazine forecast that soon everyone everywhere will be using the digital yuan. The most recent wave of such commentary emerged after the Federal Reserve (Fed) and other central banks announced that they, too, are looking into digital versions of their own respective currencies. Media attention has suggested that the Fed and others are playing catch up.

These claims are overblown to say the least, entirely misplaced, in fact. A digital yuan hardly constitutes a basis for a global currency. Many countries, including the United States, have laws against transacting domestic business in any currency other than their own. Besides, a digital yuan could add only marginally to existing digital arrangements in which credit and debit cards, Apple watches, PayPal, easy wire transfers, and the like have long-provided efficient and convenient ways to manage both international and domestic transactions. All the digital yuan would do is add a new layer to this fully functioning system. That addition hardly constitutes a revolution, any more than if American Express were to issue a new kind of card. Nor will a digital version of the yuan overcome all the many impediments in the way of its ability to become the premier global reserve currency.

What should have been clear at the onset is that rather than creating a global upset, the digital yuan, in a manner entirely consistent with so much else Beijing does, aims at domestic surveillance.

Issuing a digital currency—whether a yuan, a dollar, a euro, a yen, whatever—takes a big step toward supplanting paper currency and coin, and thereby the main way people can transact business anonymously.

There is, of course, Bitcoin and other cybercurrencies, but they are less a factor than paper and coin, at least for most populations. In any case, China has already closed off these avenues for its population by banning Bitcoin and other cybercurrencies.

virtual currencies
Representations of the Ripple, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin virtual currencies are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture, on Feb. 14, 2018. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)
Paper and coin are about the only way people in China can evade strict controls and get assets out of the country or into an alternative currency. By using the digital yuan to eradicate paper and coin, or at the very least severely limiting their role, Beijing will have closed off any ability of its citizens to move assets and transact business unobserved. Once this happens, the authorities will have the ability to track every citizen’s transactions, how much each person spends, on what, where he or she spends it, as well as when.

Central banks, even in less authoritative systems, could do the same with their digital currencies once they take hold, but they will likely be less ambitious than the PBOC and think mostly in terms of money laundering and tax evasion. Whether the government’s focus is narrow or broad, surveillance of one kind or another is the objective.

To be sure, the authorities everywhere have the option of using existing digital networks to track most people’s transactions, whether through credit card, bank, or equivalent records. But accessing these still largely private sources is cumbersome and, in some places, faces numerous legal hurdles. Beijing might face additional impediments because today much of this information resides abroad. Accessing the elements of this system would also have a hit or miss quality that would prevent the authorities amassing an all-but-complete picture of people’s transactions.

But a digital currency would have it all in one easily accessible government computer. The arrangement could even enable the authorities to develop algorithms to cull transactions and flag anything suspicious, something that is all but impossible with current arrangements. Besides, it is already clear that current digital arrangements, for all their convenience and efficiency, have not driven out paper and coin as effectively as digital currencies are likely to do.

Beijing does indeed have grand global ambitions. It clearly wants to make China the world’s leading economy and see the yuan supplant the dollar’s global position. It wants to dominate world trade, a clear objective of the Belt and Road initiative. And it wants the political, diplomatic, and military advantages that goes along with such economic and financial dominance. The digital yuan might have a role in this grand scheme but only after Beijing has put into place other, needed, and much more significant elements.

For now, the digital currency is neither part of such grand designs nor the “revolution” described by less-than-thoughtful western reports. It is instead a straightforward if innovative way to secure still more complete domestic control and thereby ensure that nothing the Chinese people do, even inadvertently, can threaten the authorities in Beijing.


Source : The Epoch Times

未來的香港教育

作者: 趙耀華 . . . . . . . . .

隨着時代發展,學校裏學到的知識容易變得過時,同時互聯網的普及化,又提供了前所未有的學習機會,未來的教育會是怎麼樣的?由經濟合作與發展組織(OECD)出版的Back to the Future of Education: Four OECD Scenarios for Schooling一書中,提出了四個不同的假設情景給我們思考。第一是假設未來形勢基本不變,正規教育繼續擴張,配合其他方面的轉變。另外三種假設情景就較為新穎,甚至帶點天方夜譚的感覺,包括「教育外判」(education outsourced)、學校轉型(schools as learning hubs)及隨時學習(learn-as-you-go);這意味着傳統的學校制度瓦解,學習變得多樣化、個人化。到底香港未來的教育會變成怎樣?這是一個與當前社會息息相關的問題。

5月14日,香港大學經管學院與香港經濟及商業策略研究所合辦「香港經濟前景展望」研討會,內容涵蓋五大範疇,筆者負責主持最後有關教育、社會平等及流動性的討論環節,由黃英琦女士、程介明教授、陳易希先生和院長蔡洪濱教授先後發言。雖然歷時短短一個小時,內容卻極其豐富,筆者在這裏作一個扼要的介紹,並分享一些個人感想。

時代變了

黃英琦女士指出,過去和未來的不同之處,可以歸納為下列四點:第一,生育率下降導致老年化,社會的需求隨人口結構改變,人要為壽命延長後的日子妥作安排。第二,氣候突變改變全球。第三就是我們將永遠處於beta狀態,猶如電腦軟件的試用版(beta version),許多事情都變動不居,難以定格。第四,舊工作消失,新工作隨之出現。

黃女士提出應該尊重學生的好奇心,教育要多元化,要培養學生的創業精神,以後大學聯招的名額應該大為削減,騰出名額招收來自不同學習背景的學生。要發展出多樣性的教育,還須靠相關活動帶動,目前她就正在進行一項由賽馬會贊助的項目,培訓一批休學10星期的老師,讓他們回到學校之後,在教學上加以創新。

程介明教授補充解釋學習和教育的區別,學習(learning)是人類與生俱來的天性,而教育(education)或教育制度,則是西方工業化後的產物,是社會為個人而設的。時代變了,教育也應該改變。現在教育有待改進的地方,首先是沒有保護和鼓勵學生的好奇心。他打了一個比方,說我們需要的是二十一世紀的教育,可惜大學當局和老師抱持的卻仍是二十世紀的思維,而家長的想法更停留在十九世紀!

知行之別

陳易希先生介紹了他自己的個人經歷,小時候學業成績十分差勁,但是特具好奇心,對發明很感興趣。在開明的家庭和友善的老師鼓勵下,參與各種比賽,一步一步自我提升。他又分享了自己的學習心得,包括怎樣通過親身經歷去提高能力,例如在發明過程中發現自己在數學方面的不足,或如何努力鍛煉溝通技巧,把腦海中的意念清晰向別人表達等等,而不是僅僅學習學校規定的課程,這也許就是程教授所說的「知」(knowing)和「行」(doing)的分別,教育應要幫助學生提高「行」的能力,而非只幫他們「知」,畢竟今時今日,同學用谷歌在網上搜尋一番,就已幾乎無所不知。

蔡洪濱院長表達了他對本地教育和整體社會的樂觀看法,不過他也慨嘆作為金融中心,香港在教育和研究發展方面仍遠遠及不上國際水平。2016年,香港花在教育的公共開支僅佔本地生產總值(GDP)3.3%,低於OECD平均5.1%和以色列5.8%的水平。研發開支更只佔GDP的0.8%,反觀以色列的相應佔比高達4.5%。鑑於以色列與香港相比,同樣天然資源不足,人口規模亦相若,他深信若當局能增撥教育和研發經費,定當有利於本港經濟的長遠發展。

筆者對於當日各嘉賓表現出的熱誠十分佩服,也極為贊同他們的看法,這裏補充幾點個人的意見。第一,多樣化是好的,但這些改變往往對資源充足者裨益較大。互聯網的發達,的確讓一些有準備的人更方便更好地學習知識,但是對於條件不足者,這些變化會否拉闊貧富學生之間在學習表現的差別?通過12年學校教育,再經香港中學文憑考試(HKDSE)進入大學,仍然是家境清貧子弟最可靠而又力所能及的出路,若把基於HKDSE成績取錄的大學名額大幅縮減,是否有違公平原則?這些問題都是在教育改革中所必須考慮的。

第二,筆者設想,未來的香港教育界仍將有一批主流學校,其中雖然都會注入新元素,但其大部分課程和教授方式大概與以往相近,而同時增加的非主流學校,其課程和辦學方式,卻可能會與主流學校相當不同。筆者認為教育改革宜「貪新不忘舊」,「貪新」指勇於大膽嘗試,「不忘舊」就是不必一窩蜂革新,值得保留的舊方法就應該加以保留,同時認真研究怎樣在已有的基礎上做得更好。

第三,筆者十分認同好奇心的重要,但是認為也應該重視培養健全人格。生命中難免遇到或大或小的逆境,其中只有部分純屬不幸,而一般來說,希望愈大,挫折愈大。如果沒有應付逆境的能力,就不能走得遠。此外,我們也須具備知難而退的智慧,雖說天生我才必有用,但是大多數人從定義上來說都是平庸的,舉例說我是一個五音不全的人,卻有成為偉大音樂家的心願,要社會上設法成全我這個夢想,就是一種浪費,對我也是一種誤導。如果好奇心是人的一條腿,那麼健康的心理質素和智慧則是另一條腿,我們靠兩條腿才能走路,一條腿是走不遠的。

未來的教育將會是怎樣的?筆者認為它很可能是目前教育制度的延伸,但是一定會加入很多新成份,社會各界人士的參與也肯定會增加。程教授根據自己的發現,呼籲與會者思考如何在這個過程中作出貢獻,本文讀者也不妨細想他的心聲。


Source : HKU

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