Sunday, April 30, 2006

Minority report and free will

More interesting topic from the book Philosopher at the end of the universe. We now have Tom Cruise who is an actor I like. His good movies include Mission impossible, Jerry McGuire, Last Samurai and many others. Mark Rowlands picked out Minority Report, which is a sci-fi movie on a strange theme.

In Minority Report, Tom Cruise was John Anderton, the head of Pre-Crime unit. The unit acted on the vision of precog children who had the ability to see murder scenes occurring in the future. Pre-Crime unit acted a step ahead of time and apprehended the murderers before they murdered and put them in lifelong suspended animation. Tom was set up and led to kill Leo Crow who was disguised as the man who kidnapped and killed Tom's child. The precogs saw the murder and the Pre-Crime unit chased after Tom. Of course the story had a happy ending and Tom escaped his fate of suspended animation, cleared his name, and lived happily ever after.

The theme of the movie is on determinism, that everything happens for a cause: a total cause which leads to the happening. The logic has two claims: first, a claim about causation, and the second a consequence. Everything that exists or occurs, including human actions, choices and decision, has a cause. Therefore, human actions, choices and decisions are not free, the reason being the causation has an outcome which is inevitable. A total cause is perceived to include everything that leads to the happening of an event or an action, therefore all the choices and decisions made by a human are just illusions as the event or action is determined to happen as the effect of the total cause. The sad conclusion for human dignity is that we do not have any free will.

Pierre-Simon Laplace (拉普拉斯 1749-1827), a French physicist and mathematician but not a philosopher, was an advocate of determinism. He viewed the universe as a gigantic mechanism made up of many interacting parts in complex but predictable way. He noticed that the theory was incompatible with god's action which presumably would be free. According to Laplace, a hypothetical super-being like god would be able to know the exact development of the universe. As long as he knew the initial state of the universe, it would be possible to know everything that was going to happen and the exact time it was going to happen. The hypothetical super-being became known as Laplace's demon. The precogs of Minority Report are in a way a sort of Laplace's demon who could know murders.

The opposite of determinism is of course indeterminism. There have been arguments against determinism, in desperate effort to save human dignity that we are actually free. It attacks the basic assumption of a cause for everything, and draws a distinction between cause and influence. Indeterminism argues that our actions may be influenced by preceding events, but they are not caused by those preceding events, and so are not made inevitable. Human choices and decisions may be influenced by all sorts of things, but this does not mean that they are made inevitable by them. So human does have free will. Indeterminism fails when influence is more clearly defined as a partial cause but not the total cause. Some indeterminists try to distinguish influence from any sort of cause, and claims that some actions are free because they are not caused. However, this creates a new problem of a gap in the causal order, that there is a hole in the labyrinth of causal lineages that made up the history of the universe.

Both determinism and indeterminism consider that causation is incompatible with freedom. They assume that if choices and decisions are caused, then they cannot be free. David Hume (休謨 1711-1776) has another view. He said that the freedom of choice and decision is compatible with its being caused, as long as it is caused in the right sort of way. This is known as compatibilism. In defining the right sort of way of free choice and decision, compatibilists draw a distinction between internal and external causation. Actions that are caused internally by one's own desire and want are free, while those caused by external factors are not. The problem with compatibilism is that thing which has purely external causes is not an action at all, it is just something happens to you. All actions are the result of a combination of internal and external factors. Also, the most immediate cause of anything is always an internal one. Therefore there is no distinction between free and unfree actions on the basis of the distinction between internal and external causations.

There is also an attempt to save human dignity of a free will by the agent causation theory. The view starts from the assumption that an action, choice or decision is free when we have control over it, or we ourselves make the choice or decision. An action is free when it is caused by oneself or the agent, instead of just an internal state. The major problem with the agent causation theory is the definition of the agent, or self. There is problem in defining self as a substantial entity through time, nor it can be defined as a non-physical being. The self may just be a bunch of memories and psychological states, which may not have control over actions, choices and decision; all of them may well be the inevitable effects of the total causation.

Minority Report brought out a big question: the problem of freedom of the will. If the precogs could actually see murder happening in the future, then the murderer was not free to make his decision to murder. The murder would happen. This is the basis of determinism and the would-be murderers were put in lifelong suspended animation beyond any doubt. But as the Pre-Crime unit stopped the murder before it happened, then what the precogs saw was not what actually happened in the future. The problem of freedom of the will came to a climax when Tom was about to shoot Leo Crow. But the precog Agatha said to Tom that he had a choice. As it turned out, Leo Crow was shot. Or no matter how Tom made his choice, he shot Leo Crow. He was actually not free.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Mozart and Beethoven 莫扎特與貝多芬

今晚(4月28日)香港管弦樂團的音樂會的名稱很簡單,叫莫扎特與貝多芬,因為就只是演奏莫扎特與貝多芬的音樂。這兩位極著名的作曲家不用多介紹。今晚的曲目有莫扎特的D大調第35交響曲「哈夫納」和C大調第25鋼琴協奏曲, K.503 Mozart's Symphony No.35 in D K.385 Haffner and Piano Concerto No.25 in C K.503,和貝多芬的C小調第五交響曲「命運」Beethoven's Symphony No.5 in C Minor。客席指揮是范瑞韋頓 Jaap van Zweden,而鋼琴獨奏是伊高羅馬 Igor Roma。

哈夫納交響曲為典型莫扎特風格音樂,優雅而矜持。相傳莫扎特只用了兩個星期就完成這作品,可以想像莫扎特的天才,音樂靈感如水一般流出來。他的C大調第 25鋼琴協奏曲,有音樂評論家譽之為莫扎特最雄偉堂皇的鋼琴協奏曲;這雖然可能是個人喜好,但亦反映此曲有其吸引人之處。

莫扎特與貝多芬的音樂,是音樂古典期和浪漫期的代表。這兩時期的音樂有重大的改變。莫扎特第25鋼琴協奏曲和貝多芬第五交響曲的創作年份只相隔二十年,但音樂風格已由保守矜持轉為個人激情的表達。當時莫扎特的音樂非常受歡迎,其風格亦為貴族和平民所接受;但忽然貝多芬帶來激動的音樂,在當年來說是十分震撼和具革命性。

命運交響曲的第一樂章第一主題,可說是所有古典音樂之中最為人熟悉的幾個音符。但我所喜歡的是第二樂章,貝多芬用了風格極不相似的主題,一個是進行曲式,人說代表命運,另一個很抒情,有說代表美好人生;整個樂章有人說是命運和人生互相衝擊。我覺得貝多芬能將這兩種極不相同的音樂素材拉在一起,編寫出感人的樂章,他所用的技巧和手法,真是非常另類,說這是革命性的音樂真是很貼切。命運交響曲的高潮,是在神秘的第三樂章結束時,樂團輕聲地奏出一列列琶音,調性暗暗地轉向C大調,然後第四樂章的簡單有力的主題爆發出來,代表命運的勝利。這個樂章比第一樂章力量還要充沛。今晚港樂在范瑞韋頓的指揮下,充分發揮此曲的威力,是近年來高水準的演繹。

Monday, April 10, 2006

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work

I came across the book summary of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work by Richard Carlson, Ph.D. in CSTDI's Cyber Learning Centre. The book proposes one hundred ways of working smart and healthy. The book summary lists out the hundred ways which are self-explanatory, and there is no absolute need to read the book for detailed explanation. You can read the book summary from CLC but it requires reader registration. So I append below the list for reference.

Many of the ways proposed have been said in other books such as chicken soup for the soul, zen stories, etc.; but they have been modified for workplace situation. So they are read like management issues. As such, I think they are more acceptable to managers because of the lack of spiritual and religious tone, which deters some readers.

Although there are many other theories on work-life balance, these one hundred ways look very easy to implement. All they take is a twist of the mind and you will be a much better worker.

1. Dare to Be Happy.
Allow yourself the luxury of being happy at work. Happy workers are creative, good listeners, and highly motivated.

2. Become Less Controlling.
Give people the space to be who they really are and respect other people's differences. By not being controlling, you will receive more admiration and respect.

3. Eliminate the Rat Race Mentality.
Stop complaining that you are stuck in the rat race. Instead, look into how you are spending your days in a more positive manner.

4. Don't Dramatize the Deadlines.
Remember, it causes more stress to complain about how unfair a certain deadline is than to actually work on a task.

5. Have Some “No Phone” Time at Work.
Excessive phone calls can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. It might be a good idea to turn off your ringer or have your voice mail answer your calls for a specific period of time.

6. Avoid Corporate Bragging.
Stop yourself from telling others how busy you are and how much work you do. You are, in fact, reinforcing to yourself how stressed out you are.

7. Make the Best of Those Boring Meetings.
To make meetings more interesting and productive, you should totally immerse yourself in the discussion. It is also a good idea to tell yourself that you're going to learn something new.

8. Stop Anticipating Tiredness.
Don't anticipate how tired you are going to be tomorrow or at the end of the week. Instead, just try to take advantage of any chance you get to rest or sleep.

9. Don't Sweat the Bureaucracy.
The best way to deal with bureaucracy is to maximize your efficiency the best way you can. You can also make suggestions on ways to improve the system.

10. Remember the Phrase, “Being Dead Is Bad for Business.”
Take care of your personal health. Eat well, exercise, get plenty or rest and take up other healthy habits.

11. Make the Best of Corporate Travel.
When traveling, be creative on how you spend your time - even when on the plane. Make the best out of it.

12. Light a Candle Instead of Cursing the Darkness.
When something goes wrong, take positive steps to solve the problem. Instead of complaining about the situation, try coming up with a solution.

13. Join My New Club, “TGIT”
“TGIT” stands for “Thank God It's Today.” Instead of looking forward to your weekends, learn to appreciate each day of the week. This way, you will be happy everyday.

14. Don't Sweat the Demanding Boss.
When dealing with a demanding boss, try to focus on his or her positive aspects. Don't take the behavior personally.

15. Remember to Acknowledge.
Everyone loves to be acknowledged so always find the time to acknowledge others. A simple note or the act of saying 'thank you' can do wonders.

16. Don't Keep People Waiting.
Respect other people's time. Plan ahead and make sure you are on time all the time.

17. Create a Bridge Between Your Spirituality and Your Work.
Bring the essence of who you are and what you believe into the workplace.

18. Brighten Up Your Working Environment.
Make sure that your working environment is not bland, boring, or dark. Take the time and spend a little money on making your workplace less depressing.

19. Take Your Breaks.
Failure to take regular breaks makes you less productive over time. Take a few minutes to clear your head and to get some air.

20. Don't Take the 20/80 Rule Personally.
The 20/80 rule states that only 20% of the people do 80% of the work in any workplace. If you are part of that 20%, don't take it personally if others are not doing their jobs. Remember that people define productivity in different ways.

21. Make a List of Your Personal Priorities.
Write a list of the personal things that are important to you. After a few weeks, go back to your list and check if you were able to accomplish your personal priorities.

22. Use Effective Listening as a Stress-Reducing Tool.
A good listener is respected and sought after. Furthermore, effective listening saves you lots of time and eliminates mistakes.

23. Make Friends with Your Receptionist.
The receptionist in your workplace is a key partner. Be respectful. Show your receptionist kindness, patience, and courtesy.

24. Remember the Motto, “You Catch More Flies with Honey.”
Always be nice. People respond better to kindness than threats.

25. Avoid the Phrase, “I Have to Go to Work.”
Although the phrase above may indeed be true, it is self-destructive. Try to come up with a more positive message to start your day.

26. Be Aware of the Potentially Stressful Effects of Your Promises.
Limit the promises you make, especially when they are unnecessary or unimportant.

27. Examine Your Rituals and Habits (and Be Willing to Change Some of Them).
Some of your habits can cause you a great deal of stress. Procrastinating, overeating, not exercising, and excessive drinking are just a few of the habits you should consider changing.

28. Stay Focused in the Now.
Keep your attention focused on the present. Worrying about the future will only cause you unneeded stress and hinder your productivity.

29. Be Careful What You Ask For.
Believe it or not, your life might actually be good enough as it is. Think over the things you are wishing for. They might actually happen and cause you even more frustration and grief.

30. Absorb the Speed Bumps of Your Day.
When problems pop up, consider there as mere speed bumps that should only slow you down temporarily. Get through the situation and go on your way.

31. Have a Favorite Business Charity.
Try to give a percentage of your profit to charity. Not only will you feel more satisfaction and be able to make use of tax deductions, it can give you added incentive to do better. Remember, it is always good to help those in need.

32. Never, Ever Backstab.
When you backstab, not only does it make you look bad, it adds stress and anxiety to your life. Earn the respect and trust of other people by not speaking badly about others.

33. Accept the Fact That, Every Once in a While, You're Going to Have a Really Bad Day.
It is best to just accept the fact that there are days when everything will go wrong. Try to look for the silver lining in every bad situation.

34. Recognize Patterns of Behavior.
Negative patterns often repeat themselves. By looking for patterns of behavior, you will be able to detect problems and nip them at the bud.

35. Lower Your Expectations.
Setting unrealistic and overly demanding expectations can cause frustration and stress. By slightly lowering your expectations, you can make things easier for you.

36. Pat Yourself on the Back.
It is not enough that you show appreciation towards other people. You should also give yourself praise and encouragement.

37. Become Less Self-Absorbed.
Don't take yourself too seriously. Self-absorbed people are rude, demanding, selfish and arrogant.

38. Don't Be Trapped by Golden Handcuffs.
Don't choose to live very close to the edge of your current means. You are trapping yourself into keeping a job you might hate merely because you need the income.

39. Get Really Comfortable Using Voice Mail.
Voice mails are an effective way to give your uninterrupted point of view. Use them to your advantage.

40. Stop Wishing You Were Somewhere Else.
Don't wish your life away. Accept your reality and make the most out of it. It is better to focus on what you are doing right now than on what you'd rather be doing. You will enjoy your life and work more.

41. Ask Yourself the Question, “Am I Making the Absolute Best of This Moment?”
Don't remind yourself how stressed or how busy you are. Instead, ask yourself if you are making the best of the moment. You will become more effective and productive.

42. Stop Scrambling.
When you move too quickly and force yourself to do three or more things at once, you waste your energy and make more mistakes. Try to work at a slower pace.

43. Become Aware of Your Wisdom.
Wisdom is as important as analytical thinking at work. Wisdom gives you creativity, ideas, perspective, common sense, and direction. It will also give you a less stressful and easier life.

44. Realize the Power of Rapport.
Rapport is critical to success. It helps you build good relationships and makes you a better person. By learning how to establish rapport, you are growing professionally and spiritually.

45. Recover Quickly.
Someday, you will make mistakes. What is more important is recovering from the mistakes you made.

46. Encourage Company Stress-Busters.
Suggest changes that can help reduce or eliminate stress in the workplace. Suggestions like company work-out rooms and other employee perks can help build a less stressful and worry-free working environment.

47. Give Up Your Fear of Speaking to Groups.
Public speaking is vital to your success. The best way to get over this fear is to put yourself in as many situations as possible to speak publicly.

48. Avoid Comments that Are Likely to Lead to Gossip or Unwanted Chatter.
Refrain from using comments that can lead to unnecessary casual conversations. You are wasting your time and energy.

49. See Beyond the Roles.
Remember that there is a real person behind every role. Learn to view people as human beings first and not mere workers. You will treat other people better and in the same way, other people will treat you better as well.

50. Avoid the Tendency to Put a Cost on Personal Things.
Don't calculate too much. When you put a price tag on everything you do, you will find it hard to do things you enjoy.

51. When You Solicit Advice, Consider Taking It.
When seeking counsel, do not dismiss the advice you are given. Listen carefully and if it's good advice, and consider taking it.

52. Take Advantage of Your Commute.
If you spend a lot of time commuting, make sure you spend the time wisely. Read a book or listen to audio tapes.

53. Let Go of Battles that Cannot Be Won.
Fighting battles that can not be won will only give you stress, waste your time, and expend your energy. Learn to differentiate between the battles worth fighting for and the ones that you should let go.

54. Think of Stress and Frustration as Distractions to Your Success.
You do not need stress to be successful. On the contrary, stress is an obstacle that can inhibit your ability to stay focused and to think clearly. Rather, remind yourself that stressful feelings will not help you.

55. Accept the Fact that There's Almost Always Going to Be Someone Mad at You.
You can't please everyone. Accept this fact of life and you will find peace.

56. Don't Let Your Own Thoughts Stress You Out.
Don't allow your thoughts to overcome you and make you lose sense of reality. It is best not to take some of your thoughts too seriously.

57. Make Allowances for Incompetence.
Face it. Some people are incompetent. Don't take it personally and don't allow this fact to get you down. Don't allow yourself to lose your cool.

58. Don't Be Too Quick to Comment.
Think before you speak. Refrain from giving unnecessary and counterproductive comments.

59. Let Go of “Personality Clashes.”
Learn to accept that most of the time, you won't be able to choose the people you work with. You must respect other people's differences and not allow other people's personalities to affect you negatively.

60. Don't Get Stressed by the Predictable.
Learn to deal with predictable stressful situations. Make allowances for the inevitable and you will eliminate a lot of stress.

61. Stop Procrastinating.
Don't put off things until the last minute. Start tasks a little earlier.

62. Confront Gently.
Sooner or later, you will have to confront someone. Do so in a gentle and yet firm way. Assume that you will be able to work things out.

63. Remember the Three R's.
Be responsive, receptive, and reasonable.

64. Get Out of the Grumble Mode.
Get a sense of humor. Once again, you shouldn't take things too seriously.

65. Get It Over With.
Don't save the worst for last. Don't postpone or procrastinate the inevitable, no matter how unsavory it might be.

66. Don't live in an Imagined Future.
Refrain from dwelling on how much better your life would be in the future. Also, do not worry about how terrible it is going to be for you a few days from now. You are giving up the present for events and situations that might not even happen.

67. Make Someone Else Feel Good.
Remember the old adage: “If you want to feel good about yourself, make someone else feel good.”

68. Compete from the Heart.
Competition is not a bad thing. You should compete hard and yet be able to enjoy yourself and give back to society. Compete because you love what you do.

69. Back Off When You Don't Know What to Do.
Don't force the issue. If you don't have a ready solution to a problem, back off and extend less effort. This way, you will not obstruct your wisdom and more ideas will come.

70. Admit that It's Your Choice.
Remember that your career and the problems that come with it are your choice. You are in charge of your own life.

71. Before Becoming Defensive, Take Note of What Is Being Said.
Before reacting defensively to something someone has said, breathe, relax and genuinely listen. It might not be the personal attack you are seeing it to be.

72. Complete As Many Tasks as Possible.
Never turn in unfinished work. Make sure that all your projects are 100% completed. It is best to finish a project before moving in to another.

73. Spend Ten Minutes a Day Doing Absolutely Nothing.
By spending a few minutes doing nothing every day, you are regaining your perspective and allowing your wisdom and common sense to thrive.

74. Learn to Delegate.
Focus on the tasks that you are most qualified to do and delegate the rest.

75. Strengthen Your Presence.
Be charismatic and magnanimous. This way, people will be drawn to your energy. Stop your mind from wandering and choose to really be with the people you are with.

76. Learn to Say No without Guilt.
Give yourself the freedom to say no.

77. Take Your Next Vacation at Home.
Sometimes, the most relaxing, rejuvenating and energizing vacations are the ones spent at home.

78. Don't Let Negative Coworkers Get You Down.
Learn how to deal with negativity. If you don't, you will end up discouraged, frustrated and depressed yourself.

79. Make the Best of a “Noncreative” Position.
Make the best of the job you have now. Approach your job in a positive manner and you will find that you will enjoy it more.

80. Stay Close to Your Center.
When you feel calm and inspired, you are close to your center. Therefore, you'll be able to get work done more effectively and efficiently.

81. Forgive Yourself, You're Human.
Once again, you must face that it is inevitable that you'll make mistakes. Forgive your flaws and errors. Accept them as an unavoidable fact of life and learn to recover from them.

82. Put Your Mind in Neutral.
By clearing your mind of focused thinking, you become responsive. Your best work can be accomplished when your mind is in neutral.

83. Marvel at How Often Things Go Right.
Instead of complaining why things always go wrong, stop and think about those times when everything went right.

84. Make Peace with Chaos.
Chaos is everywhere. The best way to deal with chaos is to surrender and make peace with it. Instead of trying to control your world, learn to work with chaos without being negatively affected.

85. Prevent Burnout.
Strive to keep a balanced life. You should also be growth-oriented. Make sure you have a life outside of work.

86. Experience a Magical Transformation.
Transform your current way of thinking and behavior into a more positive alternative. Review your negative habits and traits and try to conquer them.

87. Avoid “If Only, Then” Thinking.
Stop wishing that things were different. It is destructive and even worse; you are putting your happiness on hold.

88. Eliminate the Worry Factor.
When you worry less, you will experience more success. Excessive worrying will only make it difficult for you to focus your efforts.

89. Ask for What You Want, But Don't Insist on Getting It.
Do not be afraid to ask for what you want. However, do not be attached to the outcome. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up disappointment.

90. Remember the Whole Story.
Don't focus on the negative. In truth, things are not as bad as it seems.

91. Tap into Your Secret Stress-Buster.
Breathing can help alleviate stress. Remind yourself to take slightly deeper breaths.

92. Speak to Others with Love and Respect.
It's not only proper and less stressful to speak to other people in a kind and respectful manner, it is also smart business.

93. Don't Go There.
If you feel that a path you're taking might induce negative feelings, behavior, or situations, don't go there. Use the same principle when you find yourself asking personal questions and thinking negative thoughts.

94. Remember to Appreciate the People You Work With.
People need and deserve to be appreciated. If you want to be around people who are happier and more loyal, show them your appreciation.

95. Don't Sweat Your Critics.
When faced with critics, use their criticism to add to your growth. Don't allow yourself to become too affected.

96. Reduce Your Self-Induced Stress.
Believe it or not, you are personally responsible for a lot of the stress you are feeling. Pay attention to your thoughts and try to dismiss the self-defeating ones.

97. Become Aware of the Thought Factor.
Your experience of life comes from your own thinking and perception. Choose to respond positively to negative situations.

98. Ease Off Your Ego.
Choose to shrink the size of your ego. This will take a lot of humility and patience but this will ease a lot of pressure.

99. Remember, Small Stuff Happens.
Accept that you will encounter a lot of small stuff within the day. Instead of worrying or panicking, just accept that you will have to deal with them.

100. Don't Live for Retirement.
Live for today. Don't postpone being happy. Every day is important so you might as well be happy right now. If you do so, you will be happy every single day for the rest of your life.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Mozart and Shostakovich 莫扎特與蕭斯達高維契

莫扎特與蕭斯達高維契,兩人相隔兩個世紀,音樂風格截然不同,今晚他們的音樂在香港相遇,因為今年莫扎特250歲,而蕭斯達高維契 100歲。

今晚 (4月7日) 港樂的音樂會以莫扎特為主,有莫扎特的A大調第29號交響曲 K.201 和G大調第三小提琴協奏曲 K.216 Mozart's Symphony No.29 in A, K.201 and Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K.216,亦有托尼替的巴格尼尼第24號隨想曲之非常變奏 Tognetti's Deviance on Paganini’s 24th Caprice 和蕭斯達高維契的室樂交響曲作品110a Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony Op.110a。

莫扎特的音樂不用多說,今晚這兩首樂曲對稍有聽古典音樂的朋友來說都不會陌生,主旋律都耳熟能詳。莫扎特的音樂最因難的地方就是簡單。聽眾很容易就可以感受到音樂的美妙。這對演奏者總有點壓力,要將簡單的音樂演奏得最好;因為稍一不太好,聽眾很容易就可分辨。不過港樂今晚水準很高,完全不是問題。

蕭斯達高維契的音樂比較艱深,但這首室樂交響曲為他的傑作,氣氛一流。這首作品有一小故事:蕭斯達高維契在此曲中加入了很多密碼訊息,隱藏了他對蘇聯政權的不滿;在他死後,人們才將這些訊息傳揚開去。我不曉得這些訊息是什麼,不過音樂感情豐富,沉思和衝突的場面都交代得很細緻。

其實今晚的主角是李察托尼替 Richard Tognetti, 小提琴獨奏兼指揮。他在澳洲被選為國寶 National Living Treasure,帶領澳洲室樂團多年,使用1759年的 Guadagnini 小提琴。他的演奏功力深厚,在感情表達方面特別出色,一曲莫扎特G大調小提琴協奏曲表露無遺。

他所改編的巴格尼尼第24號隨想曲尤其另人讚嘆。巴格尼尼有驚人的小提琴技巧,如果他與教會關係良好,他的天才就會是上天的恩典,反之就是出賣靈魂給魔鬼的報酬,這是所謂官字兩個口,而巴格尼尼是後者。這首24號隨想曲,現在家傳戶曉,但在當時被認為是魔鬼之作。托尼替就以此為意念,將樂曲重新包裝,保留了高度技巧的小提琴段落,而管弦樂即做出聽眾對魔鬼的音樂的感覺。托尼替走在樂團中,演奏艱深的獨奏部分,又要指揮管弦樂演繹各種變奏;不過這是他自己的作品,當然可以輕鬆應付。

Monday, April 3, 2006

Total Recall and the Sixth Day

Another interesting topic from the book Philosopher at the end of the universe. This time it is Arnold Schwarzenegger in the sci-fi movie Total Recall. The scene was on Mars. I love Mars and have watched almost all movie on Mars. There were quite a few in recent years, especially after NASA turned its attention from the Moon to Mars.

Schwarzenegger played Douglas Quaid, a construction worker in the mid-21st century. He was obsessed with dreams about Mars and visited the Rekall company, who implanted false memories of a vacation to Mars in his mind. The procedure went wrong, and Quaid found himself pursued by killers. He was presented with a video message supposedly from his "real" self, Hauser, who had been chief of security on Mars. Quaid had to go to Mars to find the truth.

With the help the mutant rebellion, Quaid discovered the hidden knowledge that he was in his previous life Hauser who was the chief security officer on Mars, and that Quaid was just a bunch of memories implanted on him. The plan of the evil character Cohaagen was to use Quaid to infiltrate the rebellion. The plan succeeded and Cohaagen then wanted to destroy Quaid by implanting back the memories of Hauser. The happy ending was that Quaid escaped his captors and freed Mars. The movie left a question on whether all the events were the Mars vacation memories implanted by ReKall company, or Quaid was a hero who defied changing back to the original Hauser. This is a question of personal identity; what makes you you.

The author started by quoting Heraclitus (赫拉克里特斯 540-480 BC) who said "You cannot step into the same river twice." A river is made up of water; but water is constantly flowing. The river will have changed all its water in a while. Our body is the same. All our cells are constantly being replaced. We do not have the same body as we did a few months ago. Aristotle (亞理斯多德 384-322 BC) had another view. He proposed that things change in two ways: essential changes and accidental changes. Things undergo accidental changes all the time but only essential changes could end the existence of things. Thus personal identity is still intact when accidental changes are going on. However, there is still the problem of defining the essential changes. With significant changes occurring to Quaid and Hauser, are they the same or different person?

In Total Recall, the theme is on the memory theory, that personal identity is made up of the memories of the person. Memories can be implanted into another body, but the person is still the same as he only remembers his own self and acts like he used to be. Or another bunch of memories can be implanted into the same body replacing the old ones, making the body in used by another person having the new memories.

An alternative to the memory theory is the soul theory, that each one of us is essentially a soul embodied in a physical vehicle. This theory stems from dualism that the body and soul are two distinct entities, and it therefore inherits all the problem of dualism. The problem is that the appeal to the soul makes it impossible for one to make any justifiable judgments about a person's identity, even when that person is yourself.

The opposite view to the soul theory is the body theory. According to this view, what you are, essentially, is your body. Here Heraclitus' line about the river implies that the body will not stay the same, although from Aristotle, the body and thus the personal identity, is still safe from accidental changes. However, the advance of science has made the same body hard to define. Body parts transplant is now common. Not only the replacement of limbs by artificial parts, many essential body organs, including the heart, may be replaced. This has shaken the body theory because we still recognize a person's identity even if a majority part of the body has changed.

An extension, or variation, of the body theory is the brain theory. We are just our brains. The body can be changed accidentally but the essential change lies in the brain. Our personal identity exists as long as we have the same brain functioning. An argument against this theory is that the brain, as a physical organ, is also constantly undergoing changes. It can be influenced and changed by drug or disease, but we still consider the person the same.

What we have in our brain are memories, which bring us back to Total Recall and the memory theory. The author admitted that memory theory is not a good term as the brain or the mind has things more than memories. There are various mental states such as beliefs, thoughts, emotions, hopes, fears, etc. A better term should be psychological continuity theory. A person's identity continues to exist and be recognised by others when the same psychological states persist. In this sense, when the memories, or psychological states, of Quaid and Hauser are implanted to the same body, they are different persons and have different personal identities.

The author went on to explore the problem of personal identity through another sci-fi movie by Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Sixth Day. On the Sixth Day, god created man. The movie is about a scientist who developed a method to re-create a person by cultivating a body in the laboratory and implanting the whole memory of that person through cerebral syncording. This fancy copy of a person's mind was recorded by taking a snapshot through the retina. The plot of the movie was that the scientist mistakenly re-created Adam Gibson, a helicopter pilot played by Arnold, thinking he was killed; and then there were two identical Gibsons running around in the movie.

The author called this problem fission of personal identity. If personal identity is based on the psychological continuity theory, what about two distinct bodies having the same psychological states. Are they the same or different persons? In the movie, both Gibsons had the same memories of "their" wife and children, same emotion towards the family, same knowledge and same life experience. However, "their" wife and children could not treat the two Gibsons as the same person if there were two persons in the house. At the end of the movie, one Gibson stayed home and the other went away. We may imagine that there is one person who, at a certain point of his life, go live two different lives. Isn't it mind boggling?

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Japanese Taiko 日本太鼓

香港管弦樂團今晚(3月31日)的音樂會,有點另類,有林姆斯基高沙可夫 Rimsky-Korsakov 的天方夜譚 Scheherazade,武滿徹 Toru Takemitsu 的鳥兒在星形的庭院降落 A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden,和松下功 Isao Matsushita 的飛天遊 Hi-Ten-Yu ─ 太鼓及管弦樂協奏曲。

天方夜譚為人熟悉,不算另類。林姆斯基高沙可夫以奪目的音樂色彩,講述一千零一夜中的故事,樂曲豐富生動,各個主題旋律都耳熟能詳。以音樂描述故事,這首作品算是極出色的代表作。

武滿徹(1930-1996)的音樂是很另類的新派作品。他是非常著名的日本作曲家,在音樂界有祟高的地位。他這首樂曲,我覺得是很規矩的現代音樂作品,沒有嘩眾取寵的技倆,而專注於以音象來表達主題的氣氛,即是群鳥徐徐降落於一個五角庭院。這音樂給我法國印象派的感覺,很德彪西。

松下功的飛天遊更是另類。這是太鼓及管弦樂協奏曲;不用多說就知其作曲的難度。音樂的主題是由太鼓和一系列小鼓奏出。雖然鼓聲有不同音高和音色,但主要是以節奏為主。說它是協奏曲,不如說是管弦樂伴奏太鼓。全曲以鼓聲為主角,所有音色變化,節奏變化,氣氛營造,全由鼓樂一手包辦,而管弦樂即協助加強效果。松下功表現太鼓的威力的確別有一手。

當然太鼓音樂傑作需要太鼓大師演繹。今晚的獨奏者是日本太鼓鼓手林英哲 Eitetsu Hayashi。他將太鼓的古代儀式和日本鼓樂的古代傳統帶到音樂廳。他的演出非常震撼,尤其是一段長長的太鼓獨奏,表現祈禱式的靜思和強力的聲音爆發。Encore 再來另一首太鼓獨奏曲,接著日本古式半跪拜謝幕,觀眾都如癡如醉。這的確是一個另類的晚上。