James Thurber, (1894-1961), was an American writer best known for his humorous stories. As a celebrated wit, Thurber highlighted the comic frustrations and eccentricities of ordinary people in his works.

The following essay is about the ways to sustain a happy marriage. Although its tone is hilarious, it reveals the naked truth of marriage characterized by the twists and turns of confrontation and conciliation. The ten rules, nothing less than the manifesto of Thurber’s idiosyncrasies, are intended to amuse rather than preach.

First of all, he mentions the motive for this writing is the fight between a couple in his neighborhood:

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Introduction:

Life of Pi「少年P的奇幻漂流」是李安導演的最新3D作品,預定11月在台灣上映。本文要探討的是原著小說中的主題,如封面所寫:一位擁有三種信仰的印度男孩,一隻450磅重的孟加拉虎,一場船難,一艘救生艇,以及太平洋。乍看之下,它是海上版的魯賓遜漂流記,或浩劫重生之類的電影,一個人獨自存活於災難之後,靠著毅力、智慧及信仰,度過重重難關重回人世。相較於魯賓遜在荒島耕種,自力謀生並對抗野人,少年Pi在太平洋上只靠救生艇維生,再加一隻老虎的威脅,情勢更是艱難。兩者在孤立的環境中都有一個主要同伴,不管是人是虎,這充分說明人無法完全孤立而存活。馴服者與被馴服者的關係是主與僕,兩者間尊卑之意識型態在魯賓遜中被合理化,但在Pi中卻另有深刻的反省。儘管劇情的發展結構一致------船難發生,主角存活,勇敢對抗惡劣環境,最終得救,但我試著以佛家的思想角度來讀少年Pi, 卻有另外一番體悟。

I. The essence of life: drifting uncontrollably

少年Pi漂流大海,其意象很容易和佛家思想連結,即人的一生如漂流生死海,隨波逐流,一切全由業力主宰並不自由。Pi在海上的漂流正是此相狀。他沒有力量主宰自己的方向,只能任由洋流擺布:”What was the point of plotting a course if I couldn’t act on it? So I drifted. Winds and currents decided where I went.”

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「BJ單身日記」不只是一般的愛情喜劇,它是經典文學「傲慢與偏見」的現代版,更確切的說,是向經典文學致敬之餘,又不忘加入現代顛覆元素的戲謔仿作(parody)。劇中女主角神來一句,”It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces. “(當你的生命中某部分開始順遂,另一部分就會全盤崩壞,這是眾所承認的事實) 已昭告其戲仿經典之意圖,因「傲慢與偏見」開宗明義的第一句話就是: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” (黃金單身漢必缺一個老婆是眾所承認的事實) 前者提到生命無常起落的事實,後者則是千古不變的婚姻法則,有錢的男人必定成為眾家閨女覬覦獵取的目標。

以下分幾點來談本劇的戲仿之處:

一、 男主角的傲慢與真誠

兩位家世顯赫的達西(Darcy)先生,與女主角在宴會中的初相見,不但沒有激起火花,甚至毫不留情用言語譏諷她。男女主角互看不順眼,女覺男傲慢無禮,男覺女庸俗難耐。

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前言

我們習慣分享彼此不幸的遭遇,以為把它說出來,心裏會好過些,至少從別人那裡,得到些許的鼓勵或安慰,或者聽到別人也有類似遭遇,自己的苦就不顯得特別。這篇散文告訴我們,不能用訴苦的方式處理苦難,緘默堅忍以對才是良策

In this short essay, British novelist and journalist Mark Rutherford (the pen name of William Hale White) encourages us to deal with our misfortunes by practicing "the art of self-suppression."

I. 找人談心事前要先釐清自己的思緒,以免講出來的話,不是事先審慎構思好的產物,而是塑造思想的源頭。

We may talk about our troubles to those persons who can give us direct help, but even in this case we ought as much as possible to come to a provisional conclusion before consultation; to be perfectly clear to ourselves within our own limits. Some people have a foolish trick of applying for aid before they have done anything whatever to aid themselves, and in fact try to talk themselves into perspicuity. The only way in which they can think is by talking, and their speech consequently is not the expression of opinion already and carefully formed, but the manufacture of it.

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Across the broad continent of a woman's life falls the shadow of a sword. On one side, all is correct, definite, orderly; the paths are strait, the trees regular, the sun shaded; escorted by gentlemen, protected by policemen, wedded and buried by clergymen, she has only to walk demurely from cradle to grave and no one will touch a hair of her head. But on the other side all is confusion. Nothing follows a regular course. The paths wind between bogs and precipices. The trees roar and rock and fall in ruin. There, too, what strange company is to be met---in what bewildering variety!                                                                

Virginia Woolf, “Harriette Wilson”

This time, it’s not the vulgar prima donna, Harriette Wilson, that will be discussed. Instead, it’s Christabel LaMotte, the female protagonist in the movie, Possession, that steps across the borderline.

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繼「正義」一書後,Michael Sandel教授再度出擊,在「錢所不能買的東西」(What Money Can’t Buy) 這本書裡,直指金錢入侵民主社會各種領域後,對思想行為所造成的衝擊。

延續前書的論點,作者認為市場邏輯(market logic)已滲入社會各個層面,幾乎無所不在。這種邏輯根據自由派(libertarian)經濟思想而來,強調個人有權利自由買賣所擁有的東西;在買賣雙方達成交易後,兩方各得其利,有效率地讓物品得到適當的歸屬,發揮最大的用處。簡單來講,支持市場邏輯的兩個主要觀點是個人自由(individual freedom)和功利思想(utilitarian)。而反對市場邏輯也正好由此兩點下手。自由非真自由,而功利思想最終將腐蝕腐事物本質。歸納起來,反市場邏輯的主要論點,一是公平(fairness),二是腐化(corruption)。公平者反駁個人自由之論,強調買賣雙方若在經濟不平等的條件下交易,賣方往往因經濟拮据,在不得已的情況下出賣擁有物。在被迫、利誘下做出的抉擇,不是真正的自由交易。另外,腐化之論在破除功利思想的迷思。容或金錢的買賣可以有效率的分配物品,但物品不見得就能適得其所,反而本質會被汙染,內在價值也隨之腐敗。整本書用市場邏輯和反市場邏輯的兩種論調,反覆檢驗社會發生的實際案例,逐一剖析市場價值的弊端,提醒我們建立正確的價值觀,共造美好的民主社會。以下簡要陳述書上所提及的案例,並引用這兩種思考角度來分析批判。 

1. 用錢買方便

美國社會有一種代客排隊的行業,可以替客人漏夜排隊,買免費的劇場票或替一些利益團體在聽證會的門口排隊卡位。此外,多花點錢請人排隊,能看名醫、得到專屬醫生全天候的照護、國家公園的露營權、教皇的彌撒大會入場券、搖滾音樂會的門票等。一切眾人擠破頭想得到的好東西,只要多花點錢,就有專業排隊人士替你辦到。快速通關也是用錢買特權的一例,多花點錢,可以優先通過機場安全檢查、使用快速道路、遊樂園設施、語音優先服務等。這種特權具體來講就是插隊權(que-jumping rights)。排隊展現了民主社會的公平理念,先到先服務(first come, first serve),無階級貴賤之差別。現在用錢買插隊權,凸顯有錢階級享有美好事物的優先權,無錢者只能落後排隊,不確定的等待美好事物的降臨。

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An Indecent Proposal (桃色交易)caused much discussion back in 1993 when materialism was rampant in American society. Today, it still remains a powerful criticism of market values. It is significant not only because it predicts the irresistible invasion of money in life, but also it caters to the ideal romantic sentiment. Altogether, the movie attracts the audience with two immortal topics: money and romance.

First, let’s explore the money issue. Here is the climax when the proposal was offered:

David: [while playing pool] I guess there's limits to what money can buy.
John: Not many.

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美國名校衛斯理高中英文老師David McCullough的畢業演說,引起很大的迴響及討論。不同於一般的畢業演講,總是讚美肯定畢業生的成就,這位獨特的老師再三叮嚀學生的卻是”You are not special!”這篇演講在網路上一夕爆紅,有人認為這是近幾年來最好的畢業演說;當然也有人不喜歡,認為不過是這位老師想標新立異意罷了。到底他談了甚麼,為何會激起這麼多共鳴,本文試圖分析並探討之。

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clip_image001作者: 洪秀瑛、林志勳╱台北─浙江連線報導 |2012530 上午5:30

章子怡爆出陪睡風波,陸媒《博訊》甚至踢爆她靠陪睡大陸前重慶市委書記薄熙來等,10年撈了32億。曾在大陸發展的田麗,29日直言,對章此聞「不意外」,「但做這種事無恥」,她還分析,陪睡市場很競爭,台星都快沒陪睡的空間了!田麗說,「潛規則」永不滅,各國皆然,「就是嫖客和高級妓女的行為,這現象在演藝圈很普遍,只是有些沒爆出來。」她說,市場經濟是有需求必然有供給,由此形成「產業鏈」,有買家就有賣家,想鑽門路的就會鑽,不願做的,拿錢砸還是不做。

The sensational news highlights the moral issue of prostitution. It is because the “criminals” have a high social status that this incident got special attention. If the working class commits the crime, the society wouldn’t give a damn about it. The fact is, prostitution is forbidden in law but condoned in real world. This article aims to explore prostitution from the perspective of morality, clarifying its “should” and “should not” by the libertarian and Kantian philosophy respectively. The line of argument is borrowed from Michael Sandel’s two books, Justice and What Money Can’t Buy.

According to libertarians, justice is connected to freedom. People are free to choose for themselves the value of the things exchanged. Thus the ideal of an unfettered market is produced, wherein goods and services are freely sold and bought by consenting individuals. Libertarian philosophy emphasizes the autonomy of self. They object to interferences from the government, moral legislation being one of them, which includes the ban on prostitution or homosexual marriage. Their central argument is that since I own myself, I can do whatever I like with my body, like being a prostitute, selling my body and even killing myself. I am the master of myself; I do nothing wrong, as long as my act doesn’t hurt others, and I can even benefit others by gratifying their sexual desire or saving their life! This logic sounds solid enough: two consenting individuals carry out their contract, each reaping what they need. This free market logic validates prostitution on the ground of mutual benefit. The headline news fits this argument in the sense that both parties consent to the sexual deal without hurting anyone else. Both get what they want---the actress, a big fortune; the bureaucrat, sexual gratification. There is also no problem of fairness in this deal. Both made this choice voluntarily. There was no coercion involved here, as in the case of cheap prostitution when one disadvantaged side desperately needs money to support her family. Since neither the actress nor the bureaucrat is the “disadvantaged” side desperately needing money to sustain life, the “fairness objection” to prostitution doesn’t apply here. The actress is more like the “upscale prostitute” who likes the work and freely chooses it (What Money Can’t Buy 112). So, we may say that the free market logic excludes the possibility of moral censure in this case.

Contrary to the libertarian conception of autonomy as “I do what I like,” Immanuel Kant regards autonomy as acting according to a law produced by pure reasoning, not according to the dictates of nature or social convention (Justice 109). True autonomy lies in doing what is right for right’s sake, not in doing whatever I like. And the right thing is determined by pure reasoning. Prostitution is an act yielding to the dictates of nature---sexual desire. Therefore, it is not autonomy as defined by Kant, because the desire is not chosen by pure reasoning; it rushes within my body beyond my control, the so-called “dictates of nature.” Then, what is it the right thing determined by reason? Here is Kant’s argument: “human beings are not entitled to offer themselves, for profit, as things for the use of others in the satisfaction of their sexual propensities “(Justice 131). Kant considers prostitution immoral because it degrades humanity by using the female body as a means to the ends---sexual gratification. The act reduces human beings to objects; there is no soul left but the sexual organs sold and bought. So, in Kant’s view, an ideal sex should involve the union of soul and body, which can uplift humanity. In other words, only when sexuality leads to the union of body and soul can human dignity be kept (Justice 131-2). In What Money Can’t Buy, Michael Sandel reiterates this point by eliciting the “corruption” opposition to prostitution. This argument views prostitution as a “form of corruption that demeans women and promotes bad attitudes toward sex” (112). The “bad attitude” means the violation of the norms that should govern sex. That is, market values corrupt the meaning of sex in human life. When sex becomes a commodity ready to be sold and bought, it deprives true intimacy between two persons, both physically and spiritually. Furthermore, prostitution erodes the value of marriage, in which love plays a central role with sex serving to unite two people in body and soul.

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The Hours examines the unique female consciousness of being. From the feminist perspective, it may be acclaimed a subtle and exquisite masterpiece. Yet, mundane viewers may decry it as a jejune bemoaning of the white, middle-class women, nothing less than a portrait of bourgeois ennui. Admittedly, the Marxist disciples are justified to criticize the three females’ lives as self-indulgent and self-conscious, because they are free from economic burdens as suffered by women in poor countries. While poverty-stricken women struggling for survival are left no extra energy to question the meaning of their life, these rich, white women have the leisure to ponder over the meaning of their existence. In proletarian view, the repeated quest of “who am I” is a sign of intellectual arrogance bred by material abundance. So, let’s explore the three women’s life and see if it’s really the bourgeois ennui that gives rise to such an unhappy life.

In this film, three women’s lives are fatefully intertwined through a book, Mrs. Dalloway. In 1923, Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) wrote this book on the brink of mental collapse. In 1951, Laura (Julianne Moore) devoted herself to reading this book while entrenched in a boring marriage life. In 2001, Clarissa (Meryl Streep) unsatisfactorily enacted the role of this book’s main character, Mrs. Dalloway. To me, the most unforgettable line was uttered by Richard (Ed Harris), a gifted writer dying of AIDS, when he commented on Clarissa’s life: “Oh, Mrs. Dalloway----Always giving parties to cover the silence.” Somehow, “cover the silence” has lingered in my mind for years.

What’s the charm of these three words “ cover the silence” anyway? Something significant about female identity is hidden here.

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