2007年11月26日 星期一


2007/11/26 在苗栗市 聽 Mr Tea 公司陳董事長說他多年前與其獨子陳先生John Chen 暢遊(爬)羅馬每一…….


From a series on EU capitals, today we'll visit the capital of Italy. According to mythology, Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of Mars, the god of war. Also known as "The Eternal City," Rome is home to ancient Etruscan tombs, imperial temples, churches, palaces and baroque basilicas, not to mention, of course, the Vatican. Many of the historical sites have figured prominently in films such as the Trevi Fountain in Federico Fellini's La dolce vita. Rome wasn't built in a day, and it certainly can't be explored in just a few days, much less fifteen minutes, but Dany Mitzman does her best here.

2007年11月20日 星期二

The New York Times Building by Renzo Piano.

Architecture Review

Pride and Nostalgia Mix in The Times’s New Home

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

The heart of the newspaper is the main newsroom, on the second, third and fourth floors, topped by a skylight and linked by stairways, with a wraparound balcony on the highest level.

Published: November 20, 2007

Writing about your employer’s new building is a tricky task. If I love it, the reader will suspect that I’m currying favor with the man who signs my checks. If I hate it, I’m just flaunting my independence.

Skip to next paragraph


Faces of the DeadInteractive Feature
A New Tower for The Times

More views of the Times tower, and a narration by the architecture critic, Nicolai Ouroussoff.

Vincent Laforet

The New York Times Building: The new headquarters by Renzo Piano.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

The 14th-floor cafeteria of the Times building offers expansive views.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

An enclosed garden of birch trees and moss greets visitors to the lobby and TheTimesCenter auditorium.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

The newsroom is pierced by a double-height skylight well on the third and fourth floors.

So let me get this out of the way: As an employee, I’m enchanted with our new building on Eighth Avenue. The grand old 18-story neo-Gothic structure on 43rd Street, home to The New York Times for nearly a century, had its sentimental charms. But it was a depressing place to work. Its labyrinthine warren of desks and piles of yellowing newspapers were redolent of tradition but also seemed an anachronism.

The new 52-story building between 40th and 41st Streets, designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, is a paradise by comparison. A towering composition of glass and steel clad in a veil of ceramic rods, it delivers on Modernism’s age-old promise to drag us — in this case, The Times — out of the Dark Ages.

I enjoy gazing up at the building’s sharp edges and clean lines when I emerge from the subway exit at 40th Street and Seventh Avenue in the morning. I love being greeted by the cluster of silvery birch trees in the lobby atrium, their crooked trunks sprouting from a soft blanket of moss. I even like my fourth-floor cubicle, an oasis of calm overlooking the third-floor newsroom.

Yet the spanking new building is infused with its own nostalgia.

The last decade has been a time of major upheaval in newspaper journalism, with editors and reporters fretting about how they should adapt to the global digital age. In New York that anxiety has been compounded by the terrorist attacks of 2001, which prompted many corporations to barricade themselves inside gilded fortresses.

Mr. Piano’s building is rooted in a more comforting time: the era of corporate Modernism that reached its apogee in New York in the 1950s and 60s. If he has gently updated that ethos for the Internet age, the building is still more a paean to the past than to the future.

What makes a great New York skyscraper? The greatest of them tug at our heartstrings. We seek them out in the skyline, both to get our bearings and to anchor ourselves psychologically in the life of the city.

Mr. Piano’s tower is unlikely to inspire that kind of affection. The building’s most original feature is a scrim of horizontal ceramic rods that diffuses sunlight and lends the exterior a clean, uniform appearance. Mr. Piano used a similar screening system for his 1997 Debis Tower for Daimler-Benz in Berlin, to mixed results. For The Times, he spent months adjusting the rods’ color and scale, and in the early renderings they had a lovely, ethereal quality.

Viewed from a side street today, they have the precision and texture of a finely tuned machine. But despite the architect’s best efforts, the screens look flat and lifeless in the skyline. The uniformity of the bars gives them a slightly menacing air, and the problem is compounded by the battleship gray of the tower’s steel frame. Their dull finish deprives the facades of an enlivening play of light and shadow.

The tower’s crown is also disappointing. To hide the rooftop’s mechanical equipment and create the impression that the tower is dissolving into the sky, Mr. Piano extended the screens a full six stories past the top of the building’s frame. Yet the effect is ragged and unfinished. Rather than gathering momentum as it rises, the tower seems to fizzle.

But if the building is less than spectacular in the skyline, it comes to life when it hits the ground. All of Mr. Piano’s best qualities are in evidence here — the fine sense of proportion, the love of structural detail, the healthy sense of civic responsibility.

The architect’s goal is to blur the boundary between inside and out, between the life of the newspaper and the life of the street. The lobby is encased entirely in glass, and its transparency plays delightfully against the muscular steel beams and spandrels that support the soaring tower.

People entering the building from Eighth Avenue can glance past rows of elevator banks all the way to the fairy tale atrium garden and beyond, to the plush red interior of TheTimesCenter auditorium. From the auditorium, you gaze back through the trees to the majestic lobby space. In effect, the lobby itself is a continuous public performance.

The sense of transparency is reinforced by the people streaming through the lobby. The flow recalls the dynamic energy of Grand Central Terminal’s Great Hall or the Rockefeller Center plaza, proud emblems of early-20th-century mobility.

Architecturally, however, The New York Times Building owes its greatest debt to postwar landmarks like Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Lever House or Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building — designs that came to embody the progressive values and industrial power of a triumphant America. Their streamlined glass-and-steel forms proclaimed a faith in machine-age efficiency and an open, honest, democratic society.

Newspaper journalism, too, is part of that history. Transparency, independence, the free flow of information, moral clarity, objective truth — these notions took hold and flourished in the last century at papers like The Times. To many this idealism reached its pinnacle in the period stretching from the civil rights movement to the Vietnam War to Watergate, when journalists grew accustomed to speaking truth to power, and the public could still accept reporters as impartial observers.

This longing for an idealistic time permeates the main newsroom. Pierced by a double-height skylight well on the third and fourth floors, the newsroom has a cool, insular feel even as the facades of the surrounding buildings press in from the north and south. The well functions as a center of gravity, focusing attention on the paper’s nerve center. From many of the desks you also enjoy a view of the delicate branches of the atrium’s birch trees.

Internal staircases link the various newsroom floors to encourage interaction. The work cubicles are flanked by rows of glass-enclosed offices, many of which are unassigned so that they can be used for private phone conversations or spontaneous meetings. Informal groupings of tables and chairs are also scattered about, creating a variety of social spaces.

From the higher floors, which house the corporate offices of The Times and 22 floors belonging to the developer Forest City Ratner, the views become more expansive. Cars rush up along Eighth Avenue. Billboards and electronic signs loom from all directions. By the time you reach the 14th-floor cafeteria, the entire city begins to come into focus, with dazzling views to the north, south, east and west. A long, narrow balcony is suspended within the cafeteria’s double-height space, reinforcing the impression that you’re floating in the Midtown skyline.

Many of my colleagues complained about the building at first. There’s too much empty space in the newsroom, some groused; they missed the intimacy of the old one. The glass offices look sterile, and no one will use them, some said.

I suspect they’ll all adjust. One of the joys of working in an ambitious new building is that you can watch its personality develop. From week to week, you see more and more lone figures chatting on cellphones in the small glass offices with their feet atop a table. And even my grumpiest colleagues now concede that a little sunlight and fresh air are not a bad thing.

Even so, you never feel that the building embraces the future wholeheartedly. Rather than move beyond the past, Mr. Piano has fine-tuned it. The most contemporary features — the computerized louvers and blinds that regulate the flow of light into the interiors — are technological innovations rather than architectural ones; the regimented rows of identical wood-paneled cubicles chosen by the interior design firm Gensler could be a stage set for a 2007 remake of “All the President’s Men,” minus the 1970s hairstyles.

Maybe this accounts for the tower’s slight whiff of melancholy.

(hc加粗體) Few of today’s most influential architects buy into straightforward notions of purity or openness. Having witnessed an older generation’s mostly futile quest to effect social change through architecture, they opt for the next best thing: to expose, through their work, the psychic tensions and complexities that their elders sublimated. By bringing warring forces to the surface, they reason, a building will present a franker reading of contemporary life.

Journalism, too, has moved on. Reality television, anonymous bloggers, the threat of ideologically driven global media enterprises — such forces have undermined newspapers’ traditional mission. Even as journalists at The Times adjust to their new home, they worry about the future. As advertising inches decline, the paper is literally shrinking; its page width was reduced in August. And some doubt that newspapers will even exist in print form a generation from now.

Depending on your point of view, the Times Building can thus be read as a poignant expression of nostalgia or a reassertion of the paper’s highest values as it faces an uncertain future. Or, more likely, a bit of both.

夏目漱石 "猫塚"





蜷伏几案伴書讀 2004.03.10


夏目漱石38歲時所發表的處女作《我是貓》,是一本透過貓的眼光諷刺揶揄人類文明的小說。書中那隻出生於微黑濕濡之處、沒有名字的貓,後來 成為全日本最有名的貓。這隻淡灰帶黃的貓咪,模特兒是夏目家的黑色虎斑貓。夏目漱石次男夏目伸六所寫的隨筆〈貓墓〉,也提到過牠,是隻「(夏目夫人)拋出 去又爬進來,爬進來又被拋出去」的無名癩皮貓。



2007年11月16日 星期五



WSJ.com's Andy Jordan rides along with a New York City cabbie to see what passengers think of the new GPS-equipped taxis.

台北到台中約50分 不過因為是晚上 所以對於台中高鐵沒有仔細看一下

這回周二(13日)第一次從台北到嘉義 才早上10點就抵中油公司的訓練所
我注意到約20部 taxis在等 司機說早上出差的多 比較容易載課客--他們是挑選過的(車內有全台衛星....車齡必須5年內....) 每回要繳10元清潔費(由速博公司承包)....
司機還給名片 希望回程(15)再"服務" (訓練所有特約車 他們沒加入高鐵車



1967年開始,沒有中央投資的台語片跨不過彩色電影200萬的投資門檻,加上日本片大興、電視機成為主要家庭娛樂,台語片從業人員紛紛進入電視台 工作,台語片產量大衰。辛奇說,「台灣沒有三天的好風光,台灣人就是有這個毛病,什麼題材好就通通去拍,阿西一紅,一下子就七、八部以阿西為名的電影在 拍。」例如盲女系列受歡迎的時候,就立刻拍了《豔諜三盲女》、《盲女司令》、《盲女集中營》、《盲女大逃亡》,一窩風盲女紛紛出籠。當時,地方戲院的電影 看板開始出現男女主角人頭,銜接不相關的暴露外觀。許多電影開頭也剪進披著薄紗跳大腿舞或艷舞的影片,甚至片中也穿插國外進口的色情片,只希望賺錢。後來 台語片沒落,紡織業興盛,大甲帽就把台語電影的底片拿去做帽子內沿、襯衫衣領、或是提煉水銀。「最後一部台語片是楊麗花拍的《陳三五娘》,拍唐代的劇本。 所以我們常說『成也歌仔戲,敗也歌仔戲。』」薛惠玲說,「當年所謂的官方或是民間投資國語片會被留下來。台語片因為是個人民間投資,沒有好的保存單位,只 有剩餘價值。台語片消失在1981年,電影資料館從1989年開始進行全力搶救。有的是軍中巡演保存下來的底片,有的是從民營沖印公司大都影業庫房那裡搜 羅過來的,並且進行部分修復,大批的國語和台語電影被移放到狹小的資料館裡。」

講完台語片的心酸,拍過許多當時導演不敢拍的題材,譬如媽媽養兩個小白臉,談起自己的電影,辛奇還是開心的說,「我不大喜歡和別人一樣,別人不敢拍 的我都去拍,我最愛用蒙太奇。我當導演以來,最受影響的電影就是《升官發財》,就是因為它的片頭!一開始,導演拍一個小學裡的牆上四個紅色大字,『禮義廉 恥』,而每個字的上面都剛好有一條女性內褲,很諷刺,就叫不知羞恥。(大笑)看起來好壯觀。如果要我再拍電影,我每一部都要用這個開頭!」

有歌有舞有血有淚 春花夢露台語片五十年



1950年代開始,台灣有了不同性格的國語電影與台語電影。當時,國語電影最喜歡做的就是,拍一些揭露中共暴行、高談「建設復興基地、完成復國大 業」、頌揚台灣光明無限、好國民健健康康的政令片;或是在中影片廠搭美麗的景,拍一些不食人間煙火又正經八百的清純仙女,來個你愛我我愛妳的纏綿悱惻。相 反地,台語片因為不受省政府的重視,以及民間資金微薄下的十天拍一片短線操作,還被主流社會覺得有點低俗,如同歌仔戲與布袋戲一樣,什麼都拍!什麼都演! 沒有在怕!

2007年11月15日 星期四

Canadian Inuit Struggle to Uphold Traditions in Melting Ice

Flag of Nunavut Coat of arms of Nunavut
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Nunavut Sannginivut
(Inuktitut: Our land, our strength)
Map of Canada with Nunavut highlighted
Capital Iqaluit

Territory (pop., 2006: 29,474), north-central Canada. Nunavut (Inuktitut: "Our Land") is the result of Canada's largest land claim settlement, created to give the Inuit (see Eskimo), constituting more than four-fifths of Nunavut's population, a greater voice in Canadian government. Occupying an area of 808,185 sq mi (2,093,190 sq km), or one-fifth of Canada's landmass, it comprises the central and eastern parts of the former extent of the Northwest Territories, including Baffin and Ellesmere islands. Its capital is Iqaluit. The area was settled by ancestors of the Inuit about AD 1000. Vikings probably visited during the Middle Ages, but the first records of exploration are from Martin Frobisher's 1576 search for the Northwest Passage. The mainland was explored by Englishman Samuel Hearne in 1770 – 72. After passing through British possession, it was transferred to Canada in 1870. In 1976 a political organization called for creation of a territory to settle Inuit claims in the Northwest Territories. The proposal was approved by the Canadian government in 1993. Nunavut's first elections were held in February 1999, and the territory was inaugurated on April 1, 1999.

Canadian Inuit Struggle to Uphold Traditions in Melting Ice

In the first instalment of our series on how the efffects of climate change are being felt all over the world we turn to Canada. For most of the world, climate change is a theoretical concept -- something scientists and academics talk about. But in the Canadian Arctic, ordinary people are already feeling the effects of global warming. Inuit hunters have travelled on sea ice for centuries. And the latest generation to do so has noticed rapid sea ice changes in their lifetimes. Living Planet reports from the capital of the Arctic territory of Nunavut. (Reporter: Sara Minogue)

2007年11月8日 星期四


Dogwood (Cornus family) 【植】ミズキ.【植】水木

***** Location: Japan, North America, Europa
***** Season: Late Summer and others, see below
***** Category: Plant


yamabooshi (yamaboshi) no hana 山法師のはな Literally: Mountain priest
yamabooshi 山帽子 "Mountain Hat" (a play with pronounciation of kanji)
yamaguwa 山桑 "Mountain Mulberry"

The cornus family of plants comes in many variations and therefore different seasons as a kigo in other areas than Japan. See below.
In Japan, the flowers on the twigs are all looking up and it seems like snow on the branches. They grow on Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku in the mountainous areas.
Gabi Greve

Yamabooshi 山法師
Flowering from May to June. Yamabooshi means "mountain priest", since the round part in the middle of the flower reminds us of the shaven head of a priest and the four white petals are like the scarf worn by monk-soldiers on the famous temple Mt. Hieizan, Kyoto. The most famous of these mountain priest-warriours is maybe the brave Benkei, the companion of Yoshitsune. But that is a different story.

Hooshi (hoshi 法師) in the beginning was a term for a high-ranking priest who could explain the Buddhist teaching, but later the meaning became more wide to include any priest or monk, especially the ones from Hiezan, which is the meaning of "mountain" YAMA in the name of this flower.

In Autumn the red berries look almost like strawberries.

Many Pictures:


Dogwood Promenade in Hiroshima

We started the Dogwood Initiative 2001 in an effort to emulate the exchange of cherry blossom and dogwood trees that symbolized the friendship between the US and Japan at the beginning of the 20th century. We will create a beautiful dogwood promenade along the banks of the Kyobashi-gawa River as a living testament to the friendship between the US and Japan, representing for centuries to come the goodwill of the people of the US toward the people of Hiroshima.

5. Future Image of Dogwood Promenade
6. Dogwood Characteristics
7. Dogwood Volunteers
8. Dogwood Planting Ceremony



Cornus kousa, Japanischer Blütenhartriegel, Kousa Dogwoods

There is also a Chinese version.

Yamabooshi Plants in Japan

Worldwide use

North America


Cornus florida .. .. .. kigo for spring
Flowering dogwood blooms in the spring, as its new leaves are unfolding, and usually remains showy for 2-3 weeks.
Flowering dogwood occurs naturally in the eastern United States from Massachusetts to Ontario and Michigan, south to eastern Texas and Mexico, and east to central Florida. It grows in a variety of habitats throughout its range, but generally occurs on fertile, well drained but moist sites. Flowering dogwood is usually an understory component in mixed hardwood forests or at the edges of pine forests.


The bright red fruits ripen in September and are eaten by birds.
You can tell a dogwood by its bark...
Look at more pictures here:

and in this Plant Gallery


The flowering dogwood is the state tree and flower of Virginia, and the state tree of North Carolina, both southern states in the US. The dogwood flowers in mid April thru May in most Southern States.

"Dogwood, common name for a family of flowering plants distributed mainly in the temperate areas of the northern hemisphere, with a few species occurring in tropical South America and Africa. Of the 14 genera in the family, only the dogwood genus is native to North America. Members of the family are mostly trees or shrubs with simple, opposite leaves. Well-known exceptions, however, are the bunch berry, a perennial herb; and the pagoda dogwood, which has alternate leaves. Dogwood flowers are small and are produced in branched terminal clusters that are sometimes surrounded by showy white bracts. Thus, the so-called petals of the familiar flowering dogwood are actually bracts."


Many southern states have 'Dogwood Festivals'.

2004 Atlanta Dogwood Festival


Ireland (and the UK) :

Red Barked Dogwood 'Cornus alba Sibirica'
Cornus sanguinea "blood-red"

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Both are kigo for winter
The variety used in Europe is a shrub up to 1.50, possibly 2 metres tall at most. It is often planted as a hedge, or a copse along a roadside, and for most of the year is just plain shrubbery.

Once it has lost its leaves, it comes into its own, as its branches, all growing straight upwards and now becoming visible, are either red or brilliant yellow, and thus lend real beauty to the roadsides or hedgerows in winter.

Isabelle Prondzynski

Red Barked Dogwood 'Cornus alba Sibirica'

Small, creamy-white flowers in May and June and oval, dark green leaves, which redden in autumn and fall to reveal bright, coral-red stems. This red-barked dogwood is perfect for a waterside planting. To achieve the best stem colour chose a sunny site and hard prune the stems to within 5-7cm (2-3in) from the ground each March.

Cornus sanguinea
Sanguinea means "blood-red" referring to the coloured stems of this species which is a native of England, Ireland and east to Russia and western Asia. It is found in scrubs and hedges, often on chalk.
The winter shoots of this upright, deciduous shrub are reddish-green, sometimes completely green and different cultivars are valued for the varied colours of the winter shoots.
The leaves are mid-green, ovate and up to 10cm (4in) long, turning red in autumn. White flowers are borne in May or June in dense, flat cymes, up to 5cm (2in) across.
The fruit are spherical, matt blue-black, bitter and inedible. Once used as a source of lamp oil, their oily nature led to the dogwood being called the “wax tree”.
It was also called the “dog-tree” and “dogberry” because its fruit was considered unfit even for dogs.
Shakespeare gave the name Dogberry to a character in Much Ado About Nothing, indicating the prominence of the dogwood in British life at the time


Present from America heralds coming winter


The fall foliage is slowly moving down from the north of the country to the south, from the mountains to the fields. Even in Tokyo, where the arrival of each of the four seasons was slower than ever this year, the leaves are changing color on the sidewalks and gardens.

On flowering dogwood trees, the leaves first turned deep scarlet, and then pale brown as they entered the final chapter of their annual cycle.

Red spots appeared on green leaves and gradually spread like a dye. As if weighted by color, all the leaves bowed their tips to the ground, waiting for their time to return to earth.

The red of these dogwood leaves is difficult to describe. If I say the color of dried salmon or beef jerky, perhaps drinkers will understand. This year, as always, the dogwoods have delighted me with their flowers in the spring, colorful foliage in the autumn, and now little red berries.

Thursday was ritto, the first day of winter by the lunisolar calendar that divides the year into 24 sekki points. "Reki Binran," an 18th-century practical guide of calendar, says of ritto: "The cold deepens with the start of the winter chills."

But perhaps because of global warming, the turning of one season to the next seems to have become less clear. I am told that this winter, too, is expected to start on a mild note.

Flowering dogwood trees were brought to Japan during the Taisho Era (1912-1926), when the city of Washington, D.C. presented them to Tokyo in return for the cherry trees donated to the U.S. capital. In the language of flowers, dogwood signifies "return present."

Unlike the "multitalented" dogwood, the cherry pours all its life force into its spring blossoms. As the cold deepens in the coming days, the buds will have to stand cold to stimulate their growth next spring.

Near my home, there is a street lined with about 50 cherry trees that have been loved for 80 years. To keep them healthy, neighborhood residents have created a "register" for them.

A survey done this autumn found that the long, hot summer caused infestations by caterpillars and fungi, which further debilitated the already heat-stressed trees. The survey also confirmed that car exhausts have done damage.

One year ago, the No. 27 tree on the register was involved in a car accident. A moving truck hit and broke a large branch that stretched out over the road. But thanks to the ministrations of the locals who lovingly tended to the tree by disinfection and other measures, a new branch is now growing.

If this cherry tree can appreciate people's goodwill, I look forward to its "return present" next spring.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 8(IHT/Asahi: November 9,2007)

2007年11月4日 星期日

Silk Route jade rush 絲路掏玉





November 3, 2007

100,000 flock to join Silk Route jade rush

A emerald jade worth 9 million Yuan (1.2 million USD) at the 2007 China International Jewellery fair in Beijing

Smeared with mud and dust, men and women crouch in hollows they have dug on the banks of the river, scratching among the boulders for a stone to make their fortune.

Jade is their quarry. For thousands of years this precious stone has been treasured among Chinese who believe that it is imbued with mystical properties.

Now its price has rocketed. One gram of the best-quality jade can trade for as much as 10,000 yuan (£600), or 40 times the price of gold. The price has quadrupled this year alone. And so the wide alluvial banks of the Yarlungkax River are dotted far into the distance with the figures of treasure hunters who have joined a jade rush at an oasis on the fabled Silk Route.

They have not arrived by chance. The jade of Khotan, in western China, has been among the most sought-after, prized above all for its white colour that is famed as “sheep fat” jade.

The huge number of searchers – there are as many as 100,000 in the peak season in the spring – has fuelled anxiety among local officials, who fear the depletion of resources and damage to the environment, and have ordered a crackdown against private mining. But such edicts have done little to deter small-time panners like Yimin Narhun. The 25-year-old shovels out a ditch in which he can scrabble for stones while his wife and three-year-old son watch. He has been here for a week. “I have found nothing,” says the illiterate sheep farmer. “But you never know. One good rock and my fortune is made.”

Dozens of red, orange and blue bulldozers are lined up on the riverbank, a graveyard to the hopes of bigger investors. Commercial excavation has been banned, licences have been revoked and machinery stands idle. Village collectives who invested in trying their luck have been impoverished, by the regulations and their lack of success. But the desire to find just one tiny pebble of the rare nephrite jade is enough to inflame the ambitions of thousands more.

Mehmet has been panning for months and wanders over to join a group of fellow Muslims of the local Uighur minority as they crouch among the boulders. He holds out a green stone the size of his palm. The men turn it over and hold it up to the light. Mehmet wants five yuan (35p). One man hands over a 10-yuan note and pockets the stone. “This could bring me luck, you never know. But it’s basically worthless.”

The elderly Uighurs look down the river. “In the summer,” one said, “this whole place is black with people. If there are 5,000 searching then maybe 100 will find some good jade.” His companion joins in. “There’s always a chance, you just never know. And the price is now so high.” The Uighur jade seekers mention prices that seem to border on hysteria.

On a riverbank at the edge of town hundreds of Uighurs crowd together in a makeshift market. Some lay out their wares on wooden bedsteads: chunks of rock that look more like brown-veined stones than the stuff of dreams. Others open a fist to show a motley handful of pebbles from white to green to brown.

One merchant says that he has been in the business for two years. Mehmet Wuer is confused by the frenzy. “This jade is popular with the Han Chinese. I don’t know why they like it but they pay very high prices and so that’s good for us.”

Roadside shops line the streets. Khotan jade, cut into shapes from tiny smiling Buddha heads to shrimps, monkeys, flowers and fruit, sell for spectacular sums. A small white Buddhist figure carved from mutton-fat jade is on offer for 100,000 yuan (£6,500).

One shopkeeper trained as a stonecutter and made his way three years ago to the site of the most famous jade in China to try his luck. Zhang Yonggang has no regrets. “In times of chaos people buy gold. In times of peace, people buy jade.” China’s surging prosperity has created a class of consumers nostalgic for the most precious items from their past.

Virtue and reward

— Jade from Khotan was sent as tribute to Chinese emperors. The seals with which an emperor stamped state documents was cut from it

— It has long been associated with purity and morality. Confucius saw 11 virtues in the stone as models for human behaviour

— Superstition holds that jade can ward off evil and bad luck

— The wealthy were buried in suits sewn together from tiny discs of jade believed to prevent decomposition

— An ancient proverb goes: “A gentleman is like jade”

2007年11月2日 星期五

'Water: H2O = Life'

Exhibition Review | 'Water: H2O = Life'

The Blue Planet’s Lifeblood: A Finite Flow

Published: November 2, 2007

It is impossible to enter “Water: H2O = Life,” the exhibition opening tomorrow at the American Museum of Natural History, and not feel excitement at its possibilities. You walk into darkened space where a tumbling aqua-lighted waterfall seems to descend from the ceiling; letters projected on its turbulent surface spell “water” in multiple languages.

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Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

The Blue Planet Earth: Science on a Sphere shows views of earth.

This is affecting and clever because the seeming cascade really is formed of water in its vaporous state. And you cannot pass through that curtain of mist without taking some notice of water’s extraordinary qualities: Like few other substances on earth, the show points out, water can exist as a solid, liquid and gas at everyday temperatures and pressures.

By the projected words you are also quickly made aware of water’s power to flow beyond national boundaries. The exhibition — created by Eleanor Sterling, director of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the museum, in conjunction with the Science Museum of Minnesota and other science museums — is also meant to have a global reach. It will travel to South America, Asia, Australia and other locations in North America. Its objects include a meteorite from Australia (containing 15 percent water), live Southeast Asian mudskippers (彈塗魚 fish that carry water in their bodies as they slither onto land) , a pipe fragment from Mexico used to irrigate fields some 1,500 years ago, and a display devoted to the environmental impact of the Three Gorges Dam in China, the world’s largest concrete structure. And given the exhibition’s concerns with environmental education, there is also much here that will attract younger visitors, who may not always be prepared for immersion into the watery realm of environmental debate.

But the exhibition also inspires considerable frustration. It presents a free-flowing flood of data and has an overly insistent and predictable message. That message is, admittedly, a virtuous one, because water, the exhibition points out, is not a renewable resource. What exists on earth now is the only water we will ever have, and less than 1 percent of it is available for human use. In 27 countries, most in Asia and Africa, convenient water is unavailable to half the population; meanwhile many rivers there are polluted with sludge, and even the Ganges, the sacred river of India, harbors harmful waste.

Problems of access, purity and misuse have been aggravated, the exhibition suggests, by the very innovations meant to ameliorate them. During the last 50 years 47,000 large dams have been built around the world, supplying 20 percent of the world’s electric power. But dams disrupt wildlife, block migration routes and displace human communities. In addition, the show says, “most irrigation dams deliver less water and are less profitable than expected.”

Industrial activity has caused other ecological disasters. A stark room contains models of tufa towers — unearthly pillars of limestone — left exposed at Mono Lake in California, after water was diverted to Los Angeles in the 1940s. A children’s game suggests that the melting of Arctic ice from global warming is making life hazardous for polar bears. And aquatic animals, we’re told, “make up about 60 percent of all endangered species in the U.S.”

Industrialized society (particularly in the United States) bears the brunt of the blame. How much water is used daily per capita, for example, in different countries? A display shows that 151 gallons a person per day are used in the United States for “domestic and municipal use,” 118 gallons are used in Britain and just 10 in Ethiopia. Then, a game-show-like quiz on video screens asks which beverage takes the most water to produce, including water used to grow and process the plants: coffee, orange juice or tea? The answer: coffee, one cup of which contains 74 gallons of “virtual water.” Cattle farmers are even more water-profligate because of all the grain used as feed: 600 gallons of water are poured into the average hamburger.

But if modern society creates problems, don’t count on technology to solve them. Consider desalination, which makes seawater potable. Though its “environmental costs,” such as “marine organisms sucked into intake pipes,” are difficult to quantify, the exhibition says, they “may be serious.”

“What Can We Do?” asks one panel. The only people who seem to be living in aquatic harmony here are nonindustrialized cultures: a diorama of the Tonle Sap, a lake and river system in Cambodia, shows homes floating atop pontoons on a freshwater lake; inhabitants celebrate the water and its plentiful harvest of fish.

The premodern becomes the model. Instead of dams, the exhibition suggests using wind, solar and tidal power. If desalination is necessary, reduce damages, the exhibition says, by using wind power, as is done in Perth, Australia. At the exhibition’s end, video touch screens give advice for environmental fixes around the house: Don’t pour cooking oil down the drain. Replace old water-wasting toilets.

All of this may seem to come out of an environmental commonplace book, offering a familiar mainstream vision. But had the exhibition looked at its subject more closely, it might have broadened environmental understanding rather than simply followed current doctrines.

First of all, comparing water use is more complicated than just adding up daily gallons per person. At the exhibition water is being treated as the absolute measure of value, the main factor used to assess activities. But this makes for skewed comparisons. United States residents may waste some of those 151 gallons a day, but “domestic and municipal use” covers a lot of ground, including commerce and invention. It would be surprising if “domestic and municipal use” were even remotely comparable in an undeveloped country.

And do wind, water and solar power really have the pastoral qualities they take on here, so only their virtues are recognized and not their costs, while technologies like desalination receive short shrift? The mining and manufacturing required to create, say, solar panels, surely demand substantial resources; and the quantities of power required mean more research is needed for large-scale use.

There is almost a romanticizing of the premodern here, which makes solutions seem much simpler than they really are — a bit like the working model of a PlayPump shown here, which pumps water as a wheel is spun. In sub-Saharan Africa about 700 of these turning wheels have been installed as manual merry-go-rounds: Children play, and water pumps. Neat. But if they are an answer, it is only to small-scale problems.

What about Western modernity and technology? Are they culprits, as the exhibition so often implies? Sometimes, surely, but there are also unmentioned examples of premodern activities that have altered environments with as much finality as a modern dam. Some historians have suggested that misuse of irrigation systems by ancient Southwestern American Indians salinized the soil, turning it barren. Failures to rotate crops or excessive clearing of trees may have altered the terrain of the ancient Near East. Meanwhile today’s technologically advanced societies are so hyperconscious of environmental effects that their enterprises have the potential to become the most efficient and least damaging.

Many of the exhibition’s implicit assumptions allow little room for such considerations. The usual suspects are lined up and familiar prescriptions offered, as if a morality tale were being recounted. Other forms of environmental villainy and accomplishment are not fully acknowledged. The notorious draining of the Aral Sea in southwest Asia, for example, is called an “irrigation story” caused by farmers growing water-hungry cotton in the middle of the desert. Unmentioned is that the problem began in the Stalin era by Soviet demands for cotton. Tyranny rather than foolhardy farmers created the disaster.

Stranger still is the recounting of the ecological catastrophe that ravaged almost 8,000 square miles of marshland in Iraq. The exhibition says Iraqi troops poisoned the marshland and diverted its water supply “during the Gulf War of 1991.” But actually the destruction occurred after that war, when Saddam Hussein brutally crushed a Shiite rebellion. Marsh reclamation began after 2003, we are told, “when Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s regime collapsed,” a curiously passive description that fails to recognize what happened or credit the forces that made reclamation possible.

Given the international reach of this exhibition and its potential influence, such errors and omissions are troubling. By stripping these events of context, the exhibition also makes it seem as if environmental issues existed apart from history. Unfortunately, these and other weaknesses make it too easy to dismiss valid environmental concerns.

I left the exhibition in a strange state, both enlightened about water and the creatures who dwell within it, but rebelling against the rigid conceptual shape into which it has been poured. I ended up caring about water a lot, but convinced of a lot less.

“Water: H2O = Life” opens tomorrow and runs through May 26 at the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West and 79th Street; amnh.org; (212) 769-5100 or (212) 769-5200. Timed tickets are $22; $16.50 for students and 60+; and $13 for 12 and younger.