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Friday, October 28, 2011

Deception

Denise Mina 的有声书。

最近又是听这本书 (设定 Glasgow) 又是看电视剧 Case Histories (设定 Edinburgh),搞得我满脑子苏格兰口音,半睡半醒时脑子里漂浮着苏格兰音的字词 ...

虽然受到 Michael Connelly 的推崇和评论界的追捧,我还是得鉴定为跟我气场不合。节奏太慢,主流文学气太重。因为节奏慢,我基本上把谜底都猜得七七八八。算了,不追她了。

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Uncommon Therapy



过去在好几处听说过 Milton Erickson (1901-1980),精神病医生,催眠疗法大师,在二十世纪中段据说很有名气,追随者后来在他那套催眠疗法上系统建立立了NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) 疗法。但是现在的心理学和精神病学里就不经常看见他被提到。

这本书不是 Milton Erickson 写的,而是他的徒弟 Jay Haley 写的,类似学生给老师传记,把老师的病例笔记拿出来整理剪辑一下发表。里面的 cases 写得很神奇,很悬乎。

可以看出为什么 Erickson 的治疗方法后来不仅没变成主流,而且在眼下的文献里很少提到。第一,他行医的时代 (1930年代到1970年代) 医学界和精神科行内的职业准则与现代差别很大,很多当时的合理行为放到现在就有违 ethics。例如他经常给病人下直接的命令,尤其是在催眠状态下发出明确的指令,改变病人的思想,行为,甚至记忆;他还经常瞒着病人安排一些场合与冲突,让病人在不知情的情况下改变对某件事的 obsession。过去医学界的态度比较 paternalistic,替病人作主,医生出于“为你好”的动机,决定基本上全掌握在他手上。后来 bioethics 的发展方向渐渐偏向提高病人的地位,医生需要尽量跟病人开诚布公,让病人掌握选择权(哪怕他们选择得“不好”)。

第二,他的治疗手段和方法非常独特而随意,甚至充满幽默感,我觉得别人根本没法学,也无法系统化之后加以推广。当然,心理治疗实际上都是因人而异的,但是一些根本的技巧还是有规律可循,可以系统地教授、练习、掌握,但是 Erickson 的那一套,似乎很大一部分是建立在他自己的直觉和经验之上,看样子不是随便谁都能掌握的。

*****

Call me a cynic. 我在惊叹的同时又产生一些 skeptical 的念头。写书阐述病例是弗洛伊德开创的精神分析学的传统,很多精神病学家,尤其是流派创始人,写很多本书,记录病例和治疗成果,给自己的理论奠定基础,这些书一般比较通俗,吸引了专业之外的读者。别的医学专科没那么多通俗作品,也没这个传统。这本书里,Haley 直接引用了许多 Erickson 自己记录总结的病案,每一例都是神奇而成功,有一些案例(不是全部)给读者留下“一点即通”的印象,仿佛 Erickson 很轻松地通过一两次催眠就彻底治愈了顽固持久的焦虑或者纠结。我就想,就算是大师也不会百发百中吧?只写成功不写失败,很容易造成偏颇的印象。

同时又想到,心理/精神治疗的一个严格准则是保密性,其实不仅保护了病人的隐私,也可保护医生的名声。除非病人自己跳出来公开地说不仅没被治好还被治坏了,一般情况下弗洛伊德可以随便宣扬自己的方法多么有效,成功率多么高,多么手到病除,也没人能证实他的成功率是90%还是50%还是30%。一个比较有想象力的人甚至可以编造病例内容,天马行空,虚构病历 --- 追查此类书籍中的病人以及现实中的后续几乎是不可能的。

Milton Erickson 是不是象 Haley 描述得那样神奇,我当然不可能知道,不过这些案例读着很有娱乐性倒是真的。

Friday, October 21, 2011

形式

前两天在考虑写一篇小说,全部描写外在的东西:环境,外貌,动作,对话。完全没有心理活动或者 judgment (这人相貌凶恶,语言粗俗,显然是个街头混混)。自然主义。

试验一下,因为我总是爱写心理活动。

然后忽然想起其实电影或者舞台剧本什么的都是这种形式,然后又想起是不是应该参考一下海明威,据说他的小说都是这种形式,我一直没兴趣,因为我偏爱读心理活动。不过还是算了,看了又会被影响乃至模仿。

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Scarecrow

Michael Connelly 的小说很适合听有声版的。这本讲的是精通网络的坏人多么如虎添翼神通广大,听得我心惊肉跳,因为书里的那些手段都很 ... 普通,一点也不高精尖,完全可以想象一个 Google 或 Facebook 的员工随手即可做到,并不需要什么电脑高手黑客。小说中的男主,洛杉矶时报的犯罪版记者 Jack McEvoy 调查连环杀手,在网上 research 的时候被凶手觉察,猎手反被捕猎,凶手轻而易举地就把他的祖宗八代调查得清清楚楚,打入他的 e-mail 和报纸的整个 e-mail 系统,查到他的私人讯息,兵不血刃就打入他的银行账户,信用卡帐户,手机帐户,搞得他提不出钱,打不通电话,住不上旅馆,跟别人通不上消息,行踪被查得一清二楚。过程么,其实真的不难 ...

小说中的另一段情节也让我心有戚戚。女主角 Rachel Walling 被联邦调查局开除,因为她不识时务,得罪了局里的势力,以“跟被调查对象发生不正当关系”为借口而陷害 (这个“被调查对象”是 Jack McEvoy)。离职之后,跟 Jack 上床,Jack 说现在你可以想跟谁搞就跟谁搞,不必担心丢工作了。我听到这里忍不住吃吃地笑出来。

顺手狗了一下这本书的前传,是1996年出版的 The Poet。然后,看见他的小说系列又受刺激了:这个人经常一年出两本侦探小说!GRRM 你不羞惭吗?!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Case Histories



Many years ago I showed a first-person-perspective short story of mine to a male classmate. He said, "The hero is a woman, because no man thinks or behaves like this." Ever since then I have not written anything from the male POV. Now I know the young man who was my classmate and the young woman who was I had no idea how diverse and unpredictable the male and female minds are. Nevertheless, I've always been a little embarrassed and insecure about my understanding of the male perspective or the lack of.

So imagine my shock and delight at hearing author Kate Atkinson confess, "Jackson Brodie is basically a woman --- he is me." on an interview about the TV series adapted from her novels featuring the affable private detective. And the producer of the series happily copped to the fact that the character is a "female fantasy." I had thought the same thing when I had watched the episode last Sunday, but in not so enthusiastic a mindset. Yet, now that I hear the two women admit to it cheerfully, why not? Why the hell not indeed!

Sigh. Bordie is such a Teddy bear. This is not Michael Connelly or George Pelecanos. This is the female fantasy, baby!

I loved the first episode, primarily thanks to the scenery in and around Edinburgh (aaaahhhhh...), and the variety of Scottish accent, which tickles me to no end.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Funny

Saturday evening at 7, I was sitting at the nearest Barnes and Noble's cafe area, eating a piece of cake-like thing known as an Oreo Stack while flipping through the latest Us Weekly. Mind you, I don't usually read Us Weekly (really), but I have heard about their reputation for being trustworthy (really). They claim to double check and confirm their sources before printing any celebrity gossip and break divorce news earlier than National Inquirer.

So, I was flipping through the issue and saw an interview with a 22-year-old secretary in San Diego who claimed to have had a one-night stand with Ashton Kutcher, who is a comedy actor of minor fame for a few badly reviewed movies and a celebrity of major fame for having married Demi Moore. Anyway, the spunky blonde told the magazine reporter that she was invited by some friend's friend to a party held in a hotel suite that was occupied by the said actor, who subsequently invited to get into the hot tub with another girl after everybody supposedly got drunk. Kutcher then invited them to have sex with him. The offer was declined by the other girl but this girl was game. It was almost daybreak, apparently, when they went to bed.

Anyway, all this was mildly amusing. The reporter wisely printed a few of the girl's "like" in the piece to go along with the photographs. She is indeed cute and fresh faced. I was very intrigued by the interviewer's methodical approach to questioning her (a "civilian" rather than a professional celebrity). The person (I neglected to check the reporter's name) interrogated the girl like a seasoned detective, gentle but systematic, probing for all the detailed, such as whether the actor wore condoms during their acts (he did not) and whether he was tender afterward (the girl was ambiguous).

The girl said they started small talking after they both dozed off for an hour or so. The actor said that since he had to act 90% of the time, he enjoyed not acting in moments like this. He then asked a bit about the girl's background. She said she was a Lutheran from Texas. He exclaimed, "OMG, are you a Republican?" And he proceeded to ask her whether she knew anything about politics. The girl grumbled a bit and admitted that she'd heard of Rick Perry, the current governor of Texas. The actor asked her whether she'd vote for Perry next year, and she said she did not know.

This political detail is so out of place in this story that I just burst out laughing in the bookstore. Perhaps it had something to do with my having watched the political movie "The Ides of March" not an hour before. Perhaps it reminded me of my years of living in Los Angeles and knowing how indifferent the West Coast masses feel toward politics. I don't know why but the scene in my head --- a professional celebrity and his one-night-stand in bed talking about politics in a San Diego hotel --- was immensely hilarious.

Due South Season 1

I can't believe they made so many episodes in season 1. A grand total of 24! I'm still on Ep. 1.17.

No wonder the show had lukewarm reception in the US, but was a huge hit in Canada. The humor, sentiment, and characterization are entirely Canadian.

Underneath the absurdity and jokes is a light melancholy, which most likely has something to do with broken families and lost love. Just a touch. I am completely powerless to resist it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pan

把这篇 Knut Hamsun 小说放在 Kindle 上好久了都没去读。

上高中的时候在一本中篇小说集里看见这篇,狂热地着迷,翻来覆去看了很多遍。

来美国之后又找来英文版读了一遍,但是觉得很迷惑,似乎跟第一次读中文版时的感觉完全两样。

前阵子终于重新读了一遍。令我惊诧的还不是作品本身的风格如何如何,而是我自己的反应。原来二十年前的着迷完全是典型的一厢情愿的单恋,对方的性格缺陷被粉红的眼镜彻底过滤掉视而不见,而中年的眼睛立刻看穿猥琐心理,回想起当年的痴迷真是哭笑不得。

虽然猥琐,但还是很能激发我的共鸣,说明我们是同类型的猥琐!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tsunami Song

刚在广播上听见,觉得东西结合的调调很有趣。赶快记下来省得忘了。

Kenny Garrett's Tsunami Song.

Friday, October 7, 2011

New Scan Cook



在 PBS 的数码副台上看见一个挪威做饭节目,说实话饭看上去也就那么回事儿,但是主持人 Andreas Viestad 特别逗。他总是在室外做饭,很多时候是阳光明媚(但是看上去不暖和)的夏天,但也有一集是飘着小雪的冬天,他穿着大衣在户外示范 cheesecake 的做法。今晚看见的节目里,Viestad 在湖边树林里搭了两块平石头,下面烧树枝,在石板上烤面包和牛排,然后面包夹牛排,涂上芥末权当蔬菜,我看得笑死了。还自己跑到湖里去捉小龙虾 (crawfish),手指被夹得痛,把小龙虾煮了之后得意地说: Revenge is a dish best served hot. 笑死我了。很北欧的幽默。

Miles Davis




In general I'm drawn first and foremost to piano, sometimes to bass, and am very rarely affected deeply by any of the brass.

Yet, listen to this Davis' rendition of "Round About Midnight" (Thelonious Monk's standard). It is soooooo intimate, so raw but tender. I'm so taken by his trumpet portion that I have tears in my eyes. It is not to say John Coltrane's tenor sax in the second half is any less, but it is just not as personal and vulnerable as the first half and the ending.

Now I want to get Davis' recordings.

Here is a piano version by Monk himself. Also beautiful.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lehrer vs. Gladwell

Jonah Lehrer and Malcolm Gladwell are an interesting pair of writers. They have covered many of the same subjects or, when they seem to cover different subjects, I soon realize that they are actually examining two sides of the same coin. I have not seen either of them acknowledge the influence of the other writer, yet their shared concerns are too numerous to ignore.

Take, for example, the topic of too many kinds of toilet papers or pasta sauces on the supermarket shelves. Lehrer thoroughly investigated the neuropsychological mechanisms of choosing in his book "How We Decide" and continues to write about it (see his recent blog entry here). He complained about feeling paralyzed standing in front of the countless brands and types of toothpastes.

Tonight I stumbled on a video of Gladwell's talk about the marketing evolution of spaghetti sauce (BTW, I think he is wrong about the "authentic" Italian sauce) he gave in 2007. It is as if he was giving a direct answer to Lehrer: Look, I'm giving you a history lesson to explain why there are so many choices for every product in the supermarket and why it's not a bad thing! (On this issue I actually side with Lehrer, as I too am sick of being overwhelmed by too many choices with hardly any substantive difference. But Gladwell is also not wrong about most people feeling happier when they imagine that there is a product "just for them.")

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Winter Thief



Jenny White's novels, especially this one, remind me of GRRM to an extent. Both seem to have a coolly detached and fatalistic view of the powerlessness of individuals (including kings and pashas) swept by the currents of history. Fatalistic, but not cynical, an attitude derived from their uncommonly vast knowledge of and clearheaded understanding of the real histories of nations and politics.

Her delineation of all the forces at play in and around the Ottoman Empire at that particular moment --- January 1888 --- is almost as impossibly complicated and unbearably tense as the moment before King Joffrey ordered the beheading of Ned Stark. International socialists, Armenian nationalists, Ottoman bureaucrats and secret police, Kurdish troops, everyone has his or her own agenda. Everyone is at odds with each other and, as we already know, bureaucrats who are supposed to be on the same side are more dangerous than your enemies, and the knife is more likely to be plunged into your back than your front.

The macrohistorical elements are beautifully and credibly weaved together. The political landscape is accurately drawn. The ultimate effect is a sense of inevitability and pessimism, especially if you know that the storm brewing and temporarily averted in this book did arrive a couple of decades later, in real life, with its full force of mayhem.

Yet while reading it I was frequently bothered by small flaws that buzz around like gnats around the light on a summer night. Not bad enough to erase the accomplishment in other aspects, but annoying enough to damage my enjoyment. Most of characters are distinct enough thanks to colorful ethnic details, but their motivation from one scene to another or in certain moments are crude and unbelievable. Transitions from scene to scene are sometimes sloppy and illogical. Dialogs and relationships are occasionally unrealistic. The author lets slip her weakness in plotting with some awkward narrative choices and overlapping exposition.

These flaws are not enough to make me throw the book down. In fact, her pacing is excellent. I didn't zip through it in one day like I did with "The Abyssinian Proof," but did stay up till 2 am to finish the last stretch.

White is simultaneously sharp and sloppy. Most important , besides the plotting problem, I can't help but feel deeply unsatisfied with the uneven characterization. Something, a crucial ingredient for a great storyteller, is missing. I can't quite name it, but this ingredient has to do with a deep and organic insight, an unconscious and instinctive understanding of the heart. White seems to lack this instinct and fake it with overly intellectual analysis and argument.

GRRM, on the other hand, has this instinct in astonishing abundance.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hugh Laurie: Let Them Talk

昨晚看电视正好撞上大半 Hugh Laurie 到 New Orleans 拍摄的音乐会特辑节目 Let Them Talk。他请到一些颇有分量的当地音乐家跟他合作录制,挺有气氛的。Laurie 自己演唱加弹奏钢琴。

Hugh Laurie 唱得,嘿嘿,真的不咋地,至少我这么觉得。(Tom Jones 被采访的时候哼哼唧唧地说 Laurie 唱歌很,那个啥,有点象那个谁谁,而我,咳咳,那个啥啥,挺喜欢那个谁谁的。听得我乐坏了。)但我觉得他的钢琴还不错。更重要的是,我跟他的口味十分近似!他最迷 Blues ,选的歌都很好听,让我多次胳膊上刷刷地起鸡皮疙瘩。这是真爱啊 --- 可以从他痴迷的眼光里看得出,我对此非常理解和认同。

The Elegance of the Hedgehog (spoilers)



对我来说这本书很适合听有声版。如果是读字版的,肯定早就不耐烦扔一边儿去了;但是在上班路上一边开车一边一只耳朵听,两个读书者(一老一少)声情并茂,倒很有趣。尤其是稚气的童声抒发哲学感慨,效果很逗。

小说写得好像哲学教科书,基本上没什么情节,仅有的少量情节也都是滥俗的童话套路,可有可无。我听着听着,每句话里都少不了前缀后缀的复合词,忽然就想起 William Zinsser 写过的拉丁语系和英语的差别。拉丁语系的语言风格就是层层叠叠,绕来绕去,充满 flourish。古英语传下来的词儿和风格则质朴直接,简洁有力。不过现代英语亦吸收大量拉丁语词汇,令律师们疯狂滥用得不像样儿。

Hedgehog 中唠叨的学术气,不知是作者自身职业的浸淫还是拉丁语的天然文化遗产,我偏向于后者。但是同时,不知怎么作者让干燥无水分的人生思辨和哲学感慨听上去有种游戏的轻松感,我疑神疑鬼地觉得她对一老一少两个主角的 “深刻思考” (Profound Thought #4) 和高雅情趣其实带有点不太辛辣的调笑意味。对哲学系学生和教育系统大发牢骚尤其真实加逗人。

提到 Renee 喜欢的侦探小说时冒出 Michael Connelly 和 Henning Mankell 的名字来,不禁让我微笑。可惜我不看战争与和平,不知道能不能算得上品味有文化。

小说结尾让我联想起 "One Day",一般的 contrived,但是在这里倒也不让我多么反感。第一,我私心猜想,作者这么写,会不会是因为下不了手制造一个彻底的灰姑娘与王子从此幸福 ... 的结尾 --- 尤其是让读者脑补一对老头老太彼此上下其手乃至宽衣解带的情景!第二,结尾时 Paloma 的口气真是太日本小说了!想必是有意模仿日本小说中经常干掉主角,然后剩下的主角挥着小拳头发誓要“勇敢地活下去”这种桥段。

The novel struck me as setting a perfect tone of lightheartedness. Indeed a lighthearted tone is perfect for a philosophy professor's novel. Best leave the heavy and complex and "heart of darkness" stuff to real novelists.

Petyr Baelish of Sichuan: Echoes of the 3 Kingdoms

Sometimes my mind makes unexpected associations. A few days ago I was talking to a couple of friends, who are of Sichuan (or Szechuan) ances...

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