我不配的知名度

二月 29, 2008

知名度和成就或许就像是一个铜钱的正反面,但也不见得真的如此。杰伦《我不配》的MV让人想起了这古老问题。

当年Chopin来到巴黎,差些向Friedrich Kalkbrenner重新学琴。为什么?那时Kalkbrenner在巴黎的知名度很大而Chopin还没什么有名气,因此高傲地劝说Chopin向他学琴三年。这让那时的Liszt和Mendelsohnn大感不解。这段师徒关系最终只持续很短的时间,而百多年后的今天又有几个听过Klakbrenner?有知名度和有成就可以是两回事。

这几十年来的娱乐圈子更是如此。明星的知名度近乎远超一切领域的重要人物,但是,这不见得和他们对社会做出的贡献成正比。远不成正比。在那五光十色的环境中,本来,知名度和成就就没有关系。知名度更多是明星当下和未来捞金的“本钱”,他们在那行业中的竞争优势。

只是,在媒体的渲染和公司的包装下让我们觉得他们“hou sai lei”。

另一方面,其实他们正以非常不明智的方式提升知名度;那些所获得知名度有着很高的成本。就像《我不配》MV的杰伦要拍个拖还得那么偷偷摸摸,且“见(歌)迷死”;陈冠希拍的自爽照虽然是为着自爽,却又招惹了大中华地区几亿人的相继观赏。

还是Benjamin Graham说得好:市场短期内是个投票器,长期上是个称重机。低成本的高知名度——多半以成就为基础的知名度——需要时间的检验和给予并加以熬炖才能端上桌来。那需要的时间有多长?没有人有确实的答案。

nucifera: 这是一篇很有趣的探讨。有趣的地方在这里:西楚霸王项羽是这个behaviour economics model的典型代表,而那破釜沉舟则是典型的代表行为。为什么?

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By JOHN TIERNEY
Published: February 26, 2008

The next time you’re juggling options — which friend to see, which house to buy, which career to pursue — try asking yourself this question: What would Xiang Yu do?

Xiang Yu was a Chinese general in the third century B.C. who took his troops across the Yangtze River into enemy territory and performed an experiment in decision making. He crushed his troops’ cooking pots and burned their ships.

He explained this was to focus them on moving forward — a motivational speech that was not appreciated by many of the soldiers watching their retreat option go up in flames. But General Xiang Yu would be vindicated, both on the battlefield and in the annals of social science research.

He is one of the role models in Dan Ariely’s new book, “Predictably Irrational,” an entertaining look at human foibles like the penchant for keeping too many options open. General Xiang Yu was a rare exception to the norm, a warrior who conquered by being unpredictably rational.

Most people can’t make such a painful choice, not even the students at a bastion of rationality like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Dr. Ariely is a professor of behavioral economics. In a series of experiments, hundreds of students could not bear to let their options vanish, even though it was obviously a dumb strategy (and they weren’t even asked to burn anything).

The experiments involved a game that eliminated the excuses we usually have for refusing to let go. In the real world, we can always tell ourselves that it’s good to keep options open.

You don’t even know how a camera’s burst-mode flash works, but you persuade yourself to pay for the extra feature just in case. You no longer have anything in common with someone who keeps calling you, but you hate to just zap the relationship.

Your child is exhausted from after-school soccer, ballet and Chinese lessons, but you won’t let her drop the piano lessons. They could come in handy! And who knows? Maybe they will.

In the M.I.T. experiments, the students should have known better. They played a computer game that paid real cash to look for money behind three doors on the screen. (You can play it yourself, without pay, at tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com.) After they opened a door by clicking on it, each subsequent click earned a little money, with the sum varying each time.

As each player went through the 100 allotted clicks, he could switch rooms to search for higher payoffs, but each switch used up a click to open the new door. The best strategy was to quickly check out the three rooms and settle in the one with the highest rewards.

Even after students got the hang of the game by practicing it, they were flummoxed when a new visual feature was introduced. If they stayed out of any room, its door would start shrinking and eventually disappear.

They should have ignored those disappearing doors, but the students couldn’t. They wasted so many clicks rushing back to reopen doors that their earnings dropped 15 percent. Even when the penalties for switching grew stiffer — besides losing a click, the players had to pay a cash fee — the students kept losing money by frantically keeping all their doors open.

Why were they so attached to those doors? The players, like the parents of that overscheduled piano student, would probably say they were just trying to keep future options open. But that’s not the real reason, according to Dr. Ariely and his collaborator in the experiments, Jiwoong Shin, an economist who is now at Yale.

They plumbed the players’ motivations by introducing yet another twist. This time, even if a door vanished from the screen, players could make it reappear whenever they wanted. But even when they knew it would not cost anything to make the door reappear, they still kept frantically trying to prevent doors from vanishing.

Apparently they did not care so much about maintaining flexibility in the future. What really motivated them was the desire to avoid the immediate pain of watching a door close.

“Closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a price to avoid the emotion of loss,” Dr. Ariely says. In the experiment, the price was easy to measure in lost cash. In life, the costs are less obvious — wasted time, missed opportunities. If you are afraid to drop any project at the office, you pay for it at home.

“We may work more hours at our jobs,” Dr. Ariely writes in his book, “without realizing that the childhood of our sons and daughters is slipping away. Sometimes these doors close too slowly for us to see them vanishing.”

Dr. Ariely, one of the most prolific authors in his field, does not pretend that he is above this problem himself. When he was trying to decide between job offers from M.I.T. and Stanford, he recalls, within a week or two it was clear that he and his family would be more or less equally happy in either place. But he dragged out the process for months because he became so obsessed with weighing the options.

“I’m just as workaholic and prone to errors as anyone else,” he says.. “I have way too many projects, and it would probably be better for me and the academic community if I focused my efforts. But every time I have an idea or someone offers me a chance to collaborate, I hate to give it up.”

So what can be done? One answer, Dr. Ariely said, is to develop more social checks on overbooking. He points to marriage as an example: “In marriage, we create a situation where we promise ourselves not to keep options open. We close doors and announce to others we’ve closed doors.”

Or we can just try to do it on our own. Since conducting the door experiments, Dr. Ariely says, he has made a conscious effort to cancel projects and give away his ideas to colleagues. He urges the rest of us to resign from committees, prune holiday card lists, rethink hobbies and remember the lessons of door closers like Xiang Yu.

If the general’s tactics seem too crude, Dr. Ariely recommends another role model, Rhett Butler, for his supreme moment of unpredictable rationality at the end of his marriage. Scarlett, like the rest of us, can’t bear the pain of giving up an option, but Rhett recognizes the marriage’s futility and closes the door with astonishing elan. Frankly, he doesn’t give a damn.

nucifera: 这是人类世界一项非常重要的活动——储存所有植物物种的种子。如今这地球植物的物种数量正在严重的锐减,为了使得日后还有机会在繁衍,并且运用相关的物种,这是一项非常必要的举措。

我们人类在种植农作物时,往往会大量淘汰大量的相似物种并只保留其中一些非常有经济收益的。但是,这些经筛选的物种虽然能提高经济收益,却未必能抵抗一些病菌,或者是气候的改变。因而,我们需要未雨绸缪,而不是让大量的物种在这世界消失。

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By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Published: February 29, 2008

LONGYEARBYEN, Norway — With plant species disappearing at an alarming rate, scientists and governments are creating a global network of plant banks to store seeds and sprouts, precious genetic resources that may be needed for man to adapt the world’s food supply to climate change.

This week, the flagship of that effort, the Global Seed Vault near here, received its first seeds, millions of them. Bored into the middle of a frozen Arctic mountain topped with snow, the vault’s goal is to store and protect samples of every type of seed from every seed collection in the world.

As of Thursday, thousands of neatly stacked and labeled gray boxes of seeds — peas from Nigeria, corn from Mexico — reside in this glazed cavelike structure, forming a sort of backup hard drive, in case natural disasters or human errors erase the seeds from the outside world.

Descending almost 500 feet under the permafrost, the entrance tunnel to the seed vault is designed to withstand bomb blasts and earthquakes. An automated digital monitoring system controls temperature and provides security akin to a missile silo or Fort Knox. No one person has all the codes for entrance.

The Global Vault is part of a broader effort to gather and systematize information about plants and their genes, which climate change experts say may indeed prove more valuable than gold. In Leuven, Belgium, scientists are scouring the world for banana samples and preserving their shoots in liquid nitrogen before they become extinct. A similar effort is under way in France on coffee plants. A number of plants, most from the tropics, do not produce seeds that can be stored.

For years, a hodgepodge network of seed banks has been amassing seed and shoot collections in a haphazard manner. Labs in Mexico banked corn species. Those in Nigeria banked cassava. Now these scattershot efforts are being urgently consolidated and systematized, in part because of better technology to preserve plant genes and in part because of the rising alarm about climate change and its impact on world food production.

“We started thinking about this post-9/11 and on the heels of Hurricane Katrina,” said Cary Fowler, president of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, a nonprofit group that runs the vault. “Everyone was saying, why didn’t anyone prepare for a hurricane before? We knew it was going to happen.

“Well, we are losing biodiversity every day — it’s a kind of drip, drip, drip. It’s also inevitable. We need to do something about it.”

This week the urgency of the problem was underscored as wheat prices rose to record highs and wheat stores dropped to the lowest level in 35 years. A series of droughts and new diseases cut wheat production in many parts of the world. “The erosion of plants’ genetic resources is really going fast,” said Dr. Rony Swennen, head of the division of crop biotechnology at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, who has preserved half of the world’s 1,200 banana types. “We’re at a critical moment and if we don’t act fast, we’re going to lose a lot of plants that we may need.”

The United Nations International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, ratified in 2004, created a formal global network for banking and sharing seeds, as well as for studying their genetic traits. Last year, its database received thousands of new seeds.

A system of plant banks could be crucial in responding to climate crises since it could identify genetic material and plant strains better able to cope with a changed environment.

Here at the Global Vault, hundreds of gray boxes containing seeds from places ranging from Syria to Mexico were moved this week into a freezing vault to be placed in suspended animation. They harbor a vast range of qualities, like the ability to withstand drier, warmer climate.

Climate change is expected to bring new weather stresses, as well as new plant pests into agricultural regions. Heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions will produce not just global warming but an increase in extreme weather events, like floods and droughts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded.

Already three-quarters of biodiversity in crops has been lost in the last century, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Eighty percent of maize types that existed in the 1930s are gone, for example. In the United States, 94 percent of peas are no longer grown.

Seed banks have operated for decades, but many are based in agricultural areas and few are as high-tech or secure as the Global Seed Vault. They have often been regarded as resources for hobbyists, scientists, farmers and others rather than as a tool for human survival.

Their importance and vulnerability have become apparent in recent years. Seed banks in Afghanistan and Iraq were destroyed during conflicts in those nations, by looters who were after the plastic containers that held the seeds. In the Philippines, a typhoon bore through the wall of a seed bank, destroying numerous samples.

In reviewing seed bank policies a few years ago, experts looked at the banks in a new light, Dr. Fowler said: “We said, we may have some of the best seed banks in the world, but look at where they are: Peru, Colombia, Syria, India, Ethiopia, the Philippines. So a lot of us were asking, what’s plan B?”

The goal of the new global plant banking system is to protect the precious stored plant genes from the vagaries of climate, politics and human error. Many banks are now “in countries where the political situation is not stable, and it is difficult to rely on refrigeration,” Dr. Swennen said. Seeds must be stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius, that is, well below freezing, and plants that rely on cryopreservation must be far colder.

“We are inside a mountain in the Arctic because we wanted a really, really safe place that operates by itself,” Dr. Fowler said. Underground near Longyearbyen, just 600 miles from the North Pole, the seeds will stay frozen despite power failures. The Global Crop Diversity trust is also financing research into methods for storing genetic material from plants like bananas and coconuts that cannot be stored as seed.

The vault was built by Norway, and its operations are financed by government and private donations, including $20 million from Britain, $12 million from Australia, $11 million from Germany and $6.5 million from the United States. The effort to preserve a wide variety of plant genes in banks is particularly urgent because many farms now grow just one or two crops, with very high efficiency. Like purebred dogs perfectly tailored to their task, they are particularly vulnerable to both pests and climate change.

Scientists are also working to learn more about the skills encoded in the genes of each banked seed — crucial knowledge that is often not recorded. Ultimately, plant breeders will be able to consult a global database to find seeds with genes suitable for the particular climate challenge confronting a region — for instance, a corn with a stalk that resists storm winds or a wheat that needs less frequent water.

Just at a time when it is important to preserve biodiversity, economics encourages farmers to drop crops. But those seeds may contain traits that will prove advantageous in another place or another time. Scientists at Cornell University recently borrowed a gene from a South American potato to make potatoes that resisted the late blight fungus, a devastating disease that caused the Irish potato famine.

“You need a system to conserve the variety so it doesn’t go extinct,” Dr. Fowler said. “A farmer may make a bowl of porridge with the last seeds of a strain that is of no use to him, and then it’s gone. And potentially those are exactly the genes we will need a decade later.”

By LiveScience Staff
12 February 2008

The best “catches” in dating land may be the worst choices in the long-run, new research shows.

Popular people who monitor themselves carefully in social situations and thereby appear to be the most socially appropriate are often highly sought after as romantic partners, a study finds, but these people show less satisfaction and commitment in relationships than socially-awkward people.

By self-monitoring, people assess how their actions affect others and adjust to fit the appropriateness of the situation. They screen their words and behavior to suit the people around them.

“High self-monitors are social chameleons,” said Northwestern University professor of communication studies Michael E. Roloff.”And, because they’re quick to pick up on social cues, are socially adept and unlikely to say things upsetting to others, they are generally well-liked and sought after.”

Self-monitoring is often a helpful attribute.

“Research finds [self-monitors] to be excellent negotiators and far more likely to be promoted at work than their low self-monitoring peers,” Roloff said.

But there’s a downside for high self-monitors when it comes to their romantic relationships.

“High self-monitors may appear to be the kind of people we want to have relationships with, but they themselves are less committed to and less happy in their relationships than low self-monitors,” Roloff said.

The problem seems to be that they can’t turn the self-monitoring off.

“The desire to alter one’s personality to appropriately fit a given situation or social climate prevents high self-monitors from presenting their true selves during intimate interactions with their romantic partners,” Roloff said. “High self-monitors are very likeable and successful people. However, it appears they’re just not deep.”

Roloff and co-authors Courtney N. Wright and Adrienne Holloway conducted a study of 97 single young adults to investigate the effects of self-monitoring on romantic relationships. The results will be detailed in the journal Communication Reports.

The researchers surveyed study participants about the levels of emotional commitment in their romantic relationships and assessed their degrees of self-monitoring, intimate communication, levels of emotional commitment, relational satisfaction and relational commitment.

They did not survey the partners of study participants. “That may be something we eventually should look at,” Roloff said.

High self-monitors seem to avoid face-threatening interactions and honest self-disclosure. Thus partners of these people may be completely in the dark about the extent of their significant other’s degree of commitment and regard.

“It’s not that high self-monitors are intentionally deceptive or evil,” Roloff said. “They appear to have an outlook and way of achieving their goals that makes them attractive to us socially but that prevents them from being particularly happy or loyal in their romantic relationships.”

Conversely, the researchers found that low self-monitors — people who are the least concerned with social appropriateness and are unlikely to mask their feelings or opinions to avoid confrontation or preserve their self-image — are more committed to and more satisfied with their relationships.

Those awkward people who always seem to be sticking their feet in their mouths may ultimately be more genuine and capable of intimate relationships. However, their honesty and loyalty can extract a price from their partners, because they may be more likely to say blunt and hurtful things.

Fortunately, Roloff said, self-monitoring is normally distributed, so most people end up with a partner who falls somewhere in the middle. A person who moderately self-monitors may have great social skills and the ability to be unguarded with their partner when necessary.

艳照门里的唯一赢家

二月 26, 2008

在陈冠希的淫照事件中,我不得不佩服谢霆峰。用陶杰的话来说,他“一顶绿帽从头戴到脚趾头”,甚是可怜。若没有非常人的忍辱功夫,这口气是没法把它给吞下来。肥肥的逝世不只救了Edison,多少也遮掉谢霆峰的那顶帽子。

但事实上,肥肥的逝世更救了社会大众。艳照门像是让许多媒体重犯过high的老毛病,对这种鸡毛蒜事大幅渲染、着墨精细,忍不住对这番事情宣传一番。Oh my god,本来对这些小鸟事不大关心的群众也给你们那“不遗余力”地宣传弄得开始热衷起来,晋升至农历新年的热门话题。肥肥的离世绝对救赎了娱乐刊的头版新闻。

或许这本来就是传媒的conspiracy。看看陶杰的文字:

“艺人影霪风暴,有疑似图片女主角之女士现身面对,获讚勇敢,坏事变好事。凡事不宜太过负面,此事积极乐观的一面:其一,本来农曆新年期间,是香港印刷媒体的澹季,港人大量外游,报刊杂志销情下降,但艺人影霪风暴,具有「明天唔知又轮到边个的裸照曝光」的悬疑性与追看性,澹季刺激报刊销路,保障报贩与发行商的盈利收入,在这段期间登广告的商户也间接受惠,促进经济。”

他的说法有点道理。

在东方社会这种丑闻案要减低其对社会大众的负面效应,最好的方法不是大肆报导——大肆报导只是便宜了传媒业——而是减少报导,减少事件的曝光率。我们从来就不是处在一个优质社会,丑闻案大量的映入人们眼帘只会造成prudish的轰动,更加扩散艳门照的负面影响。不是说小孩大人遇见了这种事后就会“经一事,长一智”或是“懂得自我警惕”。你就慢慢等。

做个总结陈词:这艳照门的事件里社会大众是最大的输家——而大肆报导的传媒是唯一的赢家。

平壤上的纽约爱乐

二月 26, 2008

原来,带领New York Philharmonic到北韩平壤的是Lorin Maazel。一位鬼才指挥家。

当年中国和美国的初始建交从兵乓开始,电影《阿甘正传》中Forrest还代表美国去了中国交流。如今来到了北韩,情况有些转变——这次从伟大的音乐开始,除了Wagner的Prelude to Act III,其他的音乐作品都是出自美国本土极具代表性的伟大作曲家。

一个伟大的交响乐团,再加上一个伟大的指挥家,不知道平壤的观众们听了心中到底有何感想。据《纽约时报》的报导,好些New York Philharmonic的团员对北韩当地的贫富悬殊感到难过;Violinist Katherine Greece说得最直接:

“It’s painful. It’s the duality of people who want to show you everything beautiful that represents their country. At the same time, it’s very sobering because I know what’s beyond the hotel and the banquet.”

那么,在New York Philharmonic的演奏下,对于Gershwin那首An American in Paris里头那繁华、极具魅力的巴黎都市,相较与北韩那遍国存在的落后城镇他们心里是否会升起点点感伤?

还有Dvorak的”From the new world” symphony。乐曲里的“mi so so mi re do”是否有激起他们对于安定、舒适的家园的向往?还有第一和第四乐章的主题是否有让他们想起了自身在恶劣的环境中不断挣扎、向上的那段艰辛历程,是否有给予他们足够的勇气继续地走下去,因为他们的国家到现在还因着不明智的制度而落后不已?

而这些复杂又真实的情感,相信在Maazel的诠释和指挥下将是更深刻的流露出来。听过他指挥Tchaikovsky的Fantasy Overture of Romeo & Juliet的人们应该能想象得到:在全曲最优美的几段音乐中,仅仅凭着对Brass instrument的简单塑造就能把刻苦铭心的爱情给演活了出来。

在这极具历史性的音乐会上Lorin Maazel说了这句话:“Someday a composer may write a work titled, ‘An American in Pyongyang”。是的,希望能有这么个一天。那时,平壤应该是和平、民主、自由而且生活富庶的大城市。