Hong Kong

Why are there no blockbusters?

Usually I go gung ho when it comes to flights and movies. Since I started flying more regularly, I’ve managed to watch roughly 4-5 films a flight which is decent given an average of 2 hours per movie and a 12 hour flight. One of the things about Emirates that I love is that the entertainment system is live once you board. There’s no need to wait until the flight has taken off or worry about it shutting off during lay-overs. For some reason though, perhaps due to my general tiredness after a taxing school year, the selection of movies available weren’t that appealing.

Admittedly, I’d already watched Skyfall the night before, but there seemed to be a general lack of big movies. Jack the Giant Slayer was always a bit bland in my view, nothing too good can result from a heavily digital film that originates from a child’s tale. I suspect that there were quite a few movies designed to be released for the summer period which unsurprisingly weren’t yet available on flights yet. A lot of this year’s Oscar films were available though, although I never did get time to watch Argo. To be fair, the Hobbit was available, but seeing as I hadn’t seen the earlier ones, it seemed a bit silly to watch the mammoth of a movie.
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Top Posts of the Year 2012

Another year, and a rather busy year, and the world hasn’t ended. So time permitting, PaulLau.com can continue. I haven’t quite managed to post once a day, but somehow I think reality is going to put a damper on that idea either way. There were as many views in 2012 as there have been since this blog started in October 2009. We also had the best day so far with nearly 2,000 views January Here’s a look back at the top posts of 2012.

1. WUDC 2012 Tab and [RESULTS]
Once the prize of WSDC related posts, it seems that WUDC has managed to claim the first position this year. A lot of interest in this post, particularly at the end of 2012 with WUDC 2013 Berlin happening at the same time.

2. WUDC 2012 [MOTIONS]
I’ve stopped posting event details, but I still think motions are incredibly useful both for recording purposes and for other people to use as a reference.

3. WSDC 2012 Team Tab by Speaks [RESULTS]
WSDC sneaking back into the picture here. An interesting post given the unconventional nature of the way of sorting teams. Some interesting ingishts could nevertheless be gleaned though.

4. WUDC 2012 Grand Final Video
A very strong Grand Final performance by all the teams involved. Well recomended!

5. WSDC 2012 Top 10 Speakers
6. WSDC 2012 [MOTIONS]
7. WSDC 2012 Round-up [RESULTS]
8. WSDC 2012 Final Team Rankings
9. WSDC 2012 Grand Final [RESULTS]
10. Exams
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Fabricating a HK Tiananmen incident?

I don’t count myself amongst the pro-government camp when it comes to politics in Hong Kong. I generally side with the pro-democracy camp. But regardless of political affiliation, one cannot but help be concerned by the anti-Chinese bias of many western media companies, particularly those in the US.

Take for example NYTimes’s coverage of the protests against national education and their not so subtle attempt to link these protests with the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing in 1989:

The protests in Hong Kong, a former British colony returned to China in 1997, have been somewhat similar to the much larger Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing in 1989: large numbers of students have flocked to public spaces in front of government buildings, staging sit-ins and, in some cases, hunger strikes.

All true, thankfully modified by the phrase “somewhat similar”. Now here comes the more subversive bit:
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A history of National Education in Hong Kong

I’ve been rather reluctant to comment on the National Education furor in Hong Kong that anyone with even half and eye on the news will have noticed. (It has been well noted that even foreign and international news organizations have covered this issue.) This is because (1) as a general rule, I prefer not to make hasty comments in the heat of any particular issue and (2) because I frankly have not had the time nor interest to truly inform myself of this issue to the level that I feel is required for any comment to be made.

An aspect of this is the need for context which is so often easily lost in the heat of the moment. So before we all blow our heads off on this issue, let’s consider the events that have led up to this point, a neat little summary from the SCMP.
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The 97%

HK Magazine isn’t usually of the sort of material that one wants to share on a serious blog. But they usually have some very nice features, and this week’s feature on Hong Kong’s Glass Recycling System is one of those well thought out and well researched articles that is worth spreading. Let’s do something about the 97% of glass that isn’t recycled, go check out the full article at http://hk.asia-city.com/city-living/article/hong-kongs-glass-recycling-system.

To share our concern about Hong Kong’s underdeveloped glass recycling infrastructure, as well as to fulfill our social responsibility as a media organization, HK Magazine has created a digital petition with the goal of urging the Environmental Protection Department to set up a glass recycling bin on SoHo’s Bridges Street. If you want to show your support, simply visit http://www.hk-magazine.com/glass-recycling and complete the form. The petition will last for 10 weeks from Aug 29, and the number of signatures we have collected will be revealed at the end of that period.

The demise of democracy: Part 3 (Asia)

For the past half century, democracy has been the political ideology. The cold war saw a concerted effort to promote democracy, led by the USA. Since then, more and more countries have moved towards some form of democracy as the specter of communism was beat back. The idea of everyone’s opinion being considered in an equal and fair manner, without prejudice, captured the imagination of millions around the world. The recent spate of political upheaval in Arab stats, dubbed the Arab Spring, was heralded as the dawning of true democracy in the Middle East. But reality presents a far more murky picture, one where democracy’s success and future are both called into question. Here’s an examination of where democracy stands across the world.

Previously: The West (USA), The West (Europe)

ASIA

Although Myanmar has now held elections, freed democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and shown increasing openness, it remains a far cry from having true democracy. Japan seems to be going through new prime ministers like they’re merely disposable cups with six different prime ministers in just as many years. It hardly seems to be a good sign of a stable and mature democracy when the prime minister’s position seems to be nothing more than a revolving chair with a new occupant every year or so.

In Asia, Thailand has been thrown into political turmoil in the aftermath of Thaksin Shinawatra’s removal/departure. Much like the extremes of the US political system, the red-shirt vs. yellow-shirt divide has become a symbol of the paralysis of the Thai political system. With occupation followed by street battles and prime ministers brought down by legal tussles, Thailand has seen a period of increasing turmoil. In fact, the pitch street battles forced transport systems to shut-down and even required military involvement in an attempt to end them. Whether Yingluck Shinawatra will have better luck healing the divide and moving Thailand towards the democratic utopia as advertised remains to be seen. She faces a difficult dilemma because, as noted by Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University#, “If she doesn’t try to bring Thaksin back, Thaksin won’t be happy. If she tries to bring him back, his opponents won’t be happy”.

Hong Kong might appear to be moving towards democracy, but I would really compare it to inching like a snail. I’ve argued that Hong Kong’s political process is getting more mature, that is not the same as saying Hong Kong is making significant moves towards democracy. The other city-state to consider is Singapore, which whilst far from a very open democracy, nevertheless commands considerable economic might and still manages to provide amply for its civilians.

Of course, all this happens in the massive shadows cast by China which has managed to be simultaneously prosperous and anything but a democracy. Although it has fallen from it’s glory days of 8% growth, China still manages a more than respectable 7% growth rate and has managed to beat most expectations with its economic growth. Although aspects of the system may appear to be supportive of independence and democracy (what with ‘independent’ candidates and all), it would be pretty hard to convince anyone that there are plans for anything other than continuing the one party rule. And as many people in China would concur, what’s so bad about that. Whilst China has a long way to go to improve, there is nothing yet to suggest conclusively that it would be entirely impossible without democracy.

Next time: The Middle East

TEDxLionRock 2012

Following the GEILI Youth Summit, GEILI also hosted TEDxLionRock 2012. What was particularly cool was that it was hosted with the help of 14 other TEDx organizers. I was quite surprised to learn that TEDxFulbright existed as it is a non-geographical and non-institutional TEDx event. I wonder if TEDxUWC or TEDxRhodes could similarly exist. Here are just a few of the interesting ideas/facts/tidbits I picked up over the course of the day.

  • Marriage can be a highly effective solution to the problem of high-school drop outs with no intention of studying. [Ashok Rathod of Oscar Foundation]
  • By tracking the eye and what it focuses on, it might be possible to detect autism at a much younger age. [Chong Ying Wang]
  • Toilets can also be used as an income source for families as they waste can be sold as fertilizer and other useful products. Thus, the more trips to the toilet you make, the more money you earn! [Angeli]
  • There exists an entirely Chinese community in northern-Thailand. [Armstrong Siu]

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