Chinese Newspaper Takes The Onion Seriously

This is one of those times when fact is funnier than fiction.

Two weeks ago satirical news web site The Onion named North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un as their sexiest man alive for 2012.

With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true. Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper’s editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile.

Here’s the picture that they ran with the piece:

The article also lists the previous winners of this award:

  • 2011: Bashar al-Assad
  • 2010: Bernie Madoff
  • 2009: Charles and David Koch (co-winners)
  • 2008: Ted Kaczynski
  • 2007: T. Herman Zweibel

Funny stuff on its own but it gets better because the English edition of China’s People’s Daily Online thought this was for real and ran the story yesterday.  The news item headline is “Edited and translated by Zhang Qian, People’s Daily Online” – but after the first sentence, the rest of the piece is simply the rest of the article from The Onion (although they neglect to list the previous winners).

Except … the PDO’s article comes with no less than FIFTY FIVE PICTURES of the dashing Kim … riding a horse, surrounded by school kids, holding a bouquet of flowers, surrounded by female army officers, waving a lot.

After a crappy couple of days, this cheers me up so much.


Update and Announcement

Well, turned down for yet another job today.  Other candidates with “more relevant experience.”  You all know how it goes, I’m sure.

Next week I’m in London, business trip, in part for the part time IT strategy consulting I’ve been doing, and also to photograph a convention there.

In line with that, I’d like to direct you to my other blog, Spike’s Photos.

You probably already know that I am one of the partners at PASM Workshop.  And with all the free time I’ve got lately, I’ve started to pick up a few paid photography gigs and my work is starting to appear in print.

So I’ve done some overhauls to my Spike’s Photos web site, to make it look less like the web site of a guy with a blog who takes some pictures and more like the site of a photographer someone would hire.

I’m still after a permanent IT management position, but for now at least I’m available to work as a photographer for business conferences, corporate events, parties and other events, concerts and club dates and also portraits and head shots.

Please take a look at the site and if you like what you see, feel free to pass the details along to your friends and colleagues.  Thank you.

The Latest Facebook Hoax Everyone Is Falling For

I’m seeing this posted on peoples’ timelines, often from people whom I would have thought knew better.  Here’s one variation:

In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, writings, illustrations, paintings, photos, and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention). My written consent is required at all times for commercial use of the above.

I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook’s direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates.

It’s just utter nonsense.

First of all, when you sign up for an account with Facebook, you have agreed to their terms of service.  This is what is called a Contract.  One side cannot unilaterally change the terms of signed contract.  That’s a little something called The Rule of Law.

Second of all, the terms of service of Facebook indicate that you remain the copyright holder of anything you post but that you are granting Facebook a right to use your posts.  You cannot revoke this right.  But you can adjust your privacy settings and account settings to limit or prevent your stuff from being accessed by others.

Finally, yeah, so they’re now a public company.  So what?  True, they’ve got stockholders to answer to and profit/growth targets to reach.  But they’ve always used your likes and posts in their advertising.

If you don’t like it, don’t get an account or delete your account.

If you don’t believe me, check this post on Snopes or this one from GigaOm or this one from Slate.


Facebook users cannot retroactively negate any of the privacy or copyright terms they agreed to when they signed up for their Facebook accounts nor can they unilaterally alter or contradict any new privacy or copyright terms instituted by Facebook simply by posting a contrary legal notice on their Facebook walls.


… just to be clear, referencing a bunch of legal hokum on your Facebook profile will have absolutely no effect on what Facebook can and cannot do with your information.

There is a bigger question at play here.  More than a billion people are on Facebook.  And somehow, what might be a significant percentage of those people who use Facebook so distrust it that they are willing to believe whatever anti-Facebook hoo-hah comes their way.  It’s a question for others to resolve.

Facebook, like anything else, is a tool.  Don’t use it, or use it with caution and learn the facts.  Simple as that.


Clockenflap is Next Weekend

Clockenflap, Hong Kong’s biggest music festival, returns on December 1st and 2nd.  It will be held outdoors at the West Kowloon Cultural District, running from noon till 10 PM each day.

This year’s line-up features 74 bands (announced so far), both international and Hong Kong based.  Headliners include Primal Scream, De La Soul, Azealia Banks, The Klaxons, Brandt Brauer Frick and !!!.  Some of the Hong Kong bands appearing are Chochukmo, Poubelle International, Killer Soap, Reorientate and The Sleeves.

In addition to the music, there will be installations, a film tent and a kids’ area.

Tickets are an incredibly reasonable HK$390 for one day or $690 for both days.

You can see all the details at the Clockenflap web site.

Could I Live in Yuen Long?

Rents are skyrocketing in most of Hong Kong.  My current lease is coming up soon and I’m seeing that the asking price for places the same size as mine in Sai Kung is about 50% higher than what I’m currently paying.  Plus, well, I’ve been out of work more than 5 months and I can barely afford the rent I’m paying now.

So where are the relative bargains in Hong Kong?  The “outlying islands” like Lamma and Cheung Chau, cheaper because these islands are reachable only by boat.  I don’t really want to do a ferry commute daily and my girlfriend definitely doesn’t like the idea.

Sheung Shui and Fanling.  Almost as far north as you can get and still be in Hong Kong.  Not too horrible.

And then there’s Yuen Long.  The good things about Yuen Long include the fact that Open Rice lists more than 1,500 restaurants in the district.  There’s a ton of shopping there.  And it’s a major transportation hub, with express buses that reach Hong Kong island in 30-45 minutes.

Yesterday I went up and met two friends who live there.  We went for yum cha and they introduced me to one real estate agent.  This guy showed me several places, the last of which was 2 floors in a brand new, never-been-lived-in, village house going for about 40% less than I’m currently paying.  It was the sort of thing where you’d have to walk 5-10 minutes to get out to the main road and then wait for a mini-bus to take you to the town center, probably a 10 or a 15 minute ride.

I wasn’t certain how my gf would react to all of this so I brought her to Yuen Long today.  We walked around the town and her verdict was, “I’m not just okay with it, I love it.”

The other upside is that my mother hates the second bedroom in our current place and says she could never live here with us.  This particular house we saw, the second bedroom also had its own en suite bathroom and was significantly larger.

What’s the down side?  We know a lot of people in Sai Kung.  We know practically no one in Yuen Long.  In some ways moving there would seem to make a lot of sense.  But I’m reticent to pull the trigger on the move just yet.

Anyone out there have any thoughts on this?

LCD Soundsystem/Miles Davis Mash-Up

LCD Soundsystem’s New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down together with Miles Davis from the Elevator to the Gallows sessions.  Wonderful.  Here’s the link just in case you can’t see the video embedded below (sorry it doesn’t format well within my template).

Why So Many Chinese Have Overbites

From the NY Times review of the book Consider The Fork by Bee Wilson:

The British, on the other hand, with their abundance of firewood, went in for enormous haunches of beef spit-roasted in front of a roaring hearth. And spit-roasting entailed a universe of now defunct technologies like gravity jacks, which replaced child- or canine-powered turnspits. (There was even a dog of that name with short legs and a long body, specially bred, as Wilson puts it, to “trundle around” in a large wheel connected to the spit with a pulley.) Medieval Britons consumed the final product by clamping the meat between their incisors and tugging or cutting off the hunk that remained in their mouths with the sharp personal eating knife they carried at all times. By the 18th century, they had adopted the fork, and in changing their table manners also changed their physiognomy. Wilson cites the provocative theories of the aptly named anthropologist Charles Loring Brace to show that the overbite we consider a normal part of our anatomy is only about 200 to 250 years old. If we still used the inelegant technique Brace termed the “stuff-and-cut,” we would have an “edge-to-edge” bite like that of chimpanzees. The fossil record shows that the Chinese, who have been cutting up their food very small for centuries, developed an overbite 800 to 1,000 years earlier than Europeans.



Hong Kong Food Bloggers Never Write Bad Reviews

That’s one of the first things I was thinking while reading this hilarious takedown by the NY Times of Guy Fieri’s latest restaurant in New York.

Hong Kong food bloggers (at least most of the English language ones) are not visiting restaurants anonymously, as a paying customer might.  They are generally writing their reviews based on invitations from the restaurant or tasting sessions held for the media.  (I’ve heard tell that some of these bloggers actually call restaurants to ask/beg/threaten for a free meal.)  However, real food critics go to restaurants anonymously so that they are treated the same as any other customer, pay for their meal, and often revisit the same spot more than once before finally writing a publishing a review.  Meanwhile, the English language magazines in HK will criticize restaurants to some extent, but a one-star review is extremely rare, since they’re not about to alienate potential (or current) advertisers.  About the only place that consistently published negative reviews was this guy, who stopped just over a year ago.

Anyway, Pete Wells has written this review of Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, located in Times Square.  I don’t think the review will matter to the success of the restaurant.  Guy Fieri is a celebrity chef and the people who go to Times Square will be mostly star-struck tourists who’ve watched him on TV and never look at the New York Times.

Be that as it may, here are some tasty nuggets from the review, which is set as a series of questions to Fieri, starting with wondering if he’s ever actually eaten there:

Did panic grip your soul as you stared into the whirling hypno wheel of the menu, where adjectives and nouns spin in a crazy vortex? When you saw the burger described as “Guy’s Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion + pickle), SMC (super-melty-cheese) and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche,” did your mind touch the void for a minute?

Were you struck by how very far from awesome the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders are? If you hadn’t come up with the recipe yourself, would you ever guess that the shiny tissue of breading that exudes grease onto the plate contains either pretzels or smoked almonds? Did you discern any buttermilk or brine in the white meat, or did you think it tasted like chewy air?

Why is one of the few things on your menu that can be eaten without fear or regret — a lunch-only sandwich of chopped soy-glazed pork with coleslaw and cucumbers — called a Roasted Pork Bahn Mi, when it resembles that item about as much as you resemble Emily Dickinson?

Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?

Does this make it sound as if everything at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar is inedible? I didn’t say that, did I?

Is the shapeless, structureless baked alaska that droops and slumps and collapses while you eat it, or don’t eat it, supposed to be a representation in sugar and eggs of the experience of going insane?

Okay, Hong Kong food bloggers, it’s your turn.


How Much Money Do You Need in Hong Kong?

From the SCMP, a survey by Royal Skandia claims that HKers need to earn at least HK$1.5 million (that’s roughly US$195,000) per year (HK$125,000 per month) in order to be happy.  “The survey also showed more than 80 per cent of Hongkongers believed a certain level of income could bring them happiness.”

The SCMP finds a government statistic stating that only 4.2% of people in HK earn over HK$60,000 per month.  No stats provided on how many earn over $125k.  1%? 2%?  The average Hong Kong salary is $12,800 (US$1,664) per month.

And while it’s probably an easy call that more than 4.2% of people in Hong Kong are happy, I kind of know what they mean.

Here’s one way to look at it.  Assume you are going to spend 25% of your monthly income on rent.  That’s roughly HK$3,000 per month for someone with an average salary.  What will that get you?  Looking at GoHome, you can get a 150 square foot flat in Fanling for $2,800 a month.  The same price might bring you 435 square feet in Sheung Shui.  $3,000 a month will get you 250 square feet in Yuen Long or 100 square feet in Fanling.  A monthly car park space in Central can cost more than $3,000 a month.  Go up to $3,900 a month and you can get 120 square feet in Sheung Wan.   The princely sum of $5,000 a month will net you 114 square feet in Tseung Kwan O.

In 1929, Blind Afred Reed wrote a song called How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live.  (I know it via Ry Cooder’s version.)  What was true then is even truer today.


Hong Kong Doesn’t Meet Its Own Air Quality Standards

From the SCMP this afternoon:

Hong Kong has never met the air quality targets it adopted 25 years ago, according to an Audit Commission report released on Wednesday that reviewed the government’s efforts to improve air quality.

The unsatisfactory results came despite adopting, since 1997, 16 major emission control measures, including the replacement diesel fuelled vehicles with those powered by liquefied petroleum gas, the requirement that newly registered cars be greener models and the introduction of emission caps on power plants.

The commission also noted that the Environmental Protection Department had failed to achieve a performance target that the air pollution index not exceed the “very high” health risk level of 100 on any day of the year.

However, the number of days with an API level over 100 showed an upward trend over the past five years, rising by 136 per cent from 74 days in 2007 to 175 last year.

Just wait.  Three days from now there will be a letter in the SCMP from Pierce Lam claiming that these are colonial standards and not Chinese standards.