Sunday, October 20, 2013

What will Apple do next?

Apple have been quite influential over the last decade or so.  Since the the late Steve Jobs came back, the company he founded has gone from strength to strength.  Apple is a benchmark in the word of design.  No matter what you think of its product, you cannot deny that Apple cannot be ignored.  Apple are innovators and they do things differently.  Whether you like their approach is another matter.  Computers have become more desirable, smaller, more shiny.  iPhones stand on their own.  But how long will the bubble hold?  What will Apple have up its sleeve?  Apple was never a me too company.  Apple might not be just for designers these days, but it is not for everybody.  The prices will never drop (not much), and even if they did, Apple products don't suit everybody.  So where next?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Napoli 2013

Where do you go when you're bored of the usual places, you don't want to go too far, offer variety and is affordable?  Naples.  After watching Francesco Da Mosta's Italy from head to toe.  I just had to go there.  First it was the city itself, but as I read more, I found that Sorrento, Pompeii, Vesuvius and Caserta were all there.  It was a strange choice, after all, Naples didn't have a good reputation, what with crime, unemployment and the mafia.  However, enough people go there, though not everybody's cup of tea.  Rome, Venice and Florence do far better in terms of visitor numbers.  The pros far outweigh the cons and after all, there are far more places out there, that I wouldn't dream of going, even if I was paid to.

Looking back, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Naples is a very special city.  Despite the social problems, Naples has character and lots of it.  The city itself has much to offer, even as I read the guidebook, I keep finding new places that are worth visiting and Tripadvisor is a gem to travellers.  I could only go to so many places in the space of a week.  Pompeii isn't the tourist trap as people say.  Herculanium is not a smaller version of Pompeii.  Paestum is a fantastic place if you are into classical history.  The Royal Palace of Caserta is one of the finest in Europe.  Sorrento is fantastic and Vesuvius is something else.  Naples is very different from other popular Italian cities, in that it is very real.  Nobody is dressing it up and nobody is making it something it is not.  This gives it a special charm and whilst I agree that Naples isn't everybody's cup of tea.  I will say that it isn't as bad as many people make it out to be.  The sun usually shines and the food is fantastic.

I spent a fair bit of time on the train and after reading Tim Park's Italian Ways.  I agree with him fully.  The Italian railway is great, far better than in Blighty and cheaper too.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Battlestar Galactica

I've recently started watching Battlestar Galactica (BSG), the reimagined 2004 series.  I enjoyed the original back in the eighties, but I never got watch it ever again.  I knew the reimagined series was around, but I never really had the inclination to watch it.  It was only after watching The Office, the US version, that I felt I would like to watch it.

What can I say, it is good.  It has quality production values and good storylines and characters that are not one dimensional.  It about people's battles with survival and how they relate to each other.  It is not just about war and fighting and yes, those scenes are good.  There is a lot to weigh in on good and evil, and nobody is perfect.  It is both a good and bad thing that it was only four season's long.  Some space dramas, sci-fi and fantasy franchises have dragged on for too long.  In my opinion, it can ruin a franchise.  It should be about quality and not quantity.  Take Heroes, it was pretty original, but by the time it got to the last two seasons, you wonder why are we dragging it on?  Buffy the vampire slayer, pretty much the same stuff every week, you watch one episode and you've watched them all.  Star Trek the Next Generation should have ended by the end of the fifth season.  But no, the producers just dragged it on and the stories got sillier and sillier.  The Enterprise started to look a bit empty as people were taken off to work on DS9.  I liked DS9, it was an original concept and although I never got to watch much, it was  largely positive.  What I didn't like was Voyager and Enterpise.  Voyager was just plain silly in every way and a severe act of desperation.  Enterprise was pretty scraping the barrel and in trying, ruined the Star Trek franchise.  After nearly twenty years and two reimagined films later.  I cannot say Star Trek is as good as it was.

BSG was a lot of things Star Trek isn't and will never be.  Star Trek was Sci-Fi for the idealists with hope being key.  BSG was sic-fi with a dose of realism.  No silly aliens and politically correct nonsense.  I might not like the idea of people smoking, drinking and having affairs, but isn't it like that in the real world?  Even good people have bad days and even good people do bad things and bad people can come good.  If I wanted aliens, I watch Aliens.

BSG did something others didn't.  They did spin-offs for the purpose of exploring different story lines, which I think is good.  Disney is doing this for the Avengers and the Star Wars franchises.  Having films for individual characters is the good thing.  It is a platform to expand on certain characters and by doing so, you're not boring viewers with gap fillers like Jar Jar Binks.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Farewell Air New Zealand

From March 2013, Air New Zealand will no longer fly from London Heathrow to Hong Kong. I only found out recently and I'm a bit gutted. I flew with them last year and I was really impressed with the service. Price wise, they were slightly cheaper, but in many ways they were far better than Virgin and Cathay Pacific. The only thing I didn't like about them was the early flight out of Hong Kong. Air New Zealand cites difficult trading, but it is a profitable route. I hope that they will one day change their minds. For now it will be Cathay Pacific or British Airways.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Young and Dangerous, the entire series

Recently, I found time to watch the whole Young and Dangerous series. The original film was based on the Hong Kong comic series called Teddy Boy. It is basically about some guys who grew up on a Hong Kong government housing estate, who didn't want to continue with school and joined the local triad gang. The series has been popular, but controversial. Since it is seen to be glorifying the triads. I heard about the series many years ago, but back then it didn't appeal to me. Having seen it, I actually think it is rather good. There are six films in the series, with about four spin-offs. This is a rarity in Hong Kong cinema. Films get made, last for about 90 minutes, get shown, get released on VCD/DVD and then that's it. All for a quick buck. Where there are sequels or prequels, the cast often differs. There is a lot of short termism thinking here, as fans want to see a familiar face in the role, not a different one. So for the Young and Dangerous series to have the same people in the same role is rather new. Sure, people do get killed, but the actors come back in different roles. After watching the series, I really can't see it as being as bad as people say. I'm sure there are films out there that are far more of a bad influence for young people that Young and Dangerous. I'm not saying that this film is suitable for all, but we have to keep an open mind about the content. It is fiction, though it is based on the triad culture, it is not how it is in real life. It should be treated as fiction and nothing more. In the space of so many films, it was possible to expand and explore the characters. I liked that and I don't believe this is common in Hong Kong cinema. I enjoyed the way the characters relate to each other, they're not one dimensional either. As they say, honour amongst thieves. I would watch them all again some time. I know there is a reboot, but I doubt I'd watch it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

It is time for a pope from ........ !

Yesterday the world witnessed the election of a new pope. In my life so far, I have only known three. I am not Roman Catholic, but I feel it is a religion that offers much. I wouldn't say I was a liberal, but personally, I don't have issues with women clergy, homosexuals or contraception. The world is a different place and although the Pope cannot openly support certain things, it is not to say that they don't turn a blind eye. For example, in Italy, there are special offers on condoms during the week, but on Sunday, there are not. There has been an awful lot about child abuse by the clergy, but that is not to say it is exclusively a Catholic problem. This happens in a lot of places and even in faiths where you wouldn't expect that, considering how much they rant on about Shangri-La etc. Relations with the Anglican and the Jews have improved. I can never see why Christians have a problem with Jews. After all, Jesus was a Jew and therefore, they should be natural allies. The election of a new pope made me think how stupid a lot of people are. It should be about merit and who can best lead the Roman Catholic religion. To say (and they said this rubbish during the previous election for a new pope too) it is time for a pope from somewhere else is rubbish. To say it is time for an African pope is nonsense, as is time for a pope from Asia or the Americas is nonsense. The pope should be elected from the most suitable candidates, not because of where you come from. Electing a pope is not like appointing a General Secretary of the United Nations, where the job is given to somebody on each continent. So we've had an African in the job, now we've had a South Korean, who represents Asia. So it would be the Americas next followed by Europe. It makes me cringe when I hear this type of nonsense. If the stupid people of this planet had it their way, each candidate would have to prove themselves like talentless acts from reality tv and then they will all vote. Enough is enough!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dim Sum?

I was looking a for a decent Chinese restaurant for Dim Sum, as part of a family get together. Whilst reading the reviews, it has come to my attention, something that I have noticed for years. Why to Westerners insist on going to a dim sum restaurant and insist on ordering from the a'la carte menu? The restaurant is geared towards dim sum making and serving during the morning and early afternoon. Why not try dim sum, rather than insist on eating the same dishes you get at you local take away. People like that are a nuisance as they often have something to winge about. Usually, narrow-minded middle class people, usually women, who know their Chinese food and therefore know best. You go to a Chinese BBQ roast meat restaurant and what they serve is rice and noodle dishes with roast meat. You go to a regional Chinese restaurant and they serve non-Cantonese, regional dishes. At the dim sum restaurant, you eat dim sum, not aromatic crispy duck and end up looking a prune. But it is this sort of attitude that prevents the taking up and acceptance of new cuisines. People tend to eat the same thing. So Italian restaurants everywhere serve the same thing, as do Indian and Thai. I take my hat off to restaurant owners who put a sign up to say that they're only serving XY and Z on a certain day or at certain hours. You want a same thing from morning to midnight, go to McDonalds.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fruit tea? Um no thanks

I really am not sure as to what is the Western obsession with fruit teas. I am not against some flavouring, but these days Twinings has huge variety of teas, all largely with fruit. I am more conservative in the taste and I prefer companies to stick to what they do best. Twinings should really lay off the coffee and stick to tea. Let somebody who excels in coffee trade in coffee. Just stick to tea. I've seen fruit teas in the shops for years and I've always found the concept to be a bit gay. I mean, what sort of man drinks this stuff. It is not tea and nor is it masculine. I've never had any time for de-caf either. I mean, if you don't want caffeine, don't drink it. The next comes the weak tea merchants. Again, a waste of good tea. Now Twinning sells green teas, and what do they do? Spice some up with mango, lemon, mint. Mint? Yes, mint. The idea is rank and vile. Twinings have clearly lost the plot and they don't really understand tea any more. The I've read, they changed the recipe for Earl Grey and it did not do down well with the loyal drinkers. The new formula has more orange flavour, and did they ask whether the drinkers will like it? No. With protests going on, the original is available on mail order. I'm not buying their Earl Grey for a while. I just wish they stopped mucking around and stick to what they once were good at.