Category Archives: General

Apple Affairs in China

apple chinaChina has just announced a 10% cut on the electronics goods import tax which is a U-turn on the events of last year that left Hong Kong Apple fanboys crying in the corner.

Have you tried to buy an iPad 3G or an iPhone 4 recently? Unless you ordered online (where one requires a credit card, a local address and is limited to 2 per person) your buying efforts were probably fruitless because it seems our neighbors across the border have been clearing the stock out of our poor little retail outlets (evidence: ask any local electronics store salesperson, or watch this video of two young ladies stuffing an entire box of iPhones into their bags on the KCR). Why the fascination with these specific Hong Kong goods? Well, apart from them being better and wholly superior, it’s because the iPad 3G is banned in China, because Apple wares are sold tax-free in Hong Kong (a saving of RMB $724 on the iPhone 4) and because Apple can’t make the iPhone 4 quick enough to deal with the feverish demand of those mainlanders.

Things eased up temporarily back in October last year when Chinese customs started strictly imposing a 20% import tax duty on iPhones and iPads (in addition to the 20-category list featuring other common money-makers such as alcohol and tobacco). Although the regulations were issued years ago, they were not exactly enforced until October (which was coincidentally around the same time that the Apple fever reached a frenzy in China when the official mobile carrier sold 100,000 iPhone 4’s four days after its launch and when one official Beijing Apple store had to be temporarily closed down to change a policy to deal with iPhone 4 resellers there and then. A bit of background – reselling fresh Apple goods on the gray market is a super-easy way to make a quick buck in China (read a comprehensive guide on the local iPhone 4 market here) and the illegal peddling has reached such an extent that a group of 14 housewives were even caught smuggling 85 iPads and 340 mobile phones into Shenzhen (one of them had 65 phones attached to her waist, and approximately another 20 in her handbag – that’s a lot of Apples).

But the latest news really takes the apple biscuit, because last week – less than 3 months since the tax had begun to be more strictly enforced – authorities had a change of heart. In a typical one-step-forward/two-step-backwards approach, China’s Ministry of Finance reversed their 20% tax law and officially declared a 10% reduction of import tariffs on computers, digital cameras, and other electronic equipment which has been in effect since January 27 (one wonders if the recent meeting between Obama and Hu Jintao has anything to do with this). In addition, Apple also just opened their latest store in Beijing a few days ago which, as usual, drew in a crowd of eager fanatics.

Frankly, we can’t understand what all the iFrenzy is about – here at the TDS underground headquarters we have a few crummy iPhones which are pretty pathetic, and besides, the majority of positive press reports about Apple and their far-from-perfect iThingies are influenced by newspapers and TV networks that simply want to profit from the hype – or even worse, reporters who are looking to sell books about the iPhone.

 Originally published in the now defunct The Dark Side Hong Kong, 2010

Sex and Zen 3D Breaks Ground

Sex_and_ZenNot content with being the cinematic event of our decade, the upcoming porno flick Sex and Zen 3D: Extreme Ecstasy is also breaking ground as one of the most innovative adult films ever to be released as well, with a new distribution tactic that has never been seen before.

When the film is released next year the producers will be offering different cuts to cater to the censorship standards and cultural tastes in different regions, and they will be encouraging buyers to “pick and choose” edits, not only for their regions, but also for theatrical and DVD releases, to address the censorship concerns of various territories. In other words the interested buyers will be able to customize and modify the film to suit their own needs.

So far this unconventional approach seems to be working, as the rights to the title have already been snatched up for Italy, France, Peru, Russia, and Singapore during the American Film Market, after an eight-minute preview in 3D was screened. Rights were also pre-sold for New Zealand, Australia and Korea in Cannes.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the film (yeah, right) the HK$20 million porno work of art claims to be one of the first adult films to be shot entirely in stereoscopic 3D (not technically correct). The film is loosely based on the erotic novel The Carnal Prayer Mat and is a follow up to Stephen Shiu’s 1991 blockbuster Sex and Zen (which had sex scenes shot using the same techniques and style as seen in popular ‘wire fu’ action films) and which took in HK$20 million at the box office and held the record as the top grossing Category III film for 17 years. Sex and Zen 3D: Extreme Ecstasy stars Japanase AV beauties Saori Hara and Reiko Suho, plus Leni Lan, Yukiko Suô, Hiro Hayama, Vonnie Lui, Tony Ho, and Irene Chen. The digital effects house behind the film are also the same dudes responsible for the 3D conversion of Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas, so you know this is not going to be tacky 3D either.

The film’s producers say the film is already generating a buzz in mainland China, where sex scenes and nudity are systematically censored. Six travel agencies have even sought to advance bookings for Chinese tourists to see the movie.

Imdb synopisis here:

Clip from the set:

Trailer here:

Originally published in the now defunct The Dark Side Hong Kong, 2010

Case of the Clay iPhone

clay iphoneThe Hong Kong iPhone madness continues this week with a bizarre story involving clay iPhones. No, these were not some limited edition clay iPhones (like these) and they were not clay iPhone cases as well – they were in fact just clay replicas deceivingly stored in genuine iPhone boxes. The main culprit involved denies this of course and instead claims that the clay was just used as the inside filling for some iPhone boxes that he was selling to an iPhone trader (lucratively priced at $400 a piece, when he himself had bought them for $200 per box). On a separate occasion he also had an accomplice put cling wrap cornflour parcels inside some boxes. During the first day of the hearing yesterday the supervising deputy magistrate refused to take the clay iPhones out of the plastic evidence bags because worms had hatched inside some of the iPhone boxes (worms inside the apple, get it?!). The clay case (note the pun) continues today with the culprit on trial for selling 10 clay iPhones in unopened boxes for HK$57,000 and two clay iPhones (for HK$9,200) which were sold by another 60 year-old accomplice. Hmm, maybe we’re in the wrong industry here.

Originally published in the now defunct The Dark Side Hong Kong, 2010

Interior Design Supplement – Interior Design’s Tighter Space

Though the Hong Kong interior design industry is flourishing, the city currently faces a dearth of well-trained interior designers – and this looks set to continue as work from emerging markets in the region is on the rise. The pinch is being felt across the industry, with even the larger interior design firms finding it difficult to recruit designers.

Offering an explanation for the shortage, Logan MacWatt, managing director of Aedas Interiors, points out that the majority of skilled designers are essentially all fully employed.

Continue reading Interior Design Supplement – Interior Design’s Tighter Space

The Keyless Keyboard

The keyboard that fits in your pocket.

With technology becoming increasingly wireless and more mobile everyday, this projection keyboard was bound to come along sooner or later. Back last year, around the launch of the iPhone 4S when the usual rumours and speculations surrounding any iProduct were close to breaking point, a nifty video came out which depicted a conceptual iPhone 5 device that came with a virtual keyboard projected by the device itself.

Though the imaginary device and most of its features were simply castles in the sky (iPhone holograms anyone?), a few companies took to the virtual keyboard idea and these have since been released.

Celluon has released the best of these virtual projection keyboards in the form of their ingenious Magic Cube. About the size of a pack of cards, the small rectangular-shaped device looks like something straight out of Star Wars, and its amazing laser projection and motion detection technology would make a great travel companion for mobile, tablet, and laptop devices.

The pros are that it connects via Bluetooth or USB, and is compatible with a whole array of devices including iPhones, iPods, iPads, computers, notebooks, smartphones and many tablets. However the cons are that it only projects a condensed QWERTY keyboard layout (there is no right side number pad). In addition, it is not for use with Kindle devices (they do not support Bluetooth or USB keyboards) and the projected multi-touch mouse pad and keyboard can be quite tricky to use. Nevertheless, the unit seems to get more responsive and accurate the more you use it (maybe it just takes time to get used to) and it’s still an amazingly forward-looking and cool gadget.

The future is here…almost.

Video here.

– 38 x 75 x 29 mm – Communicates and connects with devices wired via USB or wirelessly via Bluetooth
– No drivers needed
– Runs for up to two hours of continuous typing when wireless – Charges when connected via wired USB
– Projects a condensed QWERTY layout with a multi-touch mouse pad
– Keyboard function compatible with any operating system supporting the USB HID class or Bluetooth HID profile. Multi-touch mouse mode for Windows 7+ only. Specific compatible systems include Win XP SP2+, Vista, Win7, Mac 10.4+, iOS 4.3.5+ (iPhone 3GS and later, iPod Touch 2nd generation and later, all versions of iPad), Linux and others supporting standard Bluetooth HID keyboards. Android 2.0+ compatibility limited to phones and devices that include Bluetooth keyboard support.

Originally published in Kiosk Magazine, April 2012

Designing for Junior

While it may seem pretty straightforward, designing a children’s room can be quite a difficult yet rewarding procedure.

As a place to spark imagination, children’s bedrooms are always uniformly colourful. They always feature elements which are designed to set off creativity. Children’s bedrooms are spaces where parents and children share dreams, excitement and comfort – a room for building bonds.

Continue reading Designing for Junior

China Movie Magic

So by now the majority of you have had your brain cells burnt out by the mindfuck of a film that was Inception, and most of us should have at least some basic infantile grasp of what the movie was about (dreams and spinning tops, or something like that). The film is now currently doing the rounds in Chinaand, as one of the only 20 foreign films to be shown in the motherland each year, this is a big deal. Furthermore, the film was released three weeks ahead of schedule since it apparently passed through censorship without any cuts. Christopher Nolan was probably buying drinks all round (or should’ve been), as the film soon went on to be the fourth-biggest opening ever for an American movie in China, behind Avatar and the two recent Transformers movies.

Nevertheless, like most movies shown in our proud motherland, Chinese audiences have taken to the film in quite profound ways. In Chinese the name of the film loosely translates to ‘a space for stealing dreams,’ which is a lot more helpful than the English title. But, obliging title or not, this didn’t stop some locals seeing the film over 4 times. The hype was so big that shops even started selling replicas of the signature spinning tops used in the film, and they sold fast, considering they were priced at for $130RMB each. An online buyer claimed he needed the spinning top to distinguish dreams from reality. In another province a special competition was held to find who could design the best 7 layers of a dream, and over inChongqing a man even tried to hire a psychologist to perform inception on his own wife ahead of their wedding.

This is not the first time a foreign film has generated weird reactions in China. Last year a young transformer fan was found to have been drinking gasoline for 5 years, after being inspired by Optimus Prime and his robotic crew. Also there was that other stupidly popular 3D movie about oversized smurfs which sent China into a frenzy when it was first released, with losers camping out and cueing for Avatar tickets from as early as 4am. The fiendish demand for Avatar led China to become the most expensive place in the world to watch the film, with tickets fetching up to $200RMB a pop. Lifeless locals saw it as a kind of status symbol, and our humble counterfeit nation even started printing fake cinema tickets. And let’s not even begin to mention the overly-detailed criticism or the popular tourist spot that was controversially renamed after a place in the film.

Originally published in the now defunct The Dark Side Hong Kong, 2010

Attack of the Killer Trees

While the EU is currently under apparent threat from terrorism and Americais still suffering from economy woes, here in Hong Kongwe are facing a new kind of threat…from big green serial-killing trees. Well, OK, not exactly serial killing but definitely serial-injuring because there have been an uncanny amount of injuries caused by trees over the last few years. In fact, according to a survey released last Friday one in 10 Hong Kong trees is in danger of collapsing – and you’re more likely to be targeted by evil vegetation if you’re a tree-hugging hippy living in an wooded area (or a distracted iPhone addict watching porn whilst walking in the forest).

Based on the findings of the survey the Chinese University of Hong Kong are now calling on authorities to establish a tree-health database – you know, a catalogued database like IMDB, but to determine the floppiness of trees instead of films. But, while we don’t yet have something as advanced or supposedly necessary as a tree-health database set up, a team of 200 volunteers was nevertheless established last month. However, we still won’t be able to sleep safely at night, because these volunteers all happen to be Members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. What, didn’t you know democrats are the best tree experts around? Nope, nether did we.

The reason for all this tree hullabaloo? Well, it all stems from the Hong Kong Government’s fetish for concrete and development (and their ignorance of the natural world). Back in 2005 the incidents started with the luckiest tree in Hong Kong (the Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree, which is so popular that it has its own expressway exit and is shown on highway signs), which had an entire limb fall off, breaking the leg of a 62-year-old man and scratching the head of a 4-year-old boy. The other big indecent that reignited the paranoia in 2008 was the collapse of a 23-meter tree in Stanley, which killed a super-unfortunate 19-year-old (and caused the loss of thousands of dollars for businesses in the area, an insensible bastard of a shopowner said at the time). More recently, back in June of this year a falling tree hit a taxi driver and a pedestrian in central, and 2 weeks before that another evil tree took the life of a 49 year-old cyclist, who swerved to avoid a falling branch and ended up dieing in hospital where he died from brain injuries.

At the end of the day all this tree anarchy has only resulted in a more paranoid public and a government who now has another excuse to pave over more long-standing parts of Hong Kong and a better reason to remove dangerous municipal ‘hazards’ like greenery and heritage. What’s more is that a similar thing has already happened before, when the ‘more regulation is better regulation’ mentality led the Hong Kong Government to bury all our hillsides under concrete after a few mudslides resulted in fatalities back in the 90’s. So be on the lookout for more concrete and fake plastic trees – coming to a leafy area near you soon.

Originally published in the now defunct The Dark Side Hong Kong, 2010