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Oprah time: Frank Miller – Ronin

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Frank Miller – Ronin (often called Frank Miller’s Ronin) was a graphic novel written in the early 1990s. In the story Miller looks to combine is love of myth and legend a la 300, with cyberpunk.

The story leaps across time from medieval Japan to the distant future of New York. The Ronin of the title is looking to revenge his master against a demon. The New York that they fall into owes a lot to the dystopian vision of Mega City One in Judge Dredd. All the money has flowed to capital and most people are living at the edges of society.

Frank Miller’s Ronin

Miller explores links between mysticism and technology as it relates to artificial intelligence.

Frank Miller has a grand vision in Ronin; full of interesting ideas, but it feels half-baked. The potential in the story isn’t fulfilled. The worlds that Miller has built in the book feel very one dimensional in nature. That means that the foundation that the story builds on feels insubstantial. Miller tries to paper over the cracks by moving the reader quickly from one ‘cell’ to another.

I think that Ronin isn’t something that fits neatly into a short comic run and a trade paperback, but needs its own franchise to breath and develop further. There is a richness in there waiting to be tapped.

The artwork isn’t as rich as other Frank Miller works such as 300, The Dark Knight Returns or Sin City. Instead it feels like concept sketches rather than a complete work, even the colour panels feel that way. Ronin feels like something it would be worthwhile for the author to revisit and develop further. But at the present time I can only recommend Frank Miller – Ronin for completists, who are fans of Miller’s other works and will overlook this story’s limitations. More book related posts here.

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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Why Protest Tactics Spread Like Memes – The New York Timesoften, she noted, the images’ similarity was unwitting. In their spread, their simultaneity and their indirect influence on each other, the protest videos had all the characteristics of memes, those units of culture and behavior that spread rapidly online. The same cultural transfer that gives us uncanny cake-slicing memes and viral challenges also advances the language of protest. “We live in this world of attention dynamics so it makes sense that tactics start to converge,” Ms. Mina said. She called the images’ tendency to build on each other “memetic piggybacking,” and noted that everyday items that are subverted into objects of protest are “inherently charismatic.” – protest groups tactics as memes. A meme is a transmissible idea; whether its knowledge, humour or even cat gifs. Reciting lines from films or TV programmes like The Office are memes. More meme related content here.

Hong Kong Protests 2019
Hong Kong Protests 2019 by Jonathan van Smit

German oil refinery to build 30 MW hydrogen electrolysis plant – Reuters – great news. I think hydrogen fuel cells should be a more important part of the energy mix

Apple Faces $1.4 Billion Lawsuit by Chinese AI Firm in Siri Patent Fight – WSJ – Conflicts over intellectual property, technology and trade are driving bilateral relations between the U.S. and China to their lowest point in decades. Last Friday, President Trump threatened to ban Chinese short-video app TikTok on national-security grounds. U.S. officials have been involved in talks over a potential sale of TikTok’s American business to Microsoft Corp.

Google to invest $450M in smart home security solutions provider ADT | TechCrunch – tech eats the old economy due to obscenely high share prices

7-Eleven owner is buying Marathon Petroleum’s Speedway gas stations for $21 billion – CNN – it’s a good deal for Marathon; but looks expensive for Seven and I (7-Eleven’s owner). 7-Eleven would need to get $175,000 net profit a year out of each gas station to make it worthwhile at the current purchase price

Op-Ed: Never Trust Mark Zuckerberg Again- PingWest – a few things in this. 1/ Facebook probably didn’t get anything out of its reprochment with China. Yes China could stop advertising on Facebook, but A/ Chinese state owned companies not advertising on Facebook would be immaterial and probably benefit Facebook politically B/ Chinese private sector companies don’t have a lot of choice, so China would see a good deal of SME job destruction. 2/ The US government have more leverage. In this respect its like the embarrassing HSBC kowtowing in reverse. The Chinese author now realises how lame it looks when you’re on the other side of it

Pompeo the Maoist – SettimanaNewsBorrowing from the logic used by Mao Zedong in his On Contradiction, Pompeo tried to prove that CCP didn’t represent the Chinese people, and that actually the party is the enemy of the Chinese people. This point is fundamental because, as Mao put it, the crucial political element is to know who is with us and who is the enemy, and the party should always represent the people. Pompeo stated: “We must start by changing how our people and our partners perceive the Chinese Communist Party. We have to tell the truth.” What is the truth, according to the US secretary of state? It is that: “We know … that doing business with a CCP-backed company is not the same as doing business with, say, a Canadian company. They don’t answer to independent boards, and many of them are state-sponsored and so have no need to pursue profits… We know too that if our companies invest in China, they may wittingly or unwittingly support the Communist Party’s gross human rights violations… We know too too that not all Chinese students and employees are just normal students and workers that are coming here to make a little bit of money and to garner themselves some knowledge. Too many of them come here to steal our intellectual property and to take this back to their country.” Therefore, he argues that the US should de facto work as a new revolutionary party: “We must also engage and empower the Chinese people—a dynamic, freedom-loving people who are completely distinct from the Chinese Communist Party.”

Breaking Off TikTok Will Be Hard to Do — The Information – basically China still has control despite the window dressing. Given the structural, development, infrastructure and control aspects on this; how can Microsoft negotiate and engineer a clean break in the limited time that they have for TikTok versus Douyin? Some interesting analysis at the FT: The challenges Microsoft faces in buying TikTok’s US arm

ARM China Asks Beijing to Intervene in Row With U.K. Parent – Caixin Global – It is interesting that the ARM CEO thinks he has the political juice to go against Hopu and its head Fang Fenglei. Is there more than meets the eye going on here? More from Sina.com’s tech channel (via Google Translate): Sina.com Technology Channel ARM China debaclethe intention of Hopu Investment , which represents 36% of the investors of the central state-owned enterprise financial institution in the joint venture, to join hands with foreign shareholders this time? Hopu and Arm recently appointed Hopu Investment’s Teck Sien Lau (Singaporean) as Chairman of Amou China, and Arm President Graham Budd (British) as Vice Chairman. In addition, Arm and Hopu previously appointed two co-CEOs (one Singaporean and one Chinese) on the disputed board of directors, and the board dispute is currently being resolved in legal proceedings. It seems that Hopu hopes to help Arm replace the existing management team and actually control the operation of the joint venture company through this operation. However, under the premise that HOPU violated the Chinese party’s agreement to act in concert and joined hands with Arm, such an organizational structure obviously did not represent China’s national interests. In addition, can they lead the technical team to realize the original intention of the joint venture company and truly realize the vision of autonomous and controllable core technology that China needs? More on ARM here.

How to Keep Your Skin Healthy While Wearing a Mask | Vogue Hong Kong

Facebook Employee Leaks Show Betrayal By Company Leadership – “hurting people at scale” is a brutal header on the article

Upfield targets block butters with vegan Flora Plant range | News | The Grocer – repackaging to remove the negative connotations of margarine by creating ‘vegan butter’ in salted and unsalted variants. *Disclosure, I worked with Mullen Lowe and Phd to develop ‘Family Brands’ global digital strategy, prior to Flora et al being sold off to Upfield. My work covered Blue Band, Bonella, Country Crock, Doriana, Dorina, Flora, Imperial, La Perfecta, Maizena, Milda, Mirasol, Planta, Planta Fin, Primavera, Rama, Sana, Stork, Tulipan, and Vitam

Tymbals : Bytedance and the hypergrowth delusion – Nigel Scott explaining the importance of context when there is yet another hyperbolic growth story in the tech sector

Slack Files EU Competition Complaint Against Microsoft | The Official Slack Blog – feels a bit Netscape all over again

Influencer Marketing Panel – some useful primers here from the CIPR, in particular about UK regulations

Imint is the Swedish firm that gives Chinese smartphones an edge in video production | TechCrunchThe hyper-competitive nature of Chinese phone makers means they are easily sold on new technology that can help them stand out. The flipside is the intensity that comes with competition. The Chinese tech industry is both well-respected — and notorious — for its fast pace. Slow movers can be crushed in a matter of a few months. “In some aspects, it’s very U.S.-like. It’s very straight to the point and very opportunistic,” Lifvendahl reflected on his experience with Chinese clients. “You can get an offer even in the first or second meeting, like, ‘Okay, this is interesting, if you can show that this works in our next product launch, which is due in three months. Would you set up a contract now?’” “That’s a good side,” he continued. “The drawback for a Swedish company is the demand they have on suppliers. They want us to go on-site and offer support, and that’s hard for a small Swedish company. So we need to be really efficient, making good tools and have good support systems.” – Ok a few things. 1/ The hyper competition is a very Chinese phenomenon. Like when in someplace like the UK Chinese restaurant opens in a neighbourhood, another will move in next door. In China, you end up with clusters of barber shops, tea shops and restaurants right next to each other in; actively competing. It’s about rapid small iterative steps of innovation, or what Huawei used call ‘customer focus’. It’s not paradigm shifting stuff. 2/ Its interesting that Imint have taken the German middelstadt model to software. Historically, German companies have managed to focus on a niche and do it really well. There is a long-term focus, continuity, independence, flexibility innovation and customer focus. They are nimble by nature and design with lean hierarchies and a family-like corporate structure.

Google in Talks to Take Over More Search Tasks on Samsung Phones – Bloomberg – Samsung would be giving up more user experience control and by implication, becoming more commoditised. To be fair a lot of Android skins and bundled apps haven’t been great. What happens with Google’s Pixel brand devices?

Aaron Toponce : The Physics of Brute Force – Why you should use encryption and why Moore’s Law’s limitations and physics indicate an optimal key size when using it against non-quantum computing.

Europe and AI: Leading, Lagging Behind, or Carving Its Own Way? – Carnegie Endowment for International PeaceEurope, meanwhile, despite having certain advantages such as a strong industrial base and leading AI research and talent, is punching far below its weight. This state of affairs is especially due to the fragmentation of the EU’s digital market, difficulties in attracting human capital and external investment, and the lack of commercial competitiveness. Fortunately, in recent years, European leaders have recognized the importance of not lagging behind on AI and have sought to raise their ambitions. Leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have stressed the need for Europe to become a leading global player on AI, and the new European Commission has made AI a top priority for the next five years. By declaring AI a major strategic priority, several member states and EU institutions are taking steps to advance the continent’s ambitions for AI leadership

COVID-19 and biopharma in China | McKinsey – fascinating read. In particular the growth of health insurance. Up to now, one of the reasons why Chinese consumption is so low the high amount of savings to cover health costs. (Yes, I know property and parent care are also huge areas for savings). But that is why Chinese people are generally lower in credit use in aggregate and have a large amount of savings. Private health insurance could have a huge impact on future consumption patterns and act as an economic driver

Dundrum Town Centre introduces a ‘Crowd Checker’ | RTE – interesting piece of service design to support opening up of retail. Dundrum shopping centre would be the Irish equivalent of Westfield in London. It is Ireland’s largest shopping centre. RTÉ has a broadcast studio there to capture the opinion of the average Irish person as needed.

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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Venture Capital and Cleantech: The Wrong Model for Clean Energy Innovation by Gaddy, Sivaram and O’Sullivan – venture capital investment is very inefficient according to this MIT paper. More venture capital related posts here.

Why business in Hong Kong should be worried | The Economist – Hong Kong is trapped like the grips of vice. Its economy is dominated by finance and rent-seeking businesses – Simon Cartledge for Gavekal Dragonomics, a consultancy, because these firms are over-represented in government, “Hong Kong’s single biggest disincentive to risk-taking and entrepreneurship—its high costs, especially for property—cannot be tackled.” That is why the back-to-business message is unlikely to resonate with ordinary Hong Kongers. This is probably why Hong Kong start-ups like DJI moved to Shenzhen to found their businesses. (Frank Wang did a lot of the key work on DJI drones whilst studying at HKUST. And even benefited from a small HKUST grant. But he moved across to Shenzhen to found the business itself in 2006.) Fintech has been a bit of a busted flush. It was the latest in a long line of business ideas like wine trading, the arts and medical tourism as failed niches for Hong Kong. Singapore seems to have been much more successful in business creation and seems to be seeing more venture capital interest. Current sectors in Hong Kong likely to be affected include the legal practices specialising in commercial arbitration. Without trustworthy commercial arbitration in Hong Kong doing business in China looks much less attractive. Singapore is trying to bridge the gap, but I suspect that there might be long term corrosion of Chinese business dealings. Digital companies and foreign banks face big worries. Between the Hong Kong Autonomy Act and the Hong Kong National Security Law – Helping America to enforce sanctions would violate the security law. Not doing so would incur American penalties

The untold story of Stripe, the secretive $20bn startup driving Apple, Amazon and Facebook | WIRED UK – what’s more interesting about Stripe is the brothers reading list

Remarks to the Economic Club of New York – United States Department of State – interesting speech by Mike Pompeo

What It’s Like to Escape the Mindset of a Conspiracy Theorist – Vice – fascinating psychology

Barr warns against corporate America’s China ‘appeasement’ | Financial Times“You should be alert to how you might be used, and how your efforts on behalf of a foreign company or government could implicate the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” he said, referencing a 1938 law that requires foreign agents to publicly identify themselves – those comments hit US banks, Apple and other US multinationals. Attorney General William P. Barr Delivers Remarks on China Policy at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum | OPA | Department of Justice – the US C-suite executives must be getting very worried about this

Quisling

The State of Strategy. A view from the Frontline | Noteworthy – The Journal Blog – great read and nails the issues affecting strategy and planning at the moment

Mark Ritson: In a virtual marketplace, only the strongest brands will survive – Companies see better profit margins and an almost unlimited customer base but miss the drastic reduction in barriers to entry. – so brand hyper-competition will ensue and the winner takes all model will extend beyond tech. Expect venture capital money to pour all kinds of weird industry niches as they try to pick category winners

WeChat users in the US say a potential ban of the app would cut them off from friends and family in China | South China Morning Post – Banning it might be a mistake. It would be more worthwhile using WeChat data to investigate Chinese in the US with ‘anti American’ sentiment as it’s easy to surveill in comparison to other platforms. WeChat sends messages in the clear with no encryption at all. You then start using the Espionage Act or the Patriot Act prosecutions

Chinese liquor group Kweichow Moutai tumbles after graft news report | Financial Times – Moutai sales are linked to gifting and lavish consumption and some have linked the share price increase with a corresponding uplift in sales and by implication graft. The damaging bit in the article is that Moutai’s former chairman Yuan Renguo quoted saying in private that sales linked to corruption are “a normal part of business” and that China’s corruption clampdown would not reach far enough to affect the company’s business

Banning junk food from TV an ‘irrelevant symbolic gesture’ that won’t reduce obesity | The Drum – the argument whilst true won’t be believed by regulators. Their rationale would be why would junk food companies advertise if it didn’t work? The distinction of this is junk food brand fighting out with similar brands in its category won’t wash. Secondly, advertising bans worked in the past on tobacco products over time

The party’s grip – Under a new national-security law, Hong Kong is already a changed city | The Economist – you have to wonder about the share run and will the pop of the bubble be blamed on ‘foreign interference’?

Outrage Over China’s Treatment of Hong Kong Galvanizes the West – WSJComplaints about China have piled up in Western capitals in recent years, but it took Beijing’s new curbs on Hong Kong’s autonomy to galvanize them around something approaching a common cause. – In many respects its like boiling a frog in reverse, it is likely that China didn’t expect the frog to jump out of the pot, given that the heat had been on so long

Opinion | A Coronavirus Care Package From China – The New York TimesAfter the Communist takeover in 1949, traditional Chinese medicine was institutionalized. Folk remedies helped fulfill both a tangible need — credentialed doctors were scarce — and an ideological end: That system of knowledge is quintessentially and uniquely Chinese.  Today, the Chinese government sees a political opportunity in the continuing emotional appeal of traditional medicine. If Chinese people can embrace an Eastern alternative to Western medicine, they might also be more likely to accept the Communist Party’s governance model and reject liberal democracy

Speaking in Tongues – Chinese Storytellers – such a great essay on the current challenge facing Chinese (and in particular Hong Kongers) writing for foreign audiences: a Chinese storyteller telling stories for an English-speaking audience in a divided world. As a writer who has called Hong Kong, Beijing and New Haven home, I find myself often in the position of what Zadie Smith once called “speaking in tongues”: equivocating between the lens of the insider and the outsider, examining the places I call home with both the “objective,” parachuted gaze of the foreign correspondent, and the emotionally implicated and invested eye of the local storyteller. Increasingly, that has felt impossible

Google considers alternatives to Hong Kong for undersea cable | Financial Times – Hong Kong has – become less critical for not only US cloud providers but also their Chinese rivals, according to Tao Wu, a senior research analyst for Gartner, a tech research firm. “Singapore has become much more important than Hong Kong from a location and population perspective,” Ms Wu said. “Other top cloud providers such as Alibaba Cloud are much more focused on south-east Asia to go global than expanding in Hong Kong.” – this will have a big impact for those property developers who’ve invested in data centres (internet hotels). Hong Kong’s financial position for international trading desks will also be diminished if international telecoms infrastructure starts to divert away from Hong Kong. From a pure connectivity point of view Korea, Singapore and even the Philippines start to look really good