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< August 2010 >
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The Fall of Hong Kong Entertainment

The Hong Kong film industry, once a vibrant and dominant player in the Chinese and Asia cinema, is in a steep decline. It happens that I come across a web entry on Jin Yong (金庸), the most popular and prolific martial art novels writer in Asia. In the entry is a chronological list of all the screen adaptations. Since Jin Yong's novels has been made into TV and movies in regularity, it serves as a proxy to the activity of the entertainment industry.

I have plotted the adaption of each popular novel on a graph, with different colors to differentiate the country of production. The dense chart shows that each novel has been adapted multiple times, sometimes within only a short span of time. Looking decade by decade, you'll see how the pattern has shifted. Jin Yong stories first appear on Hong Kong TV in the 70s. It was the time when most families started to own a TV. 80s is the period when a lot of early and now classic adaptions are made. Taiwan has also started to made Jin Yong stories in this period. 90s continues the frenzy activities. It is also the beginning of decline of the Hong Kong movie industry. The last Jin Yong movie was made in 1994. In 2000s, the 3 decades of restless Hong Kong entertainment production seems to come an end. The last TV made by actors is in 2001 (an animation came in 2003). Instead it is the era of China, where nearly all new productions are now made.

Jin Yong screen adaption chronology

The filmography is not just a list black and white raw text. It comes to life once we carefully render it into a color graph. And the graph tells a story of the rise and fall of the different players in the industry.

2010.08.20 [, , ] - comments


Wells Fargo debit card transactions lawsuit

Wells Fargo Bank is ordered to repay about $203 million to customers who were unfairly charged fees in debit card transactions under a court ruling. As a customer of the bank for over 10 years (though I have never been hit by the overdraft charge), I'm really unpleased with my bank's ethics.

The key scheme works like this. Let's say a customer have $10 in his account. Without a good knowledge the account balance, the customer make multiple debit charges and overdrafted his account. Let says he make a series of transactions in the amount of 5, 1, 2, 3, 11, bringing the final balance to -$12. Instead of denying the charges, Wells Fargo introduced a new feature around 2000 to automatically gives credit to the customer. The catch is each overdraft will cost them a fine of, say, $25. This in itself is not very evil. But what is really enraging is the way the bank manipulate the charges to maximize the overdraft fine. Instead of processing the debit in the order it comes in, the bank rearranged the charges to process them from highest amount to lowest amount order, i.e. 11, 5, 3, 2, 1. In this case all 5 transactions results in overdraft and a $125 fine. If they were processed in chronological order, they fine will be only $50 instead.

The bank insist they have done the right thing for the customers and the customers desire this. Because the larger amount transaction is more likely to be important, therefore it was given priority. Such reasoning is what prompt me to write this blog. It angers me because the bank is offering us a bogus reason. Since all charges are authorized no matter what order they comes in, the customers receive no benefit what so ever from such "prioritization". It would have make a difference if the bank deny the transaction once the account run out of fund. But in the present scheme, the only difference is the amount of fine the customer will incur. It can be mathematically proven that by processing the transaction from lowest amount to the highest, it results in least fine and thus the most beneficial to the customer. Instead the bank scheme to process the transaction from highest amount to lowest, this results in maximum fine and thus results in worst outcome for the customer. There is simply no justification to choose this scheme other than enriching the bank.

Note that while Well Fargo is the first bank to lose an anti-consumer lawsuit, this is an industrial wide practice. I'm looking forward for other major banks to be exposed and fined.

After this ruling and addition regulation against such practice preceding the trial, the banks are grumbling on how much revenue they are going to lose and the possibility of stop offering free checking and other banking service to make up for the difference. For me this should raise an alarm on the corporate board level. When your company is deriving a significant portion of revenue from such unsavory source, it is a clear indicator that it is not doing the right thing. It is like opening a gym with free membership, but in fact the true revenue is derived from the vending machine on the floor selling tobacco. Sooner or later pressure will come to maximize profit. Then the company will be mobilized to sell more tobacco to more people. This will become a corrupting force in no time.

Clearly a company wants to make profit and there is always a pressure to maximize profit. But the question if they earn it because they are providing value to the customer? It is justifiable if they charge for banking services because they are managing my money and dispose them to merchants I authorize to. But the overdraft fee scheme did not provide any value. Instead it is nothing but an exploitation on uninformed customers.

2010.08.15 [, ] - comments


Confession of A Buddhist Atheist

Stephen Batchelor, the author of <Confession of A Buddhist Atheist>, has articulated he feeling about atheism very well.

nor am I an Atheist, who has a particular axe to grind with God. I’m not an Atheist in that I have some objection or some dislike of that way of thinking. It’s simply that I see no use or value of entertaining such notions. I feel that I can articulate what I believe to be at the heart of my quest for meaning as a human being without any recourse to such ideas.

I can make perfect sense of the world without making any reference to god. I see no need for me to confirm or deny its existence. I won't call myself atheist though, as this term is usually associated with the opposition to the concept of god. I think a better description for me is "I don't care".

2010.08.05 [, ] - comments


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