The Murphy family, John, Mary and their adult son Dave, were preparing to spend a 33rd Christmas as landlords of the Golden Lion pub in Camden, north London when they heard the rumours. A mysterious figure was said to be looming in their corner of the industry, harrying publicans, striking down premises. There was “a Grim Reaper of pubs”, the Murphys were told, and he was circling their handsome Victorian building on Royal College Street.
It was December 2011. In front of the pub’s eyelash-shaped bar, beneath a blackboard that, for as long as anyone could remember, had advertised a heavy discount on tumblers of Irish Mist, the family met with a representative of Admiral Taverns. Admiral was the large pub-owning company – a pubco, as they are known in the trade – that leased the Murphy family their tenancy at the Golden Lion. “The rep told us she had bad news,” said Dave Murphy, a solid, red-cheeked man in his 40s.
It’s a long article, but worth a few minutes of your time.
Well, I wasn't expecting that. LeTV out-bid Cable TV and PCCW's Now TV for English Premier League (EPL) TV rights in Hong Kong, paying US$400 million (double the value of Now TV's current agreement). They had a big launch event this week - and then promptly sold the broadcast TV rights on to Now TV.
Which presumably leaves LeTV with the streaming rights, with speculation that they might offer individual games or a "season pass" (for all of one team’s matches), but nothing has been confirmed.
It should at least be better than the hopeless "Now Player" (I gave up on that after losing the connection three times in the first few minutes of the only EPL game I tried to watch).
LeTV's streaming service only recently launched in Hong Kong, so it makes some sort of sense for them. Well, possibly - in the UK it worked for Sky, but not for ITV Digital or Setanta Sports UK (both closed down after over paying for rights), and I suppose it has helped Now TV in Hong Kong (who first acquired the rights in 2007, only to lose them to Cable TV three years later).
Apparently some of the games will be available in 4K. That's no use to me - my TV only supports 720p (what they used to call "HD ready") and I already have Now TV's so-called "Super HD" service (which I believe is 576p).
Meanwhile, in other streaming news, Netflix have announced that they will launch in Hong Kong early next year.
I received this email after a recent brief hotel stay in China:
Firstly, Thanks for your consistently loyalty with our hotel and [group] as a [loyalty program] member!
Our management team have paid more attention to your staying experience. If there anything happened on you and makes you feel dissatisfied stay experience. Please do not be hesitate to contact with us. We will make arduous efforts to our vission- [fatuous slogan]. Finnaly, I wish you have a good and safety time day by day! We looking forward your come back soon.
Hmmmm…this was my first stay in this hotel, and I only joined their loyalty program at check-in.
I was amused by this story in the Economist: Long live Cantopop - about the University of British Columbia (UBC) offering a course in Cantonese.
I have been listening again to Naked Cantonese (RTHK Podcast), in which Cecilie Gamst Berg tries to teach us to speak like Hong Kong people. One of the many tricks played on foreigners is to pretend that it’s correct to say “Neih” (you) and “Ngoh” (me) rather than “Leih” and “[ng]oh”. Cecilie rightly teaches the latter as current usage (however ‘wrong’ it may be).
Yet the Economist persists with this nonsense in its story:
Newcomers to Vancouver’s Chinatown are richer and speak Mandarin. A sign advertising luxury apartments welcomes potential buyers (in Roman letters) with ni hao, the putonghua greeting, rather than the Cantonese nei hou. A decade ago, dignitaries at Chinese-new-year festivities gave speeches in Cantonese; today they speak Mandarin.
Then we learn that the university has been paid to do this:
The university has rejected four offers from the Confucius Institute, a cultural body financed by China’s government, to expand its teaching of Mandarin. “When a university can reject money, it’s a subtle form of pushback to an overbearing culture,” says Mr King. Instead, in 2013 UBC accepted C$2m ($1.5m) from a pair of philanthropists in Hong Kong to offer Cantonese.
Spotify continues to get itself into trouble, this time by requesting “data about the speed of your movements, such as whether you are running, walking, or in transit”. They say it’s for a new feature called Spotify Running.
Me, I’d be happy if their Windows application would just work. At least now it doesn’t crash (thanks, Spotify techies), but it does take several minutes to start. What is it doing?
Spotify’s Discover Weekly service was introduced in late July as an attempt to solve the company’s long-standing problems with music discovery. The feature offers up a two-hour playlist based on users’ listening habits, as well as those of similar fans, and is overseen by Matthew Ogle, formerly of music social network This Is My Jam.
“We wanted to make something that felt like your best friend making you a mixtape, labelled ‘music you should check out’, every single week,” Ogle told the Guardian last month. In the month since the feature was launched, it has become a hit with users, with comments on social media calling it “the most fire DJ of 2015” and “scary good”.
Really? Maybe my musical tastes are too eclectic, but so far I haven’t found much that really interests me. Yet it does seem that the consensus on Twitter is very favourable, so it must be me.
I’ve been coming here since 1997. On my first trip, I remember seeing people in the street selling single cigarettes and single sticks of gum. I said to myself, “This is a poor country.” 20 years later, I still pass people selling those single cigarettes.
[…] at the core this is still a desperately poor country and the biggest export here still seems to be people.
Almost everywhere you go in the world you will find Filipinos who have left the country to earn a living. Two of the smartest people I have worked with in Hong Kong are Filipinos, but many of their compatriots are way over-qualified for the jobs they are doing, often in the service industries (it is a rule that musicians in hotels throughout Asia have to be Filipinos).
As Spike says, when the brightest and best leave the country, where does that leave the ones who are left behind?
If you live in Greater China you will know that stuff (phones, tablets, etc.) often comes with Chinese as the default setting. And the (pitifully) few Chinese characters I might recognize are nowhere near enough to navigate through the menus to find the option to change to English.
Yes it’s my own fault for buying a tablet with Chinese Windows. I was in a hurry and I assumed that it would be easy to switch to English. Indeed (with some help), I changed the primary language to English.
Then I downloaded Evernote Touch, and it’s all in Chinese. What? I couldn’t find the menu in the application, and it turns out you have to do something in Windows and then all is (reasonably) well. Anyway, waste of time because it’s rubbish. Back to the normal (desktop version) of the program, which is fine except that there’s no way to do a right-click.
This is strange because in Google Chrome you can do a right-click (hold your finger and up pops a menu).
But back to the point - is it too much to ask that there should always be a button or high-level menu in English, Spanish, or French that takes you to language selection?
Well, a strong sense of déjà vu for those of us old enough to remember the 1992 General Election.
Then, as now, a significant number of people seem to have told the opinion pollsters that they intended to vote Labour (or Liberal Democrat), only to choose the Conservatives when they went to the Polling Station.
Did they really change their mind at the last moment? Or did the pollsters just get it wrong?
It’s interesting to consider that David Cameron’s ludicrous gamble on winning a referendum on Scottish independence - without making any concessions - seems to have rebounded in his favour, doing great damage to the Labour Party. And what would have happened if Ed Miliband had stayed in London and not joined the absurd spectacle of the major party leaders rushing to Scotland – on the basis of an opinion poll that may well have been wrong.