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Strange Legend of Tang Dynasty

Strange Legend of Tang Dynasty is a Chinese 36 part TV series that was broadcast between 27 September thru 12 October 2022.

About

It is also known as “Strange Tales of Tang Dynasty” and is based on a novel by Wei Feng Hua.

Ling Feng, General of the Jin Wu Guards and Su Wu Ming, a disciple of Di Ren Jie, work together to solve numerous mysterious cases including that of a strange fountain of youth herb named the Black Tea in which those who take it die after a short period of time.

Cast

Yang Xu Wen (杨旭文) as Lu Ling Feng
Officially entered show business in 2014 he has become one of those “in-demand” actors with 8 upcoming contracts. As far as I can see he has only done 1 movie and the rest TV shows. He was billed first in this drama although I thought it was initially about Su Wu Ming.

Yang Zhi Gang (杨志刚) as Su Wu Ming
His sibling is a famous screenwriter and producer Guo Jing Yu.
A decent list of TV shows to his name, but no movie productions. He will be the Chief Producer of the upcoming drama Hua Xin Wang Ye Gong Lue (花心王爷攻略), which is supposedly a time travel web series in the comedy romance genre.

Review

Strange Legend was one of those surprise shows I didn’t expect to be so good.

There was a great mixture of fantasy, wuxia, mystery and comedy. If you are a fan of Detective Dee then this show is a must for you.

There appeared to be great chemistry between the cast, in the “making of” videos plus within the shows. Then there were the little pockets of really funny moments, especially in the final moments of the last show where they just seemed to make fun of themselves, reminding me of Stargate SG1.

The script was often a little complicated with the mysteries but was probably done on purpose as you saw Detective Dee’s disciple figure everything out while putting all the threads together. I don’t think it’s the purpose of the show for the audience to figure it out as I think it’s impossible. Over the 36 episodes, there are various mysteries they are challenged with, like different story arcs and one central theme.

Looking through how people are commenting on the show they 1) hope there will be a second season and 2) are looking for shows that are in a similar style. I think it would be difficult what they captured in this show.

One of the genres it was classed under was “Horror” and I didn’t think it was, more like fantasy, wuxia, mystery, thriller and comedy.

I will give this a 5/5, an absolute must-see show.

Where Can I Watch

You can see the show on either the official iQiYi website or its YouTube channel. Note that there are only a few of the first episodes available for free and the rest are pay-per-view.

2022-12-01T18:56:48+00:001 December 2022|Review China|

HSBC Sale

HSBC was sold to the Royal Bank of Canada this week for an obscene amount. I’m not an expert in banking but thought I would discuss what this means to me.

About

The Royal Bank of Canada has signed a deal to buy HSBC Canada for CAD $13.5 billion. The deal will close by the end of 2023 and at that stage, it will take several months to migrate current HSBC customers to its bank.  RBC thinks it’s a way to expand internationally and add to its client base. They are supposedly going to integrate technology to meet the commercial capability and globally connected client base.

The deal will need regulatory approval so there will be some obstacles that they will have to get through.

The Good and the Bad

HSBC Canada is a little backward compared to other Canadian banks and its UK equivalent. The benefits that other people enjoy with other banks I don’t have with HSBC. I can’t add Debit to my iPhone since HSBC hasn’t signed up for Visa Debit or a similar service. I can’t use online verification services as HSBC hasn’t signed up for them, these include a login to Canadian government services. It would be a major benefit to me should RBC provide these services to migrated customers.

One of the major must-have facilities for me is to transfer money from HSBC UK to HSBC Canada. If money comes into my UK account I can then transfer it to my pound-sterling account in Canada, at no cost. Then, when the transfer rate is to my benefit, I convert it into my CAD$ account. Transferring at a time that is convenient to me vs getting it paid directly into my Canadian account from future pension payments and other reasons allows me to earn more from my money. HSBC Canada has many Asian clients for exactly that reason, transferring cash from HSBC Hong Kong is one such example. RBC need to think globally and provide equivalent or better services, otherwise, I would not be happy.

There has been a lot in the news about the reputation of HSBC being linked with unglamorous customers who may have a slightly dodgy background. I believe that will be a risk to reputation exercise for RBC so it had better review the security aspect of this deal.

HSBC vs RBC Customer Service

HSBC has not been great over the years.

I am supposed to have a named contact at HSBC Belgravia, London, but despite reaching out that person has never had the courtesy of replying.

It took over 1 year for HSBC to respond to a question here in Canada, then I just gave up on a service I was going to buy.

At this stage I don’t know too much about the customer service of RBC, however, looking through Yelp reviews it’s not great. Our local branch receives a 3/5, and other nearby branches don’t receive any greater than 2/5.

Online Feedback

I was checking out online what people are saying about this story. According to The Financial Post, it could affect mortgages. Some are saying that HSBC is beholden to China. Some have put an anti-Trudeau slant on it saying companies have no appetite to invest in Canada anymore. Some say it gives more power to the minority of banks. So, I’m not an expert on this subject, I really can’t comment on what they say.

Summary

It’s an excellent opportunity to review who I want to do business with. For example, I don’t have to move to RBC if another bank, with a better reputation, can provide equal or better services. It’s always good to bank with more than one institution too, if one goes belly up I would have another for continuity.

2022-12-01T00:03:06+00:001 December 2022|Customer Service|

The Secret House

Secret House (비밀의 집) is a 124-episode South Korean soap-opera style show that aired between 11 April through 10 October 2022.

About

Lawyer Woo Ji Hwan, who comes from a poor family, goes against a rich family to seek revenge for the dreadful things they did to his mother who is suffering from dementia. He discovers many life-changing secrets along the way including revelations about his past.

Cast

Seo Ha Joon (서하준) plays Woo Ji Hwan
He was the main character in the show which some have said to see a male leased is unusual for a daily soap. It looks as though he was the main driving force behind the scenes too. The media tried to make a big deal of a recent controversial event the actor went through but fans wasn’t having it. He has been in soaps more than any other shows.
Instagram

Lee Young Eun (이영은) plays Baek Joo Hong
She has been in a large variety of soaps, regular TV shows and movies, I haven’t seen her in any other of her productions.  She won the New Star Award at the SBS Drama Awards in 2007.
Instagram

Jung Heon (김정헌) plays Nam Tae Hyung
He is an actor and model and appeared in a number of soap opera’s and TV shows, plus some movies.  I’ve not seen him in any other productions.
Instagram

Kang Byul (강별) plays Nam Tae Hee
She appeared in Rooftop Prince, one of my favourite Korean shows, but I do not recall her in it but it was just a support role. She has played in 3 other soap type shows and a variety of regular shows.
She hasn’t updated her social media since 2019 and it looks as though her Instagram page has been deleted.

Lee Seung Yeon (이승연) plays Ham Sook Jin
An actress and talk show host who has had a lot of experience.  She won third place in the Miss Korea beauty pageant and was South Korea’s representative to the 1993 Miss World pageant, she ended up in the top ten.

Review

There was something about this soap opera that just didn’t click, maybe it was just COVID making it difficult to film and keep things together.

The storyline was good, plenty of twists and turns. However, I don’t think there was enough content within that story to keep the pace going for the first 80% of the show.

At first I got the perceptions that the acting just wasn’t that good. Some actors just stood there like wooden planks and didn’t have much to contribute, such as Jo Yoo Shin.There was the nurse of the grandfather, played by Bang Eun Hee, she played an odd character who seemed to periodically talk to the camera to give commentary on what was happing on the show. Then I thought, well, maybe, the directing was pretty bad. It was difficult to pin point.

So, the musical score. There was little of someone singing the end theme, it was more dramatic like western soaps. However, the music was over dramatic for some scenes, or there was a gap when people were staring into space before the closing sequence happened. Kind of odd.

There were the usual product placements through the series, mostly the same brand of health supplements seen in other soaps. Also, some kind of vibrating bed and a food company where they send you the ingredients then make at home.

Overall, I did enjoy the show though. Certainly a memorable soap opera. It’s tough to score as some parts were a little dull but others were outstanding.  So, I will be coward and don’t score it at all, just watch it.

Trailer

2022-11-30T05:10:21+00:0030 November 2022|Review South Korea|

Rethinking A Social Media Strategy

The past couple of weeks regarding Mr Musk’s takeover of Twitter have been a total gong show and now he has reinstated Mr Trump’s account.

Seeing how this has unfolded has given me time to review how and what platforms I wish to engage on, so this is my line of thinking.

Twitter

I have stopped tweeting on the platform, locked my account and left basic information on where to find me in the future. I’ve also deleted links to Twitter from this website; links to my account and for social sharing my posts.

Mastodon

I am pretty happy with the way things are going on Mastodon, it is a wonderfully sane platform with many interesting people to collaborate with and learn from. It is an open-source platform run by volunteers which creates a feel-good factor for anybody who is coming on board. Twitter is a business but Mastodon is a community. I know which one I prefer.
https://mastodon.social/@stevendrowe

Facebook

I do promote this but my activity there is virtually nonexistent, about 95% of my friends have stopped interacting on that platform. Personally, I am aware of the platform’s privacy issues and I’m careful what I do on there now.

Instagram

It’s best to use Instagram on a desktop computer with as many ad-blockers as you can find. Adverts and recommended content will be invisible if you have ad blockers. I don’t think the photos I have a very wide reach, there are too many celebrities and influencers on the platform that detract from regular people like me, so I don’t go to any effort in putting new work up, just now and again.
https://www.instagram.com/stevedrowe/

Vero

This is an Instagram-type platform but much better and has additional features that would be attractive to many users. It seems to be mainly for professional photographers and against their work my content is just naff. Either way, I still get some feedback and likes, and there is also a lot of inspiration for me to do better at my photography and photoshop.
https://vero.co/stevendrowe

LinkedIn

I have actually placed more information on LinkedIn lately, I had cut down to about one item every 6 months, about the frequency I used to log into the platform. However, you never know who might pick up information that will benefit my clients.

Blog

This is the place where I need to focus my best efforts. I haven’t posted much recently and that needs to change. I enjoy this the most.

Summary

I take it as a positive step that the Twitter gong show has woken me up to look at what I do online and come up with a plan to focus my best efforts on.

2022-11-20T06:04:34+00:0020 November 2022|Social Media|

Really Movie Review

Really? [我说的都是真的] is a Chinese Movie released on 30th March 2018. It is also known by several other titles including “All I Say Is True”.

About

Han Zhi Gang exaggerates, or lies, about many things including his potential hunt for treasure in Iraq. He then witnesses what he thinks is a kidnapping and the victim’s death. He is then chased by the criminals as they try to kill the witness. As he is a compulsive liar no one believes his story except his daughter.

Cast

Wu Yue [吴樾] plays Han Zhi Gang
He has a long list of credits both in TV and film, we may have seen some of the films, like IP Man 4, that he’s been in.

There weren’t many others we recognized but I will give a special mention to:

Shao Bing [ 朱云峰] who played Ma Shuang
The reason why he gets a special mention is I think he was the funniest character in the film.
Baidu Profile

Review

The film was enjoyable but it wasn’t great. The actors and crew obviously worked hard on this project.

Some of the CGI and artwork in this movie were unique, I enjoyed it for that alone, it was very well done.  We thought the plane landing in the opening sequence was animated at first, but I suspect it was some fiddling with the camera view.

The script, well, there was nothing really new in it and there were spots in the movie that was a little bit boring, maybe a good time to go make a cup of coffee.

I would say it was very “slapstick” in style, a comedy of errors, especially the parts where the criminals tried to kill the kidnapping witness.

The moral of the story was of course “if you keep lying no one will believe you when you are telling the truth”.

I think the movie is good to have in the background and turn your attention to it when something exciting happens. I give it 2.5/5.

Interesting Snippet

There was a small clip of Hillary Clinton towards the end of the movie. I believe it was from 2016, so that was 2 years prior to when the movie was made. It didn’t appear derogatory in any way unless I missed something.

Hillary Clinton

Where to Watch

It is available on Viki and TubiTV.

I understand it’s also on YouTube although I’m not sure if it’s really supposed to be there.

Trailer

2022-11-01T05:21:18+00:001 November 2022|Review China|

Twitter An Uncertain Future

This week the Social Media company Twitter was privately purchased by Elon Musk and now faces an uncertain future.

Introduction

There are many things I don’t care about Mr Musk and some of them are:

  • Picking a fight with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine
  • Tesla’s connection with Xinjian, China and the draconian repression of Uyghurs
  • Some Pro-Russia bias
  • Seeming to side with US right-wing radicals and extremists
  • The tendency to say insane things

So, for Twitter the fears are:

  • He will place the whole system behind a paywall
  • Trump and other right-wing characters who have previously been banned will be allowed back on
  • The platform will be a free-for-all for hate speech creating an exodus of users

The First Day

As soon as the procurement went through Mr Musk already fired some of Twitter’s leadership simply because, so I understand, he just didn’t like them. However, there have been some legal arguments between them so maybe that was the case. Also, some regular employees have been dismissed too. Musk already said he’d fire 75% of the staff, I guess in order to make the company more financially viable that would be necessary.

Paywall

Currently, the company has Twitter Blue which users subscribe to have access to advanced features. Will those subscribers vanish given that they don’t believe in Musk’s lack of ethics?

A paywall will mean the end of the platform for many users since they just can’t afford it given the economy the state is in and rising prices. The more that unsubscribe from Blue the less income the company will have.

Trump

A number of human rights organizations have written to advertisers that use the Twitter platform urging them to boycott should Musk open it up to hate speech and disinformation. Certainly, if there are fewer users on the platform they less likely they will be to sell their products anyway.

When Trump was banned from Twitter it was applauded by many, some complained it was too late and if it had been done earlier the 6th January Insurrection wouldn’t have been as bad as it was. One can block Trump and even mute words containing that name but users will still provide commentary on everything he says, which I could not take.

Disinformation

Twitter is currently full of disinformation and hate speech, a day doesn’t go by without seeing something that will shock and disgust users. I wonder what the likelihood is that Musk will do something about the fake accounts. Will it get worse under him as he opens the floodgates to anybody? I reckon the latter is more possible, unfortunately.

Alternatives

On Twitter, this appeared to create shock waves for users:

  • Some users have already vanished
  • Others said they would be closing their accounts soon as they can
  • Some are saying “I’m not going anywhere” suggesting they will not be bullied off the platform
  • Many have been talking about how awful Musk and Trump are
  • Those on the right wing have been celebrating “oh, he’s one of us”.

So, if people have to go, where should they migrate to:

  • It appears that Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, is coming up with a new social media concept called Bluesky Social, currently reaching Beta.
  • Mastodon looks very similar to Twitter, I know a couple of people who have created accounts there – my profile is here. I notice the European Commission is on there so it must be attracting some high-profile people.
  • Counter Social looks like TweetDeck, not very user-friendly at first but worth checking out – my profile is @stevendrowe, profiles are not public unless a user pays for the subscription, also, certain “high-risk” countries are banned.

Summary

I’ve been on Twitter since 2008, that is 14 years, and have picked up a great bunch of connections both business and acquaintances, it would be a shame to lose them all now. That is the way it goes I guess.

2022-10-28T23:46:49+00:0028 October 2022|Social Media|

Detective Vs Sleuths Review

Review of Hong Kong movie Detective vs Sleuths (神探大戰) which was released on 8th July 2022.

About

The Hong Kong police create a task force to investigate a series of murders. Li Jun who was once a detective, until he suffered a mental breakdown, starts his own investigation. The murder victims are all suspects of cold cases being rubbed out by a figure known as “The Sleuth”.

The movie is also known as Cold Detective or Shen Tan Da Zhan.

Cast

Lau Ching Wan (刘青云) as Li Jun
The actor has been in quite a few TVB shows but recently his portfolio has been in movies where he is always in the main role. The actor is also known as Sean Lau.

Charlene Choi (蔡卓妍) as Chen Yi
Choi is a Hong Kong-Canadian actress and singer. She was born here in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Her family moved to Hong Kong when she was little. She has been on a long list of TV shows and films.
View profile on Instagram

Raymond Lam (林峯) as Fong Lai Shun
He has appeared in mainly TV shows but the only program I’ve seen him is “Step Into The Past”, I only saw one episode though. Part of his studies was at the University of Southern California. He is also a singer:

Review

There was a basic story line but didn’t really have to think to hard during this movie at all.

It wasn’t until 10-15 minutes into the movie that you started to realize the main character had “imaginary friends”. At first I just thought they were real. It was an interesting trick.

It did have some humour in the movie but not a lot. I don’t actually recall any of the characters smiling.

Lau Ching Wan had the best part and he acted it well mainly because he also, at times, played the character of his “friends”.

I recommend this movie for anyone wanting a lot of action and explosions. This is what the movie was mainly about and they did that well. They most likely employed a lot of stunt actors and special effects creatives.

Things moved so fast in the movie I got quite confused what was going on. Maybe they should have just extended the duration from 1 hour 42 min to about 15 minutes longer.

I would give this movie a 3/5.

Trailer

2022-10-24T23:28:03+00:0024 October 2022|Review Hong Kong|

Alienoid Movie Review

Alienoid (외계+인 1부) is a Korean science fiction movie that was released in July 2022 and received great reviews by fans.

About

Chaotic situations occur when a time door opens between the late Goryeo dynasty and the present day when aliens appear. Someone wants to seize the legendary divine sword in the Goryeo period.

This is part one of two films, the second of which will be released in 2023.

The movie is 2 hours 22 minutes in duration.

AlienoidCast

I’ve not seen the main cast in other productions but many have, some for which they saw the movie in the first place.

Ryu Joon Yeol (류준열) as Mu Reuk
Instagram

Kim Tae Ri (김태리) as Yi An
We did see this actress in another SciFi film called Space Sweepers
Instagram

Kim Woo Bin (김우빈) as Thunder
Thunder is the car/computer in the film.
Instagram

Review

This film is completely bonkers, in a good way.

This film had everything in it; UFOs, time travel, drama, comedy, wuxia-style fight scenes, shape-shifting robots, flying time travelling talking car, sleeper aliens planted in human brains and plenty of CGI. There wasn’t a single boring moment in the film, something was happening every minute. With so much going on a lot of credit must go not only to the actors but everyone behind the scenes, it must have been difficult to execute.

There is a good chance that any SciFi enthusiast will love it.

The negative for me was the movie moved so quickly it was quite confusing at times. Some commented that they thought the producers tried to squeeze so much in within the time allowed. I wondered if I had just missed some key elements of the plot. If at all possible I would recommend watching it at the cinema.

Asian movies always score lower points on Internet Movie Database, so it didn’t score well there but did better on Asian review sites and I agree with the latter. Can’t wait for part 2 to come out next year. It received a “critics pick” from the New York Times. I will give this movie 4.5 out of 5.

Links

Where To Watch

As I write this I’m unaware that it’s on any of the usual online services. You can, however, check out your local cinema listings, it is playing here in Vancouver, Canada in selected theatres.

Trailer

2022-09-14T22:52:26+00:0014 September 2022|Review South Korea|

Instagram vs Vero

There have been complaints against Instagram lately and many professionals are choosing to abandon the platform to go to Vero.

Vero vs Instagram

There are advantages and disadvantages on both platforms, just like any other social media I guess.

Here are my thoughts on the platforms

  • More distractions on Instagram such as adverts and recommended accounts/videos that one is bombarded with
  • Photographers don’t necessarily produce videos and that is now, according to the CEO, the general push on Instagram
  • Instagram is better for portrait rather than landscape format whereas Vero accepts both. I personally find it difficult to take photos that are in portrait format.
  • Users will go to Instagram for video content, like TikTok, but start to become dis-insterested in still photography, unless of course, you have celebrity status.
  • Little chance of being spammed or receiving vulgar comments on Vero
  • The algorithm in Instagram will distract from your content, for example, I might subscribe to your account but there will be little chance of me seeing your posts.
  • There are more features on Vero such as recommending another user, a book, share music and so on.
  • The disadvantage of Vero is that one might find it difficult to gain followers if the quality of your content isn’t on par to photography enthusiasts or professionals, which has been my experience. I will just never be able to produce the same quality photographs.

Tips on using Instagram

There are ways of attempting to make Instagram more palatable, such as:

  • Use on a desktop computer
  • Ensure you have as many AdBlockers on your browser as possible
  • Either use a private browser or something like the “Facebook Container” extension in Firefox.

The above will ensure you don’t see the many adverts and receive the barrage of recommended content from accounts you don’t want to see.

My Strategy for Photography/Video Media

Firstly, I try to create the highest quality content that I think users on Vero might be interested in. Of course, other users’ work is inspirational to me in that process.

Now that the material is in the best shape that I can get it in, within my meagre skillset, I then post it on other social media accounts.

The highest engagement I receive on any social media platform is Twitter, so that is always a priority. Then, Facebook and Instagram, for which I receive very little engagement if anything at all.

All of my content is uploaded on my website, I get more visitors there than all my social media accounts combined.

So, my strategy is to upload it on all possible platforms for maximum exposure as you never know who might find it, someday.

Summary

I’m so chuffed that anybody likes and/or sends me positive comments on my work.

Please visit my Vero account.

2022-09-10T20:59:32+00:0010 September 2022|Social Media|

Turtles

I’ve taken a lot of Turtle pictures but these two, which I took recently, are my favourite.

Picture 1: The smaller Turtle trying to get on the log. The owners built a ramp for her to easily walk up to it.

Picture 2: Two turtles, who always appear to be together, relaxing on their favourite log.

We live on a plot of 400 homes and as you can imagine the grounds are large. One of the many amenities is a little pond which has 4 turtles in it. It started off with one, then 2 more arrived, one died and was replaced with 2 more. So, we now have 4 in total, all female, of varying sizes. The owners are engrossed in their activities which really only amount to eating, swimming or sitting on the logs. Getting used to the more advanced features on my iPhone, and enhancing them in Photoshop or Lightroom, the above is an example of what I have produced.

It’s interesting to listen to neighbours who try to humanize the Turtles to come up with equivalent emotions or actions compared to what people do.

2022-09-07T05:17:14+00:007 September 2022|Photos|