The Nanfang / Blog

Cinemas In China Allowing Audiences to Type Comments Into Phone, Appear on Screen During The Film

Posted: 08/19/2014 2:17 pm

live commenting movie screen

Many like to think of the cinema as a place that lets their mind wander; something that takes them to different worlds and lets their imagination run wild. In order to do that, you need peace and quiet — which is why cinemas provide advertisements reminding guests to turn off their phones and avoid taking during the film.

Some cinemas in China, however, are going in the complete opposite direction. Chinese audiences aren’t only encouraged to complain about the movie they are watching, but share their comments with the rest of the audience—by having them projected on the movie screen.

Theaters in Beijing and Shanghai have begun experimenting with a live commenting system through which audiences can share a comment by sending a text message from their phone, reports Sohu Entertainment. Messages are then projected directly on the screen over the film, or onto an adjacent screen.

live commenting movie screen danmu

The Legend of Qin is an animated film that has tried the new feature in 50 theaters in Beijing and Shanghai since it was released on August 8. Shen Leping, the film’s director, is very enthusiastic about it, saying:

We are exploring how the response from the audience can affect the movie itself… We are, in fact, putting the director and viewer on equal terms and I think many of the opinions of the viewers are very helpful for film makers.

The screenings that feature live commenting predominantly feature young audiences, 80% of whom are 24 years old or younger. This demographic is more familiar with live commenting, which is already used online. Called danmu, or “bullet screen” for the way words scroll from left to right like bullets, live commenting on videos puts user content on equal terms with the video content. Originating from Japan, two Chinese websites that have popularized the danmu are ACFun and Bilibala.

To give you a taste of what this experience is like, here’s a video (below) with live commenting enabled. The video shows a video-taped confession of Taiwanese actor Kai Ko, who was arrested on drug charges along with Jaycee Chan. Screenshots are first provided, and then with a video clip below.

live commenting movie screen danmulive commenting movie screen danmu

Having moved from the internet and onto the silver screen, audiences can use the live commenting system to bring their own snark and sarcasm as they enjoy watching a movie through the interface of their own phone.

Photos: Sohu EntertainmentCCTV English


Here’s What The Beijing Times Thinks Of People Who Eat Foreign Fast Food

Posted: 07/24/2014 5:26 pm

fast foodThe Husi Food scandal that has engulfed popular foreign fast food chains McDonald’s KFC and Pizza Hut is showing no signs of letting up. After tainted meat products were discovered in Pizza Hut locations in Shenzhen and Zhuhai, it’s now been revealed that three Foshan Pizza Hut locations also had expired meat.

To any average person in China, this could be summarized as “yet another food safety scandal”. However, this is not these case for the Beijing Times, which is adamant that foreign fast food chains are the main problem.

The following is a complete translation of this editorial written by Gu Yun:

Beijing Times: Consumers Can Not Become the “Brain Dead” Pawns of Foriegn Fast Food

Consumers can not become the “brain dead” pawns of foreign fast food. Whether they be foreign (owned) brands or national companies, they must all comply with regulations in order to gain the trust of consumers. Any company that experiences problems with quality must accept criticism and punishments.

After the improper use of expired meat products by Husi Food Company, a food supplier for McDonald’s, KFC, and other foreign fast food restaurants, was exposed, relevant Shanghai authorities have investigated to show that this suspected company has been involved in illegal manufacturing and operating practices. At present, police have arrested five suspected individuals.

When the problem was exposed and the specific tainted products were identified, it was reasonable to say that consumers should be on alert for this kind of company that is lacking in morals and engages in illegal behavior. But according to this reporter’s investigation, Chicken McNuggets are still being purchased at a few McDonald’s restaurant locations in Beijing and Shanghai. In fact, the coverage of the food safety scandal hasn’t deterred the crowds of consumers that still frequent this restaurant. Other areas look to have the same situation as well.

Clearly aware that these foreign fast food restaurants have these food safety problems, consumers still flock to them in a mad rush nonetheless. No matter how you look at it, this remains a perplexing conundrum to figure out. What makes one’s eyes pop out is that there are articles online that say ‘let’s be grateful towards and continue to support foreign fast food restaurants’ with the main reason being that McDonald’s and KFC are also victims in this situation. For these people that are simultaneously in pain and pleasure, just what are they trying to say?

During this incident, the foreign fast food restaurants of McDonald’s, KFC, and others appear to be victims, but this is not the case. Every company must be responsible for their own production. In order to fulfill this requirement, [due dilligence] must begin right at the beginning with the raw ingredients. It goes without saying that the quality of the raw ingredients, whether good or bad, will decide the quality of the final product. The meat products supplied by Husi Foods Company are the main ingredient used by the foreign fast food companies, and the problem was allowed to get into the food supplied by these restaurants. How can foreign fast food restaurants still maintain that they remain completely virtuous? Although it’s said that Husi has betrayed McDonald’s, McDonald’s has betrayed consumers. Should we expect consumers to seek compensation from Husi Foods directly?

Many consumers still choose to patron foreign fast food restaurants, and so it is still a worthy topic to ruminate over. For instance, some people think that going to McDonald’s and KFC to eat now signifies the most safe time to do so. It appears this reasoning is not wrong. After such a serious case has happened, the first step to take is to establish preventative measures in regards to these responsible companies. However, the problem of expired meat products has already been exposed, and the quality control by foreign fast food companies has been shown to have overlooked this problem. How can consumers know that the next supplier is free of any problems?

There is also another theory that suggests foreign fast food companies aren’t actually any good, but still have better food safety than other domestic restaurants. In fact, with all these foreign brands in this era of globalization, these so-called foreign restaurants are really just localized companies. For instance, although Shanghai Husi Foods is a foreign company, all of its processed foods come from here in this country. Even more importantly, there’s no need to doubt these foreign fast food restaurants with quality control problems as this has nothing to do with whether or not other companies are able to detect quality control problems. This fact is ignored to the point that one will try to make excuses for them. However you look at it, this is self-loathing cultural behavior.

Consumers can not become the “brain dead” pawns of foreign fast food. Whether they be foreign (owned) brands or national companies, they must all comply with regulations in order to gain the trust of consumers. Any company that experiences problems with quality must accept criticism and punishments. In regards to this problem, we should be concerned with the facts and not ideology or picking sides. Whether we use this to “protect national companies” or say “foreign fast food restaurants are also victims”, it’s still to “serve as the bad guy” to twist the facts and subvert the truth.


Photos: CCTV


Comment: Hong Kong Risks Losing Freedoms If It Pushes Too Hard

Posted: 06/17/2014 3:16 pm

Cam MacMurchy is the Editor in Chief of The Nanfang. This column is his personal opinion and does not reflect the views of his employer or this website.

Ever since the handover in 1997, Hong Kong people have kept alive a vibrant civil society. Every few years an issue crops up – Article 23, the high-speed rail to Mainland China, national education – that results in Hong Kong people pushing back against the perceived interference by the central authorities in Beijing.

Hong Kong has, generally, done what British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher urged them to do: continue to fight to preserve the city’s way of life under the “one country, two systems” mechanism. And truth be told, the system has worked out alright: Hong Kong remains a largely free and open society, judicial independence has been preserved, the media is as vibrant as ever (though there are some unsettling signs this may change), and the city is richer and more prosperous today than it was in 1997.

Still, this isn’t enough. Hong Kong people have yearned for full democracy for decades, and universal suffrage was promised in the Basic Law. The last few chief executives, the de facto governors of the territory, have been elected by a small group of business elites that are primarily aligned with Beijing. Still, the candidates campaigned openly as though everyone had a vote, even holding live debates on television. The city’s Legislative Council, or LegCo, operates in a similar fashion, with direct elections for about half of the assembly and closed elections for the other half, which represent many of the city’s industries.

There is no question that if there was a test for a region’s readiness for democracy, Hong Kong would pass with flying colours. It has an educated and informed citizenry, free press, and strong and independent institutions. This, along with Beijing’s general adherence to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, has led many to believe that true democracy could one day be achieved — and it might be, but not at the hands of Occupy Central protesters, who are threatening to risk the city’s prosperity in their quest for true universal suffrage.

As a Hong Kong resident, I was appalled like everyone else at the white paper issued by Beijing last week that clearly outlined the central government’s authority over the territory. While parts of it can be debated, Beijing was simply stating what many in China already know: Hong Kong belongs to China, and falls under the authority of the central government. For years, Hong Kong has been able to continue with its British-inspired way of life while focusing more on “two systems” rather than “one country”. In many ways, the city has still not come to terms with the handover of sovereignty back to China, which is what made the white paper seem like such an aggressive document. To the central government, it merely stated what everyone should already know; to Hong Kong, it was like being violently awakened from a dream.

With the chief executive election set for 2017, some in Hong Kong are calling for a public process to nominate candidates. Beijing opposes a public nomination option, and wants a screening mechanism to ensure an overtly anti-China candidate could not end up with the keys to the territory. At the risk of sounding too simple, it’s clear Beijing should have more confidence in Hong Kong (people here would be, in my humble estimation, unlikely to elect somebody antagonistic to Beijing) and the public nomination option is completely suitable, doable, and preferable for the city and it’s future. But being “right” doesn’t mean it’s attainable right now, and Hong Kong is left trying to find a middle ground between a public nomination option and Beijing’s strict screening process.

The Occupy Central protesters, however, are not looking for a middle ground. They are demanding a public nomination right, and unless they achieve it, they plan to block key arteries in the Central business district, hurt the city’s businesses, and put pressure on the Hong Kong SAR and central governments to acquiesce. Emboldened by previous government climbdowns, the protesters believe if they apply enough pressure they can win.

The problem with this approach is it leaves no room for compromise. Quite simply, Beijing will not open up Hong Kong’s nomination process at this stage; the CCP’s absolute priority is maintaining power and sovereignty over Chinese territory, something a public nomination right would threaten. This is the deepest root in the party’s tree, and won’t be dislodged. Which means the odds are overwhelmingly against the protesters before they even begin.

So what can the protesters accomplish? They are left with two options: stage a long-term sit-in that does nothing more than cause a nuisance before it eventually fades away, or move into the realm of civil disobedience, which will most certainly be met with the full force of the law. Worse, if Occupy opts for option two, it could result in Beijing losing patience with Hong Kong and restricting some of the freedoms the territory currently enjoys. The end result could be a society with fewer freedoms, and fewer avenues for improvement, than we have today.

Former Xinhua director in Hong Kong Zhou Nan said the PLA may intervene if the city descends into chaos. That would no doubt further inflame Hong Kong citizens who continue to feel queasy at any overt displays of Beijing’s sovereignty over the territory.

Instead of a confrontational approach, the pan-democrats need to maintain open lines of communication with Beijing while continuing to push for change both inside and outside official channels. Protests and sit-ins are useful tools, too, when deployed strategically. The bottom line, however, is Hong Kong belongs to the People’s Republic of China and Beijing has ultimate authority over the territory, as uncomfortable as that may be. We must accept this, then work within the constraints to fight as hard as we can. We need to think strategically and long-term about how to achieve our goals while ensuring our current, unique way of life is preserved. Both of these things are attainable, but neither will be achieved by holding a gun to Beijing’s head.

Photo: Chinanews


Why Obama’s re-election matters to one Chinese American

Posted: 11/9/2012 1:16 pm

My parents have lived in the US since the mid 1960s, after emigrating from Taiwan. They have been citizens of the US for about two decades now. But even after all this time in the US, I remember my parents telling me that voting for Barack Obama and helping elect him was one of the first times they felt well and truly proud of being Americans. It was important to me, as well – not just because Obama was black, but because he was also the child of an immigrant from another country, and had a weird name that was hard to pronounce – like me.

When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey – which is an island off the coast of Sicily – it was weird, disconcerting and alienating to not be white – and I hated it. I hated having the name that no one could pronounce and everyone made fun of. I used to look at the ants on the trees and feel jealous that they were homogeneous (despite their harsh working conditions). I wished I could be white. I wished I could understand baseball and rock music and had fluency in American pop culture. I wished that I could eat hamburgers or pizza at home (we almost never had anything other than Chinese food). I didn’t want to learn those ridiculous characters that I would never use! Seriously, when would I ever need to use Chinese?! I guess that’s why many of my friends were Indians, Jews, or Arabs. We were outsiders. Even in my 20s there was the feeling that there was, still, a glass ceiling that Asians couldn’t get beyond – not to mention how difficult it still is for Latinos and African-Americans to this very day. Growing up near Princeton provided a front row and center seat to one of the redoubts of WASP culture in America.

The 2008 election of Obama changed that, but it was very much a crystallization of how American culture and society and demographics were changing. Of course, this change provoked a backlash from the culturally irredentist right-wing, from Donald Trump to John Sununu, who were obsessed with proving that Obama wasn’t American or needed to learn how to be American. And Mitt Romney never did much to combat that during his campaign, never really took a stand against the virulently xenophobic edge of the Republican Party, sometimes going so far as to crack birther-themed jokes at rallies.

I will always have that lurking feeling that I’m not American enough, because I haven’t been to a pro-sports game in my entire life, never watched much TV in childhood, didn’t understand Jesus and Christianity, and worst of all, nearly joined the Democratic Socialists of America. There was always a question mark in my heart, even as I traveled the world with an American passport. Eleven years in China exacerbated that. Four years ago, Barack Obama’s election allayed those fears, somewhat – but the subsequent backlash proved that no, I wasn’t being paranoid.

Last time, in 2008, I was on the verge of tears, but held back because I was in public. But we did drink a lot. This time, alone at home in Shanghai, everything seemed even more emotional than it was four years ago. I was overcome when the networks called Ohio for Obama, handing him another four years. Thinking about it now, a few hours later, I realize it wasn’t just joy, it was relief, catharsis. US election campaigns, fueled by our polarized 24 hour social media+cable news cycle, are akin to what we call “cruel and unusual punishment”. It was no longer the jubilation of electing a black president so much as it was the relief and reprieve from burden.

I know that Obama and the Democrats are not always truthful, but in recent years and in this campaign in particular, the GOP has gone to such lengths to disseminate such invidious propaganda that I began feeling that this election was a battle, not for the White House or Congress, but for something much bigger than that. We were fighting for the role of facts, numbers, evidence, and critical thinking – intellectual qualities that make for good science and good journalism and good politics.

Much of the malarkey is a result of Citizens United, Sheldon Adelson, the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove and the super-PACs, who have left such a bad and bitter taste in my mouth over the years. Every time they put something in the news cycle, or were themselves part of the news, I felt angry, frustrated, helpless. Billions were spent on this election. Adelson shelled out $40 million of his own money. Why? So we could implement the Ryan plan and cut Medicaid and throw more of the poor to the wolves? No matter how many fig leaves the plutocrats buy, they are still fig leaves. So you can understand the immense psychological relief I felt knowing the forces of ignorance and obfuscation would not win the day, and that religious nutters like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock as well as Allen West, Joe Walsh and other Tea Party acolytes would feel the sharp rebuke of the electorate. And as for Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, and their ilk – a bad clown show, at best – they deserve all the public obloquy they have received. They should shut up when the adults are talking.    It reminds me of that famous line from the UK satirical TV series Nathan Barley, where they say “the idiots are winning”. Maybe the idiots will win, but they didn’t on election night. The rebels beat the Empire that night. Now we must make sure we do right by ourselves, as well as by the many others in the world affected by our policies.

The penchant, deep in American culture, for anti-intellectualism, jingoism and political solipsism are part of the reason I’ve never felt very culturally American. How can you drink that Kool-Aid if you’re not even sure that you belong, that people will accept you for what you are? However, I’d like to believe that no matter how alienated I am from all that, there is a core of me that is quintessentially American. I like to think that the very way I think – the regard for facts, numbers, critical thinking and historical analysis – and the willingness to use those to fight for a cause one believes in – are values inculcated by my American education, from kindergarten all the way to graduate school. There was no chabuduo (a common Chinese phrase meaning “not off by much”) in my physics or math classes, or even in my history and literature classes. Ideas matter. Values matter. Arguments matter. Specificity or generality, being able to see the forest and the trees. Those are intellectual values and political values that do not just hold in the ivory tower. They matter immensely in shaping our politics and lives. All the time. You live in China for 11 years, and you’ll appreciate the contrast and the difference.

Much has been said about the nerdiest celeb in the US, New York Times statistician extraordinaire Nate Silver. While his calls were impressively accurate, and made “gut feeling” pundits look foolish, we should not glorify Silver because he beat the house like those MIT folks in Las Vegas. It isn’t just about #winning. It’s about using math as a tool to serve humanistic ends – to help us “perfect the union”, incrementally, measure by measure, bill by bill, law by law, to the best of our abilities. It’s about elevating the sophistication of political discourse. It’s about clearing out the “noise” of super-PAC sponsored attack ads to find the “signal” of actual positions and policies, to be persuaded by tenability instead of merely being swayed by likability. We need more wonks and math, because we simply cannot let lies carry the election, and we cannot allow any candidate pull a fast one on a benighted or anxious public like George W. Bush or Romney. That’s just bad for all of us. It lowers us, all of us. The Age of Stupid should be the like the Stone Age. We cannot, must not, ever go back there.  And that’s why I felt such relief when Obama won.

What a relief to know that the ridiculous politics of the lowest common denominator and its appeal to the so-called “low information” voter did not swing the election. I don’t ever want to see a candidate get up in front of millions of people and say, per Romney, “Five studies show that my ideas are better than yours. Of course the math adds up! Jeep is shipping all of your jobs to China!!” Please, don’t insult our intelligence. Your lies will catch up with you, the truth come out – and now faster than ever. Pundits will perhaps be more circumspect, less prone to bombastic prophesizing about landslides and such, and not a moment too soon! I hope this functions not just as a future disincentive against blatant lying, but also as a strong incentive for creating more nuanced and intelligent political discourse. Still, I was on tenterhooks the whole time, nightmarish images of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld awash in my mind, cackling diabolically. Karl Rove smoking his pipe in bathtub full of cash. When the networks called Ohio, it was very much like the feeling you get the instant you wake up from a bad dream, and the gratitude you feel as the molecules of reality push the nightmare world to the back of your mind, at least for another day.

And speaking of reality – wow. A few states took the brave step towards the legalization of marijuana, the affirmation of marriage equality, and the rejection of Citizens United. There are now a record number of women in the Senate (20) and an all-female congressional delegation in New Hampshire. These were all great victories for what Paul Krugman called the “real real America” – the only America that I ever have a chance of fully belonging to. Hey GAP, we don’t need those “Manifest Destiny” T-shirts, but we could use some more Optimism, Math, Facts, Intelligence and Tolerance T-shirts. Those are the keys to whatever destiny this republic might have. The New Deal and the Great Society weren’t meant to be one-offs, they were meant, like all social contracts, like all deep promises made between peoples, to have their vows renewed and improved with each generation – and it is time do that again.  As Obama said, echoing Lincoln – we must “perfect the Union” – where ‘perfect’ is a verb, a perpetual state of becoming. It feels good to be an American, again.

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