POSTCARDS FROM CHINA…
For all its wonders, modern communications technology’s most corrosive impact has been in the near-eradication of unpolluted leisure time, as employees stay in touch with the office via Blackberry conversations everywhere from their children’s soccer games to, during a recent holiday, the Great Wall of China.
That said, some of the blessings bestowed by modern gadgetry were very much in evidence last week. Thanks to Slingbox, an ingenious device that enables its owners to access their local TV via a computer, I was able to watch UCLA’s improbable run to the NCAA Final Four on a computer screen, in real time — from 16 time zones away.
If ever there were evidence of TV made portable in the extreme, this would be it. In fact, Slingbox was born precisely for that reason, created by brothers Jason and Blake Krikorian largely to feed their sports fix — allowing them to keep track of the home team when traveling, though it works just as well with “Lost,” “24” or any other addictive TV confection.
The grainy images weren’t exactly high-definition widescreen on the couch holding a cold one, but the experience underscored how available video content is and the many ways people will pay to access it — provided, of course, that the product is one they must have, like a live sports event in an elimination tournament.
The temptation is to call being able to watch the games priceless, but what has MasterCard done for me lately? Nevertheless, it was pretty damn cool.
HOLLYWOOD IS REALLY just a state of mind, but for anyone who needs a reminder, try walking Avenue of Stars in Kowloon, just across the Victoria Harbour from Hong Kong.
A celebration of Hong Kong movies, this waterside development mixes the kitsch of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame with the ambience of Venice Beach, down to the local entertainment. The attractions, for example, include seeing how one’s hands measure up compared to Michelle Yeoh (her hands look good even in cement), or having a picture taken in front of a slightly-larger-than-life-sized statue of Bruce Lee.
As for those eager to take a slice of Hong Kong home with them, stop by Kiosk No. 2, which consists entirely of Jackie Chan memorabilia. Somehow, I managed to escape without a Chan jacket, t-shirt or director’s chair, though I might rent “Supercop” again, just to admire the stunt outtakes when he and Yeoh keep nearly killing themselves.
CHANNEL-SURFING ABROAD is usually an adventure, but nothing proved more mind-boggling than the revelation that action-adventure net AXN-Asia has scheduled something called “CSI: Supreme Sunday,” which consists of airing the original “CSI,” “CSI: NY” and “CSI: Miami” back to back to back.
Honestly, shouldn’t someone who sits through the entire block be halfway to an honorary degree in forensic science? And what must the international audience think regarding their chances of ending up a chalk outline if they visit the U.S.?
Without knowing ratings data for AXN, perhaps CBS should shed any pretense with its crime dramas and try this domestically — say, “CSI” into “CSI: Without a Trace,” followed by “CSI: Cold Case,” “CSI: Criminal Minds” and “CSI: Numb3rs.”
THOSE PARANOID ABOUT CHINA’S growing economic clout would doubtless have blanched wandering into a Shanghai bookstore, where the most prominent English-language title translated into Chinese was “Winning,” the latest how-to management guide by former GE Chairman Jack Welch and his new wife, Suzy.
Per the “Winning” Web site, Welch outlines how to craft a corporate mission statement and says he wrote the book “for people who love business and care passionately about doing it right. I wrote it for people who get up every morning hungry for success — both at work and in life.”
Not to sound like one of those Six Sigma-challenged losers who Neutron Jack would regularly lay off, but I get the feeling I’d like his prose better in Chinese.
EVEN IN LARGER Chinese cities where tourists are more plentiful, much of the local population is prone to staring long and hard when they see a bearded western face, unless of course it was all a case of mistaken identity. Perhaps Leonard Maltin has a much bigger following in China than I previously realized.