Archive for May, 2015

A post on architecture to wrap up the month. Five outstanding works of modern architecture.

Posted in Architectural Territory on May 29, 2015 by vincentloy

Another month is coming to an end. I realized that I have been actively blogging recently with a record-breaking 22 blog posts in this month alone (including this one). Usually, I only did around 15 posts each month. It looks like I have many stuff to publish recently. My blog here is always updated to provide you with latest things I find interesting and worthy to be share here with my fellow readers. Now, I consider this post as a wrap up for the month, and I find that there isn’t anything else more interesting than a post on architecture.

Recently, I stumble across a book titled ”Twenty Buildings Every Architect Should Understand’ by Simon Unwin. I had a quick skim through the book. It explains on the ideas (concepts) and architectural principles behind the design of these 20 buildings (all small projects) that may be very helpful in case you are currently doing an architectural case study. I mean, it really explains in depth and detail, and I learnt quite a few important points from it. Out of the twenty buildings mentioned, I have studied or at least heard five of the buildings. They are also the most interesting. They are:

Barcelona Pavilion

I myself have previously did a detailed case study on this project for my architecture degree but this book actually tells me more behind its design and planning that I have previously never heard of.

It is a rebuilt German Pavilion for the 1929 International Exposition at Barcelona, designed by Mies van der Rohe. A pioneer example of modern architecture with minimalist approach. Simple form but consists of many materials for different depth and layers. An open and fluid plan from play of planes.

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Farnsworth House

A one-room weekend retreat at southwest of Chicago, designed also by Mies van der Rohe. Widely recognized as masterpiece of international style of architecture. Bringing inside outside and the other way round. Open plan with all spaces flanked by glass for openness except for the bathroom in the middle.

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Fallingwater

Actually known as Kaufmann Residence. Located at southwestern Pennsylvania and is designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. A very iconic house that sits harmoniously with its surrounding greenery and water elements. It is considered one of the best all-time piece of American architecture.

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Villa Savoye

A modernist villa in the outskirt of Paris, and is designed by Le Corbusier. A manifesto of Le Corbusier’s “five points” of new architecture, the villa is representative of the bases of modern architecture, and is one of the most easily recognizable and renowned examples of the International style. The five points are: support of pilotis elevating building from earth, functional roof for garden and terrace, free floor plans relieved of load-bearing walls, long horizontal windows for natural lighting and ventilation, and freely-designed facades unconstrained by load-bearing considerations.

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Thermal Baths, Vals

It is a spa in Switzerland designed by Peter Zumthor. The brilliant use of materials and lighting creates a comfortable and a poetic experience in the building. The design characterizes the European practice of exploring the juxtaposition of modern architecture, nature, and centuries-old traditional designs.

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The other 15 buildings listed in the book are:

  • La Casa Del Ojo De Agua
  • Neuendorf House
  • Truss Wall House
  • Endless House
  • La Congiunta
  • Le Cabanon
  • Esherick House
  • Maison A Bordeaux
  • Il Danteum
  • Kempsey Guest Studio
  • Condominium One, The Sea Ranch
  • Villa E.1027
  • Church of St. Peter, Klippan
  • Villa Busk
  • Villa Mairea

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

Is your city truly a global city? Check out the list below to find out.

Posted in Wonders and Places with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2015 by vincentloy

A global city, also called world city or sometimes alpha city or world center, is a city generally considered to be an important node in the global economic system. The concept comes from geography and urban studies and rests on the idea that globalization can be understood as largely created, facilitated, and enacted in strategic geographic locales according to a hierarchy of importance to the operation of the global system of finance and trade. Basically, a global city is a well-known international city with great urban surrounding and a major commercial hub with high economy that impacts not only its country but also the world.

‘Global city’ is different with ‘Mega city’ as the latter defines a city that houses very massive population and is not necessarily a global economic point. Global city status is considered to be beneficial and desired, and because of this, many groups have tried to classify and rank which cities are seen as world cities or non-world cities. The following are the criterias used mainly by those groups out there in classifying cities around the world in global city ranking;

  • A variety of international financial services, notably in finance, insurance, real estate, banking, accountancy, and marketing.
  • Headquarters of several multinational corporations.
  • The existence of financial headquarters, a stock exchange and major financial institutions.
  • Domination of the trade and economy of a large surrounding area.
  • Major manufacturing centres with port and container facilities.
  • Considerable decision-making power on a daily basis and at a global level.
  • Centres of new ideas and innovation in business, economics, culture and politics.
  • Centres of media and communications for global networks.
  • Dominance of the national region with great international significance.
  • High percentage of residents employed in the services sector and information sector.
  • High-quality educational institutions, including renowned universities, international student attendance and research facilities.
  • Multi-functional infrastructure offering some of the best legal, medical and entertainment facilities in the country.

In 2012, Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) updated a list that identifies three levels of global cities and several sub-ranks and the list is published in 2014. The categories / levels in the list are:

  • Alpha++ cities are London and New York City, which are vastly more integrated with the global economy than all other cities.
  • Alpha+ cities complement London and New York City by filling advanced service niches for the global economy.
  • Alpha and Alpha- cities are cities that link major economic regions into the world economy.
  • Beta level cities are cities that link moderate economic regions into the world economy.
  • Gamma level cities are cities that link smaller economic regions into the world economy.
  • Sufficiency level cities are cities that have a sufficient degree of services so as not to be obviously dependent on world cities.

So, here’s below is the list. Did your city made it to the alpha? (Click on the image below to view clearly on the list of cities listed:

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I’m quite excited that my city, Kuala Lumpur (KL) made it to the alpha level and that is considered very good. KL is no doubt a major economic centre in the region besides than the nearby Singapore (which is better of course). We are even ahead of Seoul (I guess Seoul will most probably overtaken us in the future ranking very soon), Jakarta, Bangkok, Taipei, and Melbourne. A recent view of the KL city below (amazing photograph):

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(Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/126700026@N02/, from skyscrapercity.com)

 

However, KL still needs to improve on a lot of things (public transport, facilities, etc) and need to attract more investors, business partners and companies to come in to enhance its role as a commercial powerhouse in Asia. There are three other Malaysian cities listed in the ranking too (under the Sufficiency category only) and they are Penang, Johor Bahru and Labuan. There are many other lists like Global Cities Index by American journal ‘Foreign Policy’, Global Economic Power Index from ‘The Atlantic’, Global Power City Index by Tokyo’s Institute for Urban Strategies, City Wealth Report by London’s estate agent, Global City Competitiveness Index by ‘The Economist Group’, etc out there and KL didn’t really perform that well in those list. KL has to work hard to improve in these kind of crucial rankings. If not, we will be outpaced by other emerging cities quickly.

Information sources:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_city

2. http://www.lboro.ac.uk/gawc/gawcworlds.html & http://www.lboro.ac.uk/gawc/world2012t.html

‘Blackhat’ and ‘San Andreas’ (2015)

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2015 by vincentloy

These two are the movies I have watched this week; ‘Blackhat’ and ‘San Andreas’. The former was released early this year, while the latter is only up to theatres today. The reason I watched ‘Blackhat’ is because it is a Hollywood production with some famous Chinese casts; Taiwan’s Wang Lee Hom and China’s Tang Wei. I heard parts of the film were also shot in my country, Malaysia. So, I’m curious. As for ‘San Andreas’, I’m definitely going for it because I love disaster film.

‘Blackhat’ is an action thriller film themed on cyber crime. And if you don’t know, ‘blackhat’ means hacker. It starred Chris Hemsworth, Tang Wei, Wang Lee Hom, Viola Davis, etc and it tells the story of a furloughed convict and his American and Chinese partners who are on mission to hunt a high-level cybercrime network spanning several cities across the world. I guess this is the first cyber-crime themed film I have ever watched and I don’t really enjoy it. It started off pretty cool, but just went ahead with boring story development. It falls pretty flat all the way. It also unnecessarily switching too many places from US to Asia, interrupting the flow rather than enhancing the ‘international’ appeal of the on-going drama.

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And worst thing is that there is only one short scene that took place in Malaysia; on a vast empty mining land in the state of Perak. Basically an unknown place. I thought there will be at least a scene in Kuala Lumpur. But not. The film mostly took place in US, and then at Hong Kong and finally at Jakarta. The acting is somehow average for all. I prefer Chris Hemsworth to be back as superhero ‘Thor’ rather than in this boring movie. There isn’t many actions and the intensity level is almost zero. They should show more ‘intelligence’ behind the hacking moves rather than just showing to us plenty of laptop screens. Nothing appealing nor engaging. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘Blackhat’ a total of 6.1 only.

Next up is ‘San Andreas’. Wow…this movie made my day. An excellent film. I know most critics don’t enjoy disaster films and I don’t bother what they criticize for this earthquake movie. Trust me; it’s an exciting film! Massive earthquakes hit California from the San Andreas fault (hence the movie’s title) and damaged cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, and a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his estranged wife and daughter. The movie starred Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, etc.

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I’m glad that the movie didn’t start slow. Usually disaster films are disappointing from its draggy beginning with nothing happening besides than introducing the main characters (and usually the characters are quite shallow for this type of movie). However, this is not the case for ‘San Andreas’. The movie began with already an exciting scene, and it continues all the way for a heart-stopping ride while at the same time dealing with the characters’ development sufficiently. I’m thrilled and overly excited by all the destruction scenes. Plenty of those to satisfy me as a fans of disaster movie. Buildings cracking and collapsing, earth shaking, dam bursting, debris falling and finally, over-the-top tsunami. Wow…I couldn’t even catch my breath. Those are impressively done and are very realistic, thanks to the awesome work on its visual effects. It’s a crazy and an intense ride till the end.

Out of 10 points, I rate ‘San Andreas’ a total of 7.8. I still didn’t award it above 8 points despite all the praise because I think the storyline is too predictable (bored of happy ending and illogically very fortunate narrow escapes by the main characters). But still, it’s one epic disaster film after ‘2012’ movie. I feel like want to watch it again.

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

Why is the internet so slow ???!!!

Posted in Explosive News and Results on May 27, 2015 by vincentloy

That must be a question most Malaysians are having a headache with. We usually couldn’t watch Youtube or any online videos smoothly as they are always buffering. And the loading time takes forever. It’s taking my whole night just to download a file. It’s really testing our patience beyond limit. There isn’t many available free public WIFI access available in the country yet. Even when we have an internet connection, it is unstable and always disconnect for some users. The high cost for connectivity at home or for business is also a major financial burden. These are some of the frustration Malaysians had in regards to the internet in the country.

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(Note: Nothing will load from the above. It’s just a ‘gif’ indicating the screen we usually see when we surf internet)

How do you want to achieve the ‘developed nation’ status by 2020 when the country is so slow and inefficient on its connectivity (broadband and network speed)? According to a survey conducted by Ookla (a global broadband testing and web-based network diagnostic applications company that compares the download, upload and line quality of broadband connections), Malaysia is ranked a low 126 out of 192 countries surveyed from May 2013 to April this year in the recent Net Index. That is an embarrassing statistic for a country considered highly developing now and contradicts to the government’s claim that the nation is on track to Vision 2020.

126 out of 192. We are among the poorest on internet speed. It’s proven. It’s not that Malaysians are hard to be satisfied on internet connection, but it is seriously way too bad. The authority (and telco companies) have to do something quick if they wanted for a true globally-connected country. It will makes everything runs faster, smoother, more effective and efficient and will have obvious impact on the people and the economy. They have to upgrade all the existing internet, make more places accessible to WIFI, reduce the cost for internet packages, etc. We can’t stick to the current situation. That would be a shame, and intolerable.

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For comparison, our internet speed is even slower than Vietnam and Cambodia in the region. Malaysia is at 5.48 Megabits per second (Mbps), almost three times slower than Vietnam. Zooming to the number one spot was Hong Kong with a speed of 78.3 Mbps. Singapore sped to second placing at 66.6 Mbps while South Korea was ranked fourth (53.77Mbps), the United Kingdom 23rd (26.85Mbps) and the United States, 32nd (23.9Mbps). How I wish our country is somewhere in that speed and not like a ‘turtle’ now.

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To sum it up, we couldn’t be among the slowest and most unstable in the world for internet connection. In the present era of global connectivity, we couldn’t be left out in this particular crucial area. We are all in the digital age. Life is ‘incomplete’ without science and technology now. Fix the country’s internet quick and we will be up and running to be a developed nation soon. If not, we are just overriding the doubtful statement that we are among the fastest growing country currently. Also not to forget the many other areas or elements that would determine whether a country can be developed and of high-income status. Malaysia, can you really achieve that?

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

 

 

 

Movie review for ‘Spy’ (2015) and some movie-related news.

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , on May 25, 2015 by vincentloy

When I watched ‘Mad Max’ in the theatre last week, I’m introduced to the movie trailer of ‘Spy’. It looks funny and reminds me something like Johnny English, a mix of comedy and action-packed spy theme that works perfectly well but Rowan Atkinson (a.k.a. Mr. Bean) is not in the picture here. The main star of the movie ‘Spy’ is Melissa McCarthy, portraying a desk-bound CIA analyst who volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer. I’m not meant to insult, but it is her huge body size that opens the door for more hilarious stuff in the movie. She may not possess the rightful image of a great spy, but hey, she nailed the mission.

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I wonder why the title of the movie is so simple. Just ‘Spy’. It’s too simple. If I’m in charge, I would prefer to name it ‘The Unlikely Spy’ or something like that. I’m expecting for many good laughs as the trailer hinted. There are still plenty of humorous scenes in the movie but nothing is extraordinarily funny or would be deem memorable. The best laughs are already shown in the trailer. Hence, there isn’t much more to expect from the whole movie in terms of hilarious elements. Fortunately, on the other hand, the movie didn’t disappoints from its clever plot and some good action sequences, which must be a challenge for her (Melissa), but she still seized it. Something unimaginable from her came right into your eyes. That’s cool.

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The chemistry between Melissa with the other main casts in the movie is all good. Everyone else delivered good performances (Jason Statham, Jude Law, Rose Byrne) but it is still Melissa who steals the show. I’m also quite surprised with Jason Statham’s comedy role here, as he usually portrayed serious guy in his past films. There are some good plot twists, and some interesting gadgets shown which are very important substance for movies like this and is not overlooked in this film. Overall, this movie is very entertaining and not a single part of it is draggy or boring. A nice movie to remove my Monday blues’ mood. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘Spy’ a total of 7.2. Early this year, we had a great spy-related movie already; Kingsman: The Secret Service, and now by mid of the same year, we have another good one; ‘Spy’.

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Let’s talk about the present box-office intake of Avengers: Age of Ultron which is expected to be a massive hit this year. It has been almost a month since its release on US market and several days earlier for other international markets, and the box-office figure of the movie already looks promising. Currently, it has already grossed over 400 million in US and 860 million overseas for a total of US$ 1.26 billion. Despite having lower domestic grossing compared to the first Avengers movie back in 2012, but with China now making a huge impact in the movie market now, the movie is still projected to reach over US$ 1.5 billion to set it on par with its predecessor.

The other movie that is nearing that figure unexpectedly and is still the highest grossing film of the year is Furious 7, the seventh instalment of ‘Fast and Furious’ film franchise. The movie created exceptional wave of hype across the world from its over-the-top actions and stunts and also a touching tribute to Paul Walker (this was his last film before he died from car crash in 2013). And so, the movie’s current box-office intake stands at US& 1.49 billion. And it is still up and running in theatres worldwide. It is going to get past 1.5 billion mark very soon. Now everyone is predicting that which one will top the table this year? Avengers 2 or Furious 7.

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

 

‘Limelight Years’, a very meaningful and positively-inspiring TVB drama.

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2015 by vincentloy

‘Limelight Years’ (華麗轉身) is a Hong Kong’s TVB modern drama of 22 episodes which starred Liza Wang, Damian Lau, Linda Chung, Alex Fong, Eliza Sam, Michelle Yim, etc. It mainly revolves on an unlikely friendship blossomed between a veteran singer (whom is successful in her career but failed in two marriages and her relationship with her two daughters) and a photographer (whom doesn’t want to move on after the death of his daughter and wife) when they met in a flight to Taiwan. 101246grd01v9vfa4bgrvf First of all, I like the overall concept behind the drama’s storyline which is hinted in the drama’s title that is translated directly to ‘elegant transformation’. This drama teaches us that no matter how far or successful we go, we should look back to our root, turn around and mend the mistakes we make in our life. It also taught us not to give up, but to stand up elegantly from the problems, overcomes them and move on. It is certainly a drama filled with positive messages to all. The series also came with heavy emphasis on friendship and romance and touched on issues like fame and materialistic world we are in now.

Generally, I enjoyed every episodes of this drama. There is nothing intense or anything of actions, but there are still some dramatic moments, some hilarious scenes, some touching segments, some impressive acting-showcase bits, some beautiful sceneries (from Taiwan where parts of the shooting of the drama took place), and some meaningful messages as mentioned earlier. I am also surprisingly in the position to like the two songs (one always played almost in every episodes throughout the whole drama and another one is the main theme song) by Liza Wang, also the main actress in this drama. Both are very touching and have meaningful lyrics, and suit very well to this particular series.

Liza Wang is wonderful in this drama. Her character is fully presented, and she had no problem of taking this interesting character. She nailed all the emotional parts in the drama very well. She stands a chance for Best Actress award again by the end of this year. Damian Lau is also as good as always. Linda Chung is also far more natural on her acting in this series but her character here is too dumb and is easily fooled by Alex Fong. Talking about Alex, it has been many years of which he had not filmed any TVB dramas. Good to see him back but his acting is only at average. Even his buddy is more convincing than him. Eliza Sam is very bad (her shouting and facial expression are stiff and awkward). Even the newbie actor that portrayed her mentally-ill brother in this series did better. 20150513_EN_華麗轉身_01 2-150512150559A5 The final two episodes had just been aired yesterday. I like how it ends for Linda and Alex as a pair. I’m glad that it’s not the typical happy ending for this couple of which I’m not too happy for. It’s good that now Alex has to wait for Linda after she had done so for the whole drama. That’s a good conclusion for both of them. It’s also nice to see Liza Wang and Damian Lau becoming best friend after all the things they have been through from Hong Kong to Taiwan. This is a good quality ending to a good quality drama. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘Limelight Years’ a total of 7.7.

(Images in this post are from TVB.com)

The 4 Kings of Badminton.

Posted in Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2015 by vincentloy

Badminton has been one of my favourite sports. I seldom play badminton but I love to watch badminton tournaments. There has been quite a lot of talks on this particular sport this month. The first is when Lee Chong Wei can get back to play in badminton tournaments beginning this month after he is banned for eight months from his doping case last year. Next was the prestigious Sudirman Cup 2015, a mixed team championship held this month too and won by the reigning champion and host nation, China as expected. And then, recently, YONEX organized a friendly exhibition match in China and invited the 4 great kings of badminton.

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Who are the 4 kings of badminton? They must possess impressive records in the sport, well known, have held world number one ranked player and considered as icon of badminton respectively. They are Lin Dan of China, Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia and Peter Gade of Denmark. 4 men, 4 different countries, and they ruled the sport respectively (in men single event) from 2000s.

Lin Dan (China)

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– Age 32 this year.

– Two-time Olympic champion (gold-medalist), five-time World champion, and five-time All England champion.

– By age of 28, he had won all nine major titles in badminton world; Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup (no more now), Thomas Cup, Sudirman Cup, Super Series Masters Finals, All England Open, Asian Games and Asian Championships, becoming the first and only player in history to achieve that.

– 57 career titles to date.

– Currently in semi-retired position.

Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia)

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– Age 33 this year.

– Ranked first worldwide in men-single badminton player for the longest, for 298 weeks. Have been ranked first worldwide for a consecutive 199 weeks.

– Two-time Olympic silver-medalist, currently the most successful Malaysian Olympian in history, and earned him the title of Dato’. Also two-time Commonwealth Games gold-medalist. Won Malaysian Open for a record 10 times.

– 55 career titles to date.

– Currently still actively playing in tournaments.

Taufik Hidayat (Indonesia)

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– Age 34 this year.

– Olympic champion (gold medalist), also champion in World Championships, Asian Championships, Asian Games, South East Asian Games, and Thomas Cup.

– Won Indonesian Open for a record 6 times.

– Over 27 career titles to date.

– Currently retired.

Peter Gade (Denmark)

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– Age 39 this year.

– 5-time winner of European Championships, All England champion, World GrandPrix champion.

– Over 40 career titles to date.

– Currently retired.

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Out of the 4 great men in badminton, Lin Dan is no doubt the most successful in the history of badminton. Nicknamed ‘Super Dan’, he is simply unbeatable in most of the major tournaments he participated in. No one can challenge his record. Also let us not forget the mighty presence of Lee Chong Wei. Despite not winning all the major titles, but his very active participation in almost all the badminton championships available and winning many of them helped him become the longest number one player in history. Taufik Hidayat and Peter Gade are also awesome in this particular sport.

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Right now, the number one player (in men single) is Chen Long from China. He is one strong badminton player to fear for right now.

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)