Windows MCE Remote + Windows Media Center + Media Browser

I hooked up my old computer to the TV in the living room to watch downloaded movies and TV. For a very long time, I used it like a normal computer with keyboard and mouse. However the typical computer user interface is not designed for a dad holding a baby. I need a more user friendly solution to use the computer on the TV. I bought this generic made-in-China Windows MCE remote on eBay for $12. Any MCE remote properly works or less the same. I like this one because it is cheap and I can control the mouse cursor and buttons through the remote.

The MCE remote works with the Windows Media Center (WMC) comes with Windows 7 installation. It is pretty much a full screen media library browser and multi-media player. WMC on its own is pretty useless other than showing baby photos. With the help of just a few plug-ins and free software, I can turned my download library into something looks like Netflix.

First, I installed K-Lite Codec Pack, both the 32 bit and 64 bit version, since WMC in runs 64 bits. This Codec allow me to play pretty much any media files inside WMC. Then I installed Media Browser, so WMC can display files in my media library. The WMC built-in movie library only recognize Microsoft file formats and ripped DVDs. However, it can only display the filenames and directory by default. It does not know which file is what movie. To add the final touch, I ran Media Scout to set up the metadata for my media files. It pulls the movie title, description, poster and all sorts of information from imdb.

Now I can sit back and relax in the couch, browse my movie library at ease while holding the baby with one hand.

無賴勇者的鬼畜美學

改篇自輕小說的「無賴勇者的鬼畜美學」,算不上是特別出色的作品,作畫和配樂普普通通,動作場面又多偷功減料用定格。不過它有兩大賣點吸引觀眾,兩個賣點的排名不分先後,而事實上我也不清楚到底那一個賣點比較吸引。

第一個賣點是背景設定很反傳統很吸引,一般的RPG故事是少年到異世界險冒,這個故事則是從主角打敗魔王,從異世界回到地球才開始。魔王臨終前把女兒付託給打敗他的勇者,於是男主角便帶著女主角到地球生活。由於從異世界回來的少年少女眾多,世界政府成立巴比倫特別學校,收容他們學習一般學校知識和訓練從異世界學到戰鬥技巧。於是一般RPG的魔法和勇者設定,很奇妙地結合現代的科技世界,成為這套作品的舞臺。第一季的劇情還是在埋伏線階段,故事主要是集中在適應新校園生活,對於巴比倫機構背後隱藏的可疑之處所知不多,不過可以推斷與異世界入侵地球有關,亦遲早與魔王女兒的身份會扯上關係。

第二個賣點表面上是賣肉,這套動畫是深夜番,尺度比較開放,不乏祼露服務鏡頭,但實際的賣點是久違了的咸濕紳士類型的主角。咸濕紳士的代表人物是城市獵人又或龍珠的龜仙人,因為劇情的搞笑需要而表現得十分好色,常常做一些偷窺,咸豬手,偷女人底褲的行為,但在越過淫邪界線之前總會被女主角打飛。他們雖然平常舉止好色,但在危急關頭往往就是最可靠,最會挺身而出保護女性的人。無賴勇者對付女性敵人的絕招是偷內衣,交手後女敵人的攻擊力即變為零,因為雙手要遮掩重要部位防止走光。他亦很喜歡在女主角換衣洗澡時以各無厘頭原因出場,又有很多貌似不文的保健養生招式。不過意識其實並不是很不良,大多是發乎淫止乎禮,始終於這套又不是色情動畫,說到底那只些十分政治不正確,但好好笑的有味笑料。

第一季只是故事的開端,接下來會發生什麼劇情,觀眾大慨心中有個譜。RPG公式的反向作用,牽涉多個世界的大陰謀,無賴勇者和魔王女兒的鬥氣愛情。這動畫娛樂性豐富,可是總是少了點什麼,始終缺乏一流作品的味道。無聊時會想看,看時會笑得開心,但看完後又沒有什麼強力的理由推薦給其他人看。

基地締造者 Forward the Foundation – Issac Asimov

「基地締造者」在「基地系列」的時軸上是第二本書,但在現實中卻是阿西莫夫寫的最後一本基地小說。這本書記錄謝頓的一生,講述他大逃亡中找到研究心理史學的頭緒後,如何把心理史學的應用付諸實行,成立心理史學研究所,經過四十年的努力,終於找出防止人類在銀河帝國崩潰後,步入漫長的黑暗期的方案,便是在宇宙的邊彊建立基地,保全人類千萬年累積的科技知識,讓基地成為第二銀河帝國的種子。

全書分為四個短篇故事,每個故事發生時隔十年。謝頓從一個孤身作戰的年青學者,到龐大的心理史學研究所。心理史學從理論到實踐,從最初模糊的預測,到可以準確的預言未來。而銀河帝國則經歷了暗殺皇帝,軍閥政變,邊界領地獨立,逐步走上崩潰之路。

第一個故事最精彩,那時心理史學還未能達致應用階段,謝頓被捲入了政變的陰謀。他運用敵人心理上的弱點,設計讓他成為世人笑話自取滅亡。皇帝更誤信那是心理史學的威能,不單委位謝頓為首相,更全力支持心理史學的研究,投放大量帝國的資源。第二個故事有點遜色,十年前政變的餘黨復仇,企圖藉皇宮招聘新園丁的機會暗殺謝頓,最後卻因為偶然的巧合而失敗。第三個故事同樣也是暗殺謝頓的陰謀,新上台的軍政府想趁謝頓六十大壽的機會,奪取心理史學的研究成果。謝頓的機械人老婆為保護他而犧牲,她會在本書死亡是意料中事,如果故事可以寫得更感人會更好看。

最後一個故事是必要的存在,把前傳與正傳連接在一起。謝頓研究心理史學四十多年,雖然能夠預知帝國的衰落,卻一直苦無救治之法。直至他發現孫女是心靈感應者,正好為基地難題提供答案。謝頓集合心靈感應者,用念力影響政濟要人,支持他表面上修編銀河百科全書,亦即暗地裏秘密建立第一基地的計畫。同時讓心靈感應者在星之端建立第二基地,繼續發展心理史學,並在漫長黑暗千年中在背後工作,修正第一基地可能出現的誤差。後記中謝頓為基地的預言錄音,正好與基地正傳的開始連成一線,為全書寫下一個完滿句號。

這本書比「基地前奏」更粉絲向,沒有看過基地系列的讀者,必定會看到一頭霧水。其實這部小說本身的科幻成份不高,倒像是基地系列的補完資料,填上基地建立之前空白。

低俗喜劇

從前說是彭浩翔,會說他是拍笑片的導演。現在的彭浩翔,則變成專拍三級片的導演。他對上幾套電影,為保持原汁原味的正宗香港粗口文化,絕不刪剪寧可被列為三級片上映。若果電影是反映現實的藝術,那彭浩翔的電影某程度上反映了香港真實一面,不論是什麼階層的香港人,在日常生活中怎可能完全不接觸粗口呢。不過有時候我又覺得彭浩翔只是為了講粗口而講粗口,把粗口拿來當笑位可以偷懶度少些笑料。

「低俗喜劇」是百分百的港產片,在一眾中港合資的合拍爛片中,有一份格外親切的感覺。以前在AV中彭浩翔玩過中學生請日本女優拍色情電影,這次更是打正旗號讓色情電影監製當主角。片頭開宗明義說這電影的級別,為比「家長指引」高一級的「家長指責」,雖然電影的確是意識不良,但總能保持樂而不淫,低俗得來充滿對社會諷刺,劇中角色亦偶然會爆出一兩句發人深省的對白。

主線是主角要開拍邵氏經典咸片「官人我要」續集「官人我又要」,最要命是依舊找邵音音當主角。這套電影的故事其實有點七零八落,不外是主角杜文澤拍咸片遇到的古怪爆笑的事情,每個片段以監製向電影學院學生的講座串連一起,道出電影監製風光背後的辛酸。我想大部份觀眾也和我一樣,最關心那隻騾仔了發生什麼事,連杜文澤出席電影宣傳也帶雙騾仔,這也算是港產片罕有的重口味,事後鄭中基和林雪說最好還是用公筷的反應更是一絕。楊千嬅演平機會調查員,因乸西(正字為俹簁,解做事馬虎)的諧音引起的誤會,來查杜文澤性騷擾女顧員是另一場好笑笑的戲。

一套粗口電影二千五百萬票房,並不是香港道德淪亡,只是一直以來香港電影對白被過份淨化,觀眾想從電影中想找回真實熟悉的一面。平日被抑壓得太久,講句粗口鬧人,看一齣粗口笑片,成個人輕鬆晒。

A Capitalist’s Dilemma

We need more empowering innovations. Many great technology firms ruined by executives who only care about ROI. In order to revive empowering innovations, we need executives with visions.

by Clayton Christensen, November 3, 2012, New York Times

In many ways, the answer won’t depend on who wins on Tuesday. Anyone who says otherwise is overstating the power of the American president. But if the president doesn’t have the power to fix things, who does?

It’s not the Federal Reserve. The Fed has been injecting more and more capital into the economy because — at least in theory — capital fuels capitalism. And yet cash hoards in the billions are sitting unused on the pristine balance sheets of Fortune 500 corporations. Billions in capital is also sitting inert and uninvested at private equity funds.

Capitalists seem almost uninterested in capitalism, even as entrepreneurs eager to start companies find that they can’t get financing. Businesses and investors sound like the Ancient Mariner, who complained of “Water, water everywhere — nor any drop to drink.”

It’s a paradox, and at its nexus is what I’ll call the Doctrine of New Finance, which is taught with increasingly religious zeal by economists, and at times even by business professors like me who have failed to challenge it. This doctrine embraces measures of profitability that guide capitalists away from investments that can create real economic growth.

Executives and investors might finance three types of innovations with their capital. I’ll call the first type “empowering” innovations. These transform complicated and costly products available to a few into simpler, cheaper products available to the many.

The Ford Model T was an empowering innovation, as was the Sony transistor radio. So were the personal computers of I.B.M. and Compaq and online trading at Schwab. A more recent example is cloud computing. It transformed information technology that was previously accessible only to big companies into something that even small companies could afford.

Empowering innovations create jobs, because they require more and more people who can build, distribute, sell and service these products. Empowering investments also use capital — to expand capacity and to finance receivables and inventory.

The second type are “sustaining” innovations. These replace old products with new models. For example, the Toyota Prius hybrid is a marvelous product. But it’s not as if every time Toyota sells a Prius, the same customer also buys a Camry. There is a zero-sum aspect to sustaining innovations: They replace yesterday’s products with today’s products and create few jobs. They keep our economy vibrant — and, in dollars, they account for the most innovation. But they have a neutral effect on economic activity and on capital.

The third type are “efficiency” innovations. These reduce the cost of making and distributing existing products and services. Examples are minimills in steel and Geico in online insurance underwriting. Taken together in an industry, such innovations almost always reduce the net number of jobs, because they streamline processes. But they also preserve many of the remaining jobs — because without them entire companies and industries would disappear in competition against companies abroad that have innovated more efficiently.

Efficiency innovations also emancipate capital. Without them, much of an economy’s capital is held captive on balance sheets, with no way to redeploy it as fuel for new, empowering innovations. For example, Toyota’s just-in-time production system is an efficiency innovation, letting manufacturers operate with much less capital invested in inventory.

INDUSTRIES typically transition through these three types of innovations. By illustration, the early mainframe computers were so expensive and complicated that only big companies could own and use them. But personal computers were simple and affordable, empowering many more people.

Companies like I.B.M. and Hewlett-Packard had to hire hundreds of thousands of people to make and sell PC’s. These companies then designed and made better computers — sustaining innovations — that inspired us to keep buying newer and better products. Finally, companies like Dell made the industry much more efficient. This reduced net employment within the industry, but freed capital that had been used in the supply chain.

Ideally, the three innovations operate in a recurring circle. Empowering innovations are essential for growth because they create new consumption. As long as empowering innovations create more jobs than efficiency innovations eliminate, and as long as the capital that efficiency innovations liberate is invested back into empowering innovations, we keep recessions at bay. The dials on these three innovations are sensitive. But when they are set correctly, the economy is a magnificent machine.

For significant periods in the last 150 years, America’s economy has operated this way. In the seven recoveries from recession between 1948 and 1981, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, the economy returned to its prerecession employment peak in about six months, like clockwork — as if a spray of economic WD-40 had reset the balance on the three types of innovation, prompting a recovery.

In the last three recoveries, however, America’s economic engine has emitted sounds we’d never heard before. The 1990 recovery took 15 months, not the typical six, to reach the prerecession peaks of economic performance. After the 2001 recession, it took 39 months to get out of the valley. And now our machine has been grinding for 60 months, trying to hit its prerecession levels — and it’s not clear whether, when or how we’re going to get there. The economic machine is out of balance and losing its horsepower. But why?

The answer is that efficiency innovations are liberating capital, and in the United States this capital is being reinvested into still more efficiency innovations. In contrast, America is generating many fewer empowering innovations than in the past. We need to reset the balance between empowering and efficiency innovations.

The Doctrine of New Finance helped create this situation. The Republican intellectual George F. Gilder taught us that we should husband resources that are scarce and costly, but can waste resources that are abundant and cheap. When the doctrine emerged in stages between the 1930s and the ‘50s, capital was relatively scarce in our economy. So we taught our students how to magnify every dollar put into a company, to get the most revenue and profit per dollar of capital deployed. To measure the efficiency of doing this, we redefined profit not as dollars, yen or renminbi, but as ratios like RONA (return on net assets), ROCE (return on capital employed) and I.R.R. (internal rate of return).

Before these new measures, executives and investors used crude concepts like “tons of cash” to describe profitability. The new measures are fractions and give executives more options: They can innovate to add to the numerator of the RONA ratio, but they can also drive down the denominator by driving assets off the balance sheet — through outsourcing. Both routes drive up RONA and ROCE.

Similarly, I.R.R. gives investors more options. It goes up when the time horizon is short. So instead of investing in empowering innovations that pay off in five to eight years, investors can find higher internal rates of return by investing exclusively in quick wins in sustaining and efficiency innovations.

In a way, this mirrors the microeconomic paradox explored in my book “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” which shows how successful companies can fail by making the “right” decisions in the wrong situations. America today is in a macroeconomic paradox that we might call the capitalist’s dilemma. Executives, investors and analysts are doing what is right, from their perspective and according to what they’ve been taught. Those doctrines were appropriate to the circumstances when first articulated — when capital was scarce.

But we’ve never taught our apprentices that when capital is abundant and certain new skills are scarce, the same rules are the wrong rules. Continuing to measure the efficiency of capital prevents investment in empowering innovations that would create the new growth we need because it would drive down their RONA, ROCE and I.R.R.

It’s as if our leaders in Washington, all highly credentialed, are standing on a beach holding their fire hoses full open, pouring more capital into an ocean of capital. We are trying to solve the wrong problem.

Our approach to higher education is exacerbating our problems. Efficiency innovations often add workers with yesterday’s skills to the ranks of the unemployed. Empowering innovations, in turn, often change the nature of jobs — creating jobs that can’t be filled.

Today, the educational skills necessary to start companies that focus on empowering innovations are scarce. Yet our leaders are wasting education by shoveling out billions in Pell Grants and subsidized loans to students who graduate with skills and majors that employers cannot use.

Is there a solution? It’s complicated, but I offer three ideas to seed a productive discussion:

CHANGE THE METRICS
We can use capital with abandon now, because it’s abundant and cheap. But we can no longer waste education, subsidizing it in fields that offer few jobs. Optimizing return on capital will generate less growth than optimizing return on education.

CHANGE CAPITAL-GAINS TAX RATES
Today, tax rates on personal income are progressive — they climb as we make more money. In contrast, there are only two tax rates on investment income. Income from investments that we hold for less than a year is taxed like personal income. But if we hold an investment for one day longer than 365, it is generally taxed at no more than 15 percent.

We should instead make capital gains regressive over time, based upon how long the capital is invested in a company. Taxes on short-term investments should continue to be taxed at personal income rates. But the rate should be reduced the longer the investment is held — so that, for example, tax rates on investments held for five years might be zero — and rates on investments held for eight years might be negative.

Federal tax receipts from capital gains comprise only a tiny percentage of all United States tax revenue. So the near-term impact on the budget will be minimal. But over the longer term, this policy change should have a positive impact on the federal deficit, from taxes paid by companies and their employees that make empowering innovations.

CHANGE THE POLITICS
The major political parties are both wrong when it comes to taxing and distributing to the middle class the capital of the wealthiest 1 percent. It’s true that some of the richest Americans have been making money with money — investing in efficiency innovations rather than investing to create jobs. They are doing what their professors taught them to do, but times have changed.

If the I.R.S. taxes their wealth away and distributes it to everyone else, it still won’t help the economy. Without empowering products and services in our economy, most of this redistribution will be spent buying sustaining innovations — replacing consumption with consumption. We must give the wealthiest an incentive to invest for the long term. This can create growth.

Granted, mine is a simple model, and we face complicated problems. But I hope it helps us and our leaders understand that policies that were once right are now wrong, and that counterintuitive measures might actually work to turn our economy around.

Clayton M. Christensen is a business professor at Harvard and a co-author of “How Will You Measure Your Life?”

Batman, he Dark Knight Rises 蝙蝠俠夜神起義

Christopher Nolan的新蝙蝠俠三部曲終於完結了,幸好他早已決定不再拍續集,否則又將會重演舊蝙蝠俠一集比一集爛的歷史。第三部「夜神起義」是今年暑期的重頭戲,可惜它作為動作娛樂片完全不合格,片長三個小時悶場連篇,特別是開場一段講多過打,差不多過了大半個小時蝙蝠俠才初次露面,讓我等到不耐煩。有很多影評把這齣電影作無限解讀,說有什麼深入的政治含意,蝙蝠俠的跌倒再次振作多麼感人,我只能說他們想多了。

那些政治含意在我看來編劇不過是趁熱鬧,這期興佔領華爾街批評資本主義,便將這些題材寫入劇本內,但只流於片面的解讀,沒有再深入探討Bane的無政府主義,是否真是資本主義的另一個出路。不過其實Bane自已也沒有什麼理念,只是個頭腦簡單的復仇者,他那些似是疑非的演說,倒像是鸚鵡學舌的左派語言,連他自已也不知道自已說什麼。故事的最大敗筆,便是臨完場忽然彈出個奸婆,一下子把Bane那高智能罪犯和革命者的形象粉碎,淪為奸婆無厘頭毀滅葛咸城大計的走卒,毫無個性可言。那個奸婆整套電影只懂行行企企,唯一做過的事是色誘蝙蝠俠,先和他床上大戰好讓他第二天腳軟打輸給Bane。

電影開場時蝙蝠俠當了八年宅男,讓他隱居和令他重出江湖的理由很可笑,失去了愛人便龜縮在家不再替天行道,遇見新情人便想重振雄風吸引異性。他的跌倒再起是電影的另一敗筆,他先被Bane的計謀弄至破產,再給打至重傷掉進地洞監獄,然後重新振作站起上,爬出地洞趕回葛咸市再戰。可是跌倒前後蝙蝠俠到底有什麼改變?在地洞練功後變好好打又不是,他第二次打贏Bane不過是好彩隨手拔掉面具上的管子。在地洞想通了不再迷惘找到做英雄的理由又不是,他看來像是不服氣只想找Bane打多次,看不出他對葛咸城有什麼承擔,若不他便不會完結後再次隱居。上兩集蝙蝠俠的內心交戰沒有了,這集的蝙蝠俠只剩下沒有靈魂的空殼,淪為給導演拍動作場面的人肉道具。

電影中的唯一亮點是貓女Anne Hathaway,甚至比蝙蝠俠和Bane更搶鏡。那幾場動作戲叫人刮目相看,想不到Anne樣靚之外還打得似模似樣。貓女在戲中的性格最完整,以自我生活為最優先目標,但在愛情和大義之前,也會作出有限度的犧牲精神,乎合正常的人性。相對於拘泥於不殺的蝙蝠俠,貓女對付敵人有效率得多。蝙蝠俠和Bane打了十幾分鐘爛仔交,還是不及貓女一炮把Bane幹掉爽快,她還要多口窒句蝙蝠俠婆媽,簡直大快人心。蝙蝠俠如果肯殺人,一早幹掉Bane便好了,可以救回更多人的性命。反正殺與不殺也是背著同樣黑暗英雄的原罪,不為世人所認同,不殺扮好人不過是自欺欺人於事無補。

「夜神起義」後蝙蝠俠暫告一段落,不過我相信十年後又會重拍,下一次的導演不知又會如何演譯這個黑暗英雄呢。

Final Fantasy 3 最終幻想3

早幾個月打爆了FF1,原本說過不再浪費時間玩RPG。誰不知FF3登陸Android,我再次犯下同樣的錯誤,下載回來看看是如何模樣,就這樣又浪費了三十多個小時。遊戲太長中途曾有想過放棄,不過手機玩戲實在太方便,結果前前後後花了三個多月才玩完。

這次FF3是移植自DS新製版,有3D畫面不是再很陽春平面貼圖,立體畫面漂亮很吸引眼球,Q版角色也十分可愛。音樂一向是FF的特色,不過因為用手機隨時隨地玩的關係,大部份時間我也調低聲音,所以沒有留下深刻印像。唯一不耐煩是施魔法和出召喚獸的過場動畫很長氣,頭幾次看都會覺得有趣,但去了後期戰鬥以魔法和召喚為主,每次也被逼看接近兩三分鐘不斷重覆的動畫,救命。另外有一點十分不滿意,為什麼FF1可以在迷宮中存檔,但FF3反而沒有這個功能?在迷官中只會記錄關機時的進度,如果不幸在迷官中全隊陣亡,只能回到迷官前的存檔。最後的迷官很巨大,很不幸我第一次打大佬時練功不夠全軍盡墨,便白白失去了五六個小時的進度,慘!

故事依舊沒有什麼主線,不外走迷官打怪獸,最後打大佬拯救世界。但每個任務的故事也很有心思,一行人在異世界的歷險,遇到不同的人物,NPC亦會有暫時加入隊伍共同作戰。每個故事可以看到隊其中一人明顯是那個任務的主角,與NPC有較多的互動交流,故事也有少少的情節,不乏幽默,熱血或讓人感動。今次的世界觀比FF3更加龐大,有更多花樣變化,浮空大陸,時間停頓之海,迷你人的世界,騎古古鳥,潛水飛船,基地飛船,秘密任務信件等等,讓玩家在最保持新鮮感。只是最後大佬很難打,要煉功升呢才能打贏,害我花多七八小時。雖然練功是RPG的傳統,但故事卡著沒有任何進度,不停地練功燥枯萬分之時,我又再次提醒自已下次不要玩RPG了。

FF3初次引入召喚獸,大慨當年是創新領導潮流,但現在召喚獸已成必需品,可以視之為魔法系的一個變種。FF3亦初次引入職業系統,角色有二十多種職業可以選擇。不過轉職業要重新練職業等級,所以選定了一種職業便不會隨便轉來轉去,除非遊戲進度開發更高階的職業。我隊伍的主力是洋蔥武士,白巫師,武士,和召喚士。懂醫療魔法的白巫師基本上是鐵膽,不過是從低階轉上去高階。初段用白武士,後段升級做殺傷力大的黑武士,另外因為有一個任務必須用黑武士才能對付魔物,既然練高了黑武士攻擊力便一直用下去。最初未有召喚士前,我試過用地靈師和學者。地靈師的好處是攻擊不用消耗魔法點數,但學者的攻擊力較強,特別是扔攻擊物品。召喚士的攻擊魔法比黑巫師的魔法更好用,基本上黑巫師的魔法沒有用,大部份時間都打不中。洋蔥武士是遊戲的秘密任務,可以使用所有裝備和魔法,也有載屬的最強洋蔥裝備。壞處是升級慢兼在練到90級前能力相對其他職業很弱,但如果練成99級的話,洋蔥武士則是遊戲最強的職業。我從開啟洋蔥武士立即開始練,到打爆機也只練到80級。基本上洋蔥武士是癈人一個,唯一用途給他拿兩個盾當人肉沙包,大半個遊戲我的隊伍只有三個人可用,十分無癮。

不知道下一個移植去手機的FF會是那一代呢。細個時沒有機會玩FF,現在老了才補完童年回憶。打爆FF3後心思思想找個新RPG玩,下載了同是Square出品的Chaos Ring,玩兩玩便沒有心機玩下去。不知道是這個遊戲水準真的是差些,還是我只對FF有份莫名奇妙的情意結。說起來其實我並不特別喜歡RPG遊戲,DQ或Zelda我完全不感興趣,總是覺得那些RPG很無聊,只是不知何解我偏偏就是想玩FF。

麥兜噹噹伴我心

麥兜同麥嘜陪伴著我們一起成長,是我們這一代人的童年(其實係成年)回憶。不經不覺間麥兜電影已經拍到第五套,每次有麥兜電影上映畫,我一定會看,除了第一套每次都是失望,然而每次也心甘情願地再去看。麥兜就是有一份這種魅力,明知看完會鬧,但係不看又不安樂。

「麥兜噹噹伴我心」的故事十分吸引,麥兜那些無厘頭改歌詞一向都是麥兜的賣點。這次打正名堂春田花花合唱團,還請來香港童聲合唱團幕後代唱,心想應該會好看吧。一開場如果不是麥兜從天降下,我幾乎以為自已開錯戲,畫風同以前完全不同,很醜樣很核突很肉酸。不知是誰的餿主意,找楊學德來畫,完全破壞麥兜的美學風格。只有校長回憶的一段似翻正常麥兜風格。今次與上次「響噹噹」一樣,都是與大陸合拍的電影,所以電影中不時滲出陣陣的大陸味,特別是有幾首合唱團的歌,好娘。還我地道香港風格,還我正常的麥兜。

撇開畫風和音樂不對口味不提,謝立文的劇本其實很出色。春田花花幼稚園財困面臨關門,校長要四出撲水救亡。一次偶然機會下,組成春田花花合唱團,帶著麥兜一眾小朋友,四出唱歌表演賺錢。唱大陸商場,唱婚禮,唱富豪生日會,唱廣告歌,唱到幫華仔演唱會伴唱,結果給膠牌經理人著草走數。最後一場演出是大歌唱家的喪禮,意想不到大歌唱家是當年校長的學生,被校長對音樂的熱誠所啟發,才能日後成為大歌唱家。音樂伴隨著校長一生,不論在如何艱苦的環境,校長也不放棄用音樂去改變學生的靈魂,這是一齣獻給所有音樂老師的電影。

春田花花幼稚園的原裝小朋友,隨了麥兜外個個都變成冇對白的大喱。以前校長黃秋生講爛gag,今次膠牌經理人鄭中基的gag更爛。Miss Chan Chan同麥太倒是最正常,總算找回一點熟悉的感覺。或許是刻意找來楊學德的合作,麥兜並不只是給小朋友看,同時也給帶給成年人一些要細意品味的說話。那個楊學德古怪的圖畫風格,倒也能道出今時今日香港人生活無奈的一面。區議員的蛇粽齎餅團,上大陸搵銀要睇大陸人面色,婚禮來賓尖醜刻薄對新人的批評,窮人對著有錢佬要屈身哈腰。麥家碧那種可愛童真的畫風,是很難帶出現實的醜陋。或許在楊學德那個古怪三尖八角的世界中,麥家碧風格的校長,Miss Chan Chan和春田花花幼稚園眾小朋友,正是要告訢我們,不論世界如何醜陋,也要保留中間那一點點的童心。

不理性的力量 The Upside of Irrationality – Dan Ariely

暢銷書通常都會出續集,Predictably Irrational把行為經濟學普及化榮登暢銷書排行榜,時隔一年作者添食寫續集The Upside of Irrationality。第一本書用嶄新的角度去分析人性心理,這本續集雖然內容依然充實,但感覺上與舊作大同小異。可能只是我先入為主,我總覺得作者已經把最精彩的內容放在第一本書中,這本書的心理實驗的質素好像次一級。書中有很多篇幅只談作者自已的個人經驗,想當然爾地將其應用在所有人身上,吹水成份多而學術成份少,作者江郎材盡無以為繼。

這本書分為十章,每一章介紹一個不理性的行為。寫作手法與前作相同,都是人性理論配合心理實驗,解釋人為什麼總會做些看似不理性的行為,申延出如何應用這些不理性的行為。下面例出那十個不理性的行為,如果不是一定要看實驗過程才相信結論的話,其實看完這個撮要便不用看書了。

  1. 一般而言只要付出的人工越高,工人便會越努力工作,提高產生力。但如果人工訂得太過高,生產力反而會下降,因為人會把得失看得太重要,產生壓力影響人的思考能力,特別是需要腦力的工作。金融才俊的過億花紅,並不能誘使令他們作出更好的決策,所以用在那些花紅的錢是浪費。
  2. 當人知道工作的意義,可以讓人工作時有更大的源動力,更持久地集中精神工作,就算那個意義本身其實沒有多大意義,只是用來欺騙腦袋也可以。這一章心理實驗很有趣,測試實驗者砌樂高積木的耐性,一組人砌好後成品放在一旁排開,另一組人砌好後立即折掉重砌。雖然第一組的實驗者明知積木最終也會被拆掉,但看到成品一件件增多已經賦予工作一個小小的意義,足夠讓實驗者砌多一倍的積木。

3.一個人在一件物件上花時間越多,他便會覺得那件物件越有價值,因為這物件包含了他的勞力成果。這解釋了為什麼很多人對IKEA自組家俬情有獨鐘,也解釋了我花很多時間自行安裝Android OS,會讓我覺得Android比iOS好用得多,盡管兩者客觀上其實差不多。

4.同樣道理,我想出來的點子,總是比你想出來的好。只不過人腦很容易受騙,簡單的叫人把生字排成句子,也足夠讓人以為點子是他想出來,毫無保留地接納那個觀點。想叫小孩子吃多點蔬菜,讓他們一起種菜是最有效的方法。想說服別人,問他引導性的問題,讓他自行想出你想要答案,那他就會是最忠實的支持者。

5.報復是不理性的行為,要付出成本但完全沒有得到好處,但人腦便是天生有報復的本能,因為報復是人腦理解公義的基礎。這章的例子很好笑,作者買的新車出了問題,客務中心態度惡劣,作者的報復方法是將之寫成HBR的case study,車廠的CEO讀了一定會怪罪下來。不過這章的實驗很兒嬉,而報復這個題材也是老生常談。公司要小心客戶的報復,生氣的客戶往往用意想不到的方法去報復,小成本產生具大的殺傷力。防止生氣客戶報復,是品牌管理重要的一環。人總免不了出錯,有時簡單一句道歉,卻足以化解報復於無形。

6.不論是快樂或痛苦的事情,隨著時間越久,人是會慢慢適應,對那件事情變得麻木。減沙痛苦的方法,是盡量把痛苦的事情一口氣做完,休息後再做更痛苦。增加快樂的方法,便是把快樂的事情隔開慢慢做,保持新鮮的感覺令人更快樂。

7.人對擇偶的要求也會因應自身條件而改變。一個平凡的男人,喜歡大美人想娶她做老婆,但大美人看不上他。他有三個選擇,一是說服自已其實也喜歡醜女,但這是自欺欺人行不通。二是堅持自已想法,寧可獨身也一定要大美人,這也行不通。第三是改變條件發掘其他優點,例如改為喜歡開郎善解人意的女孩,這樣求偶的問題便解決了。

8.婚姻介紹網站的配對大多失敗,因為愛情並不是電腦配對兩人資料這樣簡單。只看外在條件式的網上聊天,並不能產生愛的感覺,愛情是建基於共同擁有的經歷。作者乘機賣廣告推銷他研發的配對網站,不著重數字上的配對,也不鼓勵平面的文字交流,改用虛擬空間的遊戲功能,為參加的男女製造共同經歷,藉此打開大家的話題,大幅增加配對成功率。

9.人類的同情心要有明確的同情對像,對著冷冰冰的數字不能勾起同情心,不是事不關已便是杯水車薪,捐了也沒有用捐來幹什麼。所以要找人捐錢,說非洲有幾多千萬小朋友挨餓,那也只是一堆數字,沒多少人會因此捐錢。但如果改為說一個挨餓小朋友的慘況,便能勾起別人的同情人,讓他們糠慨捐助幫助一個孩子。另一個成功例子,便是美國防癌協會,每個人一定認識患癌的人,它的宣傳便利用這點,去令人們產生同情心而捐錢。

10.人會因為偶然的情緒,做出一些隨機的行為。可是那個行為,卻在腦中埋中種子,慢慢發展為習慣,甚至改變了以後的想法。作者舉了一個例子,有天你要去外母家吃飯,剛好你贏了票彩小獎,去超市換獎時心情好,見到有鮮花順手買一札送給外母。當晚外母十分開心對你也特別好,從此以後你去外母家吃飯也會買花或一點小禮物,形成一個良性循環。

基地前奏 Prelude to Foundation – Issac Asimov

最初看阿西莫夫的「基地系列」是初中,不知怎樣在學校的圖書館找到了基地三部曲的中譯本,半懂半不懂地囫圇吞棗一口氣看罷,被書中龐大的世界觀深深吸引,心理史學這個慨念更叫我眼界大看,自此我掛名自稱為阿西莫夫的忠實擁躉。後來住加拿大升中學,亦把校內圖書館的阿西莫夫藏書看全,當中把括了兩本「基地後傳」,再一次驚嘆阿西莫夫的想像力,把「基地系列」,「銀河帝國系列」和「機械人系列」連結起來,讓阿西莫夫三大系列構成一本未來世界的科幻史詩。

我不記得家中全套「基地系列」何時買入,盡管我說過一定要讀完整個「基地系列」,它們只是一直閒放書櫃上。書本封塵多年以後,一天我心血來潮拿起「基地系列」前傳,從事件發生時間上最早的「基地前奏」開始讀地起,不再當一個有名無實的阿西莫夫擁躉。下文會有嚴重劇透,雖然基地系列的故事早已人所共知,對阿西莫夫熟悉的讀者,亦不難估中故事高潮的轉折,不過不完全知道劇情下閱讀會比較有趣,所以特此作出溫馨提示。

在「基地三部曲」中的謝頓,只曾出現在錄影的偉大預言者,心理史學更是無所不能的神奇預言方程式。「基地前奏」中的謝頓,卻是個初出茅蘆的數學家,剛剛發表還未成形的心理史學論文,卻引來各方勢力對心理史學的垂涎,欲將其收納為一已權慾工具。謝頓從被銀河帝國國王召見開始,展開一段橫跨帝國首都川陀的逃亡之旅,經驗不同地區的不同文化,刺激他思考如何把心理史學理論轉化為實際應用,拯救逐漸衰亡的銀河帝國。在旅途中謝頓亦遇上後來建立基地的關鍵人物,可以說是先為下一本書埋下伏線。

因為這書寫於「基地後傳」之後,後傳中花了兩本書才解開的謎底,基地世界與機械人世界的關連,很順理成章地成為故事的骨幹,甚至已假定讀者對這兩者都有一定認識。結局時再次帶出機械人三大定律和第零定律,若讀者先前沒有接觸過機械人系列,恐怕不易在三言兩語間,明白心理史學與三大定律的關係,品味阿西莫夫用心經營伏線的意義。另外讓我感到意外的是謝頓原來好打得,與先前入為主謝頓是白髮智者的形象有很大差落。不過故事發生時謝頓只是三十出頭,加上主線帶有冒險小說性質,這個設定也十分合理。冒險故事怎能缺少美貌女主角,女主角被安排負責保護謝頓,一同經歷患難後結為夫妻。不過故事中浪漫的戲份少之又少,我甚至認只是舖排給第二部的伏筆,在心理史學和基地的建立的主旋律間,引爆一段人類和機械人相戀的小插曲。

這本小說絕對不是阿西莫夫的入門書,我認為最好先看基地三部曲和後傳,再看一兩部機械人系列的小說,把基本慨念打好基礎,方能享受書中的科幻命題帶出的啟發思考。