Watch Now France vs Australia Inside Hong Kong’s cage homes


When houses are the size of parking spaces.
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Hong Kong is the most expensive housing market in the world. It has been ranked as the least affordable housing market on Earth for eight years in a row, and the price per square foot seems to be only going up. The inflated prices are forcing Hongkongers to squeeze into unconventionally small spaces that can affect their quality of life.

Tens of thousands of Hongkongers are living in spaces that range from 75 to 140 square feet. To put that in perspective, the average parking space in the US is about 150 square feet. And in the most extreme cases, Hongkongers have resorted to homes the size of a coffin.

I spent some time exploring the living situation in Hong Kong to find out why housing has become so expensive and spaces so tight.

To understand how Hong Kong’s housing market turned out this way and see how it’s affecting people’s lives, watch the final episode of Borders Hong Kong.

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Watch Now France vs Australia The decline of Hong Kong’s iconic neon glow


Neon is fading.
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Explore neon culture through this local museum project:

Master Wu started making neon signs in the ’80s and has been filling Hong Kong’s streets with bright neon signs ever since. But recently, Master Wu has seen his business slow down as brighter-burning and more energy-efficient LED signs emerge. In addition to getting fewer requests, Hong Kong’s iconic neon landscape is also losing thousands of signs per year, ushering in the end of the city’s neon era.

As Hong Kong’s neon lights start to fade, I spent some time with Master Wu at his neon shop, where he showed me how he makes neon signs, and took a look at Hong Kong’s changing cityscape.

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Watch Now France vs Australia How feng shui shaped Hong Kong’s skyline


Hong Kong’s superstitious skyline.
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Hong Kong’s famous skyline is known for its colorful lights and modern buildings, but a closer look reveals some unique designs inspired by feng shui. Like the gaping holes in the middle of buildings to let dragons fly through or cannon-like structures installed to deflect bad “qi” (pronounced chi).

The main belief in feng shui is that destiny is bound to the environment, so good fortune and harmony can be invited in and bad energy can be warded off by arranging objects and buildings around us. It’s an ancient Chinese practice that has come to define Hong Kong’s skyline.

In this episode of Borders, we explore feng shui principles, explain the circumstances that allowed it to flourish in Hong Kong and take a look at the unique designs around the city.

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Watch Now Peru vs Denmark China is erasing its border with Hong Kong


The border has an expiration date.
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With original music by Tom Fox

When Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, Chinese leaders agreed that Hong Kong would be able to keep its economic and political systems, including some of the civil freedoms denied to China’s citizens on the mainland, for the next 50 years.

Although Hong Kong still has nearly 30 years of semi-autonomy left, China has started tightening its grip, and many believe it is chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedoms. In this episode, I explore how Hong Kong is dealing with the looming deadline and China’s premature moves.

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Watch Now France vs Australia What a conductor actually does on stage


It’s more than just dancing around.

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If you’ve ever seen an orchestra perform you’ve probably had a difficult time looking away from the person dead center on the stage – the conductor. It’s hard to miss someone as they swing their arms around pointing at the musicians that seem to be focused instead on their music stands. So what exactly is the conductor doing?

We decided to ask James Gaffigan – a conductor who recently guest conducted the New York Philharmonic in Central Park – just what it is that makes a conductor so necessary and how their actions shape the performance.

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Watch Now France vs Australia Why the US national anthem is terrible — and perfect


Vox’s Estelle Caswell and Joss Fong debate “The Star Spangled Banner”

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When Francis Scott Key attached his poem about the War of 1812 to a popular British song called “To Anacreon in Heaven,” he kicked off over 200 years of painfully bad singing by patriotic Americans. The Star Spangled Banner became the official national anthem of the United States in 1931, but it had been used by the Army and Navy for decades before that and was popular from the start. One big problem? The melody wasn’t exactly written for the masses, but for trained soloists.

Commentators pointed out early on that it was exceedingly difficult for most people to sing, suggesting that “America the Beautiful” might be a better alternative. Critics have noted that the music requires a uniquely wide vocal range, it’s full of tricky intervals, and the lyrics are confusing and uninspiring.

But if you look at the national anthem as a sport, where we get to watch performers at the top of their game tackle the gauntlet that is the Star Spangled Banner, you may come to appreciate it. In this video, we debate whether the difficulty of the Star Spangled Banner is a feature or a bug for a national anthem.

Further reading:

Star-Spangled Banner: The Unlikely Story of America’s National Anthem

Star Spangled Music:

Slate: Proudly Hailed

Emily Cope:

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Watch Now France vs Australia It’s not you. Date labels on food make no sense.


Food labels don’t mean what you think they mean.

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When people clean out their fridge, they look at whatever date is on the label and throw it in the trash if it’s past that date. But the chances are that you’re throwing out tons of perfectly good food because date labels on food are often really confusing.

Food labels can mean many different things and often don’t give you any indication of whether the food is safe to eat or not. Many people assume that they’re federally regulated, but baby formula is the only product required to have consistent date labels. For everything else it’s up to the states to decide.

This creates a confusing state-by-state patchwork of labels with everything from “use by” to “freshest before” to “sell by” to “packaged on.”

And all this confusion causes us to waste tons of food every year. All the uneaten food waste costs Americans over $200 billion each year, and two thirds of that comes from households.

If we came up with a unified, easy to understand date label system we could save money, food, and help the environment, all just by changing how we put date labels on the things we eat.

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Watch Now France vs Australia Why Americans suck at soccer (well, the men)


We’ve got a theory, and it involves the soccer wars.

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In this episode of Vox Almanac, Vox’s Phil Edwards puts forth a theory about terrible American men’s soccer.

There are a lot of reasons Americans suck at soccer – but if you look at the history, you’ll find a surprisingly compelling explanation for why American soccer never took off. In the 1920s, soccer was a surprisingly successful sport in the US, with massive matches and a robust league. What went wrong?

American soccer and English football first diverged in the 1800s, when American colleges like Harvard and Yale started playing a more rugby-like game. But America quickly caught up with soccer in the 1920s, attracting large crowds and even stealing away European players.

Then the soccer wars happened. Constant battles in the 1920s between the ASL – American Soccer League – and USFA — United States Football Association — carved up American soccer’s cash, fans, and talent. By the time the depression hit, American soccer was so weakened that it couldn’t rebound as well as European and South American soccer culture did. The subsequent half-century of sports build up gave Americans a permanent handicap when it came to building a robust soccer culture.

It’s a theory — but the success of the US Women’s National Team bears out the idea that something is specifically wrong for the men. And it just might be the case that 1920s soccer wars are the reason.

Read about the own-goal that made the US Men’s National Team miss the 2018 World Cup:

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Watch Now France vs Australia Why 350°F is the magic number for baking


Turns out there’s a lot of chemistry in cooking.

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Ever notice the first step for baking a cookie is almost always to preheat the oven to 350 degrees?

Even when you’re baking something else, an oven with a digital temperature reader typically defaults to 350. What’s so magical about this number and why is it that so many recipes call for it?

I spoke with longtime pastry chef and Institute of Culinary Education creative director Michael Laiskonis and found that – as with most “magical” things – it’s actually science.

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