Friday, December 19, 2014

Hear Me Roar!

George R.R. Martin is a man who wears many hats. He’s the editor of Wild Cards, consultant to TV series, and the slow writer of the Song of Ice & Fire series. Many on you would know the last as The Game of Thrones.

Here’s one more hat for Martin; proud movie theater owner!

By now, everyone would have heard of Sony Pictures caving in to the threats of North Korea and cancelling the release of “The Interview”. I mean they are so afraid of Kim Jong Un, they don’t even dare release the film in DVD! It is a total victory for the North Korean dictator.

Not so fast.

Showing a stubbornness that would make Ned Stark proud, Martin say he intend to screen the movie! The author co-owns Jean Cocteau Cinema, a movie theater in New Mexico, and offered to screen the controversial movie at his theater. Of course, there are problems to the plan like getting a copy of the movie but there seem to be at least one guy in America with some balls.

Kim Jong Un, look out! Winter is coming.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Comics this week

Justice League #35- You know what this Amazo virus story arc reminds me of? The story of DC Online! In the game, Lex Luthor created a virus to give normal people superpowers and this arc gives me a similar vibe. The main difference is that here, the virus also create Amazo who becomes a metahuman, instead of a technological villain. This was a smart move by writer Geoff Johns who give a fresh spin to a villain which I never care much for. Not only that, Johns managed to mix some humor into the story with Batman and Superman having an exchange about his Haz-Bat suit, a name Batman absolutely refused to take any credit for. He blames Robin instead. Johns even manages to give time to Luthor, showing his doubt and horror at the growing plague spreading throughout the city. Great issue! 

Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures #1- The latest installment of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity takes place on Earth-5 whose greatest hero is Captain Marvel, the World’s Strongest Mortal. The story has Dr Sivana attacking the Rock of Eternity to steal time from other universes in order to create a new eighth day of the week: Sivanaday! Now the problem with Thunderworld is the same as with the other Multiversity issues thus far; there’s not a lot to connect them. However Morrison got a save here with a story that’s a lot smarter than previous issues. Time travel stories are always a hit-or-miss affair and Morrison got a hit here with a story that makes smart use of the concept of time travel. There’s an elegance to the end of the story when Captain Marvel uses time to beat Sivana’s time stolen extra day. Also artist Cameron Stewart did an excellent job capturing the look and feel of a Silver Age comic. The ever present smile on Captain Marvel and clean art is a superb throwback to the look of yesteryear. It may have nothing to do with the overall story of Multiversity, but on its own “Thunderworld Adventures” is wonderful.

Scarlet Spiders #1- I am beginning to understand why Scarlet Spiders has 3 issues; Ultimate Jessica Drew, Kaine and Ben Reilly will each get to star in one issue. Jessica got the start so this issue has Kaine as the star and the issue was better for it. We see Kaine using his ability and strength to guide Ben Reilly along, have a clear insight in his personality, and basically see what make him tick. Almost good enough to make you forget the “The Clone Saga” disaster that gave birth to him.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"The Golem and the Jinni" by Helene Wecker

The debut novel of Helene Wecker, “The Golem and the Jinni” is a mixed bag. By that I meant it’s a historical-urban-romantic fantasy that also questioned what life really means and touches on the clash of cultures in the melting pot that is New York City.

If that sounds daunting, well…that’s because it is but don’t worry. Although this is her debut, Helene Wecker show a firm hand in her writing, giving us one of the most delightful debut in years.  

The story starts in Poland at the end of the 19th century, when a kabbalist named Yehudah Schaalman creates a golem at the request of Otto Rotfeld. Rotfeld is leaving Europe for America and decided to “commission” a new bride for himself. However Rotfeld dies during the sea voyage to New York City and the newly awakened golem, shaped like a woman, escaped alone into the unfamiliar city. A rabbi, Rabbi Meyer, takes in the golem and named her, Chava. He found her a job at a bakery and begin teaching her how to pass for a human among the Jewish population of New York.

At the same time, a tinsmith named Arbeely accidentally frees a jinni from a flask in which he has been imprisoned for centuries. With no memory of how he was subdued, the jinni is trapped in human form and takes the name of Ahmad. Living in New York’s Little Syria, he uses his natural power over fire to work at the forge while looking for a way to return to his natural form.

Chava and Ahmad eventually meet and despite (or because of) their differences become friends. The novel show Chava and Ahmad's journey as they try to live as humans and come to influence the lives of the people around them before coming to a climax when Yehudah Schaalman comes to New York.

Now I’m not usually a fan on genre-mixing, but more works like this will definitely change my mind. “The Golem and the Jinni” is one of the best rojak works you will ever find as Helene Wecker not only seamlessly weaved the different genres together, she makes you wonder why no one has ever thought of this before!

I mean two fantasy creatures during turn of the century New York? They are the ultimate immigrants in the ultimate city of immigrants at the ultimate time of immigration. That’s a great idea.   

Wecker also examined the idea of life and what being human really means. The golem and the jinni have different views on what living in a human world really means and how to do so. Chava is caring and sensitive, while Ahmad is more reckless and joyful. Taking turns, the book shows how both Chava and Ahmad dealt with the social and mental problems they face while learning to live as a human.

This is a fantasy story about immigration set in a historical accurate 19th century New York City. The premise and idea of the story is nothing sort of perfect and there must be writers out there kicking themselves for not thinking of doing this before.

Of course, the book itself has some problems. I could do without the meandering backstory of how the jinni got captured and sometimes, the historical details of the book were too much. I have no interest in the daily working of a bakery in 19th century New York and the various rules about walking in Central Park.

The twist at the end of Yehudah Schaalman being the reincarnation of the sorcerer that captured the jinni a thousand years ago was a little too convenient. It would have been better if he was another mage; sometime there is such a thing as wrapping things up too neatly.

However these problems do not change the fact that “The Golem and the Jinni” is a wonderful book. The premise is unique, the writing is elegant and the final product is great. Read it!  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


The next big event on the calendar of DC is titled “Convergence”. Due for release in April and May, I personally think the event should instead be titled “Cancellation”!

This is because DC is cancelling 14 series in March, a month before “Convergence” starts. Some of these titles had been around since the start of the New 52. Batwoman, Swamp Thing, Red Lanterns, Green Lantern: New Guardians are among the 14 titles being cancelled. This is alongside new titles like Klarion and Arkham Manor.

As someone who does not collect any of the 14, the announcement doesn’t affect me much but DC really should give the newer titles some time to build an audience. In case you were counting, Klarion and Arkham Manor would only get between 6-8 issues before being cancelled.

That’s just not enough time and this isn’t the first time this happened. Remember Threshold? 8 issues and it was canned. I don’t know what titles will come out of “Convergence” but whatever they are, they need to come out of the blocks running. The DC editorial team will deliver the cancel-hammer if they don’t.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The CPF Review

With an election seemingly imminent in 2015, the Singapore government is currently carrying out a “review” of the CPF. Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin threw the first salvo when he was quoted as saying this may meant a review to the much hated minimum sum.

According to the minister, one area being looked at is whether it's possible to have different minimum sums for different groups, depending on their needs. I only have one thing to say to that; forget about it! Singaporeans are not going to accept that as a solution.

The Singapore government need to understand the problem isn’t how much must be kept in the CPF due the minimum sum; it’s the fact that there’s a minimum sum in the first place. Whether it’s $1, $155,000 or $161,000 is kind of beside the main point when your money is struck there in the CPF!

Any changes to the CPF system must take this into account. The problem isn’t the amount we must keep in the CPF; the problem is that there is money belonging to us that we can never access because of the minimum sum policy.

Any review that doesn’t get rid of the minimum sum is an exercise in futilely. Having different minimum sums for different groups is like missing the forest for the trees.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Comics this week

Astro City #18- What do you do when you’re an aging superhero? Well in the world of Astro City, that’s a real problem as Black Rapier, Crackerjack and Quarrel are now faced with the problem of aging. There’s no forever youthful character in the world of Astro City and I love the way writer Kurt Busiek handled it. You have Black Rapier retiring (the issue starts at his retirement party no less), while Crackerjack and Quarrel deciding to truck on. Even then, Busiek shows that age affects everyone as both Crackerjack and Quarrel now require daily drugs to keep going. It’s not just the physical problems but the mental ones as well. Crackerjack now sound like a grumpy old man who refused to admit his age while Quarrel quietly wonder if it’s time to hang it up. Ageing is a problem most comics don’t even approach but this is Astro City and this is another great issue.

Amazing Spiderman #11- Part 3 of Spiderverse has the long awaited showdown between Peter Parker and Superior Spider-Man. Writer Dan Slott played the scene well with both characters finally coming to an understanding that they need each other to survive the threat of the Inheritors. This is especially true as Solus finally comes to the table. Karn and Morlun may have the lion share of the action thus far but Slott shows that there are more to the Inheritors than these 2 and they are not just about pure power. The problem for the issue comes when Slott had to move the action away to focus on setting up other books. There are just too many of them and that affect the flow of the issue. Outside that, the action, story and art of Spiderverse are still there. If they could move away from setting up the tie-ins and just focus on the main event, it would be great. As it is, Spiderverse is now just very good. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Nothing New

So the United States of America tortured people. In other news, the sky is blue and water is wet. That’s my view when the US Senate Intelligence Committee released a report detailing "brutal" interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects by members of the CIA.

So the CIA tortured people. How is that news? That’s why they were kept in Guantanamo Bay right? That’s what the “extraordinary rendition of terror suspects” is all about right? They were dropped off in countries like Thailand, Syria and Egypt so that they could be tortured. That’s hardly news. People had been saying all that for years.

Yes, there is some new stuff in the report like how at least one person died while under torture and how the “program” was pretty unsuccessful in getting good information but generally, there’s nothing new about the reports. Yet when you go on BBC, CNN or FOX News, all the stations goes on and on about how damming, brutal and explosive the report is.

I don’t get it. I’m no news reporter and I heard most of the stuff that is in the report. Anyone who thinks what’s in the report is new had not been paying attention.