Friday, July 25, 2014

Comics this wek

Red Lantern #33- Since taking over the series, writer Charles Soule has been presenting his take on the Red Lanterns. One of his best decisions was to move Atrocities from protagonist to antagonist and the second part of the Atrocities storyline showed what a great decision that was. While Guy Gardner takes some me time and reach out to John Stewart for help; while Bleeze and Zilius Zox tried their best to help Rankorr; the meat of this issue is the wavering loyalty of Skallox. The thing is, you can clearly see why he is having doubts about the upcoming fight. As Atrocitus reveals his plan of attack, you can clearly see why the smart money is on him instead of Guy. I mean Guy actually got rid of Supergirl, the most powerful Red on his side of the divide while Atrocitus...well, see the end of this issue to see what he did. Go, Atrocitus, Go!

Supreme: Blue Rose #1- Welcome everyone to the strangest debut issue this year from the weirdest writer currently in the comics industry (and that’s saying something). When Rob Liefeld first introduced Supreme in the 90s, the character was nothing but an aging, more violent version of Superman; then came Alan Moore! The acclaimed writer retooled Supreme into a series that look back fondly at the Golden and Silver Age of comics. Now writer Warren Ellis is trying his hand at Supreme and to say this is weird is an understatement. This issue is all setup but even by that standard, the issue is strange. Outside some curious name-dropping, Supreme was hardly seen at all. In fact, it’s almost as if Supreme will not be the main character! It’s interesting and the art by Tula Lotay is great but let’s wait and see. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

New IPPT Format

Like most Singaporean guys, I took note of the new IPPT format. Minister for Defense Dr. Ng Eng Hen announced changes to the IPPT format yesterday and under the changes NSmen will now only need to complete three stations; Push Ups, Sit-ups and 2.4 Kilometers run.

According to his Facebook post, Minister Ng says that instead of a passing mark, points will be awarded for each station and the combined points from the 3 stations will be used to see if the person passed or failed. Also there will just be 3 stations instead of 5. This has caused a lot of people to say the new format is easier.

That may be true but I think everyone should wait for an official word from the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) before saying anything. I say this because I think how “easy” the new format will be would depend a lot on how many points are given even if you fail to pass the stations.

The new passing criteria so far revealed are:
- Do 57 push-ups a minute
- Do 57 sit-ups a minute
- Run 2.4km in 9 minutes and below to pass

Do the 2.4 in 9 minutes and below to pass? It’s a good thing there’s a combine score because a lot of people are going to fail that one. Do 57 push-ups/sit-ups in a minute? I don’t see too many people getting gold for those either.

So before everyone start talking about the Army getting soft, let’s wait till we get the official point system from the SAF. Like they say, the devil is in the details. Doing the 2.4km in 9mins is no joke. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fines Are Not Working

Just earlier this week, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) slapped a $1.6 million fine on train operator SMRT for four train service disruptions that occurred between October last year and May this year.

Outside this, the LTA also fine SBS Transit, which runs the North East Line (NEL), $50,000 for a disruption in March this year. According to the LTA, all the faults were preventable if “the operators had exercised due diligence and vigilance when carrying out their duties”.

Maybe the LTA were too quick on the trigger because there was another breakdown in the train service this morning.

This morning, trains on the North-South Line (NSL) going south between Toa Payoh Station to Newton Station stopped due to some fault. This has become so commonplace, this is hardly in the news anymore. You can also see this in the reaction of SMRT. They did all the right things; putting up signage at the station, providing free bus services for affected commuters; in a practiced clockwork matter.

This make me wonder just how effective are the fines. The idea behind fining the operators is that this will caused the operators to improve the train service. So far, it is not doing the job.

Trains are still breaking down, transport is still being disrupted, and no one seems able or capable of preventing them. Maybe it’s time for the Singapore government to be more creative and daring in trying to stop the breakdowns because thus far, fines are not doing the job. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stop Flying Over Ukraine

As the tragedy of MH17 unfolds, the world is now treated to accusations on both sides of the Ukrainian conflict. Both sides in Ukraine's civil war are accusing each other of shooting down the plane with a missile.

One thing is clear however; airlines are STILL flying over Ukraine.

Honestly, when I first heard the plane went down I wondered why the hell was the plane even flying in the area. Everyone knows the Ukraine is in the midst of a civil war so why was a plane carrying civilian passengers in the middle of a hot warzone.

Later I read that the route MH17 was on was a common one and that many airlines fly over the area. This is because the route is the shortest route from Europe to Southeast Asia and everyone uses it to save cost. The Sydney Morning Herald even reported that immediately after MH17's crash, four other airliners followed the exact same route and none of them re-route. These four were from Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Kazakhstan Airlines and Etihad.

I have to ask; Why the hell not? If (unconfirmed) reports are to be believed, MH17 was shot down by a missile so why aren’t airlines diverting their planes? Even right now, heavy fighting is reported to be on-going between the Ukrainian army and the rebels. Reporters at the MH17 crash site even have reported to have heard mortar fire and explosions in the area. Yet even with so such danger and unanswered questions about the crash, airlines are still using the same route MH17 was on!

Yes, the shoot down of MH17 was almost certainly an accident but if it can happen accidently once, it can happen twice. No matter the cost, airlines should avoid the area till the fighting die down. Let’s not risk another MH17. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review of Begin Again

One thing regular readers of my blog would probably notice is that I do a monthly review of a book, movie or game I had played, seen or read. However what most people probably don’t know is that I only do reviews of stuff I liked.

The reason is simple. Reviews takes time to write and I much rather write about stuff I like than stuff I don’t. This month I had seen 3 movies; Transformer: Age of Extinction, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Begin Again. Of the 3, I am now writing a review of Being Again.

That should tell you what I think of the film. In simple terms, I thought Transformer: Age of Extinction was crap, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was good but not great, and Begin Again was the best of the lot.

Written and directed by John Carney, Begin Again stars Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, James Corden and Adam Levine (in his acting debut). Now when you read that line-up and hear that this is a musical, it is understandable that you will have doubts about the movie. However you need to get rid of them and see this movie because it is really great!

The movie starts when a disgraced record-label executive, Dan (Mark Ruffalo), stumble upon singer-songwriter Gretta (Keira Knightley) performing in a small New York bar and is immediately captivated by her raw talent. From this chance encounter, the duo embarked on a friendship that turns into a promising collaboration between the two lost talents.

Using flashbacks, we discover the backstory of the duo. Gretta and her long-time boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine) were songwriting partners who came to New York when he land a deal with a major label after scoring a hit song on a movie. The trappings of fame proved too much for Dave however and he soon strayed. Gretta left their apartment and took up residence with a close friend who literally forced her to go to a bar with an open-mike night.

Dan is a down-and-out music executive who had lost his way due to a failed marriage and excessive drinking. Things have become so bad that his business partner Saul (Mos Def) fired him from Distressed Records, an independent label the duo had co-founded. After a heated argument with his ex-wife (Catherine Keener) over their teenage daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld), Dan then goes on a drinking binge which ultimately brings him into the bar that night.

After a night of reflection, Gretta agree to make the album but they got rejected from Saul. Dan and Gretta then decided to produce the album on their own. Recruiting a team of talented (and very bored) musicians, they recorded the album live during the summer at various public locations around New York City and formed a friendship that bonded them both personally and professionally.

Like I said earlier, Begin Again is a great film. Not only that, it is remarkably refreshing! Writer and director John Carney made a joyous movie about songwriters and the way their lives and their work influence each other. It is a movie about love, family, and relationships, but (and this is important) this is no rom-com. Knightley and Ruffalo make for one of the most unusual engaging couples of the year yet the movie made sure their relationship is strictly friendship.

I find that great! In almost every other film out there, the two leads would get together in the end but director Carney firmly says, "NO". He just refused to pamper to the public and that gave the movie the perfect ending.

Another thing that helped was the performance of the actors. Ruffalo was, as per usual, a delightful to watch. He was charming, roguish, and scruffy, all at the same time. Knightley however was just outstanding.

Quite frankly I never thought the queen of the corset got this in her but she got the vibe of an indie artist down pat. A lot has been made about her doing her own singing in this film, but I thought her acting was what's outstanding. Her singing was just so-so in my view but her acting performance was great. The scene where she sang out her rage and anger on Dave's voicemail was superb. She made me believe she was this character and with all the period dramas I had seen her in, that's not easy.

Also, the two leads were ably supported by their co-stars. Mos Def was especially good in the role of Dan's business partner Saul. In just a few brief scenes, he managed to convey a full range of emotions, from his reluctant firing of Dan to his attempted wheeling dealing of Gretta. Adam Levine (of Maroon 5 and The Voice) was also very good. Dave is a good man who did not manage to handle the fame that came his way, made a stupid mistake and regretted it. Levine played him beautiful.

The only sore spot I can see in this film was a mistake made in editing. After getting the musicians together, the band got to practicing and we saw two new musicians; the drummer and the bass-player. However after that, we got a scene where Dan and Gretta met with a former discovery of Dan, Troublegum, asking for his help. Troublegum agreed to provide two artists for the band but the thing is, the drummer and the bass-player (who we see in the background behind Troublegum) were the two artists we seen practicing with the band earlier. That is a bad mistake.

However, beside that I just can't say anything bad about this film. It's great. Watch it!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Another Crash

With the memory of Flight MH370 still fresh in the minds of everyone, Malaysia Airlines suffered another tragedy when another of their passenger jet crashed. Carrying 295 people, Flight MH17 was on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed in territory held by separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Given the area, it’s no surprise that the Ukrainian government wasted no time in accusing the rebels of shooting down the plane. Of course this is something the rebels denied, claiming they do not have the weapons needed to shoot down a plane at 10,000m. Rather surprisingly, this is something Western officials agree with, many saying they have not seen the rebels displaying such weaponry thus far in the conflict.

With all the accusation and counter- accusation, one thing is clear; Malaysia Airlines better pray Flight MH17 was shot down.

Like I said earlier, everyone still remember Flight MH370. Flight MH370 disappeared en route from Malaysia to China in April and still has not been found. The question of how, why and even where it crashed are all unanswered. However this is the exact same kind of plane from the exact same airline. It would be foolish not to draw some conclusion from that.

Luckily, for Malaysia Airlines, initial report seen to indicate that the plane was shot down by someone. Not to sound crass but that’s good news for them because if it is found that the plane did crash on its own, then it changes the narrative of Flight MH370. Any suspicion or theory about pilot error or hijacking in that crash will take a backseat if it is found that Flight MH17 did indeed crash on its own. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Female Thor

The biggest news in the comic world these few days has been the Marvel announcement that they will debut a female Thor who will headline her own Thor series. Fans are up in arms over the gender change with even Avengers director Joss Wheadon chirping in on the matter.

As a long time comic fan, I will tell this to everyone; It’s a terrible idea but there’s no need to be angry about it because it’s just a temporary change to grab sales.

You guys can blame how well Superior Spiderman did for this gender change in Thor. In Spiderman, Peter Parker’s body was taken over by one of his main villains and the shock value of the move boosted sales. Once the shock value worn off and sales went back to normal, Marvel quickly got Peter Parker back into his own body.

So this Thor change is nothing but a cash grab and I’ll be surprised if it last over a year. I mean Marvel had did this change thing to Thor before with Beta Ray Bill, Thunderstrike and a few others taking over as Thor for short periods of time. None of them struck and with the exception of Beta Ray Bill, even comic fans don’t remember most of them.

So cool your jets on this change. I don’t think this female Thor is going to last too long.