Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson

The Bonehunters is Book 6 of the Malazan Book of the Fallen epic fantasy series written by Steven Erikson. WARNING: This is epic fantasy, with a wide scope and a very large cast of characters. Steven Erikson do not explain everything and the series is not told in a linear fashion. It will be a confusing read at times.

To explain; the first book (Gardens of the Moon) takes place on the continent of Genabackis, where armies of the Malazan Empire (Onearm's Host) are battling the native city-states for dominance, especially the city of Darujhistan. The story is then continued in Book 3, Memories of Ice, when the Malazan armies uniting with their former enemies to confront the threat of the Pannion Domin.

Book 2 takes place on the subcontinent of Seven Cities and the major rebellion against Malazan rule. This rebellion is known as 'the Whirlwind'. Book 2, Deadhouse Gates, shows the outbreak of this rebellion and focuses on the rebels' relentless chase of the main Malazan army as it escorts some 40,000 refugees more than 1,500 miles across the continent. The chase itself, is referred to as the Chain of Dogs. The fourth novel, House of Chains, sees the continuation of this storyline with newly-arrived Malazan reinforcements, the 14th Army, taking the war to the rebels.

The fifth book is, Midnight Tides. This novel introduces a new continent where two nations, the tribes of the Tiste Edur and the Empire of Lether, are engaged in open warfare. The novel takes place along with earlier books at the same time and show the effects of what happen when you push people too far.

5 books, 3 storylines. Confused already? Hahaha. This is not a series for novices, as Erikson is from the LOTR schools of fantasy writing. Plots drive the story, not the characters. So you will see heroes and villians fall left, right and centre. And they don't go out in heroic fashion. An arrow on the battlefield, or an old injury can take out heroes. It is dirty, gritty war stories in a fantasy world. The Malazan Empire are also not what you call a 'good' empire. There are both heroes and villians in their armies and both them and their enemies (like the Whirlwind rebels) have no problems killing men, women and children when battling. Hell, Garden of the Moons started off with the Malazan sacking the Mouse Quarter, part of Malaz City. Men, women and children died in the sack. This is not a series where good and evil fight. It is a series where the truly mad fight againest the merely evil.

The sixth book, The Bonehunters, begins 2 months after House of Chains and combined the three storylines. Onearm's Host has arrived from Genaback to the Seven Cities, to aid in the final defeat of the rebellion. At the same time, fleets from the newly-proclaimed Letherii Empire are scouring the globe for worthy champions to face their immortal emperor in battle. The Malazan 14th Army has destroyed the army of the Whirlwind and the commander of the 14th, Adjunct Tavore Paran, has executed Sha'ik, leader of the Whirlwind. The 14th is now pursuing the remnants of the Whirlwind army under Leoman of the Flails. The Whirlwind seek refuge in the fortress of Y'Ghatan, where the Malazan Empire once faced its greatest defeat. Onearm's Host has landed on Seven Cities' north coast to complete the task of subduing the rebellion, but a deadly plague has been unleashed and before it is all over, a great Malazan hero will fall.

As you can guess, this is not a normal fantasy series. The Bonehunters continued this trend. The 14th are the main charactes in the book, but they got their ass handed to them by Leoman of the Flails. The Malazan hero got struck down by the plague, not a heroic end for a great general. That's where this book (and the series) works. You never know who will come out of battle alive and there's no clear line between good and evil. I will say that Bonehunters is one of the best book in the series. Erikson's writing seems to have improved and it was fun watching the plots join together for once. We also see why even brave souls shake before Icarium. He was just a terrible beast when unleashed, even Trull Senger and his spear lost to him. Karsa Orlong also made an appearence and it was fun seeing how unaffected he is by...well, almost everything. He kill demi-gods. What does he care about the feelings of mere mortals.

A fun, thrilling ride. That's The Bonehunters. Take a look if you dare!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Comics this week

Countdown #44- The big moment this week in Countdown is the death of the latest Flash, Bart Allen. There's only one problem here. The 'event' happened in the Flash book, and guess what? I don't collect or read the Flash. The Trickster/Piper storyline is part of the whole Countdown being the spine of the DCU angle, but how am I to feel for these two misguided fugitives when I haven't even seen what they did yet. At least with Duela Dent and Lightray, we saw what happened to them. A big name died and we didn't even see it. How is Countdown to be a 'spine' of anything when we don't see what had happened?
This week's other development is how Monarch conviced Forerunner to join him againest the Monitors. The way it was done was almost laughable. The most interesting moment in this issue comes not surprisingly in the Mary Marvel storyline. The hostile conversation between Billy Batson and Mary Marvel over the status of Mary's Black Adam powers. It's short but good. Too bad about the rest of the issue.

Silver Surfer: Requiem #2- Like I've said before, I'm not a fan of the Silver Surfer. Spiderman explained part of the reason why; An alien who ride the spaceways on a surfboard? What can I say, it's sound stupid. But sometimes stupid ideas just works, like this issue. We got to see the Silver Surfer's ideologies and effect on Earth. The Surfer's analysis of our world was spot on and ask why would anyone sacrifice his or her life fighting for a race so intent on fighting each other. I had stated before that I felt J. Michael Straczynski was over-rated but boy, did he nail the Surfer or what! Beautiful.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Let's not blame everyone

Singaporeans lived very ordered lives. So ordered that when accidents happened, they must have a reason, they must have something or someone to blame. The spoon-fed Singaporeans has struck again.

Most people in Singapore has heard of the tragic death of Thaddeus Cheong. Cheong was taking part in a triathlon and finished 6th in the race. After the race, he died. A lack of a defibrillator and ambulance on standby was cited as one of the reasons the teenager's life could not be saved. Now the Traithlon Association of Singapore is being blamed for causing Cheong's death as there were no medical personnel on site, and Cheong has to be rushed to hospital by one of the association's staff. Criticised for the lack of proper safety measures, the TAS has since met the Sports Council to come up with some guidelines.

So they are blamed even though it's not their fault. It's a sad, tragic death, but I think it's also wrong to blame TAS for the death. Cheong was a good, young triathlete. You cannot expect him to have a heart attack. He was young, fit and good (how many of you can finish a traithlon, much less finish 6th). It's a senseless, tragic death but let's not compund it by trying to blame innocent parties as well.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Chris Benoit is dead

What happened? That's the thought in my head when I heard that Chris Benoit killed himself. According to U.S authorities, wrestling superstar Chris Benoit, The Rabid Wolverine, killed his wife and 7-year-old son before hanging himself.

Investigators said the murder-suicide happened over Friday and Saturday in the suburban Atlanta home where the bodies of Benoit, his wife and young son were found. Benoit cancelled two events with the WWE over the weekend citing an undisclosed "family emergency. He then sent "several curious text messages" to friends early Sunday morning and the WWE asked authorities to check on him and his family.

One possible reason floated was anabolic steroids as they were among the prescription drugs found in Benoit's house. There has been cases where the use of these muscle-building steroids has been linked to uncontrolled outbursts of anger or combativeness. What the hell happened?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Keep the fingers pointed

One point raised at a session during the World Economic Forum on East Asia is to stop blaming one another for the world's environmental problems and to start working on ways to solve them together.

Some countries like Malaysia feel they are often being blamed for contributing to environmental problems and not been recognised for the good it has done, such as making sure it does not exhaust its petroleum products. According to Malaysia, this is hypocrisy and we should all stop pointing fingers.

True, it is hypocrisy but there's one thing countries (including Singapore) keep forgetting. Pointing fingers WORKS!

Let's be honest; most countries will not take environmental problems seriously if left to themselves. Even countries like the US ignore international agreements like the Kyoto Protocol for its' own reasons. Just think of how bad things would be if no one point fingers. We can all dream of a time when countries have a changed behaviour towards climate change, but that is a dream. Most countries has not (and will not) made any commitments that are required to reduce greenhouse emissions.

It is true that some countries are doing good things in the fight againest environmental problems, but it is nowhere near enough. Blaming one another is the best (and in some cases only) way we have to get actions taken. Until countries start taking actions on their own, keeping pointing fingers guys!

Monday, June 25, 2007

The untouchable CPF money

Some Singaporeans are left in a strange situation nowadays. They have no jobs and yet are not able to withdraw their CPF savings. The main reason, as most people know, is the proposal to allow withdrawal of their CPF minimum sum of S$100,000 at the age of 65. This is above the current withdrawal age at 62.

Question: How many companies in Singapore are going to hire a 55 year old man, much less a 62 year old?

They say that Singapore employment rate of those aged 60 to 64 is currently at 42 percent. I think that is too high of a number. The no. should be lower and even those who are working are just working part-time. So they have no job and cannot get CPF. The simple answer to this problem should be getting rid of the age increase (maybe even lower it), but this being Singapore where the government can make no mistake, the government is saying; learn how to extend your savings so that it can last longer.

Now this is a joke, isn't it. Singapore is already one of the highest saving per person country in the world, but it's still not enough! Now, we must also learn how to extend it. By itself, that's not a bad idea but come on. Wouldn't it be easier (and make more sense) to just get rid of the age increase?

I hope that pride in not the reason why the Singapore government refuse to take such an easy option. I shudder to think when I can get my hands on my CPF money. By the time I retire, the age limit may be 100 for all I know.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A new opposition party

Mr JB Jeyaretnam's new Reform Party is taking shape. Edmund Ng from the National Solidarity Party (NSP) has quit the party and will join the Reform Party.

Unlike most people, I think it's a good idea for JBJ to start a new party. His relationship with the Worker's Party is shot and there is a chance the Reform Party could end up the biggest opposition party after the next general election. All they need to to win 2 seats, and that's it. Hard, but not impossible.

It's the flip-side of how successful the PAP has been crushing all opposition in Singapore. A new party can just pop up and be the biggest opposition party even if it has no history behind it. And even that is not a problem for the Reform Party as JBJ is at the helm. Fireworks is in the air.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Comics this week

Countdown #45- Countdown this week changes its' structure a little bit. Instead of getting a little bit of all the stories involved, Paul Dini decided to concentrate on only one story. Not a bad thing by itself, unfortunately the story involved is the Jason Todd story. Exactly that's not quite correct as the former Robin lies bleeding to death while Donna Troy dukes it out with Forerunner. The slugfest goes on and on till it is broken up by Monitor. I think it was supposed to get us interested in the Monitor story and how it all tie into the grand design of Countdown. Outside Jason Todd, we also had an extended interlude with Jimmy Olsen. Olsen explain the backstory behind Darkseid and the New Gods which is basically a recap.
The biggest problem of Countdown is that not all the stories are equal. Some, like the Black Mary story, are just more interesting than others. And all of them are more interesting than the Jason Todd story! So when this issue just concentrate on the Jason Todd story, it had loser written all over it already.

The Hedge Knight: Sworn Sword #1- A fan of George R.Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, I picked up the first Hedge Knight comic and found it to be surprising good. The story is on the new hedge knight Ser Duncan the Tall who is in the service of Ser Eusance and the trouble service always bring. This second mini is the same as the first. A good story that's well paced and beautifully drawn. Pick it up.

Annihilation: Conquest - Prologue- Instead of Civil War, the best Marvel mini-series last year was the cosmic Annihilation. With its' success, a sequel was order. Annihilation: Conquest is the result and on this prologue, it looks like a good one. The story is based on Peter Quill, the hero formerly known as Star-Lord, and an attack on the Kree. We also see the new Quasar, Phyla Vell, and her struggle to control to her newfound powers. I not quite sold on the cast of Conquest yet. Annihilation had Nova, Ronan the Accuser, Silver Surfer, Drax, Super-Skull etc; Conquest's cast include Rocket Raccoon! Still, this great introduction to this event is a winner.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

We are defeated!

I remember when the haze first started in Singapore, there was so much talk about stopping it and making sure it will never affect Singapore again. After years of fruitless effort, that has offically been thrown out the window.

The haze period is slated to start in about two weeks and forest fires in parts of Indonesia are largely the cause of the transboundary haze. Farmers are preparing to clear their lands using the inexpensive slash-and-burn method, which will inevitably lead to forest fires.

Representatives from five Asean countries – Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia – are in Jambi to attend a meeting of the sub-regional steering committee on the transboundary haze pollution. Indonesia has promised to reduce its hotspots by 50 per cent this year and Indonesia will update its immediate neighbours of its progress towards achieving this objective.

See they aren't going to stop the haze as it will be a useless effort, they are going to trying to lower the damage the haze will bring. Yes, get those masks out. The haze is here to stay because everyone has admitted defeat already. Haze 1, Asean 0.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The 14th most expensive city in the world

According to a Cost of Living Survey conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, Singapore has become the 14th most expensive city in the world for expatriates.

I'm not sure how they did it, but the survey covered 143 cities across six continents and measures the comparative costs of over 200 items like housing, transport, food, household goods and entertainment. Sky rocketing housing prices and climbing transportation prices are the main causes for the high ranking. Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Osaka are the only cities in the Asia-Pacific that is above Singapore in the ranking.

So much for keeping costs down to make Singapore more competitive. No wait, that was to keep BUSINESS cost down! Living cost has always been a secondary concern to the Singapore government, but higher living prices is going to affect Singapore sooner or later. In fact, you can say that it already has. The Singapore housing market has went crazy in the past year, and has shown no sign of slowing. There hasn't been too many protests at the prices because only the top 20% of the market are affected. Mainly expatriates are buying the condos in Singapore, and this has pushed the prices into outer space. But as the prices keep heading north, less and less people can afford it and there goes the idea of keeping business cost down.

The government may say their hands are tied in the housing market, but surely they can do something about transportation costs. Government-linked companies has a virtual monopoly in the tranport companies in Singapore, so there is no reason why the prices has kept on increasing. Hell, they are even posting good profits yearly. In this case, they can keep the living and business costs down at the same time with a lowering of the tranport costs. Two birds with one stone.

Singapore is now the 14th most expensive city in the world. Let's make sure we are not in the top 10 next year.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The toothless cub

A case of taiji that shows how useless and toothless CASE has become. The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) said it had raised the issue of StarHub Cable TV's price hike to the Competition Commission, and would leave it to them to investigate the matter.

Here's a question. What the hell is the Competition Commission? CASE President Yeo Guat Kwang said that CASE was not against price increases, as long as companies justified the increases. Really? Isn't that what CASE was built for? When Singaporeans first came to know of CASE, it was a tiger that went after companies for price increases. More importantly, it asked uncomfortable questions that most (if not all) companies found hard to answer. You will not see this form of taiji from them. A change of management at the top and CASE turned from a tiger to a cub.

Mr Yeo said that the companies and service providers should consider the sentiments of consumers and give consumers the right to opt out if they are unhappy with the service. Maybe Mr. Yeo should give the same options to consumers unhappy with CASE.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Comics this week

Countdown #46- After the massive 52, there was always a danger that DC will cash in and just dish out a run-of-the-mill story to keep the weekly formula going. Thus far, Countdown is not run-of-the-mill but it is going downhill. Case in point, this week we see Jason Todd and Donna Troy got the shit beaten out of them and I do not care. It doesn't help that we still have no idea why they are so dangerous to the world. What's worse is the fact that I thick the Forerunner is a stupid idea in the first place. The rogue Monitor need a secret weapon...FOR WHAT? He is as powerful as Superman, why can't he kill Jason Todd (a second-rate Batman) and Donna Troy (a third-rate Wonder Woman) on his own? Holly Robinson, the Flash Rogues, and Jimmy Olsen are just coasting along with their own stories. The saving grace is Mary Marvel, or to be more exact Pharyngula, the Harvester of Stillborn Souls. This creepy villain is the coolest character to appear in Countdown so far, one of the best new characters I've seen in a long time. I mean when Mary punches him, dead baby fetuses fall off his body. That was just so sick! But one cool (short) section is not enough to save this issue. Countdown isn't a bad series, but it is in 52's shadow and thus far, it has not measured up.

Nova #3- The inevitable confrontation between Nova and the man who was once Speedball. Great idea on paper, but way too short. This issue is taken up by a clash between Nova and The Thunderbolts. At the end of it all, Nova got his ass back to space. Hopefully, he will stay there. I'm not too taken with this trip back home storyline. It's interesting and does have its moments, but it was much more fun seeing Nova in space during Annihilation. With Conquest coming up, it looks like Nova will be staying in space for a while. Good news for this series.

Stormwatch PHD #8- The Wildstorm relaunch has been terrible. Some books are late, others have just disappeared from the shelves. Only 2 books have come out regularly, the terrible 'Midnighter' and the good 'Stormwatch PHD'. A fan of the first Stormwatch series, I gave the series a try and was surprised. It is actually quite good. But the problem was that it seems that we were watching the Stormwatch B-Team (we were). This issue addressed this by showing Winter, Fuji and gang, but the focus was still on PHD. That's a good thing and I like that Dr.Shaw finally have something to do outside showing fear and wetting his pants. Now if only WildCATS #2 will show up.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A member of my family has went insane

My sister is getting married in July and my mother has offically went insane. Outside wanting to invite everyone she has ever met (some of whom she has not met in years) she is getting the house painted!

Now as the house is filled with the smell of drying paint, I have to wonder what it is about weddings that make most women take a leave of their senses. Painting a house for that small short time when people comes? Why? Must be a chick thing because I can't even begin to understand it.

Must go now, the paint is making me dizzy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan

Knife of Dreams is the eleventh book in the The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. Now for those of you with no idea what the Wheel of Time is, it is a fantasy series that speaks of a never-ending battle between good (the Light) and evil (Shai'tan).

About 3000 years have passed since the last war between Shai'tan and the Light. That war ended when Lews Therin Telamon also called the Dragon, led a daring raid and imprison the Dark One with the help of a group of male channelers (wizards) known as the Hundred Companions. Female channelers had refused to assist, believing the risk of backfire too great to chance. Though the Dark One was finally imprisoned, he managed to spread a taint on saidin, the male source of magic in the world, bringing madness to any who channeled it. The taint quickly overcame every male channeler in the world, including Lews Therin and his companions, with catastrophic results that changed the world- known as the 'Breaking of the World'. From then onwards, Lews Therin was also called the "Kinslayer", as one of the first results of his madness was to destroy everyone close to him - family, friends, aquiantances.

3000 years have passed, and the Dark One is breaking out of his prison. The Dragon Reborn, who is Lews reborn, is the only person capable of defeating Shai'tan, on the other, the Dragon Reborn will still be prey to the madness caused by the taint of evil in saidin. The only man who can save the world is also the man to destroy it. That man is Rand al'Thor.

First off, Knife of Dreams is 784 pages long, so be ready for a long read. It is also the 11th book in the Wheel of Time, so there is a lot story you will need to catch up on. In short, don't read this if you have never read the Wheel of Time before.

For those of you who have read the Wheel of Time before, Knife of Dreams is a return to form for Robert Jordan. After the confusing detour that was The Path of Daggers (Book 8), Winter's Heart (Book 9) and Crossroads of Twilight (Book 9), Knife of Dreams get back to the meat of the story; Rand al'Thor, Mat Cauthon and Perrin Aybara. The series started with these 3 and the books work whenever the story stay with these 3. I don't care who gained the throne of Andor or who control the White Tower, as long as Robert Jordan keep the story on Rand, Mat and Perrin, the book work. Good news; they are in 3 quarters of the book!

Knife of Dreams ties up a number of loose ends exposed during the course of the series, and there were a mighty lot of them. Rand loses his left hand, Mat finally marry and Perrin defeats the Shaido in Malden with the help of the Seanchan. The Last Battle is close at hand and Rand begins moving all of the armies of the world to the north to prepare for the Last Battle.

Reading this book, you get a sense of urgency that was never there in the earlier 3 books. This might not be a good thing to say, but Jordan's illness might be a good thing for the series as the series was getting bogged down in some truly minor details. Knife of Dreams isn't as good as the first 5 books in the series that made Jordan his name, but it is a good read. And if you had lasted this long, why not finish it. The Wheel is still a great series and the Knife of Dreams is bringing the series to a good close.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More trouble at Froebel

A week after several students filed a complaint againest Froebel Academy for not giving them their course certificates, now several teachers from embattled private school have filed claims with the Manpower Ministry (MOM) for alleged salary arrears.

One of the teachers is an former part-time Mandarin teacher who said that the school owes her about S$24,000 which had not been paid her since November. MOM says that it is looking into the allegations.

Here's a suggestion: Look faster.

Frobel Academy is already under investigation by the Education Ministry following the complaints from the students, and now this. Something is wrong with the school, and in light of the UNSW nonsense a month ago, it will be better for Singapore if the MOM get to the bottem of this ASAP. If not, it might/will be the death keel of the Singapore eduaction hub plan.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

After the unexpected success of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Walt Disney wasted no time to put together a trilogy. The sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, proved to be a success also. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is the last film in the trilogy. So how is it? How does it stack up againest the first 2 films?

The movie starts with anyone associated with piracy begin hanged by the East Indian Company. Davy Jones and the Flying Dutchman are also under their control, begin used to destroy all pirate ships on the seven seas. Captain Barbossa lead Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann and the crew of the Black Pearl to Sao Feng, pirate lord of Singapore. They need the navigational chart leading to World's End, the gateway to the Davy Jones' Locker to get the late Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirate Lord of the Caribbean. Barbossa's plan is to convene the Brethren Court to release the sea goddess, Calypso. After a couple of double-cross and a few triple-cross, Calypso is released and the Pearl and Dutchman faced off in the famous malstorm scene.

First off, World's End is slightly better than Dead Man's Chest, but far below Curse of the Black Pearl. It's not a bad movie but it too long and filled with several scenes that deserved to be on the cutting floor of the editing room. (Jack Sparrow death scene in the Locker, I talking to you.) Also the final battle was disappointing. Only the Pearl and Dutchman fought in the last battle, not a other single ship fought, even though you could see 2 huge fleet facing off againest each other. The malstorm scene was CGI madness, aka see it with your brain switch off, because it will make no sense.

Some part of the movie works like a charm. The scenes between Sparrow and Barbossa were good, and I liked the part where it's Barbossa's plan that saved the day. That was a nice twist. Also, wait to watch the post-credits scene at the very end. Most post-credit scenes are useless, but I liked this one. It actually closes the Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner story.

Overall, World's End is a fun ride that close the trilogy. The director left room for a fourth film and given the success of World's End, I bet money that it will be made. Fountain of Youth, here come Jack Sparrow.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Comics this week

Countdown 47- As far as I can tell, Paul Dini is a very good comic book writer. He's not Alan Moore, but then most writers aren't. But what the hell was he thinking of here? Black Adam, the man who almost destroyed the world...gave up his powers? Gave them up! It's almost as bad as Captain America just giving up at the end of Civil War. What utter nonsense! It's Black Adam for god sake! BLACK ADAM! The rest of the storylines seem to be progresing at a relatively satisfying rate, but this Black Adam is so out-of-character it's not even funny. What were you thinking of Paul?

New Warriors #1- I like to give new books a chance to impress me before giving them up. Even books with lame set-up like the New Warriors. This issue was surprising quite good. The lead character, Sofia, was one of the New X-Men who lost her powers on M-day, and recuited into the New Warriors. I like this part where they didn't give you any idea of who the New Warriors were until the very, very end. Very well put together, I'll be here for issue two.

Avengers: The Initiative #3- Dan Slott still haven't figured out how to get this book out of the biggest problem I think he faced so far. The Initiative is the Avengers C-Team (maybe E-Team). They are raw recuits and the Initiative had to bring in "trainers" like the Thing and Black Widow to train them. In this context, if SHIELD had the chance to take down Spiderman, would they send in Komodo? Of course not! Spidey didn't even know who she was. I mean he was right, he faced up to Iron Man before and SHIELD send this grade C Lizard to take him down? This problem need to be address ASAP because it is bringing down an otherwise impressive book.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

NBA Finals: Game 1

I blogged earlier that the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Antonio Spurs will be one ugly series. Boy, was I right or what!

The Spurs got an easy 85-76 victory over the Cavaliers in Game 1, mainly due to good defence on their part and a bad show on the part of LeBron James. The Spurs kept the Cleveland superstar under total control and they held James to just 14 points. In contrast, Tim Duncan finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. One word; big stage experience. Okay, that's 3 words but you get the picture.

Bruce Bowen was on LeBron, but it was a team effort. 2-3 guys on him whether LeBron even tried to get to the rim. LeBron just couldn't solve the Spur's puzzle. But the biggest problem Cavs had was Tony Parker. He got whatever he wanted yesterday and the Cavs got no one who even looked like they could slow him down.

He and Duncan was the brightest lights in a otherwise terrible game. I can understand if the game was boring due to great defence but there was good defence, not great. People was just missing shots (lay-ups, put-backs you name it) left, right and centre. The Cavs top scorer was Daniel Gibson with 16 miserable points. Only 3 Spurs players got more than 10.

I heard that the game drew the lowest rating ever in America for an opening NBA Finals game in prime time; guys the only thing you missed was a bad game. If the Cavs and Spurs keep this up, even I might miss the rest of the series. That was how bad it was. Terrible!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Cavs vs Spurs: It will be ugly

Can LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers past Tim Duncan's Spurs? Can Bruce Bowen stop LeBron? Can Daniel Gibson keep up with Tony Parker? All questions that will be answered when the Cleveland Cavaliers meet up with the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. But no matter what the answers are, there's one thing I know for sure: This will be one ugly series.

The Cavs may have LeBron, but the reason they are in the Finals is because of their defence. They held the Pistons to low scores throughout the Eastern Finals and that is not going to change againest the Spurs. LeBron also best be ready for some rough treatment. The Spurs have already proven that they're not above taking out the star player of the other team to win. Steve Nash and the Suns got the treatment, LeBron best be ready.

In short, don't expect a high scoring series or any run-and-gun. A lot of half-court defence, a lot of free-throws and the Spurs winning the whole thing. As good as LeBron is, I just can't see the Spurs losing this one. Duncan and the Spurs just have too much poise, experience and weapons to lose to the one-trick pony that is the Cavs. Spurs in either 4 or 5 games.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Another UNSW?

A few weeks after the UNSW egg on our face, there's another omelette on the way. Students of Froebel Academy were shocked to find their school premises locked after the private school in Park Mall was inundated with complaints from its students the day before.

Seems that these students had completed their course already, but have not received their certificates from the academy. The students demanded their certificates or their money back; one day later, the school was locked.

Now the school has issued a statement stating that it's not closing and that the management is committed to continue with classes for its present batch of students. Okay, but who would go to class now? Why go to class if you are not sure if you can get a cert out of it?

What's worse is that Froebel Academy come with some big names on it. At least you can say that UNSW was new in Singapore; you cannot say that here. Froebel Academy is accredited by both the Education Ministry and the Community, Youth and Sports Ministry. It even has the CASE TRUST status awarded to it by CASE. Some of the Froebel Academy students even received help with their school fees from the Workforce Development Agency. Others are under the NTUC's Surrogate Employers Plan where NTUC pays part of their school fees.

All big names in Singapore, and all can't help the students now. After UNSW, now this. If even a school backed by the MOE and NTUC can close down, I wonder if this is but the tip of the iceberg here. Let's not invited any more schools into Singapore until we get our own house in order. This is just embrassing.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Review of Granado Espada

There's a MMO in Singapore called Granado Espada. For those of you if no idea what it's about, Granado Espada is an Age of Exploration fantasy MMORPG. Think the discovery of America in a new fantasy world.

I will give them this. These folks are giving their all to promote this new MMO. Advertisements on TV, a lauch party at Zouk, free sign-up plans with Singtel; the marketing people of the game are doing a great job. But that is marketing; how is the game?

Now, technically, I can't suggest you play it. First off, there are still some bugs in the game. You start by creating a Family. You then start creating your characters and can control 3 characters at a time in the game. You contol one character and the other two will follow your lead. You attack someone and the other two will attack the monster along with you. Unfortuately you can only have one leader and I find that you cannot switch leaders. The game allows you to switch the leader but everytime I do so, the other two characters will stop attacking the monsters. They will follow you around but that's it. They will do nothing else.

Also, when you put on new armour and weapons, the graphics does not change. This is just unforgivable to me. You see your new stuff when you put them on. That is just a given in any RPG! Not in this game. And everyone starts from the same city, so there is lag whenever you enter the city. Avoiding the city is almost impossible as all the traders and quest-givers are there.

However, the game did get some things right. First off, the setting is good. Age of Exploration is a setting no other RPG has taken on so far, so in this it is one of a kind. The music is solid, it fits the game perfectly. The graphics are also clean and colourful. AKA, it looks and sounds great. I also like the fact you can recuit NPCs to your family. You do their quests (or series of quests), and they will stay with your family along with the characters you have created. (For some reason, these NPCs you recuit cannot level up. I don't know but maybe it's another bug.)

The game is still in early beta, so there should be improvements in the near future. Overall, Granado Espada is a game that shows promise, but doesn't quite deliver. It will need to much better if it intend to lure me away from 9Dragons.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

An over-reaction?

The funny Singapore courts stikes again. A few weeks ago, a man punches another man in public. The man who got punched naturally made a police report. To his shock, the police refused to take any action on the incident. You punch a man in public and can get away with it.

You make a crank phone in Singapore, and you can get 44 months. An India-born Canadian citizen was sentenced to 44 months imprisonment by a Singapore court for making hoax calls, claiming terrorists planned to crash an Air India plane departing here for New Delhi. This is even tougher than February, when a 21 year-old man was sentenced to 3 months over an online bomb hoax.

Okay, these guys are idiots. Total morons to do this at this time and age, but 44 months! That is too much. I know Singapore is very worried to avoid unnecessary public anxiety but 44 months is an over-reaction. If Singapore over-react, then we are basically handing a victory to these idiots. Singapore should be safe, but we must not over-react to these things. If we do, then anxiety will increase as people will retreat into seige mode. And with Singapore's need for trade, that will not be a good thing. Punish these morons, but let's not over-react to everything.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Dragon Avenger by E.E Knight

Dragon Champion tell the coming-of-age story of the dragon Auron. In the the second Age of Fire novel, Dragon Avenger, it tells the story of Wistala, sister to Auron.

When her young family is betrayed, Auron sacrificed himself so that she may live. Wistala then travelled north, to find her father AuRel. While nursing the badly wounded AuRel back to health, a dragon hunter called Dragonblade showed up. For the second time, a member of her family scarificed himself to save Wistala. Running for her life, Wistala vow vengeance. Befriended by the elf Rainfall of Hypatia, Wistala slowly matures and gained the wisdom to put her plans into motion. In the midst of her vengence, she also find out why her family was betrayed by the Wheel of Fire dwarves and became determined to avenge the slaughter of her family.

Like Dragon Champion, Avenger is told from a dragon point-of-view. Unfortunately, Wistala is nowhere as interesting as Auron. Also at the end of the book, an action by Wistala was just totally wrong. If you lived your whole life for vengeance, would you give it up when it's just a jaw away? That's what happened! It was as if E.E Knight forgot about Wistala and wrote the ending for some other dragon.

Overall, this is a passable if slightly disappointing book. Wistala was interesting enough to get me to keep turning the pages, but not so interesting for me to ignore the flaws in this book. Read Dragon Champion. It's much better.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Another Idol rip-off?

After Singapore Idol, Superband, Campus Superstar...Singapore now has yet another American Idol rip-off. Auditions is being held for Singapore's "Live The Dream".

A small change in that singers for the show must be aged 25 and above. Like I said, it's a small change. I think it's not too big of a charge to say that Singapore television lack creative direction, but another Idol rip-off! Don't we have enough of that already?

The producers of Singapore should take some risks, and not redo American Idol in every form that they can think of. I don't care how you say this show will be different, an Idol rip-off is an Idol rip-off. And frankly, Singapore viewers deserve more than that.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Comics this week

Countdown #48- Countdown did not start with a bang this time, mainly because nothing much happen here. #48 was basically a set-up issue, even the death of Lightray was handled with more questions than answers. Lightwho? Yes, he may be a New God but Lightray was like Duela Dent, another obscure player in the DC Universe. Though the circumstances of the death, a mysterious series of explosions over Metropolis, Jimmy Olsen's superspeed and Lightray's death scream, were pretty interesting.
We also get throwaway scenes involving Karate Kid and Starman, Jason Todd and Donna Troy which adds nothing to the overall story. Okay, I'm confused. Is this Jason Todd or some other guy pretending to be Jason Todd? This character does not even begin to tally with the Jason Todd in the Batman and Teen Titans comics.
As usual, the best scenes this week involves Black Adam and Mary Marvel. We find out that Black Adam think his powers are more of a curse than a blessing and warned Mary of the dangers of her quest. Black Adam warning Mary Marvel to be careful? I thought this storyline was called "Seduction of the Innocent"? Here I was hoping Black Adam and Mary Marvel know. Well there's 47 issues to go, so there's still hope for that.

Silver Surfer: Requiem #1- I was never a surfer fan, but with the tagline of "The Silver Surfer is dying", it got my attention. The actual news was held off till the last page of this issue, but the mood of the issue was one of doom from the start. We see the reactions of the Surfer's friends to the news and it's not pretty. I alway thought Micheal Straczynski was an overrated writer but his writing was very good in this issue. However, he will have to answer a big question as the series go on. Why don't the Silver Surfer just find Galactus? The question to that better be a good one.