Saturday, January 31, 2009

Comics this week

Final Crisis #7- Goods news: After months of delay, Final Crisis #7 comes out just 2 weeks after Final Crisis #6. Bad news: I have no idea what Grant Morrison is writing about. After a thrill ride of #6, Final Crisis #7 makes no sense! I’m all for the high end concept of Morrison’s writing, but the end result needs to make sense. This doesn’t! I know I haven’t been keeping up with the Superman series but since when did Superman’s X-ray eyes able to do DNA analysis? And his “I only look at the Miracle Machine for a few seconds but I tried to remember every nuts and bolts and I will rebuilt it and bring everyone back” moment. Superman has a photographic memory? Is this still Superman? Barry Allen running through time and space to outrun the Black Racer so that he can lure the Black Racer to Darkseid and kill the fallen god. It read as confusing as it sounds. And don’t even get me start on the last scene with Bruce Wayne in pre-historic times. Final Crisis end with a big question mark.

Reign in Hell #7- The most under-rated miniseries on the market race to its end as Satanus has firmly defeated Neron. With the war all but over, all the do-gooders now have to race out of hell. Not an easy thing to do when Satanus has close off hell. With only one exit out of hell, everyone is racing to the realm of Purgatory. A race against time with the rulers of hell on their backs? Seems that #8 will be fun.

Nova #21- I guess it’s inevitable. After 20 great issues, there is bound to be a bad issue. This is that bad issue. I know Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are in charge of everything cosmic in the Marvel Universe, but maybe they have too much on their plate right now. AKA, I think maybe they are too busy with the upcoming War of Kings to concentrate on their regular series. This issue seems to be a rush job and that’s something a great series like Nova do not need or deserved.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Political Price for Gaza

I have made no secret about what I felt about the recent conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. I felt that the attack by the Israelis was timed more for political considerations than any real security threat. I can see no other reason why the attack stopped a day before Barack Obama became the U.S President and 2 weeks before national elections in Israel.

So it’s with some satisfaction that I see Israel paying a political price for their actions. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Israel's President Shimon Peres got into a fiery debate regarding Israel's assault and blockade of Gaza. The Turkish Prime Minister also stormed out of the debate because of a failure by the moderator of the debate, Mr. David Ignatius, to do his job properly. After a 25min monologue by the Israel's President, the moderator cut off Mr. Erdogan’s response. What kind of moderator give 25mins to 1 guy and then just give 12mins for the response? Who is this David Ignatius?

However that’s another question for another day. The problem for Israel now is that they are fast running out of allies in the region. When Turkey, who is widely considered one of the more moderate Arab countries around, start blaming Israel for the suffering in Gaza, Israel has truly lost the propaganda war. What’s more is that Turkey will play a key role in any settlement between Israel and Syria.

The list of friends Israel has in the Middle East has never been long, and it seems to be getting shorter by the day. Exactly what they deserve for starting a war due to politics!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Small Change Needed in the Budget

Usually when the World Economic Forum comes to town in Davos, Switzerland; there will be a lot of talk about how well the world economy is and that it will go from strength to strength. Not this year!

On the first day of the Davos forum, both the Chinese and Russian leaders (Wen Jiabao and Vladimir Putin) gave a gloomy assessment on the global economy and blamed the United States directly for causing the global economic crisis in the first place.

This criticism of the U.S leads me to think of one of the biggest problem I have with the recent Singapore budget. As everyone in Singapore knows, the Singapore economy is tied to the health of the U.S economy. Over 70% of Singapore’s exports go to the U.S and I saw nothing in the new Singapore budget that will change this. Even though new U.S President Barack Obama has already went to work to revive the U.S economy with an 825 billion dollar stimulus package, there’s no guarantee that the stimulus package will be successful. Even if it is successful, there will still be a lot of pessimism over the U.S economy.

America has a record debt that is growing by the day; involved in 2 ongoing wars and it’s in its worst recession since the Great Depression. With all these challenges facing the U.S, I question whether it’s in Singapore’s interest to continually tag our economy to the U.S. It’s no secret that Singapore is suffering more than our neighbors in this crisis because of our closeness of our economy to the U.S and I think there’s no need for me to remind everyone what happened to our country’s investment in Merrill Lynch. As there is no end in sight to the problems in the U.S, I think Singapore should encourage Singapore companies (including government-linked companies) to invest in countries other than the U.S.

Annual budgets are more of a plan for the year than a blueprint, and plans can change. With odds that the financial crisis will get worse before it get better, I think it’s better that Singapore spread the risk around. I suggest that the Singapore Finance Ministry make a small change and look at tax incentives and grants to Singapore companies that move their investments from the U.S to other countries.

A small change like that I think might make the economy recover faster.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Singaporeans Are Not Bad Drivers

Just before the Chinese New Year, I saw an article in the Strait Times that state that most people in Southeast Asia believe that Singaporeans are bad drivers. If I remembered correctly, 69 out of 100 Singaporeans surveyed agree with that assessment.

I disagree. To me Singaporeans are not bad drivers, we are terrible drivers! We really are. The article in the papers state that Singaporeans do not give way (which is true) because Singaporeans are law-abiding citizens who do not take kindly to people cutting queue. That is wrong. No one in Singapore give way because Singaporeans has a cannot-lose attitude to life. Singaporeans just can't stand the sight of another car taking their spot on the road because that will mean they would have lost out to the other driver. Not acceptable in Singapore.

I personally think this is why no one on their signal light when they change lanes in Singapore. I lost count on the number of times when I on my signal light to change lanes, and the car in the other lane speed up instead of slowing down. I find it much easier to just cut the lanes without the signal lights, something which I think most Singaporeans agree with.

Another reason I think Singaporeans are bad drivers is because we are whiners on the road. Cars are status symbols in Singapore and as such Singaporeans are very protective about their cars. I personally know of one incident in which a Singaporean complain about a bumpy stretch of road to his foreign friend and the friend, who drive on the road everyday, has no idea what the Singaporean was talking about. To Singaporeans, roads must be prefect and not even a crack on the road is not allowed. It will make the road bumpy! So Singaporeans whine about road conditions even when there there's nothing to complain about.

So don't say Singaporeans are bad drivers. We're not bad; we are terrible!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Comics this week

Guardians of the Galaxy #9- Jack Flagg? Never thought an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy will start off with Jack Flagg but here it is. With the warden and guards gone, the prisoners of the 42 were left to fend for themselves. Even when he is in a wheelchair, somehow Jack Flagg became the guy running things for the prisoners. Don’t know about that but it was cute seeing a naked Star-Lord being sent in by Blastarr to demand a surrender. The main team led by Rocket Raccoon is now the official comedy section of the book as they were played for laughs again. Now most people who read my blog know that I’m not really that into the art. To me, the story is more important. However I have to say that the art in this issue was especially bad. The last few pages looks like a rush job as the characters looks like they just had face transplants. Hope thing get better as the War of Kings is here.

Street Fighter Legends: Chun Li #1- With a movie starring Chun Li coming up, this series was kind of expected by me. Street Fighter Legends: Chun Li is a prequel showing her before she was known to Shadaloo. Think of it was a straight-forward origin series and you’ll get the idea. Her father even put in a delightful cameo appearance. Dan was shown as well, and the writers seem to be taking some liberty with the story as Dan is shown with his father in Hong Kong. That’s wasn’t how I remember it but I guess they had to change something to keep the story fresh. Instead of Dan getting his ass kicked by Sagat, it will be his father but I don’t really mind small changes like this. However who is Omar Dogan? I don’t remember his name but his artwork in this issue is very good. His lines were clean and the action sequences were solid. He looks like a solid artist with a future.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Singapore need a Rabbit

When the COE of big cars drop to just $200 a week before Chinese New Year, you know that saying times are bad is an understatement. In face-crazy Singapore, a car is the ultimate status symbol but with GDP expected to drop between 3-5% this year; even car-dealers are facing the pinch.

For all the talk about growth in healthcare, education, finance sectors etc; Singapore’s economy is still based on our location as a port. Singapore is still a port city and with a worldwide collapse in demand, Singapore is faring far worse than our neighbors from the credit crunch. Reports state that almost 40% of the container ships worldwide are sitting idle as shipping orders have come to a standstill. That’s very bad news for Singapore.

With these problems, all eyes are on the Singapore budget which will be announced today. Let’s hope they can pull a rabbit out of the hat and justify their high pay.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Just Stupid

I have not commented on Tan Yong Soon's S$45,000 family trip so far because to me it’s a non-issue. For those readers who have no idea what I’m talking about; Tan Yong Soon, a top civil servant in Singapore, wrote an article in the Straits Times newspaper saying that he spent S$45,000 for a family trip to Paris to learn cooking at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. Tan is accused of extravagance by Singaporeans given that Singapore is in the midst of a severe recession.

Frankly, I’m more bemused than angered by all this. If someone wants to waste $45,000 and 5 weeks of his own precious leave to go to France, that’s his choice. I don’t understand why anyone will want to spend his leave on a cooking course, but as they say, ‘to each his own’. I don’t even mind him crowing about his trip. This is Singapore! We have people screaming out how good, rich and important they are all over the island.

For all the talk about empathy, humility, ethos etc; Tan Yong Soon's S$45,000 family trip is a private affair and is no business of mine. That is until Member of Parliament Charles Chong’s ‘lesser mortals’ comment. Unlike his follow MP, Teo Chee Hean and Peter Ho, who tried to put out the fire of discontent by expressing great disappointment over Mr. Tan's article; MP Charles Chong’s comments go like this, "Maybe it made lesser mortals envious and they thought maybe he was a bit boastful. Would people have taken offence if his wife (a senior investment counsellor at a bank) had paid for everything?”

Talk about total and utter stupidity! This off-the-cuff comment by Charles Chong will just add fuel to the fire and Charles Chong’s denigration of Mr Tan’s critics as “lesser mortals” just means that he considered Mr Tan (and himself) as “greater mortals”. Mr Chong must now come forward and apologised for his remark. After the storm of Mr Tan’s cooking trip (which was actually picked up by international press), this has the potential to be an even bigger storm. And unlike Mr Tan who can at least claim that he is a civil servant and not an elected officer, Mr Charles Chong do not even have that luxury.

Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean must be shaking his head right now. After his speech in parliament where he said that it’s important to show solidarity and empathy for Singaporeans facing uncertainties and hardship, this happened! It’s just plain stupid.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

One of a Kind

When Manchester City was bought by an Abu Dhabi consortium in August last year, the poorer cousin of Man Utd suddenly became the richest football club in the world.

With money to burn, the sheiks are looking for the best players in the world as they seek to make Man City one of top clubs in the world. Reports had said since the start of the season that their top target is Kaka. No wonder; the 26-year-old Brazilian midfielder was FIFA's player of the year in 2007 and he is also a proven winner, leading AC Milan to the European Champions League title. With money not a problem for them, Man City offered AC Milan a world record transfer fee of $150 million. Not only that, they offered Kaka an annual reported to be above $50million. $50 MILLION!

With such figures being thrown around, it’s no wonder that AC Milan agreed to the deal. However talks over the record-breaking transfer end when Kaka said no to Manchester City. He said NO to $50 million!

Silvio Berlusconi, AC Milan's owner, told Man City there would be no deal when Kaka informed him that he love it in Milan and does not want to move to England. In an age when football players will try every trick in the book to move clubs for more money and a bigger stage (see Ashley Cole, Dimitar Berbatov etc), Kaka is one of a kind.

It’s kind of refreshing that for one player at least; money isn't everything and that loyalty still counts for something. I thought such players were extinct already! Count me as a new fan of Kaka!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Timed to Perfection

In ancient days, war is just another form of politics. “Give me this, this and that or we will attack you.” After those times, war became a failure of politics. “Let’s try to come to an agreement or there will be war.” Nowadays things have changed to having war because of politics.

Nothing showcases this better than the conflict in Gaza. The actions of the Israeli thus far have shown that politicians will do anything to win the all-important elections. With 1 day left before Barack Obama enter the White House and the Israeli elections just over 2 weeks away, Israel has suddenly accomplished their mission in Gaza. Never mind that Hamas are still in control, that rockets are still falling, that Palestinian moderates have been seriously hurt by the attack; domestic Israeli politics rule all. The current Israeli government have turned from certain losers to would-be winners on Feb 10. Mission Accomplished!

There’s nothing wrong with timing war to start and end on a specific date, but usually people timed it accordingly to the seasons, the weather, even to harvest time. But that’s all in the past, in modern times war is timed to elections date. Talk about progress.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Death’s Head by David Gunn

After “The Name of The Wind”, I read is yet another book by a debut writer. However, “Death’s Head” cannot be any more different. Death's Head is the debut novel of author David Gunn, and my god isn’t it an appropriate title.

Set in a realistic far-future world, Death’s Head main character is a gritty soldier named Sven Tveskoeg. I called him the main character because he is such a nasty piece of work, you can’t even call him an antihero.

The book starts with Sven on a wild planet being whipped for actions against the army. Considering that he is a soldier serving an evil empire ruled by a mad tyrant, it saying something that his actions are condemned by his own army. After a series of misadventures, he is rescued by the Ferox, the catman-like natives of the planet, and then rescued again by Death’s Head, the elite force of the said mad tyrant.

That is like jumping from the kettle to the frying pan and then into the fire. Some guys got all the luck!

Sven unfortunately got the attention of Death’s Head as he had managed to live for months among the Ferox, something no one had done before. He is then drafted into Death’s Head, joining them as a soldier and assassin. After a successful mission on a prison planet, Sven is then dropped onto a military disaster as a grunt on a losing battlefield in a galaxy-wide war.

The plot of the book revolves around Sven, who is as brutal of a character as anyone you will ever read in a book. However, you will find yourself rooting for the guy as the book progresses. Sven may be a vicious killer and a no-good bastard but he is has a streak of loyalty in him that make him keep his word no matter what, and defend his men come hell or high water. As disaster strikes the army he is in, Sven took charge of a disparate group of cannon fodders, and turned them into killers that would survive the war. In some case this is the best part of the book as you see how Sven tutored the green recruits and turn into a fighting unit…for better or for worse.

I like the fact that David Gunn makes no apologies for being violent and graphic. It’s a war and the soldiers do whatever they have to in order to see the next day. Sven even killed one of his own men who was dying in order to put him out of his misery.

Despite the good points of the book, there are some very disappointing flaws in it as well. The war between OctoV (the mad tyrant) and the Uplifted (bizarre machines housed in pyramids) is not very defined. There’s even more confusion when the United Free, another civilization with space-faring powers, came into the picture. I still don’t quite understand why OctoV and the Uplifted are fighting. The answers seem to be in the sequel which is another thing I disliked about the book. There’s clearly a sequel in the works and Death’s Head make no bones about that. I dislike it when writers leave gaping plot holes in the book because they need to hook readers for the sequel. Some of the advanced technologies in the book also make no sense. Sven has an intelligent gun and a symbiont in him called a kyp, both of which are illegal. When you have cyborgs walking around all over the place, humans who can speak to machines and an empire ruled by the machine-like Uplifted, I have a hard time understanding why these technologies are illegal when others are not.

However despite these problems, Death’s Head is an enjoyable read. Fun and wild, it’s a thrill ride. Read it if you think you can handle the violence.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Comics this week

Final Crisis #6- This issue is great! Basically a long brawl on the last stand of Earth's heroes, this issue hook me in from start to finish. Everything worked! From Checkmate's offer to the Question, the battle in Bludhaven, the attack on the JLA Watchtower, Lex Luther's mutiny against Libra, the return of Superman. Everything is there and you probably will not be disappointed in anything. And the last scene...people who collect Batman R.I.P will be pissed but ho what a scene!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

When Idiots rule the Blogs of Singapore

Recently in Singapore, a Member of Parliament Mr. Seng Han Thong was set on fire by a disgruntled Singaporean. Mr. Seng sustained 15% burns to his face, neck and back. You would think that after an incident like this, there will be an outpouring of condolences to Mr. Seng and an outpouring of condemnation to his attacker.

Not a chance. If you read the blogs and the Internet websites in Singapore, you will be struck by the sense that most people in Singapore admired the attacker. Never mind that the attack, Mr. Ong Kah Chua, is suspected to be a mentally disturbed man, Mr. Seng (and the PAP) got it coming.

This is what happen when idiots rule the blogsphere. MP Seng Han Thong was the unfortunate victim of a vicious attack by a mentally unbalanced man, and as he is undergoing a second skin graft operation, people are condemning him?

People are complaining about the fact that he is under the care of one of the best plastic surgeons in Singapore, and that his medical expenses are all covered by the government. Some even complain that he will continue to receive his monthly pay of over $10,000 while on sick leave.

Singapore websites are full of articles about how this is just the response of the people after being kicked by the state for too long. For those idiots who said these, I have a suggestion.

GO AND SET YOURSELF ON FIRE! If you are unhappy with the government, there's a thing call elections! You do not set fire to a Member of Parliament.

A Member of Parliament was attacked while carrying out his duty and he is facing condemnation from the public? I'm not a big fan of the Singapore government, but any attack on a Member of Parliament must not be tolerated and his attacker must be harshly punished. I don't know what illness his attacker has and I don't care! Throw the book at him; lock him up for 20 years, give him the death penalty, send a message that any attack on any Member of Parliament will NOT be tolerated.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

HDB Headache

When someone died, it is always a sad thing. It's even sadder when there are assets involved. Wolves come out all over the place for a share of the deceased assets.

That's what happening to a friend of mine now. I'm not a lawyer or anything, so maybe someone who has went through this or someone with some legal knowledge can help me out here. Here's the situation:

When his grandfather died, the HDB flat the grandfather owned was spilt between his children. One of my friend's uncle holds 50% of the house, while the rest is between the remaining uncles and aunties. The uncle who hold 50% of the house went overseas and the house various bills is paid by one of the other uncles. As it was a new house, the family cannot sell it immediately and has to wait a couple of years before they can put it on the resale market.

Under Singapore law, there's nothing unusual so far.

Then comes the problem! When the time came to sell the house, the uncle who owned 50% of the house refused to sell. In fact, he refused to even come back to Singapore to settle the matter with his siblings. The idea seems to be that as he holds 50% of the house; no one can sell the house without his signature as he never signed a Power of Attorney. Yet at the same time, the other uncles need to continue to maintain the house and pay the bills as they also has a share of the house. If there are any unpaid bills, the Singapore government isn't going to chase him all the way overseas right? They will chase his siblings who are still in Singapore. As long as he refuse to sell, he will own the house without paying a cent for the flat's upkeep.

Now my friend's uncles and aunties in Singapore are struck in a no-win position. They have to continue to pay the bills to a house which they do not live in and which will never be sold. If they do not, they will be breaking the law. But if they do, they will continue to be taken advantage off.

Anyone out there has any idea what can be done by the family now to sell the house? Or at least not to pay the bills to a house they do not owned? If you do, please leave a comment.

2 Areas Bush Must Answer For

With only 1 week left, current U.S President George W. Bush gave a press conference to defend his dismal record in office. With disasters in Iraq, the global financial markets, an ongoing war in Gaza, and a successor who won largely because his nation consider his presidency a failure; you would think that Bush would be a little apologetic.

No chance! In his final news conference, Bush heartily defended his record. I have no problem with Bush wanting to defend his record; I mean you don’t really expect him to say that he has failed after eight years in the White House, right? But just as he has his say, I will have mine. And I’ll say that his record as president is bad, especially in 2 areas.

First, Bush inherited a record budget from Bill Clinton and will leave behind a record budget black hole to his successor. Now Bush might say that the 2001 recession, which began 2 months into his presidency, has nothing to do with him but all the verbal spin can’t take away the credit for the global financial crisis. Barack Obama is going to inherit a budget that is down close to, if not more than, 1 trillion dollars. Things are so bad that even the huge government bailout of Wall Street financial firms hasn’t really help all that much to calm the markets.

Second, Bush will leave behind 2 ongoing wars for his successor. Both the Iraq and Afghan wars have hurt America more than they have helped; the Iraqi war was and still is extremely bad for America’s image. Failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the abuses committed by the U.S. military at the Abu Ghraib detention center, and the speech under the "Mission Accomplished" banner, all came out of the war in Iraq.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think Bush meant well but he strikes me as a guy who holds a post that is perhaps too high for his ability. Will Barack Obama do any better? With his short CV, I’m not holding my breath.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dreaming of a UN resolution

Here in Singapore, there is a cabinet post called "The Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs". Now most Singaporeans, including myself, consider this a minor post as the Minister only handled affairs relating to Muslims and the local Malay minority.

You don't usually see the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs make any waves on the local scene; which is why I was kind of surprised when the current Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, responded to questions by praising Singapore Muslims’ rational response to the Mideast conflict. He then went on to say that condemning the Israeli action will not solve the problem and supports the United Nations resolution for an immediate ceasefire.

There's nothing unusual about Singapore’s stand here, but there's one problem with what Dr Yaacob said...there will not be a ceasefire through the UN.

The current conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is a strictly political gambit for the Israeli election on Feb 10. If anyone has any doubts on that, just read into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's words. He say that the end of the fighting is in sight and that Israel was nearing the goals it had set for its operation.

Of course! They are near the end of the fighting less than a month before their election (must take advantage of their ratings boost) and a new team will enter the White House next week as well (must not offend Barack Obama right off the bat)! No wonder they are nearing their goals NOW!

Personally I don't care about the fighting. They've been killing each other in the Mideast long before I was born and chances are the Israeli and the Hamas will kill each other long after I'm dead. But supporting a UN resolution for an immediate ceasefire? What use will that do?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Transparency and Accountability (Part 2)

With Wall Street in meltdown, a lot of people has been accusing Wall Street executives of greed. They have been running up heavy bills on spas, resort holidays, and huge year-end bonus for themselves. All while their companies are losing money.

Some have even accused them of outright fraud, with the behavior of Bernard Madoff as their leading example. Bernard Madoff is accused of running a pyramid scam that cost his investors US$50 billion, and at least 2 of his investors has taken their lives over the scam. Here in Asia however, events in India and China has proved that the culture of greed is not a wholly American thing.

Last week the Indian stock market tumbled about 7% after news came out that software giant Satyam Computers founder and chairman B. Ramalinga Raju admitted that he has been falsifying his company's accounts and assets for years. In China, officials from China's Guangdong province gambled away more than $3million of the public money in recent years. Six officials had been jailed and punished with the heaviest sentence handed to Wu Xingkui, an official in the Communist Party of China that had carried out several successful operations against gambling, pornography and drugs. Obviously he had been successful because he was a gambler himself.

It happen in America, in China, in India; who can can it wouldn't happen in Singapore? Rightly or wrongly, a lot of Singaporeans are worried and worried people asked more questions. As such, I suggest the Singapore government make an effort to increase the transparency and accountability of the government.

It's in everyone's interest.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Comics this week

Secret Invasion: War of Kings- Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning revamped the cosmic section of Marvel with some impressive work Annihilation, followed it with a solid series in Nova, did an encore in Annihilation: Conquest, continue it with another monthly series in Guardians of the Galaxy, and they have the upcoming War of Kings miniseries. Secret Invasion: War of Kings is a one-shot that serves as a prelude for War of Kings. The story is how the Inhumans (or more actually their king Black Bolt) went into the stars to exact vengeance on the surviving Skrulls. I like how this one-shot show just what the Inhumans are about. They are the most powerful race on Earth but their peaceful ways have been mistaken for weakness for far too long. I mean Black Bolt is the most powerful individual on Earth barring maybe the Sentry and the Hulk. After being abducted and tortured by the Skrulls, it’s time for some revenge. As this is a prelude, SI: Inhumans also show how Black Bolt comes into conflict with Vulcan and the Shi'ar Empire. As these 2 are the kings that will be involved in the War of Kings series, this is necessary but the reason seems like a throwaway afterthought. The attack on the Kree was kind of surprising as there is royal marriage arrangement between these 2 parties. The upcoming marriage between Ronan the Accuser and Crystal was supposed to seal an alliance between the Kree and the Inhumans; why would Black Bolt attack the Kree when they would become allies sooner or later? It smack of the writer’s need to make Black Bolt the king so that he can match up against Vulcan, but outside this detail SI: War of Kings is a success. If nothing else, it makes me look forward to the War of Kings.

Secret Six #5- Villain books need to sick and twisted; I mean they are books about villains right? And in the sick and twisted stakes, Secret Six is a winner. The end to this issue is so twisted that you will wonder how this book ever see print. As I have said before, I’m not a fan of Bane but Gail Simone is slowly but surely winning me over to the character. Bane’s character fit the Six a lot better than I thought it would and his relationship with Scandal Savage is interesting to say the least. Another solid issue in an excellent series

X-Men Noir #2- When you think of the X-Men, you think of the powers they have. So much of their character is based on their powers; sometimes you can’t help but wonder how they would be without their power. How would a powerless Rogue be like? X-Men Noir answers that question very, very well. Writer Fred Van Lente really put some thought into the reimagination of the X-Men. That plus a solid story make this a good read.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Not Good for Taxi-Drivers

In Singapore there is a saying; when the going get tough, the tough go and drive taxis.

Conventional wisdom has it that every time Singapore goes through an economic downturn, the retrenched workers will drive taxis to tide them over the tough period. However, conventional wisdom needs a rethink as latest figures from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) seem to indicate that things might be different this time around.

Latest figures from the LTA show that the taxi business is in problem. 898,975 taxi trips were recorded in November 2008, which are about 50,000 less than in November 2007 when there were 941,709 trips. Reports also say that business for taxi-drivers dropped by about 20 per cent since October last year and that taxi-drivers do not believe that the upcoming Lunar New Year season will change anything for them either. All this even when there is a shortage of taxi-drivers in Singapore.

Now I know most Singaporeans care little for taxi-drivers in Singapore but taxi-drivers are an extremely important part of the transport system. Without taxis, we only have the MRT and buses for our transport needs, and the list of complains from pampered Singaporeans on crowded MRT trains and bus waiting times is even longer than the list of complaints about taxi-drivers.

So for all those people thinking of making taxi complains, I hope you are willing to take the bus more often because taxi driving is no longer as attractive as it used to be and if more taxi-drivers leave the business; it’ll be worse for everyone.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What Great Friends!

Sometimes friends give you more problems than enemies. This is something Europe has discovered as gas shortages spread across Europe as the Russian and Ukrainian gas crisis escalated from a financial dispute to an international crisis.

For those of you who have no idea what the dispute is about, here’s the lowdown. Russia supply gas to Ukraine and then use the Ukrainian gas pipelines to supply gas to Europe as well.

However the global financial crisis has affected Ukraine very badly and they are unable to pay Russia for the gas supplied to them in November and December last year. Not only that, they also admit that their financial situation is now so bad that they will be unable to pay for any new gas that Russia supply also, failing to reach agreement with Moscow over debts and gas prices. Quite naturally, Russia is refusing to supply more gas unless Ukraine pays up what they own.

Seems like a simple dispute about money to me, but then when Russia reduced volumes to Ukraine on New Year's Day, gas supplies from Russia to Europe dropped suddenly. Russia accused the Ukrainians of diverting the gas bounded for Europe to their own country. Basically, they accused the Ukrainians of stealing the gas.

An accusation Ukraine isn’t exactly denying. Playing hardball, Ukraine's pro-West President Viktor Yushchenko all but dared Moscow to close gas taps to Ukraine. With Europe heavily dependant on Russian energy, 17 European countries reported sharp falls in Russian gas shipments, the European Union is now pressuring both sides to come to a compromise and demand that the flow of gas be restored.

So the EU is now asking Russia to supply gas to Ukraine that Ukraine cannot pay for, while they let the Ukrainians go without any word on Ukraine stealing gas bound for them! If this is the way the EU treat their friends, I strongly suggest that the Singapore government increase contacts with the EU.

If we are their friends, Singapore can get away with murder as well.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Singapore TV 2008

I don’t watch too much TV nowadays. There are various reasons for this but I still enjoy a good show here and there. Here are my views on some of the shows on Singapore TV in 2008. Note that I said Singapore TV, because here in Singapore the shows are sometimes slower than in the States. Battlestar Galactica is I believe into its’ sixth season in America already, but here in Singapore we are just in the Season 2.

Best New Show This Year
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles- I came onto this show with very low expectations. I mean the Terminator series are movies; how well could the TV version be? The answer: Very well. Set after the events in 'Terminator 2', the show is on how Sarah Connor and her son John try to stay under-the-radar from the government as well as the Terminator sent by the computer network Skynet. In their corner is another Terminator sent by ‘future John’ to protect them. Together, Sarah and John hope to prevent Armageddon by destroying Skynet before it can be built, and at the same time keep John alive so that he can lead humankind to victory if Armageddon actually happen. The plot may have a “been there, done that” feel to it, but the show was saved by good writing and a very strong cast. Thomas Dekker’s John Conner may have turned into some emo-kid, but Summer Glau’s Terminator works. However both paled when compared to Lena Headey. Headey’s Sarah Connor was nothing short of brilliant. Hard, tough, yet at times a little soft, her Sarah Conner is the main reason why I think Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is the best new show this year.

Best Returning Show This Year
Battlestar Galactica- Never a fan of remakes, I was a little worried when I saw the first season of Battlestar Galactica. It was more than a remake however; Battlestar Galactica was a re-imagining of the show, and it was a very good one. The second season is I think actually better than the first season. With the first season out of the way, there was no need for the show to show how the humans lost the war and they can concentrate on the fleet. I liked the way the creators showcase the politics of the fleet and whether the Cyclons are right, “Is the human race worth saving?” Even when we are in our dying days, humans can still screw ourselves with military coups, religious fanaticism, political manoeuvrings and various plays for power. Even when another Battlestar show up, it leads to more problems than solutions as one of the first thing the new admiral was to take overall military command away from the previous commander. So sad but so true because…it’s just so human.

Worst New Show This Year
Calafare- Private Practice was a hot favourite for this title, but then I remember that I was unfortunate enough to catch 1 episode of this Gurmit Singh vehicle. It’s not funny, it’s not witty and the acting was wooden as hell. The less said about the show, the better for everyone. Avoid it at all cost!

Worst Returning Show This Year
Heroes- I’ll say something upfront, “I was never a great fan of the series.” I liked but never loved the show. The first season was okay; I felt there was a drop in quality in the second season but it was still passable; this third season however is a total mess. Creator Tim Kring seems obsessed with time travel. Nothing wrong with that but enough is enough. There are now no less than 2 time-travellers and about 5 people who can see/dream/draw the future. And what’s up with Ali Larter’s character. Niki Sanders turn from a single child to a twin and now to triplets, what’s next? If you do have any story for the character, write her out of the show or kill her already! In fact, the same can be said of the whole cast. Kill off some of the cast already, there has to be more than fifteen recurring characters on the show. That’s too many, and the writers can start with killing Claire. Tim Kring needs to decide if she is a damsel in distress or a superhero. This teenage angst thing just isn’t working. “Kill the Cheerleader, Save the Show”

Monday, January 5, 2009

An Attack for An Election

You cannot on the news this few days seeing the images of dead people in Gaza. Nothing unusual about this, but the strange thing I find is that everyone is playing down the fact that there is an Israeli election coming up.

As the Israeli public head for the polls on Feb. 10, a war between Israel and Hamas has now occurred in Gaza. Now for all the talk from the Israelis about why the war is happening now (rocket attacks), there’s not too much doubt in my mind that politicians has an eye on the Feb. 10 parliamentary vote before launching the attack. Before the offensive began, conservative opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party were leading in the polls, but after the attack, the center-left Labor Party and the ruling Kadima Party are gaining ground. So the Israelis are attempting a short, glorious war one month before their election, a few weeks before a new American President come into the White House.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Comics this week

Avengers: The Initiative #20- Guess I was wrong, there is still one more final Secret Invasion tie-in. The final Avengers: The Initiative tie-in issue (hopefully) deal with the aftermath of the Skrull invasion. With the Fifty State Initiative in tatters, most of the members still alive at Camp Hammond so that means we get to see heroes we don’t usually see in the series. I don’t think we need more members on the team but this issue seems to be striking for the upcoming revamp. 3D-Man left for the Skrull Kill Krew; Ant-man leave for the Thunderbolts; Iron Man, War Machine are gone; so that leave Gauntlet in charge. A drill-sergeant turn commander of a base of superheroes, oh I can just see the fun we will be getting into.

Guardians of the Galaxy #8- The issue starts with showing how Star-Lord ended up in the Negative Zone. Ronan the Accuser seems to be bad being a villain again while someone in the Negative Zone finally thought of destroying the 42 prison. What took those guys so long? Comedy is also back as Rocket Raccoon and the main team got in the laughs explaining to the Bug what happened. I AM GROOT!

Friday, January 2, 2009

EPL this month

2008 has come and gone, but the chase for the EPL continues. Here is the hottest (and coldest) team in the month of December.

Top Teams this Month
Liverpool- No Torres, no problem. When Fernando Torres was injured earlier in the season, Dirk Kuyt stepped up to fill the scoring boots. Now Torres is injured again, and another player stepped up for Benitez. Robbie Keane finally looks like a player again after a very poor start in his Liverpool career and has double his goal tally this month. Manager Rafael Benitez has been very lucky this season.

Aston Villa- When you go 2-0 down to Arsenal, usually you will lose the game. Even when you are at home, few teams in the league would come back to get a point out of it. Aston Villa did. Even if John Carew out injured, manager Martin O'Neill still has the speed of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young in attack. There’s still a question of whether Villa can maintain their form till the end of the season, but so far things are looking good. Arsenal better improve or there will be a new Top 4 this season.

Surprise Team this month
Fulham- Roy Hodgson has proven that he is the best English manager in the EPL. Hodgson has turned a team that was certain to be relegated into a respected mid-table team. Not only do they beat teams around them in the league, Fulham is also giving problems to the Big 4 (a 2-2 draw with Chelsea?). If not for the great start of Hull City, Hodgson would be my choice for manger of the year.

Disappointing Teams this month
Arsenal- When it rains, it pours. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger’s injury list got longer this month as recently installed captain Cesc Fabregas is now out for 4 months. With William Gallas looking to leave the team also, Arsene need to open his chequebook and buy in January. The Gunners need a holding midfielder who is experience and could help the team immediately. Forget youth, they need steel. I suggest Marcos Senna from Spain.

Man City- Mark Hughes is a manger under pressure, and rightfully so. I feel he is a good manger but with the money and players at his disposal, you have to wonder what the hell Man City is doing in the bottom 3. This is a team with Robinho, Elano, Micah Richards, Shuan-Wright Phillips and Martin Petrov. All of whom are match-winners and proven internationals. Man City should be challenging for Europe, not going into the Championship.

Portsmouth- Since Tony Adams took over as manager, Portsmouth has been on a downward slide. They are leaking goals at the back, they can’t score upfront, and the chairman is looking to sell the club due to the financial credit crunch. They still have good players in the team, but Adams need to turn it around in a hurry.