Sunday, May 31, 2009

Comics this week

Dark Reign: The Hood #1- When we first saw Parker Robbins in his first mini-series, he was at first a criminal on the low end of the criminal totem pole. After he got the Hood, he worked his way up the totem pole. Then the series ended and when we next saw him, he was the Kingpin of Super-villains. That’s a big jump and I like the fact that Jeff Parker tried to explain how he managed to jump so high so fast. I also like the fact that Parker Robbins got some of his reluctance back. In the original Hood miniseries, he was a reluctant criminal who constantly got into trouble more often than not due to the company he kept. In the Avengers, he was a boss who thought nothing of shooting Wolverine’s balls off to get away. I like the original version better and that seems to be what Jeff Parker is trying to do to some degree. I’ll be back to see if he managed to do that.

Guardians of the Galaxy #14- I’m not a big fan of tie-ins. However Guardians of the Galaxy #13 was a good tie-in to the ongoing War of Kings, so I was hoping the same will happen this issue. Not quite but close enough. Continuing from last issue, we see the 2 Guardians groups attempting to put a stop to the escalating war. Warlock took on Vulcan after being separated from the rest of his group and while he lost, he did push the ridiculous Vulcan further than…oh ever. Star-Lord’s group got into more trouble than expected as the Inhumans refused to parlay and Phyla-Vell showed that she got a new personality more befitting her new name of Martyr. Look like the Guardians of the Galaxy are in a world of hurt next issue.

Nova #25- After too long of an arc, Richard Rider is back as Nova. Although it was fun seeing him trying to come to grips with the Quantum Bands, Richard works nest as Nova not Quasar. Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning seems to have plans for the new Nova Corps which is good because I like to have the Corps back. The Worldmind is back too but it had to shut down and reboot, so it is using a new template to communicate with Rider. Not sure about that because I like the old version just fine. But more interaction between the mostly clueless Rider and the too-much-information Worldmind is always a good thing in my book. Now that Richard Rider is back as Nova and we are back in space, hopefully the series will get back on track.

Friday, May 29, 2009


A few days ago I did a “Best of…” article for MMORPG games I had played, so I guess it’s only fair that I do a “Worst of…” article for MMORPG games I had played. I’m nothing if not fair. Hehe…

Best Frustrating Game: Lord of the Rings (LoTR)

I’m not saying LoTR is a bad game, but it is without question an incredibly frustrating one. On many occasions I could not continue the storyline quests (which have the best rewards) because I have to find 5 other guys to form a fellowship to take on the quest. You see LoTR Online is filled with group quests that require you to have a full fellowship of 6 to have a chance of finishing the quest. Not only that, the game is pack with chain quests in which you have to do one quest to get to the next and only after you have finish the whole chain will you get a reward. However good luck finding 5 guys who are on the same map as you; who are on the same chain as you and who are on the same quest as you. Even joining a guild (called a kinship here) isn’t of much help. One or two guys in the kin may be willing to help, but 5? Good luck

Most Boneheaded Move: 9Dragons

9Dragons is a MMORPG in which you are running around ancient China learning kung-fu and trying to find out the fate of the 9 major heroes and villains of the world. It’s a good game. Interesting story, good gameplay, fair graphics, and I played it for a long time. My highest character was in the mid 50s when Acclaim put in one of the most boneheaded move in MMORPG history. They put a flashing advertisement at the top of the screen. So here I am running around in ancient China and there is a flashing advertisement asking me to click there to enter a lucky draw. How in the world was I supposed to immerse myself in a game set in ancient China when there is a modern advertisement at the top of the screen? Does that make sense to anyone?

Best Buggy: Age of Conan (AoC)

To be fair Funcom had cleared most of the bugs from the game but it took them a long time to do so. Most of the time, I wait about 5 months to a year after the game come out before I will buy the game because I know that the company will need about that time to clear the bugs in the game. But AoC was something else. I played about 5 months after the game came out and it was still full of bugs. I will give Funcom credit; they put patches after patches to solve the problems. However bugs which were fixed in one patch can come back later in a later patch and all the patches cut into my playtime. Most of the bugs in AoC had been cleared but it was a problem which should never occurred in the first place.

Most UnDownloadable Game: Runes of Magic

I heard good things about the game, so I thought to try it out. I tried to download the game online, and tried, and tried, and finally gave up. I went to a whole host of website to download Runes of Magic but it was just impossible. All of them were either packed or filled with errors that made it impossible to download the game. Here’s a suggestion to companies who want to put out a MMORPG; if you don’t come out with a disc to install the game, then make sure gamers can have a way to download it online.

Most Ridiculous Grind: Grand Chase Online

Grand Chase Online is a little different from most other MMORPG. Grand Chase has a grand map in which you select which dungeon to go into. You beat the dungeon and do it well enough, you will get points. Once you get enough points, you can go onto the next dungeon. The big problem for this is the fact that the dungeon never changes! You beat a dungeon but if you don’t have enough points, you will have to redo the dungeon. And the dungeon is always the same; the mobs and boss are always the same; and the mobs and boss are always in the same place. So you have to beat the same mobs and boss in the same dungeon for 10-20 times before you can get enough points to continue. How ridiculous is that?

Most Blatant Rip-off: Wizard 101

Young wizard in a magic school learning from the old erratic headmaster against an evil wizard practicing dark magic. I dare anyone who had played the game to tell me Wizard 101 isn’t a rip-off of Harry Potter.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Walking Away

Member of Parliament Sam Tan cause a minor flap recently by saying that Singaporeans are mollycoddled, and that the Singapore government should walk away to “toughen” them up. Most Singaporeans shake their head at this while almost every foreigner I’d met laughed outright. A government who want to walk away? Well, just don’t contest in a general election! That’s not hard is it?

Jokes about the stupidity of politicians aside, there is one area which I think the government should walk away from. The Singapore government should take the advice of their MP and walk away from the Singapore economy.

In Singapore, there is a state monopoly on almost every aspects of the economy. In telecommunications we have Singtel and Starhub; in banking we have DBS, UOB and OCBC; yet in all of them the Singapore government has a stake. The 2 upcoming Integrated-Resorts (IR) in Singapore are the same; the Singapore government has a stake in both of them. Some may argue that the government just has a minor stake in them, but a minor stake is still a stake.

For years all was well but as the credit crunch is hitting the world, Singapore has fared much, much worse than any country in the region. You can even argue that Singapore has fared worse than most countries in Asia with maybe only the UAE faring worse. With so much trouble besieging the Singapore economy, I got a radical suggestion.

Maybe it’s time for the Singapore government to step away from the economy and give the private sector a freer hand. For all of the government’s talk about how foreign competition is good for Singapore, the Singapore government has continued to keep a tight grip on the Singapore economy. Maybe it’s time for the Singapore government to practice what it preaches. Now I’m not saying the government should have a free for all and invite every foreign company to come to Singapore (although that’s what they have been doing for the past few years), what I’m suggesting is that the Singapore government should sell away their stake in the IRs for example, and get out of the economy. Personally I don’t see why the government should have a stake in both IRs. In fact I don’t see why they should have a stake in any IRs. They are not vital to Singapore economy, so there’s no reason to bail them out or have a stake in them.

Let the two IR duke it out on their own without government help or interference. Competition is good, but the Singapore government should be a referee, not a player. Remember when Singapore has 2 free-to-air TV station before the Singapore government intervene and decided that only one will do? We don’t need that now. Having less government interference in the economy may be better for the Singapore economy as a whole.

This is one area I think the Singapore government could and should walk away from.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Professor of Poetry

Who would have thought that a title called “Professor of Poetry” can be such a cut throat, nasty and scandalous affair? 2 weeks ago when Ruth Padel was named Oxford University's Professor of Poetry, I couldn’t care less about it. But whoa, what a juicy little scandal it has become.

It turn out that Padel, Charles Darwin's great-great-granddaughter, only got the post after the front-runner Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, withdrew his candidacy four days before the poll. Walcott withdrew after a 1982 allegation that he had sexually harassed a student at Harvard reappeared in the British media. Several anonymous letters were then sent to Oxford’s senior staff and graduates, all of whom are eligible to vote for the professorship. Walcott then withdrew his candidacy citing "a degrading attempt at character assassination."

Ruth Padel then became the first woman to win the post since its creation in 1708. That’s over 300 years! Of course questions were asked about who sent the letters to Oxford and how the British press got wind of the sexual harassment allegation. Padel denied any involvement in the poison-pen letters, but tendered her resignation after admitting she had passed on the sexual harassment allegation to two journalists (which were probably how it first got into the British press).

Now a little character assassination is pretty normal in any office in any part of the world, but I have to laugh when I heard the excuses that were offer in defense of Padel. Padel said that she was naive to pass on the info to two journalists as she thought it would not be a big deal as the information was already in the public domain. (Yes, I’m sure the fact that she was in an election with the guy had nothing to do with it) Her supporters said that what she has done is trivial when compared to her contribution to poetry and that this wouldn't have happened to a man. (Yes, I’m sure that spreading rumors about your fellow competitor is a trivial matter and that if a man had spoke to two journalists about it, everyone will think there’s nothing wrong with it) Novelist Jeannette Winterson even called Oxford a sexist little dump for the matter. (Yes, I’m sure Oxford should reward character assassination with a professorship post. That makes so much more sense)

If all the elections of Oxford’s Professorship posts are like this, I must definitely pay more attention to the next one.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Only Way

North Korea conducted its second nuclear test on Monday, and hours after the test the U.N. Security Council condemned the nuclear test as a violation of a 2006 resolution and almost promised that new sanctions will be slap against the reclusive nation. Even allies China and Russia voiced strong opposition to the nuclear test.

After the swift condemnation, you would think that North Korea’s bet on its nuclear test has backfired on the country. I believe you are wrong. I think North Korea knew of the swift condemnation from the world and went ahead with the test anyway. For all of Barack Obama’s talk of an open hand for talks, North Korea’s immediate problems are not the U.S but South Korea.

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak has turned his back on his presidential predecessor’s Sunshine Policy and relations between the two Koreas had been on a downward spiral ever since Lee Myung Bak took over the presidency. Technically the two Koreas are still at war. I mean what do the North Korean have to lose with the nuclear test?

Some people might ask what good is diplomacy with North Korea but the hermit kingdom has been under sanctions for years so what’s the use of a couple more? Sanctions are not working and who want to fight against a country with nuclear weapons? So war is out as well. Lee Myung Bak has a hard line stance on North Korea and the result is North Korea doing its second nuclear test in 3 years. So more stick from the world will most likely result in a worse situation in the Korea peninsula.

That’s why I believe diplomacy is the only way to go.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Best of MMORPG

Last weekend I went to electronics and gaming convention in Singapore called “License2Play”. It was a little disappointing as there seems to be only Asiasoft there and there were few demos on show. As “License2Play” was supposed to be a fair for internet games, I thought of the various MMORPG I had played before and thought I should do an article on it. A “Best of…” awards of the MMORPG games I had played;

Best Storyline: Lord of the Rings (LoTR)

As it is based on the books, you would expect LoTR to have a good story. However Turbine outdid themselves on the story as the various Epic Quest of the game woven nicely into the story of the books. Sometimes they overdid it as I found myself struck on several Epic Quests as I was unable to get 6 guys together to take on the quests but LoTR did things right as you get to see what Strider did at the Prancing Pony before joining the Fellowship of the Ring, how Elrond laid several trails to confuse the Dark One, and even what happened in Moria after the Fellowship of the Ring ran through the mines. For any fans of the books or the movies, this game is great.

Best Graphics: Age of Conan (AoC)

For a MMORPG, AoC has some of the highest requirements needed for your PC. The upside for this is that AoC has the best graphics of any MMORPG I had seem. Opponents don't just fall over when you kill them; heads will drop off, blood will splatter on the screen, they will dance around in pain while engulfed in flames (my personal favorite) etc. Graphically, AoC is head and tails the best in the MMORPG genre.

Best World: World of Warcraft (WoW)

What can you say about WoW? Despite being one of the oldest MMORPG out there, this game is still the undisputed leader in the genre. The reason they are the king is because of the brilliant world they put together. The world of Azeroth is full of history and small details that make it almost like a living world. The in-jokes scattered around the world also gave the game a sense of humor that is mostly lacking in other games. There are other newer MMORPG on the market but the size, scope and smoothness of gameplay make WoW and the world of Azeroth a fully immersing experience.

Most Vicious: Age of Conan (AoC)

For gamers who had never played AoC, take care when you enter the PvP server. There are games out there designed for PvP but none match AoC in sheer viciousness. You have assassins hiding near quest-givers to back-stab people who are handing in quests, and when you kill creatures chances are that someone will be shooting at you while you bend down to pick up the loot. I was traveling along when I saw a guy afar bending down to pick up loot. I shot at him, he looked up, he turned around and then he died. And I was even hunting! I just happened to chance upon an opportunity I couldn’t refuse while there are gangs out in the game who actively go out to hunt for solo players. That’s just the way the PvP server is in AoC.

Cuteness Award: Wizard101

Developers of MMORPG usually feel obliged to add a few cute things into the game to lure in the kids. Almost all MMORPG are guilty of this, with maybe AoC being the only one out, but no one is as shamelessly cute as Wizard 101. As a young wizard coming up the ranks in a magic academy, the game milked all the cuteness in the world for all its worth. Whether you are practicing white, death, fire magic etc, all your spells will come with cute graphics that will attempt to kill your enemies (and you) with sugar. It’s actually a pretty good game so you may want to try it out but you have been warned.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why Kris Allen won

So auditions are going to be held for the third season of Singapore Idol. For those of you not from Singapore, Singapore Idol is a direct copy of American Idol (you know that massive show in the U.S) and is held once every 2 years in our small island.

Frankly I barely remember who the previous 2 winners were but I do remember one thing. The judges’ favorites did not win either time. In both Singapore Idol shows, blatant favoritism by the judges did not help the Chinese contestants and the Singapore public overwhelmingly picks 2 Malay singers as the winners.

What does that tell you? It tells you that blatant favoritism by the judges sometimes does more harm than good. So when Kris Allen won on this year’s American Idol over the favored Adam Lambert, I wasn’t that surprised. I mean really, am I the only one who was sick and tired of the premature Lambert overkill by the judges? Things were so bad that Simon Cowell didn’t even stand up when Kris Allen was announced as the winner. Talk about a sore loser.

Question: Whatever happen to the good old days when judges were suppose to be impartial?

Answer: American Idol was born!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Comics this week

Street Fighter II Turbo #6- The SF Alpha guest-stars continue, and add to them are certain other members of Final Fight and SF III. Rolento, Birdie, Cody, Hugo, Poison, and even Hagger from Final Fight add to the world of SF. It seems that Udon is trying to franchise the SF world; there’s even a backstory on Final Fight and a question posed to readers if they would be interested in a series on the story of Final Fight. Not too sure about a series on a game as old as Final Fight but if I can see more of Guy, I’m all for it.

Stormwatch #21- Jackson King is well on his way to be a supervillain. This issue show further how the pressure of being of the leader of Stormwatch is getting to him. After his decision on Fuji, now he makes another one on Winter. With the Night Tribes on the move, King decides to drop Winter in the middle of them and use the battle to hopefully re-trigger his connection to the sun. It didn’t quite work but against all advice King refused to recall Winter. I like the fact that Winter got his full power back. The stoic Russian is one of the most powerful human on Earth but has been constantly overlook by various Stormwatch writers. If Winter truly got his sun connection back, The Night Tribes are in for a world of hurt.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Great Over-seller

Donald Trump is known the world over as a famous real-estate developer, television personality and multi-billionaire. Only problem with that is that “The Donald” may NOT be worth billions at all.

Mr. Trump is suing a writer for defamation for alleging in a 2005 book that he was only worth between $150 million and $250 million. Mr. Trump said the writer caused damage to his reputation which caused him to lose out on deals from Philadelphia to Kiev. However Mr. Trump then provides under oath that he has a strange way to calculate his own net worth. It seems that Mr. Trump does "mental projections" and he feels that there’s nothing wrong with that. When asked if he had ever exaggerated in statements about the value of his properties, he answered, "Who wouldn't?" When asked if that mean that he inflates the value of his properties in non-financial public statements, he answered, "Not beyond reason."

All this in a suit against a writer who alleged that Mr. Trump is worth a hell lot less than he says he is. So I am now left with 2 questions;
1) How much is Donald Trump really worth?
2) Why he even bother suing anyone giving statements like that?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Very, Very Bad Idea

When I read that NMP Siew Kum Hong was going sue people who post some “defamatory” statements about him on the net, I can’t help but think that this was a very, very bad idea by him. The statements in question was regarding Mr. Siew Kum Hong being a “mole” for the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and him being a foreign agent as he had received donations from foreigners.

Mr. Siew Kum Hong's problems started when he got himself a front-row seat in the AWARE saga and offered legal advice to the Old Guard of AWARE. I had posted on this blog last week on how a backlash is brewing against the Old Guard of AWARE and those who helped them. The fact that Mr. Siew Kum Hong is now going to sue people who post some “defamatory” statements about him on the net is a situation rich in irony.

When the AWARE saga first started, supporters of the Old Guard and gay supporters used the net to drum up support for their side and demonized the New Guard. The New Guard were accursed of religious fundamentalism and even the police were called in as threats were made against members of the New Guard. I read on that Mr. Siew Kum Hong has a blog himself and I checked it out. On several posts, he clearly made known where he stands on the AWARE saga and what he thinks of the New Guard. Now the shoe is on the other foot and Mr. Siew is trying to sue?

I don’t think the irony of the situation is not lost on anyone and that’s why I think Mr. Siew should not sue. He risks being seen as a hypocrite who can dish out criticism but can’t take it when criticism is directed at himself.

For a NMP and social critic, that’s a very, very bad idea.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Theme Park Destroyed Before It Even Open

One of the funniest ideas for a theme park is a park, christened "Love Land" by its owners, which featured explicit exhibits of genitalia. Supposedly, the sex theme park was to boost sexual awareness and improve people's sex-lives

I have seen some photographs of the adult-only park and to say it was risqué should be an understatement. I mean there are exhibits of giant-sized reproductions organs (of both male and female variety), dissertations on how the topic of sex is treated in various cultures and reports say that there were plans for "sex technique workshops."

Was this park in America or Europe? Nope, this sex theme park was built in China. China where pornography is banned, sex education is unheard of, and there is almost no public discussion of sex. So I wasn't surprised when Chinese authorities destroy the park before it was ever opened. What were the investors thinking of imagining such a theme park will be allowed in China?

Monday, May 18, 2009

What Credibility?

With her detention expiring at the end of this month, it’s no surprise that Myanmar's ruling military junta found a way to extend the detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The reason they found is when Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi got an uninvited American visitor who evidently swam across a lake to reach the house where Ms. Suu Kyi was under house arrest. Using this flimsy excuse, Ms. Suu Kyi has been charged with breaching the terms of her house arrest. How the hell a seemingly out-of-shape white American male managed to breach the security at the house is something the military junta is keeping quiet about.

Nobel Peace winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 11 of the past 19 years and it looks like she will be under arrest for a few years longer. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has been remanded at the country's notorious Insein prison in Yangon till her show trial which even Myanmar’s biggest foreign allies, ASEAN, believe is a joke.

Of course that’s as far as ASEAN will go. Whereas the U.S, the EU and the U.N have all expressed their unhappiness at these latest developments. ASEAN has merely expressed “concern” and hopes that “positive steps will be taken”. Getting ASEAN (and Singapore) to condemn the development is like trying to get blood from a stone as ASEAN countries (like Singapore) has lots of money tied up in Myanmar. If they weren’t going to cross the military junta for Cyclone Nargis, it’s hard to think that ASEAN will cross the junta for just a Nobel Peace winner.

I like to say that ASEAN credibility will be called into question by this episode but I can’t. When it comes to Myanmar, ASEAN has no credibility to speak of.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Singaporeans feeling the Recession?

Yesterday I read an interesting article on the Strait Times. The article stated that although Singapore is in its worst slump in history, Singaporeans has not been feeling the pinch yet.

Going by the numbers, Singapore is without question in its most severe recession in history with exports down by 30%, while the Singapore government had to downgrade GNP growth to –6% to –9%. So why aren’t Singaporeans feeling the hurt of the slump?

As the Strait Times usually do, credit was given to the Singapore government for it’s various actions to keep Singaporeans from feeling the full impact of the recession. I have another theory. Singaporeans has not been felling the pinch of the recession yet because things were never that good for them in the first place!

Although there has been 7 years of solid growth for the Singapore economy prior to this recession, most ordinary Singaporeans did not benefit from it. Take this for example; in the article it states that in the past 2 years the average Singaporean’s monthly earnings grew by 5.8%. I know for a fact my salary did not grow by 5.8% and I do not know anyone who did. So how did this 5.8% come about?

The answer to that is simple. For the past 7 years, the numbers had been great but those numbers are due to foreign money entering Singapore. As foreign money enter Singapore, this naturally boost the Singapore numbers to something beyond what it truly was. I mean Singapore is now on listed as a country for money laundering. I’m willing to bet that one reason why the numbers are so bad for Singapore now is because foreigners are now pulling out their money from Singapore back to their home country. Hot money coming in is usually the first to go out too.

To give credit where credit is due, the Singapore government has been putting in various schemes to help Singaporeans but the real reason why Singaporeans hasn’t been feeling the pinch yet isn’t because of them. It’s because we never fully benefited from the 7 years of growth in the first place.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Backlash Begins

NMP Siew Kum Hong’s re-nomination has hit a snag. Usually Nominated Members of Parliament are a non-issue to most Singaporeans, NMPs can’t vote on bills in Parliament so most Singaporeans couldn’t care less who they are. Sometimes even at the end of their term, Singaporeans would not know who the NMPs are.

However Mr. Siew Kum Hong’s re-nomination is another issue. For the first time I can remember, there is an actual online talk to stop a nomination of a NMP. The fact that Mr. Siew’s re-nomination has hit such a nerve is because of his direct support of the old guard in the AWARE saga.

I have said before on this blog that most Singaporeans are against homosexuality and that the New Guard’s stand was more in line with Singaporean society. Some anonymous commented that this is nonsense.

In the 2 weeks since the close of the AWARE saga, more than a few Singaporeans has came out to state their stand against homosexuality and the Ministry of Education has suspended the teaching of homosexuality as ‘neutral’. I fear this reaction can easily be put down as a backlash against the whole AWARE saga.

Rightly or wrongly, the Old Guard’s stand for teaching homosexuality as ‘neutral’ means that they are now an organization in favor of gays and lesbians, and anyone who stood with them will have the same problem.

The problem for Mr. Siew is whether Singaporeans will accept a NMP that openly support a pro-homosexuality stand. Given the reaction online, the answer to that is obvious and the Singapore government will have another problem on their hand if they accept Mr. Siew’s re-nomination.

I have nothing against Mr. Siew Kum Hong, I barely knew he was a NMP before the AWARE saga, but given the situation, I think maybe it’s for the best if he withdrew his re-nomination to cool down the homosexuality debate.

As the saying goes, "Sometimes you need to take a step back to take 2 steps forward."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Comics this week

War of Kings: Ascension #2- With the War of Kings in full swing, Ascension show how Darkhawk will influence the war. The cosmic rod and the introduction of Blasterr are good but War of Kings: Ascension faces a huge problem as everything takes place in either the Negative Zone or Null Space. Which means this issue has nothing to do with the war at all. Once I finish with the issue, I can’t help but think of it as a set-up issue to the War of Kings proper. Don’t get me wrong, this issue is well written and War of Kings: Ascension has a promising plot (the Fraternity of Raptors sound very interesting) but they need to get a move on. The War of Kings is stopping for no one.

Secret Warriors #4- After a straightforward first 3 issues, Brian Bendis and Jonathan Hickman's decided to throw up a few more plots into Secret Warriors. There’s Nick Fury’s robot doubles, Nick Fury’s new Howling Commandos, Daisy's mission to recruit Yo-Yo's replacement in the Outback. The last plot really gets to me. Whenever Marvel comes out with a new team book, it seems almost mandatory now for the team to change their line-up within 4 issues. I mean I hardly knows who Yo-Yo Rodriguez is, how am I suppose to care about her injury and her replacement? That’s one trend I think Marvel can cut out.

Secret Six #9- Secret Six has been on a roll ever since its first issue, which is why #9 is such a disappointment. This issue is like part 2 of #8 that showed what the members for a little R&R for the Six. #8 showcase Deadshot, Jeanette, and Scandal, so its’ now the turn of Catman, Bane and Ragdoll. The 3 of them found themselves in Gotham in the wake of Batman’s apparent death. It shows the 3 stopping a series of kidnapping as a simple way to honor the Bat. Along the way, writer Gail Simone makes room for some character development like Catman’s hatred of self-righteous superheroes and how Bane’s propensity for violence is guided by his own code of honor. Ragdoll…he seems to be there for a few laughs. Nonetheless, there’s just fundamentally wrong with 3 villains going to Gotham to honor Batman, especially when one of once almost killed him. As misguided as the main characters are, they are first and foremost villains. I would think they would be jumping for joy at Batman’s demise, now honoring him by carrying on his work. That just seems wrong for these characters.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Swine Flu will reach Singapore

As the number of H1N1 (swine flu) infections worldwide soared past the 5,000 mark, Singapore has basically waved the white flag and admitted that the flu will reach Singapore sooner or later.

However Singapore’s Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that the fatality rate associated with the H1N1 virus is currently very low and there is a possibility it may simply become one of the normal influenza strains. Reason for this belief is because although the virus has affected people in about 30 countries, it has only claimed five lives outside Mexico.

So the virus is not as serious as first feared and that’s good news for everyone. Hopefully they can find a cure for it as soon as possible, because chances are the virus will be around for a while and it may come back stronger than ever.

The last thing we need is another mass panic.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Top Commander in Afghanistan Sacked

In the latest example of how bad the war in Afghanistan is going, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates sacked General David McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan.

Despite Mr. Gates explaining his decision as a way bring in "new leadership" and "fresh thinking" in the war against the Taliban, anyone who has half a brain can tell that the the seven-year-old war in Afghanistan is not going the way the US wanted it to go.

The timing is a little strange as General McKiernan has only being in the job for less than a year but with US President Barack Obama escalating the war by doubling the size of the US force in Afghanistan to 68,000, the White House may believe that a new commander is needed for their new strategy.

No matter what the thinking was, one thing no one question is that the war in Afghanistan is worsening for the US. Despite all the pressure (and money/bribes) they put on Pakistan, perhaps the US should worry more about what is happening in Afghanistan itself as the spreading Taliban insurgency may prove more problematic than they expected.

Here’s hoping the new US and NATO commander, Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, has more luck than the last one.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine

The fourth X-Men movie in the franchise, X-Men Origins: Wolverine stars Hugh Jackman again as the mutant Wolverine. As a prequel to the X-Men film trilogy, the movie showcase Wolverine’s life from 1845 to about ten years before he met the X- Men.

Now Hollywood has always taken liberties with the source material, usually I accept that but in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, things get taken a step further. So my warning is to enter the cinema with an open mind.

The movie start with young James Howlett seeing his father John killed by their groundskeeper Thomas Logan. Bone claws then slowly protruded out from the hands of young to kill Logan. With his dying breath, Logan tells James that he is his real father. James flee along with Logan's son, his half-brother Victor Creed with Victor vowing to always look out for his younger brother.

With their powerful healing abilities, the two fought for their country in various wars like the American Civil War and both World War I and II. However, during the Vietnam War, Victor kills his superior after he stops him from raping a young girl. James defends his brother and the two are charged with killing a superior officer and executed by a firing squad. After they revived, Major William Stryker offer the duo membership in Team X, an elite black ops strike force.

The brothers agree and participate in a raid in Africa to retrieve a meteorite. The meteor leads the team to a village and after the villagers refused to give the location of the meteorite, Stryker ordered a massacre of the villagers. James quits the group in disgust.

Six years afterward, James now go by the name of Logan, and is living the quiet life in Canada with his girlfriend Kayla Silverfox. Stryker locates Logan and warns him someone is killing members of the team. Shortly after, Victor turns up and murders Silverfox. Logan agreed to Stryker’s offer of an experiment to make him more powerful.

Logan’s skeletal system is reinforced with adamantium, an indestructible metal retrieved from the meteorite. Stryker then order the doctor to wipe Wolverine's memory, but Wolverine overhears and flees. The vengeful Logan then find out that Victor and Stryker are working together. From there, it’s just a story of Logan on the wild path.

The movie got some things right. Hugh Jackman's performance is great. As good as he was in the X-Men movies, Jackman is even better here. His intensity seems to carry over to the rest of the cast. Liev Schreiber’s Victor Creed was excellent. Victor was a man who can’t help but look out for his brother even when his younger brother has long become his own man.

The action scenes were also great. Everyone in the movie was either a soldier or an ex-soldier, so there were no long fights in the movie. Everything was quick and brutal with everyone going for the quick kill.

However, for me the minuses outweigh the pluses. The term “mindless action-flick” fits X-Men Origins: Wolverine to a T. Despite the numerous action sequences, there's not one that is truly memorable. As for emotional effects of the movie; well there’s none. I mean just minutes after he learned that Silverfox had betrayed him, Logan immediately decided to help her rescues her sister. That’s how the screenplay is. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a well-done action flick but it’s also one that you are not going to remember an hour after the movie.

Like I said earlier, there were a lot of liberties taken with the source material so enter the cinema with an open mind. Especially if you are a fan of Deadpool. In the comics, Wade Wilson is a wisecracking mercenary that can’t shut up. Now I usually find all of Deadpool’s talking to be extremely annoying (much like Spiderman), but it is part of the character. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Deadpool doesn’t even have a mouth. Hopefully the upcoming Deadpool spin-off can show Wade Wilson with at least a mouth.

Overall, I will say that X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a disappointment.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Comics this week

War of Kings #3- The battle is joined as the Kree/Shi'ar war kick into high gear. The Guardians of the Galaxy make their entrance as they help The Starjammers break Lilandra from the Imperial Guard. I love it when Gladiator was left wondering who the Guardians of the Galaxy were, and then got blasted by Rocket Raccoon. The biggest problem I had for this issue was Gladiator. You knew the switch was coming, but Gladiator has always been written as a character that serves the throne, no matter who is sitting on it. I get that he hates Vulcan but there was no reason for him to suddenly switch to Lilandra’s side! Worse, he then killed one of his own Imperial Guardsman immediately after switching side! For what? Overall this was a good issue let down by a poor ending.

Guardians of the Galaxy #13- The team is finally back today. Adam Warlock returned to enlist the Guardians’ help to stop the Kree/Shi'ar war. Star-Lord is more than happy to help; only some members of the team are not. Being a proud Kree Phyla, now named Martyr (love the name), do not believe her people need any help, while Drax and Bug wonder what their small team can possibly do to stop the two warring side. I love the tactics discussion between Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon. It was a funny, yet at the same time, very sensible discussion on how to spilt the team. The Cosmos, Moondragon, Mantis telepath joke was also nicely done. Good action, good writing, and the team back together; nothing not to like about this issue. Pick it up!

Irredeemable #2- First impression counts, but sometimes first impression also deceives. A lot of people were disappointed by the first issue of Irredeemable but like I said when I reviewed issue 1; it is a slow burn. Mark Waid explore deeper on what the world would be like when a Superman turned rogue. The issue is dominated by 2 flashback sequences, both of which work beautifully. The first was when one of the superhero Kaidan, remember how Plutonian was before he turn rogue. This Plutonian was kind and always willing to help another hero, even a rookie. The other flashback was an incident recounted by Plutonian’s girlfriend, also before he turned rogue but when he was clearly older. However this incident was one that could have pushed the hero closer towards the edge, when his best intentions turn out horribly for everyone. Waid is slowly feeding us the story and I for one will definitely be back for the next feeding.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Some Things Just Do Not Change

Last August, Georgia's president Mikheil Saakashvili ordered his troop into the breakaway province of South Ossetia. Russia responded by sending its army to defend the South Ossetia and handled the Georgian army a humiliating defeat.

Since that disaster, the Georgian president has been under pressure as the Georgian economy has tanked and money from his Western backers dried up due to the credit crisis. As Russia closed all trade with Georgia, Saakashvili has been facing pressure to quit his presidency. For nearly a month, thousands of protesters have held daily street demonstrations in the capital demanding his resignation.

With the political crisis gripping the country, Saakashvili quickly blame Russia when a Georgian tank battalion apparently mutinied on Tuesday. Only problem for Saakashvili is that no one believes him. Russian authorities angrily deny any involvement in the alleged plot; opposition leaders in Georgia believe this is just a cover for Saakashvili to declare a state of emergency; international experts do no believe that any Georgian army battalion would revolt on Russian orders as they just fought a war less than a year ago; and even Western governments has been deafening in their silence.

When it comes to Georgia, the country reminds me of the old sad saying, “The more things change, the more it stays the same.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

GeoCities is Closing

Nowadays everyone is speaking of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Blogger, but before all these came along, there was GeoCities. The father of them all, GeoCities was the first successful website that allows people to setup their own personal websites without being a technical genius.

So I find it sad when I read that Yahoo is closing GeoCities at the end of the year. I can’t argue about the reason as GeoCities is considered the pioneer, not the future, of the Internet. Still I wonder if GeoCities would have continued if it was still a standalone company. Yahoo bought GeoCities for more than $2.9 billion in 1999, and I guess that’s money down the drain for Yahoo.

Hopefully, GeoCities' vanishing sites can find some way to continue. There are a lot of sites on GeoCities, some of whom has been there for a decade. It’ll be sad if they got closed, and hopefully Yahoo will make it easy for the webmasters to move to another service. Goodbye GeoCities, you will be missed.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cull the Humans

In a vast overreaction to the swine flu, Egypt has begun to cull more than 300,000 pigs in the country. This is even though UN experts say that this is not necessary to prevent swine flu. Despite its name, there has been no report of the flu being spread by pigs. The virus was named because it was created when various pig, bird and human viruses were mixed together inside a pig. In fact experts say that pork, even from infected pigs, are safe to eat.

However the Egypt government is not taking any chances. It was criticized two years ago for responding too slowly to the bird flu crisis, so for them it’s better safe than sorry this time. Now when humans are infected by animals, we culled the animals. When Mad Cow was first discovered, we culled cows. When bird flu was here, we killed birds. Now it’s the pigs turn, even though humans can’t get sick from pigs.

Now my question is what happens when animals are infected by humans? In Vancouver Canada, the swine flu virus was passed from a farmworker to pigs. Animals are in danger of getting the flu from humans! Maybe the Egyptian government should take no chances and cull humans instead.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

EPL this month

There's just a few more games till the end of the season. Who is finishing the season strong, who is not; it's all right here.

Top Teams this Month
Liverpool- One thing you have to say about manager Rafael Benitez. Under him, Liverpool always finish the season strong. Their unbeaten run came a little too late to catch Man Utd, but they are making it far closer than anyone thought they would. Even the injury of Steven Gerrard hadn’t really slowed them down. It’s a season of ‘what if’ however for Liverpool fans; what if Fernando Torres hadn’t been injured, what of Gerrard was fully fit. What if Rafael Benitez hadn’t gone into rotation mode during Christmas? What if…?

Arsenal- Andrei Arshavin showed the world how good he really is when he scored 4 goals against Liverpool, at Anfield to boot. That doesn’t surprise me as I have always rated Arshavin highly but what’s surprising to me is how well he and Cesc Fabregas are playing together. I admit I thought manager Arsene Wenger would have a problem playing them together but so far, it’s been great.

Surprise Team this month
Everton- After 7 long years, manager David Moyes has finally got Everton within sight of a major trophy. They beat Man Utd on penalties but the fans cheering the loudest would be those belonging to Chelsea. Everton maybe hard to beat, but they can’t beat the major teams either. I mean if Everton can’t beat the Man Utd 2nd team in normal time, what chance do they have against Chelsea? That’s too bad because Moyes probably deserved a title after all the hard work he put in.

Disappointing Teams this month
Newcastle- I can understand why Newcastle took on a new manager. Fighting for their EPL life, you just can’t afford to have your manager on sick leave, no matter how well he had done so far. However picking a new, inexperience manager like Alan Shearer is just like picking up an invitation to the Championship. He may have been a good player, but Shearer is unproven as a manager and to throw him straight into a relegation fight is just looking for trouble. Since he took over, Newcastle has not won and had scored just 1 goal in 4 games. Seems like a bad, desperate decision to me.

Aston Villa- Sir Alex Ferguson once said, “When they go, they go fast and there’s not much you can do to stop it.” He was talking about the loss of form at the end of the season. That is exactly what happened to Aston Villa now. Manager Martin O’Neill used only about 20 players the whole season and it is beginning to tell. The players are tired and they never quite recover from the loss of Martin Laursen. Villa has gone from challenging the Big 4 to looking forward to the end of the season.

Hull City- They cannot buy a win right now. I said the same thing last month and this is almost a repeat of that because nothing has changed. While the other teams around them are scrapping for points and wins, I can’t even remember when was the last time Hull got a point. Not one thing is going right for Hull City right now and they seem almost amazingly certain to drop back into the Championship.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Comics this week

Nova #24- One of my main concern about the new Nova Corps was that it was rebuilt just so that writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning could tear it down again. So far that hasn't happen but the destroying has began. This issue sees the new Nova Corps blast into action as they dive head first into the War of Kings. The battle between the Centurions and the Imperial Guard is well...not really a battle. The Imperial Guard show up and new Corps members die. That's it. Richard Rider is still alive due to the Quantum Bands and its cool to see him deal and use his new powers. Not sure about Quasar replacing Worldmind as the new voice in the head. I like the interaction between Rider and Worldmind. Hopefully by the end of this arc, the Worldmind will be back. I can't say this is a bad issue but it's isn't great either.

Avengers: The Initiative #23- Is it just me or is this issue very late? A:TI is behind the curve in the Marvel world as the issue starts with H.A.M.M.E.R closing down Camp Hammond. Wait, it's not call H.A.M.M.E.R yet as the new agency that take over S.H.I.E.L.D hasn't been named yet. Wait, there's Leonard Samson on the A:TI team instead of being a wanted fugitive. Marvel can put out a new Avengers book in Dark Avengers but can't keep up publishing A:TI on time. Doesn't look good for the future of this series.