Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Memory Loss of Tony Blair

Facing his first official public grilling on why he sent 45,000 British troops to war in Iraq, Tony Blair was unsurprisingly defiant saying that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world who had to be removed.

Nothing surprising there; Politicians seldom like to admit they got it wrong but what surprise me was when I read that Blair said, "In the end it was divisive. And I'm sorry about that. But if I'm asked if I believe we are safer, more secure, that Iraq is better, that our own security is better with Saddam and his two sons out of power and out of office, then I believe indeed we are."

Are you kidding me? In 2003, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair joined U.S. President George W. Bush in invading Iraq, and it was a mistake both the U.K and U.S are still paying for.

By attacking Iraq, both the U.K and U.S took their eyes off Afghanistan which allowed the Taliban to rearm and regroup. By attacking Iraq, it gave Al-Qaeda a ready-made advertisement for their message of Western powers attacking Arab countries. By attacking Iraq, it cause enormous chaos and suffering for normal Iraqis. (Note I’m using present tense, not past)

Attacking Iraq was without question a horrible decision. Attacking Iraq did not make the world a safer, more secure place; it did the exact opposite! And to absurdly proof how deluded Blair is, he also said, "People did not think that al Qaeda and Iran would play the role that they did. It was the introduction of the external elements of AQ and Iran that really caused this mission very nearly to fail. Fortunately in the end it didn't."

Yes, Blair thinks the Iraqi invasion is a success. He thinks that the mission did not fail. Anyone remember Colin Powell at the United Nations? I sure do. Even if you do not go into the fact that they never found any weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the U.K and U.S have been in Iraq for 7 years, in a war that they said would only last weeks! Anyone remember that? I sure do.

Unfortunately, it seems Tony Blair don’t.

Friday, January 29, 2010

How Does That Benefit Me?

The Singapore Ministry of Health has announced that the Singapore government is going to reduce health subsidies given to Singapore permanent residents (PRs) by 10% this year and another 10% in 2011. This comes after a recent increase in school fees for PRs and foreigners studying in local schools (another stupid move).

All these moves have me scratching my head because I cannot see the logic of all these moves by the Singapore government. It’s “seems” that these political moves are the Singapore government’s way of responding to complaints of Singaporeans about the amount of foreigners living in Singapore. However if it is, then the Singapore government is going about it the wrong way.

I mean the cost of living in Singapore is high but having higher prices for non-Singaporeans doesn’t help Singaporeans. If I have to take a 25 year loan to buy a HDB flat, does it help me in any way shape or form that my PR neighbor is taking a 30 year loan to buy the flat?

No, it does not. I am looking for something that benefit me, not something that screws my neighbour. Even if he is a PR!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Comics this week

Guardians of the Galaxy #22- Writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning hit yet another homerun this issue. Seeing the Guardians and the Luminals working together was nice and the humor was bad. “Your boy called up every full member, reserve member, retired member, substitute, sidekick and honorary Luminal on Xarth.” Well, they are supposed to be the Avengers of Xarth. Nice to finally see that.

Irredeemable #10- An issue with a flashback on Plutonian’s past, a mystery about a missing body, and Black Betty had another secret to reveal. A very tick-the-box issue by writer Mark Waid.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Help! Help!

Usually, I leave the comments as it is. I usually do not delete the comments posted by readers, no matter what is posted. However I might be forced to change my thinking.

Last week I discovered that a group of Japanese are using my blog as a forum page. There were 106 comments on my post on Friday, July 24, 2009, all in Japanese. I deleted them all but they are still using the page to post stuff. I don’t know what they are saying or what the thread is about but I’m getting tired of deleting stuff by them.

However I don’t want to restrict use of the comments if I can help it. Anyone out there using blogspot can help me?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Into the Dustbins

For years; for decades; the People’s Action Party (PAP) has been touting the fact that almost all of its candidates, especially those who are younger, are all degrees holders.

However a week after a former SAF scholar decided to join the new Reform Party led by Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong now say that Singaporeans must also “look at the person. Not what degrees he has, but what he is able to do for Singapore.”

Technically, he’s right. What degree you have does not matter. I have work with degree-holders who are horrible workers, terrible colleagues, and poor bosses. What’s more important is how well they can work.

Unfortunately, it’s a little rich to hear this now from the PAP. Everyone in Singapore still remember the ‘O’ level results in Potong Pasir. Mr. Chiam See Tong has openly stated that what happened in 1984 was a “below-the-belt” move.

But still I believe this is a good statement from our Prime Minister, so I hope no one talk about their academic qualifications in the coming election. Let's all of us throw our academic papers into the dustbins!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Real Reason for the World Cup Impasse

I have always said that when it comes to cars, Singaporeans lose their minds. However to prove that I’m not against Singaporeans, I will now say Singaporeans are not the only ones with problems thinking with their heads instead of their hearts.

I mean how else are you to explain the bond issue of Manchester United begins over-subscribed? The football club may be the champions of England, but they are over $1 billion in debt. I can understand why the Glazer family, who owns Man Utd, issued the bond but these are unrated bonds. Not only that, these are bonds on a football club which is under $1 billion in debt. To illustrate how bad the bad the loan situation is at Man Utd, they made 100 million last season. Yet this season, they haven’t bought any big players and are still looking to sell their players.

Yet this club has its bonds over-subscribed! No wonder FIFA is asking for the moon for the telecast of the World Cup. We football fans are suckers!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Great Idea...

For years, Singapore has been facing a problem with low birth rate. Faced with the same problem, South Korea is coming up with drastic measures. The South Korean health ministry want companies to turn off the lights in its offices once a month to encourage staff to go home early and make more babies.

In workaholic Asia, this is drastic. I’m pretty sure this will not work in Singapore because of high cost of living, pressure cooker working environment, high housing prices etc but more time for families is always a good thing.

Wait a minute! Doesn’t South Korea have these same problems as Singapore? Instead of tackling the problems of high cost of living, pressure cooker working environment, high housing prices, their idea is to go home earlier once a month?

Yeah, what a great idea!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Comics this week

Nova #33- After a series of tie-ins, I still have no idea what the upcoming Realm of Kings is about. Luckily, tie-ins are not a main issue this issue. Nova, Darkhawk, Mr. Fantastic, Namorita, and Black Bolt were pulled from different points of time and have to find out what the Sphinx want with them. The main character this issue is Namorita and the regret Nova has not being there on Earth when she died. I’m still not convinced the Sphinx will make a good villain, but at least he’s not than the one-note bore I remember. Not a bad issue really, hopefully this means Nova is back.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

A bar in Singapore, OverEasy, located at One Fullerton managed to create a little splash for itself by having a simple promotion. The promotion was simple; women received free alcohol based on the size of their breasts. A “Ladies Night” when women with bigger breasts received more 'free' drinks. The event was very well attended.

Needless to say, the promotion rise the heckles of some people. Most say that the promotion uses women as sex objects and the president of Aware (a feminist group in Singapore), Dana Lam, even wrote a letter to the Straits Times newspaper to complain about the matter.

Personally I don’t see what the problem is. I’m not surprised the promotion was a success. Like they say, “If you have it, flaunt it”; so the idea of “If you have it, flaunt it and get something free in return” will without question be a success.

I mean if these women don’t mind men gawking at their breasts, what’s the problem? No one force anyone to go to OverEasy, and if anything the organizers and management of the bar will be delighted with the extra publicity the bar is currently receiving.

By writing in to complain about the matter, it actually helps the bar! In the marketing game, there’s no such thing as good or bad publicity because they are all better than no publicity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Impose No Burden

In the New Paper yesterday, I read an article on a meet-the-people session between Law Minister K. Shanmugam and his response to a question on the Singapore government’s immigration policy.

When 58-year-old Wee Kai Fatt, an engineer, stood up and complained about the foreigner-fuelled population boom, saying that the influx of foreigners has caused HDB home prices to skyrocket, the Strait Times said that the Law Minister “took pains” to clarify several misconceptions in Mr Wee's statement.

“The Law Minister's key message: It is unfair to cast foreigners as the villains driving up the prices of HDB flats. Speaking at the end of his three-hour visit to Yew Tee constituency in Hong Kah GRC, he said: 'The first misconception is that somehow there are five million people and that's putting pressure on all of us. It doesn't. 'Of the five million, 3.2 million are citizens and roughly 500,000 are permanent residents (PRs). The remaining 1.3 million are here on temporary work permits and they 'impose no burden' on the public housing system, said Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Second Home Affairs Minister.”

Everyone I had spoken to, Singaporeans and foreigners, laughed at his statement. 1.3 million foreigners in Singapore 'impose no burden' on the public housing system, I mean does Mr Shanmugam really expect anyone to believe that? Where does all these 1.3 million temporary work permits people lived? I know of foreign colleagues (on temporary work permits no less) who live in HBD flats, I know of relatives who rent out their flats to foreigners, I know of foreigners living near my HDB flat. Does Mr Shanmugam really think the prices of HDB flats are not affected by all that?

Even if Mr Shanmugam really think the 1.3 million temporary workers do not affect the prices of HDB flats, what about the 500,000 PRs? Out of a population of 5 million, 1.8 million of them are foreigners. To say that foreign workers do not affect HDB prices and 'impose no burden' on the public housing system is ludicrous.

Hopefully Mr Shanmugam was just tired as he was speaking at the end of his three-hour visit, but a clarification of his statement would be great. At least, it would stop people laughing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Money Given, Money Return

Unlike most people in the world, I’m not a rabid fan of U.S. President Barack Obama. He did well in his first year as but it's still early in his presidency and there’s no need to give out prizes (cough, Nobel Peace, cough) before he exactly achieved something.

However, President Obama has struck me as a guy who tried hard to be fair and his announcement of a levy on Wall Street banks to raise 90 billion dollars to recoup the bailout struck me along this line.

Personally I think this is a great idea. The U.S. government dished out billions to help Wall Street from going down, now things are better so it’s only fair the banks pay back the money.

Not only will this stop (or at least dent) huge corporate bonuses, the money is sorely needed to tackle the U.S. deficit. President Obama is at last trying to make the banks accountable for their actions.

U.S. taxpayers gave the companies money and want them returned. Seems very fair to me. Now if only the Singapore government will do the same to GIC (Government of Singapore Investment Corp) for the S$850 million loss in New York.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Best Drama

Just a few weeks ago, I gave a so-so review on science-fiction blockbuster "Avatar". In it, I say the movie looks beautiful, has great action but could do with better direction from director James Cameron.

To show me how little I know, Avatar won best drama at the Golden Globes and James Cameron was named best director. I know I haven’t been seeing a lot of movies this year but Avatar is best drama? Is Avatar even a drama? I thought it was an action flick but not only is it a drama; it is the best drama of the year!

I must really must the movie again because I must have missed something.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cue Evil Laughter

On the 21/1, Funcom announced that they will be deleting all Age of Conan (AoC) characters between levels 1 to 20 in accounts which have been inactive for over 7 months.

Howls of protest greeted the announcement from AoC players, but personally I don’t see what the problem is. One of the problems developers of MMOs have is players who create tons of characters, take-out all the cool names for them, and then left the characters to rot.

This is especially true for MMOs with free trials. Players try the free trials, then promptly forgot about the game. AoC is not the first game to face this problem, and it will not be the last. So I find it understandable why Funcom is doing this.

What I have problem with are the players who squat on characters they are not playing. I mean how many level 1 to 20 characters can you have? In every paid MMORPG I’ve played, I have at least one character at the max level. Even if it was a pain to get there (yes, I’m talking about you City of Heroes/Villains), surely you would want to try the end game at least once.

I do not understand those players who just camp between levels. If all your AoC characters are between levels 1 to 20 and your account is inactive for over 7 months, then frankly you deserve all the trouble coming your way. HAHAHAHAHA...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Comics this week

Secret Six #17 – Suicide Squad #67 works because it was barely a Blackest Night tie-in. All the focus was on the Suicide Squad and the Secret Six, and the Black Lanterns were an afterthought. That’s why #67 worked. Unfortunately in Secret Six #17, the Black Lanterns are front and centre as both teams are attacked together by a host of Black Lanterns. Result is a lackluster issue that just did not have the coolness of Suicide Squad #67. It says a lot that the best scene this issue belongs to the NHB fight between Bronze Tiger and Catman, a scene that does NOT have a single Black Lantern around. If only the rest of the issue was like that.

S.W.O.R.D #3- I always thought Beast was a strange addition to the cast of S.W.O.R.D. A X-Men, a mutant, an ex-Avenger; he has no connection to S.W.O.R.D outside his relationship with Abigail Brand. However for the first since this series started, writer Kieron Gillen made a case on why the blue muffin should be in the cast. Gillen’s characterization of Beast was spot-on as Beast finally proved his worth. His plan was clever, imaginative, the way he put one over Henry Gyrich as funny as hell, and his word duel with Unit (or whatever that robot is called) was wonderful. If Gillen keep this up, Beast may become the star of the series.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dr. House

In the medical drama show House, the doctor is a grumpy ass who used crazy medical methods and procedures to save his patients…most of the time.

Singapore seems to have our own Doctor House as the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) had found Dr Gobinathan Devathasan guilty of professional misconduct for using an untested experimental procedure, the Ultrasound Sonolysis, to treat an elderly woman with Parkinson’s Disease.

Funny thing is; no one is arguing about the effectiveness of the procedure. Dr Devathasan, a neurologist, had successfully treated more than 700 patients using Ultrasound with no complications and had even shared his findings of a study at an international conference. In fact the SMC’s disciplinary committee had, in its own words, said that they "reluctantly" found the doctor guilty of professional misconduct.

Dr Devathasan is now appealing against the SMC’s decision in court and even alleged that the true person behind the complaint against him was an unnamed professional rival. Whoever made the complaint against him, the main case of the SMC is that Dr Devathasan used a medical treatment that was not accepted by the profession. The fact that his patients were helped by the procedure seems almost secondary.

I would have thought the well-being of the patients would be first and foremost on the minds of the SMC, but I guess I'm no doctor. Where’s Dr. House when you need him?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Deep, Deep Movie

I had a review of the movie Avatar last week where I talked about the pros and cons of the movie. However if you go through the internet, you will see that my review lack something most reviews has; a social message!

I have seen Avatar and I think I must have missed something because I cannot remember any social message in the movie. Yet if you read the reviews everywhere (everywhere outside my blog), everyone seems to be putting James Cameron up as some sort of activist.

Currently I have read that James Cameron is a pro-nature, anti-war, anti-imperial, pro-American Indian, pro-white Messiah, anti-humans activist. And these are just the ones I had read.

So to all those who had read my review of Avatar; I am very, very sorry. I thought Avatar as nothing more than a high tech, high explosion blockbuster with a lousy love story but instead it is actually a deep, deep movie with all sorts of (very) subtle messages that was too much for me.

I mean even the Vatican newspaper reviewed the movie and accuse Cameron of trying to replace God with a natural entity. Man, how did I miss something like that!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Throwing in the Towel

It was always a risk. When Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock Inc bought a property in Manhattan for US$5.4 billion to develop the apartment complex known as Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, there were open mouths at the sheer amount of money thrown around.

It was in October 2006 when times was good and before the financial crisis. However in 2010, it was hardly a surprise when the property owners were unable to service debt payment of US$16 million per month.

Unfortunately for Singapore, the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) is an investor in the property and with the owners’ default this will go down as another loss for Singapore. This time to the tune of US$675 million or over S$850 million.

With the coming foreclosure on Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, GIC had already booked it losses. This means that GIC have thrown in the towel and accepted that they would probably not be seeing the S$850 million again.

I think booking the loss now is a good idea. Considering the monthly debt payment is US$16 million, there is pretty much no chance of getting the money back. Take the loss, close the books and look to the future.

Monday, January 11, 2010

To a Buddhist

I don’t blog about religion very often because I’m just not a very religious person. I’m a Buddhist but the Noble Eight-fold Path does not rule my life.

However I do know a few things; Buddhism is the teaching of the Buddha and if some guy or some group decides to one day start calling the Buddha by another name, I will be unhappy about it.

So I can absolutely understand why Muslims in Malaysia are unhappy about Christians using the name “Allah”. Problem started when Malaysian Roman Catholic Church wanted to use the name “Allah”. Naturally, Muslims in Malaysia are up in arms about the matter.

First off, I can’t understand why Christians, much less the Malaysia's Roman Catholic Church, want to call their God “Allah”. It just does not make sense to me. Allah is the name of the God of Islam, not the name of the God of Christianity. Why do they want to call their god “Allah” when it’s not His name. And if Christians want to give their god a name, surely the name they ought to pick is “Yahweh” not “Allah”.

Second, I cannot understand why the Malaysian Kuala Lumpur High Court allowed non-Muslims to use "Allah". Names are important, much less the names of gods! I cannot understand why the court this to happen.

Third, can someone from the Malaysia's Roman Catholic Church please come out and argue their case. Muslims in Malaysian are arguing that “Allah” is the name of their God, not the God of Christianity. To me, a Buddhist, this makes prefect sense. The Buddha is the Buddha. I can’t even imagine calling the Buddha by another name, so why is in the world would Christians want to start calling their god “Allah”? That makes no sense to me. Explain to me why the Malaysian Roman Catholic Church wants to call their god “Allah”, and not “Yahweh” or even “God” (like you know, every other Christians I know of in the world).

I can just tell the explanation is going to be a good one.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Revised OPC

I have said before that when it comes to cars, Singaporeans would throw their brains out of the window. To prove my point again, here comes the revised Off-Peak Car Scheme (OPC).

Under the revised OPC scheme, OPC cars will be allowed to start driving on the whole Saturday, and no longer need to wait till 3pm. OPC owners can’t wait till 25th Jan to start registering for the new scheme.

Hold your horses people because the extra timing comes with a catch; you have to pay a higher road tax (RT) to drive your car. Currently, RT for OPC comes with a $800 discount per year, minimum payment of $50. Under the revised OPC scheme, this discount will be cut to $500, minimum payment of $70. So no matter what, you will be paying more under the new scheme.

Before any of you OPC owners scoffed at the $70 RT, note that it is the “minimum payment of $70”. Your new RT payment will most likely be more than that. For example if you have a 1600cc car, your RT per year ought be to $744 but if your car is an OPC, the RT is only $50 as you have a $800 discount on the RT. Under the new revised OPC, your RT payment will be $244 because the RT discount has been cut!

An extra $200 per year just for driving a few more hours on Saturday? Frankly I don’t think it’s worth it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Comics this week

Blackest Night #6- The cover page says “The New Guardians” and the issue was great. There is a giant loophole in the plot; the power rings can duplicate? Good, fine and great but why the hell didn’t they do this in the first place? Outside that, the story continues to rock and Ivan Reis’ art is as good as always. It was fun seeing the rings choose their wearers but Mera with the ring of rage? Seeing how many angry heroes and villains there are on Earth, the ring picked the wife of Aquaman? Overall it’s another brilliant issue of Blackest Night!

Siege #1- There’s only one reason why I’m picking up Siege and that’s to see the end of ‘Dark Reign’. A storyline that had lasted way too long, I look forward to the end of it. However even ‘Dark Reign’ means nothing to you, this issue is pretty good. Norman Osborn's insanity is front and centre here as he bulldozed his way into a conflict with the gods of Asgard, I mean when even Bulleye and Moonstone think a war against Asgard is crazy. That in short is my biggest problem with Seige. An army of mortals (even with super-powers) verse an army of gods? How will this even be a contest? That’s like Superman going up against Batman only it’s a Superman with no weakness. Still, it’ll be nice to see Osborn getting his ass kicked.

Suicide Squad #67- We comics fans are a loyal bunch. I’m no fan of John Ostrander's Suicide Squad which I think is a cool concept series that overstayed its welcome. However loyal Suicide Squad fans have constantly asked for the series reinstatement. I have to admit, DC got a cool idea with resurrecting old series for Blackest Night. Since it will be a crossover with Secret Six, I pick up Suicide Squad. Glad I did too, because it’s actually a pretty good Secret Six issue. Although it’s Suicide Squad #67, the issue is more about the Six. Scandal’s “It’s…it’s pink!” was just priceless and it was humorous seeing how Ragdoll tried to run interference between Bane and Scandal's date Liana. This being a Blackest Night tie-in was barely mentioned and that was what made this a good issue.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Review of Avatar

Like a world-destroying Death Star, Avatar came into Singapore and started to push all other movies to the wayside. The return of the “King of the World” James Cameron, 10 years & $400 million to make, the next stage of movie-making, etc; the promotional guys went overtime on the movie.

After all the hype, how was the movie?

First off, the story of Avatar is really quite predictable. Sam Worthington stars as Jake Sully, an ex-marine who lost the use of his legs in military service, and then lost his twin brother in a robbery.

Sully's brother was a scientist who was supposed to be sent to Pandora, an alien moon populated by giant, blue-skinned, humanoids called the Na'vi. Pandora has an atmosphere that is poisonous to humans, so humans created the Avatars; biological alien bodies created by combining human and alien DNA. These Avatars can only be controlled by the humans who provide the human DNA of the Avatars and Sully’s brother was one of these humans. With his death, his Avatar is useless but as they were twins; Sully was offered his brother’s position.

Once on Pandora, Sully found that he enjoy being in his Avatar body and was given the mission of infiltrating the Na'vi, and find out what they want in exchange for moving out of their village. The Na’vi village sits on a massive deposit of Unobtainium, an alien metal that the humans want to mine.

From there, Sully found himself and enjoyed life with the Na’vi. By the end of the movie, Sully had switched sides and helped the Na’vi fight against the greedy humans.

Avatar is a movie with a simple story but that doesn’t really matters because what Avatar is really about is CGI magic. The avatars were created by using motion-capture sensors on the face and bodies of the actors and adding CGI from the information gathered. I’m sure there is a better explanation of the technique but I just know one thing. It worked!

The avatars are amazing. Even though they are 3m tall, totally blue, with a slimmer built and shape to humans; you can recognized the actors playing the avatars. When I first saw Grace’s avatar, I went like, “that’s Sigourney Weaver!” The avatars actually do resemble their human counterparts.

They are so good and so life-like that I can say Zoe Saldana turned in an excellent performance even though her character, Neytiri, was totally in CGI. The CGI also work as Pandora was a beautiful world. Its’ jungle, rain forests, coastlines, flying mountains, alien vegetation, were all wonderfully alien. James Cameron really did manage to bring viewers to an alien world.

Graphically, out of 10, I will give Avatar a 11. However, that is the best thing about the movie.

The story is passable, but unfortunately so was the acting. Outside the already mentioned Zoe Saldana (who was excellent), everyone else was only passable…at best. Sam Worthington was very good in Terminator Salvation so I was kind of disappointed in his performance as Jake Sully. Sully’s jump from a more-than-willing spy to a more-than-happy to kill fellow human sympathizer required a leap of faith from viewers. He had alien sex, logout of his avatar, log back in, sees a giant tractor coming towards him, destroyed said giant tractor, and then he’s on the Na’vi side of the war. Wow, alien sex must be great.

Yes, the movie script didn’t help but really Worthington should have done much better. His weak performance made the love affair between Sully and Neytiri the weakness part of the movie. Even Stephen Lang turned in a better performance and his Col. Miles Quaritch character was a cardboard villain!

The movie also skipped a few key points. It was never said why Unobtainium was so precious. Yes, it’s expensive but the movie never explain why it was so sought after. I also feel that they missed a great chance about the massively-interconnectivity organism that is Pandora.

Pandora is like a living moon whose tree-roots can link up with each living being on the moon and the Na’vi can spiritually use Pandora to connect with other creatures living on the moon. The Na'vi called this Elywa, which could be what they called Pandora. The humans of course laugh at this. A living moon? Ha!

That was science fiction at its best. In sci-fi, one of the most important things to get right is the new and different worlds. It must be alien but at the same time interesting and understandable to people. Pandora fulfilled all of these points but instead of concentrating on the sci-fi story of Pandora, James Cameron had to put in a love story between a human and Na’vi that made no sense.

In fact, I’m not exactly sure what kind of movie Avatar really is. It’s like James Cameron tried to touch all the bases here because in the end Avatar became a sci-fi/love story/war movie hybrid.

Overall I have mixed feelings about Avatar. It was a technically beautiful movie set in a very interesting world, however what could have been a great movie was letdown by a poor script and so-so direction. If Avatar had stayed a science fiction movie, it would have been great but it didn’t and that ultimately turned Avatar into an average movie with good eye-candy.

In short, Avatar is a good movie that would and should have been great.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

If Dubai can get away with it...

At the start of the global financial meltdown, one of the countries hardest hit was Iceland. The Icelandic bank collapse affected not only Iceland but also people in the U.K and Holland.

Thousands of British and Dutch nationals had invested in a bank called Icesave and were left with nothing when the bank collapsed. The British and Dutch government had pressured the Icelandic government to compensate their nationals and the Icelandic government caved after being told an IMF bank loan would depend on compensation to British and Dutch nationals.

Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir had put together a bill, narrowly approved by the Icelandic parliament on December 31, that will payout 3.8 billion euros to the British and Dutch governments as compensation to more than 320,000 British and Dutch savers who lost money in the collapse of the Icelandic bank but the Icelandic president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, had so far refused to sign the vastly unpopular bill.

Under the Icelandic constitution, that means the bill would be put to a popular referendum. Since the bill is vastly unpopular, it is almost certain to be rejected by the Icelandic people and the British and the Dutch are up in hands about it.

Now it’s sad that thousands of British and Dutch savers had lost money in the collapse of the Icelandic bank but quite frankly Britain and Holland do not have a legal leg to stand on and here’s why;

Icesave is not a government bank. Icesave do not belong to the Icelandic government. I mean if Dubai can say Dubai World do not belong to the Government of Dubai, after years of “implying” that it was, how can you ask the Icelandic government to compensate other nationals for a bank failure that do not belong to the Icelandic government?

It doesn’t make any sense at all. To my knowledge, Icesave never pretended to belong to the Icelandic government so how can you ask the Icelandic government to pay for the bank failure? Especially when neither the U.K or Holland made a sound when Dubai said that Dubai World do not belong to them?

If Dubai can get away with it, why not Iceland? It’s that simple and Iceland got more of a case than Dubai ever did! Like I said before; If Dubai can get away with it, expect more of the same from other countries. Since Dubai had seemingly got away with itr, I expect Iceland to be but the first of many countries to try the same thing.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Interesting Year Ahead

As Dubai opened the new highest building in the world, there is hope that economically 2010 will be better than 2009. Don’t count on it people because we are living in interesting times. For non-Asians readers out there, that is consider a curse here.

Why do I say this? Because France just reported that their debt has reached record levels, and there is suddenly a new worry for the world. Just how many nations will be able to pay off their debts in the year ahead?

One of the ways nations raise money is to issue bonds in order to raise cash to pay for programs such as financing a war, public healthcare etc. These bonds are often considered safe investments because most countries would have no problems paying off their debt. One of the reason bonds are viewed (rightfully) as far safer is because countries could say raise taxes or issued even more bonds to raise money to pay off their debts. However as the case of Dubai proves, we are living in interesting times.

Anyone who questioned the danger of default can just look at the near default of Dubai. It was the darling of the world before it all come tumbling down but as big as Dubai was, it is really nothing compare to giant European countries defaulting. Already the ratings of Ireland and Spain had been cut by rating agencies and France look likely to join them.

Now before anyone say its impossible for countries to lack the money to pay off their debts, this sort of things happened before. Russia defaulted in 1998, Argentina did it in 2002, and the most recent case was Ecuador in December 2008. With the global credit system still under trouble due to the credit crisis last year, certain nations are now hard-pressed to raise money.

Greece and Ukraine are the 2 countries currently in the most danger. At least 3 rating agencies had downgraded Greece’s rating in the past month as Greece faces the risk of sinking under its debts and Ukraine had been having problems paying for its’ gas imports from Russia since early 09. If one of these European countries default…look out people.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, we are living in interesting times.

Monday, January 4, 2010

EPL this month

The January transfer window is about to open and some teams just can’t wait for it. Here are some of the teams that need to buy players;

Top Teams this Month
Chelsea- People say that Chelsea is in a slump but I don’t quite understand it. They are 2 points in front of everyone, and even if Arsenal win the hand in hand they have, Chelsea will still be on top. Their rivals better hope Chelsea is not in a slump, because if this is their slump, then the title is as good as theirs.

Manchester United – When Sir Alex Ferguson has to play Michael Carrick in central defense and Darren Fletcher is right-back, you know Man Utd has an injury crisis on its hands. Good news is that Chelsea has not managed to pull away from them; bad news is that Arsenal has managed to take second place from them. However for all their problems at the back, they are still getting points and are firmly near the top of the league.

Arsenal- When Robin van Persie went down, their season looked over. However Andrei Arshavin has been excellent as a makeshift striker, but then Cesc Fabregas had to go and join van Persie on the treatment table. Even with the good run the Gunners are on, they now look short of players in midfield and attack. The January transfer window can’t come fast enough for manager Arsene Wenger.

Surprise Team this month
Man City- After 2 wins in 11 games, manager Mark Hughes is gone and Italian Roberto Mancini is now the man in charge. People say that Hughes had been badly treated but 2 wins in 11 says a lot and I wasn’t that surprised that he was given the boot. I mean Sven-Goran Eriksson did as well as Hughes with much less resources and he was given the boot as well, so it’s not like this is unusual for Man City. I just wonder how long Mancini is going to last.

Disappointing Teams this month
Aston Villa- Just when you think Aston Villa is going to make a breakthrough, they go and prove you wrong. Suffering 2 straight defeats, to Arsenal away and Liverpool at home means that Villa is more pretender than genuine contender to the Big 4. Manager Martin O’Neill will need to go into the transfer market or Villa will end up like last season; an also-ran.

Liverpool- They beat Wolves at home and Aston Villa away, but even with 2 straight victories there is no denying Liverpool are in big, big trouble. Manager Rafa Benitez had to rush unfit Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard back into the team, the captain openly admit that he is praying for divine help, and not even the most died hard Liverpool fan believe they can win the title this season. In fact, more than a few of them are wondering if Liverpool can finish in the Top 4 this season. And to think everyone thought Liverpool would be a title contender at the start of the season.

Portsmouth- You have to feel for their fans. They got a new manager, the team is fighting and scrapping for points, and it could be all for nothing. The team own money to the British tax-collectors and for the second time this season, players' salaries were late. They are already last in the league, and if they go into administration they will suffer a 9 points deduction, making survival impossible. You have to feel for their fans.