Friday, April 30, 2010

Comics this week

X-Force #26- The deaths continue in “Second Coming”. Unlike the death of a relatively minor character in X-Men Legacy, this issue features the death of a major X-Man. In a way, I could see the death coming as he was in bad condition, however I’m more interested in the tactical aspect of the death. I won’t say who it is till a later post but the X-men depended on him in a big way. Its ironic Hope may be a messiah because with her here the mutant community is losing members left, right and centre. Outside the art, I found this to be a good issue. Not to say Mike Choi's work is bad, but I’m just not a fan of photo-realistic art. It might be okay in an art book but not in a comic book.

Green Lantern Corps #47- As the epilogue to "Blackest Night", Green Lantern Corps #47 is both a satisfactory read and at the same time a massive disappointment. Good points: most of the Green Lantern Corps beginning to rebuild their lives. The planting of the memorial tree on Mogo was a high point, Kilowag’s leave of absence as GL trainer, Kyle’s and Guy’s mission to rebuild the GL memorial building and bar, even the Guardians admitting their mistake on the Third Law of Oa. All good! Bad points: where are the other Lanterns? What are the rest of the Corps doing? What plans does Sinestro have for his Corps? What are the Blue Lanterns doing now that they had lost both their Guardians? Is Carol Ferris going to stay with the Star Sapphires? Surely these are more important than the rebuilding of Guy Gardner's bar? Not a bad issue but as an epilogue to "Blackest Night", this was a disappointment.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Poor Rebuttal

A few weeks ago, international news agency, Al Jazeera, was taken off air in Singapore. Al Jazeera was shown on Singtel Mio TV but its contract was not renewed by Singtel.

Although both Singtel and Al Jazeera said that this was by “mutual consent”, speculation on why became focused on a report by Al Jazeera titled "Government Policies Force Some Onto The Streets". In it, Al Jazeera contend that various government policies are forcing some Singaporeans to be homeless as they are unable to get homes.

Housing is a very hot, sensitive topic in Singapore and Mr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, took the news agency to task in Parliament for not getting its facts straight. However I do not feel he did a good job of it in Parliament.

Take for example the case of the woman in the Al Jazeera report. Mr. Balakrishnan said in Parliament that government made some checks and found that the homeless woman in the Al Jazeera report still owns an HDB flat with her ex-husband.

That’s the point!

It is with her EX-husband. The woman may be the co-owner of the flat but do we expect her to live with her ex-husband? I think it is highly unreasonable to expect a divorced couple to live together after the divorce. She cannot get a rental flat because public rental flats in Singapore cannot be rent out to homeowners. I do not know her domestic situation but if her ex-husband refused to sell the flat, then she cannot sell the flat. (See an old post of mine HDB Headache for an example).

So when Mr. Balakrishnan use the fact that the woman co-own a flat as an example of Al Jazeera not getting its facts straight…that doesn’t really make sense. If she cannot sell, she cannot get money for a new flat. She also cannot get a rental flat due to the fact she co-own the flat which she cannot sell; thus she became homeless. She is almost the perfect example of what Al Jazeera is contending; that various government policies are forcing some Singaporeans to be homeless!

I’m all for the Singapore government defending itself against foreign news agencies (in fact I support it) and I understand this was for domestic consumption in Singapore, but I feel the minister (and the government) need to do better on explaining the government’s position in the media. A poor rebuttal like what happen in Parliament will just make their position worse.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

This Is Okay?

The fallout of the financial crisis continues as Goldman Sachs is now being bought up on charges in America for selling financial products their own executives do not believe in.

In America, Goldman Sachs is accused of selling home-loan securities to clients that its own employees called junk and crap. Worse, investigators showed that the company then betted against its own products because they believed the housing market in America was going to burst.

The market did burst. Investors who bought the securities Goldman Sachs sold lost money, while Goldman Sachs (the ones who sold the securities) made money because they had betted against these same securities they were selling.

Nothing about the facts of the case is in doubt. Goldman executives admit selling the securities, do not argue about emails showing their employees’ misgivings about the securities, or even betting against the products they were selling!

What they are arguing is that there’s nothing wrong with what they did. They were not going negative on the securities, merely hedging their bets by betting against the same securities they were selling; the buyers of the products knew the products were risky; and Goldman Sachs did not have to tell the buyers they did not believe in the products they were selling. Goldman Sachs is basically saying they did not do anything illegal.

Experts agree with Goldman Sachs. Most experts in America agree with Goldman that there is no law in America that state financial firms cannot bet against their own products. In fact, investors are so confident that the stock price of Goldman Sachs actually went up.

I’m no expert in law, much less American law, but I’m shaking my head in disbelief as I follow this case. How can there not be a law in America against this even if it was a hedge? Goldman Sachs structured, packaged, sold a product (which their own people call shitty), betted against the product as a hedge and there seems to be nothing wrong with it because buyers knew it was a risk in the first place?

I mean that’s like saying Toyota sold faulty cars, did not believe in their cars and it's okay if the car crashed because buyers knows there’s always a risk of accidents when you get behind the wheel. How come Toyota got fined millions for selling faulty cars but its okay for Goldman Sachs to sell faulty, shitty, whatever-you-want-to-call-it financial products?

I mean what’s the difference between what Toyota did and what Goldman Sachs did? If the experts in America are correct, then it's time for lawmakers in America to add some laws in America.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The NCMP Scheme

In light of the coming elections, the People’s Action Party (PAP) is trying to sweeten the ground. Yesterday they passed amendments to Singapore’s constitution on the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme.

The NCMP scheme is unique to Singapore politics. It is offered to the losing opposition candidates with the highest percentage of votes as a way for them to enter parliament. The idea of the scheme is that this will encourage Singaporeans to vote for the PAP as they know some opposition figures will enter Parliament through this backdoor. That way any Singaporeans who would otherwise vote for the opposition as they want more diverse views in Parliament would now vote for the PAP. There was some debate over the amendments but in the end, it passed as usual.

Frankly, I don’t see why the PAP bothers because no one takes the NCMP scheme seriously. Even PAP members don’t take the scheme seriously. Of course that might be the reason why the PAP is fighting so hard for it, but it also makes them look bad doing so.

Take the debate yesterday between Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister, Wong Kan Seng, and Workers’ Party leader Low Thia Khiang. When Mr. Low said that the PAP is trying to have a cake and eat it, that they were trying to tell Singaporeans to vote for the PAP as they would provide you with NCMP. Guess what; he was totally right!

Whereas the best Mr. Wong could come up with in rebuttal is that the PAP is trying to make the cake bigger and give the opposition a piece of it. Which of course make no sense because the PAP is the ruling party, so why would they want to give the opposition any piece of Parliament? Even if this is true and the PAP is so kind, why bother making the cake bigger? Why not just give a piece of the cake you currently have and give it to the opposition?

I can understand why the PAP wants the NCMP scheme but it is a waste of time and the scheme doesn’t really works. I mean be serious; I have yet to hear of any Singaporean who is fooled by it.

Monday, April 26, 2010


"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans." That is the thinking of the great British scientist Stephen Hawking.

In a new television series, Hawking said that aliens may exist but mankind should avoid contact with them as the consequences could be devastating for mankind. The warning from Hawking came as he said he believed in aliens but could also imagine them traveling in space looking to conquer other planets for resources after draining their own planet dry.

Now I’m nowhere near as intelligent as Hawking and I will say if you look at human history, he makes prefect sense but I like to think such a doomsday scenario will not come true. There are thousands of galaxies and billions of planets, so chances are there has to be at least one other advance alien civilization out there somewhere but in my mind, these aliens will be different from humans. They may not be walking upright on 2 legs, may not communicate with vocal speech and may not be in need of resources we have.

They are aliens, who know what they will or will not need! If there are aliens out there, I say let’s make contact with them.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Important Thing Is...

When disaster strikes, you want as much help as you can get and as much help as others are willing to give you. That is unless you are a government who is more worried about staying power than saving people.

Earlier this month, an earthquake hit Tibet, in a remote corner of western Qinghai province in China. The epicenter of the quake was in Yushu county, and since then thousands of Tibetan Buddhist monks have flooded into the county to provide relief aid to the affected citizens.

Of course this being Tibet and these being Tibetan monks, the Chinese government is very uncomfortable letting monks do good deeds and getting good press for their action. So Chinese authorities has now ordered monasteries to recall their monks back from the affected area.

Never mind that there are more than 12,000 people injured and over 9,000 of them are still in hospitals. Never mind that this is Tibet where the people trust monks much more than the Chinese government (that might be the main problem). Never mind that the monks had helped with rescue work, donated money and materials, organized prayer sessions, conducted memorials for the dead, all for free by the way; the most important thing for China's communist leadership is that they stay in power.

And the Chinese people wonder why Tibetans prefer the Dalai Lama to the Beijing government.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Comics this week

X-Men Legacy #235- The surprisingly good “Second Coming” X-crossover continues its good form as the X-Men tries to catch up to Cable and Hope again. The best thing so far in the crossover is how the X-writers have been able to give good screen-time to all the various teams. Team Alpha may be the foremost team so far, but the writers did not forget about the New Mutants fight against Cameron Hodge and Cyclops and Bastion’s moves and countermoves duel at their headquarters. Loss is the name of the game as the action move up a notch here. Both sides suffered casualties and good character moments made you feel that the deaths exactly meant something. After the nonsense that was “Messiah Complex”, “Utopia”, and that “Blackest Night” rip-off, it’s good to finally see a good X-crossover. Hopefully, “Second Coming” can continue to be a pleasant surprise.

Nova #36- After a few issues where Nova coasted along due to the “Realm of Kings”, the series finally got back on its feet. Richard Rider and Darkhawk return to Project Pegasus where they face off against the alternate universe version of Quasar we last saw in Realm of Kings #1. I’m no fan of Project Pegasus but I like this sexual tension between Rider and Dr. Eve Necker. The running battle between Nova and Dark Quasar was nothing to shout about but this issue sets the stage very well for “The Thanos Imperative” next month. Like Guardians of the Galaxy, this series will be stopped due to the “The Thanos Imperative” and may be cancelled. I hope Marvel will not do that. Nova does NOT belong to the Secret Avengers, he belongs in space and I hope Marvel will not change that.

Guardians of the Galaxy #25- With Martyr really dead this time (I think), the Guardians now have to deal with the newly reborn and very piss-off Thanos. As the previous Avatar of Death before Martyr, Thanos truly show his form this issue as he just destroyed Sacrosanct, the homeworld of the Universal Church of Truth. It’s great to see the whole team of the Guardians back together and the meeting between Cosmo and Rocket Raccoon was great. This is a good buildup to the upcoming “The Thanos Imperative” event series but personally I dislike the stopping of the series. It sounds like the Guardians of the Galaxy may be cancelled and frankly I hope Marvel will not do that. Their cosmic titles are about the best thing they have at the moment.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Sound Idea

This week, video game publishing company Ubisoft announced that it would no longer print game manuals for its games. Instead manuals will be digitally installed in the game disc or it can be viewed on its own website.

The reason for this decision is because this is part of a green initiative to save paper and reduce the publisher's carbon footprint. Frankly, I do not believe it. This seems more like a financial decision designed to cut cost than any goodwill decision to save the planet. (Of course, I’m no fan of Ubisoft so I might be biased.)

Having said that, the idea of getting rid of game manuals is a sound one. Most gamers, especially the young one, do not read the manuals. They just go straight into the game and learn by practice. This is helped by game tutorials or on-screen commands prompts. Manuals are just not as useful now as they were in the past.

So I’m all for getting rid of the manual. Beside, it really would help to save paper.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The One To Blame

I read the strangest thing on Channel NewsAsia today. It reported that COE prices have come down in most categories for the first time in nearly a year.

Now in Singapore, to buy a vehicle you need to buy a Certificate of Entitlement (COE). Basically this is nothing but a piece of paper that allows you to use the vehicle in Singapore. Since the Singapore government cut the number of COEs available last month, COE prices has risen through the roof.

Here’s the strange part; in the latest tender, the COE price for small cars (Cat A) is at $30,000. The COE price for big cars (Cat B) is $40,001. In the open category, Cat E, the price is $43,003. Cat C, for goods vehicles and buses, is at $35,556. Only COE price for motorcycles was up, closing at $1,253.

Now I’m not saying they are wrong. The price for the COEs all went down except for motorcycles but it is still between $30,000 to $43,003! At these prices, there nothing to be upbeat or happy about, but I do not blame the Singapore government.

Most Singaporeans blame the government for cutting the number of COEs but the COE prices are determined by a bidding system. So the rise in COE can only be blamed on Singaporeans who are buying COE even as they bitch about the high prices. WE ARE THE ONE TO BLAME.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Mars Mission

U.S. President Barack Obama has been tinkering with the American space program and NASA, the agency that runs the American space program. Basically, he wants to bring more private companies into space exploration and end space shuttle program.

Generally I didn’t really pay much attention to it because America's role in space is set and there are other upcoming space programs from India, China etc. However when President Obama predicted that American astronauts will land on Mars his lifetime, that’s something else.

Now politicians giving off bluster is nothing new but a Mars mission? Mankind hasn’t gone to the moon in like 30 years and now he want to go to Mars…in his lifetime? It will be a fantastic, historic moment for mankind but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Prepare for the Apocalypse

There is this videogame called Fallout. Set in an apocalyptic future ravaged by war, you play a character who comes out of a bunker built to withstand the nuclear holocaust.

Sometime fact follows fiction because in America, a company is actually offering an underground bunker equipped with all the modern comforts to withstand an apocalypse! Designed to withstand temperatures of 700 degrees, winds of 700 km/h, massive flooding and even earthquakes over 10 on the Richter scale, you can live there in safety when an asteroid hit the Earth, a nuclear attack or when the date turned to 1/12/2012.

The price? A measly US$50,000 dollars per person, and children even get 50% off! So what are you waiting for? There is already "hundreds" of applications; go and join in line for your place for a bunker against solar flares, nuclear terrorism, volcanic eruptions, killer comets, magnetic pole shifts, tsunamis, chemical attacks, biological attacks…the list is endless!

2012 is almost here! Be Prepared...even if it make no sense.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Staked by J.F. Lewis

It’s impossible nowadays to enter a bookstore without seeing piles of vampire novels all over the place. Most of the time the novels are about a female vampire, a woman who falls for a vampire, a female magic-user, a woman with supernatural abilities, a woman…you get the picture, the main character almost HAS to be a woman. It was fun for the first, I don’t know, 200 books but enough is enough!

Luckily, J.F. Lewis thought so as well. I found this most special vampire novel; a new vampire novel with a MALE lead character! Surprised? I sure was, I mean Eric (the male main character in this book) is almost an endangered species! I almost had to pick up this book just for this twist alone (which tells you a lot about the state of the genre at this moment).

The book starts off leaving you in no doubts that Eric's got issues. He has memory problems and the book start off with him by a dead body; only problem…he can't remember who he killed and why he killed him! Worse he later discovered the dead was a business partner of his best friend, Roger, while the werewolf, who he later killed in self-defense, runs with the alpha werewolf in the area.

Being the undead he is, Eric tries to solve his problems vampire-style. He turned his girlfriend, Tabitha, into a vampire because that’s what she wanted. Then got into bed with Rachel, Tabitha’s younger sister, because she was cute and mortal. He then called in Greta, his adopted vampire daughter to help him against the werewolves and investigate how he got into the whole mess in the first place.

The book is spilt between Eric and Tabitha and told from their point of view. Most of the time this works fine as the two are on the direct opposite spectrum of the vampire world. One is a powerful veteran vampire, while the other is almost a new-born. I like the fact this is a pretty funny book. Despite being a powerful vampire with bad memory and a nasty temper, Eric doesn’t really take himself that seriously. The dialogue between him and Greta was hilarious as Greta tried her best to be a nice daughter despite being a powerful psychotic vampire herself.

The way Eric adapts to his lousy memory loss is also quite funny. He is a go-with-the-flow vampire because most of the time, he don’t know why he’s in trouble but knows he probably did do…something to piss off the people after him. His reaction when he discovered why he got memory loss was the funniest thing I read in a vampire book for some time.

I loved the violence in this book. The vampire world is violent and Eric is a product of this world. Although he does have blood stored, Eric preferred to hunt humans for the blood he needs. Not only that, he kills them because he find it more thrilling this way. When they attack the werewolves, he and Greta had no problems killing any young or elderly wolves they found. In fact, they went in with a desire to kill any male, woman and child in the werewolf camp. These are not your wimpy, vegan, do-not-kill-human vampires from Twilight. They are big, bad and nasty; the way vampires SHOULD be!

However some readers may have problems with the book. For one thing, Eric is a jerk. His treatment of Tabitha is bad, especially after turning her into a vampire. He treats his undead life as something of a joke and as such, he is capable of doing some very nasty things. He does not have any problems laughing his guts out while killing and had even killed other vampires he turned before Tabitha.

Another thing is Eric’s relationships with his friends and loved ones. His relationship with Greta is twisted and not really comfortable reading (even to me). It’s father-daughter, but Greta is clearly crazy and Eric seemingly indulgence of her behavior at times make thing worse! Greta’s calling Tabitha ‘mother’ being case in point.

The biggest problem for me however is how powerful Eric is. At times, I wonder why he bothered to call in Greta because he don’t need her. He is so powerful he could have taken on the werewolves himself without any trouble. It’s a mismatch really and takes some of the tension away when you know there’s really nothing the wolves could have done to Eric. I mean the reason why Batman is more popular than Superman is because he can be hurt. That’s not the case here. Even at the end when he got blown up in pieces, Eric still managed to survive (in a way).

Not perfect, but this was an interesting read.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pressure to Win?

At an Under-17 Rugby final recently, an incident sparked an on-field brawl which then escalated as the pitch was invaded by players and supporters from both teams.

The brawl was captured by newspapermen who were there to cover the sporting event and in the aftermath, Singaporeans are asking whether there is too much pressure on players to win for their school.

When I read this, I went…what else is new? Seriously, I don’t understand why Singaporeans are so surprised by this incident. It happened before and it will happen again. This is Singapore where winning is everything, not only in sports but in studies for the school rankings as well. I mean we ARE kiasu right?

Here’s my personal experience on the school sporting scene. I was representing my school in basketball. We got to the district final where we faced another team with 2 players who were about at least a head taller than us. In the end we lost. It was not unexpected as the other team was the favourite but here’s the thing. This was in primary school, so it was an Under-12 tournament and we then discovered the 2 players were 14 as they had stayed behind 2 years. Yes, there are schools who used overage players just to win…in a PRIMARY SCHOOL TOURNMENT!

Pressure to win? Of course there is pressure to win. This is Singapore isn’t it?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Comics this week

Brightest Day #0- At the end of Blackest Night, 12 heroes and villains were resurrected. The problem is…no one know why? Brightest Day is the ambitious bi-weekly series by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi to show us why. To call Brightest Day ambitious is an understatement as some of the returned characters are mostly unknown. In a way this helps as the writers can do anything to them. As this is a #0 issue, this is mostly a set-up issue as Deadman visits each resurrected character one after another using the power of his white ring. However the issue also shows how this ambitious project can crash and burn. Some were good; the scenes showing Osiris, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman and Hawkgirl stand out, but others like Reverse Flash, Captain Boomerang and Hawk stand out in a bad way. Overall I guess there is more good than bad and if nothing else, Johns and Tomasi have my interest and that’s always a good thing.

New Mutants #12- In the third issue of the Second Coming crossover, stakes are raised as the villains make their move. One of the problems I have currently with Second Coming so far is the fact that it pitted the super-powered X-Men against a bunch of humans. Normally, this is a no contest but this is not normal times in the X-world and this issue show why. The mutants are vastly out-numbered and there is a sense of urgency and desperation when you consider that the New Mutants have to go up against an entire army here. The leadership from Cyclops also comes into question when he knowingly ordered Cannonball into an unwinnable situation but the fact that you will understand his desperation for doing so says a lot about the X-Men situation. So far, Second Coming is turning out to be an excellent crossover.

Secret Six #20– Now this is a surprise. With their track record, I was fully expecting Catman to go after his teammates but instead he decided to go after the men who kidnapped his son. I loved the aftermath after he had made his decision. The way he handled the kidnappers and their employer; “The pavement has my child”. What a line!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Amazing Race come to Singapore!

In Singapore, the most popular reality show is not American Idol or Survivor but the Amazing Race. So when the Amazing Race came to Singapore on its latest season, there was great curiosity here.

As expected from Singaporeans, there were complaints about what was shown. The biggest complains were; the tasks were easy, no showing of the multi-cultural aspects of Singapore, too many shots of tourist attractions…

I say, “Come on Singapore, what do you expect?” Frankly I didn’t find the episode all that bad. The one last week in Malaysia was better, more exciting but this episode isn’t too bad. Okay, I’ll give you that the task at the ASL shipyard and the Mega-Zip task at Sentosa were totally unnecessary, but I thought the ‘Fast Forward’ at the Singapore Flyover was okay and I enjoyed seeing 2 teams trying to sell ice-cream at Bugis. If nothing else, the episode shows just how friendly and helpful out taxi-drivers are.

Not the greatest episode of the Amazing Race we’ll ever see, but it’s hardly the worst. Not to mention, it’s much better than the first time they came to our shores…remember Phua Chu Kang?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Nighttime Shutdown

South Korea is known to be the capital of MMOs. So much so that video game addiction among Korean citizens is a major problem in Korea, especially among the young. Now the Korean government intends to do something about it.

The Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has introduced a policy called "nighttime shutdown". Directed at for underage players, this is an enforced six hour blackout time starting at midnight, 1:00 am, or 2:00 am; the player can choose the starting time.

Basically, once the PC clock reached this time, their internet access will shut down for at least six hour. This is to prevent players from playing all-nighters and make them go to sleep.

Frankly I think this is a great idea. I don’t for a second believe in the nonsense that is ‘video game addiction’ but these video game ‘addicts’ are giving video games a bad name. I’m a gamer myself and I never had any problem turning off my PC, but for those who do, I’m all for forcing them to turn off their PC.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Not Really F2P

Feeling a little down from all the blood, death and assassinations in the Age of Conan, I thought a little change of pace would be good. So I downloaded Wizard 101 again.

Wizard 101 is a cute, Harry Potter-like game which is about as far away from Age of Conan as you can get. More importantly, it’s free-to-play (F2P). However after playing to level 10 on my wizard, I discovered one thing. It really isn’t F2P.

This is why I say that. A huge area in Wizard 101 is unavailable to players unless you pay for it. Now I know bills must be paid by the developers but there are F2P games out there, like Maplestory, which open all areas in the game to all players. Revenue is generated through sales in the item shops for better weapons, armors, housing items etc.

Wizard 101 is not like that. At my level, at least 2 of the quest areas are closed to me. This means that I have quests I can’t complete unless I get into those areas. And I can’t get into those areas unless I subscribe for it.

Which means Wizard 101 isn’t really free! I don’t really mind because I don’t really play the game that much but calling the game F2P is misleading. We really need a new term for games like this.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Expect More Blood In Thailand

Do as I say, not as I do. That seems to be the motto of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajva as savage clashes between red-shirt protesters and Thai soldiers on the streets of Bangkok killed at least 18 people and injured hundreds.

The irony is not lost on anyone as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajva came to power a few years ago on the back of such protests. At that time, the Thai military excised restraint and refused to use force on the protesters and Vejjajva came to power.

He’s trying to avoid making the same mistakes as he ordered the Thai military to force the protesters off the streets. Instead his orders spark off street fighting with even Molotov cocktails and live rounds been used.

After the clashes, I fully expect more bloodshed in the future. The only other option now is negotiations between the government and the Red-shirts but Vejjajva can’t and won’t call for new elections because he will lose; and that’s before the clashes, now he’ll probably be slaughtered! The Red-shirts can’t turn back now after coming so far and even if they want to, arrest warrants have been issued for at least 27 Red Shirt leaders, so their arrest would probably spark off more protests.

It’s going to be a lot worse before it get better in Thailand.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Comics this week

S.H.I.E.L.D #1- The idea of S.H.I.E.L.D as a millennia-old organization who has been defending Earth and mankind from alien threats just scream fun, fun, fun. That is basically what Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver's debut issue is; it’s a fun read. The idea that great historical figures like Imhotep, Zheng Ho, Leonardo Da Vinci and Gallileo have faced off against the Brood, Galactus, and the Celestials centuries before Spiderman, FF and gang is great. Those are mini-series by themselves. It is one of those outlandish concepts, like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, that will only work in comics. However, it’s not all good. The concept works but the story didn’t. The issue is more about the history of S.H.I.E.L.D than anything and the story of Leonid was almost an afterthought. Set in 1953, the young man was ‘kidnapped’ to the magical subterranean "Immortal City" which serves as the headquarters of S.H.I.E.L.D. He learns of the rich history of S.H.I.E.L.D and then…nothing else makes sense. Leonid's father shows up, tell him there’s something he has to do, and then start fighting against S.H.I.E.L.D agents. Even at the end when the surprise was sprung, the story just didn’t hit me because it was just overwhelmed by the concept of S.H.I.E.L.D. Great concept but only a ‘so-so’ story.

Uncanny X-Men #523- Continuing right when Second Coming #1 left off, the X-Men now discovered the existence of X-Force and that Cyclops sanctioned the actions of Wolverine’s team. There’re promises of fallout there but the focus of the issue is Hope. Even though she is the messiah, most readers don’t know much about the girl and this issue tried valiantly to fill the gap. Writer Matt Fraction has Hope alternating between rebellious teen and militant soldier, and it worked. Hope is a confused teenage who is supposed to be a great messiah and I guess a job like that will mess anyone up. So far, so good for this crossover.

Street Fighter II Turbo #12- The final fight is here as Ryu go up against Akuma. Not a surprise I guess but I’m very surprise that Ryu lost! The last issue of a min-series and the main hero LOST! Only one more surprise in a surprisingly good mini-series.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Last Days of the Great Barrier Reef?

It’s always sad when a great wonder of the world is destroyed and the world currently has a frontline seat. A Chinese-owned coal carrier, Shen Neng, ran aground over the Great Barrier Reef and is now spewing oil over the world heritage site.

Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has vowed heavy punishment to anyone found responsible for the accident on the reef, but that’s cold comfort because Australia is now fighting an uphill battle to save the reef. Not helping is the fact that the ship was about 15 miles off-course in board daylight. It seems the need to cut down on traveling time is what caused the accident as the ship may be taking an illegal short cut through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The Great Barrier Reef, one of the natural wonders of the world, a world heritage site, is been destroyed because of the human need to meet a dateline! Sad, but somehow I'm also not surprised. No wonder we have an environmental crisis and climate change on our hands!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Let’s Not Have Another ‘Accident’

Last week, Indonesian officials nailed a fugitive who was hiding in Singapore. Indonesian tax department officer Gayus Tambunan was tracked down in Singapore after a week on the run and is now back in Indonesia to face charges of receiving kickbacks in return for producing favorable tax assessments.

Sound like a case of superb cross-country work between Singapore and Indonesia police right? Totally wrong because Singapore got nothing to do with it! Gayus Tambunan was caught on Orchard Road by Indonesian officials working at the Indonesian embassy. According to the story given by the Indonesian authorities, the embassy officials ‘accidentally’ saw Tambunan at a food court along Orchard Road where he was staying at a hotel. He was then ‘convinced’ to voluntarily return to Indonesia to face charges because he was staying in Singapore on an illegal passport.

So in short, we have a fugitive who was
1) allowed to enter Singapore on an illegal passport,
2) allowed to leave Singapore on an illegal passport,
3) so confident he will not be caught, he actually stayed in a hotel on Orchard Road
4) caught by Indonesian officers working in Singapore (not Singapore police, but Indonesian officers)
5) caught by ‘accident’ by Indonesian officers working in Singapore (over 5 million people in Singapore and they managed to find this one person by accident, right…)

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Forget the fact this man is accused of stealing some $3.9 million in Indonesia, that’s Indonesia’s problem, let just say I have some problems with non-appearance of Singapore authorities on the case (and I don’t think I’m alone).

Now Indonesia says that they know of at least 10 other Indonesian fugitives living in Singapore. For the sake of our own ‘face’, I strongly suggest that Singapore be more pro-active in capturing these other fugitives. Let’s not have another ‘accident’.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Civilization of Warcaft

We gamers have a tendency to take ourselves too seriously. Case in point; a new book entitled The Warcraft Civilization: Social Science in a Virtual World.

No, this is not a joke. Sociologist William Sims Bainbridge has published a new book on the civilization of the World of Warcaft (WoW)! According to Bainbridge, WoW is an immersive virtual world in which characters are in a dangerous environment, struggle to understand and communicate with each other, and competing for dwindling resources. Outside that, World of Warcraft has no ultimate goal, no winning hand, and no princess to be rescued. AKA, it’s not entirely unlike today’s world.

To ‘research’ the book, Bainbridge spend more than 2,300 hours playing the game, created twenty-two different characters of all ten races, all ten classes, and numerous professions. Each chapter of the book will begins with one character’s narrative, then goes on to explore a major social issue–such as religion, learning, cooperation, economy, or identity–through the lens of that character’s experience.

No, this is not a joke. Nor is this a joke book. Bainbridge is actually a published writer who is known for his work exploring the sociology of religion. A previous book on the sociology of religion, and he is now publishing a book on Warcaft?

Now whatever happen to just sitting down just to play a good game?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hypocrites & Fear

In the burqa obsession of the West, I guess this was just a matter of time. The Belgium Parliament backed a draft law that would ban Muslim women from wearing the burqa in public places.

Of course the reason for the coming ban is for safety reasons; the Belgians say people who hide their faces represent a security risk. For political cover, the law will also target demonstrators who cover their faces.

I can’t help but think; what a bunch of hypocrites!

Freedom-touting Europe is now telling Muslim women what cloths they cannot wear and calling it a security risk. Let’s call it what it is, a ban on burqa is not a security issue but a cultural issue. If it is a security issue, should you ban motorcycle helmets with faceguards? In fact from what I read of the ban, which makes it illegal to wear clothing that covers all or part of the face, wouldn’t the traditional nun habit be ban as well? The veil and wimple cover the side of the face, doesn’t it?

Here in Singapore, we walk past Muslim women who cover their head and sometimes face with veils and there’s absolutely no problem here. There are far more Muslims here then in Europe, yet somehow headscarves have also been outlawed in schools in Holland and U.K, and Switzerland created a law to ban building minarets on mosques, despite having just 4 minarets in the whole of Switzerland!

I mean what’s the big deal with the burqa anyway? It’s a piece of cloth used to cover women…so what? I seem female Westerners sunbathing nude in Singapore before but I never asked the Singapore government to ban sunbathing. I mean think about it; what’s the use of sunbathing anyway?

If Europeans want to ban the burqa, fine but call it what it is. The ban is not due to security, but due to fear.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Comics this week

Blackest Night #8- As a rule, I dislike it when writers return characters back to life. In my view, characters that are dead should stay dead. So it’s a mark on the writing ability of Geoff John that I actually enjoy the resurrection of all the characters in this issue. There were a couple of big scenes in this issue with Ivan Reis showing his worth by going to town with tem. However, I’m still a little disappointed by this finish. Basically #8 had the problem of #7. There was just too much going on. Although it’s not as bad as #7, there are still parts where things just jumped. The defeat of Nekron was one of them. Did he die because Blank Hand was defeated, or was it because of the Anti-Monitor, or was it the combination of both? The real problem I think was that Geoff Johns had a lot more to say and not enough pages to do it. Everything was squeezed into #8 and this caused the issue to be a letdown. In the end, Blackest Night is a good series that could have been great.

X-Men: Second Coming #1- Ever since the words “No More Mutants” were muttered, the X-Men had been in a downward spiral. It’s been more than 2 years and I still don’t understand why Marvel allowed it to happen. In one stoke, they put writers in a straitjacket because no new mutants could be introduced and they had to go on a merry-go-round to explain why mutants who lost their powers can get their powers back…cough, Magneto, cough. So for nothing but the reason that they will (potentially) get rid of this stupid, brainless plot, I am looking forward to Second Coming. Maybe now, the X-Men can return to been great.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

EPL this month

Man Utd had made their run and overtaken Chelsea but the injury to Wayne Rooney in Munich may have greater effect on the title race than anyone wished.

Top Teams this Month
Manchester United – After being in 2nd place almost the whole of the season, Man Utd has finally overtaken Chelsea. The return of Rio and Vidic is the main reason, and Wayne Rooney is still scoring goals. Question is whether Rooney can keep up with this form till the end of the season?

Everton- Last month, Everton finally got their season going and they have managed to continue the good run this month. In fact, they are arguably the most in-form team in the league at the moment. After the horror start to the season, Europe is an achievement and manager David Moyes has to be delighted with their form.

Arsenal- Yes, they are in 3rd place in the league and it doesn’t look like they will catch Man Utd or Chelsea, but they ARE 3rd in the league and they were in the race for the title. How many people would have predicted that at the start of the season? The title may be beyond them this season, but young Gunners have come good and if he can keep this team together, the future is bright for Arsene Wenger and the Gunners.

Surprise Team this month
Portsmouth- The 9 points deduction is almost inevitable after the financial mess they were in, but on the field they are actually playing better than ever. With the season gone, the team is now playing without worries or pressure. Avram Grant has done a hell of a job motivating the team to finish the season on a high.

Disappointing Teams this month
Aston Villa- A 7-1 thumping by Chelsea put to rest any idea Aston Villa has of finishing in the Top 4. A small squad and a high-energy playing style seem to be getting to Villa as the players are just too tired. The mind is willing but the body is not. Manager Martin O’Neill will need to go into the transfer market in the close season to get a bigger squad next season.

Burnley- When Owen Coley bailed out of Burnley to manage follow strugglers Bolton, I thought it was a bad move because Burnley was higher in the league than Bolton at that time. He knew something I didn’t because since Brain Laws took over, Burnley has been in freefall. They look like the team that is going down with Portsmouth.

West Ham- Since they took over the club, new owners David Sullivan and David Gold had undermined manger Gianfranco Zola and the effects are being felt on the field. The spirit that was so good thus far this season has disappeared and whether they stay up or not, Zola may soon follow. A classic case of how NOT to takeover a football club!