Friday, December 30, 2011

Comics this week

I, Vampire #4- The surprise hit of the New 52 hit a road bump this issue. Writer Joshua Hale Fialkov continues the tale of master vampire Andrew and while the story was fine, it also felt a little forced. John Constantine guest-star in this issue and it was totally unnecessary. Also having the dead vampire being the long-lost father of Tig was…well, kind of tacky in my view. It’s only been 4 issues but between his story and Andrea Sorrentino’s art, things seems fine to me. There’s no need for Fialkov to use stunts and surprise guest-stars for the series.

FF #13- At the end of this issue, writer Jonathan Hickman gave Dr. Doom a great line. “I am Doom, Destroyer of Worlds.” It was a massive line which deserved better. The line got all life sucked out of it because of the terrible artwork. Marvel is having some serious problem on its hands due to the success of DC’s New 52 and having an artist like Juan Bobilo is not going to help them. I’m a fan who is more interested in reading the stories than the artwork but even to me, the artwork in this series is terrible. The children looked the same to me which is saying something when some of them are not even humans! That’s how bad the art is here.

DC Universe Online: Legends #20- The cover of this issue had the tagline, “Batman vs The Dark Knight”. Seem like a winner right? Totally wrong! The problem of the artwork and story not jelling came back again. At the end of the issue when Batman took out the Society; I have no idea what happened. Did the ground explode below them? Was a grenade thrown? How did a single explosion took out everyone, including Black Adam? This series has been terrible for the past 3 issues and that is truly disappointing when the series had such a bright start.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

High-Rollers vs MBS

When I read that Singapore casino operator Marina Bay Sands (MBS) was suing five of its high-rollers for a grand total of S$7.5 million, I thought that this was an open-and-shut case. I mean; you own money, you pay money right?

However upon further reading, it seen that one of the cases might not be so open-and-shut. One of the high-rollers is Takami Shinichi, a Japanese based in Singapore. MBS is claiming $1,999,324 from him. MBS alleged to have started Mr. Shinichi with a $200,000 credit line in June 2010. This was later increased to $1 million in February 2011 and then increased $2 million in April.

The problem for MBS in this case is that they should have never gave Shinichi a credit line in the first place!

Under the Singapore’s Casino Control Act, casinos are only allowed to extend credit to premium players. Premium players are players who have deposit at least $100,000 with the casino, in the form of cash, cheques or chips. Mr. Shinichi’s lawyer alleged that his client never had placed this much with the casino.

This might be a technical issue but it is an important technical issue. If Mr. Shinichi’s lawyer is correct, then Mr. Shinichi should have never been given a credit line in the first place so any increase of his credit line later on would (and should) be null and void.

MBS has refused to comment publicly on the case but if Mr. Shinichi’s lawyer gets his way (and there’s no reason to believe he won’t since MBS records would show how much Mr. Shinichi deposit with the casino), then this case may change the way the casinos in Singapore do business. This is one case everyone would be looking at carefully.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Teach It

To be honest, I couldn’t care less about sex education. To me, schools are not the place to teach children about sex. Schools are place of learning, for kids to learn about maths, science, geography, history etc. Sex education is not something schools should be in charge of.

However, Singapore schools do offer sex education but if you are going to teach it, then teach it! The Ministry of Education (MOE) recently revised their Sexuality Education Program (SEP) to focus more abstinence over contraception. In short, the program will now teach students to avoid sex instead of what to do to prevent pregnancy etc. The revision came after parents of students in Catholic schools in Singapore made complains about the program not catering to Catholic teachings.

Sorry to disappoint those parents but are your children so idiotic that they do not know they are NOT supposed to have sex? No? So how is telling children to abstain from sex suppose to help them when all it will do is to tell them what they already know? Kids know they are not supposed to have sex but guess what; they are going to do it anyway!

That should be the main focus of sex education; to prevent “accidents” from happening, not to tell kids what they already know. Seriously like I said earlier, with the society we have in Singapore, is there any doubt that children don’t know they are NOT supposed to have sex?

Schools are there for children to learn things, not telling them what they already know. Telling kids to abstain from sex is not really going to help them because…well, they already know that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Innocent Untill Proven Guilty

Earlier this year, 2-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contado tested positive for the anabolic agent clenbuterol which is a banned substance. The Spanish cyclist blamed the positive test on a steak he had eaten and experts believed him as the traces found in his system was about 400 times below what is needed for him to get an advantage from the clenbuterol.

Unfortunately for Contador, the doping rules state that no drugs must be found within his body. Luckily for this case, common sense prevailed. Contador appealed and got his ban overturned. However the strain on his reputation remains.

Now in a tacit admission that there is a problem with the food, the United Kingdom Anti-Doping Association has warned their athletes to avoid eating liver as it “may” cause a positive on a drug test for clenbuterol. Liver is just one of a list of food to avoid for athletes.

With the London Olympics approaching, I can understand why the United Kingdom Anti-Doping Association went for a better safe-than-sorry stance but for me, the warning by them is another admission of the overzealous approach people have towards doping.

I’m all for the "anti-doping" crusade but people need to have some common sense. The main problem is that athletes are getting ban just for eating the wrong food and taking the wrong prescription. They are getting ban despite there being no proof of them using drugs for personal benefit. For example; the case against Contador should have never got as big as it did because there is no proof he ever used drugs to enhance his performance. The traces of clenbuterol found in him were 400 times BELOW what he need to have but he was still going to get ban for it!

That is just ridiculous. Just traces of banned substance should not be reason to ban someone. There must be definitive proof of guilt. As they say, a man is innocent till proven guilty. Unfortunately for athletes, that no longer seems to be the case.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Comics this week

Justice League #4- As one of the main man at DC, writer Geoff Johns seems to have drips on which character to show off. As the writer of Aquaman, I guess it’s only natural that Aquaman is getting his time to show off. My problem with that (and this issue) is that nothing worthwhile happened. The issue is full of action sequence and the heavy focus on it means that the story doesn’t really move forward. Outside the last 3 pages, the rest of the issue is filled with Jim Lee’s beautiful art…and nothing else. For a pretty slow moving story already, this issue is a dead stop.

Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes! #1- Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc. was one of the most intriguing out there but because of delays and the New 52 relaunch, he never managed to finish the story. Probably not wanting to waste a good thing, DC is now publishing his work first with this one-shot prelude and with a mini-series next year. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier. I’m not a fan of the Batman titles post New 52 and “Leviathan Strikes” showed why. Morrison cram everything he can into the pages for an intense read and makes you wonder (again) why the hell DC revamped the Batman titles. Of course this issue isn’t prefect. For one thing it is set in the old DC world before the New 52 revamp, so Stephanie Brown is still Batgirl. Fans of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl (the 10 or so of you) can weep. Also you probably need to read the Batman Inc. to fully understand the issue. Although the issue tried to get readers up to speed with a 8-page recap, it’s not really enough as characters are thrown left, right and centre at the readers. However for readers who had read Batman Inc. like me, this is one hell of an issue.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's Not A Race

It's out! After years in production, Star Wars: The Old Republic has officially launched. At the cost of US$150 million, the game is the biggest MMORPG to be launched in years. Some even expect it to be the one that finally put a dent in World of Warcraft.

Now the stories from the launch in the U.S are the usual. Long waiting time to enter the game, certain servers being overload and fill to capacity; these are the usual stories from a MMORPG at launch. However one story caught my eye.

Star Wars: The Old Republic maximum level is 50. That means no one can currently go beyond level 50 in the game. Within 12 hours of launch, it seems 2 players have already reached the max.

Now, I know everyone have their own play-style but reaching level 50 is under 12 hours? I won’t ask “how” because I can imagine it happening but I’m interested in “why”? I had played many MMOs before and this is something I could never understand. Why would anyone do that? The quickest I ever reached the maximum level was in DC Online when I reached it in about 3 weeks and the max was only 30 in that game. I mean a MMORPG is an open world where one can explore in, read the background stories of the characters, and generally enjoy themselves in.

Why this race to reach the cap? How much of the world can you explore in under 12hours? To me, this race to the top play-style is one developers should actively discourage.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dead But No Joy

When former U.S. President George W. Bush famously denounced North Korea as a member of his "axis of evil", he made sure to make special mention of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Yet despite having enemies on all sides, the man managed to keep an iron grip on his country.

That man is now dead. North Korean TV reported that the mercurial and enigmatic leader, has died of heart failure on Dec 17 at that age of 69.

Despite his death, there is no rejoicing in Seoul, Tokyo or Washington. South Korea's stock market, the Kospi, dived nearly 5% on the news. The reason is that although Kim has often been ridiculed in the media, he was also a man who had made North Korea into a country that worries the rest of the world. North Korea has the world’s 5th biggest army and managed to get their hands on nuclear weapons.

No one talk about regime change for North Korea.

The bottom-line is this; if he is mad, then there is a method to his madness. Kim Jong Il may be enigmatic and ruthless but he was also highly intelligent and the iron man of a nuclear country. Considering how young (and weak) his successor, the twenty-something Kim Jong Un, is…there may come a time in the future when we wish Kim Jong Il was still at the helm of North Korea.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Needs vs Wants

With a rising China come increasing territorial disputes between Beijing and its Asian neighbors. Most of these disputes are just a sign of China showing its muscle as its claims to most of them are “historical”; in the longest sense of the word.

This is a problem for the United States as it now has to face an increasing assertive China while its economy is in the doldrums. With the problem of a tighter budget, US Navy now expects to station several combat ships in Singapore.

Now while I like the idea of the United States been increasingly vocal about defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, I’m not in favor of the stationing of combat ships in Singapore. The main reason is that this is not our fight.

Yes, I know it sounds a little contradictory but the main thing is that Singapore has no territorial disputes (yet) with China. In fact, China is one of our biggest trading partners. So I don’t see how hosting combat ships from the US Navy benefit Singapore. Also, the United States has some 70,000 troops stationed in Japan and South Korea and a military presence in the Philippines and Thailand.

You can say that the United States don’t really “need” to station ships in Singapore. And you can also say Singapore don’t really “need” to have US combat ships in Singapore. Both parties may want to but there’s no real need for the ships to be in Singapore. So…why should Singapore host them?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Heads Should Wait

Just 2 days ago, I blogged about the breakdown along the North-South Line (NSL) and how SMRT should have informed passengers immediately of the fault in their system. That was a problem in communication but now the problems at SMRT seem to be far deeper than that.

Just yesterday, there is another breakdown in the services. This time it is along the North-South MRT line and according to the SMRT, the problems lies in damage to the third rail of the tracks at certain locations. I find the reasoning very strange as I do not understand why there is suddenly this spate of damage rails all happening at the same time.

However, I understand that whatever the (real) reason is, the SMRT will need some time to fix the issue. This is why I do not agree with the calls for SMRT chief executive Saw Phaik Hwa to resign. There had also been calls by some Singaporeans for the head of Mr Lui Tuck Yew, the Singapore Transport Minister, and while I can understand why Singaporeans are unhappy with the duo, the timing of the calls is wrong.

Frankly, I’m more interested in why there are so many faults all of the sudden. Like I said earlier, I find the reasons given by the SMRT to be very strange and I believe I’m not the only one. I believe Singaporeans should wait. Yes, heads should roll but we need to find out why the trains stopped in the first place and then put in procedures to prevent it from happening again.

Once those are done, then heads should roll. This mess happened on the watch of Saw Phaik Hwa and Lui Tuck Yew, so it’s only right that they be the ones who fix the problems. After that…

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tell People First!

At 6:56pm last night, trains on the North-South Line (NSL) came to a stop as for the second time in 2 days, there is a fault along the MRT lines. The stoppage affected train service in both directions from Bishan to Marina Bay and normal service was only resumed at 11:40pm.

I’m not too bothered with the stoppages. In any country, things like this happened all the time. What I do mind however is the way SMRT went about informing people about the stoppages. To be more exact, how they DIDN’T inform people about the stoppages!

You would think that when the trains stopped, the train company would inform passengers on other lines that their trains are down and not go wait for the trains right? Not in Singapore! Passengers on the Circle Line (CCL) reported that they were not informed of the problems on the NSL and some had changed from the CCL to the NSL only to discover that the NSL was down after waiting a long time for trains that never came.

If that’s not bad enough, it seems that people from the media were not allowed to inform their viewers of the problem on the MRT as well!

The day before, on the 14th Dec, there was a minor breakdown on the CCL. A local radio DJ informed his listeners on the breakdown and he is now censured for the announcement. His crime? It seem that the DJ, Hossan Leong, got his information from callers who call in to the radio station to report the matter and he was censured because he announced the disruption on the CCL before the SMRT released an official statement on the matter!

What total nonsense!

This is a prefect example of the “cover your own backside” mentality that has infected the Singapore government. Who cares about the official statement? Just tell people there is a breakdown first, and worry about the official statement later! Telling your customers about a fault in your system should be your first priority. No one cares about the official statement when they are struck in the MRT station without knowledge of whether the trains are coming or not. And then to add spice to the dish, you censured someone who did something you ought to be doing in the first place!

Brilliant! Wonderful! No wonder so many Singaporeans are piss off at the SMRT!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Comics this week

DC Universe Online: Legends #19- After a bright start, DC Universe Online has been having a hard time of it of late. Last issue was a massive disappointment, so it’s no surprise that #19 was better. However, it’s still not great. The problem I have is that while everything was going on well for the first 4/5 of the issue, at the end we suddenly discovered that the whole issue (as well as last issue) had been a flashback by the future Batman. Uh? There's had been not even a hint of that by writer Marv Wolfman beforehand and suddenly it’s a flashback? I think you can call this issue the one where DC Universe Online finally jumped the shark.

S.H.I.E.L.D #4- I had always felt that stories involving timelines are difficult to pull off. It looked great if you can pull it off but the stories themselves need to make sense as well as be different from each other. This issue shows the difficulties in pulling it off. Jonathan Hickman gave it his best shot but it just didn’t quite pay off for me. Another thing bothering me was the introduction of the 3 brothers. Frankly with the big cast S.H.I.E.L.D has already, I don’t see the need to introduce 3 more characters into the mix. This just adds to the confusion which is something the series do not need. In a way, the series has been too ambitious for its own good and could do with some streamlining.

Green Lantern #4- Ok, I’ll come out and say it. The main attraction of this new GL series is not Hal Jordon but Sinestro. Sinestro is a far more interesting character than Hal. Unbearably arrogant, he is also as good as he thinks he is. The scene where he creates over 20 rings through sheer willpower is worth the price of the issue. The only thing I dislike about this issue is the final page. It is a red herring as Sinestro had created a failsafe in his constructs. A series as good as GL do not need cheap tricks like that.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stranger Than Fiction

So America flew a spy drone over Iran. So Iran bought the spy drone down. Now America…asked the Iranians to return the spy drone that was used to spy on them?

I thought this was a joke when I first read it but evidentially it’s true. President Obama himself said that the United States had asked Iran to give the downed American reconnaissance plane back.

Fact is truly stranger than fiction. The Iranians has rejected the request with its state media poking fun at the American’s expense. I agree with them.

What is God’s name made the American believed for a second the Iranians (and the rest of the world) won’t laugh their guts out upon hearing the request? Hell, I am.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Man For The Job?

As I had said before, when the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) lost the Aljunied GRC (Group Representation Constituency) in the general election (GE), it was a tidal wave result as the GRC system was designed to safeguard seats for the PAP. It seems that the PAP felt that way also.

Even though the next GE is 4 years away, the PAP has tasked former cabinet minister Lim Boon Heng to form a team to retake the GRC. This shows how important the PAP believe the Aljunied GRC is to the long-term well-being of the PAP. However I have to wonder why Lim Boon Heng was the one picked for the task.

Although a party veteran, Lim Boon Heng had retired from politics before the GE so I find it especially strange that with some many members to choose from, the PAP picked a “retired” party veteran for this task. Now I’m not saying he’s not up to the job of winning the constituency back from the opposition Workers’ Party (WP), but why would the PAP picked a retired man for the job?

Even if George Yeo is not available, it would make much more sense if the PAP picked someone who is still currently active in the PAP for the job. It could be a promising up-and-coming member of the PAP or even a current MP or minister, but it’s strange to pick a man who is supposed to be retired to spearhead the task.

The only reason I could come up with is that the PAP is having a hard time finding people to be its figurehead in Aljunied. If that is the case, then the choice of Lim Boon Heng would make sense. As he is retired, his standing would not be hurt if PAP failed to win back the GRC in the next GE and he is of a high enough standing that he could get things done.

Guess in the next GE, we’ll all find out if he is the right choice.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Counting Game

On December 4, the Russian people went to the polls and as widely expected, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling party won the elections. Soon after, there were protests against Putin as he was accused of vote-fixing.

Putin then accused the West of interfering in Russian political affairs and of encouraging the protests. Unfortunately, it seems that there is some true in what he says.

The problem I have is the way the Western media is reporting the protests in Russia. To be more exact, it’s the way they are numbering the protestors.

In the Russian capital of Moscow, the Western media announced that 50,000 people came out to protest against Putin. How the hell did they came up with that number?

When the protest first started, the organizers of the protests announced that 15,000 to 20,000 people had come out. That number was disputed by the Russian police who said that the number of protesters was much lower than that.

Next thing we know, Western media citing “people on the ground” said that 50,000 people were protesting against Putin. Yes, Western media gave that number even before the protest organizers! In fact, they ignored the numbers given by the protest organizers! Seeing 50,000 in the media, protest organizers then started to say there were 100,000 protesters! It’s a comedy where no one knows how to count!

No wonder Putin is accusing the West of interfering in Russian internal affairs! It sure seems that way when the Western press is more interested in making news than in reporting it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Case of Mr. Lu

One of the main problems Singaporeans have been harping on is the high housing prices in Singapore. Most Singaporeans are either unable to afford a flat or have to take on loans up to 20-25 years to buy a flat in Singapore.

After a long time, the Singapore government had finally began to take action. A new stamp duty of up to 10% will now be imposed on foreign buyers of Singapore properties. It is hoped that this would cool foreigner demand and lower property prices for Singaporeans.

Personally, I have doubts on how effective this would be as property prices are already so high. It’s like closing the door of the barn after the horses had bolted but it’s a good beginning.

Of course, foreigners in Singapore are unhappy with the move with one foreigner named Norman Lu been quoted on Channelnewsaisa that he was very disappointed with the move and he has options which includes leaving Singapore "because I can easily find another job opportunity in another country”.

If Mr. Lu was trying to gain sympathy for the position of foreign buyers of property; man, did he mess up or what! Singaporeans have reacted badly to Mr. Lu comment about foreigners having the option of leaving Singapore. I assure Mr. Lu on this; we know that!

Frankly, Singaporeans do not expect any loyalty from foreigners working in Singapore. We know fully well that the vast overwhelming majority of foreigners here are economic migrants who came to Singapore in search of better jobs. Once the better economic opportunities in Singapore disappear, they would go too. Foreigners in Singapore have no real commitment to Singapore outside this being a place to make money.

Singaporeans accept this. However to have a foreigner working in Singapore complain about a stamp duty, which almost every other country in the world has, and say that he will leave because of it grated on the nerves. Simply put; foreigners have it good in Singapore. Some might argue they have it better than Singaporeans in our own country! So if Mr. Lu has an option of leaving Singapore due to a better opportunity elsewhere; please go!

I don’t this out of anger but simple acceptance. Singaporean don’t expect any loyalty from you to stick it out during bad times, so if you believe you have better opportunities elsewhere, we will not stop you. Please go…and don’t come back.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Achilles Heel?

Since last week, Iran had proudly announced that they had bought down a U.S. spy drone over Iran and the claims were quickly rebutted by the Americans who said that drone in question crashed over Afghanistan due to a malfunction.

In a move that’s sure to cause red faces in the Pentagon, the Iranians broadcasted a video of the U.S. spy drone…that looked intact! So much to the idea of it crashing!

However, I would be more worried over the Iranian claims of HOW they bought down the drone. The Iranians claim that they electronically hijacked the drone and bought it down in a controlled descent. If that is true, and there’s no reason to think otherwise as the drone is intact, then American officials may have to redraw their entire strategy for combat surveillance.

If unmanned U.S. reconnaissance plane can be hijacked in the middle of a mission, then they can’t be used. It’s that simple and that would changed any plans the U.S. has for an attack on Iran. It would seem that the massive technological advantage the American military has might becomes its Achilles heel.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Comics this week

Villains For Hire #1- The #0 of “Villains For Hire” was great and I was looking forward to this miniseries. However before the issue came out, Marvel announced that the series would be cut from 5 issues to 4. Maybe that’s why #1 seemed a little rushed to me. The idea behind Purple Man putting together a “Villains For Hire” group is sound and writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have fun with the C-list villains that made up the team. However readers were thrown into the action without any background. Even when the background was given, it was rushed and felt false as the normally cool Purple Man explode in anger and started ranting for no reason. Artist Renato Arlem's work is also mixed. His background work is great as the scenes look good but his action sequence could do with some work. The fight between Scourge and Crossfire looked ridiculous and Tiger Shark looked like a giant in some of them. Still the premise of the series looked promising so I’m hoping for better to come.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

R.I.P

If there’re any doubts that the Kyoto Protocol belongs to the dustbin of history, the latest fiasco of Canada should end it. Canada has announced that it will not renew its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, no matter what.

For years, various Canadian governments had ignored their commitment to Kyoto claiming that it is useless to follow it as the top polluters in the world (China) had refused to cut their greenhouse gases emissions. However this year, China has indicated that Beijing would be willing to sign if everyone, the European Union & the developed nations, signed on as well.

Canada is the first country to say “No” to China. It’s highly likely that China offered the deal with the full knowledge that other countries would baulked at it. If this is true, they were right!

Kyoto is DEAD!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Price Increase Non-Event

Singapore's largest taxi operator ComfortDelGro has raised taxi fares and, as is usually the case in Singapore, this means other taxi operators will soon follow suit. This means it will cost more for commuters to take taxis from now on.

Price rises are never a good thing but to me…I don’t see why Singaporeans are so unhappy about it. Personally, I always thought taxis are something you take once in a blue moon as the public transport system in Singapore (buses, MRT) can get you practically in Singapore.

The price increase is for taxis, not buses. If Singaporeans are truly that unhappy about it…take the bus!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The No Slut "SlutWalk"

Over the weekend here in Singapore, a few hundred people gathered at the Speakers' Corner as part of the global "SlutWalk" movement. To those who do not know, the "SlutWalk" movement started in Canada when a law enforcement officer was quote as saying that women should not dressed provocatively to avoid being victims of sexual assault.

Personally, I thought it was sound, common-sense advice. However some women took offence to the statement as they say regardless of what they're wearing, women should not be blamed. I don’t think for a moment that was what the Canadian officer meant but the global "SlutWalk" movement was born.

Now I have no problem with having a "SlutWalk" in Singapore but the "SlutWalk" over the weekend isn’t really a "SlutWalk". From the picture I saw in the papers, women arrived at the "SlutWalk" in long-sleeve T-shirts and jeans. Yes, I know the organizers said that the idea was not to be provocative or “vamp it up” but to protest against violence against women. If that’s the case, then they shouldn’t use the name "SlutWalk".

If you are going to have a "SlutWalk", then you need to, you know, dress like a slut. The first “SlutWalks” in the U.S. and Canada had participants marching in lingerie with the word "slut" painted on their bodies. Now I’m not saying we need the same thing here but being provocative is the very idea behind the "SlutWalk".

Even the name "SlutWalk" itself is provocative, and it’s deliberately so! If you don’t intend to be provocative, then you shouldn’t use the name.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

EU Debt Crisis

Europe's debt crisis has been an ongoing saga for over a year and still shows no signs of ending. Things are so bad that even signs of action by European leaders are a cause for celebration among investors.

The latest signs by European leaders hoping to end Europe's debt crisis was a call from German Chancellor Angela Merkel who wish to push for stronger rules against overspending by European countries. In theory, this is good. Overspending by European countries like Greece, Ireland etc was what caused the debt crisis so new, stronger rules against overspending is sound.

However, it is also not what Europe needs.

Europe don’t really need new rules on overspending, it already has them. What Europe needs are rules to punish countries who break the rules! Currently Europe don’t have these rules and this is what Europe need at the moment. More importantly, the EU needs an agency to enforce these rules and punish countries who break them.

Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy all overspend and…nothing! Germany has to bail them out and by then, it’s too late. The damage had already been done. As it stands right now, there is nothing to stop EU countries from committing the same mistakes in 10-15 years time.

So forget new rules against overspending; what the EU needs is an agency to enforce these rules!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Review of Warrior

Directed by Gavin O'Connor and starring Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte, Warrior is a surprising solid movie about a family involved in the sport of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts).

The film starts slowly with Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte), a former alcoholic going home from his church. When he arrived home, he see his son Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy) waiting for him.

It was not a happy homecoming as Tommy still held resentment due to his father's former abusive behavior. A few days later, Tommy enters a gym where he knocks a professional MMA fighter named Pete "Mad Dog" Grimes (Erik Apple) unconscious in a brutal sparring bout. The fight was filmed by a spectator who uploaded it to the Internet where it went viral.

Meanwhile, Paddy’s other son Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton), is struggling financially and his home is facing foreclosure. Brendan is a high school physics teacher as well as a bouncer but even with his wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison) working as well, they are still unable to pay off their loan with the bank. Faced with little choice, Brendan takes part in an amateur MMA tournament for the prize money. A former professional fighter with the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), he easily wins the tournament and convinces his wife this is the best and only way to get the money they need. Brendan then hook up with his former trainer, Frank Campana (Frank Grillo), to get in shape and begins to win a series of MMA fights.

As the gods have it (aka the scriptwriters), there is a US$5 million winner-takes-all MMA tournament called Sparta that has attracted massive media attention. Unknown to the two brothers, both Brendan and Tommy entered the tournament for the prize.

First off let me get this off; you really need to see this movie!

In many ways, Warrior is this year’s “The Fighter”. It is a gripping movie about the different paths 2 brother took in their life and how despite their differences and flaws, they are still in the end, a family.

However in many ways, it is also superior to “The Fighter”. Warrior takes an unapologetic look at the effects and emotional aftermath of alcoholism. Even when the alcoholic father had cleaned up his act, forgiveness from his sons isn’t a given. In fact unlike “The Fighter”, even at the end of this movie, it is still an open question whether the Conlon’s estrangement has been resolved.

I especially loved the way the actors threw their all into their roles. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton truly looked like professional fighters and the fight scenes were very well-staged. In the cinema where I saw the movie, there were a couple of times when guys pumped their fists up in the air during the fights and there was even a cheer for one of the characters.

It was that intense.

However the cream of the actors is Nick Nolte. The veteran actor had the meatiness role as the recovered alcoholic father who was unable to make amends with his sons, and he proved up to the challenge. His Paddy Conlon was a man haunted by his past and who knows he has no right to ask for forgiveness. I heard that Nick Nolte may be up for “Best Supporting Actor” for this performance and if he is, it is something he richly deserved.

Of course, there are some flaws in this movie. In many ways, Warrior is a clichéd sports movie. As well made as it is, there is nothing here that you won’t find in other movies like Rocky, The Fighter etc. Originality isn’t the movie’s strong point.

Also director Gavin O'Connor kept viewers at a certain distance from the movie. In what I believe was a deliberate move, O’Conner tried to keep viewers from being too focus on any one character by keeping a distance from them. There were very few close ups and this created some problems in the movie. Certain scenes did not have the impact they should (Paddy’s visit to Brendan’s house/Tommy and Brendan’s confrontation on the beach) due to this.

However, these flaws are minor as on the whole, this movie is excellent. It’s a story of redemption, reconciliation and the difficult path to them. It also didn’t take the easy way out as it was an open question at the end on whether the characters did manage to reconcile. Watch this movie; IT’S GREAT!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Comics this week

DC Universe Online: Legends #18- After a few issues where the focus were on Brainiac, the Green Lanterns and the Sinestro Corp, writers Marv Wolfman and Tony Bedard moved the story back to Earth. In Brainiac’s absence from Earth, Lex Luthor and the Justice League are scouring the wreckage of his ships for clues on his location. Now it is good to see action back on Earth again but this issue was terrible. Individually, the story and artwork are okay but together, they just do not jell. For example, there was a scene when a character commented on the gigantic army Brainiac assembled, and I had no idea what he was talking about. The army in question was never shown! This is not a one-off incident, it happened several times in this issue.

FF #12- This issue starts with the top 3 floors of the Baxter Building translocated to Latveria along with the children of the Future Foundation. Personally I have no problem with writer Jonathan Hickman’s idea to spilt FF with the Fantastic Four. The children are interesting enough to hold their own but Marvel need to get another artist. I don’t know if artist Juan Bobilo is a stand-in or if he is going to be the regular artist, but his work in this issue was terrible. The facial expression of his characters made the children all looked the same and his Richard Reed looked old and wrinkling. His Nathanial Reed looked younger than his Richard Reed! Change the artist, and Marvel might have an unexpected hit on its hand.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Insanity

On 22 July 2011, Anders Behring Breivik became one of the world’s most hated man when he staged twin attacks in Norway that killed 77 people and injured 151. Since Norway doesn’t have the death penalty, Breivik was expected to serve a lengthy jail term.

Now he may not even receive that. Psychiatrists have concluded that Breivik that he is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was in a psychotic state during the attacks. According to Norwegian law experts, this means Breivik will almost certainly be detained into psychiatric care rather than receiving a lengthy jail term.

This also mean there is a good chance of him getting out if and when psychiatrists pronounce him cured. I say…So what if Breivik is insane?

This man killed 77 people and there is a chance he could walk? I thought the Norwegians were crazy not to execute him but even the chance that he might actually be freed one day is ludicrous.

So what if the man is insane? That doesn’t change the fact 77 people are dead because of him! Seriously, men like him are why we need the death penalty. If the Norwegians execute/kill/murder (whatever you want to call it) him, the family and friends of the victims have a chance of closure but now? They are faced with a chance that Breivik might one day be freed.

Now that is insane!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A New Era?

In the General Election (GE) in May, the PAP got 60% of the total votes which was its lowest share of votes in some decades. Not only that, they lost a GRC (Group Representation Constituency) to an opposition party for the first time. It was tidal wave result as the GRC was designed to safeguard seats for the ruling party.

Worse was to come on August 27th, when the PAP backed candidate, Tony Tan, managed to scrap only 35.2% of the total votes to pull off a win in the Presidential Election. With these results on his mind, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong publicly pledged a “new PAP for a new era” in his speech during the PAP party convention. He promised that the PAP will adept to the new political environment and be more interactive with the Singapore population.

Most Singaporeans I know treat his promise with a yawn.

The problem is that these promises had been made before. Countless PAP ministers and members of parliament had promised to listen more to the ground even before the GE in May. These include issues that affect Singaporeans like high housing prices and the presence of foreigners in Singapore.

However housing prices are still high and the amount of foreigners in Singapore is still vast. To many Singaporeans, like me, the PAP has been saying the right things without doing anything. Take the housing prices for example. For months, a string of “experts” from the government has come out to insist the housing prices will come down next year but thus far, there has been no data supporting this assessment. All Singaporeans seen so far is a series of half-hearted "cooling measures" that had cooled nothing. Housing prices has NOT come down and Singaporeans are basically tired of hearing the PAP trying to talk down the market without nothing anything.

No one want to just hear the right things from the PAP, they are now waiting for the right actions. As they say; talk is cheap! The PAP need to come out with new policies to convince Singaporean they are serious about listening to the people.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Search For Life

In the search for alien life, I guess it’s only fitting that our closest planetary neighbor, Mars, is the recipient of the world’s most ambitious mission to physically find life in outer space.

NASA had launched a 900kg robot named Curiosity, to the Red Planet to study if it is suitable for life. Supposed to land in August next year, the giant rover is equip with 10 sophisticated instruments to study the rocks, soils and atmosphere on the planet over a 2 year period.

Personally, I find the idea of such missions great. Even though most scientists believe that Mars do not have the capacity to support life, you never know how life could adept to their environment. Here’s hoping a safe landing for Curiosity!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Comics this week

Green Lantern: The New Guardians #3- After 2 lackluster issues, this series finally kicked into gear. Picking up where #2 left off, it is the Guardians versus the 7-ring Kyle Rayner. It was a blast. I still say the series focused too much on Kyle but at least in this issue, we get to see the other Lanterns working together. The potential of this series is great and for the first time, we are seeing glimmers of it. Here’s hoping for more to come.

I, Vampire #3- Thus far, I, Vampire has been the surprise hit of the New 52 and rightfully so. Keeping up with the different POV style of the series, writer Joshua Hale Fialkov tells the story through the eyes of Professor Troughton, one of the 2 new characters introduced in this issue. He also added some backstory to Andrew and confirmed that this series happens within the DCU. The only question I have is the artwork of Andrea Sorrentino. Her style seems like a good fit for this series but her style also makes it difficult to get into the fight scenes. In the fight this issue, her Andrew just posed too much for my liking. Still, overall I would say this issue is a good read.

Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time #17- In many ways, the early books of “The Wheel of Time” were adventure books. The early books showed Rand, Mat and Perrin traveling around the world and showed off the deep history and mystery of the world they lived in. This issue shows the difference between books and comics. Showing off the world in a book is something of a delight as your imagination can run wild while reading the description of the world. Reading about the history and mystery of the world in a comic book is something else as there are pictures showing you the world; your imagination can’t run wild as when you are reading a book and this is why this issue (which is a travel issue) just doesn’t cut it for me. It’s not badly done, but it doesn’t have the magic the book has. It’s the medium and the difference between books and comics that is at fault here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The 'Cinderella Law'

It’s called the 'Cinderella Law'. Faced with a growing problem of its youth being addicted to playing online games, South Korea puts into effect a 'Cinderella Law' that requires all online games to block players under age 16 from playing between midnight and 6 a.m.

As expected, the law has its opponents which include several South Korean gaming companies like Nexon and NCsoft. It should be noted that part of their problems with the law is on how the companies could possibly compile with it. It’s not unusual for players to lie about their age when they signed up for a game (I know I did) and how they could stop players from circumventing the ban by connecting to overseas servers, which have no such restriction.

These are all valid questions. It does seem that the South Korean government passed the law without fully thinking it through but on the whole, I am in support of it. Frankly, there is no reason for kids to be playing online game between midnight and 6 a.m. There had been times when I did it but I’m a working adult. Some kids below 16 (and some above that age) do not have the self-control to tear themselves from the computer and a law like this is great.

It’s true that there are some questions about the implantation of it but on the whole, the spirit of the 'Cinderella Law' is good. A law like this is something I believe Singapore should look into as well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Acceptance Of The Inevitable

So Israel believes that Iran is less than a year away from being unstoppable in its goal of producing a nuclear weapon and the United States has introduced new sanctions on Iran. I doubt the timing is a coincidence. However I believe there is only one thing Israel and the world can do in such a situation; accept a nuclear-powered Iran.

Now I know the governments of the United States and Israel have stated that they would not accept a nuclear-powered Iran and have not ruled out a military strike to Iran to stop or delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions but the simple fact of the matter is this; you can’t stop Iran! Every military leader from the United States and Israel have stated that air strikes on Iran's suspected nuclear sites would not be effective as there are too many of them and they are too spread out.

Yet the leaders of the United States and Israel have not ruled out possible air strikes on Iran's nuclear sites!

I do not understand why would you want to do something like that when even your own military leaders say will not work? Despite what the leaders of Israel says, I don’t believe the sky would fall if Iran got their hands on a nuclear bomb. The reason is that North Korea got their hands on nuclear bombs years back and no war has erupted on the Korean Peninsular yet.

Also, it is highly unlikely that Iran would do anything even if they got their hands on nuclear weapons. After all, Israel has hundreds of them, the United States has thousands of them and Iran can’t have…1, 2, 3?

That makes no sense. The United States and Israel can’t stop Iran so they must accept them. The alternative is an attack on Iran that would not work and a conflict that would engulf the whole of the Middle East. Compare to the alterative, accepting a nuclear-powered Iran would be the wise thing to do.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

OH NO!

I’m not a fan of movie remakes. Especially Hollywood remakes. Especially Hollywood remakes of classics! Especially Hollywood remakes of anime classics! (Dragonball: Evolution, I’m looking at you!)

So when I heard that Warner Bros.' is doing a live-action movie remake of Akira, I was like, “NO!” Then when I read that Kristen Stewart is to play Kei, the female lead in Akira, I was like, “Oh, NO!” Now I read that Stewart’s character is now called Ky Reed and she's part of an underground movement to expose the government for turning orphans into living weapons.

My reaction to this; this movie is going to be crap!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bridge?

At the current South-East Asian Games (SEA Games), Singapore’s athletes has been going quite well. That includes our bridge players who won a surprise gold and silver in Palembang.

Bridge?

Yes, bridge as in the card game! Now I’m not one of those guys who thinks only Olympic sports should be in a regional competition like the SEA Games, but a card game like bridge has no place in a sporting competition.

Now, I’m not saying there is no skill involved in playing bridge but if bridge is allowed in a sporting game, then why not poker, mahjong or even Magic: The Gathering? These are all games which require some level of skill; does it mean all these games should be in the SEA Games?

Of course not! They are not athletic sports and neither is bridge. No offense to the bridge players currently at the SEA Games but they should not be there.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Comics this week

Justice League #3- You know when I heard that the first story arc of the Justice League would be set on the founding of the team and that the New 52 would showcased younger versions of Superman & company, I was ready to accept some changes. Boy, I wasn’t ready enough. Writer Geoff Johns ready took the “younger version” theme to the extreme with Wonder Woman. In this version of Wonder Woman, Diana is a woman who is a naive superhero…and I mean NAÏVE. This issue wasn’t a bad read and I can foresee a lot of Wonder Woman fans being very unhappy with this version of Diana. On the plus points, Jim Lee's Justice League is one that showed him back at his best. His attention to details is still a little lacking but the battle scenes are great. If you like superheroes getting down and dirty with villains, this is the issue for you.

DC Universe Online: Legends #17- The release of this series has been all over the place due to the New 52, and frankly this series deserved better. The issue starts off with Hal Jordan and Sinestro on the devastated world of Korugar. After a short side-trip by Sinestro to explain the battle between his Corps and Brainiac’s forces, the battle continued with the Sinestro Corps taking the fight to Brainiac. They failed as expected but the joy was in the journey. Writer Tom Taylor managed to convey the doom desperation of the battle and the massive mistake of the Green Lantern Corp not to help in the battle against Brainiac. Like I said earlier, this series deserved better because it is by far one of the better series on the stands right now. Forgot some of the new 52 titles (which are crap), this is the series DC should be concentrating on.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Beside The Point

Currently on Yahoo Singapore news, the most read article right now is on who was the one responsible for opening the floodgates for immigrants in Singapore. Most Singaporeans believed that long-time Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew is the one responsible for the policy but the writer of the article, Chua Suntong, believed that current Emeritus Senior Minister (don’t ask me what that means) Goh Chok Tong is the one most responsible.

I say; who cares?

I think an argument about who is most responsible for the policy is slightly beside the point. The problem of too many immigrants in Singapore is one that we still have because Singapore is still accepting immigrants even though 1 in 3 people in Singapore are foreigners.

Having an argument about who is responsible is pointing the finger without solving the problem. I’m not interested if Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Chok Tong or Lee Hsien Loong is responsible for the policy; I’m concern about how they will fix it!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Strange NBA

The last NBA season was widely considered to be a successful one. The Miami Heat managed to get 3 star players, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, on the same team and this move increased publicity for the league.

Somehow though, most of the teams (22 out of 30) in the NBA still managed to lose money. Accordingly to reports I read, the losses amount to about US$300 million. The owners of the teams blame this on the division of basketball-related income between them and the players. In the last labor agreement, NBA players got 57% of the income. This year, there would be a new labor agreement between the owners and the players, and this time the owners want a 50-50 division of basketball-related income.

The players are offering a 52.5%-47.5% spilt which they say would cover the owner’s loss of US$300 million. The owners do not dispute that but has insisted on a 50-50 spilt to guarantee profit for them. This is the part where I got lost.

Now I only have a passing interest in the NBA nowadays but I do not understand how the owners could get away if the call is for “guarantee profits”! I mean as a businessman, it’s my job to make my business a successful, my job to make my business a profitable one.

Here the owners have a union who is willing to cover all their losses, and they are still not happy? The NBA players are offering them a deal where there is almost no way they could make a loss and they are not taking it? A deal where they can’t lose is not good enough for the owners?

What kind of businessmen are they? If someone offered me a deal where there is no downside and plenty of upside, I would race you to the pen! No wonder the idiots are going to the courts!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Libya’s Troubles Not Over Yet

A month after the death of Moammar Gadhafi and already, the various rebel factions in Libya are now fighting over the spoils of war. Rival factions have clashed for 4 straight days on the outskirts of Tripoli. 2 things are obvious from these clashes.

One; the National Transitional Council (NTC) is unable to control their own forces. Libya's interim leader, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, said the NTC had brought together elders from the feuding areas to discuss the dispute, but the fighting is still ongoing. Two; the Western powers that bought the NTC to power have washed their hands off Libya. No word has come out of London, Paris or Washington on the fighting. It seems that after Gadhafi, they have no interest in who rule Libya or peace in Libya as long as the oil flows.

You know, fighting between the rebels force was always on the cards but boy; that sure didn’t take long. I guess it was too early to say the Libya civil war is over.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Real Time

I read about the survey that '1 in 5 employees in Singapore work 11 hours daily' and thought, “That doesn't sound right.” The survey also says 31% of Singapore employees worked for nine to eleven hours daily, and almost half of them took work home more than three times a week.

However like most surveys, it’s not totally accurate. I have to say those numbers are underestimating the problem.

The main thing is that although these are the “official” work time of Singaporeans, these are just a drop in the bucket compare to the real time Singaporeans put in at work. I will give you an example; ME!

I’m supposed to work 8 to 8 and a half hours daily depending on my shift. Do I work just these hours? No, because I have overtime at least once a week. Do I claim overtime for these extra hours? No, because the extra hours are not officially overtime but considered “time-off” which I can claim later. Can I claim these “time-off”? No, because the office is short of people and they require people to do extra work. If they need people to do extra work, quite naturally you cannot claim your “time-off”.

These “time-off” are not record officially as overtime and they are also not part of my working time. They are, like I said earlier, just unofficial time at the office where I put in extra work. I have over 17 hours of time-off on my record right not. I have no idea when I can claim these hours, and I’m not alone. Almost all of my colleagues are in the same boat.

So I can easily say the survey showing '1 in 5 employees in Singapore work 11 hours daily' is wrong. The real hours are a lot higher than that!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Comics this week

Artifacts #11- Writer Ron Marz is the go-to guy for Top Cow right now and thus far the veteran writer has delivered. It says a lot about his work when even as the universe hangs in the balance, Marz still manages to deliver a story that’s shows the more intimate side of the characters. He also did the smart thing this issue by moving the focus away from Sara (Witchblade) and Jackie (Darkness). I especially like the tough guy talk between Ian Nottingham (Blood Sword) and Michael Finnegan (Glacier Stone). I’m not impressed with artist Jeremy Haun’s work this issue but overall the series has been a nice surprise. Top Cow feels the same way. Artifacts is now an on-going series.

Demon Knights #3- Artist Diogenes Neves has been doing some great work thus far in Demon Knights. His pencils have been fantastic, his characters have been spot-on and his layouts are perfectly in tune with writer Paul Cornell’s scripts. I put everything in the present tense because #3 is just as good, if not better than the previous 2 issues. The shocking last page of this issue shows perfectly the great work Neves has been doing thus far. If you have not pick up this series yet, then let me tell you this; you are an idiot!

Green Lantern #3- This issue picks up exactly from where the last issue ended with Sinestro and Hal still on Earth agreeing to the terms of their alliance. The back and forth ego talk between the two was pretty entertaining and in many ways that sum up this new series so far. It’s not earth-shattering and groundbreaking like the previous GL series but it is still a fun read. Writer Geoff Johns has a good grasp of Sinestro and Hal and artist Doug Mahnke’s dynamic style is perfect for cosmic characters. The only problem I have is that Johns seems a little unsure which character is the main guy in the series. Even as he sort that out, Green Lantern is still a good fun read.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The London Cabs

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced that they have agreed to extend the operation of London cabs for another year. Originally, SMRT Taxis had announced that they are phasing out its fleet of London cabs when their license expires next year.

However complains from the Singapore public, mostly from handicapped people, has put pressure on LTA to allow the London cabs to continue operations. Wheelchair-bound people who rely on London cabs to commute are cheering the latest decision from LTA.

Personally, I’m all for the decision. Although I have never taken a London cab before, having them around is an option which is good for the public, especially handicapped people. However, it was stated that the extension for the London cabs is only for 1 year.

That is too short. I think LTA need to extend the license for longer than a year because when the extension period ends in 2013, handicapped people will again face the same problem as they do now. A longer extension would be in the interest of everyone.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Queue No. 3031

For the past month, I had been playing DC Online. A MMO set in the DC universe where you fight alongside Superman, Batman, The Joker among others, I found this to be a pretty good game.

The game is more of an action RPG than most MMOs but that’s not a problem for me. I always like games who take risk so it was okay for me. I was enjoying the game when the game went free-to-play (F2P) or more accurately a hybrid payment scheme. I admit; news of the game going F2P was one of the reasons I pick up the game in the first place. I have no problem with the game going F2P.

What I have a problem with is the way Sony screw up the transition. I still have days left on my subscription but when I login, it says, “You are queue no. 3031.” Now I can understand the influx of new players once the game goes F2P but surely under a hybrid payment scheme, you give priority to current subscripters right?

Not for Sony! I do not understand why but Sony does not have such a program. Sorry Sony but why in the world would I continue with my subscription with the game (which I was thinking of doing) if I am no. 3031 in queue along with all the F2P players who are queuing without paying a cent in subscription?

Giving priority to current paying customers ought to be a given. I have play F2P games and always understood that paying gamers have priority over me. Sony should have got this right from the moment the game went F2P but for some reason, this is not the case. For me, that is a terrible screw-up.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Posting Their Life

In recent days, Singaporeans were shocked when a teenage girl boasted on Facebook that she had slapped her mother and called her several names. Ho and beholden the questions of how young Singaporeans are losing morals!

To these people I say, “Don’t sweat it. Nothing has change.” Seriously, children and parents having disagreements is something that has always happened and parents and children getting “physical” with one another is also not new. Personally, I don’t think this incident show any decline of “morals” but the stupidity of teenagers nowadays who post their whole life on social media for the world to see.

That is something I'm worried about! In the past when such incident happened, kids are smart enough to keep their mouth shut about the matter. No one talk about it, even with close friends. Nowadays kids post the incident on Facebook!

That girl is a moron!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

In the fantasy genre, dragons are a staple. In almost all fantasy novels, you will see a few dragons in the books fighting it out. So it’s is rare to see a book with an original twist to the dragon mythos. To his credit, Stephen Deas gave it his best shot.

In the world of The Adamantine Palace, dragons are highly-prized domesticated mounts for knights and an example for military might in the empire. The Adamantine Palace lies at the centre of the empire and is home to the Speaker, the ruling head of the Dragon Kings. Elected by the various kings and queens of the empire, the current Speaker will have to step down soon and the various princes, queens and kings are all plotting to install their candidates in the position.

Murder and betray are par for course but while the humans argued and plot, a new danger arise when a dragon slipped out from the leash of the humans. A white dragon named Snow with his handler, Kailin, became lost during an ambush and time passes, Snow began to regain his mind. To me, this is where the book got interesting.

We discovered that the dragons were not truly domesticated but drugged by the humans. The problem for the humans is that without the care of the alchemists and their drugs, the dragons will revert back to their true nature. And their natural state is that of a highly intelligent, dangerous, powerful and telepathic creature who view humans as nothing but food. Not only that, Snow now knows and understand how humans have been drugging dragons for hundreds of years, so you can add rage to that mix.

Feeling highly violated, Snow now has a dream of freeing other dragons and destroying humanity and their civilization. This while the humans are still playing their political games in the Adamantine Palace.

First off, I have to say Deas has an interesting plot for his series. The Adamantine Palace is the first of a trilogy and the overriding plot of the series is very good. The fact that dragons are a force of nature is something other books have done before but Deas emphasis the fact that in his world, dragons are a brutal force of nature who are at the top of the food chain. The part where Snow simply ate Kailin because he was hungry shows the brutal fact of the food chain.

There is also a very good idea about how humans keep the dragons in check. The drugging of the dragons and the institution that was created to maintain the drugging of the dragons are very well done. It is an institution that required a lot of people to maintain and you can understand why Snow blames the whole of the human race for the act.

I also enjoyed the fact that although the dragons are setup to be the villains of the series, you can understand why they intend to destroy all humans in the empire. Villains whose actions are understandable always work better. It’s almost fitting the consequences the humans are going to face when the dragons slip their leashes.

Of course, there are some poor sections of the book. This is Stephen Deas’ first novel and it some ways, it shows. Although this is a book about dragons, the book is spilt in two halves. One showing the adventures of Snow, and the other showing the various plots and schemes of the princes, queens and kings all aiming for the Speaker. Basically, I think he tried to do too much.

The dragon parts of the book works well and are the highlights of the book. The political sections of the book work less well. One of the reasons is that the book is told through various points-of-view. POV books allow the writer to cover a lot of ground but it can also lead to some uneven characterization. Queen Sheriza is one that comes to mind. Her relationships with her 3 daughters were never flesh out and she was like a well with no water. She seems like a deep character but there is nothing in the book that we can drink from.

Personally I would prefer it if the writer dumped the whole political section of the book and concentrated solely on Snow. I would have liked to read more about her dreams and her memories of how the land was like before the drugging of the dragons.

Also some of the chapters are very, very short. So short that sometimes I wondered why Deas bothered. Worse is the fact that the book is told through various POV so some characters has only 1-2 chapters before they are gone.

However, I must still say this was an enjoyable book for me. The book has a strong plot and the some very interesting characters. The Adamantine Palace isn’t perfect but if you long for a book showing strong, brute dragons, this is the book for you.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Running Out

The never-ending stream of new MMORPG games looks to have run its course as various gaming companies have announced either the closure or delayed of games. Several MMO companies are canceling titles, laying off staff and halting development of new MMO title.

Most people, even gamers, would not have noticed anything as currently this trend is only affecting the smaller companies and lesser known games. LEGO Universe and Troy Online (which lasted all of 3 months) announced their closure while several companies have also announced layoffs.

Not to sound insensitive to people who had lost their jobs but it’s about time! To me, there are just too many MMO games on the market. The amount of new titles (mostly poor) on the market obscured the market as older titles see a lost of player population due to player migrating to new titles to check them out. I admit I’m also guilty of this.

So to me, it’s not actually a bad thing that the poorer titles are going the way of the dodo. Sad that people are going to lose their jobs but the better titles will survive. In the end, that’s for the better of the MMO gaming industry.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Greece Needs To Go

With the Greek referendum now off the table, it looked like Greece will continue to be in the eurozone for awhile. I believe it would be better for Europe, Greece and the rest of the world if the Greek get out of the Euro now!

Now I understand why European leaders have been trying hard to keep Greece in the eurozone. If Greece goes, it would be chaos on the global economy. Greece would have to default on its debts and European banks who lend Greece their money would be unable to get their money back. That was the main reason why banks agreed to accept a 50% loss on Greek bonds in the latest bailout package. Also countries who had funded the earlier bailouts, the ECB (European Central Bank) and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) can all forget about getting back the money they lent Greece.

Guess what? Even if Greece enforce all the austerity measures they agreed to; even if China and Japan suddenly decide to help bailout the eurozone (not bloody likely in my view); even if there is no more financial crisis of any sort in the world for the next 10 years; Greece could still default!

Frankly the bottom-line is this; Greece is bankrupt. That’s just the long and short of it. Greece is bankrupt and it is hurting the rest of the Euro nations with its presence in the group. Just the fears of a Greek default caused Italy's borrowing rates have jumped to record levels, and that is a big problem because Italy’s debt is much greater than Greece. This is also the reason why I think it would be better for Greece itself if it get out of the eurozone. There is a real chance that Italy, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain would default sooner or later. If just one of these countries default, Greece would be affected as well if it was still in the eurozone.

For the rest of the world…I don’t think I need to go into how it would help the rest of the world if Greece goes right?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Comics this week

Uncanny X-Men #1- There are a few rules you have to follow when it’s the first issue of a new series. You need to introduced the characters, you need to show what the series is about, you need to show why the characters are doing what they are doing, and you need to do all these in an entertaining manner. It's hard and unfortunately I do not believe writer Kieron Gillen managed to do it in Uncanny X-Men #1. Gillen tried to cram all the information in the first half of the issue and then have a fight against Sinister in the second half. However by trying to do too much, he succeed in neither. The main problem for me is the fact that Cyclops' plan to be both superheroes as well as weapons of mass destruction was given short shift in this issue. I mean if he is going to call a meeting of all the big guns of the mutant race, the least he should do is to tell them what actions they are allowed to do to act as deterrent right? I mean there are guys like Magneto and Namor at the table, people who think nothing of killing a couple of hundred people to get their message across. You are going to tell them to be weapons of mass destruction but not tell them what they can’t do? I would much rather Gillen skip the fight in the latter half of the book and concentrated on how the team would function. Lucky for us, artist Carlos Pacheco did a great job to (almost) save the issue. Pacheco captures the characters well and make the action sequences exciting. It’s just too bad Gillen's script trying to do too much.

Villains for Hire #0.1- Writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning had a short, forgettable and unsuccessful run at Heroes for Hire earlier this year. Now they are back but with a tweak in the series. Instead of heroes for hires, it is now villains for hire. I dig this. The concept of villains being up for hire works perfectly (much better than the concept of heroes for hire) and having a villain like The Purple Man as the main man pulling the strings is a great idea. Abnett & Lanning picked the correct villain for the job and this prologue fill me with excitement; something Heroes for Hire never did. This is one reader looking forward to the series.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Can't See How This Can Fail

It took a disappointing General Election for them to realize it, but it seems the Singapore government has finally decided to act on a long-standing complaint from normal Singaporeans. That is the number of foreigners working in Singapore.

Or at least it looked that way on the surface. Minister of State for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin announced that the government will have new guidelines preventing discriminatory practices against Singaporeans. These guidelines will include things such as job advertisements indicating that foreigners are preferred, the preferential hiring of foreigners over suitable Singaporeans and preventing companies having an over-reliance on foreigners.

However I say it only looks that way on the surface because the government has refused to put the matter into law! Mr. Tan say that employers’ mindsets must be changed to tackle the problem, so this is something that must be done through “moral persuasion”.

“Moral Persuasion” in Singapore? Right, that is an excellent idea which will work. There’s no way such an idea will fail. In fact, let’s take away all the traffic fines in Singapore and “morally persuade” drivers in Singapore to follow all the traffic rules in the country.

Yes! I can’t see how that can fail.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Stupid Law At Work

As widely expected, Palestine scored a diplomatic victory yesterday when UNESCO granted Palestine full membership into its body. In a vote of 107 for and 14 against, the victory was marred however by the United States saying that it will stop its funding for UNESCO.

Now some Americans may feel that the United States do not really need UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, but your country is going to face a big problem down the road. The cutting off of the funding comes due to a U.S. law that prohibits U.S. funding to any U.N. organization that grants full membership to any group that does not have "internationally recognized attributes" of statehood from the United States.

Basically that means the United States cannot fund any U.N. agency that recognizes Palestine as a full member. This will be a huge problem down the road as Palestinian officials have indicated that they intend to apply for full membership with as many U.N. agencies as possible! With the wide margin they got with the UNESCO vote, the Palestinians will win a lot (if not all) of them. That means the United States will have to cut off funding to all these U.N. agencies which will mean a massive loss of influence for the U.S.

For all the funding on the line, you can be sure countries like China, India, Russia, Brazil etc are more than happy to take up the tab to gain influence at the U.N. at the expense of the United States. The bottom-line is simple; if the United States does not engage the U.N., they have no influence at the U.N.

That is why I strongly hope, for their sake, the United States do not cut off funding to UNESCO. The simple fact is that the stupid law in question is insane. No matter how strong an ally Israel is, they are not worth the United States destroying its own influence at the United Nations. Israel is one country, the U.N. is a world body through which the United States can exert influence throughout the world. Simple logic would tell you which is more important.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Comics this week

FF #11- Writer Jonathan Hickman is one of those writers that is either hit-or-miss. He set-up these layered plotlines that not only tell the story but also setup further stories down the road. If the stories he lay down works, it’s beautiful. If it does not, it’s a waste of space. This issue is a setup issue with Reed gathering all his contacts for battle against the Inhumans. Annihilus and his Cult of the Negative Zone, Ronan and the Kree are also all in the mix. How would all this pan out? Frankly I have no idea but currently it’s not very exciting.

Green Lantern: The New Guardians #2- When this series was announced, I dug the idea of a group with members of all 7 Corps together. So I am currently not that impressed with this series thus far because the focus has been too much on Kyle Rayner. Yes, I know the main plot of the series is on how a wayward ring from each of the colored corps has somehow chosen him as their bearer but what about the rest of the cast? Enough about Kyle already! I want more Murk, Saint Walker and Arkillo. And could DC please get their artists in line on how to draw the Guardians. They look like comedians in this issue.

I, Vampire #2- Now this is a surprise! After the debut issue where the action and focus was on the goody, goody vampire Andrew, this issue the focus is on Mary, the Queen of Blood. And I mean this issue was told from the POV of Mary. That is both surprising and bloody great! Personally I find it ironic that for a revamp that was meant for its main superhero lines, the best series coming out of the 52 are series like Demon Knights and I, Vampire which you can’t see a superhero anywhere on the pages.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Not So Fast

As news spread of European leaders sealing a deal to fix its debt crisis, stocks throughout the world rose. Europe has put together a deal that would shored up its bailout fund, pledged new funds for Greece and persuaded/forced banks to take a 50% loss on Greece's debt. As expected, stock markets rose on the back of this grand deal.

The stock markets are counting their chickens before they hatched.

I am not convinced that this “grand deal” will fix Europe’s debt crisis because the deal is missing one key ingredient of solving the crisis. It didn’t say how they Europe intend to deal with the problems facing Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Spain.

Greece might be the biggest problem facing Europe currently but they are not the only one in trouble. In fact, if things come to a head, the debt crisis of Italy and Spain will dwarf Greece by a hefty margin. How does Europe intend to deal with the potential debt crisis of Italy and Spain?

Keep in mind that under this current deal, they are already forcing banks to take a 50% loss on Greece. I doubt they would be able to get the banks to take any more pain for Italy and Spain. Even if the banks want to, the size of Italy and Spain might make that impossible!

So…what’s the strategy to deal with Italy and Spain? Until they answer those questions, don’t expect the European debt crisis to go away anytime soon.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Alibaba & Yahoo

For years Yahoo has been overshadowed by Google and, to a lesser extent, Facebook. For when I heard that China’s internet giant Alibaba Group is trying to buy over Yahoo, I wasn’t that surprised. However Yahoo! Inc. co- founder Jerry Yang quietly came out to say his company isn’t necessarily up for sale but is “merely” looking at all options.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter. To me, the big news is how a well-known American internet company is being looked at as a takeover target by a Chinese internet company. Both are well known internet giants but it says a lot for China economic growth (and potential) that the Alibaba Group is a potential buyer of Yahoo Inc., not the other way around.

So in more ways than one, whether it happens or not, the potential takeover of Alibaba of Yahoo is a watershed event. Not just for the internet, but for the whole of the business world as well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thailand Floods

Since the flood in Thailand started 2 months ago, it had killed 356 people in the country and caused about $6 billion worth of damage to the country. But sometimes words can only say so such, while pictures can say everything. Here are some pictures of the devastation;



Monday, October 24, 2011

So He Was Killed...So What?

Days after Muammar Gaddafi's death, the international community (aka NATO) still claims that there is a lack of an account about how he died. Now I haven’t been paying that much attention to NATO’s war on Gaddafi, but even I know how he died.

We have all seem the video which a wounded but still alive Muammar Gaddafi was captured by rebels forces. Next thing we know, he was dead. It ought to be obvious what happened! He was killed by the Libyan rebels who captured him! Same thing happened to his son Mo'tassim Gaddafi.

I fail to understand why the international community are refusing to admit this pretty obvious scenario. Muammar Gaddafi was killed by the Libyan rebels. It was always going to happen because civil wars are nasty zero-sum game. So what? Admit it and move on. What’s so difficult about that?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Canadians, Canadians, Canadians...

You know I read on Yahoo news that the majority of Canadians believe that their Prime Minster, Stephen Harper, is vastly overpaid. As a Singaporean, I can’t help but think; “Are you Canadians insane?”

For those people who do not understand why I feel this way, maybe this list can help you.

Top 10 Political Leader's Salary by Country (2010):
1. Lee Hsien Loong (Singapore): $2,183,516
2. Donald Tsang (Hong Kong): $513,245
3. Raila Odinga (Kenya): $427,886
4. Barack Obama (United States): $400,000
5. Nicolas Sarkozy (France): $302,435
6. Stephen Harper (Canada): $296,400
7. Mary McAleese (Ireland): $287,900
8. Julia Gillard (Australia): $286,752
9. Angela Merkel (Germany): $283,608
10. Yoshihiko Noda (Japan): $273,676

That’s right! In the list of Top 10 leader’s salary, Canada ranked just 6th on the list. Now for people who think that is still very high, remember I am from SINGAPORE! My Prime Minister is paid 7 times more than the Prime Minister of Canada. Hell my Prime Minister is so far ahead of everyone, I won’t be surprised if Barack Obama or Angela Merkel got red eyes just reading this list!

So for Canadians who believe their Prime Minster is overpaid, remember this; At least you are not a Singaporean!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Australian woman survives attack by large kangaroo!

Let's see if you can understand this? A woman in Australia was walking her dogs when they came upon a big kangaroo.

One of her dogs (who was not leashed) chased after the kangaroo who fought back with its claws. Seeing the dog in trouble, the woman used a stick to attack the kangaroo to save her pet. The kangaroo naturally defends itself against the dog owner, leaving the woman with cuts to her neck, ears and back before hopping off.

The headlines in Australia; Australian woman survives attack by large kangaroo!

Yes, in this whole incident the fault lies not with the woman or her stupid dog but the kangaroo for “attacking” the woman. Not defending itself but “attacking” the woman!

Thanks goodness something like this does not happen in Singapore (cough…monkeys in Telok Blangah…cough).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupy Raffles Place?

I can understand what the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in America is about. Big banks got huge corporate bailouts, their CEOs got massive bonuses, but it has failed to get the economy going and now the corporate bigwings refused to pay higher taxes despite getting the bailouts. So I do understand the movement.

And I also understand that the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in America has shown surprising strength. However, anyone who believes there is even a remote chance of it happening here in Singapore needs his head checked.

I don’t know what was funnier; the call by some people to “Occupy Raffles Place” or the police reaction to it. The police quickly issued a statement stating that any gathering at Raffles Place is unlawful and they will be label as anarchists by the mainstream media.

Why bother? I ask that because the majority of Singaporeans are not interested in social causes. We are a money-making, money-grabbing, money-everything capitalist society. We are infamous for this; our people are ranked right up there with people from Hong Kong for god sake and you think Singaporeans will “Occupy Raffles Place” like in America?

Dream on people! I have a better chance of hitting Toto than that happening. This is Singapore!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review of Real Steel

When I read the premise of “Real Steel”, I wasn’t really that impressed. A film about boxing robots sounds like a second-rate Transformers movie to me. And I wasn’t really a fan of the Transformers movies.

After seeing the movie, I’m not actually wrong. In some ways, “Real Steel” is a little like the Transformers movies where robots go out and destroy each other. However, in many other ways, it is not.

This is because “Real Steel” actually has a story in it.

Directed by Shawn Levy, “Real Steel” is the story of Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) a former boxer who now fights with boxing robots because boxing is the only thing he knows how to do. However Charlie isn’t a very successful robot boxer and owns various people a lot of money due to his own failures.

However things begin to look up when Charlie is informed that his ex-girlfriend has died, leaving behind his son Max (Dakota Goyo). Max's aunt Debra (Hope Davis) and uncle Marvin (James Rebhorn) want full custody, and Charlie offered a deal to Marvin to give them full custody in exchange for $100,000. Marvin added a condition that Charlie would need to take care of Max for three months while he and Debra went on a vacation. Both men shook hands on the deal.

You can probably guess the story from there. Father and son hates each other at first before bonding as they rebuild a robot called Atom that brings them to the big leagues. Well, actually Max built the robot while Charlie fights it but you get the idea.

In many ways, “Real Steel” is Rocky meets Transformers. To the credit of director Shawn Levy, this is a movie that works despite the clichés. Silly premises aside, this movie has a heart as the story is focused on the father-son dynamic of Max and Charlie. The movie is also anchored by solid performances from its actors. Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo were good but I think special mention need to be given to Hope Davies and Evangeline Lilly who both made the most out of their limited appearances.

I especially enjoyed the robots in the movie. Each was distinct and you can see that the designers put some effort in making different from one another. Unlike the Transformers movies, when the robots in “Real Steel” fight, you can easily tell them apart. That makes the fight scenes much more exciting.

Of course there were some sore points for me. It was hinted several times in the movie that Atom was more than just a normal boxing robot, that there might be some intelligence and soul behind him. However this was never expanded on and it was a plotline that was left dangling at the end of the movie.

Also the 2 main villains of the movie were well…kind of weak. I know Tak Mashido (Karl Yune) is supposed to be a genius and Farra Lemcova (Olga Fonda) is supposed to be rich, but they both did nothing in the movie. Almost every single time you see them in the movie, they were being interviewed. It’s hard to be fearful of villains when that’s the only thing you see them doing! We never got to see how much of a genius Mashido is or how rich and powerful Lemcova truly is. They were more like arrogant sport-stars than villains and even then we never got to see just how good they are at the sport of robot boxing.

“Real Steel” is one of those movies that did nothing great, but everything well. There is robot fighting, a love story, a father-son relationship, and redemption; all in the movie. Overall, I have to say “Real Steel” is a surprising good and enjoyable movie.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Listening

In the recent Presidential Election, former People’s Action Party (PAP) backbencher Dr Tan Cheng Bock caused a stir by coming within a percentage point of defeating the preferred PAP candidate Dr Tony Tan. As Singapore's 12th Parliament kicks, the former PAP MP (Member of Parliament) is not going into the shadows as he urged current PAP backbenchers to “stand up for their beliefs”.

The former presidential candidate has said during the Presidential Election that many of his former backbenchers have refused to help him with his campaign as they do not wish to cross the party. This is something Dr Tan obviously does not agree with as he was known as a backbencher who has no bones about publicly disagreeing with the government. When he was a PAP MP, he spoke out against certain policies like foreign talent intake and the Nominated MP scheme. He is now urging others to take up his place.

Now I’m sure the party elites of the PAP are not happy about his call, but I do feel that there’s a good reason for them to allow the backbenchers some leeway. The PAP backbenchers need to do this to appease the grassroots. For many years now, the PAP had parachuted candidates into safe seats and let them win on the backs of their grassroots movement. That can no longer be counted on.

Basically the grassroots are no longer convinced that it is worth having PAP backbenchers who do not listen to them. Dr Tan’s presidential campaign was a grassroots movement and as the results showed, they are an important and big part of the PAP machinery. The PAP needs the grassroots on their side if they intend to win the next election and that means the PAP backbenchers need to listen to their grassroots more. More importantly, they need to publicly go against the PAP elites on behalf of their grassroots if push comes to shove.

Frankly you can’t argue with numbers. Like I said earlier, I’m sure the party elites of the PAP are not happy about Dr Tan’s call but for the good of the PAP, PAP backbenchers need to listen to him. As the results of Dr Tan’s presidential campaign showed, he is on to something.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Be Very Sure

When I read that the United States say that they had stop an assassination plot by Iranian agents to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States, my reaction was, “So what?” Intelligence agents killing people is hardly unusually, so this is hardly new.

However the United States seems determined to make a big issue out of this and go to the United Nations Security Council on this. I will tell them this; better make sure you got good evidence to back you up!

The reason is simple; everyone (and I mean everyone) still remembers then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech in February 2003 to the Security Council where he present U.S. “intelligence” on Saddam Hussein's nuclear program. I don’t think I need to say what happened after that.

So if the United States wants to go to the U.N., they better make doubly sure everything is on the up and up. This is because the accusation are…well, kind of preposterous. I mean if the Iranians want to kill someone, why get Mexican drug cartels to do it? I’m sure they can do it themselves without the help of drug-dealers. Also why the Saudi ambassador? If the reason is to cause trouble for Saudi Arabia and Washington, why go for a figure like an ambassador? Surely there are better targets.

These are questions that people will be asking so if the United States wants to go to the U.N., you better have good answers to them. You can get away with shouting about the “plot” to reporters without evidence but not at the U.N. and not to people of the world. The United States say they got strong evidence against the Iranians, for their sake, I hope so.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Comics this week

S.H.I.E.L.D #3- S.H.I.E.L.D thus far has been a wordy confusing series with plots within secrets within plots within secrets etc, etc, etc. If you are confused by that, don’t feel too bad because that has been the series so far. Most of this issue however was packed with action as S.H.I.E.L.D threw everything including the kitchen sink at the Star Child and…nothing works. We also get to see just how powerful Da Vinci and Leonid are and how they pale in comparsion to the Star Child. Yes, the Star Child is just a baby but it is a Celestial baby so that is still something. This issue is a surprise as it has very little dialogue and it is also the best issue thus far in this new “volume”. If this issue is any guide, we need less of Jonathan Hickman’s writings and more of Dustin Weaver's art. Maybe that way, this series can still be saved.

Green Lantern #2- When Hal Jordan lost his position as Green Lantern, everyone knew it was just a matter of time before he got his ring back. I’ll give this to writer Geoff Johns; this is a strange, surprising way to give Jordan his ring back. The backdoor deal Sinestro offered Jordan is in line with his character and not for the first time, I do wonder if it would be better if Sinestro held on to the green ring for awhile longer. Let’s admit it; everyone knows it’s just a matter of time before he loses it. Still the way Sinestro dealt with his return to the GL Corps shows that he is a different GL from everyone else in the Corps and why he was once considered the best GL in it. His return as a GL might/will be more interesting than Jordan’s eventual return so why not run with it?

Demon Knights #2- I always had a hard time getting into the character of Vandal Savage. I mean this is an immortal guy who has been alive since the caveman era and usually he walks around in a business suit. That just doesn’t gel for me. Writer Paul Cornell thinks so too because his Vandal Savage, in the Dark Ages, is perfect! The way Savage tore into the dragons, actually dinosaurs, with gusto was marvelous. I have to give special mention to artist Diogenes Neves as well on the excellent art in this issue. The kinetic action was never confusing as Neves spaced his work beautifully. This is a tag-team that is made for this book and I would go as far to say Demon Knights is the most entertaining books of all the New 52.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2 Years and Counting!

One of the things I truly dislike about cinemas nowadays is how fast they pull movies from the theatre. Films will have 1 week, maybe 2 weeks to prove their worth after which they will be pull from the screens unless they are smash hits.

So it is gratifying (and slightly embarrassing) to hear that a local Singapore film "Money No Enough 2" has been showing at a 70-seater cinema in Taiwan for the past 2 and a half years! A small cinema in the city of Taichung has shown the local movie since May 2009 and the cinema owner, Huang Ping-his, told reporters that he will continue showing it as people are still seeing it and because he loves it!

In Singapore where almost all the cinemas are owned by chains, you will never see this. Oh, the joys of a private cinema owned by a movie-lover!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Internet Election

The General Election (GE) earlier this year was touted as an "Internet election" as parties used it to released information and raised their profile. Online blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube; you can easily find info of the parties during the GE.

However a study by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) found that new media may not have as much an influence as many believed. The most telling of the findings is that the two least active parties online, the People's Action Party (PAP) and Workers' Party (WP), emerged with the most votes at the polls whereas the most active party online, National Solidarity Party (NSP), had a poor outing at the polls.

My view on the study is mixed.

Although I agree that the internet was not a decisive factor at the polls, I do believe that it can still be called an "Internet election". The main reason I say this due to the massive advantage the PAP has over the mainstream media. News coverage during election time via television or newspaper had extensive coverage of the PAP but had much less on the opposition. Without the internet, opposition parties would have almost no chance of delivering their message to the Singapore public.

However I do feel that studies like this are important to the political parties of Singapore. Parties should look at the study by the IPS to see what kind of online service is most suitable in reaching Singaporeans. Personally I feel that some internet activities like Twitter are useless in elections. I mean you are not going to convince anyone to vote for you in 160 characters or less so there’s no need to have so much updates on Twitter.

Studies like the one by IPS are useful as they can be used to help parties see what works and what didn’t in the last GE. With information like this, I fully expect the internet to play an even bigger part in the next GE. The internet might not be a decisive factor this round, but this is just the first time the internet played any factor in a GE. As such, I do believe you can still call the recent GE an “Internet election”.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Peace?

Considering that the Nobel Committee once awarded its annual Peace Prize to U.S. President Barack Obama just 3 months into his presidency for doing…well, nothing, I guess the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to 3 women for promoting women’s rights is to be expected. However that still doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

Now I have nothing against Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee or Tawakul Karman, but there is a huge difference between women’s rights and promoting world peace! By their own definition, the Nobel Committee admitted that the 3 women are promoting women’s rights. So how in the world can they justified awarding them the Noble PEACE Prize?

That makes no sense! Women's rights is women's rights; there is a lot of difference between promoting that and promoting world peace. A hell lot of difference!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Monkeys and Humans

One of the joys of the joys of walking at the Forest Walk in Telok Blangah is that at times you can see a band of macaque monkeys walking along the trail. I must have walk along that trail over 50 times and I’m always on the lookout for the monkeys.

To me, it’s a joy to see them. Unfortunately, that does not seem the case for some Singaporeans. National Parks Board (NParks) officers say that they are looking for a monkey who is attacking people along the park. To me, they should be looking out for the humans along the trail, not the monkeys.

I must have jogged past those monkeys 2 dozen times by now and not once did I ever have any problems with the monkeys. The problem lies not with the monkeys but with the idiot humans on the trail. Basically Singaporeans are city people and most of us are extremely uncomfortable with wild animals. I have seem people screaming their lungs the moment they see the monkeys. FOR NO APPARENT REASON!

The monkey will just be sitting there on the metal railings of the skywalk, the humans are the ones walking past and the moment the monkey look at them, they will start screaming. I even once saw a girl going close to take a photo of a monkey but the moment the monkey turned its head and looked at her, she backpedaled screaming. And she was the one who got close to the monkey!

To me, Nparks are looking at the wrong species. To me, the monkeys are okay because even if they follow you, after awhile they would tail off. The main problems on the trail are humans who visit a 9km chain of green open spaces and, for some reason, are afraid of seeing monkeys! To me, the problems between monkeys and humans on the trail are more due to humans than monkeys.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The “New 52"

It has been a month since DC launched their titles under the “New 52” logo. As a marketing tool, the “New 52” is a clear success but are the titles worth the hype? It’s still early days but read on and find out my views on the “New 52”. (Now there’s no way I am going to write 52 reviews on all the #1 so I am splitting the titles under the different lines they are under.)

Justice League- DC has openly said that Justice League will be the new flagship of the DCU. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee say they have a plan for JL but it may be a standalone plan because thus far there has been little to connect the various JL titles. I know it’s just #1 but I really can’t see any connection whatsoever between Justice League, Justice League International and Justice League Dark. All 3 titles seem more interested in showing how the different teams came together which I think is a waste. DC should get its gears in order and show why all 3 teams have the Justice League name on them.

Batman- Last I checked, Bruce Wayne was globetrotting around the world putting his Batman Inc. together but under the “New 52”, he is back as Batman and struck in Gotham. Frankly I prefer him going around the world, leaving Gotham to Dick Grayson. Of all the lines, I find the Bat titles having suffered the most under the revamp. Before the revamp, the various titles have ongoing stories that were both intense and interesting. Although not much have changed under the revamp, the writers are going to have to waste a few issues to state the new status quo instead of pushing on with the stories.

Superman- Unlike the Bat titles which underwent minor changes, the Superman titles underwent massive changes in an effort to spruce things up. Sadly I found that most of the changes missed the mark. Splitting the titles to show Clark Kent as a young Superboy and as Superman is in my view a bad move. The revamp is supposed to make things easier for readers and having 2 titles showing Clark Kent in 2 different ages is just confusing. Worse, there is a separate Superboy title showing Conner Kent! Good luck trying to keep the timeline in order as the titles goes on!

Green Lantern- Unlike the changes that the rest of the DCU have undergone, the GL titles have came through the revamp untouched. It is a smart move by DC as there’s no reason to fix something that’s not broken. I’m a little worried about the new “The Red Lanterns” series as the first 2 issues have not been impressive but I feel good for the overall health of the various GL titles. No need to change a good thing.

History- Yes, I know there’s no such thing as the “History Line” in DC but there should be! I have always enjoyed history and I love the fact that DC is trying to fresh out the history of the “New 52”. Between I,Vampire, All-Star Western, Stormwatch & Demon Knights, DC is showing that although superheroes are new to the public of the DCU, there always had been beings with superpowers throughout its history. This is something DC should continue with because the potential is incredible. They could have series set in the 1930s (Justice Society), Victorian England (Batman by Gaslight) or anytime in the past and it would make perfect sense. The writers are also having a blast as they are having fun filling in the background of the new DCU. I,Vampire & Demon Knights are 2 of the better series in the revamp and we need more!

Verdict
The “New 52” had been sold out but overall I feel that they were more due to a marketing success than a creative one. Creatively there has been some success on certain titles but if the reason for the revamp was to streamline the DCU to make it more accessible to new readers, I don’t think I can call the revamp a success. Personally, I don’t think new readers will find the “New 52” any more accessible than the old DCU. I mean the “Huntress” series isn’t even set in the “New 52” DCU.
However what the “New 52” did managed to do was to get readers to pick up the books due to all the hype. On that front, on the commercial and marketing side of the business, the “New 52” can be called, yes, a success.