Monday, February 28, 2011

3x Increase

The biggest story in Singapore football these few days is current Singapore captain Shahril Ishak who recently signed with Indonesian football club Medan Chiefs. Along with national defender Baihakki Khaizan, Shahril signed with the Indonesian club in a 2 year deal that’s worth about $15,000 per month.

Compare to Europe this deal may not seem like much, but in this region this is a big deal. In Singapore, both footballers may only get around $4,000-$5000 a month. However not everyone is happy about the deal. The problem is that Medan Chief plays in the breakaway Indonesia Premier League, a league that is not sanctioned by the country's football association. This means that Shahril and Bhaihakki may not be able to play for the Singapore national team as they are playing in a non-sanctioned league.

The media in Singapore has been critical of the duo for putting their interest before their duty to play for the Singapore national football team. However most players (and ex-players) in Singapore support the duo decision to sign with Medan Chiefs. I add my voice in support. Come on, this club is offering the duo a 3 times increase in salary for the next 2 years and you expect them to say “No”? If someone headhunt me and offers me a 3 times increase in salary, I will resign my job immediately.

Come on, this is Singapore! This is a non-country, as stated by our leaders, so do you truly think the duo will put representing their non-country before their careers? In this non-country, money comes before loyalty.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Comics this week

Brightest Day #20- With the series winding down, writers Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi have well and truly dial up the action. Aquawar conclude the fight between Aquaman, Jackson, Black Manta and Siren. A very well choreographed battle between the two sides made interesting by 2 things; the introduction of Mera and Aquagirl, and how kick ass Aquaman truly is. It’s been awhile since we saw Aquaman summoning an army of sea life to aid him and the page where he finally did it was great. This issue also hints at why the White Ring return the 12 heroes and villains to life. With its end coming, Brightest Day is getting better and better.

X-23 #6- Every hero need a villain. Batman has Joker, Captain America has the Red Skull, and it look like X-23 will have Mr. Sinister. Personally I’m not sure about this. I understand you pretty much need a big bad villain in the series that is introducing a relatively new character to the public but I would much prefer writer Marjorie Liu to let X-23 find her feet first. Throwing a big villain like Mr. Sinister into the fray immediately may be a problem. Basically, I fear X-23 may be overshadowed by the villain. Hopefully that will not be case and I am truly hopeful because thus far, Liu has done good work with the series.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Only In Malaysia!

Even within Southeast Asia, Malaysian courts have a reputation for ridiculousness (cough, Anwar, cough). However this latest case I read is so funny even Malaysians are laughing about it.

A Malaysian man was fined RM1,500 for scratching his private parts. Now when I first read the headlines, I thought he was a molester or something but it turn out this wasn’t the case.

The man, Mr. Ahmad Hairul Nizam Hussin, was in his own house when he scratched his private parts after a morning bath. A female neighbor who was hanging clothes along the corridor of her home saw him through his open window and bam!

Mr. Ahmad said that he never knew the woman was even there, much less looking into his house. Considering that he did this at 6am in the morning, that seem extremely reasonable. Too bad for him the judge didn’t think so. Faced with a default three months' jail term, Mr. Ahmad wisely just pleaded guilty to outraging the modesty of the 41-year-old school teacher and paid a RM1,500 fine.

Now Mr. Ahmad do not dispute the fact that he had exposed his genitals to the woman but come on! This happen at 6am in the morning in his own house, so is it that unreasonable to believe that this was an accident?

Whatever happen to live and let live? I can’t believe something like this can even get to court, much less that the judge issued a RM1,500 fine on it. Hopefully, only in Malaysia!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Another Bust On The Way

With Thor, X-Men: First Class, Captain America: The First Avenger, the new Batman movie all coming out, there is going to be a glut of comic book movies. And it is not going to stop!

With all the top tier comic book characters taken, secondary and third tier characters are being mined for the box office. The latest is Preacher. Director D.J. Caruso is going to adapt the series into a movie.

Now I know there had been talk for a long time about adapting the comic book to the big screen but haven’t we learned anything from the bust that were The Losers, Jonah Hex and Scott Pilgrim vs The World?

History has shown that secondary and third tier comic book characters are not going be box-office hits! Preacher is great (I have the first four issues of the series) but it is a cult series. The fanbase is small, even among comic book fans, so how well is it going to do with a wider audience?

My guess is not well.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Addiction & Games

There had been reports of people being addicted to online gaming. In Asia, this is especially a problem. In Beijing, a 30 year old man died after playing an online game for 3 straight days.

This is but the most recent case as reports had surfaced before in South Korea. In Vietnam, the folks have had enough. The Ministry of Information and Communication in Vietnam has called for a nightly ban on online gaming across the country between 10pm to 8am. According to reports from Vietnam, there will be a block on access to online games each day from 10pm to 8am.

Frankly, I don’t agree with this ban. Despite agreeing with the reason behind the move, I can’t see the ban working. The ban doesn’t stop people from playing from 8am to 10 pm and even then, people can play off-line game between 10pm to 8am (the ban period). Basically I don’t see the ban working because I see addiction as the problem, not games.

Games by themselves, no matter how fun, are not addictive! Online games do not kill people and anyone who thinks otherwise is confusing gaming with addiction. It’s two different things.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Protests Spreading

After Tunisia, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak followed. After Tunisia and Egypt, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi seem like the most likely to follow. However, there is one huge difference with Gaddafi. He is not going away quietly.

Gaddafi's forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators, with some reports stating fight jets are being used to bomb protesters. His son Al-Islam Gaddafi also warned of civil war if the protesters do not back down. In some ways, this is very much in the keeping of Gaddafi’s image.

In his 41 years of rule, he has faced down America and the international community before, so it’s hard to imagine him backing down from his own people. With a mounting revolt against his rule on the cards, the world is now faced with a huge problem.

What to do if the leaders in the Middle East refused to step away? With protests spreading throughout the Middle East, do we back the strongman in the region with their promise of stable rule or the protesters with their desire for chaotic freedom?

Decisions, decisions, decisions! Either way, we are living in interesting times.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Condom Heist

Everyone heard of the million dollar bank heist right? The romantic bank robbery that has been immortalized in movies like Heat and The Town, that net the robbers millions of dollars! In Asia, who needs a bank?

In Malaysia, 3 thieves had managed to pull off a heist worth over $1.5 million. However don’t expect a movie about it because these guys stole…condoms! Yes, according to Malaysian police, the trio stole some 725,000 condoms worth $1.5 million.

Yes, condoms! What’s even funnier is that the trio seen to have gotten away with it! Although they were caught, the condoms are still missing. All $1.5 million worth of them!

Wow! I never knew condoms were worth so much but I guess that doesn’t matter as long as the heist works. The trio may be rich men when they are released.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Comics this week

DC Universe Online: Legends #2- As an example of how DC Universe Online: Legends is not going to be just another cash-cow, writer Tony Bedard extend the cast of the series in this issue. Fringe characters like August General in Iron and Solomon Grundy were given scenes to shine while Lex Luthor put his plans into motion. The one thing I don’t enjoy is the flashback on how Brainiac and Luthor managed to conquer Earth. Kidnapping the Daily Planet for “sample testing”? Come on!

Green Lantern #62- Krona, the rogue Guardian, made his epic return to DC. With his leashed entities, he took on the Atrocitus, Larfleeze, Hal Jordon, Sinestro and members of the Indigo tribe. Took them on and defeated them soundly! This was a set-up for the coming arc but I feel that writer Geoff Johns tried to do too much. Doug Mahnke did his best but his art clearly suffered from a lack of panels and space. There were just too many characters in the fight against Krona. Usually it’s not a problem but Johns was clearly trying to give everyone a line or two and this clog up the space. However the last scene saved the show. Hal made the hard (but correct) choice to leave the JLA and throw his lot with the different corps. It was the correct decision but the decision was clearly difficult and the scene was perfect!

S.H.I.E.L.D #6- This mini-series ends with the reveal of Michelangelo as the Forever Man and the promise of a Volume 2. Volume 2? There’s a Volume 2? It is as I had feared. Writer Jonathan Hickman was too ambitious with this project. Between the fight of Sir Isaac Newton and Leonardo Da Vinci, Leniod, the time jumping of Agents Richards and Starks, Nikolas Tesla, and Michelangelo, Hickman had bitten off more than he can chew. We are now at the end of the series and I still have no idea what this series is about. Is this S.H.I.E.L.D even supposed to be defending Earth, because they seem more interested in fighting each other! I will have to put this mini as a missed opportunity.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Common Sense

When Tour de France champion Alberto Contador received a one-year ban, I said that the ban was unjust as it seem more like a mistake than cheating. Contador tested positive for the banned drug clenbuterol at an amount that is 400 times below what is needed for him to get an advantage from it.

Most experts agree that he would not have gained any advantage but even then, he was ban from cycling for 1 year. Now the Spanish cycling federation has reverse the ban. Some would call this national pride as Contador is a Spaniard, but that doesn’t change the fact it was the right decision.

Now I can’t say for sure Contador didn’t take drugs (this is cycling after all) but if you are going to ban someone, you should have strong evidence that the man was cheating. This was not the case with Contador. So in the end, common sense prevailed.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Janabi Against Assange

On 5th February 2003, former US secretary of state Colin Powell told the United Nations that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons. During the speech, Powell said that their information came from Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, who was an Iraqi chemical engineer.

The faulty information was used to justify the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Now the man in the centre, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, has admitted that he lied to help get rid of Saddam Hussein. And he’s not sorry about it.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Janabi all but admitted that he lied. He said that he was given a chance to fabricate something to topple Saddam Hussein and was proud he gave Iraq a margin of democracy.

No surprise as it has been clear for some time that there were no biological weapons in Iraq. Now I question what’s going to happen to this man. So far, it looks like nothing and I have to wonder why!

I mean compare Janabi to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. Since WikiLeaks released the US cables, the US has been trying ways to get Assange including a crazy rape charge. However Assange never lied to the American government, never got America to commit to a war that cost American billions of dollars and thousands of dead soldiers. Compare the two men and I know who I rather go after if I’m an American.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Protesting Against...?

Last week, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called it quits after 2 weeks of protest from his people. After his downfall, people from Iran to Bahrain to Yemen are protesting against their government.

Yet there is little news coverage for these protests. Now some will argue that this is fatigue; after Egypt all these protests looks small in comparison. True in a sense because of how important Egypt is, but I think the reason is even simpler than that.

No one know what the protesters are protesting against! I mean Bahrain? Anyone knows what they are protesting against there? I doubt even the protesters know because I read that Bahrain's protesters don't want to overthrow the ruling family. They want more powers for the parliament and to break the monarchy's grip on senior government posts.

Maybe there's something wrong with the news reports because I always thought that's what a monarchy is. Monarchy means the ruling family have a grip on all the important posts in government! That's a monarchy!

In Egypt things were simple. They wanted President Hosni Mubarak out. All these other Middle East protests, what the protesters want is still up in the air.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Review of The Fighter

It’s Oscar season again and a stew of movies have come out of Hollywood for a chance at the big prize. The Fighter is one of these movies and is based on boxer Micky Ward who came out of nowhere to capture a world title.

Despite the premise (and marketing) of the movie, the film is actually a family drama. Directed by David O. Russell, the film has Mark Wahlberg as Micky Ward with Christian Bale starring as Micky’s crack-addicted older half-brother Dicky Eklund. The film is more about the relationship between the two than about boxing.

And the movie is better for it!

Anchored by strong performances from the two lead, The Fighter tracked the rise of Micky after Dicky hit rock-bottom due to his addiction to crack cocaine. They were helped by strong performances from the supporting cast. Amy Adams gave a strong performance as Charlene Fleming, the girlfriend of Micky who gave him the needed push to rise to the top, and (in my view) Melissa Leo gave the best performance in the movie. As Alice Ward, the mother of the two men, she was the perfect combination of steel, love and blissful ignorance. Loving her children too much to notice their flaws, watch for the scene where she saw Dicky jumping out of a crackhouse just to escape her.

However it’s not all roses and no thorns. As a family drama, this is great film but anyone looking for a boxing movie need to go elsewhere. Despite this being a movie about a boxer, there is surprising very little boxing in it. I understand why this was marketed as a boxing movie but it really isn’t one. I wouldn’t even call it a sport movie; it's a family drama.

I also felt that the movie ended a little early. The real “Irish” Micky Ward was best known for his epic trilogy of fights against Arturo Gatti. The film never show any of the 3 fights. In short, the movie ended before Micky Ward reached the height of his career. It was a funny choice to make as most autobiographical films track their protagonist till the time they reach the top but The Fighter ends while Mucky was still rising.

However if this sound like I am nitpicking; you are right. I am! The Fighter is a good movie with solid acting from a stellar cast. It’s small wonder that the movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Bale) and Best Supporting Actress (Adams and Leo). Wahlberg should have been nominated as well. Frankly, there wasn't a poor performance from anyone.

Basically if you are looking for a good drama with great acting, this is the movie for you.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I Was Wrong

After over 2 weeks of protests, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak finally decided to resign from his post. Even though Mubarak's downfall came at the hands of one of the biggest popular uprising in modern history, I admit; I did not think they could do it.

There were several reasons for my thinking. Mubarak has been in power for 30 years, he was entrenched as almost all of the elite in Egypt depends on him, the military and the police was with him, and he was supported by the United States, the West, even Israel!

Against that was a motley crew of protesters that don’t even have a leader. That was organized via the internet and Facebook. That didn’t have anything going for them except numbers. No guns, no bullets, no army, nothing but anger at the way their country was being run.

And the protesters won! Amazing, history-making, and incredible! I was wrong, I guess you can never discount the strength of feelings!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Death of “Guitar Hero"

The curtain has finally fallen on “Guitar Hero." The video game that let people pretend to be rock stars, it created a whole new subgenre for music video games. However due to declining sales, Activision Blizzard Inc will halt all development on the franchise.

Yes, sales have decline for “Guitar Hero" but Activision Blizzard Inc has no one to blame but themselves for it. My reasoning is simple. When “Guitar Hero" became a global hit in 2005, Activision decided to make money from it by crunching out different “versions” of the game. So instead of games which provide something new, gamers got versions like "Guitar Hero: Metallica," who provide nothing but new songs for specific bands.

Since 2005, other franchises like “Rock Band” also hit the market. However they are also facing the same problems “Guitar Hero” is facing. I think between “Guitar Hero" and “Rock Band”, there must be over 20 versions of the games. That’s just too many versions of a genre that is only 5 years old!

Frankly, in the chase for consumer dollars, Activision killed their own franchise by flooding the market.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Comics this week

Heroes for Hire #3- The main difference between Heroes for Hire and Birds of Prey was that Misty Knight was being secretly controlled by the villain The Puppet Master. All these heroes working for Knight didn’t know that ultimately they were working for a villain. I guess it was too good to last. In this issue, we see the beginning of the end for that storyline. Too bad because it was the only thing that gave Heroes for Hire an edge over Birds of Prey. The main saving grace this issue was the art by Brad Walker. He was again excellent.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Too Fast

I never watched last week’s Superbowl. Personally I think American Football is one of the most boring to watch sports on the planet, I mean they stop for 30seconds after EVERY play! At least! How do Americans managed to sit through 3-4 hours of a game?

So I don’t bother to watch the game but even then I read about singer Christina Aguilera screwing up of the American national anthem. Embarrassing but things like that happen right? You messed up a few words but it’s not really a big deal.

What is a big deal was how fast information traveled! I read that the incident was updated on Christina Aguilera’s Wikipedia page…by the third quarter of the game! I mean the page was updated before the game was anywhere near over. Since a game of American Football can last a few hours, I can understand this but Wikipedia depend on volunteers!

So this means a non-paying member of the public went through the trouble and updated the incident on Wikipedia on his own while the game was on and this happen like an hour after the incident. I know information travel fast nowadays but isn’t this almost too fast!

I just hope the guy who updated the incident on Wikipedia just found the game too boring (totally understandable) and wanted something to do something else. If not, instead of “too much information,” in the future we will have “too fast information”!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Scary Image

The picture above shows the top half of the world covered by snow and ice. It is almost unrecognizable right? Well, get use to it because this picture is not a fake.

This is not a picture of a coming ice age or an artist’s painting of the world; this is an actual image of the Earth on February 3, 2011. Released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the astonishing picture shows the Northern Hemisphere almost totally covered with snow and ice. That was the day when a severe winter storm hit almost half of North America.

As scary as the picture is, it still only tell half the story. What the picture does not say is that bad weather also hit people in the Southern Hemisphere. There’s Cyclone Yasi that hit Australia, the volcano eruption in Indonesia, the drought in the Amazon Rainforest…scary isn’t it?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Preah Vihear

Here we go again! Cambodia and Thailand are once again clashing over the 11th-century Hindu temple, Preah Vihear. The fresh fighting is so serious that the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has appealed to the United Nations Security Council to hold an urgent meeting "to stop Thailand's aggression."

Naturally Thailand has defended itself in the latest clashes rejecting Cambodian claims that they were the aggressor in the latest clashes. Unfortunately for Thailand, they face a huge problem; to the rest of the world (including Southeast Asia), there is no dispute.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia. That was 49 years ago and most of the world has long since considered the temple as Cambodian. Furthermore, the World Court also ruled that the main entrance to the temple as Thai territory. This was an act of compromise that was accepted by both sides till Preah Vihear was granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.

Since then, Thai nationalists like the powerful yellow-shirts movement have been using the temple as a rally point for their cause. So powerful are they that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has rejected any mediation efforts from ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

Thailand does not seem to understand that on Preah Vihear, they are almost alone on the international stage. Almost every country in the world considered the temple as Cambodian and it has been that way for almost 50 years! Or maybe they do know that and that’s why they are rejecting international mediation. Either way, Thai diplomats are going to be working overtime for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Comics this week

Brightest Day #19- At the end of last issue, the White Ring destroyed Hawkman and Hawkwoman. As the bearer of the ring, Deadman demanded the reason from the White Ring. Amazingly, the White Ring exactly started to tell him why! Yes, after 18 issues writers Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi have finally decided to (slowly) let the cat out of the bag. There’s still a lot of questions but with the end of the series coming, better late than never. The bulk of this issue however is on Aquaman, Jackson, Black Manta and Siren. A straightforward battle between the two sides, this issue is in keeping with a trend in recent issues; more battles involving one of the main characters for the entire issue. As long as they keep that up, Brightest Day will end with a bang!

DC Universe Online: Legends #1- Based on the recently released action-MMO, DC Universe Online, I thought DC Universe Online: Legends was going to be a series that’s designed to cash in on the video game. I was pleasantly surprised however by this first issue. Set in one of the 52 worlds (I think), DCU Online: Legends come across as an entertaining fast-paced comic book with a lot of potential. If you look at it as a “What If” or “Elseworlds” series, it exactly has a very interesting premise. What if Lex Luthor and Brainiac team-up and managed to kill Superman? Brainiac comes up with the plan while Luthor provide the resources to build Brainiac's enforcer robots. Together they managed to kill Superman and defeat the heroes of the DCU. After that, Brainiac betrayed Luthor and want Earth for himself. Luthor then find himself in the unlikely position of hero as he attempt to rally the remaining heroes and villains of the DC Universe against Brainiac. The last page of this issue show the motley crew he managed to recruit and writers Marv Wolfman and Tony Bedard made some good choices there. The characters they choose give the issue an international feel and remains the reader that this is an international incident; that Brainiac is going after the whole world. Like I said; very interesting.

Secret Six #30 – After last issue’s crossover with Action Comics, this issue comes with another crossover with the Doom Patrol. As much as I dislike crossovers, writer Gail Simone had great fun with this issue. Scandal arranged a blind date for Bane which turned out hilariously, better yet Bane even got the girl! Simone threw jokes left, right and centre, not all of them worked but enough that this was one of the better issues of Secret Six in some time. Now they just have to change the artist. Jim Calafiore’s style just isn’t working for this series.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

For the $$$

I guess its back to the drawing board for Michel Platini. The current president of UEFA has tried to reign in wages and transfer spending of clubs ever since he took over the running of UEFA. Unfortunately for him, the football clubs of Europe do not share his noble goal.

Anyone who believes otherwise can just look at England. By the end of the mid-season transfer window, English clubs spent a total of 225 million pounds…in a month! A record fee was paid by Chelsea who paid Liverpool $79.5 million for Spanish striker Fernando Torres. Liverpool then used the money on young English striker Andy Carroll who joined Liverpool from Newcastle for $56.5 million. What this about the United Kingdom being in a recession?

Now before anyone scream about football going money mad, there’s exactly a method to the madness. Chelsea and Liverpool are both in bad form and in real danger of not finishing in the top 4 in the English Premier League. Being out of the top 4 means no Champions League place next season, and that means no big payday next year.

So in their mind, it’s better to spend the cash now to ensure a top 4 spot at the end of the season. Even if it looks like a panic buy! Some will argue that Andy Carroll is a promising young striker who is only be 22, so he’s for the future but he also only has 1 England cap, has played only 41 EPL games, and is currently injured! $56.6 million for an injured striker who is only in his first full season?

That has panic written all over it. But Liverpool managed to finish in the top 4 by the end of the season, it will still be money well-spent.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wrong Line of Defense

Recently Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew published a new book, Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going. In the book, he commented on various issues affecting Singapore including his view that the Muslim community don’t do enough to integrate with the rest of society.

His comments have caused outrage within the region as many Muslims were offended by his views. Quite naturally, the Singapore government has gone into damage control mode. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is also Lee Kuan Yew’s son, stepped forward to say his views are different from those of his father. Dr Yaacob Ibrahim Singapore’s Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs has also stepped out to defend Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s comments. He said that the MM’s views on the Muslim community are a “worst-case scenario”.

I agree that the government must defend the MM’s views in his books. For better or worse, the MM and Singapore are one and the same. Whether you agree or not with this view, this is something a lot of people feel so the Singapore government has to defend him from critics. It is also important to control the damage created as the Muslim community in the region seemed truly offended by his views. I mean when even the docile Muslim community in Singapore express unhappiness at the comments in the books, you know it is serious.

However I believe the Singapore government is taking the wrong tack. Anyone who read the book could tell you this; the MM’s views on the Muslim community are NOT a “worst-case scenario”. At no time in the book was it stated by the MM that his view was a “worst-case scenario.” If the main man did not call his views a “worst-case scenario,” the Singapore government can’t. No one who read the book will agree with them.

If they wish to continue this line of defense, then they need to prove that the MM said it (or something like it) but it was left on the editing floor and never published. Better yet, have the MM come out and say it himself. Let him say that he meant no offence to the Muslims and his views should be considered as a “worst-case scenario.”

If the Singapore government can do that, the problem will be solved and the whole thing will blow over. And considering the outrage within the region, the sooner this whole mess blows over, the better for Singapore.