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 clich├ęd 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.