Friday, August 31, 2012

Pre-School Education?

As a rule, I usually do not care much about the National Day Rally. Most of the time what the Prime Minister (PM) say on the day is just a rehash of government policies.

This year’s National Day Rally was pretty much the same. PM Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally Speech on Sunday may have touched on some issues but most of what he says is in line with current government policy. And that is why I can’t understand why some parents like the idea of establishing a new statutory board to oversee pre-school education.

That means exams and tests. For pre-school children! Yes, I know no one has said anything about exams and tests yet but be serious; I mean this is Singapore. Does anyone truly believe a government statutory board on education will not recommend exams and tests to “track” the progress of students sooner or later; even for pre-school students! Even if they do not want to, kaisu parents will not allow it. They will want “data” to make sure their children do not “fall behind”.

That is why I cannot understand why some parents actually like the idea of establishing a new statutory board for pre-school education. Children in Singapore are already under enough pressure from primary school onwards; there’s no reason to add on to their stress. Leave the pre-school centres alone, a few years of fun and play will not “destroy” your children’s future. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Comics this week

Green Lantern Annual #1- The annual was supposed to be the start of the next great GL saga and after reading, it’s actually more of a prologue. Writer Geoff Johns again expanded the mythos of the GL while artist Ethan Van Sciver returned to Green Lantern, the series where he made his name. All the ingredients of a new great event are here; the new Guardians, the First Lantern, the birth of The Third Army, the “death” of Hal Jordon and Sinestro, the awesome prison, but there was something missing; A coherent story! The annual started with Hal in a coffin. I’m sorry here but since when did that happened? I can only guess it’s something that happened off screen because in #12 of GL, both Hal and Sinestro were still fighting Black Hand. It was as if Johns decided to get the details out of the way and go straight to the big reveals. The reveals were great but a story is more than that and on this, this annual was disappointing.

Justice League #11- The kiss! Yes, I know it’s the last issue of The Villain’s Journey, but all details have been overshadowed by THE KISS! Even in Singapore, the kiss between Superman and Wonder Woman made it on the news. And when it finally happened, the smooch between Superman and Wonder Woman was surprisingly understated. Which was great! I was worried the moment would be spoiled by a need for it to be “momentous” but the understated way it happened made the situation even more special. The rest of the issue was almost backdrop to the kiss. The fight against Graves was pretty weak but the aftermath was much better. Green Lantern leaving was kind of expected due to the events in the GL books but I questioned the new line-up shown in the previews. After just 12 issues, I think it might be too soon to change the whole structure of the team but hopefully I’ll be proven wrong.

Supercrooks #4- This double sized issue closed off Mark Millar’s Supercrooks. The series had been surprisingly good thus far but in a way I’m glad its out of the way. I can’t help shake the feeling Bolt and his gang would get on my nerves after a few more issues so the earlier than expected send-off was welcomed by me. Artist Leinil Yu’s work suited the story well and the only problem I had was that the plan went off almost too well. For all the talk of being the most successful supervillain in the world, The Bastard was played like a yo-yo by a team of second-rate supervillains. That just didn’t gel with me but overall I have to say Supercrooks was a good series.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Par For Course

Apple Inc.'s $1 billion victory over the weekend in their patent dispute with Samsung has supposedly sent shockwaves through the mobile market industry as many people are now wondering how the verdict would impact other players in the market.

I don’t think it will affect them much in anyway shape or form.

I don’t think so because I personally think the verdict delivered in America is pretty straight forward. In my mind, there wasn’t much doubt Samsung rip-off the iPhone. It was pretty obvious but to be fair, Samsung wasn’t the first company to do such a thing. Many companies do the same, especially in Asia. Singapore’s Creative was locked in such a patent battle with Apple before.

So this is not the first time there is patent dispute and it will not be the last. Also being as powerful as they are, this verdict is probably nothing but a bump in the road for Samsung. They probably already have an army of engineers working to go around the patent.

That’s why I think this verdict will change nothing. Ripping off your rivals is almost par for course in this industry and this verdict is not going to change that.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Not A Good Start

As a player who likes to solo at times, Guild Wars is one game that never really held much interest for me. A game, even a MMORPG, that almost demands that you join a guild is just not for me.

Even so, I’m keeping an eye out for Guild Wars 2. After the so-so success of Star Wars: The Old Republic and the failure of The Secret World, there is a lot riding on the success of Guild Wars 2. The game is now in pre-release and thus far…I’m not actually a fan of what I read.

The main reason is that even though the game is still not officially released yet; a player has already reached the level cap. Nothing usual there but the player in question, Surfeuz, did it without fighting. The level cap was hit simply via crafting. It seems Guild Wars 2 give experience when you craft items and Surfeuz hit the cap simply by crafting with guild-donated materials for his guild.

I’m sorry but for me a MMORPG is about exploring the world. Allowing a player to reach the max-level by standing at one spot and just craft items is just stupid. It’s like City of Heroes where some players will just stay in the AE building and reach the cap without ever leaving the building. I can’t help but shake my head at those idiots.

Luckily, ArenaNet (the maker of Guild Wars 2) has immediately come out to say they are "fixing these issues”. It seems that at least they know this is a bad thing to have.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Comics this week

Green Lantern: The New Guardians #12- This series has been stop and start for awhile now but this issue is strange even by that standard. Writer Tony Bedard suddenly gave Kyle Rayner a leadership speech which made no sense when you compare it to the previous 11 issues of this series. Hopefully things would get better with the new story arc.

I, Vampire #12- After the jaw-dropping last scene in the previous issue, writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Andrea Sorrentino had a lot to live up to this issue. They managed to come up with the goods. The surprise conclusion of this issue knocked everything out of the park as, somehow, the insane plot works! I, Vampire is quickly making itself a “must read” for all comics reader.

Justice League Dark #12- Oh Tim Hunter, you stupid stupid boy! Writer Jeff Lemire is clearly a big fan of the old Vertigo universe as all things Vertigo made a comeback this issue. Not only was the prophecy of Tim Hunter being the greatest mage of his time dished around, there was also the Zatanna/Constantine backstory where Zatanna’s father, Zatarra, got killed. The twist of Tim Hunter no longer being a mage is cool and gives Lemire room to explore the magical world of the New 52 even more. The only problem I had with this issue was the too short cameo of Doctor Occult and the tired mystery of the villain. That is a cliché that has been done to death. Outside that, it was a good issue.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Puzzling And Ridiculous

I totally understand where Lance Armstrong is coming from. Now I’m no fan of the American who bullied his way to 7 Tour de France titles but seriously enough is enough.

Armstrong has over 500 dope tests in his career and never once has any of them came back positive but still the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is claiming that he was guilty of doping. The thing is…no one cares!

Armstrong may be a legend in the cycling world but he won the first of his titles over 10 years ago. And the man is retired! It is stupid and crazy for an anti-doping agency to be pursing a man who is no longer competing. What? Is there a lack of drug cheats currently competing in various sports nowadays?

Armstrong is right. This smells of a grudge and it seems personal. The US anti-doping agency had came out and said that it is stripping Armstrong of his Tour de France titles. That is both puzzling and ridiculous. How in the world can an “anti-doping agency” do that? Is the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency a sporting body now? I always though they are there only to catch drug cheats!

So even though I’m not a fan of him, I understand where Lance Armstrong is coming from. No matter how proud or stubborn you are, some things are just too ridiculous to fight against. If I was him, I would do the exact same thing; I’m retired and I’m going to enjoy my retirement.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Why Singapore Need The Death Penalty

After murdering 77 people last year, you would think that a death sentence is the least Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik would get. However as Norway don’t have the death penalty; an unrepentant Breivik has only been given a 21 years jail sentence.

Yes; I said “only”.

Now some people might think this is enough as the Norwegian judges handed him the steepest penalty possible and most believe there is no way he is ever going free. However I disagree.

A man like Breivik should be given the death penalty. He has not showed any remorse at all during his trial. Even when he was sentenced, all it did was draw a smirk of triumph from the man. Triumph! And during the trial, Breivik openly said that he would do it again. The man was glad he was sentenced for his crimes and has no regrets!

This is a man who blew up a government building and then shot 69 teenagers at a summer youth camp. And he is not regretting a single moment of it. Tell me; how is keeping a man like this alive good for anyone? There are some people in the world that deserved death. I don’t think anyone can argue Anders Behring Breivik is one of those people. One of those people that makes me glad Singapore has the death penalty.

Having that option for our judges is far more sensible than the insanity of the Norwegian justice system. They now have to feed, clothed and take care of this evil man for the rest of his life.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why The Warning?

By now, almost everyone in Singapore knows of the arrest of the founder of City Harvest Church, Kong Hee, over alleged misuse of church funds and alleged breaches under charity laws. Mr. Kong Hee was arrested along with five others from his ministry.

However members of City Harvest are standing behind their leaders and efforts had been made to raise funds to pay for the legal fees of the church leaders. For some reason, this seems to have touched a nerve as the Singapore's Commissioner of Charities (COC) has warned City Harvest Church about their efforts. 


Now I have said before that the case against City Harvest looks strong so I wasn't expecting to be jumping to their defense but I have to question why the COC issued this warning. If people believe in Kong Hee and want to donate money to his defence team; what’s wrong with that? 

This is their right. Everyone knows the charges facing the six, and if some people still want to donate money to them; what is wrong with that? They are doing it with their eyes open. There is nothing wrong with that.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Premier League

Yes, yes, I know it’s a little late as the season has already started (with some surprising results I might add), but as the new Premier League football season begins, I will give my 2 cents worth on whether Manchester City will retain the title they won so dramatically last season.

Champions- Manchester City
In a word; Yes! I believe Manchester City will win the title again this season. Last season, they had tons of problems; Carlos Tevez’s 5 month golfing trip, unhappy players, Kolo Toure’s suspension, but manager Roberto Mancini still managed to get them to the title. Basically, they have the best squad in the Premiership and for that reason I have to pick them again as the champions of the coming season.

Runner-up- Chelsea
A lot of people are saying that this season will be between the 2 Manchester clubs, but I have to disagree. I think a lot of people are discounting Chelsea at their peril. Frankly, Roberto Di Matteo has done an incredible job since taking over and he had won the one title owner Roman Abramovich really want - the Champions League. With the Champions League out of the way, Chelsea now seems intend to get the Premiership crown back. They have been very busy in the transfer market with Marko Marin, Eden Hazard and Oscar all coming for big money. The squad has experience, quality and hunger. They will challenge for the title.

Second Runner-up- Manchester United
Manchester United may have made big news with the signings of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, but I personally doubt the duo will get them the title. The main thing is that they are both attacking players but the problem for Man Utd last season wasn’t in the attack. It was in the midfield! To be more exact, it was the lack of a ball-winning midfielder and the over-reliance in the ageing duo of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. As good as van Persie and Kagawa are, they are not going to be able to help out in this area. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson may have made a major statement in the transfer market, but he might also have made the wrong buys.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dumb Dumb Move

In what has to be one of the most nonsensical diplomatic moves in history, the British government has just issued a warning to Ecuador that Britain will storm Ecuador's embassy and drag Julian Assange out of the embassy.

Assange has been holed up inside Ecuador's small embassy in London since June 19 due to an extradition case where he is wanted for questioning in Sweden due to 2 rape cases. Assange has consistently claimed that the Swedish case is merely an orchestrated plot to make him stand trial in the United States for releasing American secret cables on his website WikiLeaks. Although this is disputed by both Swedish authorities and the women involved, till now no case has went to the Swedish courts on the rape charges and Assange still has not been formally charged with any crime.

Let me be clear here; from day one, I thought the cases in Sweden were totally made-up. The Swedish authorities claim that they want to extradite Assange for “investigation” and “questioning”; well if that’s the case then you currently have no case right? Assange hasn’t even been charged yet but there’s an extradition order? It’s total nonsense but there were some who wish, rather foolishly in my view, to give the Swedes the benefit of the doubt.

If anyone had any doubts about it before, this threat by Britain to storm the Ecuadoran embassy had just settled it. How many countries you know would threaten to storm another’s country’s embassy due to an extradition order? Especially when the man in question hasn’t even been charged with anything yet? The bottom-line is that the British is going to storm the embassy to get a man wanted for questioning for allegations of misdemeanor sexual contact. The British are going to storm an embassy over a case of misdemeanor sexual contact?

Frankly if I’m Julian Assange, I would be thanking the British Foreign Office right now. They have just proven to the world that the extradition case to Sweden is only a pretext for the US to get their hands on him.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Comics this week

Green Lantern #12- I have said before that I’m not the biggest fan of Black Hand. The villain just never clicked with me. So you can guess how good a job writer Geoff Johns did this issue by making me actually care about the character. The shock and conflict of Black Hand when the Book of the Black revealed its latest prophecy was so intense that I can’t wait to read Green Lantern Annual #1 in 2 weeks time to see where this is going. Even better was the threat showed by the Guardians to the other Corps. It was a simple page but sometimes those are the best; Simple but powerful.

Bloodshot #2- I loved the #1 of this series because writer Duane Swierczynski managed to combine several genres into an enjoyable story. In #2, things seem to be back to the normal Bloodshot of old. Basically, it’s a case of Bloodshot killing enemies by the truckload with minimum fuss. It was for this reason why I was never a fan of the character in the old Valiant Universe, so I am slightly worried about the direction of the series after this issue. I’ll probably collect the first arc and then see where it’ll go but Swierczynski need to maintain the espionage/military/sci-fi angle for this series to work. Having Bloodshot killing faceless enemies after enemies is just not going to work in the long run.

Harbinger #3- To say Peter Stanchek is a flawed hero would be an understatement. Luckily, writer Joshua Dysart had maintained the flaws of the character and that is great. Let’s admit it; reading the story of a hero with a chip on his shoulder is far better than reading about one without. And Faith; what the hell happened to you?

Friday, August 17, 2012

What Else Is New?

Early this morning, 2 faults on the North-East Line (NEL) led to a breakdown that delayed hundreds of commuters. According to the SBS Transit, a power fault on the train line resulted in delays of up to 50mins for passengers on the NEL.

Even after getting the trains working again, train frequencies had to be lowered due to the faults.
It was reported that trains only came once every 7-10mins. To me; I just say, “What else is new?”

Seriously, since the breakdowns started last year, the breakdowns in our MRT lines have been pretty consistent. It is so consistent, it’s no longer even considered news! You just know it is gotten happen again someday. The trains are going to break down sooner or later, you just hope you will not be affected by it personally.

I mean even the SBS and SMRT have programs in place in case of breakdowns! Today, SBS Transit activated free bus shuttles and even sent two separate SMS alerts to inform commuters of potential delays!

So for the breakdowns today... “What else is new?”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Sad Death

20 years old Lance-Corporal (LCP) Muhammad Fahrurrazi bin Salim tragic death in Brunei has people in Singapore questioning safety during Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) training exercises. LCP Fahrurrazi, a boatman, disappeared while in a convey along Brunei's Batu Apoi river.

Once he was discovered to be missing, a SAF search party was sent out to find him. The circumstances of his disappearance are still under investigation but people in Singapore are already talking and asking about safety. However, the SAF seems happy with the safety procedures they have in place currently.

Sadly, the death of a National Serviceman is not unusual. The SAF had experienced such sad incidents before and when someone died during operations or exercises, all other operations and exercises are cancelled till a review is done. That is not the case now.

The thing is boatman is a dangerous vocation and from what I read, they were attempting a river crossing when LCP Fahrurrazi disappeared. So for Singaporeans questioning the safety procedures in place...I'm afraid it's of little use. Such army exercises are by their nature dangerous.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Finish Them Please

Recently, BioWare came out with some charts and stats of its games. Director of Online Development, Fernando Melo, presented the player completion rates for various games at a panel in Europe.

Player’s completion rates are the amount of players who completed the games after starting them. According to their stats, 56% of players completed Mass Effect 2. The game top the list followed by Mass Effect 3 with 42%, Dragon Age 2 with 41%t, Mass Effect with 40% and finally Dragon Age: Origins at 36%.

Statistics like this always surprises me. I have played all of these games and I have completed all of them expect for Mass Effect 3 which I just started a few days ago.

I don’t get it. To me, it’s crazy to buy games and don't finish them. To those people who say they don’t have enough free time to finish all of the games they bought…save your money. Don’t buy them!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The London Olympics

The London Olympics is officially over. For the third time in its history, the capital of Great Britain hosted the Olympics and to me, these are the moments that stood out.

Star of the Olympics- Usain Bolt
He said he came to London to become a legend and he did that. Although some people might say that Michael Phelps is the star of the Olympics, to me it has to be Bolt. Not only did the Jamaican sprinter defended his 100-meter, 200-meter and 4x100-meter gold medals, he was photographed in his room at 3am with 3 female Swedish handball players. Yes, you read that right; Swedish, female, handball players, 3am, in his room, and there were 3 of them. Anyone who could do that must be the Star! 

Best Team of the Olympics- The Mexican Football Team
When the football tournament started, the Brazilian team was the hot favorites. Behind them were the Spanish and the Uruguayans. Mexico barely got a mention. However through a series of gutsy, cynical, never-say-die displays, the Mexicans scored an upset and got the gold medal. It may not be the biggest surprise of the games but you have to give the Mexicans credit for playing above themselves.

Class Athlete of the Olympics- Roger Federer
The favorite for the gold, Roger Federer unfortunately ran into an inspired Juan Martín del Potro in the semi-finals. The world no. 1 and world no. 8 played the longest Olympic tennis match by duration in history, lasting four hours and 26 minutes in total. When the final came, an exhausted Federer lost to British Andy Murray in straight sets. However, Federer refused to use exhaustion as an excuse and say Murray deserved the victory. Now that’s class.

Biggest Boo-boo of the Olympics- Egypt Wrestling Officials & Coaches
Two wrestlers from Egypt had to forfeit their matches on the last day of the Olympics when they didn't show up on time for their matches. For the whole of the Olympics, the wrestling starts at 1pm but due to the closing ceremony, on the last day the starting time was bought forward to 8.30am. Every country seems to be aware of the earlier start time expect the Egyptian team. Somehow, Egyptian officials and coaches missed the earlier start time and wrestlers Abdou Omar Abdou Ahmed and Saleh Emera both missed their chance of completing at the Olympics.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Origin vs Steam

A few days ago, I finally bought Mass Effect 3. I had played Mass Effect 1 & 2 before so I intend to finish the trilogy. I saw the game on sale, bought it, went home, installed it…and my god was it a bitch to install!

When I first pop the disc in my PC, it told me I need an “Origin” account to download and to play the game. Now I’m not one of those guys with a problem on this. I have a “Steam” account and play Skyrim, Fallout 3, Majesty etc, via Steam with no problem whatsoever.

However I do have a lot of problems with Origin.

When I first tried to install Mass Effect 3, I had to create an “Origin” account. No problem; I did that for “Steam” as well so I expected that. However after creating the account, the installation failed. I thought maybe I need to wait for a verification email from EA and Bioware, so I went into my email but there was nothing there. I waited for awhile but there was still nothing.

I went back to the installation and redo everything again. Still no luck! I called a friend who had an “Origin” account on the matter to see if I was doing anything wrong. He couldn’t help much as he don’t play the Mass Effect games and have problems with “Origin” as well. I went online and after a long search (there’s a lot of problems with “Origin”) finally got an idea of what the problem is.

Following the recommendation on a forum, I went and created an account first with “Origin”. Then I installed Mass Effect 3 and just tag the game to my account. It seems that when you try to install Mass Effect 3, you “might” face a problem if you have to create an “Origin” account at the same time. The forum recommends that I create an account via the “Origin” website first, then install the game. It worked.

Let me put it simply so that there’s no mistake of my feelings on this; the installation process of Mass Effect 3 is flat-out nonsensical!

It took me about 40mins to finally start to install the game in my PC but more importantly, if you are going to make me create an “Origin” account to download and play your game; for god sake please make it possible for me to create an account! Why the hell must I create an account separately first? That’s just plain stupid!

I mean the game was created by EA and Bioware. “Origin” was created and run by EA. How could the integration between “Origin” and Mass Effect 3 be so bad that I can’t even create an “Origin” account during the installation process of the game? That’s completely insane.

I had read that EA wanted “Origin” to one day match “Steam”. From my first experience with “Origin”, I’ll tell them to just forget it. “Steam” is good, “Origin” is terrible. It’s not even close.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Comics this week

Demon Knights #12- After reading Demon Knights for a year, I have to say I believe writer Paul Cornell is one of those writers that do his best work alone. His works on other series are good but they paled in comparison to his work on Demon Knights. Put Cornell in one corner where he don’t have to worry about any back-story and he excel. Either that or he loves fantasy! Backed by some solid art from Diogenes Neves, this series has been (quietly) one of the best series in the New 52. Hopefully, the series will continue with both of them at the helm.

Artifacts #20- All the 13 artifacts in the Top Cow Universe, there are some which we know little about. It seems that writer Ron Marz intends to slowly peel off the mystery of the artifacts and if the rest of the stories are anything as good as "Phantoms Of The Heart", then Top Cow got a good thing going. Part 2 of the story arc showcase Dr. Rachel Harrison, the new holder of the Heartstone. There’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered but the mystery of the story move things along. The art by artist Stjepan Sejic convey the mood of the story very well and Sejic once again show that he can convey a story with only his art. His work with Harrison’s mother was extremely effective. In just a few short scenes, he managed to show the weariness, fear and resignation of the mother at Harrison’s growing powers. Marvelous!

Idolized #1- Okay, I admit. This is a guilty pleasure. The plot of a girl entering an America Idol styled contest to make herself a hero and take revenge on a supervillain is just up for pillorying but strangely…writer Micah Gunnell managed to make it work! Strong effective­ art by David Curiel helped as Idolized is surprisingly entertaining. In fact, it’s surprising a lot like American Idol. It’s super cheesy but it’s solid entertaining cheese. Pick this up if you want some fun.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Good Warning

Strangely, I have found myself to be in a position of defending and praising a Minister once again. I recently praised Khaw Boon Wan for taking firm quick action over the tender of NParks’s purchase of their bicycles. Now I have to praise him again for his statement of caution on the newly launched 50-year property loan.

Now, I know of some home buyers who like the idea of a 50-year loan. To some home buyers, they will almost always take the maximum loan tenure available as this enable them to stretch their purchasing capacity. Mr. Khaw's statement saying that the 50-year loan is a gimmick is right on the money as there is almost no way anyone can pay a 50-year loan in its entirety.

Even if someone take the loan when they are 20 years old, by the time the loan is finished, he will be 70! That's past the current retirement age! The 50-year loan is just a gimmick by property agents and developers to entice home buyers to folk out cash they do not have to buy a house beyond their means. In fact, you can argue that this 50-year loan idea is to encourage property speculation as the only way it will work is if the home buyer flip the property in a few years time after purchase.

So I fully appreciated this warning by Mr. Khaw. I agree that the government can't ban banks from offering the loan but this official warning should be more than enough for home buyers. If home buyers ignore this warning, then they only have themselves to blame. The government, and Mr. Khaw, has done all they can.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Reason Why

For the first time in 52 years, Singapore got an individual Olympic medal. China-born paddler Feng Tianwei won the bronze in the table tennis women’s singles competition for Singapore and this was the first time Singapore was awarded an individual Olympic medal since 1960 when weightlifter Tan Howe Liang got a silver medal at the 1960 Rome Games.

However you won’t find too many Singaporeans celebrating in the streets. Most Singaporeans are indifferent to the medal and according to a local poll on Yahoo!, a whopping 77% said that they are proud of the Olympic medal.

Now some people are wondering why this is the case. I mean an Olympic medal for the country is an Olympic medal for the country, no matter where the athlete was born right? So why aren’t the people of Singapore proud of it?

In one word; embarrassment!  

For years, the Singapore table tennis team has been called the China B Team; Singaporeans has been mocked that our medals are made in China; Singapore has been told that we should thank the Embassy of China for winning us our sporting titles (swimming, table tennis, badminton etc).

Now Singapore is a small island and if there’s one thing Singaporeans don’t like, it is been laughed at. Worse is when the guy laughing at you is telling the truth. It’s no secret Singapore has been importing athletes into Singapore for sporting glory; to their credit the Singapore Table-Tennis Association has been very open about it. 

All credit to Feng Tianwei for winning the bronze. It’s a great achievement and I believe it is something to be proud of but I am also realistic. I don’t expect Singaporeans to be jumping for joy for her when she returns from London. We are too embarrassed to be caught celebrating.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Review of The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises is the third and final installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. The first 2 films, Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008), turned director Christopher Nolan and main actor Christian Bale into superstars so I have been eagerly waiting for this film.

The film starts eight years after “The Dark Knight”. Since the night Batman vanished into the darkness, he has been blamed for the death of Harvey Dent. The leaders of Gotham, led by Police Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), has turned Dent into a hero by preventing ordinary people from knowing that Dent had been driven mad by the Joker.

In order to preserve the hard-won order of Gotham, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has accepted his role as the villain, hung up his mask and has turned into a recluse. His retirement would be broken by cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and the terrorist known as Bane (Tom Hardy).

Now most people probably seen the film by now, but if you haven’t I will say this to you; see “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” first before watching this.

To truly understand how good this movie is, you really have to see the first 2 films first. With this new film, Christopher Nolan completes his trilogy and what a trilogy it is. The work Nolan started in “Batman Begins” and continued in “The Dark Knight” (2008) comes full circle in “The Dark Knight Rises” and the full saga of Bruce Wayne is riveting.

Christian Bale put in another good performance as Wayne but the star of the show has to be Tom Hardy.

Now Bane is not an easy character to get right. Most famous for breaking Batman’s back, most comic writers have a hard time writing Bane since his debut. Most end up writing him as some sort of human monster. The Bane in this movie is a monster but he is a weary one. Hardy’s Bane is a weary soul who is doing what he is doing because it is necessary, not because he’s enjoying any of it. This gave Bane a human side to his character and the movie was better for it. When the twist came in the end, it worked but it would not have made sense if not for Hardy’s great performance till that point. I will admit I saw the twist at the end coming but people will little to no interest in comics will probably get a good surprise at it.

Anne Hathaway had the thankless job of making people forget about Michelle Pfeiffer and while she didn’t entirely succeed, Hathaway also did a good job. Her Selina Kyle is a survivor who wants something more in life and her desperation to get it shone throughout the film.

It wasn’t just the story that was good in this movie; the action was there as well. From the start when Bane attacked an airplane in flight to the war along the streets of Gotham at the end, Nolan cranked up the pace of the action. “The Dark Knight Rises” has that rare mixture of story and action that worked well with each other.

Of course there are some parts of the story that didn’t quite work. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, John Blake, was one of them. How can a guy smart enough to deduce that Batman and Bruce Wayne are the same person be surprise at the role Commissioner Gordon had in the cover-up of Harvey Dent's death? I mean right at the start, Commissioner Gordon gave a speech that he “saw” Batman kill Dent. However when the cover-up was revealed by Bane, Blake was somehow surprised that Gordon had a role in it. That just does not make sense.

I also feel that some of the side-stories in the movie are too long and kind of unnecessary. There are a lot of other moving pieces in this movie and I think Nolan put in 1-2 too many. He did a good work juggling them but I thought the side-story of Bruce Wayne's business rival John Daggett and of Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley were not really needed.

Overall however, “The Dark Knight Rises” is a good film that successfully concludes Nolan's Batman trilogy. I won’t say it’s the best film in the trilogy but “The Dark Knight Rises” is an ambitious, thoughtful, action film that ends it in a spectacular entertaining fashion. It’s a worthy finale to the best film trilogy in some time.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Just Plain Honesty

An article in the New York Times has got Singaporeans all hot and bothered. The article in question was on Singapore turning into a xenophobic society as more and more local Singaporeans turned against the growing foreign population within the country.

However it wasn’t the article itself that got Singaporeans in a frenzy. The main problem Singaporean has was with Mr Wang Quan Cheng. Mr. Wang is a founding member and a current committee member of the “Loving and Giving Society” in Singapore, a group set up to help newcomers from mainland China adjust to life in Singapore, and he was quoted  as saying that local Singaporeans are very lazy and live off the government. He was then quoted as saying he would probably return to China once he’s retired.

The first quote puzzled Singaporeans as the Singapore government has always rejected all forms of welfare but it was the second that really got Singaporeans all hot and bothered. Many Singaporeans are upset by Mr. Wang openly admitting that he is here for his job and he will go back to China once the job is over. Basically, Singaporeans are upset he is here only for the money.

I don’t understand why. Remember a few years ago when the Singapore government floated an idea to make Singapore PR take up citizenships and how the idea was immediately shot down by the local expat community? I wasn’t surprised then by their reaction and I’m not surprised now by Mr. Wang.

Why is this a surprise? Be they from China, India, Philippines, Myanmar etc, I can safely say that most foreigners in Singapore are here for the money. Once their job is over, they will return home. When new immigrants come, they don’t come here to stay. They come here for jobs, for the money and all Mr. Wang did was openly admitting an open secret.

He feels no loyalty to Singapore. He is here for the money and once it’s gone, so is he. He was just being honest and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Comedy And Tragedy

Comedy and tragedy hit the London Olympic Games as four badminton teams were thrown out of the women's doubles event for deliberately trying to lose matches. The 8 players (2 from China, 4 from South Korea and 2 from Indonesia) were cited by the Badminton World Federation for "conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport."

The problem started when the Chinese team of Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli were ordered to throw their match after the Chinese second team was upset by a Danish team. That placed the two Chinese pair on course for a semifinal meeting instead of the final and Wang and Yu were ordered to throw their match against the South Korean pair of Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na. Seeing what the Chinese were trying to do, the South Koreans had the same idea and both teams received warnings from the umpire and tournament referee Torsten Berg.

The comedy then truly started an hour later when the South Korean pair of Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung met with the Indonesian pair of Greysia Polii and Meiliana Jauhari. Both teams went on court with a desire to lose as the winner will meet Wang and Yu (who are the world champions) in the quarterfinals. Jeers of derision came from the crowd and all four players were warned by the umpire, Torsten Berg, for not trying. The warning had no effect and Berg was forced to return and produced black cards to disqualify both pairs. The disqualifications were rescinded on a promise of better play from both teams but by then it was too later. Hours later, the Badminton World Federation threw out all 8 players.

Personally, I feel this whole episode is a tragedy because the players were punished when all they did was followed orders. The coaches of the various teams were the ones who ordered their players to throw the matches so…what’s their punishment? I’m not saying the players are not to be blamed but they are not the only one to blame here. Their coaches and even the Badminton World Federation have to take some blame on the matter.

Put simply; throwing matches is not new in badminton. Many countries has for years accused the Chinese badminton team of throwing matches in badminton tournaments and the Badminton World Federation had done nothing. However this is the Olympics and the Badminton World Federation has to report to the IOC (International Olympic Committee), so suddenly action need to be taken.

Someone needs to tell them it’s too little, too late. Badminton is a relatively young sport in the Olympic program and fans throughout the world had already seen the farce. If the Badminton World Federation had done it’s job earlier (years earlier), it would never have to face this major problem now. Frankly, it’s a little late to be taking action now after making a joke of the Olympics. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Comics this week

Earth 2 #4- As this series goes on, it seems that writer James Robinson is taking a play out of the Justice League playbook. Much like how JL came together, the Society is coming together as they faced a threat none of them could handle alone. The introduction of The Atom and Hawkgirl was timely as the team grows. I’m not a fan of multiple pencillers on an issue but I have to say Nicola Scott's and Eduardo Pansica's styles seem to mesh well together. This series has turned out to be surprising good so far.

Green Lantern #11- Even though he was the main character in Blackest Night, I’m not really a fan of Black Hand. Frankly I find the character a little boring so it shows what good work Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke did this issue when even I find Black Hand to be highly disturbing and scary. However humor wasn’t forgotten as the showing of Sinestro’s “Batcave” would earn a chuckle from anyone. Good issue overall.

Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time #28- This issue showed the important first meeting between Rand Al’Thor and Elayne. If a meeting that could have meaning throughout the Wheel of Time books is not enough, this issue also have the first introduction of a ton of important side characters like Gawyn, Galad, Gareth, Morgase, and Elaida. Frankly, people who never read the books will have a hard time getting their heads around all the characters and what their roles are but the meeting and the scene in the throne room was so vital, I just couldn’t see how writer Chuck Dixon could have done things any different. The issue was all talk-talk but I have to say I’m not a fan of the art from Franics Nuguit. Bring back Andie Tong!