Saturday, December 29, 2012

Comics this week

Justice League #15- Since the New 52 came into being, crossovers in DC had focus mainly within the same family of titles. The Batman titles had their crossover, Justice League Dark and I, Vampire had theirs but there hadn't been one across the titles. As the flagship title of the New 52, I guess it make sense that Justice League #15 kick off the first big cross-title in the New 52. The Throne of Atlantis crossover kicks off when a "mistake" from the American Navy caused several torpedos to lauch and explode near Atlantis. Assuming that this was an attack from the surface, Ocean Master launch a counter-attack on America and the Justice League and Aquamans are caught in the conflict. First off, #15 is the debut issue of  new regular artist Ivan Reis and after his stellar work on Green Lantern, this is a change I welcomed. Jim Lee may be great for work on epic and vast action scenes but I feel Reis is the more well-round artist with excellent work even on smaller moments like the dinner date scene between Superman and Wonder Woman in this issue. Writer Geoff Johns' script hint that the conflict is not that simple but it's too early too early to tell how everything will play out. Good issue for a start, let's see where we go from here.

Aquaman #15- Picking up right after the opening chapter in Justice League #15, this issue shows the counter-attack from Ocean Master on America. Tidal waves hit several cities in America and countless people had died in the aftermath. Now I haven't been following Aquaman but I like this new version of Ocean Master. Geoff Johns's take on the villain as a leader of a nation involved in a military conflict was refreshingly but what I really liked was how fish-out-water the League members were. In a battle where there's no real outright villain, the reaction of the members were telling. Some like Aquaman (who was king once) tries to find a way to cool down the conflict while other like Batman just ignore the bigger picture and treat the battle like a normal hero/villain fight. A significant battle with consequences for both the world and the League's relationship to each other. An excellent issue that hint that the Throne of Atlantis may be as good as advertised.

Justice League #15- After last issue, Tim Hunter and Zatanna have been teleported to another dimension and the rest of the team are trying to find a way to get them back. Forst off I must say the coming and going of various members is getting a little confusing. I mean what happened to Princess Amaya? The confusion is not helped by the slight confusing script which tried to be too mysterious for its own good. If not for artist Mikel Janin's good panel work, this one could have been really bad.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Rage Alert

RIP, Peter Parker. Or at least it should be!

Now after the nonsense that was “A Brand New Day”, you would think Marvel would learn its lesson. No, they didn’t because now they decided to kill and then unkill Peter Parker.

If that sentence makes no sense, then congratulate yourself on being a sensible person.

You see, in Amazing Spider-Man # 700, Peter Parker lost a major battle with Doctor Octopus and “died”. However in a bid to continue the cash cow that is Spiderman, Marvel then decided that Dr. Octopus has “a moment of clarity”, and swapped his own mind into Parker's body because…he realizes that his long-time enemy was a good guy.

Right, that makes a lot of sense!

Now I know that in the world of comics, nothing is permanent and Spider-Man especially is a character that has a long history of bad ideas. The fore-mentioned “A Brand New Day”, “Spider-Clone” starring Ben Reilly, “Maximum Carnage” (man talk about a piece crap), and a few others but even in the history of stupid, bad, nonsensical ideas; Spiderman #700 is easily one of the stupidest thing I have ever heard.

If you are going to kill a character, then for god sake KILL HIM! At least when Superman died and when Batman got his back broken, they were out for a year and other characters took over. Dr. Octopus has “a moment of clarity” and swapped his own mind into Parker's body?

WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? And I’m not even a Spidey fan! 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Preparing To Go Over

As U.S President Barack Obama cut short his vacation in Hawaii and fly back to Washington in the hopes of getting a deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff", I think he should spend the time in Washington on a more fruitful venture. President Obama and U.S Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner need to stop trying to get a deal from the Republicans and just prepare for the day America goes over the cliff.

I say this because it seems clear to me there’s no deal to be made. Even in Singapore, we know of the a “no-new-taxes” pledge signed by most Republicans in the U.S Congress and how they have even balked at signing “Plan B”, a Republican bill that is basically a tax hike on anyone making over $1 million per year.

Seriously, if the Republicans in the U.S Congress can’t even agree to sign a no-hope bill on a tax increase for millionaires, President Obama have no chance to get anything out of them. If that’s the case, then President Obama needs to have a Plan B of his own; a plan to deal with the situation when America goes over the fiscal cliff. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

And The Hole Gets Deeper

Sigh! Sometimes people just do not learn. That’s all I can say when M/s Action Information Management Pte Ltd (AIM) tried to defend their deal with the PAP town councils.

For those of you that did not know, there’s a potential scandal in Singapore when the opposition Worker’s Party (WP) revealed that a computer system developed collectively by 14 PAP town councils for over a period of more than 15 months was sold in January 2011, to a little-known company called AIM. The town councils who paid to develop the computer system then had to lease back the system from AIM, paying the company monthly fees for the usage of the computer system.

Since then, it has been revealed that AIM does not seem to have a office and it consisted of just three people, chairman S Chandra Das, and directors Lau Ping Sum and Chew Heng Ching. All of whom were former PAP Members of Parliament. It is also been noted that the company only had a total paid-up capital of just $2.

The PAP-owned IT company has been defending itself, claiming that it won the bid to own the system in an open tender and paid $140,000 for it. It also charges each town council a monthly fee of $785 for usage of the system and engaged NCS to maintain and further develop the system.

Talk about digging a hole for yourself!

This defense by AIM is a god-sent for the opposition parties here in Singapore because it just open a can of worms for the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). Seriously, if we take what AIM said at face value, then how in the world did a company with a paid-up capital of just $2 managed to pay $140,000 to win the bid to own the system? If they got a loan, it begs the question which bank actually loaned AIM $140,000 when the company is worth all of $2!

Also at the monthly cost of $785, why didn’t the town councils maintain the system themselves and questions will be asked about how much was spent to develop the system in the first place? I mean at $785 a month per town council, AIM would recoup the $140,000 in just slightly over a year! And in drawing NCS into the picture, now questions will be asked of them as well!

How in the world is any of this good for the PAP? It isn’t. Even if everything is legal (and it seem they took pains to make sure it is), it still looks bad and smell worse. And the whole mess is totally avoidable! Just get rid of the agreement between AIM and the town councils before more awkward questions get asked! Surely that is preferable than to have the whole thing brewing during the next by-election! 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Before Damage Is Done

Alex Au is a blogger that is firmly in the pro-opposition side of the political divide here in Singapore. So I, like most Singaporeans, take whatever he writes with a pinch of salt. However in the latest case of the town councils’ computer systems being run by a little-known firm linked to the ruling party, I have to agree with him that the issue “has the potential to be a big story, causing enormous damage to the People’s Action Party (PAP)”.

The problem first began when the Ministry of National Development (MND) released its latest town council management report and singled out the opposition-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council with a “red” rating for its handling of service and conservancy charge (S&CC) arrears. The byline from the MND was that the Workers’ Party (WP) was incompetent.

The Workers’ Party (WP), who both the Hougang and Aljunied seats in the last General Elections (GE) in 2011, came out swinging. Chairperson of the WP, Sylvia Lim, released a statement noting the fact that the town council’s audit took longer than expected because of their need to develop a new computer and financial system from scratch.

The statement noted that when the WP took over the town council in the wake of their election win, the WP was informed that the existing computer and financial systems used by the town council would be terminated from 1 August 2011. The reason given was “due to material changes to the membership of the Town Council”. AKA, the opposition had taken over the town council.

Ms. Lim then pointed out that the computer system used was developed collectively by 14 PAP town councils (including Aljunied) over a period of more than 15 months but in January 2011, the system was sold to a little-known company called M/s Action Information Management Pte Ltd (AIM). The town councils then had to lease back the systems from AIM, paying the company fees every month for the usage of the computer systems. Ms. Lim gave details about AIM and noted the fact that the company was dormant.

Since the statement by the WP, a report from online socio-political site TR Emeritus gave more juicy details about AIM.

TR Emeritus reported that AIM had been operating out of an office which it allegedly shares its address with more than 1,000 other businesses and the actual company operating from the address was one KCS Corporate Services Pte Ltd. Then in a second report, the alternative news website noted that AIM consisted of just three people, AIM chairman, S Chandra Das, and directors Lau Ping Sum and Chew Heng Ching. All of whom were former PAP Members of Parliament. Also the company only had a total paid-up capital of just $2, with $1 held in shares by Chandra Das, and the other $1 owned by Lau. To make it even more laughable, this was discovered via the firm's business filing with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.

Also it noted that the monthly payments by the town councils would have to come from the residents.

Boy, did the MND stepped into it or what! I find it laughable that a small pothole by them at the WP would become the event that exposed the dirty politics of Singapore. I have to feel for the guys at the MND. I assumed no one at the MND knew about the “arrangement” between the town councils and AIM or else they would never let the WP have this golden chance to expose it this way.

Of course between the Michael Palmer scandal, workers going on strike, the coming by-election, and a school principal being investigated for corruption, this potential scandal reminds just that. Probably to the WP’s dismay, it has not gained any traction with the Singapore public.

For that reason, I strongly suggest to the PAP to cancel the “arrangement” between AIM and the town councils. I mean I feel the residents are in fact paying twice. Once because the system was developed with money provided by the town councils and again now for the “monthly” use of the systems. A system that is now run by a shell company that consist all of 3 people!

Now the last thing you want going into another by-election is ammunition for the opposition to embarrass you, and this is what this potential scandal is; a potential embarrassment. Lucky for the PAP, it has not gained traction yet. No harm done yet. If the PAP is smart, they will get rid of the “arrangement” before it does any damage. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Comics this week

Green Lantern #15- After last issue’s run-in with the Justice League, Baz Simon is back to the business of clearing his name. Frankly, the story by writer Geoff Johns is kind of ham-fisted but unexpected humor and Easter eggs saved the day. The reaction of Earth’s latest Green Lantern when he got saved by a talking squirrel was hilarious. Doug Manhke’s work was a little inconsistent at times but overall, the art was good especially during the space scenes when Manhke was allowed to go big. Hopefully the appearance of B’DG means that the series will go back into space soon.

Green Lantern: The New Guardians #15- Remember my review 2 issues ago when I questioned the decision of writer Tony Bedard to change the focus of New Guardians from a team book to one focusing only on Kyle Rayner? I’m afraid my fears were well-founded as after 3 issues of watching Kyle getting lessons on how to access the power of all the rings, I found things to be a bore. Worse is the fact that the other lanterns flying with him are all relegated to background noise; it’s hardly a team at all. Considering the promise it once had, this series has seriously went off the boil. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review of “Life of Pi”

“Life of Pi” is a film directed by renowned Lee Ang based on an award-winning novel of the same name written by Yann Martel. Let me get 2 things out of the way. I have never read the novel and I’m not a total fan of Lee Ang. Lee Ang’s movies are a little hit-or-miss for me. Some of his movies like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” were wonderful but others like “The Hulk” were not.

“Life of Pi” is a movie firmly in the former category.

The film starts with a man named Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel telling his life story to a writer. Pi was named after a swimming pool in France and had to change his name to "Pi" in secondary school because he is tired of being taunted with the nickname "Pissing Patel". His father owns a zoo in Pondicherry , providing Pi with some understanding of animals.

Pi’s wealthy family are Hindus, but as a fourteen-year-old he is introduced to Christianity and Islam. A curious and religious young boy, Pi started to follow all three religions as he tries to understand God through the teaching of each religion. He begin to understand there were benefits in each religion.

Due to the unrest in India at the time, his father decides to sell their zoo. He made plans to sell the animals to various zoos around the world before having the family finally settling in Canada . Pi's family embarks on a Japanese freighter to Canada carrying some of the animals from their zoo, but a few days after leaving port in Manila, the ship capsizes in a storm and Pi loses his family.

During the storm, Pi escapes death in a small lifeboat with a spotted hyena, an injured zebra, and an orangutan. As Pi tries to survive among the animals, the hyena kills the zebra, then the orangutan. At this point, it is discovered that a Bengal tiger had been hiding under the boat's tarp. The tiger kills and eats the hyena.

Terrified, Pi constructs a small raft out of flotation devices, tethers it to the boat, and retreats onto it. He delivers some of the fish and water he harvests to the tiger to keep him satisfied, conditioning the tiger not to threaten him by rocking the boat and causing seasickness while blowing a whistle. Eventually, the tiger and Pi learns to tolerate each other's presence.

As Pi continues his story to the writer, he recounts various events while adrift. These include a whale rocking the boat, an entire ocean covered with jelly fishes, a swarm of flying fishes, a carnivorous island inhabited by meerkats and stunning views of the sunrise and sunset that makes Pi feel closer to God. After 227 days, the lifeboat washes up onto the coast of Mexico and the tiger immediately escapes into the nearby jungle.

Pi was rescued and while recovering in a hospital, two officials from the Japanese shipping company went to speak to Pi, hoping to ascertain why the ship sank. When they do not believe his story, Pi tells them an alternate story.

In this story, Pi was adrift on the lifeboat with his mother, a sailor with a broken leg, and the ship's cook. The sailor died due to the broken leg. The cook cut up the sailor’s body to use as bait for fishes and also eat it as there was a lack of food on the boat. The cook later killed Pi's mother in a dispute and horrified, he did not attempt to protect himself when Pi kill him in vengeance.

Parallels to Pi's first story lead the Japanese officials (and the writer) to believe that the orangutan represents his mother, the zebra represents the sailor, the hyena represents the cook, and the tiger is Pi himself.

After giving all the information, Pi asks the writer which of the two stories he prefers since no one can prove which story is true and neither is relevant to the reasons behind the shipwreck. The writer chose the story with the animals as “it is the better story”. Pi hand a report written by the Japanese officials to the writer and he discover that the officials too prefer the story with the animals. Smiling, Pi thanks the writer and says his story in now in the hands of the writer.

Let me be blunt; this is a wonderful movie. As I said earlier, I’m not a total fan of Lee Ang but he hit the ball out of the park in this one. The sheer poetry he brings to this movie is shockingly great. I did not see the movie in 3-D but frankly I don’t need to. “Life of Pi” is such a visually amazing, imaginative and inventive work that if you don’t like it, I seriously think there’s something wrong with you. There were times in the movie when I truly have no idea what will happen next. Mind you, this is a movie about a boy in a boat with a tiger. That is not easy.

Not only does it looks good and is imaginative, “Life of Pi” is also a philosophical tale on the brutality of man and the lies we tell ourselves. The movie questions the way we view truth and confronts the perception and belief that truth is always better than the comforting lies we tell ourselves.

In short, “Life of Pi” is so good it is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Singapore is Pro-Employer

On the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) blog, Minister of Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin has said that the MOM is neither pro-employer nor pro-worker but they seek to strike a balance between the two. I know Mr. Tan has not been the MOM minster for very long but if this is truly what he thinks, then it would kind of explain why Singapore is having such a spate of industrial disputes.

Basically Mr. Tan has no idea what he is saying because Singapore is as pro-employer as you can get in the world.

That is just a simple fact accepted by every company that comes to invest in Singapore. Hell, it's something we winked at when we pitch our country as an investment destination to them. Take the latest case of employer/worker dispute yesterday at Yishun.

28 Indian and Chinese construction workers in Yishun stopped work on Tuesday to demand payment of their salaries. The 28 workers were not paid their November salary and are owed a range of between S$2,400 to S$5,600 in salaries. They decided to stop work because their special passes (S-Pass) to stay in Singapore are valid only until the 26th of December so if they do not get their salary by then, they will be deported out of the country.

Since the work stoppage, the MOM had to step in and 25 of the workers had since been paid with the other 3 being paid on the following day. What does this tells you? This tell you that the company had the ability to pay these workers in the first place! They had the ability to pay the workers but they did not because they thought they could get away with not paying. The company was not totally wrong.

Once the S-pass are invalid, the Singapore government will deport the workers and the company will not need to pay a cent on the wages of these workers for 2 months (November and December)! To say that this sort of pay dispute, no pay when your contact is also up, is not unusual is an understatement. The fact that the company thought they could get away with it should tell Mr. Tan how lopsided the Singapore government has been in pay disputes so far. I mean people from China and India laughed at the NTUC and refused to go there because they believe (rightly) the union is useless.

I mean in this case, the workers were told the company has no money to pay them and they had actually went to the MOM for help but were told if the company doesn't want to pay us, there is nothing the MOM could do. Both statements given to the workers were wrong. The company had money to pay and the MOM could pressure the company to pay. Neither choose to do so before the case hit the media.

That Mr. Tan is how pro-employer Singapore is.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Singaporeans; Please Take Note

With Minister of Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin and the Singapore government calling the labour protest of over 180 SMRT bus drivers an "illegal strike", perhaps it is time for Singaporeans to consider new, alternate ways to protest. Basically, any other ways to protest except to go on strike (unless you want to be hurl up in court in which case please ignore this post).

Now if some of you are wondering what other ways are there to protest without striking, I am pleased to say the cabin crews of Cathay Pacific Airways has gave us a fine example on how to do it. The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union is currently in a pay dispute with airline executives and is encouraging flight attendants to hit the airline's reputation for excellent service by...refusing to smile!

You have to give these guys credit for being imaginative. Just imagine it; being served food on a long flight by attendants who frowned instead of smiling. Oh the horror! And if done in Singapore, it’s all legal! Talk about a beautiful alternative. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Simple Argument For Gun Control

As news broke that a lone gunman had kill 27 people in a school in the US, most people missed the news of another attack at a school. In China, a man stabbed 22 primary school students in a knife attack. However the news from China was slightly better as none of the victims had life-threatening injuries.

There are a lot of similarities in both attacks. Both were committed by a lone man against defenceless schoolchildren. However the nut in the US managed to kill 27 people, but the nut in China was unable to kill any. The biggest difference is guns. China has strict gun-control and the man in China was unable to get his hands on a gun. Thus the children he attacked got to see another day.

That is why gun control is important. You can do a case study of both incidents and come to the conclusion. Now some of you may say this is a simplistic argument. You are right. It is because it’s a simple argument. Guns are dangerous weapons and a lone nutcase with guns can do a lot more damage than a lone nutcase without guns. It’s that simple. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Comics this week

Artifacts #23- "Blood Rites" ends with this issue and the story did dish out some interesting things about the main character, Tom Judge. For one thing, he still believes in God! Considering his character till now, I found that actually funny but in a way understandable. The man did went to hell before. However the main thing of #23 wasn't character development but the exorcism scene. Writer Ron Marz and artist Stjepan Sejic knock it out of the park with the whole scene and it was a thing of beauty. Good issue.

Demon Knights #15- Boy oh boy, does Demon Knights miss Diogenes Neves or what! I mean here we have 3 armies fighting a pitch battle in Avalon yet...there's no way to say nicely; they screwed it up. First off, the art by Bernard Chang just don't do this issue justice. Compare this issue to the first story arc where the Knights formed up against the Questing Queen, the difference is like night and day. Second, I know this is the end of the arc but that's no reason for long speeches for everyone in the issue. And third, enough with the editorial meddling already! The stupid Stormwatch reference and insane Adam One/Merlin transformation was ridulous. I hope the new arc will steer the ship back on course.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hold It Immediately

As the news of the sudden resignation of Member of Parliament Michael Palmer still vibrate through Singapore, one thing is clear. The People’s Action Party (PAP) was caught with its pants down.

The reason I say this is not because of the affair of Michael Palmer but because of the reaction of the PAP to the scandal. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has already faced calls from the opposition to call a by-election in Punggol East and is refusing to state when the by-election would be called. That tells me the PAP was caught unaware by the scandal because if I was in the PAP, I will call the by-election immediately.

There are 2 reasons for this. First, Palmer won the seat in 2011 by winning 54.5% of the votes. Frankly, Punggol is an area the PAP should not have any problem winning in. Second, I don’t think the opposition is united enough to field just one candidate for the seat. In 2011, both the Workers' Party (WP) and the Singapore Democratic Alliance both fielded candidates. There’s no reason for anyone to think a multi-corner fight won’t happen again. Think about it, the Reform Party has Kenneth Jeyaretnam, the Singapore People's Party has Lina Chiam, the Singapore Democratic Party has Chee Soon Juan, the WP has…? They just don’t have anyone available with the star power needed to take the seat from the PAP. In fact, the longer the PAP delayed, the more time they would give to the opposition to get their house in order.

So if I’m a PAP member, I will give the opposition exactly what they want. Hold the by-elections immediately and watch as the opposition field more than one candidate. For the PAP, this is the best available route to go. The fact that they have not done tells me that they were caught unaware by the Palmer resignation.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Coming By-Election

Less than a day after former Member of Paliment, Michael Palmer, resigned from his seat in the Punggol East-Pasir Ris constituency, and already various political parties are setting their sights on the vacant seat. Most analysts seem to think that when the by-election is called, the opposition Workers' Party (WP), not the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), will be hot favourites to take the seat.

I disagree.

Frankly I think the PAP will retain the seat. There are various reasons for my thinking. First off, Michael Palmer’s sudden resignation is due to him having an affair. Like I said yesterday, most Singaporeans couldn’t care less about that. Second, geography is against the WP. The Punggol East-Pasir Ris seat is not really near the Hougang stronghold of the WP. And lastly, I don’t understand why everyone is assuming the WP will be the only opposition party contesting the seat?

Palmer won the seat by winning 60% of the vote in the constituency and that’s about in line with the general results of the General Election. However, it was a 3-way fight then. I fail to see why it would be any different this time round. In fact, as it will be a by-election, chances are there will be more than 1 opposition party fielding candidates for the seat.

So I think supporters of the opposition should not count their chicken before they hatch. It will still be an uphill task for the opposition to win the seat. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Losing Good People

On 26 May 2012, a by-election for the Hougang Single Member Constituency (SMC) was called because of the expulsion of Yaw Shin Leong from the Workers' Party (WP). The reason for the expulsion was due to an affair Mr. Yaw had.

The shoe is now on the other foot as Parliament Speaker Michael Palmer has resigned from the People's Action Party (PAP) and his Parliament position due to an "improper relationship" with a PA staff member in his constituency. At a hastily arranged press conference, Palmer said that he was resigning to take "full responsibility" for the mistake and to avoid "further embarrassment".

This is why I am against the expulsion of Yaw Shin Leong in the first place!

Seriously, who had asked for their resignation and expulsion? Most Singaporeans didn’t even know of their affairs and even when Mr. Yaw’s affair became well known, most did not care. I mean as long as they can do their job as Members of Parliament, why should I care if they have someone on the side?  

However because the WP kicked Mr. Yaw out, now the PAP has no choice but to do the same to Mr. Palmer. The biggest losers in all this; the people of Singapore! We lost 2 good, capable men who now can no longer serve the Republic and for what? Because they had an affair? Please…most Singaporeans, whether they are PAP or opposition supporters, don’t give a shit about their domestic situation. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Change Or Retire

As the Philippines mourned the loss of Manny Pacquiao to Juan Manuel Marquez, questions are already been asked about the next move of Pacman. The Filipino superstar himself has indicated that he intend to continue on boxing, with another rematch against Marquez on the card.

I am with the group that says he should retire.

Pacquiao is financially stable and is also a congressman in the Philippines but that’s not why I say he should retire. I think he should retire because frankly, he’s no longer the boxer he once was.

This loss to Marquez is the second in the row for Pacquiao. Earlier this year, he suffered a controversial defeat to Tim Bradley. Although I thought he won the fight against Bradley, I wasn’t surprised by the decision. Most of the rounds in that bout were very close and it was never as lopsided as many people think. The thing is; I think many of his rivals now understand how to fight Pacquiao.

Pacquiao is a fighter. He launches a constant barrage of punches against his opponents and basically wears them down. As he got older, Pacquiao is no longer able to keep up the pace he once had and is no longer able to maintain the barrage of punches needed to wear opponents down. Also as fatigue sets in, he now misses a lot of his punches.

It’s the same with all athletes. As they got older, they have to change or tweak their game to suit their changing body. Michael Jordon relied on his turnaround jumper in the twilight of his career; Roger Federer now tries to finish points quickly; even the greats do it. Pacquiao has not. He’s still fighting the same way as he did 5-10 years ago and that’s the problem.

I can understand why he want another shot at Marquez, Pacquiao has beaten Marquez in their previous 3 fights (correctly I might add), and he do not want to retire with such a loss on his record. However if Pacquiao want to continue fighting, then he will need to change his all-attack style. If not, then he need to retire because Marquez (or whoever his next opponent is) will beat him again.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Farlander by Col Buchanan

“The Farlander” is the debut novel of writer Col Buchanan. The first book in the “Heart of the World” series, I picked this up because I heard Farlander is similar to Brent Weeks' Night Angel trilogy. After reading it, I can see why.
The Heart of the World actually referred to a land locked in war for most part of the past fifty years due to an expanding empire called Mann. The Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has almost conquered every nation of note in the region except for The Free Ports, a loose alliance of city states banding together for protection.
The Holy Matriarch Sasheen however has another problem to deal with when her only son ritually murdered a young woman protected by an elite group of assassins, the Roshun. The Roshun tasked legendary assassin, Ash and his young apprentice Nico, the duty of killing the young prince of the greatest empire in the Heart of The World.
Like I said earlier, having read this book I can see why some people think of “The Night Angel” trilogy. However, I also think comparing the two works does both Col Buchanan and Brent Weeks some disservice. Although it has similarity, there are some subtle differences.
For one thing, there are three main plotlines in The Farlander. Ash, a legendary assassin who has grown too old for his job; Nico, the young man picked up by Ash as his apprentice; and battle between The Free Ports and the Holy Empire of Mann.
First the good news; the characters of Ash and Nico were excellent. Both characters felt real with both merits and flaws in their character and generally this could be said of all the characters written in the book. Characteristic of the main players in the book were well-fleshed out and even the villains of Mann were well written. 

The Heart of the World was an extremely well thought-out world. The Roshun, the Holy Empire of Mann, the besieged city of Bar-Khos were all given time to shine and you could feel the time, effort and love Buchanan spent thinking out the world. Even the religion of Mann and Dao were well done. The book also had some excellent action scenes. Battles were well written with many rousing and exciting action scenes throughout the book.
The problem begins when Buchanan tries to do too much. The battle between The Free Ports and the Holy Empire of Mann was something the book could do without as nothing much happened on that end. However the biggest problem was the setting.

Although the world was well thought out, I felt the idea to give the book a steampunk vibe with airships and guns was a mistake. There’s an obligating air battle and some scenes with guns but outside that there’s nothing. The same could be said for the small amount of mysticism shown in this book. It would have been better for the writer if he just struck with a sword and military feel to the setting. In some ways, this shows Buchanan’s inexperience as he tried too hard to give an epic fantasy feel to his debut.
However, I do like the book. Although not great, “The Farlander” was a workmanlike book that was impressive in its own way. When the story sticks to Ash, Nico and the empire of Mann, it flows. You could understand how the young prince came to be the way he was and how a religion like Mann became an empire.
I found the twist at the end to be great and Buchanan obviously has some talent. The book only sagged when it goes off the Roshun and the empire. If Buchanan could have a tighter focus on the story, then second book should be good. I look forward to it. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Not A Chance

The latest attraction at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is the Marine Life Park (MLP). An “aquamarine”, the MLP is a Seaworld-like attraction whose main drawing point would be 24 bottlenose dolphins.

Thus far the only thing their main attraction has received is criticism. Animal welfare group ACRES has called for of MLP until the dolphins are released from captivity. In some ways, their concerns are valid. Three of the dolphins had died, two during their initial confinement period in Langkawi,Malaysia, and one last month while on its flight to Singapore.

So will their call for a boycott work? Not a bloody chance in heaven or hell!

To the guys at ACRES; this is Singapore. The people of Singapore don’t care about animals. Hell, Singaporeans complain and want the government to catch monkeys when they see them while walking in forested area. Government agencies go and kill wild boards even no one complains about them.

And ACRES want Singaporeans to boycott MLP? Clearly they don’t have a single Singaporeans in their group.

Friday, December 7, 2012

To: C.B. Cebulski

To: C.B. Cebulski

My name is Ghost and I’m from Singapore. There was an article here about you talent scouting in Asia for Marvel but never receiving ideas from Singapore writers. Well, I won’t call myself a writer (unless you count writing a blog as one) but here is my idea for Marvel.

I’m a big fan for alternate worlds. I love stuff like Elsworld, and the 1409 and Marvel Pulp series Marvel had previously. So my idea is to bring the X-Men story to an alternate world; the world of fairy tales. Yes, I know you had written a series like this a few years before but frankly I didn’t like it. The stories were too wide and divided, and there was little to no connection between the issues. I intend to use X-Men characters in stories based on fairy tales and connect them together in one big story.   
Yes, I know it sounds crazy, it sounds insane; and this is how I’m going to do it.

Synopsis: Science has been discovered. The world of swords and magic has given way to a world of guns, steam and science. With new weapons in hand and new scientific discovery almost every other month, the people are now actively hunting down the long-despised “M-people”.
Beings born with magical abilities, the M-people has been forced to band together for survival but even that is not enough in the face of science. In desperation, they decided to make a last stand in the mountain known as Utopia. There, they wait for the onslaught that would come. However some of the M-people are not willing to lay down and die. They decided to fight with everything they have. Even if they have to call forth evil and foul beings for their cause, magic will live.
Issue #1- A Sleeping Bird Takes Flight
A man arrived at a castle covered with rose bushes. Their thorns are razor sharp but the man does not care. He walked into the bushes and is stung by them. The man bleeds but continued onwards. His wounds healed quickly by magic and as he goes forward, he remembered the story of the castle.

“Once there was a powerful sorceress who was known throughout the world as the Phoenix, a being so powerful she would burn all around her and could destroy the world. The great powers at that time decided to trap the sorceress on a castle layered with spells. The castle is hidden and the roses would kill any who tried to enter.”

The man went past the roses and after fighting some magical guardians in the castle, he saw the Phoenix. She was a beautiful woman and before he knew what he was doing, the man kissed her. The Phoenix woke and the man introduced himself as Logan. Together, they left for Utopia.

As you can see from the story in issue #1, it is based on “Sleeping Beauty” with Wolverine and Jean Grey.  I have the general outline in mind already for Issue #2 (A Dark and Terrible Beast- a story based on Beauty & the Beast with Rogue as the beauty and Magneto as the Beast) and Issue #3 (The Merman- a story based on The Little Mermaid with Namor as the Merman prince who is seduced by Emma Forst).
I see the initial series as a 4 part mini. The series (issue 1-3) will be based on various fairy tales with characters from the X-Men mythology in them. Issue 4 is when the whole gang meets up in Utopia and fight off the humans led by Richard Reed and Tony Stark. It would be a story where magic meets science and the conflict that would arise from it. In the current Marvel story, the mutants are the next step of evolution. In this world, they are the holdovers. Yes, the role reversal is deliberate.
So this is my story and my idea. You probably will ignore it, but even if you do, I hope you have fun reading. Thanks

P.S. I have no idea how to contact C.B. Cebulski. So if anyone reading this has any idea how to do so, please forward this idea to him. Thanks

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Comics this week

Earth 2 #7- The title of this series is “Earth 2” and writer James Robinson is slowly but surely showing why. Although anchored by new version of the old JSA, Robinson’s vision is ultimately greater than that. Outside a small interlude between Green Lantern and Hawkgirl, the issue focus mainly on the conflict within the World Army. Not only does this give the series a bigger stage, it also gave the issue a Secret Warrior/SHIELD feel. This is especially the case when Amar Singh roped in The Sandman for some espionage action against Sloan. Personally I enjoy this issue a lot. The new development gave the series a totally new set of conflict within the same world as Alan Scott and Jay Garrick and more importantly, it gave the series the potential of new storylines that goes well beyond the regular superhero fare we seen so far. It’s ambitious, daring, and Robinson has shown that he’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers. Pick this series up. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Correct But Normal

Infamous short-seller, Carson Block, bet against commodities supplier Olam International Ltd has been attracting a lot of attention in Singapore lately. Mr. Block’s company, Muddy Waters, is betting against Olam because he believes the firm is at risk of insolvency and since the news broke, Olam's share price had went down in the Singapore Exchange.

According to Mr. Block, Olam is too aggressive in booking future so-called biological gains, the recording of future gains from plantations and dairy farms. Block even said that Olam would needs about US$3 billion to stay afloat and Muddy Waters is so confident of its assessment that it even offered to pay to have Olam’s debt rated by a debt company. Olam has rejected the offer and been fighting back, planning to raise US$1.25 billion to allay fears about its balance sheet and to shore up the confidence of its investors.

The spat between the two parties has a national turn in Singapore because Temasek Holdings owns 16% of Olam and has publicly backed Olam's plan to raise cash. So the question asked by a lot of Singaporeans is whether Temasek is making a mistake by backing Olam so publicly and whether Muddy Waters is on to something?

The answer I believed is mixed. Muddy Waters is probably correct in its assessment that Olam has been too aggressive in booking future biological gains, and it is also probably correct in its assessment of Olam’s debt. Muddy Waters is probably correct…and it does not matter.

The problem for Muddy Waters is the simple fact that in the Singapore context, what Olam has done isn’t all that unusual. In fact, the argument they have against Olam isn’t new. Most commodities companies in Singapore don’t have a debt rating and the issue raised by Muddy Waters against Olam isn’t unknown. Many people in the financial industry had said much the same things as Muddy Waters had.

Having said that however, what Olam is doing is…well, normal industrial practice here in Singapore. It’s small wonder that Olam chief executive, Mr. Sunny Verghese, believe that they had done nothing wrong. In Singapore, what Olam has done isn’t uncommon, it’s practically normal.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Deportation Own Goal

As the Singapore government announced that they will deport 29 of the Chinese bus drivers involved in the strike last week, I’m struck by one thing; the amazing own goals scored by our government ministers.

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said on Saturday that “the workers broke Singapore law”, but also say SMRT "could have done better”. Frankly, I think government ministers need to stop saying things like that. You know what does that statement tells people? It tells them that the strikers' demands are valid.

The Chinese bus drivers complaints of poor pay and lousy living conditions seem to be valid because even the Singapore government are chiding SMRT for “poor labor practices”. If that is the case, people will ask why are they still deporting and jailing the drivers?

That is a question Singapore will not be able to answer to people’s satisfaction. And no; saying the workers broke the law by having an “illegal strike” is not going to cut it. Not helping matters is the fact that the quickness of actions against the Chinese workers is not matched by actions taken against SMRT. I mean if the workers’ complaints are valid (and the government admits that they are), shouldn’t they be the wronged party here? In return, we are deporting the workers back to China and the SMRT got…nothing!

No fines or actions has been taken against SMRT and most probably, none will ever be taken. Most people would acknowledge the unfairness of this and the fact that SMRT is a government-linked company will only compound the problem. If the government is going to deport the bus drivers for reasons even they admit are valid, then they need to do so quietly. If not, deporting the bus drivers will only do more harm than good to Singapore.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Palestinian State

Now that the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly had voted to accept the de facto recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state, I think it's time for a change in Singapore. I believe it’s time for Singapore to do the same and accept Palestine as a state.

Yes, that is correct. Singapore is one of the handful of states who has thus far refused to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state. In case anyone is wondering, the vote recognizing the Palestinian state had 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions. In short, despite the best efforts of Israel and the U.S, the world was overwhelming in favor of recognizing Palestine. However in the latest vote in the U.N, Singapore abstained from voting.

I find that to be ridiculously stupid. Yes, I read the Singapore government’s position that such a recognition will not help achieve peace in the region but that argument will only hold water if there is some peace talks to help thing along. There isn’t. In fact, Singapore’s argument sounds downright stupid when you consider that Israel and Hamas just traded rocket fire for a week.

So Israel got whipped in the vote, as expected. The U.N. was always going to vote to accept Palestine and by abstaining, Singapore found itself not only against most of the world, but also almost alone in South-East Asia. Is there a good reason for that? Frankly, the answer is no.   

Our good relation to Israel and the U.S notwithstanding, there was no need for Singapore to find itself on the wrong end of such an overwhelming vote. Singapore should just recognize Palestine as a sovereign state. God knows, the rest of the world already do.