Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fad Is Over

It's called a fad and like all fads they eventually run their course. So it is with Apple's iconic iPhone. Recent reports in Singapore has it that iPhone fatigue has set in Singapore as Singaporeans are now turning more to other brands, like the Samsung Galaxy.

Well, it’s about time! I seriously never understood the love affair people have with smartphones. To me, they are…well, kind of troublesome. They have a hundred functions, 90% of which no one ever uses. I once saw a friend who had to hit 6-7 buttons just to get to her contacts. To me, it seems kind of silly. A handphone’s main use is to make calls right? Playing games, going on the internet should all be secondary functions, and here we have a “smartphone” that isn’t very smart about how to bring up the contacts page.

So I am more than happy with the so-call “iPhone fatigue”. Now if only the trend would spread to all “smartphones” in general. Let's get handphones back to what they are suppose to do; to make calls!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Singapore Idiots

Two brothers, 12-year-old Nigel Yap and 7-year-old Donovan Yap, were hit and killed by a cement mixer at the junction of Tampines Avenue 9 and Tampines Street 45 a few days ago. In Singapore this has become big news, not lest because photos of the two dead children have been posted on the internet.

I don't know who did it first or how many people forwarded the pictures but anyone who has done either of these acts is a bloody insensitive idiot. What in the world make anyone think forwarding pictures of dead kids is a good idea? It's a terrible idea that serves no purpose and please don't say anything about releasing information to the public. Public information or not, pictures of two dead kids are pictures of two dead kids. What's worse is that now that they are on the internet, it's almost impossible to take all of them down. They are out there already!

Accidents do happen, and they will always happen. Hopefully the next time it happen, we won't have idiots putting pictures of dead people on the internet again. Hopefully, Singaporeans will learn from this episode. Yes, I know it's a long shot but what's life without hope?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why DC? WHY?

Over at The Civilian Reader, it was reported that the best comic series on the stand right now, “I, Vampire”, is coming to an end. It is a piss-poor decision that defy logic!

In the 20 odd years of collecting comics, I had seen more than a few series come and go. Most of the time, I can understand why it happen. Even great series like “Hellstorm, Prince of Lies” and “Nova”, if their sales aren’t great, I can understand why the companies axed the series. It's sad; it's unfair; but the companies need to make money, so I can understand the decision.

“I, Vampire” doesn’t really fall into that category. The acclaimed series by Josh Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino don’t have great sales figures but it isn’t the worst either at DC. There are some series whose sales figures are around “I, Vampire” and are nowhere near as acclaimed as it is. Yet they survived while this series get the axed! I don't know the background on why and how the decision came about but it is an insane decision. This is a great series that deserve more than just 19 issues.

Sadly, talking about it won’t change anything as the decisions has been made but…why DC? WHY?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hold Your Horses

After Saturday’s upset win, some people have been saying that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) will lose the next General Election (GE). Worker’s Party (WP) secretary-general Low Thia Khiang has been trying to pull the wind out of such talk by cautioning Singaporeans not to read too much into the victory in Punggol East.

He is right.

I think Mr Low hit it right on the money by saying we can't take a by-election result as barometer of what is going to happen in the next GE. The next GE is schedule in 2016, 3 years later, a lifetime in politics. There’s a lot of time for the PAP to work out what went wrong and fix the problems. Also this is a by-election, which is very different from a GE.

Frankly despite all the talk, I doubt Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is losing too much sleep when the PAP still holds a decisive 80-7 advantage in Parliament. Supporters of the opposition should celebrate the improbable victory in Punggol East, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

There’s still a long, long way to go before the PAP majority is threatened.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

WP Upset PAP

Okay, that was unexpected! Lee Li Lian of the opposition Workers’ Party (WP) scored an upset last night when she garnered 16,038 votes against People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate Dr Koh Poh Koon’s 12,856 to win the Punggol East by-election.

The loss is a big blow to the ruling PAP and one I never saw coming. I don't think the WP did either because after the results came in, they took a long time before holding the press conference. In the aftermath of the victory, I think a few things are clear.

1) The WP has cement it's place as the second biggest political party in Singapore. Not only did the WP won a 4-way fight, Mdm Lee also became the first female opposition member to win a single member constituency (SMC) since 1965. I mean even the PAP think twice about fielding a woman in a SMC.

2) With the victory, any chance of opposition unity has gone the way of the dodo. WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang had said during the election that he do not believe the concept of opposition unity is viable. After this win, he would have even less inclination to reach out to the rest of the opposition.

3) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the PAP got their work cut off for them. They fielded a solid candidate in Dr. Koh and the rejection by Punggol East voters should be a lesson to them. Frankly, after the less than successful results in the General Elections (GE) in 2011, the PAP had been slow in changing course. It's been more of the same and only in the past few days has a slew of new programs been announced. It was too little, too late for Dr. Koh.

4) I think now the parties would be less likely to ditch their MPs who had affairs. The married Michael Palmer was forced out after it was revealed that he had an affair, the second time this happened since GE 2011. The WP got away with it in Hougang, but the PAP didn't in Punggol East. Things is, the voters did care! The PAP didn't lose in Punggol East due to the affair, it never came up even once during the election period because the parties know that the voters did not care. With the loss by Dr. Koh, the political parties may now be more careful in pulling the trigger on further indiscretion.

5) Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan must be congratulating himself this morning on his decision to pull out of the Punggol East by-election. Not only did he not spoilt the opposition votes and made the WP's victory possible, he and the SDP did not suffer the heavy defeat that was inflicted on the Reform Party and Singapore Democratic Alliance. You truly have to wonder about the future of these 2 parties, especially Reform.

Whether you are a PAP supporter, an opposition supporter, or even political neutral, there is one thing everyone can agree on; With the victory by the WP last night, the political landscape of Singapore has now changed. For better or worse, every politician and political party in Singapore will need to adapt. How well they do so will have a direct effect on the next GE. It will be an interesting one.

Friday, January 25, 2013

$330 Million For Shelters?

With only a few days left till the Punggol East by-election, the Singapore government has been announcing new projects and plans left, right and centre to get people to vote for them. Everything from baby bonus to property cooling measures to new MRT lines has been announced.

However you have to wonder if in their rush to announce plans, whether the Singapore government exactly knows what the various government agencies are announcing. In the latest announcement, the government says they will spend $330 million to build a network of sheltered walkways linking MRT stations to their surrounding areas.

Seriously, when Singaporeans complain about the MRT nowadays, what do we complain about? Does anyone truly complain about getting wet? No, we complain about how the trains are not working, and about the constant and consistent breakdowns of the MRT lines.

And the government is spending $330 millions to build shelters? That just makes no sense. You are going to double Singapore's rail network by 2030 and then spend $330 millions to build covered walkways, all the while trains are suffering breakdowns consistently? How about using that money for something that's actually a concern for most Singaporeans, like fixing the MRT system to ensure it exactly works?

There’s something call “priority” and it seems the government and the LTA do not have it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Comics this week

Justice League #16- One of the problems with the Justice League is that they are almost too powerful for their own good. The trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are some of the most powerful people in the world and that make it hard for writers to give them a viable threat. That is not a problem for writer Geoff Johns and artist Ivan Reis. Johns give the JL an entire nation as an enemy and any questions readers have about the threat posed by Atlantis was answered by a magnificent scene when Ocean Master call out the undersea army. Reis truly outdid himself there. Also I love the fact that of the entire JL, only Aquaman truly knows how powerful Atlantis is but no one is taking him seriously. The trinity is sure that they could manage anything Atlantis throws at them and only at the end did they discover their mistake. Add that to the Shazam backup (which is finally going somewhere) and you get a great issue.

Green Lantern #16- The appearance of B’dg last issue was welcomed and nothing proves it better than this issue. Having an experience GL means that Baz Simon has someone to off on and the fact that it is a talking squirrel has built-in humor all over it. Writer Geoff Johns gives a refreshing take on the latest human GL and shows Baz doing something even Hal Jordan once failed to do. It’s a good successful start for Baz Simon and now that Baz has followed B’dg into space, I’m very interested to see how well he handled himself with the rest of the Corps.

Green Lantern: The New Guardians #16- Remember my recent criticism of this series? This issue almost made all those bad issues worth it. Artist Aaron Kuber and colorist Wil Quintana team-up to deliver an epic battle between Ganthet and…well, everyone else! The Zamorans, a GL, a Fear Lantern, a Blue Lantern, a ton of Star Sapphire, and Ganthet took them all in a battle that had EPIC written all over it. More importantly, writer Tony Bedard managed to wrap up a few plotlines in this issue. The betrayal of the Zamorans against the Guardians wasn’t that unexpected but the best thing is that Kyle Rayner finally getting all 7 powers of the emotion spectrum. This means there’s no more training issues. Yes! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bad Taste

In Hollywood, it seems there’s no story better than that of a fallen hero. Less than a week after cycling champion, Lance Armstrong, admitted to using banned drugs and blood doping to win seven Tour de France titles, there’s already plans to make movies on his life.

Yes, that's right. Less than one week and talks on the movies are so advanced that a host of big names from Matt Damon, to Michael Fassbender, to Christian Bale are being mentioned to be in the running to play Armstrong.

Come on Hollywood, are you that desperate for stories that you are planning a movie on a story that’s less than one week old? In Singapore, the story of Lance Armstrong isn’t that big so maybe that’s why I don’t quite understand it but one week?

I don’t care how fascinating of a character Lance Armstrong is (I don’t find the story that fascinating), but planning a film after just a few days just leave a bad taste in my mouth. Now a movie might be made sooner or later, but it's just bad taste to be rushing them out to take advantage of the current "hot" story. Hopefully, all them bomb big-time at the box-office.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Not Just Babies; Kids Too

With a birth rate of just 1.20 children per woman, it’s no surprise that the Singapore government has been trying hard to get more Singaporeans to have more babies. On Monday, the Singapore government introduced a new package of measures to boost population growth.

The package includes increased cash bonuses for parents of newborn babies and introduced paternity leave for fathers. Parents of Singaporean babies born since August 26 last year will receive a cash gift of $6,000 which will increase to $8,000 for the couple's third and fourth babies.

Personally, I feel these measures are great. The cost of raising a child in Singapore is great and help for parents is always welcomed. However, I’ll question why these measures are only for new babies. What about parents with young babies right now?

In many ways, this is a bigger issue for parents. The cost of having a child doesn’t stop after the first year, it increases and I feel in many ways helping parents with babies between 1 to 5 years of age would be more effective than coming out with new packages for newborn babies.  

Right now, the general feeling is that the government wants people to have babies but once that is done, the parents are on their own. This is something that needs to be addressed. Frankly, parents with young kids need help more help than parents with babies. Babies are cute. People are more than willing to pitch in to help parents when they just had a baby. Small kids however are walking engines of destruction. They destroy things like no one’s business and grow so fast, they outgrow their cloths in months!

If the Singapore government want Singaporeans to have more children, then that’s the target group they need to help. After all, sooner or later, babies grow up to be kids. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Counterproductive Attack

When I read that Pastor Lawrence Khong of the Faith Community Baptist Church made a public plea that the government keep Section 377A of the Penal Code, the law that makes it an offence for two men to be sexual with each other, I didn’t think about it. After all, it’s hardly usually for a religious leader to tout his religion’s view on homosexuality.

So I was very surprised when the internet was awash with criticism of the “pastor’s attack” on homosexuality. I was surprised because Pastor Khong's views is hardly strange or unusual. In fact, I fail to even see how the plea by Pastor Khong is an "attack".

The simple fact is that the pastor didn't ask the Singapore government to criminalize homosexuality because it's already a crime. He was merely asking the government to maintain the status quo. From where I stand, the pastor was "attacking", rather he was "defending". And the reason for the defense was because there has been movement by various parties to get rid of Section 377A.

You can call Pastor Khong's plea as the start of the pushback.

As many bloggers noted before in Singapore, the move to get Singapore to accept homosexuality is doomed to failure. Singapore society is just not ready to accept homosexuality in public. It's that simple. Pastor Khong is not only not alone in his views, he's on the side of the majority. If you hold a national poll in Singapore (and I mean through all walks of life, not just the educated middle/upper class) on whether Singapore should accept homosexuality, I don't think there's much doubt in what the result will be.

Attacking Pastor Khong for voicing a view that's in line with the general public is not only wrong; it's bloody counterproductive! People who believe Pastor Khong is correct will now feel they need to defend the pastor's view because well...they agree with him!

That's the last thing the gay community need. Because in terms of numbers, there's no contest which side has more people.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Naruto MMO

Holy Jutsu! It’s incredible but Namco Bandai Games just announced that it is in talks to develop a Naruto Online game with the major Chinese Internet company Tencent Games.

That’s right! The massive anime hit will now have a MMO! No word yet whether it’s going to be a RPG or action MMO but an agreement has been signed already so word should be coming out soon.

For anime and MMO fans, this is great news. Now if only they start one for One Piece.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Comics this week

Bloodshot #7- This is a strange issue. Just when the attack on Project Rising Spirit comes near a close last week, suddenly we are pulled into a flashback issue. The issue is well-written by Duane Swierczynski but the timing of this flashback issue is very strange. We were already at the basement of the Project Rising Spirit compound, Bloodshot already found the harbingers kids…and this issue is a flashback? Like I said earlier, this is a well-written issue, just very strange timing for it.

Demon Knights #16- My God, it's a time jump! A time jump in an American comic? I read a lot of manga and manhwa so it’s common for it but it’s practically unheard of in an American comic! I mean Reed Richards’ son has been seven for close to 40 years but new writer Robert Venditti push forward the time line by 30 years. This issue starts 30 years after the battle of Avalon as The Horsewoman is being hunted down by bounty hunters. After a short and slightly strange explanation on how she managed to keep her youth after 30 years, she is thrown into a dungeon where she met Exoristos and the Shining Knight (both of whom are still young). They soon meet the man who put the bounty on them, Al Jabr. Now a grumpy old man and the leader of Moorish Spain, their former teammate had gathered the Knights back together as the vampire Cain is currently ravaging Europe and he need their help to stop the vampire (though as a man of science he refused to admit there is such a thing as a vampire). Now taking over from Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves is no easy task, but I have to say this opening issue from Venditti and artist Bernard Chang leave me hopeful. Venditti’s story is almost a continuation of Cornell’s despite a 30 year time difference and Chang’s lighter lines looks suitable for the story. His work during the scenes in Moorish Spain was especially good. Also the main overall story of Cain tied in nicely (for once) with DC desire to put Demon Knights, Stormwatch, JL Dark and I, Vampire into one production house. It seems our worries are for nothing; there’s life for the Demon Knights after Cornell and Neves. 

Threshold #1- Threshold is going to be a new anthology series by DC that focused on space adventures. Considering the vast amount of space/cosmic characters in DC, this series is long overdue. Picking up from last week’s Green Lantern: The New Guardians Annual (which really is Threshold #0), undercover Green Lantern agent Jediah Caul is fighting for his life after being left behind by Arkillo, Carol Ferris and Saint Walker. The back-up story is on Larfleeze who has been robbed by someone insane enough to try it. Now I won’t say this issue is great but it does serve its purpose; which is to deliver stories and characters of the wider cosmic stage to the readers. And that is something I look forward to. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Win-Win For The SDP

With the withdrawal by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) from the by-election of Punggol East SMC, the by-election will now be a four-way contest. Dr Koh Poh Koon from the People's Action Party (PAP), Lee Li Lian from the Workers' Party (WP), Desmond Lim from the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and Kenneth Jeyaretnam from the Reform Party will all contest in Punggol East by-election after successfully filing their nominations this morning.

Frankly, I can't see anyone winning except for the PAP so the pullout from the race by the SDP is not going to effect the results but what the pullout did proof is the growing political maturity of SDP chief Chee Soon Juan. When he first burst onto the political stage, the man was a firebrand but just like last year when he did a deft job organizing the SDP General Election campaign, Dr. Chee has again prove to be a good administrator with a good handling of the news of the pullout.

By stating that the SDP is pulling out after heeding the people's voice that they do not want a multi-corner fight in Punggol East, Dr. Chee had cleverly placed the SDP in a win-win situation. If the PAP wins (as expected), the SDP can say that they are not the cause of a spilt in the opposition vote. If an opposition party wins (miracles do happens), the SDP can say it is only possible because the SDP sacrificed themselves for the greater good.

The PAP may win the seat next week, but there will be two other winners in this by-election. That is the SDP and Dr. Chee Soon Juan.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Advantage PAP

Nomination Day is tomorrow, and the twists and turns just keep on coming. The latest twist came with the surprise withdrawal by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) from the by-election of Punggol East SMC.

With the withdrawal of the SDP, and with the Workers' Party (WP) already unveiling Ms. Lee Li Lian as their candidate, there is now pressure for other opposition parties to withdraw and clear the field for a straight fight between the WP and the ruling People’s Action Part (PAP). The thinking is that if the opposition unite behind one candidate, he or she would have a good chance against the PAP candidate, Dr Koh Poh Koon.

Sorry but that’s dreaming.

I’m sorry but I feel the opposition is counting their chicks before they hatch. No matter how many candidates there are in the by-election, whether or not there is a multi-corner fight in the by-election, Dr Koh is going to be the favorite. Punggol East voters will most likely vote for the PAP candidate no matter who the opposition parties fielded.

I mean it’s Punggol! The opposition has an uphill climb in that ward and the PAP has a massive advantage there. Sorry but I just can’t see the opposition winning the seat.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Li Jiawei's retirement

Table tennis star Li Jiawei brought the curtains down to her competitive career last week when she announced her retirement from international table tennis. Along with the announcement, she also confirmed reports that she will be returning to China where her husband, Mr Li Chao, and their three-year-old son Terry are living.

Since the announcement, some Singaporeans have been complaining about Li’s decision not to stay in Singapore and claim that she is just another mercenary who came to Singapore for the money. My reactions to all these whining is, “yes, so what?”

Li has represented Singapore since 1996. She flew Singapore colors at four Olympic Games and won a silver and bronze medal in the women's team event at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games. Outside the two Olympic medals, she also won 14 South-east Asia Games and seven Commonwealth Games gold medals. She has been without question one of the more successful sporting foreign talent we had imported into Singapore.

But seriously does anyone truly believe she would stay in Singapore after retirement?

Even though she received citizenship in 1999, she like most foreign talents in Singapore was always going to return to her home country once her “work” here is done. It is expected and I for one do not understand why there are any Singaporeans who can criticize Li for doing something so obvious. Sure there are some like Alexandra Duric who fully intend to stay in Singapore after retirement but they are the exceptions, not the rule. The vast majority of the foreign talents in Singapore fully intend to return to their countries. Li is just one of them and this is something Singaporeans already know and realized long ago. So why all this complaining? This is one thing I don’t understand about Singaporeans. Why in the world do we complain about things we already expect?

Li came to Singapore in 1996 after being talent-scouted in China and received citizenship in 1999 for the sole purpose of representing Singapore internationally. She has done that, even once reaching No.3 in the world ranking. Take comfort and joy in an athlete that has served Singapore with distinction for 17 years. Staying in Singapore long-term? Don’t ask for something that wasn’t ever going to happen. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Comics this week

Earth 2 #8- Ambition is a strange thing in comics. You need it for the series to succeed but too much of it, and it become a problem. Writer James Robinson has been very ambitious with Earth 2 thus far, and if this issue is anything to go by, he's not finish with his grand vision yet. #8 showcase another villain, Steppenwolf, the man who led the Apokolips forces. In short order, the infamous warrior has taken over a country with help from Wonder Woman's daughter, Fury. Although this issue was well-written, I questioned the Robinson's wandering eye in the series. A few issue ago we had an issue focusing on Sloan, now one with Steppenwolf. Not a bad idea but right now we hardly know the heroes like Flash and Hawkgirl, so I don't know about these issues that highlight the villains. A good issue but going forward, I have to wonder about the future of the series.

Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual #1- Ever since the first story arc finished, Green Lantern: New Guardians has been listless. This annual did not improve anything. The annual is basically a long advertisement for the upcoming Threshold title. In fact, I will go so far as to say this should be titled Threshold #0! As Threshold #0, this issue would be fine. As Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual #1, it is terrible because...well, the issue got almost nothing to do with the team.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Monopoly Horror

The Boot, The Iron, The Car, The Dog, The Ship; all beloved pieces…of Monopoly! Not anymore because the makers of Monopoly, Hasbro, has decided to get rid of these iconic game pieces and replace them with new figurines after a vote on Facebook.

Really? I’m not a great fan of Monopoly (I have played the game before of course) but why in the world would Hasbro want to replace these iconic figures? The pieces are part of the game, a well-loved tradition of the game; why mess with it? Worse the replacement pieces up for vote include a helicopter and a cat!

Imagine replacing the dog with the cat or worse; if both get into the new version! Since this will be an Internet vote, it might come down to whether there are more dog-lovers or cat-lovers in the world and if both get in; then Monopoly might turn into a battle between dog-lovers against cat-lovers! Oh, the horror!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A What Index?

When I read that the non-profit organization Centre for Fathering has come up with a "Better Fathering Index" aimed at benchmarking the father's involvement in bringing up children, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Now I decided I have to laugh about it.

You see, it seems that The Index will be the first in the world first, and will be ready after a comprehensive survey of dads in Singapore. Chairman of Centre for Fathering and National Family Council Lim Soon Hock have even publicly said that “there must be a set of criteria to produce this index”.

I have to laugh because I cannot begin to comprehend how in the world does one quantify the “goodness” of a father? Seriously, I know in Singapore we love to put numbers and set criteria on everything but a “Better Fathering Index”?

What? Are fathers supposed to measure how much time they spent with their kids and have a report card for it? That is just stupid! There’re no report cards or numbers in love. You can’t put a number on the love a parent has for their children. I’m not a father and even I know that.

You know why The Index will be the first in the world first? Because no one else in the world is stupid enough to try it before! A “Better Fathering Index”? What’s next? A “Better Mothering Index”? A "Better Grandparent Index"? It is so ridiculous I just have to laugh about it. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

By-Election Date Set

President Tony Tan has issued a writ of election for Punggol East constituency. Nomination Day for the by-election is on the 16th of January with Polling Day on the 26th of January.

The Punggol East seat has being vacant ever since Member of Parliament Michael Palmer stepped down last month due to an extra-marital affair. Now I have said several times that the PAP should show the by-election ASAP as the opposition is having problems deciding who should contest the seat. The Workers' Party (WP), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), the Singapore Democratic Alliance, Reform Party and at least one independent have expressed interest in the seat.

Despite many people hoping that the other opposition parties will surrender the seat to the WP in this by-election, it is highly unlikely that will happen. They will earn nothing in surrendering the seat and both the SDP and Reform having bigger names in their stable than anyone the WP can put up. So holding the by-election now makes sense for the PAP.

However, I have to question the quick turnaround for this by-election. The campaign is only 10 days! Now this may be in keeping with recent elections but I feel this is different. 40-year-old surgeon, Dr Koh Poh Koon, is widely expected to be the PAP candidate in the by-election after being seen accompanying caretaker MP, Teo Ser Luck, during a Meet-the-People session.

Dr. Koh is a surprising choice because no one knows him. Even though the PAP name should carry him first over the finish line, there is no reason for the PAP to take the risk. Having a long campaign period this round will works in the PAP favor. It will give the residents in the constituency more time to know Dr. Koh and it comes with little risk as the opposition is in disarray. In fact the short campaign period might actually help the opposition as the public is still distracted by the recent AIM-Town Council saga.

No matter which opposition party is in the contest, the PAP should win Punggol East. Michael Palmer won by over 13% the last time round. However, the PAP need to be careful. This by-election may not be the cakewalk they are expecting.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings trilogy was an epic that imprinted itself on the minds on a generation. Not only was it critically acclaimed, it made a boatload of money for everyone involved. With all the money made from the three movies, it’s no surprise when Hollywood decided to film The Hobbit.

The story of The Hobbit is that of Frodo’s uncle, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who was half-coerced/half-tricked into taking part in a quest proposed by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen). The quest involved accompanying thirteen dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on a quest across Middle-earth to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug the dragon.

Set up as the team's "burglar", the peace-loving Bilbo now has to deal with unruly, unkempt dwarves; hobbit/dwarf eating trolls; escaping from orcs and goblins; and a dangerous but delightful riddling contest against Gollum (Andy Serkis). All on a journey to meet, defeat and kill a fire-breathing dragon that had once defeated an entire kingdom.

No wonder the hobbit fainted before the journey even began!

Now first off; No, this is not a prequel! JRR Tolkien wrote The Hobbit first before the Lord of The Rings trilogy so The Hobbit is not a prequel; The Lord of The Rings is the sequel. I know some people think this is nitpicking but please get this right.

Second; you need to watch this with an open mind, especially of you had read the book. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first of a new trilogy of movies based on JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. I said “based on” because well…The Hobbit is a pretty small children book but somehow Peter Jackson intends to make three films out of it, each presumably close to three hours long. So I walked into the theatre with an open mind, and that make a lot of difference.

Third; Expectations are a double-edged sword. People expect a lot out of the movie, out of the whole Hobbit trilogy. Given how good the Lord of The Rings trilogy was, that’s understandable but frankly if you don’t lower your expectations, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. That’s not to say The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a bad movie. In fact, I found it to be a charming, spectacular, and exciting film. Once the party got going and they left the Shire, the movie was every bit as good as anything found in the first trilogy. However it’s a different story, so I feel you need to take The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as a movie on its own, not as a continuation or a prequel of the Lord of The Rings trilogy.

If you can do that, you are going to enjoy the movie.

The film is anchored by excellent performances from Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen and having Peter Jackson back (along with a whole bunch of familiar cameos) does give the movie a sense of familiarity that works in the movie’s favor. I especially enjoy the scene where Gandalf speak with the White Council; Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Saruman the White (Christopher Lee). I always thought the Lord of The Rings trilogy never truly showed how powerful the Council truly was, it was something that has been rectified in this movie. You can truly get a sense of the power of Galadriel when everyone on the Council deferred to her in one way or another.

Also working in the movie’s favor is the humor of the movie. Adapted from a children book, An Unexpected Journey is more light-hearted than Lord of The Rings and the humor shines through. After the at-times-too-serious Lord of The Rings trilogy, this change in mood was more than welcomed.

Also welcomed was the total absolute lack of humans in the movie! There’s elves, dwarves, hobbits, trolls, orcs, goblins, giants but no humans! If you want to be technical, you can say there’re 3 wizards in the movie but in Middle-earth, they are not really considered humans. To me, this prove that Peter Jackson truly believe in the story of The Hobbit.

Now there’s some debate about Jackson using the highly controversial High Frame Rate, a motion picture format that use a higher projection frame rate than the industry standard of 24 frames per second. Personally, I don’t quite get it and I don’t know how much of a difference it made but I will say An Unexpected Journey is a very good-looking movie. There were some majestic shots of the scenery and even Rivendell look much better.

Of course some things didn’t works out so well for the movie. Many critics have blasted Jackson for being excessive and I could understand why. At 169mins, the movie was about 30mins too long. It took over 20mins before the party even left the Shire which I thought was a little too much. There was no reason for the dwarves to indulgent in 2 songs or for the long scene between Frodo and Bilbo.

Also anyone who read The Hobbit knows that there was almost no way you could get 3 films out of the book. So it’s no surprise that Jackson added a lot of stuff into the movie. Some scenes like the aforementioned White Council meeting works, others did not. One of the things that did not work was the escape from the goblin city. My friend say it remind him too much of the escape from Moria by the Fellowship (which is true), and to me it felt kind of tack-on. Looking at it, I can’t help but think that it’s there because Jackson needed a big action sequence to satisfy the action fans.

However like I said earlier, I found The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to be a charming, spectacular, and exciting film. It is a good movie that could stand on its own and a good additional to the Lord of The Rings trilogy. Watch it for a fine return to the great world of Middle-earth! 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Expansions; Not DLCs

Recently, Sony Entertainment gave a one-month free pass to all former subscripters of the MMO action game, DC Universe Online. Now say what you want about Sony, they know how to treat their customers. They don't just kill game off (like another company that shall not be named) but actually work on it to make things better. I mean just look at Vanguard. A dead-in-the-water MMORPG which now boost a healthy population.

I am enjoying my time in DCU Online but having said that, I don't think I will continue playing DCU Online after the month is up. Now the game is F2P so there's no harm in playing it but I just can't see myself doing it. The main reason is that there's no expansion to the game.  Worse, there's no plans for an expansion to the game! Sony like most other companies nowadays, seems focused on DLC (downloadable content).

However, DLCs just doesn't do it for me. I played the new Aquaman and Spectre DLCs and enjoyed them but would I pay a monthly fee for them? The answer is no because good as they are, there's no new area to explore. For gamers who like exploring, that's a big no-no. Basically, there's no meat to DLCs!

For that, you need a new expansion. I hope Sony and all the other companies out there would listen; stop focusing on DLCs and start making expansions again! DLCs may be easier and cheaper to make but ultimately no one is going to pay a monthly fee or buy a new game just for 2-3 missions. You may retain a few customers here and there but you are not going to make new ones.

And for MMO games to survive and strive, you need that.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Legal Dirty Politics

Do you know that sometimes in trying to prevent something, you can actually make things worse? If anyone doubts that, I strongly suggest you read about the sage between M/s Action Information Management Pte Ltd (AIM) and the PAP town councils.

Last week, I blogged on the case and since then there had been twists and further twists on the matter. As the initial defense by the PAP-owned IT company has been widely discredited by the Singapore public, Coordinating Chairman of the 14 PAP Town Council (I didn’t even know there’s such a position), Teo Ho Pin, issued a 26 paragraph statement explaining the PAP's Town Councils rationale for the sale.

Like the initial defense by AIM, the Singapore public did not accept it as there were gaping holes in his statement. The question of conflict of interest was not touched on and while Mr. Teo said that the Town Council will save $8000 in the leaseback agreement, we have no idea how that figure came about as no one seem to know the cost of developing the original software.

In the latest additional to the saga, lawyers acting on behalf of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) served a letter to local blogger Alex Au demanding he take down the blog post that first raised the issue. Mr. Au, quite naturally, did so (why not when the matter is already out) but the damage was already done.

I think this act through the lawyers was truly foolish on the part of the PAP.

Now the ongoing saga involving AIM and the town councils has raised questions of propriety, transparency and accountability. The PAP had tried to explain away the entire episode (twice), but the Singapore public is not accepting their explanation. The last thing they should be doing is to go after Alex Au.

To the Singapore public, it looks like the PAP tried to explain away their actions to no avail so now they are going after the guy who first broke the story. To me, that’s like saying the PAP has no more cards to play, no more arguments to make, so the only thing left for them to do is to shut people up.

Simple put; going after Alex Au now is an admission of defeat!

Also, this latest action by the PAP comes at a totally inappropriate time. I mean if you want to shut people up, do it before trying to explain away your actions! Not after you had failed to do so! What’s worse is that this action by the PAP now makes people think there’s really something wrong with the whole AIM deal.

There isn’t! Everything is totally legal. It's dirty but it's legal and this is all the PAP need to emphasize. To be blunt, it's dirty politics but it's legal, dirty politics. Yes, Singaporeans are unhappy about the deal and most expect our leaders to be more ethical than this, but let's be serious here. If Singaporeans can accept the PAP gerrymandering left, right and centre every election, they can accept this.

This is dirty politics and the PAP need to stop trying to justify dirty politics. It's not going to work and they need to stop trying ASAP because the more they try, the worse it will get for them.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Videogames and Museums

Now there are some people who say videogames are a new art form. That video games are as deserving of discussion as any other kind of art form like movies and television. So I guess that’s the reason why in America, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Museum of Modern Art both had opened exhibitions on “The Art of Video Games”.

Like I said, it’s totally understandable…now please excuse me while I vomit out my lunch!

Sorry but videogames and museums do not go together! Now as a gamer myself, I’m not saying videogames aren’t an art form but videogames in a museum? Videogames has been around for over 30 years but going to a museum to see videogames? Sorry, not to be an anti-snob, but there is just something seriously, seriously wrong with that. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Don't Pimp My Ride, Singapore

On Yahoo Singapore today, there is an article asking why modified cars have such a bad reputation in Singapore. In most countries, people are allowed to modify their own vehicles but in Singapore, that’s a big no-no with stiff penalties against vehicles that are illegally modified.

The answer to the question of “why” is very simple. In a word; luxury.

In Singapore, cars are a luxury. With our world-class public transport system, cars are not really needed in Singapore. So cars are a luxury and modified cars are a luxury on top of a luxury.

That is why most Singaporeans, including me, have little time for people who modified their vehicles. Personally, I don’t understand why anyone need to make their car’s exhast louder, or need to have sports rims, and spoilers on their vehicles. To me, like most Singaporeans, people doing this have too much time and money on their hands.

I mean public transport is good in Singapore (MRT breakdowns aside), so cars are a luxury. Now you want to modify your car on top of that? Go right ahead, but don’t blame me when I laugh if you get into trouble. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Sooner, The Better

Since People's Action Party (PAP) member Michael Palmer resigned from the PAP due to his extramarital affair, Punggol East Single Member Constituency (SMC) was left without a Member of Parliament (MP). Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has since said that he would carefully consider when to call for a by-election in the ward.

The New Year has come and gone and there’s still no word on when the by-election will be held. For the opposition parties, this is good news because for the PAP, the time is now! Like I said before, I believe the PAP would be favorites for the ward but if they want to have the best chance for the win, I truly believe that the PAP will want to have the by-election as soon as possible. 

My reasoning is simple. The PAP needs to have the election before the opposition get their house in order. The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), The Reform Party and the Worker’s Party have all said they intend to contest in the Punggol East SMC. That is at least a 3-way spilt on the opposition side of the election and the by-election could go as high as a 5-way contest. 

This is a chance the PAP should take advantage of.

The longer the PAP waits, the more time the opposition has to engage in horse-trading and the more chance there will only be one candidate against the PAP. For the PAP, in the case of the by-election in Punggol East SMC, it’s a case of the sooner, the better.