Saturday, August 31, 2013

Comics this week

Batman/Superman #3- I have a new title for this series. It should be called “The Kitchen Sink”! Writer Greg Pak has created a story that has 2 Supermans, 2 Batmans, Wonder Woman, Lois Lane, Catwoman, Darkseid, and even Batman and Superman as kids! Back by the art of Jae Lee & Yildiray Cinar, and you get a series that is literally taking no chances in trying to be a hit. So far, it's working!

New Avengers #9- As a tie-in of “Infinity”, the latest Marvel crossover, I expected the normal problems with tie-ins. What I did not expect was that I am expected to know the story of the series before jumping in! Writer Jonathan Hickman is also the writer for Infinity and it seem he expect readers to know the ongoing story of New Avengers before picking up this issue. I don’t collect New Avengers and readers who are like me will probably have the same issue I had; I don’t quite get some of the happenings in this issue. Atlantis is destroyed? Really? I didn’t know that. It’s too bad because the art by Mike Deodato is wonderful and the story seems interesting but unless you read New Avengers regularly, you will not fully get this issue.

Justice League #23- Man, what a waste of a good start! When the Trinity War started, I had such high hopes for it. Writer Geoff Johns put together a nice story that linked the various Justice League teams together nicely, and artist Ivan Reis put in some great work. Then in the latter half of the crossover, everything fell apart. Instead of a fitting conclusion, what we got was a crossover that’s more interested in setting “Villains Month” then telling a good story. Sad ending after such a bright start.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Fickle Egyptians (Part 2)

Last month when the Egyptian military ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in a military coup, I commented on the fickle nature of the Egyptian public. Some people commented that my view was wrong; one even said that I was oversimplifying things.

I stood by what I written then, and recent developments in Egypt has I’m afraid proved me right. The Egyptian people are fickle. I said this because there is no other explanation possible to the news that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the man ousted by the Egyptian public in 2011, is set to be released from prison within 2 days!

Frankly, ever since the military coup, you could see this coming. A military man himself, it’s no surprise that Mubarak has supporters in the military and that the Egyptian military leaders see him as one of their own. What’s surprising is the non-reaction of the Egyptian public to the news. President Morsi, the first freely elected president of Egypt, is now in prison, while the longtime dictator of the country is going to be released. The Egyptian public treated the news with barely a shrug of their shoulders.

2 years ago, Hosni Mubarak was the bad guy everyone came together against. Now he is being released by his people and no one in Egypt cared! The sense of absurdity in the air takes my breath away and I don’t whether to laugh or cry at what’s happening in Egypt. Good thing to come out of this; at least now no one can argue against my view that the Egyptian people are fickle. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Just Get Rid Of The PSLE!

In his National Day Rally speech last night, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong say that changes is coming for the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE). During his speech, the PM says that the PSLE changes will make it more open, holistic and less over-competitive as it has become excessively competitive and it is causing huge stress to young students and their parents.

I have a better suggestion. Get rid of the PLSE altogether!

As I have said many times before, I am totally against the PLSE. In Singapore, children take the PSLE at 12 and this test will basically dictate the rest of their lives. The average age of a Singapore is 77! There is just no need for Singapore to start sorting out children at 12. To me, the PSLE is a system that makes no sense when you compare it to how long a Singaporean is expected to live and the number of years students need to be in school.

Children are being sorted way too early in Singapore and while I welcome the idea of lowering the importance of the PSLE, I don’t think it goes far enough. Singapore should just get rid of it altogether!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Microsoft Sucks!

"The Games for Windows Live Marketplace is closing this month. Microsoft has detailed the rhyme and reason as well as what this means for PC players:
"As part of the recent Xbox 360 system update, Microsoft Points will be retired and the PC Marketplace will be closed as of August 22, 2013," Microsoft explains. "We encourage you to spend your Microsoft Points balance prior to this change. Although you will not be able to purchase new games, you can continue to enjoy previously purchased content by downloading it through the Games for Windows Live client software as usual."
When Xbox 360's system update happens, Microsoft Points will convert to an equivalent cash value on your Live account -- because the Marketplace is going away on PC, and there will be nothing to buy on GFWL, there will be no rollover. As Microsoft mentions, you should spend your Microsoft Points before August 22 to avoid losing those funds altogether.
To be clear, Games for Windows Live as a service will continue to operate. A series of frequently asked questions on details the consequences. Your existing purchased content remains yours, although the ability to buy it through the Marketplace will vanish.
This is another major change in the evolution of Microsoft Live, which will see major overhauls in the coming weeks leading up to Xbox One's launch."

Now even though I have some unused points there, I have no problem with Microsoft closing their Windows Live Marketplace. It's a business decision and frankly it's one I understand. 

The Windows Live Marketplace is terrible and I never used it before. Yes, even though I have points, I never used any of it before. I don't have that many points and I'm the sort of person who if there's nothing on that interest me, I would rather keep the points for another day.

So Microsoft closing the marketplace is something I can understand. What I can't understand is why I have to learn about this from the gaming website IGN? The passage above was taken from IGN and that was how I first learn that the Windows Live marketplace is closing. That sucks!

I'm an account holder who has valid points in the marketplace, so if Microsoft is closing the thing down, why the hell didn't I receive at least an email from them on the matter? I have to learn of this from a third party website that had nothing to do with Microsoft! What if I'm one of those guys who don't visit gaming websites? The points will disappear before you know it! I mean the date stated above is 22 Aug; it's already the 16 Aug! 

Microsoft, you guys want to close the marketplace? Good and well; a totally understandable position. Closing it down without informing people who have accounts on it? That sucks big time!  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Comics this week (Part 2)

Yes, so many of my series came out this week I had to spilt my weekly reviews in two. Don't worry, 2 of my regular series ends this week (Threshold & Demon Knights) so it's unlikely to ever happen again.

Astro City #3- The story of Marella, call center operator of the Honor Guard, continues! Where else but in Astro City would you read a story like that? The quirky little story by writer Kurt Busiek closes this issue and since this is Astro City, the ending is uplifting with a neat little bow on it. Frankly, the end was almost too neat but the story is so unique it doesn’t matter. 3 issue in, and Astro City already has got a niche for itself!

Threshold #8- After 8 crazy issues, Threshold is coming to a close with writer Keith Griffen closing the story in the same crazy way the series has been from the start. There’s a lot of gaping holes in the finish (what happened to Lonar for example) but on the whole, the finish was done as well as Griffen could have made it. He even left some openings in the end for other writers to play with; Jediah Caul’s supposed death; Hawkin’s shooting of Caul; the new series that’s replacing The Hunted…Threshold has been a fun series, if only DC would have kept with it for a while longer.

Constantine #6- After the ill-timed “Trinity War” tie-in last issue, writers Jeff Lemire & Ray Fawkes now have the unenviable task of finding gold in that muck. Needless to say, the result is less than stellar. Hopefully the series will get back on track once the nuisance of the “Trinity War” is over. Wait…after this is the “Forever Evil” event! Oh God, when will it ever end?  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Comics this week

Infinity #1- After the lackluster Age of Ultron, Infinity is the latest Marvel event. Right from the start, it seem Marvel learned their lesson by making sure Infinity has a villain worth its weight; Thanos! The Mad Titan made his return in Infinity and writer Jonathan Hickman hit the ground running.  Hickman has many moving pieces in the story with a race of cosmic beings called the Builders ravaging worlds of the Kree, the Skrull and the Galador. Then he added in the Illuminati, the Inhumans, the White Events, the World Incursions, and of course Thanos and his forces! Amazingly, even to someone who don't read the Avengers, Hickman managed to pull it off. The pacing of the issue was excellent with one part of the story joining to another relatively seamlessly and artist Jim Cheung making the most of the story by showing off some beautiful visuals. I agree with some critics that having 4 inkers in this issue is a problem on some of the pages, but overall I think the art works well with the story. I look forward to the rest of this series.  

Justice League of America #7- After two excellent starting issues, writer Geoff Johns has spend Part 3 and Part 4 of the Trinity War setting things up for the finish.  Frankly, that's 1 setup issue too many. Worse is the fact that something important happen off scene in The Phantom Stranger series! What happened will his team tried to speak to the soul of the dead Dr. Light? We don't know because this issue never say! All I can say is that this was a disappointing issue after such an excellent start.

Demon Knight #23- It's with a heavy heart that this is the last issue of Demon Knight. Ever since it was reported that the series was ending, you could see that writer Robert Venditti was trying to rush through the story. This issue was no different. Everywhere you see in this issue, you can see the rush work. The story jumps and the art by Phil Winslade was no better. This was a brutal issue and a sad end to the series. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Move The World Cup

In this past July, the average temperature in the Qatari capital, Doha, was 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Seeing this, various countries are now voicing their concern and their wish to move the 2022 World Cup from Qatar to another country. The Qatar 2022 supreme committee had hit back, maintaining that Qatar will be able to host the tournament in the summer.

My two cents worth? Move the World Cup to another country! 

Although I’m an Asian myself, the idea of Qatar hosting the World Cup idea has to be one of the stupidest I have ever known. Now, I’m all for the idea that each continent gets a fair chance to host the World Cup, but when FIFA announced that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup, I thought it was one of the strangest decision I have ever read. Why would FIFA give the World Cup to a country that has never reached a World Cup before? Traditionally, the World Cup is only given to a country who had qualified for the tournament before. Qatar hadn’t. Not only that, it’s team is not even one of the top teams in Asia; their team would be destroyed in the competition.

What I didn’t know then was that the soaring summer temperature.

Now that I do, it’s just another nail in the coffin. For the players’ safety, the very idea of the World Cup; move the 2022 World Cup somewhere else in Asia. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Shifting Reports

As the Egyptian military are poised to start taking action against supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi, you will notice one thing as you read the news of Western media like BBC and CNN. They are shifting their reporting to be against the military.

Now some people may believe that this is a simple case of the western press not wanting to be seen supporting the Egyptian military as they crackdown on supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, but I think the reason for the shift is different. They have realized that the Egyptian military (surprise, surprise) has no intention to give up power!

When the military coup took place, the Egyptian military made all the right noise. They claim that there will be elections within 4 months and a civilian government will be in place after that. Recently as Western mediators admitted defeat in getting the Egyptian military to come to an agreement with the Muslim Brotherhood, that date was quietly changed to 9 months!

The Egyptian military has (shockingly) moved the goalpost for an election that would kick them out of power. What a surprise! Totally unexpected! No wonder the Western press is now doing a 180 turn right now! No one could have seen that one coming.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Comics this week

Earth 2 #15- Many times already, I have mentioned how ambitious writer James Robinson has been with Earth 2. I loved his willingness and guts to re-imagined beloved characters like Alan Scott into something different, but like I mentioned before also; sometimes Robinson is too ambitious for his own good. This was what happened in this issue. Robinson has to juggle 3 threads in this issue and it was 1 too many. The fight between the Terrors and the teams of the World Government and the Wonders was just too one-sided to be exciting and I have the feeling that this was because Robinson had to leave space for the threads. Nicola Scott did what she could but even her art, gorgeous as it is, can’t save the issue. Not for the first time, there just wasn’t enough pages for everyone.

Green Lantern #23- When writer Robert Venditti took over, Hal Jordon was quickly left in charge of the Green Lantern Corps. I thought it was a bad idea because Hal is no leader. I’m glad to see that Venditti has the same idea. In this issue, Hal had a go at his injured Lanterns and then decided to go after an escaped criminal on his own against the better judgment of his senior officers. If this issue proves anything, it is how bad of a leader Hal Jordon really is. His hotdog character just isn’t suitable for a leadership role, much less one in a galaxy wide police force, and Venditti hit it on the spot. The art of Billy Tan conveyed everything well because the face of Hal when he discovered just how deep he is in. Now if only Venditti can bring back Simon Baz and B’dg. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Are You Kidding?

Today while reading The Strait Times newspaper, I read about an article about vehicles stopping along a road with the engine running. The article state that most drivers do not know this is illegal. For good measure, the article even had a picture of cars stopped along a road with double yellow lines.

These drivers who say they do not know stopping along the road is illegal are bullshitting. How in the world can any driver say stopping along a road, much less one with double yellow lines, is not illegal. It's not even close. You stop along a road; it's illegal. You stop along a road with double yellow lines; it is illegal. Whether the road is busy or not or if you are causing an obstruction does not matter!

Frankly, if any driver truly do not know stopping along the road is illegal in Singapore, he do not deserve his driving license. If you are one of these drivers who told the reporter you do not know stopping along a road is illegal, please give up your driving license. You are a danger not only to yourself, but also to other drivers as well.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Why The Surprise?

Singaporeans, including some public personalities, are up in hands against a school principal here in Singapore. The principal of St Margaret Secondary School insisted that 3 of her school's students had to wear wigs to school after having their heads shaved for charity.

It all started when 5 students from the all-girls school had participated in a fundraising event called "Hair for Hope". Organised by the Children's Cancer Foundation (CCF), the event encouraged supporters to shave their heads as a gesture to tell children with cancer that it is “OK to be bald”. The students asked for the school’s permission before going bald. Permission was given but not before the school made the 5 students promise to put on wigs when they return to school due to a rule stating that students are forbidden “punk, unfeminine or sloppy hairstyles”. Or in this case, no hairstyle at all.

When only 2 of the students came to school with wigs, the other were called out of class and only allowed back after buying wigs to cover their bald head. 

Now, do I agree with what the principal did? 
- Hell no! Although like most Singaporeans, I do no charity work whatsoever, I have to admire what these girls did. They decide to go bald for cancer children! Even with my fast balding head, I wouldn't have done that. They were great! I surprised by the principal's actions?
- Hell no also! Not only am I not surprised, I am surprise that so many Singaporeans are! 

The simple fact of the matter is that the principal did what all principals in Singapore would have done. Remember a few years ago when Malay girls wearing tudung were sent home because the tudung is not part of the school uniform? Or how many boys had to get their hair cut if they are found to have hair that were deemed too long? 

The action by the principal of St Margaret Secondary School might be controversial due to the reason why the girls decided to go bald, but her actions were pretty much in line with what Singaporean educators feel about school uniforms. They feel that "conformity" is not only important, it is paramount to maintain discipline for students.

Frankly, it is beyond stupid. I personally never felt more disciplined just because I was wearing a uniform and I never understood why students are not allowed to study just because they had long hair or are wearing a tudung. However Singapore educators feel differently and their words count more than my opinion.   

So when I read about this, I wasn't surprise at all. Singaporeans slamming the principal for being inflexible had obviously forgotten their school days in Singapore; either that or they were very good boys and girls in their schooldays. For me...her actions were worthless but it's pretty much what I expect from a principal in one of our schools. She follow the rules to the letter. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

America Play Its Hand

Since the first day when the Egyptian military staged the coup that ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, it had been a suspicion of the world. The suspicion was that there was no way the Egyptian military would have staged the coup without the approval, or at least the tacit acknowledge, of the U.S government.

The suspicion was that despite what they say publicly, privately the U.S government was more than happy to see the back of President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government. The suspicions are now all in the past tense because U.S Secretary of State John Kerry has now all but admitted it.

In his strongest support yet for Egypt's new leadership, Kerry told a Pakistani television station that the Egyptian military was "restoring democracy" when it ousted Morsi on July 3. In his words, Kerry said that the military was “asked” to intervene by protesters and even so far to claim that the military “did not take over” the government.

Talk about a bloody joke! Not only did the U.S government not called the military coup a coup, they are now even saying that Egyptian military did not take over the government! Talk about a statement that defy common sense! If there was any doubts about America's position on the coup in Egypt, this most definitely settled it. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Walking Dead: Season 1

The Walking Dead: Season 1 is a graphic adventure based on Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic book series. Developed by Telltale Games, the game was originally released online part by part (known as episodes) in 2012, but I got the full game released as The Walking Dead: Season 1.

A graphic adventure game, The Walking Dead: Season 1 is the story of Lee Everett, a convicted murderer who was on his way to prison when the zombie apocalypse hits the world. The game takes places around the time as the comic and you do come across certain characters from the comic.

However it is wrong to even think of it as a rip-off of the comic. The Walking Dead: Season 1 has its own story and it is a very well-written one. This is arguably the best written game I had ever played and if you play finish the game and don’t feel anything for characters like Clementine (a young girl in the game), then I dare say there’s something seriously wrong with you.

Unlike many graphic adventure games, The Walking Dead: Season 1 put the emphasis on story and character development instead of puzzle solving and the end result is amazing. I was especially impressed with the way the story interwove with the gameplay. As Lee, you get to decide what to do and how to interact with your follow survivors. This might sound like standard stuff, but it is the integration of story and gameplay that make this game stands out. The story is affected both by the dialogue choices and the actions you choose. During some quick time events for example, certain characters will be killed by your actions and you need to choose who to save. Non-actions will result in an even worse fate for the characters. (What can I say, I was curious)  

Something I also like was the way Telltale track the choices made by the player. At the end of each episode, the game will show you the choices you made in the episode and the percentage of players worldwide who did the same thing you did. It doesn’t affect the game at all but it was fun knowledge.

Of course the game wasn’t perfect. The game has some small shooting and fighting sections in it, and I found these to be less than engrossing. Also the story might not be for everyone. The story is good but it is also a tragedy (this is The Walking Dead after all), and that might not be for everyone.

However these are but minor points for me. The Walking Dead: Season 1 has been critically acclaimed, winning gaming awards left, right and center. After playing the game, I have to agree with them. It might be the best game ever made, but it could have the best story ever written for a game. For that, The Walking Dead: Season 1 is certainly worth a play.