Monday, December 30, 2013

The Loudmouth Is Right

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a reputation of being a loudmouth in world football. The captain of the Swedish team had called himself the best player in the world and openly said the World Cup next year will be less of an event because he won’t be there.

The Swedish captain is now in hot soup in his own country after speaking out that people has no right to criticize his country's FA for not giving a new Volvo to women's midfielder Therese Sjogran for earning a record 187 caps. Male midfielder Anders Svensson was granted one for breaking Thomas Ravelli's record of 143 international caps.

Ibrahimovic say it’s only fair that male footballers get more rewards as they faced a higher level of competition and bring in more money. It is a statement that’s totally politically incorrect in Sweden which prides itself on gender equality.

Amazingly, I find myself agreeing with the loudmouth here. Come on Sweden, the fact that male world football is much tougher than women world football is a certainty. Even in obsessive gender equality country like Sweden, men's football gets bigger crowds and support. This means they bring in more sponsorship, money and eyeballs.

Does this means they should get more? Hell yes! I take no pleasure in this but in this case, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is totally right. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Comics this week

Forever Evil #4- After some fits and starts, I have to say Forever Evil is coming along nicely. Writer Geoff Johns took his time, but his portrayal of the Injustice League this issue is top-class. Lex Luthor, Bizarro, Black Mantra, Black Adam and Captain Cold each has a distinct function and voice in the team and the first taste of the team working together is interesting to say the least. Also look out for the scene between Lex and Bizarro which is nothing short of great. The only knock I have is the Batman/Catwoman section of the issue which struck out wrong; I want more Injustice League and Crime Syndicate!

Jupiter’s Legacy Giant-Sized #1- When writer Mark Millar and artist Frank Quitely released Jupiter’s Legacy #1, I didn’t pick it up because I didn’t see the hook in the story. Jupiter’s Legacy Giant-Sized #1 collect Issues 1 to 3 of Jupiter’s Legacy and boy do I see the hook now or not. Millar almost certainly wrote this story together as a whole because this story is so smooth I can’t tell where one issue end and another began. The story itself is great with an almost Shakespearean twist with the mighty hero Utopian betrayed by the very heroes he help create. I may not have Jupiter’s Legacy #1, #2, or #3, but I will be certainly be there for #4.   

Justice League #26- With the Forever Evil event, writer Geoff Johns has been using his Justice League books to flesh out the back-story of the various members of the Crime Syndicate. This issue, we have the origin stories of Power Ring, Deathstorm, Johnny Quick and Atomico. Unlike the fun origin stories of Ultraman and Owlman, I didn’t find the origin stories here to be all that interesting. However since all the Crime Syndicate now had their origins told, maybe next time the story can move forward again.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Pathetic Thai Opposition

What do you do when you faced an election you can’t win? For Thailand, the opposition party there decided that the answer is to cause a riot and block the election from going through.

Taking a page out of the Egyptian military government’s playbook, the main opposition Democrat Party’s supporters are trying to cause chaos on the streets of Bangkok to delay or cancel the election set on 2nd Feb. The Democrat Party also announced that they will boycott the general election, an election they were certain to lose, because the election process needs “reform”.

What a bunch of crybabies!

The ruling Puea Thai Party didn’t change anything to get into power, but they worked hard in northern Thailand to secure a powerbase and then used it to get into power. Even after getting in power, they didn’t change anything and continued to win elections after elections.

The Democrat Party’s reaction to the rise of the Puea Thai Party for the past 12 years has been nothing short of self-defeating. Instead of getting down to the ground to get support back in the north, they are trying to stop a free and fair election! Even in Singapore, with an unfair biased election system geared for the ruling party, you don’t see our opposition parties trying to stop any election. They knuckled down and work the ground.

It seems that’s not the case in Thailand. They rather try to stop the election all together. The fact that a political party called the Democrat is trying to stop an election is so ironic it’s not even laughable. It’s just pathetic. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Is Valencia Worth It?

$418 million! That’s the amount of debt Spanish football club Valencia but it’s no deterrence to Singaporean businessman Peter Lim. The Singaporean businessman has a net worth of $2.3 billion and has pledged to wipe out the debts and make money available to buy new players for the club.

Now this is not the first time Mr. Lim had tried to buy a football club. In 2010, Mr. Lim made a failed bid for Liverpool so this bid does not come as a total surprise, but…why Valencia?

I don’t get this purchase. Valencia is so heavily in debt that Mr. Lim would need a sixth of his asset just to clear the debt. Add to that the money needed to buy new players, the money needed to finish their stadium; the total money involved would be well above $500 million.

Also the Spanish La Liga is a league of two, Real Madrid and Barcelona, with Atletico Madrid being the best of the rest. Valencia is a mid-table team at best. They have little to no chance of getting into Europe, much less the Champions League.

Half a billion dollars for a team which isn’t even in Europe? I hope Mr. Lim has a solid plan for the club because from where I sit, that’s too much to pay.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Who Care About Fairness?

Since the riot in Little India, the Singapore Police had charged 25 men involved in the riot. Outside them, over 200 men have been given police advisories while another 53 had been deported out of Singapore without charge.

It is these 53 men who had been deported that has raised the ire of activists with Workfair Singapore issuing a statement lamenting the Singapore law that allow the government to deport migrant workers without trial or the right to appeal.

I’m sorry but the activists are barking up the wrong tree if they believe Singaporeans are going to be on their side on this argument. Simply put; yes, it is unfair that these foreign workers can be deported without the right to appeal but most Singaporeans do not care about that.

To Singaporeans and the Singapore government, the workers are here to work and to make money. This is their role in Singapore. As everyone can see on the comments on the internet, the foreign worker’s personal well-being is of a secondary concern to us, if it’s a concern at all.  

Fair or not; right or not; that’s just the way it is in Singapore. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is director’s Peter Jackson’s follow-up to last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and is the second installment of a three-part film series based on J. R. R. Tolkien's 1937 100+ page novel, The Hobbit.

Yes, I am still sore that anyone would try to get 3 films out of a 100+ page novel.

However if you ignore that, like I intend to, you would find that The Desolation of Smaug is a fine, fun and exciting film.

The movie pick up right where An Unexpected Journey left off with the 13 Dwarves, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) on the run from Azog (Manu Bennett) and the orcs. So it is advisable to see the first movie first before this one. However even if you didn’t, I don’t think it’ll matter too much as this movie is a different beast from the first.

Whereas he was more into setting the mood in An Unexpected Journey, here Peter Jackson seem more intend on having a good fun time. It mostly worked as the action set-pieces were something to behold. From the fight with the spiders, to the barrel battle, to the battle in the Lonely Mountain against Smaug, action and combat is something this movie has no shortage of.

Also I like the fact that Jackson didn’t forgot about the humor of the book. The Hobbit was written by J. R. R. Tolkien as a children book and is a pretty light-hearted, quick paced book. The Desolation of Smaug is something like that. It is a movie more into having fun than the more serious Lord of The Rings trilogy.

Not to say the movie doesn’t have a serious side. This movie shows Bilbo finally understanding the corrupting evil influence of the One Ring as he could understand the language of spiders while wearing the ring and even brutally killing a spider when he lost the ring in the skirmish.

As exciting and as good as the movie is, there are just some things that prevent it from being great. For one thing, the elves in this movie are on steroids. At one time in this movie, Legolas (Orlando Bloom) told Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) she cannot hunt 30 orcs alone.

On the strength of this movie, I have to disagree. Whenever Legolas and Tauriel show up, orcs get knocked down like bowling pins. Whereas the company of dwarves were captured on 3 different occasions (spiders, Wood Elves, guards from Laketown), these 2 elves kill orcs without breaking either sweat or stride. Honestly if this was a RPG game, players would be screaming these 2 were OP (overpowered).

I also have to say the love triangle subplot between Kili (Aidan Turner), Legolas and Tauriel is nothing short of ridiculous. Not for a single moment did I even remotely believe that an elven warrior like Tauriel would consider a dwarf like Kili over the handsome, orc-killing, almost invincible prince of Mirkwood. The stupid love triangle was without question the weakness part of the whole movie.

However on the whole, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a winner. Far better than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, it’s a fun ride through Middle-Earth as the action and humor of the movie shines through. Everyone in the theater was laughing during the barrel escape, and the ending will make you want to watch the third movie of the series, The Hobbit: There and Back Again.

That makes The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug a winner in my book.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

People Are Asking The Wrong Questions

A few days ago, there was a strange incident in a subway train in Singapore. A commuter was caught on video carrying and holding a samurai sword in a train. Needless to say, the man was arrested.

SMRT said that the police were called in and a police spokeswoman confirmed that the man was detained for possession of a weapon. The police spokeswoman however refused to respond to questions on the nationality or age of the man. This led to many people speculating on the internet that the man was a foreigner.

I have to ask, "Who cares what nationality he is?" The man is clearly sick and unwell but instead of asking what he is suffering from, we are asking where he is from. Is it written somewhere a mentally unwell sword-carrying overseas man is more dangerous than a mentally unwell sword-carrying man from Singapore?

No, so why should anyone care which country the guy is from? It make no difference whatsoever! The main thing is that no one was hurt, why the man did what he did, and what could be done to prevent such incidents in the future.

Those are the questions people should be asking.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December of Unexpected Snow

When historians look back at this December, they would call this month “The December of Unexpected Snow”. They would call it that because this year, not only has there been snow, the snow came at places where you don’t expect them.

A winter storm, called Alexa, has covered parts of the West Bank and Israel with heavy snow. Roads into Jerusalem were closed to private traffic. Other countries in the Middle East like Egypt also suffered from snow.

Yes, snow in the Middle East, a region known far more for sunny deserts.

Just not to be outdone, snow has also fallen in Northern Vietnam for the first time in recent memory. So rare is the occurrence that Vietnamese have taken to the road, causing a 5-hour traffic jam as everyone is driving into the mountainous provinces of Lao Cai and Ha Giang to see the rare wintry snow.

So yeah, this is “The December of Unexpected Snow”, a December for the record books. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Don't Sell Something No One Believe

In the wake of the Little India riots, one of the things that has been attributed as the cause of the riots is the frustrations felt by foreign workers on their working and living conditions in Singapore. In the light of this, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam visited a foreign workers’ dormitory in Yishun and was quoted as saying that the foreign workers “have no complaints about working conditions, about their salaries, about their employers".

Basically, he is saying foreign workers are not exploited in Singapore.

Come on, foreign workers are so routinely exploited in Singapore it's almost the norm. Their salaries are hideously low, their working conditions dangerous, their living conditions bad, and in any dispute between them and their employers, the pro-business Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will almost always side with the employers. That's the image Singapore has, and it's one that not entirely incorrect.

Take the examples of the past year for instance. Foreign workers had to go on strike to improve their living conditions, and even just to get their pay. In one case, foreign workers whose contracts were ending were not paid for months and they had to strike to force the employer to pay them. Once it made the news, the said employer's money problems suddenly disappeared and the workers were paid promptly. The employer was suspected to have intended to deport the workers immediately once their contracts were up without paying them a single cent of what they were owned.

In most countries that provide Singapore's low-cost workers, Singapore's reputation as an employer is so low, workers would not want to come here if they have a choice. We are the third or fourth choice on their list and it is a totally understandable position to take when the Singapore Management University (SMU) conclude that 65% of injured foreign workers in Singapore had been threaten with premature repatriation by their employers.

So I find it strange that a minister from the Singapore government is trying to sell a picture that Singapore do not exploit foreign workers. Even to a Singaporean like me, that's total nonsense. And if Singaporeans are not buying that, you can just imagine what they think of it in other countries.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Gold Farming Companies

In the world of MMORPG, World of Warcraft (WoW) is the king of the hill. Their subscription numbers probably outnumbered the subscribers of all the other MMORPGs combined.

So when they start giving away high level characters, you know the practice is now officially mainstream. In the news of the latest WoW expansion, Warlords of Draenor, it is announced that subscribers with the expansion can boost a character to level 90 so that they can "enjoy" the expansion immediately. Maybe it’s the purist in me but since when did gaming company become gold farmers?

You know those gamers who level up characters and then selling those characters to other players for cash? They are banned right? Well, if they can’t do it, how come gaming companies can? To be fair, WoW is hardly the first to do this. Games from TERA to EverQuest II to LOTRO are all doing this or are going to do this in the near future. LOTRO even intend to sell level 50 characters to players in the coming future!

So in the interest of fairness, I have a suggestion. Gaming companies should let gold farmers come out into the open and advertise their services openly. After all, the farmers aren't doing anything the companies aren't doing too.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Comics this week

Astro City #7- After a series of great short stories, writer Kurt Busiek decided to change things up for the first multi-part arc of this new series. For that, he called back a few old fan-favorites like Samaritan, the Confessor and Winged Victory. However, even though this is the first true-blue superhero story of Astro City, most of this issue is setup with Busiek more focused on filling in the background of Winged Victory. Credit must be given to artist Brent Anderson whose ability to give his characters a range of emotional looks works to perfection in this issue. Without him, this issue would not have worked. However Anderson is here, so this is another solid issue for Astro City.

Justice League of America #10- Since JLA started, Stargirl has been the odd one out as most missions has been done without her. Since Forever Evil started however, writer Geoff Johns seemed to be on a mission to change that. The results have been mixed. Honestly, the flashbacks in this issue just didn’t cut it. Okay, we saw how Courtney got her powers and her strained relationship with her parents but the disconnect between the scenes were telling. Basically, we weren’t given any reason before this issue to care about Stargirl, much less her family. In a world taken over by the Crime Syndicate, why should we care about them of all people? That’s a point this issue never quite made clear. 

Superman/Wonder Woman #3- Of all the new series DC has been putting out recently, I think Superman/Wonder Woman has been the pick of the lot. While artist Tony S. Daniel has delivered some great work thus far in this series, for me the main man is writer Charles Soule. He has showed that he has a great handle on the 2 main characters but in this issue, he also shown how good he is with the supporting cast. Soule not only provide character and relationship development instead of action, he also did it in a way and style that is nothing short of amazing. A nervous Diana who has no idea how relationships work; a chat between friends (Batman and Superman); and (hopefully) a new dynamic between Superman and Zod; Soule showed a steady hand in all aspect of his writing. I have a feeling this series is going to be great. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Protesting Against Democracy

All around the world, we heard of people demonstrating and protesting against their government for more democracy, more representation. In Thailand, 150,000 protesters in Bangkok are protesting against democracy.

In 2011, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra won an election that even the opposition admitted was free and fair. Not only did she win, she won in a landslide. In response to the protestors, PM dissolved Parliament and set an election on Feb 2.

Knowing full well they are going to lose the election, the opposition say they don’t want an election. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former opposition politician, went further, saying that the demonstrations would continue until a “People’s Council” made up of unelected “good people” is setup.  

In short, the opposition in Thailand is in the mood for a naked power grab.

Am I the only one who find the situation in Thailand hilarious? Not only are the protesters against democracy, they are protesting FOR an unnamed, unelected, unknown group of “good” people to run their country! In a world where most people want more democracy, the people in Thailand are not just asking for less, they are asking for none whatsoever! Think about that and tell me that's not funny.    

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Let's Wait

On Sunday evening, the first riot in Singapore in more than 40 years occurred in Little India. The incident has left the country shell-shocked as 18 people, including some Singapore Police Force officers and Singapore Civil Defence Force personnel, were injured and 5 police vehicles were burnt in the incident.

Information has been sparse so far with the only confirmation been that the incident spontaneously happened after a fatal traffic accident at the junction of Race Course Road and Hampshire Road. A private bus knocked down and killed a foreign worker and the incident was sparked off from there.

A lot of comment has been given because of this incident. Some have commented on the rising tension in the city between locals and foreigners. Some have commented on the bad working conditions foreigners have in Singapore. Others have blame alcoholism with the government blaming all alcohol sale in Little India this coming weekend.

Frankly, I think everyone need to hold off on having any knee-jerked reactions to this incident. The incident just happened, information is sparse and the investigation is on-going. More importantly, the riot seen to occur spontaneously on its own. So I believe Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's decision to convene a Committee of Inquiry to look into the root cause of the riot in Little India is the right thing to do.

The committee will look into the factors that led to the incident, how the incident was handled on the ground, and why it happened. Everyone should wait for the committee to finish their investigation before shouting on what should be done to prevent any further incident.

Monday, December 9, 2013

I Am A Trade Fair Regular

The humble Pasar Malam is a trade fair! Pasar Malam literally means "night market" in Malay and in Singapore, it is basically a tempory market that pop up in a residential neighbourhood for a few days. So for a few days, the neighbourhood will have a collection of stalls that sell goods such as toys, clothes, shoes etc, at low prices.

I never knew it is considered a trade fair!

Why do I say it? I say this because the National Environment Agency (NEA) just shut down an event in Aljunied for not having a license to operate a trade fair. In the opposition-run GRC, an operator started an event at a mall and 15 stalls open for business for the Christmas and New Year period. The event was promptly shut down by the NEA because the operator never applied for a license for a trade fair in the area. In the view of the NEA, the event is a trade fair which of course came as a shock to everyone including the event operator, the opposition MP...and me!

15 stalls at a local mall is a trade fair? My goodness, every pasar malam I've been to have more than 15 stalls. You mean all this time I was going to trade fairs and I didn't even know it? When I think of trade fairs, I had always thought of them as events held in big shopping centers like Takashiyama or Suntec.

I am wrong. I must have been to over 50 pasar malams in my life and at least to the NEA, every one of them was a visit to a trade fair. So yes, I am a trade fair regular!

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Great Statesman Passed

 Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has died.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is arguably the world's most revered statesmen after successfully leading South Africa from apartheid rule when he was elected as South Africa's first black president in 1994. Not only that, he did in a way that garnered respect from his opponents for the relatively peaceful way change came about. Even FW de Klerk, South Africa's last white president, praised Mr. Mandela's for being a unifier and having "remarkable lack of bitterness" towards the people who jailed him for 27 years.

Mr. Mandela was 95 and he will be missed.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Comics this week

Earth 2 #18- Okay, this Batman is definitely not THE Batman. Writer Tom Taylor seem to know what buttons to push to make this series tick as he introduced new version of Aquaman, Jimmy Olsen and Batman. Since taking over the series, Taylor has been trying to stamp his mark on the series and in this issue, he has done so. Aquawoman? James Olsen, the super-hacker? A Batman willing to pop a defenseless Joker? I’m sold!

Hinterland #3- With the success of The Walking Dead, The Y-Man and some others, post-apocalyptic comics is all the rage nowadays. So it’s to the credit of writer Ian Edginton that he managed to put a fresh spin on yet another post-apocalyptic story. Yes, I agree there quite a lot of info dump here but the idea of elves, trolls and goblins taking revenge on the human race after an apocalypse is just cool. I especially like the inside joke Edginton took on the idea of mutants. An easy shot at the number of mutants books on the shelf? Maybe, but it’s still funny as hell.

Inhumanity #1- With the end of Infinity, the Inhumans has been tagged by Marvel as the next BIG thing. Written by Matt Fraction, Inhumanity #1 is supposed to be the start of a brand new franchise that Marvel hope will one day rival the X-Men and Avengers. Considering how many Spiderman, X-Men and Avengers titles they have, this is something Marvel desperately needs. With that in mind, this issue is a positive start. I still hate the idea of multiple artists on one issue (5 in this 1 issue?) but Fraction did a good job balancing the story between the history of the Inhumans and what is happening now with the death of their king, Black Bolt, and the destruction of their city. It’s not without flaws, but there’s enough here to let me give Fraction the benefit of the doubt. I’m interested to see where we go from here, and that’s always a good thing.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

New Sub For Singapore

All (or almost all) Singaporean men must serve two years in the military. Not happy with that, the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) just announced that they are buying two new submarines from German defence contractor ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems.

Although the total cost was not announced, the SAF was more than happy to say the deal included a logistics package and a crew training arrangement in Germany while the German firm said the propulsion system of the new sub will significantly increases the submarine's underwater range.

Good, fine and well…but why do we need them? Our soldiers may be crap (as a NSF, I can say that) but Singapore already has the most modern airforce in the region. In terms of size, we are outnumbered but weapons wise, we are heads and tails in front of anyone in Southeast Asia. So why would we need 2 subs with an advance range system?

Submarines are not really needed because…well, Singapore don’t need them. Even if you want to add a new look to the battlefield, how are 2 submarines going to change a thing on the field? Frankly, outside a hole in our wallet, I can’t see what use the new subs are to Singapore. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

UFC Singapore

Yesterday, I saw the first advertisement for UFC Fight Night 34 which is scheduled for January 4, 2014 at The Marina Bay Sands in Marina Bay, Singapore. At first it was to be called “UFC Fight Night: Ellenberger vs. Saffiedine” but since Jake Ellenberger is injured, it is now just UFC Fight Night 34.

As it is the first Ultimate Fighting Championship event in Singapore, it is widely expected to be a sellout. However for people who think or is worried that this is the opening salvo of a battle between the UFC and Singapore-based ONE FC, I think you are worried about nothing because…well, just look at the official fight card.

Fight card
Weight class   
Welterweight- Hyun Gyu Lim vs. Tarec Saffiedine    
Featherweight- Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Hacran Dias    
Welterweight- Luiz Dutra Jr. vs. Kiichi Kunimoto    
Bantamweight- Kyung-Ho Kang vs. Shunichi Shimizu    
Welterweight- Katsunori Kikuno vs. Quinn Mulhern    
Bantamweight- Dustin Kimura vs. Jon Delos Reyes    
Lightweight- Mairbek Taisumov vs. Tae Hyun Bang    
Featherweight- Max Holloway vs. Will Chope    
Bantamweight- Royston Wee vs. Dave Galera 

Sorry but that’s not a fight card to get too excited about. Outside Tatsuya Kawajiri and a few others, I don’t know most of the fighters on the card. Looking at the card, I have to say it’s far more likely the UFC is trying to test the waters in Singapore. If the UFC is trying to take on ONE, they will fill the card with bigger, better names.

Monday, December 2, 2013

No Review Of Catching Fire

Last week, I went and saw Catching Fire in the cinema. After the show, I was asked when would I write the review of the movie. I replied that I wouldn’t because I didn’t like the show. I was then asked why not.

As some of you may have noticed, every month I would write a review of a book, movie or game. What some of you might not have noticed is that I only write reviews of book, movie and games I liked (or at least I do not dislike).

The reason for this is very simple; I can’t be bothered to write a review about something I don’t like. In my view, if you like something, it makes sense to write a review of it to recommend it to others. If you don’t…well, forget it because maybe others would.

Take Catching Fire for example. It has been top of the box office for 2 weeks now so there’re a lot of people who like it. I don’t understand why as I found the movie to be painfully slow and filled with gaping plot-holes but that’s my view. A lot of people with their wallets do not agree with me.

To these people, I say good for you. I don’t understand why but to each his own. Just don’t expect me to bother arguing about the book, movie or game with you because I can't be bothered to. I don't like the movie.