Friday, August 29, 2014

Nine-year-olds with Uzis

In the U.S, a nine-year-old girl accidentally shot dead a gun instructor at a shooting range. No question this was an accident and a tragedy, but after finding out more about the story, I have to say this was an accident waiting to happen.

I say this because the nine-year-old girl accidentally shot dead the gun instructor with an Uzi sub-machine gun during a private gun lesson. Sorry but who in the world thought it would be a good idea for a nine-year-old to touch an Uzi? Now I can understand that it's a cultural thing in America for people to shoot. I understand there's a gun culture there much like there's a martial arts culture here in Asia, but letting a nine-year-old get a hold of a sub-machine gun? That is just asking for trouble.

As a guy who was in the army and shot before, I can say from experience that nine-year-olds have no business touching sub automatic weapons. Even the idea of it sounds stupid. If America don't want such a tragedy to happen again, they need to have some laws (maybe an age limit) against such lessons. Nine-year-olds have no need to learn how to fire an Uzi. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hello Kitty Is Not A Cat!

Hello Kitty is NOT a cat.

Yes, you read that right. Hello Kitty is no kitty. So say Sanrio, the company behind the worldwide icon of cuteness.

The news first came to light when University of Hawaii anthropologist Christine R. Yano was curating an upcoming Hello Kitty retrospective at the Japanese American National Museum and she was corrected by the company on the show. Sanrio, very firmly, said that Hello Kitty is no cat. She's a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. She's never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature and even has a pet cat of her own, called Charmmy Kitty.

She is no cat.

To no one's surprise, the world reacted in collective shock! Hello Kitty is no kitty? What's next? Scooby-doo is not a dog? For their sake, I hope Sanrio change their company line on this. Hello Kitty fans are not a bunch of people you want mad at you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mark of the Ninja

As stealth games goes, Mark of the Ninja is a revelation. Although not a huge fan of the genre, I have played my fair share of stealth games but I have never played one quite like Mark of the Ninja.

A 2D side-scroll game, Mark of the Ninja requires the character to sneak through a series of levels while staying away from traps and out of sight of guards. The player is visible to enemies in areas of light and hidden in darkness; however that’s not all. Enemies also react to sounds and actions like running may also give away the player character's location and are represented visually by an expanding circle.

If the player do manage to silently approached an enemy, the player will be able to perform a one-hit kill. The silent assassination is performed by the player moving the mouse in the direction showed on screen. This may sound easy but in the heat of the moment with the fear of being discovered always hanging above you, it is not as easy as it sounds. You can also move your enemies around by making sounds so that they would come to investigate, and when they do…

Being able to perform silent kills is not just fun, it is also very important because in the game, open combat is not to your advantage. Mark of the Ninja takes place in a modern world where your enemies are armed with guns and body armor; you are a nameless ninja armed with ancient ninja weapons. If you are detected by an enemy, chances are you will lose the fight. If it’s two on one, then you can practically forget about it. You lose.

This trade-off is one of the things I love about this game. Mark of the Ninja mercilessly forces you to go on the stealth route, but the ability to make your enemies move into position and silenced them makes you predator, not prey. This allows the players to feel like a badass while at the same time making the penalty of being exposed by enemies very high. Klei Entertainment knows what game they were making; you are not Corvo, Agent 47 or Sam Fisher; there’s no fighting your way out of a jam.

In fact, not fighting is the way to go in the game. Mark of the Ninja is an assassination game, not a fighting one. The game touted that you can complete the game without killing anyone. Completing the game, I have to say that it is possible but would be very hard. The same can be said about killing every enemy on a level. It’s possible, but only just. However having such options in-game shows the versatility of the game which is always a good thing.

The story of the game was also surprisingly good. Told via a series of cutscenes, the story is basically about the conflict between ancient ninja traditions and the modern world. What seems like a straight forward story of betrayal got turned on its head in the final act when you discover that the protagonist (the player) might be psychotic.

The only real complain I would have is some of the level design. Shadow plays a huge part of the game and sometimes I have an issue with it. Which wall I can climb on and which wall I can’t; which staircase I can drop from, which I can’t. In the shadowy 2D world of Mark of the Ninja, this is not always clear.

However this is just a minor complain when you compare it to the unique game it is. It is a fun, challenging game with good sound, art and story. It is also a brand new fresh take on the stealth genre. So play it, Mark of the Ninja is an excellent game. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Now This Should Go Viral!

I think everyone by now would have heard about the ice bucket challenge. The funny challenge where you dumped a bucket of ice on yourself for $100? Well, if you think that’s funny wait till you hear what the Japanese are doing!

9 adult movie actresses are going to have their breasts squeezed by fans for a 24 hours charity event loosely translated as…"Boob Aid"! Yes, I'm serious. Not only that, the "Stop! AIDS" event will be televised live on adult cable television and has been going on since 2003!

Now why can’t a “challenge” like this go viral? Seriously, if something like this went viral, it would make the successful of the ice bucket looks like a drop of water in the ocean. The “Cop A  Feel” challenge? Now that’s something every male would want to do. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Cover

Words like "sexist" and "offensive" are being used to describe this cover by artist Milo Manara for the debut issue of a new Spider-Woman. Since the variant cover for the upcoming Spider-Woman #1 was released for publicity, many internet sites are reporting that the cover is inappropriate.

For the life of me, I can’t what the problem is.

It’s Spider-Woman! She’s a spider, so she’s in a spiderlike pose similar to the hundreds of times Peter Parker has been shown in. What’s the problem?

Seriously, look at the picture. I say anyone who find this cover erotic need some serious help. Compared to a normal Vampirella, Witchblade or any comics from Chaos, this is nothing. I mean just look at her costume. You need to be wearing a burka or niqab to be more covered up than Jessica Drew.

Personally, I’m not for the new Spider-Woman series. We don’t need another Spider title on the shelf (even without the upcoming Spidervesus mini) but for all the problems, this cover is not one of them. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Comics this week

Astro City #14- First was the costumed bank robber; then came a god who cause chaos for Astro City; now…a well-meaning, harmless old woman? Not bloody likely as writer Kurt Busiek start a story about what happened to all those robots minions always been destroyed by superheroes. Yes; just like the story of the bank robber, this is a homage to the little guys, the side characters no one ever bother with. Yes that’s right, this is another great story that could only be told in Astro City.

Magneto #8- After so many issues, the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D finally caught up to Magneto and found to their horror that the stories about the loss of his powers has been greatly exaggerated. Of course we readers know that Magus did lose a huge amount of his power but S.H.I.E.L.D don’t know that for real and I love the way writer Cullen Bunn played it up. The fact that people are truly afraid of Magneto, the fact that he knows it, and the way he’s more than willing to take advantage of the fear he generate, is just something you just don’t read about very often. And that’s what makes this series so good.

Ms. Marvel #7- Welcome to #7, or also known as the issue where Wolverine got taken to school by Kamala Khan. I’m no fan of Logan; I understand this is a Ms. Marvel book; I know Wolverine lost his healing factor recently; but come on, is that any reason to show Wolverine to be as incompetent as he is here? If you are going to have a guest-star, please get the character right!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Libyan Civil War 2.0?

Call them whatever you want, The Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL, the fact remains; ISIS has grown rapidly in strength and influence in both Iraq and Syria in recent times. So much so that the U.S. military has now become the airforce of the Iraqi and Kurdish forces in their fight against ISIS.

If you have a feeling of déjà vu, it’s because we’ve been through this before. In 2011, the U.S, British and French became the airforce of Libyan rebels in the Libyan Civil War. Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in that war and many Western news agencies are already saying that Iraq will be “liberated” the same way Libya was “liberated” in October 2011.

Some people got short term memory.

I say this because the last time I checked, the Libyan Civil War ended up terribly. Since the loss of Gaddafi, Libyan rebels are in the midst of a civil war among themselves; there have been a massive proliferation of weaponry in the region; and the even the U.S. embassy in Benghazi was stormed!

No one came out of the Libyan Civil War smelling like roses, and the fight against ISIS is supposed to be Libyan Civil War 2.0? For the sake of the U.S., I hope not. Libya didn’t turn out well for anyone, and the last thing the world need is another Libyan mess!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review of Guardians of the Galaxy

With all their Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and Avengers movies, Marvel Studios made a much needed change of pace in their latest film, Guardians of the Galaxy. Arguably their biggest gamble yet, it is also arguably Marvel’s most fun film to date.

The movie starts in 1988 when a young Peter Quill is abducted by aliens and carried off into deep space. Twenty-six years later, Quill (Chris Pratt) double-crossed his boss (and abductor) Yondu Udonta by stealing a valuable orb from under his nose.

However when Quill attempt to sell the orb on the Nova Corps home world of Xandar, he discovers that there are no takers as the orb is coveted by the renegade Kree warlord, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). Not only that, he is then promptly ambushed by the assassin, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who attempts to steal the orb for Ronan.

A fight ensues, drawing in a pair of bounty hunters: the genetically engineered raccoon Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and the tree-like humanoid Groot (Vin Diesel). The local police force, the Nova Corps, then arrives and arrests everyone.

The whole group is sent to a prison called The Kyln where an inmate, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), attempts to kill Gamora due to her association with Ronan. Quill persuades Drax not to kill Gamora who reveals to the group that she was going to betray Ronan by selling the orb to a private collector.

Rocket Raccoon engineered a jailbreak and Gamera lead the group to Knowhere, a remote spaceport for the criminals of the galaxy. The group meets Gamora's contact, Taneleer Tivan, who opens the orb to reveal an Infinity Stone, an item powerful enough to destroy entire planets.

Lured by Drax, Ronan arrives at Knowhere and leave with the Stone after easily defeating the Destroyer. Forced with no options, Quill contacts Yondu to rescue the group and negotiate a truce by convincing Yondu that they can only recover the orb working together.

Working with Yondu’s crew, The Ravagers, the group finally caught up with Ronan on Xandar where they faced the might of the Accuser alongside the Nova Corps. The battle gave Quill’s group their name, the Guardians of the Galaxy!

Now after watching the film, I must say I'm kind of mixed on it. On one hand, Guardians of the Galaxy is something new from the normal Marvel fare and that's good for the company but on the other…the film just missed something from being great.

Guardians is a fun but flawed movie. Taking place in space with Earth only briefly seen at the start, Guardians does many things right. It has great music, an excellent script and able direction from director James Gunn.

It also has some good performances from its cast. Chris Pratt nailed his role as the arrogant, overconfident rogue with a heart of gold in Peter Quill, while former wrestler Dave Bautista show surprisingly good comic timing in his role as Drax. Even Zoe Saldana, more known for her looks than acting abilities, was excellent as Gamora.

The real stars of the show however were the 2 CGI characters of the Guardians. Moving Picture Company (MPC), who worked on creating Groot, and Framestore, who worked on creating Rocket, really outdid themselves on the creation of the Guardians. Both characters were amazingly, especially the final credit scene with the dancing baby Groot. I dare anyone to see that scene and not have a smile on his face. You literally have to be an “Inhuman” not to smile. Bradley Cooper (voice of Rocket) and Vin Diesel (voice of Groot) were also great. Who knew there were so many ways to say 3 words?

However, as good as Guardians is, it is strictly in the good but not great category. The biggest problem I see is the lack of supporting characters in the movie. In a way that understandable as the main focus is on the Guardians, but why have Glenn Close in the movie and do NOTHING with her? That’s just a bloody waste of talent.

I found the villains kind of understated. Karen Gillan (Nebula) and Lee Pace did their best but when you have both of them reporting to Thanos halfway through the film, it leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that these 2 are minions. Also, Michael Rooker’s Yondu is a bit of a joke. In the comics, Yondu is a deadly warrior/archer. Here, he is a blue skinned redneck!

Overall, I have to say the film is worth a watch. It is a bit of a rojak film with wit, action and comedy all mixed together, but it’s a good mix. It’s not the space epic I was hoping for but it’s entertaining and fun. And in the end, that’s why we watch movies. Take a look for a good time. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

One Step Forward, One Step Back

That’s what I think of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcement yesterday at the annual National Day Rally. Now, the newspaper are all crowing about how retirees in Singapore will now be allowed to withdraw money from their Central Provident Fund (CPF), but in the small print comes two big caveats.

a)      they can only withdraw a limited portion of their CPF savings in a lump sum (no word yet on how limited or even when they can start doing so), and
b)      the CPF Minimum Sum will be raised from S$155,000 this year to S$161,000 next year.

That is literally one step forward and one step back. On one hand you say retirees can withdraw money from their CPF but refused to say when or how much they can withdraw, and on the other hand you give a firm figure on how much the CPF Minimum Sum will be raised to and even give a date on when it will be raised.

On second thought, change that. That's not one step forward and one step back! It’s one tiny step forward, and one giant leap back!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Comics this week

Original Sin #7- Sigh! This could have been great. Yes, Original Sin is now officially another “what-could-have-been” event series by Marvel. Writer Jason Aaron started out strong but in the last few issues, his series has been hijacked by the need of the Marvel disease known as “setting up new Marvel series”. Honestly, this issue is crap. Characterization is poor and even the art of Mike Deodato couldn’t save the action scenes. I mean Nick Fury holding off the entire Avengers? That’s so nonsensical no one could make it work. As Original Sin reaches its conclusion, I only hope Aaron can manage to salvage the series. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

New EPL Season

The World Cup is just over and already the English Premier League (EPL) is going to start. With the new season upon us, here’s my yearly preview and prediction of the EPL!

Arsenal- Yes, this is a long shot but with the Gunners comfortably beating champions Manchester City 3-0 at Wembley for their first Community Shield since 2005 and with manager Arsene Wenger, as per normal, buying smartly in the off-season, I have a feeling this is their year. Alexis Sanchez is a world-class forward and the signings of Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy will shore up the backline. They probably will need another ball-winner in the middle of the park but overall, this has the look of a very good team. I like their chances.

Manchester City has once again spent big in the transfer market with Eliaquim Mangala arriving from Porto for £32m. Outside him, they also picked up a pair of intriguing free transfers in Bacary Sagna and Frank Lampard. However questions remain on how happy Yaya Toure is in Manchester and the form (or lack of) of goalkepper Joe Hart. Manager Manuel Pellegrini's side will once again challenge for the title but I think they will come up short this year.

Surprise of the Season
Sunderland- Manager Gus Poyet managed a miracle last season by escaping relegation. With former manager Paolo di Canio no longer a factor and the inclusion of Jack Rodwell, I expect Sunderland to be mid-table (at least) this season. I mean they escaped last season by beating Chelsea and Manchester United! Surely a team like that should be safe from relegation right?

Disappointment of the Season
Southampton- Saints’ fans are in for a disappointing season. Manager Mauricio Pochettino is gone and although Ronald Koeman is a more than able replacement, the gutting of the team is something not even Koeman can do anything about. 8 first-team players have been sold to various clubs and replacements had been short in coming. I’m not sure Southampton can be considered a relegation candidate but they will be probably be somewhere down there near the bottom. After last season’s great run, that has to be a disappointment for their fans.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Not Our Money

How Much Interest Must Singaporeans Earn On Our CPF To Be Able To Meet The CPF Minimum Sum?

With a summary judgment hearing set on 18 September, you have to give blogger Roy Ngerng credit for insisting to talk about the CPF. The above is the tile of his latest post which he argued again on the unfairness of the CPF system.

I will leave the argument on the fairness of the CPF to other people and give an advice to all Singaporeans; stop thinking of the CPF as your money!

The Singapore government may argue otherwise but for me, it is very simple. Till I can touch, move and withdraw my money from the CPF, it is not mine. Honestly, I never thought of it as mine to begin with.

I will probably never hit the amount of $155,000 (or the Medisave Minimum Sum of $43,500) unless I don’t buy a house or use the CPF for anything, but so what? You can’t lose something that was never yours right?

Maybe that’s why I’m not as hung up about the CPF Minimum Sum as most people. The government are just keeping me from something that was never mine (or yours) to begin with. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Expansion For Runescape

Ever heard of Runescape?

Gamers probably would have. First released in 2001, Runescape is a free-to-play MMO browser game with terrible graphics but huge content. The Guinness World Records even list it as the world's largest and most-updated free MMORPG.

Honestly, I never got the game. I’m okay with the bad graphics but never could come to grips with the game design. Runescape is a cross between a sandbox and a theme-park and I just don’t get it.

However I must give developer and publisher Jagex Games Studio credit. 13 years after releasing the game, Jagex is now going to release the first ever expansion pack, Lost City of the Elves, for Runescape. Yes, it’s a terrible name but an expansion for a 13 year old game?

That’s something to applaud and I wish other publishers (looking at you Funcom!) would take a page out of their playbook. Congratulations to all players of Runescape. You have a publisher in Jagex that fully appreciate you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why They Are Still Fighting

As Israel and Palestinian faction Hamas agreed to a new three-day ceasefire, efforts are continuing in Cairo for a longer-term deal. Efforts that are hampered by Israel’s latest demand that they will not negotiate while under fire from Hamas.

That in short is the main reason why the two sides had been unable to come to an agreement thus far. Hamas has been doing far better against the Israelis than anyone thought they would and the Israeli government is trying to find ways and means to avoid giving Hamas a victory.

Since Israel launched "Operation Protective Edge" on 8 July, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, but most of them have been civilians. In contrast, sixty-seven people have died on the Israeli side, but only 3 of whom were civilians.

If you just look at the numbers, you can clearly see that the IDF is winning the battle. However if you take into account that Hamas is heavily outmanned, outspent and outgunned by the Israelis, it’s kind of surprising they have done as well as they had. Not only that, with their tunnels, Hamas had proved that they have the capabilities to strike at Israeli military targets directly.

That is why the Arab world who initially treated the conflict with a collective shrug is now suddenly trying to find a solution for a ceasefire. Hamas’ capabilities in the field are embarrassing them and the longer it goes, the worse it is for them. And what if Hamas?

Hamas would benefit the most from a ceasefire. They have demonstrated their military capabilities to the world and their political aim of freely the Israeli siege have the full backing of the Palestinian people. The crazy thing about the whole affair is that the good field result of Hamas is probably what’s stopping them from getting what they want; the lifting of the Israeli siege.

That is why the fighting hasn’t stopped and negotiations haven’t gotten anywhere. All sides are so focused on not losing that Palestinian lives lost in the fighting are a secondary concern.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Corruption In Malaysia

Oh WikiLeaks; how the rich and powerful hate you! In Australia, employees of Securency and Note Printing Australia and the Reserve Bank of Australia are alleged to have bribed foreign officials in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam from 1999 to 2004 to win banknote printing contracts.

Of course seeing that these are banknotes, top officials in these countries are alleged to have been involved. Naturally, to prevent damage to international relations, the Australian government have obtained a gag order to prevent the media from reporting the court case and from naming the officials involved. So guess who came to the rescue?

Yes, Julian Assange, the busybody of the world, is at it again.

Ignoring the court order, WikiLeaks have just released the names involved in the bribery case and after seeing it, I can fully understand why the Australian government has been running scared. Current Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, his two predecessors (both Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Dr. Mahathir Mohammad) and several former top ministers, including the extremely powerful Daim Zainuddin are all named in the gag order.

Now the news that top officials in the Malaysian government can be bribe should come as no surprise to anyone, but the past 3 Prime Ministers of Malaysia? All 3? Even I never thought that the corruption there was so bad. Wow!