Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year Everyone!

Goodbye 2014; Hello 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mother Nature

As everyone knows, Air Asia flight QZ 8501 went missing a few days ago during a flight from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore. With the Indonesian Navy reporting that it has retrieved more than 40 bodies along with debris from the plane about 10km away from the spot where the plane was last seen on the radar, it is all but confirmed that the plane went down in the sea.

With more bodies expected to be pulled from the water, chances are slim that anyone had survived the flight and the blame game will start will start in earnest. It’s human nature to need someone to blame. It’s normal but in this case useless.

Bad weather was the cause of the crash and I personally don’t think you can blame anyone for it. Sure, you can argue the plane should not be allowed to take off with a monsoon storm on the horizon but it’s the monsoon season in the region. Flying through storms is normal in this time of the year. However normal it is, unfortunately for this flight, something went wrong and the plane went down.

If there’s someone to blame, it’s Mother Nature and there’s not much anyone can do about her. For all the talk by experts, when you fly through a monsoon storm, there is always a chance something could go wrong. Even in modern times with all our technology, Mother Nature is still the boss of us all. That is just a fact.

Finding a scapegoat, whether it's a person or a company, will not change that. On Earth, Mother Nature is still the queen.   

Monday, December 29, 2014

Comics this week

Birthright #3- I’ll give writer Joshua Williamson and artist Andrei Bressan credit for putting together an excellent issue that’s both fun and good to look at. However the plot of the story need some work. After the sophomore issue which features a beat-down at a police station, this issue has Conan Mikey taking his family on the run from the Feds. Now I can understand the story potential of a road trip, but a guy who had successfully killed demons, dragons, and monsters running from the police? That’s just doesn’t tally. Birthright is still well-written, well-paced and interesting, but there’s a worry in trying to set things up, the writer is getting ahead of himself. It's good, but that's a worry. 

Magneto #13- One thing I have to say; of all the titles sucked in by the AXIS crossover event, Magneto is one of the few who had not been sunk by it. That is down to writer Cullen Bunn basically ignored the event until he couldn’t (the gathering of villains issue). Ignoring AXIS is what he did this issue, with a story that focused on Briar Raleigh and the effects Magneto has even on people who had never met him, and the series is better for it. Look at the Inhumans series if you don't believe me. The issue is pure setup, but it moves the story forward and did it in an interesting way. Good work Mr. Bunn! 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Empire Strikes Back

Days after US President Barack Obama promises that the US will take "proportionate response" against North Korea for the hack on Sony Pictures, North Korea's Internet went dark for several hours yesterday.

Of course much like North Korea refusal to take credit for the hack on Sony, the US is refusing to say they are responsible for taking down North Korea’s internet but if you add one and one, you’ll get two. Still, I must say the American’s idea of "proportionate response" must be different from everyone else’s.

North Korea hacked a movie studio and in return, the US…takes down their internet? I’m no fan of North Korea but that’s their idea of "proportionate response"? I guess that’s what you get when you mess with the most powerful nation in the world.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Why The Hate?

I have been keeping quiet on the new LTA app, Taxi-Taxi@SG, but as people keep complaining about the app, I feel the need to ask a question. Why do you guys believe the app must have a booking system?

I don’t get all these complains about the LTA app. The main complain people has is that you can’t make booking on it. Well, that’s because LTA is not a taxi company. When you want to make a booking, do you call LTA? Of course not, you call the taxi company. So why do you believe the new LTA app “must” have a booking system?

That makes no sense to me. If they have a booking system on the app, who are you going to pay the booking fee to? Again, LTA is not a taxi company. The app is a system to show nearby taxis; designed for people for do NOT want to make a booking.

That seems like a very good thing to me. There’s already apps like GrabTaxi and Uber for people who want to make taxi bookings. What good would another be? An app to show nearby taxis seem like a good idea to me, and that’s what Taxi-Taxi@SG is. The app is FREE to boot! 

I personally don’t see what the big issue is. If you’re really unhappy about the free app, then don’t bloody download it. No one is forcing you to us it right? The hate for the app makes no sense. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hear Me Roar!

George R.R. Martin is a man who wears many hats. He’s the editor of Wild Cards, consultant to TV series, and the slow writer of the Song of Ice & Fire series. Many on you would know the last as The Game of Thrones.

Here’s one more hat for Martin; proud movie theater owner!

By now, everyone would have heard of Sony Pictures caving in to the threats of North Korea and cancelling the release of “The Interview”. I mean they are so afraid of Kim Jong Un, they don’t even dare release the film in DVD! It is a total victory for the North Korean dictator.

Not so fast.

Showing a stubbornness that would make Ned Stark proud, Martin say he intend to screen the movie! The author co-owns Jean Cocteau Cinema, a movie theater in New Mexico, and offered to screen the controversial movie at his theater. Of course, there are problems to the plan like getting a copy of the movie but there seem to be at least one guy in America with some balls.

Kim Jong Un, look out! Winter is coming.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Comics this week

Justice League #35- You know what this Amazo virus story arc reminds me of? The story of DC Online! In the game, Lex Luthor created a virus to give normal people superpowers and this arc gives me a similar vibe. The main difference is that here, the virus also create Amazo who becomes a metahuman, instead of a technological villain. This was a smart move by writer Geoff Johns who give a fresh spin to a villain which I never care much for. Not only that, Johns managed to mix some humor into the story with Batman and Superman having an exchange about his Haz-Bat suit, a name Batman absolutely refused to take any credit for. He blames Robin instead. Johns even manages to give time to Luthor, showing his doubt and horror at the growing plague spreading throughout the city. Great issue! 

Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures #1- The latest installment of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity takes place on Earth-5 whose greatest hero is Captain Marvel, the World’s Strongest Mortal. The story has Dr Sivana attacking the Rock of Eternity to steal time from other universes in order to create a new eighth day of the week: Sivanaday! Now the problem with Thunderworld is the same as with the other Multiversity issues thus far; there’s not a lot to connect them. However Morrison got a save here with a story that’s a lot smarter than previous issues. Time travel stories are always a hit-or-miss affair and Morrison got a hit here with a story that makes smart use of the concept of time travel. There’s an elegance to the end of the story when Captain Marvel uses time to beat Sivana’s time stolen extra day. Also artist Cameron Stewart did an excellent job capturing the look and feel of a Silver Age comic. The ever present smile on Captain Marvel and clean art is a superb throwback to the look of yesteryear. It may have nothing to do with the overall story of Multiversity, but on its own “Thunderworld Adventures” is wonderful.

Scarlet Spiders #1- I am beginning to understand why Scarlet Spiders has 3 issues; Ultimate Jessica Drew, Kaine and Ben Reilly will each get to star in one issue. Jessica got the start so this issue has Kaine as the star and the issue was better for it. We see Kaine using his ability and strength to guide Ben Reilly along, have a clear insight in his personality, and basically see what make him tick. Almost good enough to make you forget the “The Clone Saga” disaster that gave birth to him.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"The Golem and the Jinni" by Helene Wecker

The debut novel of Helene Wecker, “The Golem and the Jinni” is a mixed bag. By that I meant it’s a historical-urban-romantic fantasy that also questioned what life really means and touches on the clash of cultures in the melting pot that is New York City.

If that sounds daunting, well…that’s because it is but don’t worry. Although this is her debut, Helene Wecker show a firm hand in her writing, giving us one of the most delightful debut in years.  

The story starts in Poland at the end of the 19th century, when a kabbalist named Yehudah Schaalman creates a golem at the request of Otto Rotfeld. Rotfeld is leaving Europe for America and decided to “commission” a new bride for himself. However Rotfeld dies during the sea voyage to New York City and the newly awakened golem, shaped like a woman, escaped alone into the unfamiliar city. A rabbi, Rabbi Meyer, takes in the golem and named her, Chava. He found her a job at a bakery and begin teaching her how to pass for a human among the Jewish population of New York.

At the same time, a tinsmith named Arbeely accidentally frees a jinni from a flask in which he has been imprisoned for centuries. With no memory of how he was subdued, the jinni is trapped in human form and takes the name of Ahmad. Living in New York’s Little Syria, he uses his natural power over fire to work at the forge while looking for a way to return to his natural form.

Chava and Ahmad eventually meet and despite (or because of) their differences become friends. The novel show Chava and Ahmad's journey as they try to live as humans and come to influence the lives of the people around them before coming to a climax when Yehudah Schaalman comes to New York.

Now I’m not usually a fan on genre-mixing, but more works like this will definitely change my mind. “The Golem and the Jinni” is one of the best rojak works you will ever find as Helene Wecker not only seamlessly weaved the different genres together, she makes you wonder why no one has ever thought of this before!

I mean two fantasy creatures during turn of the century New York? They are the ultimate immigrants in the ultimate city of immigrants at the ultimate time of immigration. That’s a great idea.   

Wecker also examined the idea of life and what being human really means. The golem and the jinni have different views on what living in a human world really means and how to do so. Chava is caring and sensitive, while Ahmad is more reckless and joyful. Taking turns, the book shows how both Chava and Ahmad dealt with the social and mental problems they face while learning to live as a human.

This is a fantasy story about immigration set in a historical accurate 19th century New York City. The premise and idea of the story is nothing sort of perfect and there must be writers out there kicking themselves for not thinking of doing this before.

Of course, the book itself has some problems. I could do without the meandering backstory of how the jinni got captured and sometimes, the historical details of the book were too much. I have no interest in the daily working of a bakery in 19th century New York and the various rules about walking in Central Park.

The twist at the end of Yehudah Schaalman being the reincarnation of the sorcerer that captured the jinni a thousand years ago was a little too convenient. It would have been better if he was another mage; sometime there is such a thing as wrapping things up too neatly.

However these problems do not change the fact that “The Golem and the Jinni” is a wonderful book. The premise is unique, the writing is elegant and the final product is great. Read it!  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


The next big event on the calendar of DC is titled “Convergence”. Due for release in April and May, I personally think the event should instead be titled “Cancellation”!

This is because DC is cancelling 14 series in March, a month before “Convergence” starts. Some of these titles had been around since the start of the New 52. Batwoman, Swamp Thing, Red Lanterns, Green Lantern: New Guardians are among the 14 titles being cancelled. This is alongside new titles like Klarion and Arkham Manor.

As someone who does not collect any of the 14, the announcement doesn’t affect me much but DC really should give the newer titles some time to build an audience. In case you were counting, Klarion and Arkham Manor would only get between 6-8 issues before being cancelled.

That’s just not enough time and this isn’t the first time this happened. Remember Threshold? 8 issues and it was canned. I don’t know what titles will come out of “Convergence” but whatever they are, they need to come out of the blocks running. The DC editorial team will deliver the cancel-hammer if they don’t.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The CPF Review

With an election seemingly imminent in 2015, the Singapore government is currently carrying out a “review” of the CPF. Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin threw the first salvo when he was quoted as saying this may meant a review to the much hated minimum sum.

According to the minister, one area being looked at is whether it's possible to have different minimum sums for different groups, depending on their needs. I only have one thing to say to that; forget about it! Singaporeans are not going to accept that as a solution.

The Singapore government need to understand the problem isn’t how much must be kept in the CPF due the minimum sum; it’s the fact that there’s a minimum sum in the first place. Whether it’s $1, $155,000 or $161,000 is kind of beside the main point when your money is struck there in the CPF!

Any changes to the CPF system must take this into account. The problem isn’t the amount we must keep in the CPF; the problem is that there is money belonging to us that we can never access because of the minimum sum policy.

Any review that doesn’t get rid of the minimum sum is an exercise in futilely. Having different minimum sums for different groups is like missing the forest for the trees.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Comics this week

Astro City #18- What do you do when you’re an aging superhero? Well in the world of Astro City, that’s a real problem as Black Rapier, Crackerjack and Quarrel are now faced with the problem of aging. There’s no forever youthful character in the world of Astro City and I love the way writer Kurt Busiek handled it. You have Black Rapier retiring (the issue starts at his retirement party no less), while Crackerjack and Quarrel deciding to truck on. Even then, Busiek shows that age affects everyone as both Crackerjack and Quarrel now require daily drugs to keep going. It’s not just the physical problems but the mental ones as well. Crackerjack now sound like a grumpy old man who refused to admit his age while Quarrel quietly wonder if it’s time to hang it up. Ageing is a problem most comics don’t even approach but this is Astro City and this is another great issue.

Amazing Spiderman #11- Part 3 of Spiderverse has the long awaited showdown between Peter Parker and Superior Spider-Man. Writer Dan Slott played the scene well with both characters finally coming to an understanding that they need each other to survive the threat of the Inheritors. This is especially true as Solus finally comes to the table. Karn and Morlun may have the lion share of the action thus far but Slott shows that there are more to the Inheritors than these 2 and they are not just about pure power. The problem for the issue comes when Slott had to move the action away to focus on setting up other books. There are just too many of them and that affect the flow of the issue. Outside that, the action, story and art of Spiderverse are still there. If they could move away from setting up the tie-ins and just focus on the main event, it would be great. As it is, Spiderverse is now just very good. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Nothing New

So the United States of America tortured people. In other news, the sky is blue and water is wet. That’s my view when the US Senate Intelligence Committee released a report detailing "brutal" interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects by members of the CIA.

So the CIA tortured people. How is that news? That’s why they were kept in Guantanamo Bay right? That’s what the “extraordinary rendition of terror suspects” is all about right? They were dropped off in countries like Thailand, Syria and Egypt so that they could be tortured. That’s hardly news. People had been saying all that for years.

Yes, there is some new stuff in the report like how at least one person died while under torture and how the “program” was pretty unsuccessful in getting good information but generally, there’s nothing new about the reports. Yet when you go on BBC, CNN or FOX News, all the stations goes on and on about how damming, brutal and explosive the report is.

I don’t get it. I’m no news reporter and I heard most of the stuff that is in the report. Anyone who thinks what’s in the report is new had not been paying attention. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

PM Lee's Rallying Cry

“The next GE is critical for Singapore and for us. It is not just about expressing approval or disapproval. It is not just about winning a seat in Parliament. It is not a by-election,” he said, adding that the PAP intends to contest every seat and win back the WP-held Aljunied, Punggol East and Hougang constituencies.

“The next GE is about choosing a clear vision for Singapore, choosing a capable leadership for Singapore, choosing a brighter future for Singapore,” he said adding that the whole of Singapore is "at stake".

“Our future is at stake because if we do not remain a nation of opportunity, our children will have no future. Our society is at stake because if we do not uphold a fair and just society, our society will be pulled apart. Our country is at stake. If the PAP fails, Singapore is in deep trouble. We shall not fail.”

With this speech, Singapore Prime Minister and People's Action Party (PAP) chief Lee Hsien Loong all but guarantee that a General Election (GE) will be held in 2015. With the next General Elections due by January 2017, this comes as no surprise.

The question is whether the PAP will claw back the seats they lost to the Worker’s Party (WP) in the last GE. The Prime Minister openly acknowledged this as he took particular aim at the WP when he spoke at the PAP60 Rally over the weekend.

Now many people on the blogshere are saying that taking aim at the opposition is a sign of weakness. I disagree. Taking aim at the opposition, especially the WP, is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of reality.

The simple fact is that in the last GE, the PAP lost even while winning. They lost George Yeo, lost a GRC, lost Hougang by a bigger margin, and probably only won in Potong Pasir because Chaim See Tong wasn’t contesting there. It was a bad result all around. This time, the PAP is taking no chances (see the “problems” WP is facing in their town council).

That’s not weak; that is smart. PM Lee and the PAP need to stop the momentum of the WP and saying so outright is a sign that they know what they’re facing. That’s reality. The next GE will be the PAP vs the WP, and to me, it’s a good sign for the PAP that their leaders are acknowledging that fact.

Rather than pretending that the PAP would waltz through another win, the PM is now rallying his troops. That is good for the PAP. To stop the surging WP, they will need to be at the top of their game, not a false sense of security. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rules Need To Be Changed

It’s called the unicycle, or more actually; the electric unicycle. The futuristic-looking ride is basically a one-wheel electric bicycle which comes with a system that prevents users from falling off, much like the Segway.

I had seen it very often in the city area where I work and between it, the electric kick-scooter and electric bicycle, it is part of the wave of alternative electronic transport that is mushrooming in Singapore. Now if only the TP (Traffic Police) will allow people to use them!

Despite what people thinks, these sort of vehicles are not banned in Singapore. Shops are legally allowed to sell them. The restriction is in the use of the electric vehicles. The LTA (Land Transport Authority) do not allow them on public roads; the NParks do not allow them in parks; and the TP do not allow them on pavements. Why are they not allowed on pavement?

I can understand the restriction placed by the LTA and NParks, but why are these vehicles not allowed on pavements? I mean electric wheelchairs are allowed right? So why not the electric unicycle or the electric kick-scooter?

Honestly, I can’t see any reason. The TP need to look into the matter and allow these vehicles to be used. They are not a danger to pedestrians (and I would know since I walked past them so many times), they are useful, and they are environmentally friendly. They should be allowed!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Not Popular Enough For The Ballon d'Or

Messi or Ronaldo?
The winner of this year’s Ballon d'Or is widely expected to be one of these two players but some has been touting a new name for football’s most coveted individual award; German keeper Manuel Neuer.
Widely considered the best keeper in the world, if not in his generation, Manuel Neuer won the Golden Glove (for best keeper) in the World Cup which Germany won. He is quick, agile, brave, confident and has good concentration. He was the main reason Germany won in Brazil.
Unfortunately he has no chance to win the Ballon d'Or.
He may be the best player in the world but he will not win and it is not just because of the regular bias for forwards. He won’t win because the Ballon d'Or is no longer about the best football player in the world; it is for the most popular football player in the world.
In a segment on the Ballon d'Or, CNN actually used Messi’s and Ronaldo’s Facebook hits as an indication on who would win the award! What does Facebook hits has to do with being the best player on the field? Totally nothing! However CNN is right in that popularity and name-recognition are now of vital importance in winning awards, so Facebook actually do matter nowadays. It’s an indication of how popular Messi and Ronaldo are.
In my view, this is ridiculous but there it is. Manuel Neuer would have my vote because he is the best player in the world in 2014, but I don’t expect him to win the Ballon d'Or. He’s not popular enough.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Comics this week

Hinterkind #13- Now this issue is a surprise! Taking a break from the current storyline, writer Ian Edginton decides to move the story backward, 18 months before infection. Yes, it seems Edginton is going to give us a story showing how humanity lost the world and how the various fantasy races took over. The idea of showing how an apocalypse happened is a tempting one but truth be told; I found it less than interesting. We see how the Sidhe Queen was the main cause of the apocalypse by designing and manufacturing a virus targeted against humans. Sorry but a takeover by fantasy creatures based on a virus cooked up in a medical lab? I was kind of hoping for something more original and unique than that. Don't get me wrong, the issue was good but the "super-virus" idea is neither new or original. Considering how unique Hinterkind has been so far, I was hoping for better. 

Rai #5- After too long of a wait, Rai is back and I do mean BACK! The tension in the issue goes through the roof as the various parties of Japan reluctantly comes together to go up against Father. Writer Matt Kindt and artist Clayton Crain gave us a tight story backed by gorgeous art actually made the long wait worth it. Bring on the next issue!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Release The Movie!

Movies leaked to the public before their opening is not a new phenomenon. For example, Sly Stallone’s Expendables 3 was leaked before its release date. However when 5 movies from Sony got leaked, things became very different.

This is because Sony indirectly blame North Korea for its troubles!

The problem streamed from an upcoming Seth Rogan movie, The Interview. The movie, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, has two reporters enlisted by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after been granted an audience with the dictator. North Korea called the movie a “war action” and even complained all the way to the United Nations on the matter.

Now sources are saying the possibility that North Korea may have targeted Sony is being seriously investigated. Now usually, I’ll be one to discount such nonsense but in this case, a few things point to this possibility. First; The Interview was not one of the movies that had been leaked. And second; no one from North Korea has come out to defend themselves from the charge. So you know what I would say to Sony right now?


A rogue nation is so upset with the movie that they (might have) hacked the system of the studio releasing it and tried to hurt the studio by illegally leaking its movies! OMG, this is a marketing dream! You know how much publicity this movie has right now? Even people who had no intention to watch a silly comedy from Seth Rogan will now want to watch it. Some may even do it just to stick a finger to North Korea. I mean the (alleged) actions of North Korea just increased the profile of the movie ten times (at least).

So strike while the iron is hot. Don’t wait Sony; release the movie immediately! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

That Star Wars Trailer

Over the weekend, the trailer of the latest Star Wars movie came out. Due out next year, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is highly anticipated and, as expected, the internet is filled with comments about the trailer.

Now the trailer is nothing but a teaser, lasting only slightly over a minute but Disney clearly knows the fan favorites. Tatooine, the Millennium Falcon, TIE Fighters, X-Wings, a Sith Lord, even a cute robot; all made a blink and you’re miss them appearance. However, try as they might, Disney can’t please everyone. Already fans are criticizing everything from the black stormtrooper to the claymore-like lightsaber of the Sith Lord.

Everyone should just cool it. Come on people, this is just a trailer and a short one at that. If you guys can’t wait to complain, at the very least wait till we see an exact trailer before doing so. I mean this is by Disney! Don’t worry, there’ll be a lot to complain about.