Friday, January 30, 2015

Australia Is Not Part Of Asia

Since joining the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 2006, the Australian football team has been achieving great success in the international arena. They qualified for two straight World Cups and two Asian Cup finals, their women team won the Asian Cup in 2010, and Western Sydney Wanderers won the Asian Champions League final this year,

So why am I in favor of a proposed move to kick Australia out of the AFC? The answer is simple; Australia is not part of Asia! They had never been part of Asia and if you go onto the streets of Sydney or Melbourne, you will be hard-pressed to find a single Aussie who would say Australia is part of Asia.

The head of Australian football said he was "extremely surprised" by the the proposal. Well, he shouldn't be. The move may be prompted by their success on the football pitch, but that doesn't mean the Arab states pushing this is wrong. Australia is not part of Asia so that means they have no business being in the AFC in the first place.

The move may be dictated by self-interest but again, that doesn't mean the move to kick Australia out is wrong. After all if Australians don't think of themselves as Asian, why should they be in the AFC? That makes no sense.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Comics this week

Amazing Spiderman #13- After Captain Universe-Parker, the most powerful Spiderman inexistence, got killed last issue, the Spidermen are now on the backfoot. Writer Dan Slott does a fine job once again in this issue, giving time for the various Spiders to bolster each other's spirits including a surprisingly rousing speech from Superior Spiderman. I also like the fact that Otto finally got the fact that 616 Spiderman comes from later in his timeline; might be a way for Marvel to restart the Superior Spiderman series. This issue is more of a setup for the finale but with interesting character moments and solid art from Giuseppe Camuncoli we got another winner here.

Spiderman 2099 #8- By now, it’s clear Marvel is trying to get a female hit on its Spiderman franchise. Silk, Spiderwoman, Spider-Gwen; they all had their turn in the sun, now it’s the turn of Lady Spider. Miguel O'Hara is a supporting character in this issue as the focus is firmly on the Lady; the duo even jump to her steampunk world. Sorry but I don’t buy it. Unless you’re a fan of the steampunk genre, I don’t think too many people will find this May Parker all that interesting. If Marvel really want a female Spider hit, they would have a better chance with Silk or Spider-Gwen. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

No Winners, All Losers

For months, the Singapore government has been harping on the Worker’s Party (WP) administration of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC). The main thrust of their attack has been on the S&CC arrears rate which went as high as 29.4% in April 2013.

Well, they are right. The WP has not been doing well because they just had a press release stating that their report in 2013 was wrong. The AHPETC has admitted that the arrears rate of 29.4% for April 2013 was an error. AHPETC said that it has erroneously double-counted some of the arrears of households and AHPETC Chairman Ms. Sylvia Lim apologized for the error.

I have one question. How is it that no one, the WP, the AHPETC, the HDB, the MND, managed to pick up on this error till now? The error occurred in April 2013, and it took all of them till Jan 2015 to figure out there was a problem with the figures?

I mean with the politicking around the case, between Lee Yock Suan, Desmond Lee, Lawrence Wong, Sylvia Lim, the WP, the PAP, HDB, MND, no one thought to double-check to see if the numbers were correct? It took everyone over a year before figuring it out? Somehow, all the whole incident did was to make me to worry about the state of politics in Singapore.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review of Whiplash

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, Whiplash is a drama starring Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons on the pursuit of greatness and the sacrifice needed to achieve it. More importantly, it is a film on the desire for greatness and the harm it can inflict on people striving for it.

Teller is young jazz drummer, Andrew Neiman, who attends the Shaffer Conservatory of Music in Manhattan, one of the best music schools in the country. J. K. Simmons is Terence Fletcher, the school’s fearsome maestro of jazz. After seeing Andrew at practice, Fletcher took the budding young musician under his wing and subsequently bully, insult, and terrorize his young charge into becoming a better musician.

Andrew not only takes what Fletcher dishes out, he willing destroys his personal life (breaking up with his girlfriend, distancing himself from his father) in order to achieve the impossible standards Fletcher demands. However as Fletcher’s demands increased, things comes to a head and the teacher/student relationship breaks down.

Now a lot of people probably had already heard/read about how J. K. Simmons is a shoo-in for the Best Supporting Actor award at the Oscars this year; believe the hype!

Simmons’ portrayal of Fletcher is powerful to say the least. He is the teacher from hell as he pushes Andrew and his other charges to practice and rehearse till they drop. He is driven to get the best out of his students and if this means screaming at them with sexual and religious insults and making them practice till their hands bleed; then that’s the price they have to pay.

In most other films, Fletcher would be the clear-cut villain but in a testimony of Simmons’ ability as an actor, we never lose the sight that Fletcher is first and foremost a teacher. His drive to make the next great jazz player is so all-consuming that he fails to grasp the greatness right in front of him. When he finally realized Andrew’s greatness in the stunning finale, Fletcher’s shock, surprise and final acceptance was something to behold.

However the movie would not work with just J. K. Simmons. I have to say the whole cast was excellent. Miles Teller was in every scene of the movie and I could see why he is so highly rated in Hollywood. His Andrew Neiman was put through hell and Teller’s performance was up to it.

Even the secondary actors were very good. Paul Reiser was almost unrecognizable as Andrew’s loving father and Melissa Benoist (Andrew’s girlfriend) made the most of her limited scenes. Music may be the main drive of Whiplash, but it was the actors that made the film works.

Of course, the direction given by Damien Chazelle helps a great deal. This was obviously a very personal film for the writer/director and throughout the movie, you could sense just how important the movie is to him. Whiplash seems like a labor of love for Chazelle and if this movie is any indication of what’s to come, he could be the next big thing in the director chair.

The movie is of course not without some problems. The setup for the finale was to me way too brief. There’s no way a professional band would just allow Andrew to just come in to perform at a big concert without at least one rehearsal. Also the way the rest of the band managed to follow Andrew’s lead when he went on his impromptu solo was unrealistic, maybe the only unrealistic feature in the whole film.

On the whole however, I have to promote Whiplash as a movie worth watching. The excellent cast and steady direction of the director make Whiplash an uncomfortable but wonderful movie. Anchored by great performances from both its leads, this is one movie you will not forget in a hurry. Watch it! 

Monday, January 26, 2015

The French Hypocrisy

After terrorists attack the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the magazine put a picture of the Prophet on the cover of its first issue after the attack. I posted that the magazine was being stupid and provocative. The French says they were defending freedom of speech.

Well, it seems the French definition of “freedom of speech” is kind of limited because since the attack, French police have arrested more than 70 people for allegedly "defending or glorifying terrorism". One of the people arrested was a French comedian named Dieudonne M'bala M'bala. He was charged over a Facebook post saying "I feel like Charlie Coulibaly", play on the names of magazine Charlie Hebdo and Amedy Coulibaly, the attacker who killed four hostages at the supermarket. 

That's it. He didn't call for people to attack Charlie Hebdo again or say the attackers were doing a good thing. He just did a play on their names. He was arrested for that.

Let see here; a magazine (that sells millions of copies) showing a picture of the Prophet is okay even though almost all Muslims considered it an insult to their religion, but a Facebook post against the magazine can get you jail time. Uh…how do you spell hypocrisy in French? 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Running Away With An Electric Scooter

10 policemen! 10 policemen on the chase! Right here on streets of Singapore!

That's right. The New Paper reported that on Wednesday night, 10 policemen were involved in a chase at Buangkok Link against a teenage suspect...on an electric scooter.

HA! When I read this, I can't help but laugh when I read this. The police were after the teenager as he was suspected for forgery and the teenager took off on an electric scooter? In the movies, you would always see a suspect running from the police in a motorbike, a muscle car, or even running/jumping with their legs. In Singapore, suspects run from police on electric scooters.

Hollywood/Bollywood/Hong Kong are all behind the times.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

€1.1 Trillion

Yes, you read that right. €1.1 trillion! That's the amount the European Central Bank (ECB) will inject into the eurozone to jump-start the ailing economy. There's little doubt that the ECB is trying to do quantitative easing (QE), even though they are refusing to call it that. There's a big problem with this though; QE doesn't really works. 

Yes, QE is a strategy that appears to have worked in the US but...the magic word there is "appears". Even Americans are unsure about the recovery of their own economy and this is after the US Fed undertook a huge program of QE between 2008 and 2014. Also the UK and Japan did their version of QE and their economy isn't doing so well. The UK economy is based on finance and billionaires parking their money in property, mostly in London. The less said about Abenomics, the better. 

Now the EU want to join the bandwagon to the tune of €1.1 trillion? For their sake, I wish them the best of luck. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Comics this week

Copperhead #5- The first arc is done with this issue and it was surprising, funny and (strangely for a space Western) pretty realistic. Duepty Boo proves his worth by showing almost without doubt that although Sheriff Clara is the better soldier, he's the better detective and the crew wraps up the Sewell case with very little gun-play and a lot of police work. Who would have thought that a space Western would care about stuff like jurisdiction and social hierarchy? I'm not sire I am going to contiune with the series but look like Jay Faerber got a winner here.

Jupiter's Legacy #5- I will admit this; it's been so long since the last issue that I totally forgotten to pick this issue last week. In all fairness to me, it has almost a year since #4 so you must forgive me for this lapse. Writer Mark Millar and artist Frank Quitely put together another excellent chapter of Jupiter's Legacy that finish the storyline beautifully. The end where Chloe, Hutch and Jason decided to finally take to the battlefield against the government was well-plotted and beautifully drawn. Too bad about the lateness; until Millar can get the book on the shelf on time, this is it for me.

No Coalition

With the General Election (GE) likely to be held this year, many political parties are stepping up their profile in the public. Our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong just had a long interview with some Singaporean journalists and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) had actually had a GE campaign launch.

With such movement on the political front, some Singaporeans are wondering if it is possible for the opposition to improve on their performance in the last GE. The main questions are whether the opposition parties will work together to ward off the ruling People’s Action Party and if they will form an election coalition against the PAP?

I do think the opposition will come to an agreement to avoid 3-corner fights but an opposition coalition is in my view out of the question. Simply put; for there to be an “opposition coalition”, the Worker’s Party (WP) need to be in it and I just cannot see the WP joining the other opposition parties in a coalition.

To be fair, I totally understand why the WP would not want to join an opposition coalition. They are by far the biggest and most successful opposition party in Singapore. They are the only opposition party with a presence in Parliament and most of the other opposition parties have little to offer. So it makes no sense for them to join with the other opposition parties.

So Singaporeans can forget about an opposition coalition. Until the other opposition parties get stronger, that's just not going to happen. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

No More Peg

Just 3 years ago, the Swiss National Bank imposed a currency floor for the Swiss franc. The main job for the floor was to prevent the franc from appreciating too much against the Euro.

A few days ago, the Swiss shocked the world by abandoning the franc's exchange rate floor of 1.20 francs to the euro. The decision caused chaos in the currency markets as the Swiss franc went up almost 20% before coming down slightly.

The main reason the Swiss raised the white flag is because the European Central Bank (ECB) is expected to implant a massive sovereign bond-buying program that will flood the market with euros. Knowing this, the Swiss jumped before they were pushed and abandoned the peg.

This was a smart move by the Swiss and Switzerland may be just the first country to do this. Remember the Asian crisis when Thailand was forced to abandon their peg to the U.S dollar? Well, Asian countries like South Korea and Taiwan are on the frontlines now as a strong fall in the Japanese yen is causing the exports of these countries to suffer. This is on top of China who had always devalued the Chinese yuan.

With the ECB now jumping on the bandwagon, the euro will now go down as well leaving the U.S the last one standing. So 2 things are clear; 1) buy U.S dollars because the safest currency in the world is just going to get stronger and 2) the European Union and its single currency are going to the toilet.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Comics this week

Astro City #19- I admit; I thought the last issue of Crackerjack and Quarrel was a one-off solo issue; it was not. This issue continues the story on the aging heroes and also delved into the relationship of Astro City’s unlikeliest couple. Now I love Astro City and I understand what writer Kurt Busiek is trying to do. Moving a character forward while looking at the character’s past (there's a long flashback on Quarrel) is something he has done to great effect in the past, but it just didn’t work here. The big problem is the fact that Busiek tried too hard to explain the long-term relationship between Crackerjack and Quarrel. That part of the story just didn’t work. Those two had been together for over 10 years because...they pushed each other? Sorry but I don't buy it and I'm a great Astro City fan! I would much rather Busiek focused on the pair as they face their current problems as old superheroes. That's where the meat is.

Spiderverse #2- If you picked up the previous issue of Spiderverse, you would know that writer Dan Slott has a total disdain for Spiderman in commercials. If this issue proves anything, it’s that his disdain goes to Spiderman in video games as well! The issue starts with Capcom Spider (now that’s a name) suffering a one-punch knockout at the fist of Morlun. It was hilarious; "Inheritors Fist" indeed! The rest of the issue is similar to #1 with separate Spidey stories showcasing the various alternate Spidermen. Outside the Capcom Spider segment, the Spider-Punk story is the best. This Spiderman is the leader of a super-powered protest movement and I love the way the art enhance the chaotic feel of the story. An issue worthy of the Spiderverse event.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

High COEs

One of the biggest complains of Singaporeans is the high COE prices in Singapore. COE prices for new cars currently sit above $65,000 for both Cat A and Cat B vehicles. So when the LTA (Land Transport Authority) announced that there would be more COEs available in February, people cheered thinking prices will come down.

Don’t bet on it.

In the latest COE Quota announced by the LTA, Cat A COE (for cars up to 1.6 litres in engine size or up to 130bhp) will expand in supply to 1,973 a month, while the Cat B COEs (for all other cars) will grows to 1,444. Give or take, that’s an increase of about 500 for each Cat so logic says prices for the COEs will come down.

Logic and common sense plays no part in the brains of Singaporeans when it comes to cars. Singaporeans loves car not because they are useful; they love cars because they are a status symbol in Singapore. Cars are a sign you are rich, that you have made it, that you have “face”.

That is why I’m not convinced prices of COEs will come down just because there’s more COEs on the market. More likely than not, prices in Feb will still be high because…well, this is Singapore. When it comes to “face”, brains takes a backseat.  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wrong Stupid Move By Charlie Hebdo

A week after a deadly attack that killed 12 people, French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has now published a new edition with a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad on its cover.

The cartoon shows the Prophet weeping while holding a sign saying "Je suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie") and has already generated threats from militant Islamist websites and criticism from the Islamic world. It is believed that earlier cartoons of the Prophet prompted the attack on the office of the magazine.

So the question has to be asked, “Why the hell are these guys doing it again? A cartoon like this is provoking Muslims as no depiction of the Prophet is allowed.”

Well, the answer to that question is simple. Charlie Hebdo pride itself on being provocative. The cartoons, especially the past cartoons, are insulting because they were meant to be so. Now before you argued against that, remind yourself that staff from Charlie Hebdo agreed with my assessment. In the editorial of the latest issue, the magazine say they want no more insinuations that they brought trouble on itself by provoking Muslims. 

Note the fact that they do not deny they are provoking Muslims; only that they are asking for the trouble that comes with the provocation.

Charlie Hebdo don’t argue that the cartoons were meant to be mocking Muslim and Arab culture; they are arguing that they are allowed to do this because 1) they can do so under free speech and 2) the magazine is equally insulting to other cultures and religions like the Jews and Christianity.

Now I'm sorry 12 people died over something like cartoons but is insulting someone okay as long as you are equally insulting to everyone? Some people may disagree with my views but I say “NO”. Just because you are equally insulting to other people does not mean I will accept it if you insults me. 

So I say putting the Prophet Muhammad on its cover now is a pretty stupid move on the part of Charlie Hebdo. Killing 12 people over cartoons may be crazy but so is putting the Prophet Muhammad on a magazine cover when you know what had happened the last time you did it.

Knowing what had happened the last time they did this, the magazine is now intentionally doing it again. Tell me that's not provocation. A lot of people will disagree but to me, the move by Charlie Hebdo is not just wrong, it is also just plain stupid. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Not The Best Defense

The results are in and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo has beaten Argentinian Lionel Messi and (the more deserving) German Manuel Neuer to win the Ballon d'Or. However the big news was in the “Team of the Year”.

Team of the year
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer (Germany/Bayern Munich)

Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Spain/Real Madrid), Thiago Silva (Brazil/Paris St-Germain), David Luiz (Brazil/Paris St-Germain), Philipp Lahm (Germany/Bayern Munich)

Midfielders: Andres Iniesta (Spain/Barcelona), Toni Kroos (Germany/Real Madrid), Angel Di Maria (Argentina/Manchester United)

Forwards: Arjen Robben (Netherlands/Bayern Munich), Lionel Messi (Argentina/Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Real Madrid)

Like always, there are a few names in the team that has people scratching their heads but seldom has there been such universal scorn like that given to Brazilian David Luiz. Let me put my two cents in; David Luiz is not a bad player but to say he is one of the best defender in the world is a joke!

What’s a bigger joke is the central defense of David Luiz and Thiago Silva! I accept that if Silva was playing, Germany would probably not won 7-1 but even discounting that, a central defense of David Luiz and Thiago Silva is just NOT the best defensive partnership in the world. I doubt it's even going to worry anyone!

Where’s Mats Hummels? Where’s Vincent Kompany? Where’s Ron Vlaar? Instead of them, FIFA went and pick David Luiz and Thiago Silva? Don't FIFA knows how to pick defenders anymore? Tell me that’s not a joke! 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Smart Play By The SDP

Almost everyone in Singapore believes that the next General Elections (GE) will be held this year, so it’s no surprise that some political parties are already gearing up for it. The first opposition party to fire a salvo is the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), and it seems this time they are playing it smart.

Speaking at the campaign launch, SDP party chief Chee Soon Juan basically said that their campaign would focus on the education system, healthcare and housing. Bread and butter issues will be their main selling point this round, and talks about human rights and democracy will take a backseat.

Now I know some people are disappointed that the most liberal and left-leaning political party in Singapore is shifting to the center, but to me this is a smart move. In the last GE, the Worker’s Party (WP) got seats from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) by taking them on in the center (some would argue on the center-right). There’s no reason why the other opposition parties can’t do the same.

Let’s admit it; Singaporeans are more interested in money than human rights. That’s just a fact, so if Dr Chee wants to change tack and move the SDP to the center; I say good for them.

Forget about about human rights and democracy and talk about money, housing and the CPF Minimum Sum. That’s where the battle will be fought. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Comics this week

Amazing Spiderman #12- The Spiderverse story continue with Solus just kicking the ass of Captain Universe-Parker. Writer Dan Slott keeps the tension up by showing just how outmatched the Spiders are. I especially like the way Slott is keeping the humor up. Voltron Spiderman? Cowboy-Spiderman? Spider-Buggy? Can’t wait to see more of them! Even the small character moments like the 3 Japanese Spiderman speaking among themselves in Japanese and Jessica Drew secret talk with the Weaver were very well handled. So far so good; Spiderverse is still a winner.

Birthright #4- With the characters now on the road, #4 has the recently reunited family bonding on their way to kill a mage from another world. I must say I like the way writer Joshua Williamson liken Mikey’s magical condition to PTSD. The problem I have with the issue is the flashback sequences. The action on Terrenos wasn’t long enough to give us a sense of the danger involved but at the same time, took space from moving the family bonding story. It doesn’t help either story.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1- The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is almost without doubt one of the strangest, most surprising debut this year. Yes, I know we’re still in Jan but…Squirrel Girl? Who would have thought this Z-list hero would have her own series. Still, writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson may have a sleeper hit on their hands if #1 is any indication of what’s to come. If there’s one word to describe “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1”, it will be charming. This is a series that will not take itself too seriously and if there rest of the series is as quirky as #1, then…who knows? We may see a lot more of “Deadpool’s Guide to Super Villains”!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

WADA Does Not Ban Cocaine?

In the sport of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is widely considered to be one of the best ever. He's right up there alongside Anderson Silva as the greatest UFC champions ever.

If there's any doubts, Jones crashed them as few days ago by soundly beating former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier a few days ago at UFC 182. Only one problem; it is now discovered that a month before the fight, Jones tested positive for cocaine in a random drug test.

In random drug test given to him on Dec. 4 by the Nevada Athletic Commission, Jones tested positive for benzoylecgonine, the main metabolite in cocaine. Yet because benzoylecgonine is not banned out-of-competition, Jones was still allowed to fight at UFC 182. Only after his victory did UFC publicly announced the positive test and that Jones will enter a drug treatment facility for treatment. Yes, that's right. Cocaine is not banned out-of-competition!

That just sucks! Cyclist Alberto Contador was banned for having clenbuterol in his system despite it being 400 times below what was required to affect his performance; boxer Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. got a 9 month ban for smoking marijuana; but cocaine is okay? There's something seriously wrong with that.

Not just with Jones and the UFC (for covering things up till after the fight) but also with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). How can cocaine not be banned? That is just ridiculous.  

Goodbye Explorer

For as long as I can remember, the Internet Explorer is THE web browser of Microsoft. Well, that’s about to change as word is Microsoft will release a new web browser codenamed, Spartan.

According to reports, Spartan is a new browser that will replace the Internet Explorer and it’s due to competition in the web browser business. It seems Chrome and Firefox has made enough of a dent in Microsoft that the company has decided to dump the Explorer altogether and go with something completely new. Not only that, reports are that Microsoft is going all in.

Spartan is a browser that will be included for free with the new Windows and will also have separate desktop and mobile versions. So say goodbye to Explorer and hello to Spartan. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Important People

So the people in Sengkang are against a columbarium being built near their residences. Why? The simple answers are money and property.

Simply put, a columbarium will bring down housing prices. Yes, society need some places for a columbarium. A place for the respectful storage of cinerary urns. Just don’t build them near my flat. I don’t want the price of my condo to go down. Yet I find that some people are siding with the residents of Sengkang because the would-be columbarium being built would be run by a private entity and not a religious organization. 

I must say I don’t get that at all. So the columbarium has an emphasis on providing niches and providing the prayer services. So the columbarium is been run by a company listed on the Stock Exchange of Australia that specializes in providing funeral services. 

So what? Why should it matter if the columbarium is run by a private entity instead of a religious organization? Does that make any difference whatsoever? Not to me; and I believe it would not for the families of the deceased also. If it does, their relatives would not be placed there. 

Ultimately, that's what important. Not money, not property, not politics, and certainly not who is running the columbarium! If the columbarium would help the families of the deceased find some peace, I say build it! Money, property, and nearby residents be dammed!