Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Comics this (last) week

The Multiversity Ultra Comics #1- Multiversity has thus far been a series of hit-or-miss single issues. I will grant you that writer Grant Morrison has more hits than misses. I will even grant you his hits have been great (Thunderworld, Guidebook, The Just) while his misses (Pax Americana) are more below average than outright bad. However Ultra Comics is one issue which I have no idea where to put in. It’s a comic with some fun ideas (Ultra, Cannibal Kids) but at the same time seem more confusing than necessary. The idea that The Gentry is an evil that arise from thought instead of action is cool but then Morrison had to muddy up the waters by adding up useless crap like Ultrastuff, a time battle between Tar and Ecpoh etc. Even the idea that the evil that is The Gentry can be confronted and defeated by reader’s criticisms and demand for a good ending is swept by the wayside in the confusion. Too bad because it is a great idea. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew's Legacy

The downpour yesterday did not stop tens of thousands of people from lining up along the 15.4 km route to say goodbye to Singapore's founding leader Lee Kuan Yew. Mr. Lee led Singapore to independence 50 years ago and after a week of mourning, Singapore's founding leader was given an elaborate state funeral yesterday.

Thus end an age of Singapore!

Now comes the time to wonder about the legacy left behind by this great man. Already there have been people who have gotten into trouble talking about it. Opposition leader Low Thia Khiang was criticized for saying Mr. Lee was a controversial figure; local bakery, BreadTalk, got into trouble for coming out with a bread in honor of the man; and even a 17-year-old was arrested just for putting a video on YouTube criticizing Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.

Now as Singapore's founding father, it’s no surprise that Mr. Lee Kuan Yew holds a special place in the hearts of many Singaporeans. However, there’s a need not to go overboard and I don’t just mean the arrest.

Mr. Lee is a great man, widely respected and admired, but he was no saint. Mr. Low was not wrong when he says that Mr. Lee was a controversial figure; he was and that is something Mr. Lee made no bones or apology for! He is a leader whose intelligence, tenacity, vision, and ruthlessness led Singapore to become the country we are today. He is a leader that’s not afraid to get his hands dirty to get what he wants. He is a leader who did the impossible. And that’s how I think we ought to remember him. 

Let’s remember Mr. Lee Kuan Yew as the man he is; not as a saint or a myth but a man whose greatness is without question. Let's remember Mr. Lee that way, warts and all. From what I know and read about the man, he wouldn’t want it any other way. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Singaporeans Respond To The Death of LKY

After a private wake, the body of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of modern Singapore, has been taken to Parliament House for public viewing. His body will be placed there till Saturday and the public can view the body.

The public has responded by coming out in droves with the first person in line since Tuesday night and the queue has been so overwhelming the Lying-in-State will be open 24 hours daily till Saturday, 28 March 2015, 8pm.

From what I saw today, it might still not be enough! Just take a look at the queue!

From this picture, I may be the only one in Singapore who think it is inappropriate to take photo of the gun carriage 

The queue starts here

Goes around Hong Lim Park

Pass One George Building (good touch with the half-flag)

Towards OCBC Building

Across Cavenagh Bridge

 And then you get to the Parliament House

That's in the afternoon; in the morning...

It went along Raffles Place Jetty


Boat Quay MacDonald 

Along Circular Road

To the end before U-turning back along Circular Road

So everyone who want to pay their respects, please be patient and be ready for a long, long wait. Thanks

Keep The Mystery

In the 80s, the two biggest stars in the music industry are Michael Jackson and Prince. Now both were pop-stars who made similar music, but of the two I always prefer Prince.

Prince was a musical genius who could (and did) played many instruments on his songs. His songs touched on everything from love to sex to family to spirituality, sometimes on the same song. So when I heard that when he has a vault full of unreleased songs, I was naturally curious. I mean the man has his own recording studio and could (and did) record his songs anytime he wanted to.

Now fans has been clamouring for Prince to open his vault for years, and a BBC documentary has interviewed many people who had worked with Prince before. All say the vault exist and that there are great songs inside. However most seem to doubt that the enigmatic Prince would ever release the songs in his vault.

I think it would be better if he never did.

As much as I am curious about the songs Prince has, sometimes the mystery is more important than the reveal. Not to say the songs would suck, but the legend of the vault is something that's work in Prince's favor. Keep the door of the vault shut Prince; it’s a legendary thing now. Keep the mystery. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

One-Eye Man by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

I'll be honest; I'm not a fan of L.E. Modesitt, Jr. I read some of his books in his "Saga of Recluce" series but was never a fan. However the premise of “The One-Eye Man” was interesting, so I thought I gave it a try. I do not regret it.

In simple terms; you need to pick up this book!

The One-Eyed Man is Dr. Paulo Verano, a freelance consultant who is also an expert ecologist. Following a messy divorce where his wife got most of his assets, Verano takes a government contract to investigate the environmental impact of humans on a far-flung planet named Stittara.

Stittara is the planet which is the main supplier of anagathics, a drug that can more than doubled the human life span, but there’s deep questions about the environment impact of human settlements on the planet so Verano was sent as a political move to quiet the critics. It was a strictly political move as everyone, including Verano, knows that there was no way powerful men will abandon the production of a drug that could double their lifespan.

Once on the planet however, Verano found things to be less straightforward. As Verano begins to diligently investigate the planet, he found that there are many factions trying to influence his report. There’re also questions on whether the local Skytubes, mysterious airborne organisms, were intelligent sentient creatures. The questions and answers Verano find on Stittara will have severe consequences for him, the planet and all the humans living there.

Now as you can tell, this is a sci-fi book and I have to say it is a very good one. Modesitt put together a hard sci-fi book that has quite a few interesting ideas. For example, one of the main reasons Verano took the contract is because of the time difference. The ship he took to Stittara travels at near light speed but with the accompanying “time dilation”, while the trip takes just weeks for Verano, more than seventy-five years has passed for everyone off ship. So by the time he reached Stittara, his daughter would be older than he is. Modesitt also place an emphasis on the society that would come living with this sort of time difference. When Verano first heard that there was a woman on Stittara over 400 years ago, he hardly blinks as he himself is over a hundred after the trip to Stittara.

The book isn’t all about fantastical science fiction technology; it is also a thought-provoking book on the limits of humanity. I won’t spoil the ending but by the end of this book, Modesitt gives you a good sense that even with great technological advances, there will always be limits on humanity and we need to be humble about our place in the world.

However the best part of the book is how it was written in the first place. “The One-Eye Man” was written based on a painting by John Jude Palencar (the image which serves as this book's cover art). Personally I have no idea how anyone can write such a story full of complex governmental systems and technological advances from this strange painting but I guess that’s why Modesitt has so many books to his name and I’m writing a blog. It is amazing.

The book unfortunately will not be for everyone. People who like action with their sci-fi will be sorely tested by this book. Although Modesitt throw a bone by making Verano a (improbable) martial artist, “The One-Eye Man” works almost like a detective story where the detective is more brains than brawn. In the final sequence of the novel, Verano spent his moments at his desk waiting for others to call him back. It’s makes perfect sense in the context of the book but people who want their hero to be an action star will be sorely disappointed.

People may also have an issue with the details of Verano’s investigation. A large part of the middle portion of this book is spent on his investigation; visiting the various communities and corporations that had set up shop on Stittara, doing analysis, speaking to Survey personals on the planet. I find the whole thing interesting but I can see why some people may find it boring instead.

Despite the lack of action, I found that the plot of the book moves compellingly forward as Modesitt cleverly hints, weaves, and knits together various threads of information to form a story will blow your mind. Pick this one up; it’s great!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Passing Of A Legend

Everyone knew it was coming, but it is still with great sadness when word finally came that former Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, has passed away. 

The 91 year-old Mr. Lee has been hospitalized since early February with severe pneumonia so news of his passing came as no surprise. However, such is his stature that even Singaporeans who do not agree with his political views will mourn his passing. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is widely credited as the man who transformed Singapore from a small port city into a wealthy global hub. He was Singapore's prime minister for 31 years, so he is widely known as the architect of Singapore's prosperity.

It would be slightly incorrect to say he was loved, but respect and admiration are in no short supply when speaking about the man. His toughness and pragmatism were legendary and he will be missed. 

Farewell Mr. Lee, Singapore will miss you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

DC Comics Pulled Joker/Batgirl Cover

When I read that “DC Comics Pulls Controversial Batgirl Cover”, I expected the cover to be you know…controversial. This is the cover;

I can only say this after seeing it; what the fuck is wrong with it?

This is supposed to be a variant cover for Batgirl #41 which is part of a series of 25 Joker-themed variant covers planned for DC's June comic lineup. The covers feature the Clown Prince of Crime alongside various DC heroes, and this cover is clearly one that plays off “The Killing Joke”, a story where the Joker paralyzed Barbara Gordon.

People objected to this cover because of Joker's treatment of Batgirl.

Guess what idiots; that’s the idea! What? Do you want him to be smiling? Joker is a creepy, scary, intimidating villain, who once paralyzed Batgirl. To me, this cover by artist Rafael Albuquerque portrayed him perfectly, This is the JOKER!

Instead of accepting this wonderful cover, people put on #CHANGETHECOVER which pretty much caused/forced artist Rafael Albuquerque to request that the cover be removed. DC, wimps that they are, pretty much immediately accepted the request.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew's Health Worsens

It's going to happen to all of us, even the best of us, and it seems it's going to happen to our great leader Lee Kuan Yew. The 91-year-old former prime minister has been in hospital for the past 6 weeks and his condition has reportedly worsened due to an infection.

There's no word yet about how bad it is but the situation is so bad that even CNN is reporting on the matter. Now that's bad. Although I'm not his biggest fan, his achievements cannot be argued against. He transformed Singapore to one of Asia's wealthiest economies and the fact you are reading my post on the internet right now is a sign of his work. 

My one hope for Mr Lee right now is that he goes quickly and peacefully. In a book published in 2013, he says he wanted a quick death. For all his great work, that's the least he deserved. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Makes No Sense

Residents in Aljunied GRC received a surprise on Friday when they received pamphlets from People’s Action Party’s (PAP) activists encouraging them to question Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament regarding allegations of financial mismanagement and improper corporate governance of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC). There’s just one problem with this; I think this is against the law.

Laws against election advertising is very strict in Singapore with campaigning only allowed once candidates have been nominated for an election and it must end one day before the polls are conducted. As the pamphlets were made and distributed by activists from the PAP against a rival political party, this seems on the surface to be totally illegal under the Parliamentary Elections Act.

To their credit, the PAP has tried to defend their activists with several netizens (presuming from the PAP) pointing out that many opposition parties also regularly send out newsletters and pamphlets. There’s only one big problem with that argument; the opposite sell and distributed all over Singapore. They do not sell and distributed in a certain constituency, targeting on one specific issue.

I also disagree with the argument that the pamphlet is not campaigning. Everyone in Singapore believe that a General Election will be call before the end of the year, and is it a coincidence that these pamphlets were distributed at the sole constituency the PAP lost to the opposition? Common sense tells you otherwise.

The strange thing is that this is a totally unnecessary move by the PAP. Not only do polls (conducted by the pro-government Strait Times) indicate that residents in Aljunied do not care about the issue, most Singaporeans don't care too. Harping on this issue does more harm than help the PAP cause of taking back Aljunied GRC.

In short, this move by the PAP makes no sense. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Comics this week

Astro City #21- After the end of last issue, you know big changes are in store for Crackerjack and Quarrel and boy, did writer Kurt Busiek deliver or what? After some quick action, we came to the meat of the story; what do you do when you're a superhero who’s now too old to cut it? With Quarrel, she went and got advice from the most unlikely of sources; her father. What’s nice about this was how Busiek handled the meeting. The first Quarrel was unapologetic about his past and readily admits that he miss the thrill of being a super-villain. However, he know he’s old so he retired and found another way to live his life. This down-to-earth, no-nonsense advice was exactly what his daughter needed to hear. Here’s a guy who been through what she’s going through and he’s not willing to sugarcoat anything. She’ll miss the thrill but age catch up with everyone so she has to move on. That father/daughter scene made the issue; maybe the entire arc. Brilliant!

Ms. Marvel #13- I will admit that for the past few issues, Ms. Marvel, while charming, has been kind of treading water. This issue however has writer Willow Wilson back on track as Kamala hits it off with a young man introduced to her by her parents. The fact is so surprising even her father, and the young man’s father, had no idea what to do. They basically expected the two young teens to hate each other. Such humor is what make this series great and Wilson even manages to expand on Kamala’s superhero career with the Inhumans worrying about her inexperience and solo career. The balance of humor and drama is back, and hopefully, it’s here to stay.

Ninjak #1- I’ll admit; I never got Ninjak. To me, he’s always a bit of a gag/trend character. A ninja armed with all sort of sci-fi toys taking on beings with superpowers? If it sounds like Batman, that’s because it is. To his credit, writer Matt Kindt took the premise and ran with it. Not only that, he gave Colin King an engaging back story with Ninjak just being the latest in a long line British agents starting with Ninja-A. I really hope Kindt would dig deeper into the "Ninja Program" much like what he’s doing with Rai. Wait…Rai and Ninjak? Is there a connection? I certainly hope so. This issue got me interested in a character I never really care for. In short, this is a great debut!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Are There Too Many Superhero Projects?

Yes, hell yes! I never thought I’ll be saying this but I’m suffering from comics overload here. There are just too many superhero shows and movies!

On TV currently, there’s Arrow, Flash, Agent of SHIELD, Peggy Carter, Gotham, Powers, and Constantine. Upcoming superhero movies include Avengers 2 (coming out next month), Superman/Batman, Ant-man, Fantastic Four, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Deadpool, Suicide Squad, Gambit, and Doctor Strange. All these movies by the end of 2016!

Outside these movies, there’s various (almost countless) upcoming television projects going around. Daredevil, (Luke) Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Defenders, iZombie, and SuperGirl are all awaiting their turn on the small screen. 

And that’s just the Big 2! Outside DC and Marvel, Valiant just signed a major mutli-movie/TV deal and independent projects like Supercrooks are also to be rumored to be in the pipelines. There’s also Heroes, Hancock 2, Kick-Ass 3 and (if they can get Angelina Jolie) Wanted 2.

How many projects is that? One too many in my view. Hollywood and the comics industry need to be careful and don’t go kill the golden goose.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Don't Compare To 2009

In the last General Election (GE), high property prices was the hot tropic. The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) suffered it's worst election result in living memory in part due to the sky-high property prices.

So taming the property market was a priority for the PAP and National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan proudly said on Tuesday that Singapore has managed "soft landing" for its housing market by only allowing property prices to 15% since their lows in 2009. Man, talk about mismatch expectations.

Since when is a rise of 15% a good thing for people who are hoping for a lowering of the price? Now the trick is in the details. Mr. Khaw dubiously used the prices in 2009 and compare them to the current prices; thus you have a rise of 15%. Unfortunately, that's not what most Singaporeans are expecting the PAP to do. They are hoping that the government will lower the property price; but the PAP go tell them prices are just risen by 15%? Isn't that just self-defeating?

I know the PAP don't want to talk about lowering property prices, but that's actually what they should be doing. Yes, people who bought property during the property boom will be unhappy when they read that their property had lowered in value, but if those guys are in the majority, the PAP would never had the result they had in the last GE.

The PAP need to stop comparing property prices to 2009 (at its lows) and compare them to its high during the property boom. They need to tell Singaporeans how much the property prices has came down due to their actions. They should do so because according to the results of the last GE, that's what Singaporeans want. Comparing prices to 2009 helps no one and tell Singaporeans nothing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Not Found

On March 8th 2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared. The Boeing 777 was carrying 239 people, mostly Chinese nationals, from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it disappeared, It has not been found since.

This was not through the lack of trying. At one point, 26 countries were involved in the search efforts and a year after the disappearance, the search is still ongoing. However, things on that front might be changing. Although Malaysia has pledged to continue searching, the simple fact of the matter is that the chances of finding the plane is now very small. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, being the blunt man that he is, has publicly said that the search for Flight MH370 cannot continue at its current intensity “forever”, 

Unfortunately, he is right. I agree that the family of the people in the plane deserved to know what happened to their love ones, but if the plane has still not been found...chances are that it won't be found unless someone gets very lucky. Not helping matter is the confusion on where the plane was when it disappeared. 

The last voice contact from Flight MH370 was taken less than an hour after take-off at 1.19am and the commercial jet fell off the radar in the next two minutes, after which it was claimed that it diverted from its flight path and flew west across the Malaysian peninsula. Something the Malaysian government only notice after the plane was reported missing! 

So I'm sorry for the loved ones of the victims but facts are facts. I hope I am wrong but a year after the tragedy, I think Flight MH370 is probably not going to be found. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Comics this week

Earth 2- With Earth 2 sharing the world alongside Earth 2: World's End, there was always a problem on the running of the series. Yes, I know Earth 2 is supposed to be a companion piece to World's End (where most of the action takes place), but considering how good it was at the start of the series, it deserved to go out better than this. As usual the writing suffers as the Apokolips conflict has moved on, and this issue was a mashup of trying to tie-up loose ends, giving some character development to Hawkgirl and Fate and setting things up for World's End. Luckily, the art by Andy Smith and Airi Kamiyama were good enough that this issue is not a total loss but this is a sad whimper of an end.

Hinterkind #16- One thing you just have to love about Hinterkind is how matter of fact the characters are. This is a post-apocalyptic world with a the survival of the fittest rule and writer Ian Edginton do not let you forget it. The way Psamira took off Severin's head and the way the Sidhe Queen announced that all humans had already been killed would sent shivers down your spine if not for the way how normal these characters see death and genocide. These survivors knows what they want and aren't sorry to get a little blood on their hands to get it. The art by Francesco Trifogli is as great as ever and while I know this series is not for everyone, I still think this is the best ongoing Vertigo title on the shelf. Pick it up!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Move It Back To 5!

In 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences changed the rules so that the maximum number of nominees for the "Best Picture" Oscar from 5 to 10. I thought it was a stupid silly move. 

So I treat the news of the Academy considering a return to its former policy of having only five best picture nominees as something great. Yes, I know the reason for the move the number of nomination from 5 to 10 but I never bought it. Big box office movies like The Blind Side and American Sniper may have entered the "Best Picture" Oscar race due to the increase of nominations but they never had any chance of winning. For example, the race for "Best Picture" this year was strictly between Boyhood and Birdman with American Sniper a long shot at best.

So move the number of nominations from 10 back to 5. It's the right thing to do.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Comics this week

Amazing Spiderman #15- The epilogue of the Spiderverse event ended the great event with a whimper instead of a bang. Writer Dan Slott tries to give some time to all the Spidermen that played a part in the event (and survived the experience) but then hit into the brick walls that’s the Spider-Man/Superior confrontation and the whole Master Weave/Web of Life nonsense. Still, it's an overall satisfying epilogue that tried to tie up most of the side storylines that were never given enough shift in the event proper. Not great, but it didn’t have to be. The Spiderverse event had already done the job.

Spider-Gwen #1- To the surprise of many, the breakout star of the Spiderverse event were the marginal Spider-people like Spider-Ham, Spider-Punk and (drumroll please…) Spider-Gwen. Since her debut in Spiderverse, fans had been captivated by her and it’s not difficult to see why. Here is a Gwen Stacy that not only survives, but became Spider-woman. This debut issue is one that most fans would want to take a look at and I freely admit I count myself in that category. Writer Jason Latour hit the ground running by ignoring the origin setup and diving straight into the world. It’s a good move as there is an energy in this issue which you probably wouldn’t had otherwise. Having said that however, fans probably should pick up Edge of Spider-Verse #2 also. That issue laid out this alternate universe as one where Gwen Stacy was bitten by the radioactive spider and Peter Parker is the one who is dead. It’s interesting but I have to wait and see if I’m in for the long ride on this series. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Nothing The Police Can Do

On Facebook today, a user named Amo Jov shared an experience about being cheated by a driver who claimed to be an Uber driver. For those of you who do not know, Uber is a taxi app that allows private drivers to pick up passengers through a booking system. All they need to do is to register with Uber and they become an Uber driver.

There is no training and any driver in Singapore can be an Uber driver, so I’m not surprised by this incident at all. According to Jov, the driver first told him that the charges were “S$3.90 upon boarding & S$0.70 per km” but after he boarded, the driver said the rate was S$8 per km.

Now Jov has made a police report but there’s a huge problem in the police taking action; what’s the proof that the driver truly did say the rate was “S$3.90 upon boarding & S$0.70 per km”? This becomes a matter of "you say, he says" and I have to wonder how could the police decide who is to be believed?

It’s almost impossible; much less proving it in court. Even if the driver really is an Uber driver, Uber drivers are not licensed. That’s why they are cheaper than regular taxis but by the same token, when you board his car, you are entering a private agreement with the driver. There is no recourse if the driver “cheats” you. The most you can do is to report to Uber who will take the driver off their app.

Sorry for Jov but I just can’t see what the police can do on this matter. Using Uber is like entering a business deal; it requires trust on both sides. If either party breaks the trust, there’s really not much the police can do on the matter.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Question On The CPF

Stay-at home mothers with little savings in their CPF accounts should get more support, says the People's Action Party's Women Wing. All good and well but I have a question; why only stay-be mothers with small CPF account will get help?

Why should there be a difference between stay-at home mothers based on their CPF account? Aren't stay-at mothers...stay-at mothers? Their kids don't care how much CPF their mothers have, so why differentiate among them? Why not give help and support to ALL stay-at home mothers? Wouldn't that be fairer?

Also how would the government decide how much is "little"? With the CPF Minimum Sum at $161,000, does it really matter if the stay-at mother has say $100,000 in her CPF account when she can never take it out?

Differentiating between stay-at home mothers based on their CPF account is just stupid!