Thursday, April 30, 2015

Good For Indonesia

After all the appeals, legal wranglings, and media attention, it is finally done. Indonesia has executed seven foreigners who had been part of a drug trafficking gang. Indonesia had been under tremendous pressure not to execute the men but they had chose to ignore the foreign pressure and did what their laws demanded. 

Good for them! As I had written before, I am fully in support of the death penalty and I believe capital punishment is especially needed for drug traffickers. Drugs can and does cause huge sufferings to the family of drug addicts and there was no doubt in anyone's mind about the guilt of the people executed. The only convicted person who was not executed was Filipino Mary Jane Veloso. She was spared because there were reasons to believe she was tricked into carrying drugs to Indonesia. Helping her case was the fact that she turned herself in to authorities in the Philippines.

For the rest? Sorry for their deaths, but I'm even more sorry for their victims. The countless drug addicts who had their lives and their families' lives destroyed by the drugs this gang was trafficking in. I don't blame Indonesian President Joko Widodo for being strong and doing what's necessary to protect his citizens. It's about time and it's something good for Indonesia.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

“Lock In” by John Scalzi

“Lock In” is a science fiction novel by writer John Scalzi which in some ways is less sci-fi and more police procedural. I read the book because of the writer’s previous work and I have to say I was not disappointed.

The novel starts 25 years after a highly contagious flu virus was exposed to the world. Most who got sick experienced nothing worse than normal flu-like symptoms but for 1% of the victims, the virus caused them to be fully awake, but unable to move or respond to any stimulus. This is known as the locked-in syndrome. The illness also came to be known as "Haden's Syndrome" and its victims were called "Hadens".

Technological advances however gave a lifeline to the Hadens. Humanoid robotic personal transport units were developed and when controlled by a Haden's brainwaves, the “Threeps” (nicknamed after C-3PO from Star Wars) gave the Hadens a way to interact with the outside world.

There is also another way for Hadens to interact with the world. A small percent of the virus victims has their brains “rewired”. These individuals are called "Integrators", a person who can let a Haden use their bodies much like a Threep only with the added bonus of begin able to feel with a human body.

The novel has FBI agents Chris Shane (who is a Haden) and Leslie Vann assigned to a murder which could Haden-related. The main suspect is an "Integrator" which complicates the case because if he was carrying a Haden, then the actual murderer was not the one wielding the knife, but the Haden controlling him. The case is in many ways what made this book so interesting.

John Scalzi did a lot of world-building in this book. The idea of exploring a world in the aftermath of a world-wide epidemic is great. Yes, it had been done before but Scalzi used technology not only as a way to combat the epidemic but as a way of life in the aftermath. The epidemic is over, there is no cure, but life goes on and technology is the answer. Scalzi used the disease as a way to create a new social class; people who are victims of the virus, but not victims of life. There is practically no Hadens in this book who swallow in self-pity; all of them want to live and they used tech to do so.

The idea behind this is fantastic and kind of unique. Scalzi do a lot of info-dump but in many ways it was necessary because of how deep the world is. He not only creates the world but also fleshed it out in many ways. The discrimination faced by the Hadens; the living standards of Hadens; how the Hadens used the internet to travel long distances; even the unique family problems they faced; readers who like fleshed out worlds will find a lot of joy in this novel.

Having said that, I do have some issues with this novel. The end was a problem for me. I understand the novel was in many ways a police procedural, but having the villain break in the interrogation room was passé. That’s something I expect in a TV show (I read Legendary TV actually did acquire the rights to adapt into a TV pilot), not a novel. After all the technological advances shown in the novel, the way to break the case was…old fashion police interrogation? Maybe this was something Scalzi was aiming for. If it was, then success to him but I thought the change in pace was a problem.

I also thought the characters in this novel did not match up to Scalzi’s previous work. Chris Shane was nowhere near as interesting as Jack Holloway in “Fuzzy Nation” or Andrew Dahl in “Redshirts”. The supporting cast fared even worse.

However I would still recommend “Lock In”. The world-building is great, the pace is fast, and the idea behind the novel is unique. For a fun, fast and interesting read, pick this one up! 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

X-Men Jump The Shark

Anyone who collects comics knows that the X-Men has been spinning its wheels for years. So much so that Marvel had to use events like the death of Xavier (again), and a spilt in the ranks to boost sales. There’s also a gay wedding for Northstar.

Now Marvel decided to reveal that one of the founding members of the X-Men, Bobby “Iceman” Drake, is gay.

Come on Marvel! Are you guys truly that desperate? I have been collecting comics for years, the X-Men was one of the first comics I collected, and nowhere had there been any signs that Iceman was gay. I have no problem with you pushing politically correct propaganda but at least make sure it makes sense! Bobby Drake once slept with Mystique and a few others. Hell, he was almost married to Opal! There’s still something called canon in Marvel right?

You want some superheroes coming out as gay? Not a problem, but make sure it is believable, and if possible, necessary to a story. Don’t just pick a character and say, “Oh, he’s gay”. That just sucks. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Comics this week

Convergence #3- I know Convergence is getting its ass kick on reviews but guess what; I don’t think it’s anywhere as bad as people says. I admit it’s not the greatest event DC has ever run, but it’s hardly the worst. #3 continues in this vine as Thomas Wayne sacrificed himself to give the rest of the Earth 2 heroes time to find a way to defeat Telos. It’s one of the advantages of using the Earth 2 heroes; you can kill them off without too much trouble. Yes, I do agree Convergence could be a lot better but it’s hardly the worst thing on the stand right now. After all, Marvel just made Iceman gay out of nowhere. It will take a lot to beat that.

Deadly Class #12- I must say this; artist Wes Craig has outdid himself once again. The aftermath of the hit on the rednecks is one hell of a ride as Marcus and Maria do everything they can to get away from Chico’s vengeful father. Writer Rick Remender even give us a quiet moment in the midst of all the chaos, showing us how and why Maria and not Saya might be the “right” girl for Marcus. Bring on the next issue!

Ninjak #2- After an excellent debut, this issue has me worried about this series. #2 shows how the hero earned a villain's trust by doing villainous things but without really doing anything villainous. Sorry but I thought this Ninjak was an anti-hero? Shouldn’t this Ninjak have no problem killing a human smuggler to finish the mission? I think writer Matt Kindt dropped the ball on this one, thank god for the artwork by Clay Mann. His work here is even better than his work in the debut. Ninjak still has potential, but this follow-up does not help. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Is This Really Misuse of Funds?

Is this really a case of misuse of funds? That’s the question that keep popping up in my head these few days whenever I read about the long-standing case the prosecution has against City Harvest Church.

As most of you know, 6 members of City Harvest including church founder Kong Hee, are facing various charges of misusing church funds and covering up the misuse. In the beginning, I thought the prosecution had a solid case but as more and more facts come out, I am beginning to wonder. The big problem I have in the case? No one seems to have taken any money from the church!

The prosecution’s case seem to be based on the questionable ways the church’s money was moved around and the Crossover Project of City Harvest. However I have to ask this question; is it really a case of misuse of funds when no one seems to have personally profited for all this? In fact, the defense of the 6 members said that ALL the money had been returned to the church’s account with interest! The prosecution do not deny this.

If that is the case, then what is this case all about? The more I read about the case, the more it sounds like an accounting case. Much like the case against Venerable Shi Ming Yi a few years ago, the prosecution’s case against City Harvest seems more like they had an accounting problem than one where the members charged actually took any money from the church.

I’m no lawyer so I’m not sure if accounting tricks counts as misuse of funds in a Singapore court, but if no one stole money and the money was actually returned with interest to boot. Then I have to ask; what’s the problem? 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Comics this week

Convergence #2- With #0 and #1 out of the way, the story by writer Jeff King has finally moved out of the setup phase of the story and this issue show how much promise the story of Convergence has. The focus on the surviving heroes of Earth 2 has worked very well for the story and the meeting between Thomas and Bruce Wayne was great. I loved the way King left what was said in the meeting to our imagination; the scene was so much more powerful due to that. The art by Carlo Pagulayan is good though I had noticed he is much better at close-ups than wide shots. Two issues in and Convergence seems to be hitting its gears.

Magneto #17- This has been one great series so far and writer Cullen Bunn may have delivered to us his best issue so far. The identity of the serial killer in Genosha was a surprise but at the same time did not totally come out of left field. Then writer Cullen Bunn gave us an excellent explanation of how the killer came to be. Then to top it all off, he left it hanging on whether Magneto really did kill Amy. Yes, call me an optimistic but Bunn did leave enough hints throughout his run that Magnus is trying something different this time round. Now I have not said much about the art of Gabriel Hernandez Walta thus far because I never thought of it as great. However the scene when Magneto realized that there’s a different way to defeat the killer was something else. Walta captured the expression on Magneto’s face perfectly. Did Magneto take the alternate way to defeat the killer? I don’t know and the question is what make this issue great!

Ms. Marvel #14- I have to say the betrayal by Kamran wasn’t all that surprising to me, I sort of saw it coming, but the way writer Willow Wilson did it was very good. It allow Wilson to dive more into the Inhuman story while at the same time allow her to merge her superhero and civilian life together. I like the fact Wilson does not neglect the social aspect of the Kamala’s live. The talk between Bruno and Aamir was the highlight of this issue and showcase the rich characters of Kamala’s supporting cast. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

This Is A Grandmaster?

Chess grandmaster, Gaioz Nigalidze, was caught cheating in an international tournament and immediately thrown out of the competition. The Georgian was expelled from the Dubai Open for using his smartphone in a match against Armenian grandmaster Tigran L Petrosian.

During the match, Nigalidze would reply to moves by his opponent and then run to the toilet. Petrosian grew suspicious when he noticed that Nigalidze always went to the same toilet partition even when two other partitions weren't occupied. Match officials went into the partition and found a hidden mobile phone in one of the cubicles. They then opened the smartphone and found it was logged into a social networking site under Nigalidze's account. They also found his game being analyzed in one of the many chess apps available.

Nigalidze faces a ban of up to 15 years and some in the chess community had publicly said that Nigalidze should be stripped of his grandmaster title. I too think he should be stripped of his grandmaster title.

Why? Simply because anyone stupid enough to think that they can get away with a cheating method as simple as this does not deserve to be a grandmaster of anything.

Seriously; going to the toilet to check answers? That’s something children in primary school do! A chess grandmaster can’t think of a better (smarter) way to cheat than to follow what a 12 year old would do? At least when Lance Armstrong cheated, he had an army of doctors and lawyers behind him. This guy went to the toilet? Worse, this guy didn’t even have the courtesy of linking the phone to an anonymous account!

Of course he should be banned immediately. Anyone this stupid should not be a grandmaster of anything, much less chess!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Can She Win?

Former US Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady Hillary Clinton formally announced that she is going to run for the White House. This is her second bid to become the first woman US president.

In other news, the sky is blue and water is wet.

Come on people; how in the world is her run for the White House “news”? Ever since she ran and lost to current US President Barack Obama in 2008, another run for the White House was always on the cards. Even right now, she is the overwhelming Democratic favorite

News is not whether she would run, but if she would win. I don’t know what the mood is in America, but from the outside looking in, I have to wonder if she could. Despite what some people say, I’m not sure about her. She managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (she was an overwhelming favorite against Obama) in 2008 and she didn’t really had a good time as Secretary of State.

So the fact that Mrs. Clinton is running isn’t “news”, that was always going to happen. How she would fare as a candidate and whether she can win would be. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Comics this week

Astro City #22- After the last arc, you would think writer Kurt Busiek would have enough about writing stories on aging superheroes. Not a chance! After showing Crackerjack and Quarrel going into retirement, Busiek now show a superhero who has, for lack of a better term, made it. Starfighter has been fighting the good fight for decades and now has his rewards. He is the consort of an alien empress, has 2 children, and an impressive career as a novelist. However he could sense there are dark forces stirring in the cosmos and still believes he has what it takes to help out, but…well, he is old and even if he could, should be back in action? Shouldn't he gracefully exit the scene and let younger heroes step up? You know of any other comics out there that asked such loaded questions? Neither do I and that’s what make Astro City great.

Rai #8- As I said last issue, reluctant allies usually mean terrible allies and once again, Rai found that out the hard way. It started out well enough as Rai’s forces took the fight to Father. With a common enemy, the Positrons and the Raddites finally decided to work together. Spylocke returns from Earth with Rai VIII. Lula manages to get the Geomancer out of Father’s clutches and when the fight finally starts, the people of New Japan rallied with Rai against Father. All of which are undone when the slippery Dr. Silk changed sides yet again and informed Father of Rai’s plans. Writer Matt Kindt put together a good plan here but the star of the show is Clayton Crain. The artist’s work in this issue is nothing short of mind-blowing amazing and the climactic battle between Rai and his replacement was one for the ages. Good story, explosive action, and a surprising ending; this issue is great! 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Honor His Wishes

I’ll be blunt; the online petition to rename Singapore's Changi Airport to "Lee Kuan Yew International Airport" is a stupid idea. More than 12,000 people has signed the petition and submitted it to the government, but I hope the Singapore government has more sense than to agree to it.

My reasoning is very simple. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew had specifically stated that he wanted no statues of himself; that’s why he did not make any statue of himself anywhere in Singapore. So if this man does not want statues of himself, just imagine what he thinks about changing the name of one of the world’s best airport to his name?

Yes, I understand there is a section of Singaporeans who want to honor the man but changing the name of Changi Airport is not the correct way to do it. It goes directly against the man’s wishes and ultimately, there’s no better way to honor him then to follow his wishes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Five Nights at Freddy’s Movie

Why doesn’t Hollywood ever learn from its mistake? After a series of terrible to so-so adaptations, there is now yet another movie adaption of a video game. The game in question is…Five Nights at Freddy’s.

Now for those of you who have never heard of the game, Five Nights at Freddy’s is set in a family fast food restaurant called Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, where animatronic robots entertain customers by day and become twisted killers at night. The game is a cult hit and there are already 3 games in the Five Nights at Freddy's franchise.

Having said that; why does Hollywood keep making the same mistakes? Now I know there are several movies based on video games coming out (Hitman: Agent 47, World of Warcraft, Assassin Creed) but has there ever been a hit? The only series that can make an argument that it is a hit is the Resident Evil series and even then, many would argue against it.

So with that track record, would a point-and-click horror survival series from a small independent developer make it? Sorry but I just don’t think so.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

King Kazu

I was never a fan of Kazuyoshi Miura. Yes, the Japanese striker had a glorious career in the 90s playing football everywhere from Japan to Brazil and Italy, but I never rated him as one of the world's best.  

However even a non-fan like myself has to give credit when it's due. The now 48-year-old Miura has now become the oldest goal-scorer in professional Japanese football. The 48-year-old out-jumped a defender to score with a looping header in the Japanese Second Division on Sunday.

In a sport where most players hang up their boots in their early 30s, this man is scoring goals at age 48? Yes, it's not the top division of the J-League but that's a goal is a goal and that's still something to be proud of. Well done King Kazu!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Comics this week

Earth 2: World’s End #26- This is it. The end of the line for Earth 2! To no one’s surprise, the end is a bit of a mess with action sequences that jumped here and there. To their credit, the writers and artists tried valiantly to tie things up while leaving a grand opening to Convergence, the next mega crossover event in DC. On the whole, they didn’t really succeed but I have to give them an A+ for effort. All the big (Val, Green Lantern etc) and small (Dick Grayson, Sato) players were given some scene-time while pushing the big battle with Darkseid. Not perfect but in the end, it could have been worse. 

Hinterkind #17- With the war between the Skinlings and the Sidhe in full swing, the Sidhe Queen’s decision to call for the help of a dragon comes into question as Psamira tried to ward off Prosper’s team. I know writer Ian Edginton hasn’t been shy about showing how dangerous the world of the Hinterkind is but I could seriously do without all the killing this issue. At least 3 supporting characters were killed off this issue and I can’t help but think that this is just a total waste. The art by Francesco Trifogli is still great but the issue was let down by all the senseless death.  

Spider-Gwen #3- 3 issues in and Spider-Gwen still looks like Marvel’s best bet for a long-term female Spider hit. This is a strong issue with a surprise at the end. I like the fact that writer Jason Latour is trying to shake things up and I will admit the work by artist Robbi Rodriguez is beginning to grow on me. Since its debut, the series has been strong and as long as it doesn’t show signs of slowing down, Marvel may finally get their wish. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Education Competition

In a case of academic competiveness gone wrong, a student in Stanford University is accused of poisoning her follow students. Why is this news in Singapore? Because the student in question is from Singapore!

An A*Star scholarship holder, 27 year old Ouyang Xiangyu, has been charged with four counts of poisoning the drinking water of lab mates at Stanford University. Yes, I know a lot Singaporeans are immediately arguing that the girl is from China but if she is sent to America by the Singapore government; so she is a Singaporean!

What’s more important to me is the reason why she thinks she needed to do this? According to all reports, Ms. Ouyang was a quiet and shy girl who do have good grades. She just seemingly broke under the pressure of needing to get "great" grades. Her current good grades just aren’t good enough it seems.  Why?

A*Star scholarship holder or not; Singapore or Chinese national; I find this very disturbing. Just what kind of pressure are we putting on our young that the idea of poisoning their follow students to get a leg up is even considered, much less implemented? That is something Singapore need to look into. 

The fact that students here are under great pressure to beat their peers and deliver good grades is something no one argue against. Some even think it’s a good thing that students are under pressure to deliver, but there’s a limit to everything and with the case of Ouyang Xiangyu, it would seem Singapore had went pass the limit.