Friday, May 29, 2015

Comics this week

Convergence #8- One of the reasons I like Convergence as the simple fact that I collect Earth 2. In many ways, Convergence is a continuation of the Earth 2 story as the main heroes of the event are from that world. Having had said, this could also be one of the reasons why so many people dislike the event. Writer Jeff King gave an uplifting end to the event, but one that might not make much sense if you never read Earth 2. Readers of Earth 2 would (like me) be delighted by the way King managed to "give" the Earth 2 heroes a world of their own; others are probably wondering what was accomplished here? I mean Brainiac coming out of this event a "better" being? I don't think too many readers like that too much. 

Deadly Class #13- Since the beginning of this series, writer Rick Remender and artist Wes Craig has been giving us balls-to-the-walls action, shocks, twists and surprises. Even by that lofty standard, this issue is something else. The vast majority of the issue has Maria finally taking revenge for her family with us, the readers, fully invested in her actions. In the end however, we see how she was undone by a simple mistake and a quiet whisper. One word; Wow! 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Politics And Football

2 days before his re-election as Fifa president, Sepp Blatter has a minor crisis on his hands as the US government indicted 9 top Fifa officials on corruption charges. They are accused of accepting bribes and kickbacks estimated to be around US$150m over a 24-year period. 7 of the officials were arrested in Switzerland and some are pending extradition to the US.

I, like many people, have to ask one question, "Why now?"

Everyone who has a passing knowledge of Fifa knows that money changes hand all the time, especially during the bidding of the World Cup. The US government's allegations of  bribery being involved in Fifa's 2011 presidential election and the 2016 Copa America tournament are also not new. It's almost the way business is done in Fifa. 

So suspicion has hung about Fifa for decades, and now there's a problem? I can't help but wonder if world politics has a hand in this. Russia won the right to hold the World Cup in 2018, and everyone knows how well-liked Russia is nowadays.The US government even admitted that the investigation partly started when the US lost the right to hold the 2022 World Cup to Qatar (It also didn't help when US Attorney General Loretta Lynch started her press conference calling football "soccer").

Now I believe the charges are true, corruption in Fifa has been ongoing for decades, but holding a press conference 2 days before the Fifa election? I don't think that's a coincidence.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Star Trek Building

Star Wars has crazy fans. Star Trek has crazy fans. In the (mostly) friendly battle of which franchise has the crazier fans, Liu Dejian has single-handedly gave Star Trek a leg up on the competition.  

A Chinese millionaire and self-confessed Star Trek fan, Liu is the boss of mobile Internet app developer NetDragon Websoft and has designed his company headquarters in China in the shape of the USS Enterprise! At a cost of $160 million, the building located in the eastern city of Fuzhou has the contours and features of the Enterprise and my god, is it a thing of beauty or what? 

It will take a lot from Star Wars fans to beat this and just in case you are wondering, Liu actually can build his building like this. According to Chinese media, Liu bought the USS Enterprise copyright from CBS. My god, what’s next? A building in the shape of the Millennium Falcon? 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Boring Season Is Over

The Premier League ends yesterday and it was one of the more boring seasons in recent memory. Chelsea parked the bus for weeks on end, and no one could find a way through. To be fair, it’s hard when the team leading the EPL is playing a 4-6-0 formation. Still, they won and in the grand scheme of things, that’s all that matter.

Team of the Season
Leicester City- Chelsea may have won the league but is there anyone alive who could have predicated that Leicester City would finish the season in 14th place? I sure the hell didn’t. I thought they were going down at the start of the season, and was certain of it at the turn of the year when they were rock bottom. Credit to manager Nigel Pearson who managed to turn things around in such a big way!

Most Disappointing Team
Liverpool- When Liverpool finished second last season, it seems that it would be a return to glory for the club. However manager Brendan Rodgers has been unable to offset the sale of forward Luis Suarez to Barcelona. His shotgun approach to the transfer market has come out with more duds than gems and with young Raheem Sterling forcing a move out of Anfield, this season has been a great disappointment for Liverpool.

Most Laughable Fans
Newcastle Untied- I know there’s no such category in most lists, but if there is then fans of Newcastle United would win it hands down. In the time-honored tradition of not blaming fans for anything, most commenters are not publicly blaming Newcastle fans for the club’s horrible season but let’s admit it, the only reason Newcastle finished fourth from bottom is due to the screaming incompetence of its’ fans. Newcastle was comfortably in mid-table when the fans forced out manager Alan Pradew (booing him even when the team was winning). Local boy John Craver took over and Newcastle went on a downward spiral that only ends on the final day of the season. With fans like this, who needs away games?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Go For It

With a Straits Time survey announcing that the ground is sweet for the ruling PAP (People’s Action Party) and hints from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, many Singaporeans believes that the PAP will call for an early election this year. Some even suggest next month. However with no word yet from the PAP, all the talk is nothing more than speculation.

Or so I like to tell myself.

The fact is I do think the time is right for the PAP to call for an election. The Workers’ Party (WP), Singapore's biggest opposition party, has to bother with roadblocks put up by the PAP and the Ministry of National Development (MND). No one dare to speak on the CPF anymore and the death of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew is still fresh in the minds of Singaporeans.

Add all these factors together and you would be hard-pressed to name a better time for the PAP to call for an election. So if I’m in the PAP, I would say “go for it”. With these factors in their favor, it’s highly unlikely the PAP would lose more ground than they did in 2011. Who knows, the prize that is Aljunied may be up for grabs. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Comics this week

Convergence #7- I had said for a few weeks now that writer Jeff King has a plan, and that plan seems to be setting up another revamp of the DCU. So much so that the battle between the 2 superheroes forces this week was quickly brushed aside for the important setup of the finale. In many ways, this issue remained me a lot of the final few issues of Final Crisis; spinning wheels while moving pieces in place for the new universe. Too bad about the New 52 though, I thought it still had a lot of potential.

Master of Kung-Fu #1- A few years ago, Marvel published "The Immortal Iron Fist" which bought back a lot of kungfu fun back to Western comics. Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Duane Swierczynski wrote the series which unfortunately ended after just 27 issues and writer Haden Blackman is trying to recapture the magic with Master of Kung-Fu. For the most part, he succeeded. A lot of the credit has to go to artist Dalibor Talajic who seem to be having a great time drawing the kung-fu fights. If the remaining 3 issues are as good as this, Marvel will have a sleeper hit here. 

Moon Knight #15- By now, there's no doubt that Khonshu is not a benevolent god. The god of the Moon and Night Travelers gives power and let his people decide how and why to use them. He's a force of nature, not a care-giver. Marc Spector uses the power he received from Khonshu for good, but what if others do not? Does Moon Knight even has any right to "demand" his god not to give power to people who would use them for evil? Somehow I don't see the upcoming confrontation between the two ending well for Marc.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

China's Breaking Bad

Sometimes facts become fiction, and sometimes fiction becomes facts. This seemed to be the case in China when Chinese police busted a drug gang and discovered a former chemistry professor as the "cook" of the gang.

A 50 year-old former university professor named Lu had "a set of recipes for producing methcathinone”, a drug similar to methamphetamine, which he provided to dealers for sale throughout China. This has amazing parallel to the TV show "Breaking Bad" where the main character, Walter White, was...a former professor who cook and sold "crystal meth",

No word yet on whether Lu was inspired by Walter White, but considering how close they mirror each other, maybe Chinese producers will be rushing to produce the hit show. Hell, they can even put "based on real life events" on it!  

Monday, May 18, 2015

In A Word; NO!

With the world's attention on Europe's problem with illegal migrants coming from the Middle East and North Africa, Southeast Asia is now facing it's own problems with illegal migrants. Ethnic Rohingyas are escaping Myanmar in boats heading towards Malaysia and Indonesia. 

Malaysia's Prime Minister, Najib Razak, had already publicly said that Malaysia will seek the help of Myanmar to address the unfolding "humanitarian catastrophe" and behind the scenes, Indonesia and Thailand are also reported to be pressing Myanmar to resolve the issue. Will it work? 

In a word; NO! 

The problem is that Myanmar has no desire to solve it's problems with the ethnic Rohingya population. Its government routinely denies the Rohingya Muslims citizenship, even if they were born in Myanmar. To Myanmar's government, they don't have a Rohingya problem because there's no such thing as a ethnic Rohingya population in Myanmar. To them, Rohingya Muslims are part of Bangladesh's problems, not theirs. The fact that the Rohingya Muslims are born and live in Myanmar does not matter to them. Already, the Myanmar government had rejected a call from Thailand for a regional summit on the issue, saying it was not their problem. 

With it's infamous non-interference policy, will the nations of Southeast Asia be able to force Myanmar to own up to the problem? In a word; NO!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bias Western Reporting At Its Lowest

When I read on the news that a Singapore-flagged commercial ship was fired upon by an Iranian naval patrol boat, I thought Singapore was just sucked into the Middle East conflict. However once I know the details, I understand this was just another incident of bias Western reporting on Iran.

It seems that a commercial ship, Alpine Eternity, accidentally struck an Iranian oil platform, damaging it. The ship was also damaged in the accident and went into port for repairs. During the repairs, the Iranians informed the shipping company that they must pay for damage to the oil platform. The shipping company refused.

With the dispute unsettled, the ship left port which of course got the Iranians hopping mad. A Iranian naval boat confronted the Alpine Eternity near Abu Musa island, demanding that the ship go back into Iranian waters. The dispute escalated from there with the Iranian naval boat firing warning shots at the ship. The Alpine Eternity called for help, the UAE coast guard responded and the Iranian patrol boat left the area.

So let me get this straight; a commercial ship struck and damaged an oil platform, refused to pay for the repairs, escaped into international waters without resolving the issue, got chased by the Iranian navy, and somehow this was the Iranian’s fault?

It seems that this is a perfect example of bias Western reporting, twisting facts to depict Iran as the aggressor. The ship hit an oil platform and ran! So the incident must be the fault of the Iranians!

I know being a Singapore-flagged ship doesn't mean that the ship is owned by Singapore, but I think the Singapore government might want to look into this dispute. Let’s not get drag into the Middle East conflict by the mischievous Western media. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Comics this week

Astro City #23- After a few issues focusing on the serious problem of aging in a super heroic world, writer Kurt Busiek changed tack this arc by having a…talking gorilla? Not just any talking gorilla but a music-loving, drum-playing talking gorilla! It’s part of what makes Astro City much a fun series to follow. After a few heavy issues, we will now have a weird and fun romp through the musical underbelly of the city. Busiek even managed to throw a bone to long-time readers by showing Astra back in the city. Wonderful!

Hinterkind #18- This is it; we have come to the end of Hinterkind. A good series that struggled to find an audience, it came as no surprise to me that the series is coming to an end. Writer Ian Edginton rushed things a little but in the end, he did manage to give us a satisfactory end to the war between the Skinlings and the Sidhe and we were even shown the lives of the surviving characters years down the line. I would have loved to see Hinterkind continued with more art by Francesco Trifogli but I guessed the series was just too unique for the general public. Still, it has been a good run.

Secret Wars #2- Say what you want about writer Jonathan Hickman, the man knows how to weave an intriguing tale. Secret Wars #2 basically show us the world called “Battleworld”. With the Marvel Universe destroyed in #1, #2 shows us the world created by Doom in its aftermath. Hickman do a lot world-building in this issue, we get to see the legion of Thors, a few kingdoms in the world, and even a short history of the planet. What’s surprising was how smooth the whole issue was. Hickman was able to give us all this info without us once feeling there was an info-dump. That takes some doing. He was ably helped in this issue by artist Esad Ribic. Esad and colorist Ive Svorcina bought Battleworld to life in a truly impressive way. From the kingdoms, to Doom’s castle, to the Shield, to the Deadlands; almost everything was amazing. Quick, bring on the next issue! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Amos Yee Is Gulity

16-year-old Amos Yee was convicted on two criminal charges yesterday. Found to have hurt religious feelings in a video likening Singapore's founding leader Lee Kuan Yew to Jesus and for posting an obscene cartoon in a blog, Yee was then released on bail.

Now Yee may have been found guilty of hurting religious feelings but let's admit it; it is his "Lee Kuan Yew is Finally Dead!" video that got him into trouble. He was one of the few Singaporeans to openly criticized Mr. Lee's legacy and he did just a few days after Mr. Lee’s death. I thought his video was stupid and totally in appropriate.

However, to bring a silly boy to court over a silly video? Sorry but that is just silly. Not only is there no reason for it, what’s worse is that the courts is giving Yee what he wants; attention.

I think Yee was gunning for attention when he put up that video, so bringing him to court is exactly giving him what he wanted. I mean the guy is now on BBC because of this court case, and to me, that is just wrong. I’m not big fan of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, I’ve done my fair share of criticism against him, but to do it so soon after his death smacks of self-promotion.

So I ask that the court clear this case ASAP. This narcissistic boy insulted Singapore’s founding leader for attention, so don’t give him what he wants; don’t give him more attention than he already has. The sooner the case clears the courts, the sooner everyone can forgot the name Amos Yee. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Last Season

With "The Voice" being the premier singing show for the past few seasons, it comes as no surprise when US television network Fox announced that "American Idol" will end after 15 seasons.

The music talent show has produced stars such as Kelly Clarkson, Adam Lambert and Carrie Underwood, and for a long time was the show to watch. Not anymore. Honestly, the show outlived its welcome a few seasons ago and it’s about time the show called the curtains.

One good thing is that "'American Idol' will get a farewell season with its producers promising a "season-long celebratory event" that will pay tribute to past seasons of "amazingly talented contestants". In short, we will probably see past winners and people made famous by the show showing up.

Good going to great! I was never much of a fan of the show but a farewell season is reasonable considering how important "American Idol" was once upon a time. Besides, it’ll be fun to see Simon Cowell back scolding contestants who don’t cut it. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Review of Avengers: Age of Ultron

With the success of “The Avengers”, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” has a lot to live up to. While it’s almost impossible for this sequel to recapture the magic of the original, I have to say that despite what everyone on the internet says, director Joss Whedon has done enough not to let anyone down.

The movie starts in the Eastern European country of Sokovia with the Avengers team raiding the Hydra outpost of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. The Baron had been experimenting on humans using the scepter wielded by Loki in the first movie and the team wanted the scepter back. They got more than they bargain for when two enhanced beings, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, got into the field. 

Pietro has superhuman speed while his twin sister Wanda can manipulate minds and throw energy blasts. Although they won the battle, the Avengers did not come out of it unscathed. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) was severely injured in the battle while Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) was given terrible visions by Wanda.

In the end, Stark took possession of Loki's scepter and secretly used it to complete his "Ultron" global defense program with a lot of help from Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). Ultron was designed as an A.I. initiative to combat global threats before they occurred but Stark and Banner could not get it to work properly. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions as Ultron activated itself. The now sentient Ultron believed the biggest threat to the world is the human race and the race must be eradicated to save the planet.

From there, it became a battle between the Avengers and Stark's rogue A.I. with the Avengers gaining new allies in the process.

First off, do not compare this to “The Avengers”. The first movie was a magical movie moment that’s impossible to recapture. It is just not something you can re-capture, so don't even bother hoping this sequel will be able to reach the same highs. If you managed do this, then you will see that “Avengers: Age of Ultron” has a lot going for it.

Several excellent battles, a ton of humor, and character moments for the heroes who do not have their own movies. Hulk, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye each has their moments in the sun in Age of Ultron and I thought this was a good idea. The other 3 heroes have their own movie franchise so giving much needed screen time to these 3 was a smart move.  

The battles were also excellent with the highlight clearly being the battle between Hulk and Stark’s “Hulkbuster” armor. The end battle between the Avengers and Ultron in Sokovia lasted a little too long in my view, but it was still an excellent set piece.

I also liked the end when Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow greet and prepare to train the new members of The Avengers; War Machine, Wanda, the Vision, and Falcon. This passing of the baton moment was great and I just hope they don’t destroy the whole thing by immediately getting the original members back in the next movie.

That might be forlorn hope though as the return of Nick Fury (Samuel L.Jackson) shows. The return of Fury came out of nowhere and is one of the things I don’t like about “Age of Ultron”. I understand that you need to give every character at least a moment to shine but this led the movie to be laden with a lot of scenes that in the grand scheme of things were totally unnecessary.

Chief of which was the nonsensical love story between Black Widow and the Hulk. Where the hell did that come from? What’s worse was the scene when they decided to run away after the battle with Ultron. That’s totally against the Black Widow character as portrayed in the MCU.

There's also the problem of understanding how interconnected the MCU truly is. At the end of "The Avengers", Loki's scepter was firmly in the hands of the Avengers but at the start f the movie, Hydra has it. To understand this, you need to know what happened in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD". 

These points notwithstanding, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is a fun, funny movie that tried to be more than action film. It just have the unfortunate situation of being the sequel of one of the greatest superhero movie of all time. It's by no means a bad movie, watch it for a good time, and just remember not to compare it to the original.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Comics this week

Convergence #5- I said last week that it seems writer Jeff King has a plan, and boy is that right or what! #5 of Convergence has the writer pulling a fast one on use as the main villain of the story moved from Telos to Deimos. The ending of this issue was also very good, loading up on all sorts of potential ideas for the remaining 3 issues. The only drawback I see is the end of Skartaris and Warlord, King really should have done more with them. However his plan seems to be working so bring on the next issue.

Jupiter’s Circle #2- I admit; writer Mark Millar got me good on this one. I thought for sure Blue Bolt was going to be the reason Utopian’s team broke up and that he’s Hutch’s father. I mean he got a good reason to betray the team and his rod looked almost the same as the one Hutch has. So he got me good when it was revealed that Blue Bolt is a better man than anyone thought and dropped hints that the problems with the team runs much deeper than one sole member. Of course if these 2 issues are any guide, the hints are also red herrings! Superheroes with mystery; that's what Jupiter's Circle is about!

Secret Wars #1- Writer Jonathan Hickman's works are usually long, confusing and totally epic; he’s seems perfect to be the writer of a Marvel event! Not only that, Secret Wars is basically a continuation of his Avengers story. In it, Hickman has a long running story on how Earths from alternate realities are colliding against each other, destroying both worlds in the process. Failing to stop the collision, a band of Earth’s heroes on Earth 616 is doing the unthinkable. When it happens, the group will destroy the alternate Earth. This act will save their planet but will kill billions of people in the other alternate Earth. Secret Wars is a story on what happen when Earth 616 and Earth Ultimate meets. It becomes a time of strange alliances as Ultimate Richard Reed team-up with Thanos while Earth 616 throws every hero they have at Earth Ultimate to destroy them. I like the tone of this issue. Both sides know and understand they are trying to destroy each other, and are trying to kill billions in the process. They know this and are still doing it because they want to live. Both sides know they are doing evil but Hickman did a good job of showing that when it comes down to it; between they and me, everyone will choose “me”. No one is going to allow their planet to be destroyed so that some other planet to live. That by itself makes this event interesting. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Jupiter's Legacy

Today in #2 of Jupiter's Circle, I read a surprising little bit of news. Mark Millar has sold the rights of Jupiter's Legacy and a movie will be made of the series. In case you don't know, Mark Millar is the guy who created and wrote "Kick-Ass" as well as "The Secret Service", which was made into a movie called "The Kingsman".

I don't know what's more surprising to me. The fact that a pretty recent series like Jupiter's Legacy (published only in 2013) will be made into a movie, or the fact that I was surprised by this piece of news. After all, superheroes movies are all the rage right now and "The Kingsman" was such a hit that a sequel will currently begin planned (no word on a sequel to "The Secret Service" though).

Honestly, I'm not sure how well "Jupiter's Legacy" will work as a movie. The series is about the generational conflict between old and new heroes; about how heroes of the "Golden Age" treat their powers as a way to inspire mankind while their children want to use their powers to treat society's ills directly (entering politics, creating new power source for the world etc). It is also a way to showcase how the morals of the heroes changed over time. In this world, a Golden Age hero would never think of having sex with a woman he saved, but a modern hero would have no problem with it as long as everyone is willing and happy. 

Can they do that in a movie? I'm not sure but call me positively intrigued.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Fighting While Injured

I never watched the fight but from everything I had heard, the "Fight of the Century" was more like the "Bore of the Century"; and we're just in 2015! As everyone now knows, American Floyd Mayweather Jr. defeated Filipino Manny Pacquiao comfortably in Las Vegas.

However, it later became known that Pacquiao fought injured. An MRI scan confirmed the boxer has a torn rotator cuff that will require surgery; a flare-up of an old injury that Pacquiao re-injured while training for the bout against Mayweather. Now he is threaten with possible lawsuits for failing to disclose the injury.

I must be missing something here.

Since when is not disclosing an injury possible grounds for a lawsuit? Pacquiao is a fighter who did not want to give his opponent an edge by telling anyone he got an injury. He also did not want to pull out of the heavily hyped fight. Even in defeat, he did not use the injury as an excuse for the loss; he clearly said Mayweather was better.

So what's the problem? Pacquiao is a fighter and he wanted to fight, injury or not. That's not something to be sued for; that's something to admire. Last I checked. boxing is still a fight sport.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Comics this week

Convergence #4- As a celebration of DC’s past, Convergence needs a lot of work. However as a way to move forward from DC’s past, I think the series has a lot going for it. Writer Jeff King has done the smart thing by focusing on the core cast of Earth 2 heroes and Telos. I admit it would be nice to see more of Skartaris and Warlord, but King seem to have a plan and there’s more than enough action to tide us over till the reveal.

Justice League #40- This issue is the prologue of the “Darkseid War” and writer Geoff Johns has been hyping about the event for awhile now. The idea of a war between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor is intriguing to say the least. I mean there's no much thing as a lesser evil between these 2 right? I hope Johns will keep it that way. I think the last thing we need is a "reason" for these 2 evil bastards to be out there in the multiverse conquering, destroying and killing. They are evil; no reason or excuses needed. That's far more fun right? It's clear the Darkseid War will be earth-shattering; I just hope it will be a fun and exciting trip too.