Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Change The Name

The “Overlord” games are a bit of a cult hit among gamers. Overlord and Overlord 2 never sold that many copies, but fans of the series love it to death. I am one of them.

So I was delighted when I read that Codemasters was making a new Overlord game. I just seen the trailer of the new game, Overlord: Fellowship of Evil, on Youtube and all I can say is…WTF is this?

Seriously, what was Codemasters thinking? The new game is nothing remotely like Overlord. It's a top-down game, features four heroes co-op gameplay, and looks more like Diablo than anything else. Just look at this screenshot; does it look anything remotely like an Overlord game?

Now I can understand a change in direction, this is after all the first Overlord game in over six years, but if you are going to change everything, then you should not call it Overlord. Called it “Fellowship of Evil” or whatever, just not Overlord. An Overlord game should have a great champion of evil going around destroying all the good in the world alongside his minions. An Overlord game should allow you to have an evil lair. An Overlord game should allow you to gather a harem of sexy wenches. All in great humour of course. That’s an Overlord game.

Overlord: Fellowship of Evil is not any of that. It looks like Diablo. I’m not against that, I played Diablo, but don’t call it Overlord. Give it a new title and say it is a game set in the world of the Overlord; fans will be okay with that. Just don’t put the Overlord name on it.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Phey Yew Kok Saga

Last week, Phey Yew Kok popped up in the news again after turning himself in at the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. Officers from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) then escorted him back to Singapore. 

I knew some things would come out of the woodwork after the death of Lee Kuan Yew, but I must say I did not think the first would be Phey Yew Kok. The former NTUC president and Member of Parliament (MP) Phey Yew Kok has been out of Singapore since 1980 when he ran after facing charges of Criminal Breach of Trust. Facing four counts of criminal breach of trust involving $83,000 and two charges “under the Trades Unions Act for investing $18,000 of trade union money in a private supermarket without the approval of the minister”, Mr. Phey then mysteriously disappeared.

Many questions still remains about his disappearance. Back then he was a rising star in the PAP and ruled the trade union with an iron-first, so why did he do what he was accused of? If he managed to get out of Singapore, why come back now just a month after Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s death? Did he made any deal with Mr. Lee Kuan Yew (his passport was never taken away from him) that’s went away with the man’s death? And was there any deal now before his surrender to the embassy in Bangkok?

I must admit, I barely remember Phey Yew Kok before last week. The Singapore government has been very good at making the whole saga disappear from the public domain and if not for the constant questions of deceased former opposition MP, Mr. J B Jeyaretnam, the case might have been forgotten altogether. However that is either here or there. 

The case is still remembered by many Singaporeans and they have many questions about the whole sordid episode. Now that the man has resurfaced, perhaps those questions can now finally be answered. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Dark Condos

Last June, the Business Times put together a photo essay of how "empty" some private condos are in Singapore. Certain condos have all their units sold, but comes the night and you will see a lot of the homes without their lights on.

Today, The New Paper has an article about the "possible" reasons why this is the case. The reasons varied from HDB up-graders to foreigners owning several homes in Singapore. I have a better reason for the empty condos; people buy them not to stay but for "investments".

The problem is that the "investments" are not panning out. The buyers don't stay at the condos, but they can't get a decent price for the homes so they hold on to them. Thus the dark condos phenomenon. And it will be that way for quite awhile.

For all the talk about the softening property market, property prices has not really dropped. Now before you starting shouting that I'm saying nonsense, consider this; property prices in Singapore has dropped about 10-15% since it's height (if that), and that's after a rise in property of over 100% in the past 10 years. If you look at the property market in that context, who wouldn't hold on to their property? That's what I'll do. Hold on to them till the market turns. It's the logical thing to do right? If the "softening" of the property market is just 10%, why not hold on to your property? It's not like it's going to crash.

So guess what? Till the market turns, dark condos are here to stay.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Comics this week

Copperhead #8- After the big shootout last issue, the gang is on the run with Deputy Boo as prisoner. Bad idea. Just in this issue, Boo jumped out of a moving vehicle, snapped a guy’s neck with his hands, and even had time to plan doubts in some of the gang members. Even tied up, beaten down, and outnumbered, Boo proves once again why he’s the real deal and Sheriff Clara (even if she don’t know it) got his job because she was a human.

Ninjak #4- The idea of an origin story for Roku is a bit of a surprise but writer Matt Kindt did a good job giving us a supernatural bend to what was beforehand a typical Medusa-like villain. Now I have been raving about Kindt for a while now due to his excellent work on various series like Rai but without question, the stars of this issue are artist Butch Guice and Marguerite Sauvage. This issue is just beautiful. Roku’s journey in the mystic realm, facing off against a variety of Onis was intriguing to say the least. Even the backup story in this issue, not always my favorite part of the series, was excellent. It makes me wonder if Kindt intend Kannon and Roku to be more than just a foil for one story arc.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Facing The Death Penalty

Last Saturday, 23-year-old Muhammad Iskandar Sa’at was brought to Khoo Teck Huat Hospital (KTPH) after complaining of chest pains. He was in police custody due to vehicle theft and was at the hospital with 2 policemen.

Iskandar waited for 1 of the cops to leave and then jumped on the other officer. He grabbed the lone officer's baton, hit him and then grabbed his gun. 2 nearby paramedics at the hospital assisted the officer by helping to pin down the accused. In the ensuing melee, 3 shots were fired and 2 hit the officer. Thankfully, the officer did not suffer serious injuries and is now in stable condition after surgery. Iskander is now facing a firearms charge which carry the death penalty.

Now this has prompt some Singaporeans to wonder if he should be facing the death penalty. In one short word; Yes!

A discharge from a firearm is a capital punishment offence in Singapore, and the man did it after going for the gun of a police officer. Add to that, he was already in custody and a police officer was shot twice. 

Now I can only say he was very stupid. Vehicle theft carry what...2-5 years max? I can't understand why he went for the gun. It was stupid, but he did do it. So that means that yes, he should face the death penalty.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Apple Music

Young people nowadays get their music mostly via the internet. Music streaming companies are the rage nowadays, even though almost none of them are making any profit. Honestly, none of them deserve to.

I mean just look at the latest music steaming company on the internet, Apple Music. Just 2 weeks old, Apple Music has a $10-a-month streaming service. Not only that, you can try out the service for free in the first 3 months! Yes, there’s a 3 month trial period which allow you and me to try Apple Music for nothing.

Now a lot of people on the internet are talking about how music star Taylor Swift is refusing to put her new album on Apple Music because of the free trial period, a period when Apple Music will not be paying artists for their music, but I have a better question. How in the world is Apple Music supposed to make money?

Even if you take away the 3 month free trial period, it’s still just $10 a month. It might be great for consumers like you and me but how in the world is Apple Music supposed to make money at that price. Hell, a single on the shelf of a music store may cost more than that and we can surf their whole catalog for $10?

Other streaming service Spotify and Tidal are all losing money, and I see no way any of them is going to make a profit without a substantial increase in prices. There’s just no way around this. They need to all sit down and agree to a new price range. At the price they are quoting now, making a profit is a daydream.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Review of Jurassic World

I went into the theatre with very low expectations, but left thinking that this movie was much better than it had any right to be. That in short is Jurassic World, the fourth installment in the Jurassic Park film series.

Jurassic World starts 22 years after the events of Jurassic Park, with the dream of billionaire John Hammond now realized. Jurassic World is a fully-operational theme park island, full of dinosaurs for kids and adults. However operating a theme park with living dinosaurs is very expensive and the park’s team of scientists led by Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) engineer a new species of dinosaur in an effort to attract lucrative sponsors and increase attendances. As expected, it is a terrible idea with the new dino, Indominus Rex, soon breaking free of its enclosure and heading off on a homicidal rampage across the island.

As I said earlier, this movie is much better than I expected. I think director Colin Trevorrow must be a fan of the series because he knew just what to do. He paced the movie well and managed to film a summer blockbuster that’s also a character-driven movie. Sure there are scenes of carnage but it’s never mindless and it always works in the context of the movie.

The film is also ridiculously funny in parts. Look out for a scene when Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) turned back to help Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), only to have Claire running right past him without a care. It had the whole theatre laughing. The chemistry between the two leads is also the reason why the romance between Owen and Claire works. You can see quite clearly why these two very different people may fall in love despite been chased by man-eating dinosaurs.

I also love the way the movie paid homage to the original film, part of the movie even took place at the original headquarters of Jurassic Park. Outside that, the story is also very close to that of the original. Man’s ambition creates great things but with greed, arrogance and hubris, our ambition also creates chaos and death. That’s just the way we are.

Of course, the film is not perfect. The main villain Vic Hoskins’ (Vincent D’Onofrio) idea of using raptors as weapons in the U.S Army is stupid. I understand that suspension of disbelief is needed for a movie about dinosaurs but the idea is so out there, there’s almost no redeeming quality to it. I mean the army doesn’t even use lions or tigers and this character wants them to use raptors? That’s not crazy, just stupid.

On the whole however, Jurassic World is a very good movie. The deft hand of director Colin Trevorrow gave us a wonderful adventure film that’s accessible to all and it’s a worthy sequel to the original Jurassic Park. I was never a huge fan of the Jurassic series, but this movie made me look forward to the next movie in the series.

That’s just how good Jurassic World is.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Comics this week

Astro City #24- First off, Tuxedo Gorilla is one of the stupidest superhero names there ever is; having said that, this slightly off-kilter issue once again show why Astro City is so beloved by its fans. Just when you thought you know where the story was going, writer Kurt Busiek quickly pulled a fast one on us, showing that Sticks has something he wants to do outside being a superhero. In many ways this seems to be a running theme through the series; just because you have superpowers doesn’t mean you have to be a superhero. That might not be the case in others comics world but in Astro City, you have a choice. 

Magneto #19- What would you be willing to do to save the world? As the Incursion threatened the world, we discover the reactions from various heroes. However Magneto is a villain, and we see for the first time in a long, long while just what he is capable of. I welcome the return of this more ruthless Magneto. What’s more interesting is the reactions of the people seeing Magneto in action. Writer Cullen Bunn played up the awe-inspiring reactions of the crowd that made even Magneto’s allies uneasy. I don’t know how things will pan out in Secret Wars, but I hope this Magneto will continue.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Leave Now

With a 1.6 billion euro payment to the IMF at the end of the month, the Greek central bank has publicly warned that Greece will leave the Eurozone if it fails to reach a bailout deal with international creditors. Well, I say it’s about time.

As messy as a Greek exit could be for Europe, I believe it’s only a matter of time before the bankrupt Greek leaves the Eurozone. The simple fact of the matter is that Greece has no money to repay its creditors. Outside the 1.6 billion euro payment, Greece needs to pay another 6.7 billion euros to the ECB in July and August. Payments that the Greek government has no way of making because the Greek government quite simply do not have the money.

Seeing that as the case, the Greek government wants its creditors to wipe out some of its debts. That’s not going to happen. 3 years ago, European ministers raised the idea that if Greece applied reforms they asked for, some of its debts will be written off. Greece may have applied the reforms asked of them, but writing off the debt was never on the cards. Countries which are owned money will face fierce opposition to cancellation of the debt, and without the promise of some of its debt being waived, there’s no reason for Greece to impose even more austerity on itself.

Faced with these facts, it’s only a matter of time before Greece leaves the Eurozone. And since it’s only a matter of time, better they do it now than later.

Guinness World Record

Since its debut in 1997, ‘One Piece’ has been constantly ranked as one of the best manga in Japan. Now it's creator, Eiichiro Oda, is now in the record books for becoming the best-selling comic book series in history!

With 77 volumes and over 320,866,000 copies of the manga are in print, making Oda the record holder for “The most copies published for the same comic book series by a single author”. The previous Guinness World Record holder was Akira Toriyama’s legendary Dragon Ball manga series but One Piece is still ongoing, so this new record by Oda would take some beating.

So congrats Eiichiro Oda! For working on a single series for 18 straight years, you are a deserved holder of the record.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Where's The Evidence?

It's no secret that former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is a very wanted man. Both the U.S. and the U.K. have been wanting to get their hands on him since Snowden took thousands of encrypted files from the NSA. 

And in case you do not know, a British newspaper "The Sunday Times" recently reported that both Russia and China had decrypted the files stolen by Snowden, and this had forced the UK intelligence service MI6 to pull officers out of hostile countries. There's only one problem with the report; no one wants to go on record saying this. Everything in the report came from sources who are unidentified and off-the-record.

There's 2 main problems with this. First, Snowden had openly said many times that he no longer has the files and documents in his possession. He had gave them away and destroyed everything else. Second, the newspaper report never said how MI6 managed to know that the Russians and Chinese had managed to crack the files.  

Considering all these facts, forgive me if I (and almost anyone who's not an American or British national) take the latest "news" with a large pinch of salt. If "The Sunday Times" want me to believe this story, they need to do a lot better than "unidentified senior British intelligence officers".

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Comics this week

Earth 2: The Society #1- The main thing that came out of Convergence was a reborn world for the people of Earth 2. Not only that, it also setup a story for Earth 2's "wonders" to steer humanity from the very beginning of civilzation. Writer Daniel Wilson and artist Jorge Jimenez did the right things for the majority of the issue, showing the crash-landing of the suriving ships to the planet surface and the wide-eye awe of the population at the second chance they are getting. However I could do without the future Dick Grayson as the new Batman of the Earth 2. New Gotham may be a good idea but showing Grayson one year on take out some of the tension of the story, we don't need that on a debut.

Injection #2- I had been a fan of writer Warren Ellis since his run on Hellstorm: Prince of Lies, so I'm used to him doing weird shit. Add that to the fact that he is now teaming up with artist Declan Shalvey again and we are all expecting something great. Injection however has not been great so far. It is interesting, it is weird, it looks very promising but...what's it about? There's something about being too strange for its own good and unless Ellis start clearing things up, we may be reaching that point soon.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Controlling An App

How do you control an app? This is a question I’m still asking ever since the Singapore Parliament passed the Third-Party Taxi Booking Service Providers Act last month.

The problem seems to arise from the increasing number of people who uses phone apps like Uber and GrabTaxi to book taxis without going through the normal regulated taxi companies. Not surprisingly, more and more people had been complaining about the drivers using these apps to get passengers with at least one passenger making a police report.

In the light of these cases, I can understand why the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is looking into ways to regulate the numerous drivers using the apps. However my question remains the same; how is LTA going to do it?

Drivers who operate under services like Uber and GrabTaxi are not regulated because anyone with a car can use the app to pick up passengers as long as they are registered with the maker of the app. You don’t even need to be a taxi to register with Uber. The drivers never go through LTA so…how is LTA going to control them?

It’s no use passing an Act when you have no way to enforce it. The Third-Party Taxi Booking Service Providers Act was passed last month, maybe it’s time someone from LTA comes out to say how they are going to enforce it. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Overseas Excursions Should Continue

Should parents still allow kids to go on overseas excursions? In many ways I guess this question is inevitable in the light of the Sabah earthquake. Some people are questioning the need for overseas school excursions after several schoolchildren died in the earthquake last week.

Now even though I do not believe anyone is to blame for the deaths of the children, I won't say such questions are unreasonable. After all, there is almost no question that it is safer to just conduct camps and events in Singapore than overseas. Things are certainly safer and more controlled in Singapore than in other countries within Southeast Asia. However, even though I understand why questions are being asked, my answer is that overseas school excursions should continue. 

The simple fact is that Singapore schoolchildren has been going for overseas excursions for years already and the vast majority of times, none of the children come back with any injury. As sad it is, it would not be incorrect to say that the children from Tanjong Katong Primary School were unlucky. They just happened to be on Mount Kinabalu when the earthquake struck and there's not much anyone can do in an earthquake when you are on a mountain. 

Children had went overseas in the past and there had been no problems. There's no reason for the MOE (Ministry of Education) to change the rules over one sad incident.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Game of Thrones Coloring Book

You guys heard if a coloring book called “Secret Garden”? If you don’t, then let me tell you “Secret Garden” is an immensely successful coloring book…for adults.

Yes, you read that right. There are coloring books for adults and one of them, “Secret Garden” is so popular it has been translated into 22 languages and has sold more than 1.4 million copies. Absolutely totally ridiculous! I mean coloring books for adults? Primary school children are ashamed of coloring books and a coloring book for adults had sold 1.4 million copies?

Then I heard that they are going to publish a Game of Thrones-themed coloring book.

Yes, the fantasy juggernaut from George R.R. Martin will now have a coloring book, one aimed firmly at adults. Suddenly, I get it. A coloring book based on the “Song of Ice and Fire” saga makes sense for adults with all the nudity, violence and death.

If you are telling me I can get to color Ned Stark’s execution, Jamie Lannister’s hand getting chopped off, or the Red Wedding, then I am in! 

Monday, June 8, 2015

No One Is To Blame

Last week, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Malaysian state of Sabah. Some Singaporeans were caught in the earthquake and 6 children, 2 teachers, and 1 climbing instructor are now either dead or missing.

Most of the dead and missing were part of a school trip climbing Mount Kinabalu. As the surviving Singaporeans return to Singapore, some are wondering if the Mount Kinabalu tragedy could have been avoided. My answer to that is an unfortunate “No”.

Now I had read about complaints some Singaporeans had about the route the children were taking but I feel that’s an argument given in hindsight of the earthquake. To my knowledge, there are 2 ways up Mount Kinabalu. A walking trek up the mountain, or a climbing route where climbers scale metal rungs punched into Mount Kinabalu’s cliffs. The children were on the climbing route and some Singaporeans have said that the children would probably have survived if they were walking up the mountain.

True but that’s the result of hindsight when we know of the earthquake that hit Sabah. The route the children were taking was a relatively easy route that’s suitable even for 10-year-olds. Surely 12-year-old Singaporean can take it right?

It is always sorrowful when people die, especially children as young as 12, but an earthquake is a natural disaster. No one could have predicted that the earthquake would have hit just as the children were climbing the mountain. This is a tragedy but there’s no one to blame for it, it’s a natural disaster. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Comics this week

Justice League #41- Writer Geoff Johns has been promoting the "The Darkseid War” storyline for months now and if this first part of the story is any indication, we are in for a treat. Beautifully drawn by artist Jason Fabok, this issue is dramatic with a capital D as Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor gear up for a war with Earth as the battleground. The Justice League are now caught in no-man’s land as the cosmic powers are waging a war on the planet they swore to protect. The League may be able to defeat either Darkseid or the Anti-Monitor, but both of them? Even when the two are more interested in destroying each other? Any war between the two might manage to destroy the planet in the process! I loved the fact that Johns is putting his previous JL storylines in this story too. The dramatic plot twists, epic fights, and the revelations that Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor had been preparing for this conflict for some time now means this is going to be a wild and unpredictable wide. Bring on the next issue!

Master of Kung-Fu #2- Of all the Secret Wars tie-ins, this series is the best (and the only one I collect). In Master of Kung-Fu, writer Haden Blackman basically ignore the rest of the Secret Wars and concentrate on giving readers a living, breathing world and the series is wonderful for it. The main story might be the drunken master Shang-Chi and his road to redemption, but Blackman show he has some great ideas as the issue is populated with variations of characters which fans know and love. Pick this up!

Secret Wars #3- Writer Jonathan Hickman managed to do a strange thing this issue; he made God King Doom a character to root for! It’s still the same Doom we all love to hate; ambitious, smart, regal, and tragic, but Hickman gets us to the man behind the armor, the man who now has the power of a god and is in many ways more alone than ever with the power. In many ways, this Doom remind me of Golgoth (Empire); a villain who became king and now wonder if he still want the job. This Doom is so well written, it almost make me regret the re-emergence of the stragglers from the old Marvel U.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Shut Too Soon

2 months? I’m no fan of the MOBA genre and I never played Turbine’s DC Comics-flavored MOBA, Infinite Crisis, but…2 months? That’s how long it lasted? Sorry but that is ridiculous! 

That's my reaction when I heard that Turbine was going to shut down "Infinite Crisis" after launching the game just 2 months ago. Now I understand MOBA is a tough genre to crack with "Dota 2" and "League of Legends" in the market, so a new MOBA crashing and burning is to be expected, but "Infinite Crisis" was only officially launched two months ago. No matter how badly it is tanking, surely Turbine should stay with a game for more than 2 miserable months right?

I love “Lord of The Rings Online” so Turbine has a lot credit with me but they should never have launched "Infinite Crisis" if they were only going to give it just 2 months to find its feet. I never played the game so I can’t say if the game deserved to be shut, but even if it is, surely an online game should last more than 2 months. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Be Careful What You Wish For

Just 4 days after winning an election, Fifa president Sepp Blatter has announced his resignation as the leader of world football. The stunning news was announced to a shock world audience as Blatter ended his 40 year career. 

It also serves as a warning of be careful what you wish for. 

There is little doubt Blatter resigned after extraordinary pressure exerted by UEFA, the U.S and the EU. World leaders on both sides of the Atlantic has come out to condemn Blatter, Fifa and world football since his victory. They got what they wanted, Blatter walked, but now UEFA is in a worse position than ever. 

Simply put, Blatter had the overwhelming support of the world football community. He might not be popular in Europe or the U.S, but the man has been promoting football throughout the world for decades and he has built a lot of goodwill during his term as Fifa president. Now he's out because the U.S decided to launch a corruption probe just 2 days before the Fifa election. To say that left a bad taste in everyone's mouth is an understatement. 

I can say right now there are a lot of people in world football angry at the actions of UEFA and they will not take this laying down. Blatter's resignation was a power-play by UEFA backed by world politics, and it was a bad one because it will hurt UEFA badly in the coming future. Blatter won the election fair and square, and UEFA reacted like a bunch of crybabies.  

I have read that it would be four months before any new Fifa election. A lot can happen in four months but I can safely say this; any candidate endorsed by UEFA will NOT win. In fact, an endorsement by UEFA will be the kiss of death.