Monday, August 31, 2015

Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs

Saber Rider...and the Star Sheriffs in the sky!

Decades after first hearing the theme song, I still remember with great fondest the opening track of "Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs". For those of you too young to remember, "Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs" was a Japanese anime series called Star Musketeer Bismarck.

Set in a distant future where humans have spread into space and have started to colonized planets, the series is about the Star Sheriffs who maintain law and order in this "New Frontier" of man. The series was a cross between the space and western genre similar to "The Adventures of The Galaxy Rangers", and it straddle that line pretty successfully.

However it never became a big hit in Japan but was successful enough for American companies to take notice. A company called World Events Production (WEP) took the series to America, and it became a hit. It was easily my favorite anime when I was younger.

So when I heard that there's a Kickstarter campaign to make a video game out of the series, I was excited. Originally announced in 2010, I thought the game was vaporware. It might still be, but at least now it has a small chance of getting out of development hell.

Good luck guys!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Par For Course

The General Elections (GE) hasn't even officially started and already we have a case of the opposition accusing the Singapore government and it's mainstream press playing dirty politics. The case in question is the poison letter sent to the press alleging that opposition Workers’ Party candidate Dr Daniel Goh had an affair with one of his former students. 

The letter was sent by a "Max Chan" and the mainstream press ran with it, with Dr Goh’s refutation of the allegations included of course. Well, that did not take long. Now there are people in Singapore who say the press made a shocking "error" in running the story without any evidence of the affair or that this "Max Chan" is even real, but I disagree. 

I don't think the press made any error at all. They had a letter making the opposition look bad, so what do you think they are doing to do with it? Check to see if it's true? 

Come on people, this is Singapore. The political editors at the Straits Times knows who they are working for and so do every Singaporean. Can't blame them really; they are just doing their real jobs. Anyone who disagree with me can ask himself a simple question; how much of Michael Palmer's affair did you really read in the Strait Times? I can assure you what you read in the papers is nothing compare to what's on the internet (most of which turns out to be true). 

So for those of you who say you are disappointed at the way the mainstream media ran this story; I am sorry. I can only say you are naive. This is Singapore. For the opposition, this is par for the course.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Veteran In Punggol East

In a show of how much they want to dent the momentum of the opposition Worker's Party (WP), the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) has signaled that 6 term Member of Parliament (MP) Charles Chong will move from him current Joo Chiat seat to contest in the Punggol East SMC.

After former PAP MP and Speaker of Parliament Michael Palmer resignation, the Punggol East seat was taken by the WP with Lee Li Lian now representing the ward in Parliament. The PAP announcement show how serious the PAP is in taking back the seat, parachuting in a veteran to take on a first-term opposition MP. Will it work?

In all likelihood; yes.

Big names means a lot in Singapore politics and it would be an uphill task for Ms. Lee to hold on to the seat against Mr. Chong. On the flip-side; if Ms. Lee wins, then she will make quite a name for herself. Guess we see on 9/11.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Comics this week

Ant-Man Last Days #1- With the success of the Ant-Man movie, it's no surprise that Marvel is now trying to push the C-list hero to A-list status. Now why Marvel actually put out a prologue issue before the start of the actual series is up to debate, however I have to say writer Nick Spencer and artist Ramon Rosanas has put together an entertaining issue that got me excited about the character. That's not easy when it comes to Scott Lang but the issue gives us good insight to Lang and at the same time set things up nicely for the series to come. Mission successful!

Magneto #21- This is it; the end of Magento! Unfortunately, writer's Cullen Bunn's series ends with a whimper and not a roar as Magento "discovered" how wrong his methods has been just before he died. I could do without that. Thus far, Bunn's Magneto has been a complicated yet uncompromising character who understood the bad things he did but he would do it again if it meant his people, mutants, got a better future. That Magneto is far more interesting than the Magneto of this issue who "discovered" his wrongness. Still, this has been a great series and I hope the upcoming Illuminati series build on this series.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

General Election On 11th Sep

To the surprise of no one, Singapore's President Tony Tan has issued the Writ of Election for General Election 2015. Nomination Day is set on 1 Sep with Polling Day on 11 Sep.

As per usual, the dates of the election is the shortest possible with a campaigning period of only nine days. And as usual, the People's Action Party (PAP) is expected to keep its overwhelming majority in parliament with only the Worker's Party (WP) as possible opposition.

The PAP has given Singaporeans a surge of goodies this year and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong just gave an election National Rally. Also, the PAP will gain a lot of sympathy votes due to the death of the late Lee Kuan Yew.

Honestly with the ground so against them, I think if the WP could maintain the number of seats in Parliament, it would be counted as a very good result for them. For the rest of the opposition, I think the best they can hope for is to keep their deposits.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Trolls Won

With these 3 words, National Solidarity Party (NSP) member Steve Chia announced that he will not be standing in the upcoming elections as a candidate in the MacPherson SMC. Not only that, Mr. Chia also announced that he will not be standing in the upcoming elections at all.

In many ways, this decision is kind of expected. Between the NSP and the Worker's Party, there was only going to be one winner and many pundits have publicly called on the NSP to aviod a three-corner fight by withdrawing from MacPherson. Not only that, NSP Secretary General Hazel Poa resigned from the NSP as a result of the NSP deciding to contest in the MacPherson ward.

With all the negative publicity, it is to be expected that Mr. Steve Chia now decide to withdraw from MacPherson. Having said that, I am very uncomfortable with all the negative publicity on this issue. As I had said before, the NSP has every right to contest in MacPherson. Yes, they would lose but if the NSP and Mr. Chia are willing to take that chance, why should anyone say anything?

This is an elections and the decision should be taken by the people within MacPherson. All the brickbats that is forcing Mr. Chia to withdraw from the contest is not democratic. And that's what elections are ultimately about.

The trolls got what they want, and it is probably better for the opposition cause now that the NSP has withdrawn, but that does not change one simple fact. The people within MacPherson now do not have any chance to decide if Mr. Chia is a viable candidate for them, and that's not right. They should be the people who decide, not the trolls.   

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Good Example

Like the rest of the world, private taxis are plying the streets of Singapore. In Singapore, the two biggest companies for taxi apps are Uber and GrabCar. Many private car owners used the apps to try to make quick money on the side; including football players! 

That's what making the rounds in Singapore when a student called for a GrabCar, and discovered that the taxi/car was driven by Noh Alam Shah, a former national player who is still currently playing in the local S-League. The student recognized Alam Shah and they took a selfie together. 

The photo has become a bit of a local joke but I don't see anything wrong with a football star trying to make some money on the side. Alam Shah is on the wrong side of 30 and is in the twilight of his career. So he decide to use his private car and use a taxi app to make some money. Nothing wrong with that.

It's not illegal. It's not wrong. And I honestly believe he should be commanded for his actions. The man is thinking of his future, even while he is still playing the game. That's great! He is an example for other sportsmen in the country. 

There's a life after your sporting career and sportsmen should prepare for it. They should follow the example of Noh Alam Shah!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Why Not?

With everyone in an uproar over NSP's (National Solidarity Party) decision to contest in MacPherson SMC, I have to ask one simple question. Why can't the NSP contest in MacPherson? 

Come on people, this is an General Election (GE). It is an open election. Not only that, there's no alliance between the NSP and the Workers’ Party (WP), so why can't both of them contest in MacPherson? Yes, they are both opposition political parties against the 200 pound gorilla that is the People’s Action Party (PAP). Yes, they will spilt the opposition votes. And yes, there was a general agreement not to have any three-cornered fights among opposition parties.

So what?

This is a GE and both the NSP and the WP can contest any seats they want. If they both want to go up against PAP candidate Tin Pei Ling in MacPherson, then they can (and should) do so. Let the result show who made the right decision.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Comics this week

Astro City #26- 20 years! It has been that's long since the first issue of Astro City came out in August 1995. I'm proud to say I was there and did pick up the very first issue of Astro City. Yes, I am old. When I picked up #1 all those years ago, I never thought writer Kurt Busiek would have struck to this off-beat series for so long. He has and not only that, so has Brent Anderson. Thanks you guys and here's hoping for another 20 years of this great series! 

Justice League #43- Superman and Lex on Apokolips, the JL meeting up with Mister Miracle, and Batman on the Mobius Chair; the greatest scene is this issue is without question the destined titanic meeting between Darkseid and Anti-Moniter. It was so powerful it overshadowed everything in this great issue. There was almost no bad points in this issue. Only one I can see in fact; I need to wait weeks before seeing the battle between these 2 evil gods. Part 4 of the “The Darkseid War” can't come fast enough. 

Rai #9- After a wait of 4 months, we have Rai again! Picking up weeks after the shocking total defeat of the revolution, Father is now in total control of New Japan and is moping up the remnants of the revolution. Spylocke is in custody,Lula, Izak and the rest are on the run, and everyone thinks Rai is dead. The end of the issue shows that he is not but is in deep deep trouble. Matt Kindt, Clayton Crain; welcome back!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Gloves Are Off

Any question about how important the upcoming General Elections (GE) is has been thrown out of the window these past few days. The spat between Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and opposition Workers Party chief Low Thia Khiang gives us an indication of how high the stakes will be.

It all started with the departure of Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew. Mr. Low publicly expressed disappointment at Mr. Lui's  impending departure and even praised him as a "hardworking minister". Mr. Teo took issue with that, saying in an interview Mr Low was trying to squeeze some political mileage out of Mr Lui's departure and that Mr Low was shredding crocodile tears.

The response was almost immediate. In a well-thought reply to a question from a reporter, Mr. Low turned the tables back on Mr. Teo. Mr. Low emphasized the fact that Mr. Teo was the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore and "ask" Singaporeans to judge the standard of politics from the government for themselves. 

I love it! The GE hasn't even been announced yet and the gloves are already off. Not to mention these aren't mid-level guys, but senior politicians on both side of the aisle. Secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Dr Chee Soon Juan even hit out at the accountability levels of various Singapore’s government investment arms, calling them “woeful”. All without even a date set yet!

This GE is going to be an exciting one! 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Too Late

After an industrial accident in the port city of Tianjin, the Chinese government has ordered a nationwide check on dangerous chemicals and explosives. The explosions in Tianjin left 56 dead, 721 injured and was so powerful, it actually measured 2 to 3 on the Richter Scale.

It was basically a small man-made earthquake. The cause of the blast is still being investigated but reports say that the operators of a warehouse had violated safety rules by storing chemical products that were above the amount that could be safely stored. Reports from Chinese newspapers say that about 700 tonnes of sodium cyanide were stored at the Tianjin warehouse.

Are you kidding me? What in the world is the Chinese government doing? How in the world can you missed 700 tonnes of sodium cyanide? Worse is that all those were stored at one simple warehouse? Near the port of a city? 

A nationwide check on dangerous chemicals and explosives? Sorry, but talk about locking the stables after the horses has bolted! It comes way way too late to help all those people who died.  

Funcom In Trouble

Another one bite the dust.

That's my immediate feeling when I read that Funcom is "actively seeking interested parties for discussions surrounding a possible investment, acquisition, merger, or any other available options." In simple terms, Funcom (developers of Age of Conan, The Secret World and LEGO Minifigures Online) are in big trouble.

That comes as no surprise to gamers. After the initial surge of games, the MMORPG genre has stalled. The big boys (WoW, Eve, SWTOR) are stable, but the rest of the genre are in danger. The nail in the coffin of Funcom seems to be LEGO Minifigures Online.

Honestly, I'm not surprised at all. I never like the idea of  LEGO Minifigures Online. I mean there are just so many LEGO games out there, why would anyone want to play an online version of it? Funcom should have concentrated on Age of Conan and The Secret World. AoC and TSW may not have the biggest player base but the players playing were devoted to them.

I hope someone takes over Funcom and whoever it is keeps the servers for AoC and TSW up. They are great games and more importantly, they are unique. Funcom don't make Wow clones, and that's something we need.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Comics this week

Injection #4- Wow! The slow burn story by writer Warren Ellis is coming together beautifully and it is scary as hell. My goodness, if I read the hints dropped by Ellis correctly, we now know what is the Injection and how the five members of the CCCU were involved in it's creation. We also now knows why Maria Kilbride and Robin Morel are so damaged. What a story! Keep this up Warren! 

Master of Kung-Fu #4- Anyone who had watched any martial arts movie or TV series knows that in the end, the hero will have a final death match with the villain. That's what happen here in the finale as Shang Chi and Zheng Zu fight it out in the Thirteen Chambers for the right to be the next Emperor of Kun Lun. Writer Haden Blackman and artist Dalibor Talajic has put together a fine series and I hope we would see more of the land of Kun Lun in the future. 

Secret Wars #5- Background story time as writer Jonathan Hickman gave us the "how" of what really happened when the multiverse was destroyed. I'm less sure about the tag-team of Doom and Molecule Man replacing the tag-team of Doom and Strange but I'm willing to see where Hickman is going with it. I do however have to wonder about the Black Swan that survived along with Thanos. Shouldn't she be with the Molecule Man as well? Well between the story and the art of Esad Ribic, this is still the most interesting crossover Marvel had put together for sometime. I'll be here till the finish.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Singapore’s Transport Minister Quits

With National Day over, all eyes are now on the General Elections (GE) next month. The People's Action Party (PAP) will win this election again but even before we can get started, news has already came that Singapore’s transport minister Lui Tuck Yew will not be contesting in the coming GE,

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong insist he and senior members of the Singapore government tried hard to change Mr. Lui's mind but they did not succeed. Which means Mr. Lui wanted to quit and no amount of persuasion could move him from his decision. With that, there is now no question that the transport ministry is the "poisoned chalice" of the Singapore government.

The constant and consistent breakdown of the MRT lines has claimed the political careers of Yeo Cheow Tong, Raymond Lim (okay, maybe not totally but you can't argue his career is on the way down after his stint as Minister of Transport), and now Lui Tuck Yew. In all fairness, Mr. Lui Tuck Yew probably did as good of a job as Minister of Transport as he could, but as long as the trains breakdown, the Singapore public will blame the man in charge. 

As they say, the buck stops with him. Add to this is the fact that Mr. Lui's Moulmein-Kallang GRC will be dissolved in the upcoming GE. I guess it can't come as a total surprise that he is quitting but good luck finding someone to take his place. I think this is one job no one will want. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Comics this week

Deadly Class #15- You know, I really wish writer Rick Remender would cool it with all the acid trips. Yes, I know Marcus is an addict but do we need a drug-induced acid trip once every few issues? This issue was a dark trip into Marcus' mind while being threaten by a bully (Victor), and his own self-belief that Maria did not leave the school (and him) willingly. Then we got hit by the acid trip...again. Come on Rick, enough of that already. Just focus on the marvelous story you have here. There's no need for all the stunts.

Ms. Marvel #17- With this series ending due to Secret Wars, we finally get the long awaited meeting between Kamala Khan and the former Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers. Unfortunately, the meeting had to happen now when the series is ending. Personally, I would prefer the meeting to happen earlier but better late than never. Hopefully writer G. Willow Wilson would continue with the series when it relaunch (yes, Marvel does it again). She is the perfect writer for Kamala Khan and I would like to read more of her stories on the fun bubbly character.

We Stand On Guard #2- The debut was promising and here in the follow-up, writer Brian K. Vaughan leaves everyone in no doubt that he is willing to push the envelope in this series. There's a lot of world building here but Vaughan did not fall into the usual trap of overdoing it. He provide us with just enough; a world that's bleak but at the same time pretty realistic (if you accept the giant robots). A little more character development for the characters in the Two-Four and this series will be golden.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The South China Sea Dispute

In an act that cut away all pretense of nicety and diplomacy, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has bluntly said that the United States and the Philippines should "count how many runways there are in the South China Sea and who built them first."

Now everyone know China has been doing land reclamation in the South China Sea for years and they had pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the project. To me, that short term view will come back to bite us in the future.

In simple terms, does anyone truly believes that China just want to maintain the status quo after throwing so much money in the South China Sea? Of course not. About $5 trillion worth of trade passed through the South China Sea every year and China claimed about 80% of the sea. China has been constructing artificial islands in the disputed areas to lay claim and has been ignoring rival claim from every other country in the region. 

Even with all that, most Southeast Asian countries has been mostly been silent on the matter. Outside the Philippines, no one else in the region had dared to confront China on the matter for fear of losing Chinese trade. Yes, I am talking about Singapore. 

Considering that most of our trade goes through the South China Sea, I can't understand why Singapore isn't more vocal on the issue. This is a matter of vital importance for us. In simple terms, Singapore can survive without Chinese investments, but we won't survive if China succeed in claiming 80% of the South China Sea. 

Can you imagine what would happen to Singapore if China tax just half (or even a third) of the $5 trillion worth of trade that goes through the South China Sea? Singapore will not survive that. For that reason, Singapore need to get involve in the South China Sea dispute. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

So What?

With the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal in full flow, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is in desperation need of a win. He didn't get it from the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission. 

Yesterday, the commission says its investigation has shown that the RM2.6 billion deposited into the account of the PM was from donors, and not 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) funds. The anti-graft body also stressed that it was not involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the government and that it's investigation was conducted independently, professionally and in a transparent manner.

Now no one truly believe that the commission is independent but even with it's report yesterday, PM Najib is still in a lot of problem. The simple fact is, even if all the money were from donors, so what? The money was put into the personal account of the PM and that's already unacceptable in all levels. I mean someone decide to donate billions to the PM who also happens to be the Finance Minister. How is that okay? 

Of course it's not. It's not even close to being right. The money was in his personal account and that's wrong period. The fact that the money was not from 1MDB or that PM Najib never used them for "personal gain" is totally beside the point. 

The money was in his personal account. That's wrong. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain by Richard Roberts

Penelope Akk is a 13 year-old with unusual problems. She is the daughter of two retired superheroes whose identity aren't secret. Her dad, Brainy Akk, is a super-genius scientist and her mom is known as "The Audit" (she solved crime using maths and calculating the odds).

So Penelope (Penny for short) set very high standards for herself. The daughter of two of the most brilliant and intelligent superheroes in the world, Penny is the kind of girl who gets disappointed with a B. Not only that, she "needs" her superpower to kick in yesterday.

One day in middle school, it did. Her superpower is here, and she's more than a little excited about it. Problem is Penny wants to be a superhero. She's got superhero parents, so she "needs" to be a superhero. Unfortunately she's got the ultimate mad science power, letting/making her invent crazy gadgets she doesn't even remember making . Fortunately she got two super powered best friends and the trio look out for each other.

Even when one of them, Ray, decide to destroy the science fair of their middle school. However a superhero's sidekick was laying in wait and when the fight begins, Penny and her friend, Claire, join in alongside Ray. Thus was born "The Inscrutable Machine", the  youngest supervillain group in the world's long superpower history.

After getting labeled as supervillains, Penny and her friends discovered one important thing; they enjoyed being villains. More importantly, Penny learns that she's very good at it. Thus begins the legend of the supervillain "Bad Penny"!

First off, do not let the cover or age of the main character fool you. Author Richard Roberts has managed to create a book about superheroes in a way that's quirky, fun, and fascinating. Usually YA (young adult) books appeal strictly to the young but "Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain" present interesting characters and a fascinating plot that will appeal to older people as well.

Penny and her friends are complex, realistic people that are complex, realistic 13 year-olds! Growing up around famous (if retired) superheroes, the trio are amazingly competent but at their age, they do still make silly decisions. However they learned from their mistakes and take advice from older, more experienced heroes/villains like they are supposed to.

Like most 13 year-olds, they also get carried away sometimes. When they meet up with a famous superhero during a fight, one of the first thing they want to do is to get his autograph! When they meet up with their first real supervillain group, one of their regrets was forgetting to get the villains' autograph. Also they could have stop their mischief at any time, but were having too much fun to truly consider it. Something even Penny, who actually wants to be a hero, privately admits to.

I also love the relationship between the trio. Penny may be the leader of the team but the trio are friends first and they listened to each other, sometimes to their deterrent. However they get into trouble together and they get out of it together. Their team is smaller and weaker than others so they rely on teamwork (and the fact most heroes don't take them seriously).

One thing about the book I really like was Penny's power. I loved the way Roberts wrote it. When her super-invention powers kicks in, they are called "episodes" and Roberts wrote them in a way that I have never read before. When the "episodes" happened, Penny could direct her powers in the direction she wants but she doesn't have control of it. In a way, the power controlled her and at first she can't even remember what she built. As the book goes on, Penny could direct her powers to build something she wants, but the process of building the gadget is a total blur to her. It is so perfectly mad-scientist that I can't believe no one had tried it before.

Of course the book is not perfect. I found it to be pretty unrealistic that the trio prevailed every time. I'm willing to stomach a little of it, this is a superhero book after all, but outside one battle against a young superheroine called Generic Girl, the trio came out on top every time. The last battle in the library was especially unrealistic. The other group was bigger, more experienced, and actually took the kids seriously. Sorry but I just can't accept The Inscrutable Machine winning against those odds.

Also there are many characters that just disappeared after showing up. Master Scorpion and Bull are characters I want to read more of but both disappeared after showing up for their one brief scene. I especially hope Bull will show up in the sequel.

Now, I know books about superheroes has a checkered history but if you need to read one superhero book in your life; pick up "Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain". This book is great and I highly recommend it. It was vibrant fun and I look forward to the sequel.