Friday, January 29, 2016

What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander

What's the difference between a donation and corruption? In Malaysia, there's none. At least according to a Malaysian lawyer who is defending a client on charges of corruption.

Mohd Yahya Mat Sahri, a special officer to former Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, faced charges for accepting a RM50,000 political donation. Acting for Yahya is lawyer Manjeet Singh Dhillon who say the case should be thrown out because "political donations" are not against the law in Malaysia.

Yahya has already been sentenced to two years jail and two strokes of the rota for the case but on appeal, Mr. Manjeet say the case should be thrown out. To no one's surprise, Mr. Manjeet cited Malaysian Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali's refusal to frame charges against the Malaysian Prime Minister for accepting RM2.6 billion in political donation from the Saudi royal family. 

Manjeet then produced the Dewan Rakyat hansard on December 2 last year where Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi told the house that there was no law to stop anyone from accepting donations for political purposes. To Mr. Manjeet, if both the AG and the Deputy Prime Minister say that political donations are legal, then his client has no case to answer. 

Sadly, he is right. If the Malaysian Prime Minister gets a free pass for RM2.6 BILLION, what the hell is RM50,000? It's not even 1%! In all fairness, Mohd Yahya Mat Sahri need to be set free. After all, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

NCMP Voting

As everyone expected, the ruling People's Action Action (PAP) has announced constitutional amendments to the Singapore Parliament including more Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) who will now have full voting rights.

As widely expected, the Singapore opposition are up in hands on the matter. In their view, Elected MPs (Member of Parliament) vote on behalf of the people they serve because they were elected by them. NCMP represents no one because they are appointed by the Singapore government. Thus, they should not have voting rights on policies in the parliament. 

I am fully on the side of the opposition on this one. Why in the world should NCMP, appointed to Parliament by the government, have full voting rights when they are never elected by no one? The PAP's argument about greater diversity cut no ice when they are trying to change the Elected President to become a figurehead. Honestly, a president without the power to do anything (or worse; controlled by a panel of advisers) is a total waste of public money but that's an argument for another day. 

I know most Singaporeans think the PAP won big in the election last year but I disagree. The opposition Worker's Party (WP) won 6 seats which is the same amount they won in 2011. The only thing that changed was the percentage of votes they won. The number of seats won/loss was the same.

So I don't see the need to give NCMP full voting rights. They are not elected. They are appointed by the government. Thus they have no business voting in a democratic country. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Comics this week

Jupiter's Circle Vol. 2 #3- When we last saw him, Skyfox was helping protestors against the might of the U.S government. This issue opens with him kidnapping the Vice-President of America and holding his hostage. His demand? That America gets out of Vietnam. You would think with such an opening, we would have an entire issue on this right? Wrong! Instead, we are treated to an issue where the team got ambushed by a villain that got nothing to do with Skyfox. I don’t know what writer Mark Millar is trying to do here. If you are going to start with the kidnapping of the Vice-President of America, it seems bloody strange no to go through with the story.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #3- The debut issue was a pleasure. The second issue did not live up to expectations but this issue gives me hope again. I think writers Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare need to move the series away from those cavemen and get the focus back on Moon Girl. Showing Lunella Lafayette, Moon Girl, in her own lab was an excellent touch this issue and having The Hulk show up at the end was also a good thing. Just get away from the cavemen and this may live up to the debut. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Case Closed!

To no one's surprise, Malaysian Attorney-General Tan Sri Apandi Ali has decided to end all investigations into the allegations of financial improprieties of Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

As many of you would recall, the Malaysian PM had nearly US$700 million (then estimated at RM2.6 billion) channelled into his personal accounts allegedly through state investment arm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). PM Najib admitted as much but claimed he has never used public money for "private gains". After months of stop-start investigations, including the "retirement" of the previous AG, AG Apandi (who was appointed to his role by PM Naijb at the height of the scandal) now says he has found no criminal offence in the RM2.6 billion "donation". He also said the money was a "donation" from the Saudi royal family and that PM Najib had returned a sum of RM2.03 billion to its donors in August 2013 as they were "unused".

The problem for PM Najib and the AG? No one believe them!

The "donation" alibi is widely dismissed by Malaysians, even within Malaysian's ruling party UMNO. Not only that, foreign governments are now looking into 1MDB-related overseas fund flows due to the scandal. The governments of Switzerland, the UK, the US, Singapore and even China (OK, Hong Kong) are all looking into the matter. So the Malaysian AG's decision means less than nothing in the wider context of the 1MDB scandal.

In fact, I think the only one that will be happy about his decision is the Malaysian opposition!

Think about it. Every poll in Malaysia shows PM Najib's popularity hovering around the 25% mark. Low oil prices has gotten the Malaysian economy into trouble, and the AG's decision to close the case will only heighten public discontent.

With elections due by 2018, and with PM Najib at the helm, the Malaysian opposition will now have a great chance of unseating the government. Hell, they already won the popular vote in the previous election and that was before the 1MDB saga. If I'm an opposition member in Malaysia, I want Najib to be in power in 2018. I want his baggage, his cronyism, and the 1MDB front and center in the election battle of 2018.  

If I'm an opposition member in Malaysia, I will be cheering for Najib from now till 2018.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Comics this week

Astro City #31- This issue started out strange. A series of different people talking to other people about their strange dream from the night before and as their story goes on...we get to see that all these people are talking about an unknown superhero battle. Now I won't say it worked perfectly but I have to give writer Kurt Busiek credit for trying something so unconventional. This is the reason why we love Astro City.

Ms. Marvel #3- Now I'm not a big fan of Marvel restarting their series every year or two and Ms. Marvel is actually the reason why you should not do it. Kamala Khan was a breakout hit for Marvel and since the revamp, writer G. Willow Wilson is treating the series as if the new #1 never appeared (except for a small time jump). All good and well but any new fans who gets on board since the #1 will have a hard time understanding some things like how important family and community is to Khan. I mean we haven't even seen her father since the new #1 came out. Also anyone who read Ms. Marvel with only the new series will think of Nakia as a bitch, which is hardly the case. Hopefully, there will not be another #1 for some time to come. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Here To Stay

With the Singapore Parliament reopening, word is that the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) intend to change things up. President Tony Tan almost admitted as much by "suggesting" that changes to Singapore’s political system might be "needed". 

One of these changes most likely be to in the works is that of the elected presidency. Already, it seems the PAP has been laying the groundwork to do away with the elected presidency. Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and former Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh has both publicly said that a “wrong person” could be elected by the Singapore public and that Singapore need to have a President elected by the Singapore Parliament instead.

In short, they (and the PAP) want to turn back time. 

Not going to happen. 

It’s seems that the political elite of Singapore thinks they know all, and the Singapore public knows nothing. I mean a “wrong person”  elected by the Singapore public? If this person is elected by the Singapore public in a free and fair election; how can he be wrong? I mean if Donald Trump wins his long-shot bid to become the U.S President, is the PAP going to tell the American public they had just picked the “wrong person” to become their President. No? Then why the hell would you say the same to the Singapore public? 

Let's not kid ourselves here. The only reason why the PAP want to do away with an elected presidency is due to the fact their man almost lost the election in 2011. Current President Tony Tan only won the election in 2011 with less than a percentage point, and the PAP has never been a party that takes losing very well. 

Doesn't change the fact that the boat called "the elected presidency" is here to stay. The PAP created the boat as a means to maintain power in case they ever lost a General Election (GE), They now have to get used to the boat they created. If they do away with it, their victory last year in the GE will become a distant memory.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

An Adult Non-White Nancy Drew

Remember Nancy Drew? The beloved teenage detective, some called the original teenage detective, is returning to TV. American network CBS is working on a show but for modern audiences. 

Some differences has already been decided on; this Nancy Drew won't be white and she will be in her 30s!

What!? That's my immediate reaction when I read the news. A Nancy Drew that's not white? An adult Nancy Drew? I was never a fan of Nancy Drew but...why? I mean I can understand that this gives the network free publicity but if you're going to change the race and age of Nancy Drew, why not just call the character by another name? 

I mean Nancy Drew doesn't have any special powers or abilities right? She're just a good detective, especially for a teenager. A good adult female detective just doesn't have the same draw, whatever she's called. There's just many shows like that currently on TV.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

Oscar Snubs

Now I read on the internet that many people in America are angry over the lack of black actors and directors among this year's Oscar nominees. As a guy in Singapore, I don’t get it.

I looked at the list of blacks expected to be nominated, and I can’t see any sure thing in them. Idris Elba may have earned rave reviews in "Beasts of No Nation," but it was a film on Netflix. Will Smith may have put in a good performance in "Concussion" but the film was a sports drama on America football. When was the last time that sport got an Oscar nomination?

What people should really be angry about is how in the world did Ridley Scott not get a nomination for Best Director? The Martian was a great movie and it was great due to the deft hands of Scott. It was a movie that could have went so wrong but didn’t due to Scott and lead actor Matt Damon (who did get a nomination). Also, how in the world did Mad Max: Fury Road get more nominations than The Martian?

Don’t get me wrong, Fury Road was good but better than The Martian? Not even close. The lack of recognition for Ridley Scott and The Martian; now that’s something people should get angry about! 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

1 Movie; 30 Days Straight

By now, everyone know my views on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To me, it was crap but with the box office numbers, I have to accept that I'm in the minority here. However for all of you who think of yourself a fan; meet Singaporean Chris Gomez.

Now I heard of people who saw the film 2-3 times, but Mr. Gomez put those "fans" to shame because he intend to watch the movie once a day for 30 days straight! As of yesterday, he had watched the movie 28 times in 28 days at various cinemas across Singapore and posted images of his movie tickets on Twitter as proof. 

Now fans like Chris Gomez is the reason why Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been breaking box office records left, right, and center. They are fans of the franchise and will see the movie multiple times no matter what. I mean to see one movie 30 times is bad enough, but to see a crap movie 30 times for 30 days straight? That's just torture and I have to admire Mr. Gomez for his fortitude. 

Good luck Chris Gomez; may the Force be with you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Comics this week

Gutter Magic #1- Independent comics is a hit-or-miss affair, but Gutter Magic #1 looks like a winner to me. An exciting, dark fantasy adventure set in a world where magic exists and mages were involved in WW2, it is also an urban fantasy adventure where a no-good rogue by the name of Cinder steal from his betters and tried to live through the consequences. The world is dirty, rough, and very dangerous. If you are looking for something different in the fantasy genre, this one is it.

Injection #6- After a short hiatus, Injection is back and it's as if it never left. Writer Warren Ellis knocked it out of the park again, only this time he did with another character of the CCCU. Vivek Headland is Ellis' love letter to Sherlock Holmes, only darker and more unbalanced. In a way, it makes sense. Imagine if you're a logical man like Headland and then come to know that the "rumors" of the fantastic and bizarre were all true; being unbalance might be the best case scenario for you. One thing I will have to say is that right off the bat, Vivek comes across as more interesting than Maria Kilbride and Robin Morel. It took a few issues before Ellis got me to care for those two characters, but he took me on Vivek in just one. Welcome back!

Spider-Gwen #4- One of the big hooks in Spider-Gwen is that this world's Peter Parker is dead; dead at the hands of Spider-Gwen. Naturally that didn't go down too well with a lot of people, including it seems this world's Harry Osborn! Yes, writer Jason Latour has used the tried and tested method of putting Harry in the Green Goblin's mask, but instead of revenge for his father, it's for his best friend this time. The slight twist actually works and makes this conflict interesting. It's not the same tired routine you usually see between Spiderman and the Green Goblin, but something a little different. And the finish? Very good, very surprising, and got me wanting more!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

China Takes Over Godzilla

You heard of the stock market rout in China since the opening of the year? Well, that hasn’t stop Chinese companies from making blockbuster deals. In the latest news out of China, China's Dalian Wanda Group will buy a controlling stake in Hollywood film studio Legendary Entertainment in a deal valued at US$3.5bn.

Led by China's richest man Wang Jianlin, Wanda is known as the world's biggest movie theatre operator with no experience in the movie-making business. That’s no concern to Mr. Wang it seems as Wanda will take control of the studio that made the recent Godzilla movie. Not only that, Legendary is the maker of Jurassic World, and the upcoming King Kong movie. There’s also plans to tie the two monsters together in a Godzilla-Kong cinematic universe.

So despite the vast amount of money spent, it does seems that Wanda have a good deal here. With past hits like The Dark Knight, recent hits like Jurassic World, and seemingly upcoming hits like King Kong; Legendary Entertainment seems like a good bet for a film studio. As for the rout on the Chinese stock market? Who cares when you can get Godzilla! 

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Japanese Schoolgirl in Hokkaido

Education is widely considered a very important thing here in Asia. Japan is no exception and few places in the world can match the country in the importance an education has on someone's life.

Nothing shows this more than the story of a Japanese schoolgirl in the island of Hokkaido. The girl takes a train to school everyday but there was a huge problem. She was the only passenger of the train from her station in rural Hokkaido.

With only 1 passenger from the station, the management of Japan Railways thought of closing down the loss-making train station and you have to honestly say they had every reason to do so. Not in Japan!

When the management of Japan Railways knew about the story of their sole passenger, not only did they had a change of heart about closing the station, they even changed the timing of the train to match the schedule of the schoolgirl. Wow; talk about management with a heart!

You have to hand it to the management of Japan Railways. Continue running a loss-making train station just so that a schoolgirl can go to school? Commercially that may not make sense, but good for them. That's the kind of management I want.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

No need for me to tell you what Star Wars: The Force Awakens is because you have to be living under a rock not to know about it. Breaking box office records left, right, and centre, the latest Star War movie is also the first from Disney after they bought out the franchise from George Lucas.

The hype for this movie is such that even non-fans of Star Wars had to see the film just to see what it was about. Kudos to the marketing team at Disney; they deserved a raise for the promotion of the film. That is especially the case now because after seeing the movie…I have to unfortunately say I didn’t like it.

Now I know the movie has been a hit with audiences and it is already one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, but I’m afraid that has more to do with the Star Wars brand than the movie itself. Now I won’t say Star Wars: The Force Awakens has no redeeming features or that it’s worse than the Star Wars prequels, but it’s nowhere near as good as fans say it is.

On the plus side, the actors in the movie gave strong performances and it was especially great to see Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford back as General (no more Princess or golden bikini) Leia and Han Solo. Ford especially seems to be having a great time and stole every scene he was in. The newcomers fared less well but there’s no Jar Jar in this one.

The movie also boasts many action sequences that were very good. The air battle at Takodana between the Resistance and The First order comes to mind, but there were others like Rey's and Finn's escape from Jakku in the Millennium Falcon.

However for me, the minuses far outset the pluses.

The main problem I have with the movie is the simple fact that it's not a "new" Star Wars movie. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a remake of Star Wars: A New Hope!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens’s chief protagonist, Rey (Daisy Ridley), is basically Luke Skywalker in A New Hope. The relationship between Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) is similar to what Luke and Han had in A New Hope. BB-8 is R2-D2 (with a secret map/message included). Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is Darth Vader and Harrison Ford’s Han Solo is Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan Kenobi (in more ways than one). Now having characters that are similar to the characters in A New Hope is one thing, but having the same plot as in A New Hope?

The opening scene has The First Order arriving on Jakku, a desert planet like Tatooine. We have Rey and Finn escaping The First Order guided by a smuggler, Han Solo. We have a superweapon, The Sunkiller, that’s capable of destroying planets which the heroes need to destroy by attacking a small weakness in it. Hell, the final X-Wing assault on The Sunkiller is almost a carbon copy of the attack on the Death Star!

Halfway through this movie I thought I was watching a remake of A New Hope. When the credits started rolling, I knew for a fact that I was watching a remake. I mean the prequels sucked, but at least Lucas was trying something different. This one is more like director J. J. Abrams wanted to remake A New Hope but decided to call it Episode VII instead.

I know Abrams is a great Star Wars fan but there’s a difference between paying homage to something and…well, rehashing everything. There’s not a shred of originality in this movie, almost everything was recycled from the other Star Wars movies. That is just ridiculous.

As a rule, I don’t write review of movies I don’t like but I have to make an exception for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I wanted to like the movie so much and I think I would have…if someone had told me beforehand that I would be watching a remake of Star Wars: A New Hope. 

I mean it's not even A New Hope version 2.0. It was simply "Star Wars: A New Hope (The Remake)"!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Comics this week

Justice League #47- After the setup issues in #46, writer Geoff Johns now proceed to blow our minds again. With Darkseide dead, the League now faced the impossible task of trying to defeat the god that managed to kill him; The Anti-Monitor. Bad thing is that they know almost nothing about him. They didn't even know he existed until he and Darkseid showed up on Earth to duke it out. The only people on Earth that knows anything about The Anti-Monitor is the Crime Syndicate, so an intriguing alliance between the two groups are in order. Both sides know this could go bad in so many ways but everyone knows they have no choice in the matter. It's join up or die alone.War can make the strangest alliance. 

Superman: Lois and Clark #3- After the attack by Intergang last issue, we are treated to the two sitting down and discussing what's their next move. Writer Dan Jurgens wrote the scene beautifully. The two spoke to each other like a couple who respected and know each other for years. No fake angst or melodramatic screaming here; just two people who are extremely comfortable with each other. Now this the Lois Lane and Clarke Kent everyone knows and loved!