Thursday, March 31, 2016

No Flop

Flop? What flop? Despite the mixed to negative reviews they are getting, movie-goers seems to be watching Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and doing it again and again. Warner Bros. Pictures is currently laughing their way to the bank as BvS: Dawn of Justice has already made over $500 million worldwide…within the first week of release!

Holy shit! I know a lot of people were looking forward to the first live-action film to feature both Batman and Superman, but I don’t think anyone expected these numbers so quickly. I haven’t seen the movie yet (most probably next week) but the numbers augers well for Justice League where Aquaman, Cyborg, Green Lantern and the Flash will join up with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.

No matter the final number, half a billion dollars at the box-office means there is no way BvS will be considered a flop. Bad reviews or not, it looks like Marvel is getting some serious competition on the movie front. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Comics this week

Birthright #15- Thus far, the main story in Birthright has been the story of the Rhodes. The family was fractured with the disappearance of their eldest son Mikey and when he returned, now as a Conan-like warrior, the family were too splintered to come together. Writer Joshua Williamson didn't think that's enough because in this issue, he reveals another family member to spice things up for the Rhodes. I must admit the identity of the family member surprised me but I can get behind the idea. It will definitely make things even more interesting going forward. 

Illuminati #5- After last issue's surprising betrayal by The Mad Thinker, the Illuminati are now in a jam struck behind enemy lines in Asgard. With their initial mission to steal weapons from the Asgardian armory gone along with The Mad Thinker, the team just want to get out. Writer Joshua Williamson use the issue to reveal several facts about the various characters like the location of Hood’s hideout and the fact that the team’s Enchantress was a fake. The series is fun though I worry about the next issue; a tie-in with Stand-Off, Marvel’s latest event story. We all know how that usually turns out.

Superman: Lois and Clark #6- I read on the net and one reviewer had this opening for this issue; “Another month, another great Superman: Lois and Clark issue.” I can’t say anything better than that. Writer Dan Jurgens clearly really loves Superman and knows what button to push to get the best out of the character. That opening with how Superman and Lois teamed up to find her missing editor Cora was beautifully written. It is only overshadowed by the explosive ending that just leave me wanting more. The next issue can’t come fast enough for me. Pick this series up, it’s easily the best Superman series on the stand right now.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

First Thing First

For the past few years, Singaporeans has been complaining about the SMRT but today a sad incident occurred. Two SMRT maintenance staff are reported to be dead after an accident at a servicing point at the Pasir Ris station

A quick statement from SMRT stated that the accident happened around 11.10am today and that the SCDF was immediately activated. It also says the SMRT is currently working with the police to conduct investigations into the accident and offers its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased.

My condolence to the family as well and I do think everyone need to take a step back. Already there are netizens on the net asking for information on the accident but it has only been 3 hours and any answers should be given to the families of the deceased first. 

However I do think SMRT need to get to the bottom of this tragedy and publicly tell Singaporeans what happened. Do not make the same mistake the Singapore General Hospital and the Ministry of Health did with the Hepatitis C mess and leaves more questions than answers in your wake.

Everyone take a step back and wait. The families of the deceased come first. Then questions need to be answered. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Can't Lose Situation

As widely expected, Singapore Democractic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan announced that he will the SDP candidacy for the Bukit Batok by-election. The seat was vacated by the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) David Ong who resigned after Singapore learned of his extramarital affair.

Pledging to be a “competent, constructive and compassionate” Member of Parliament if elected, Chee replaces SDP’s Sadasivam Veriyah who contested in the ward at last year’s General Election. Personally, I think this is a good move by the SDP. Chee is the most senior member of the party and considering Veriyah only got 26.4% of the vote last year, he can’t do any worse right?

Also, the smart money is on the PAP keeping the seat. It has been decades since the PAP lost a seat in the west and chances are that is a record they will be keeping. So there’s no pressure on Chee to win. If he win, then that’s an upset. If he loses, it’s to be expected.

With the government having to call a by-election in Bukit Batok sonner or later, this seems like a no-lose situation for the SDP and Mr. Chee. Whether they get the seat or not, the SDP just can’t lose. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Future Is Here

In the 80s, there was a movie called “Back To The Future 2”. In the movie, Michael J. Fox went to the year of 2015 and among the various things they had, there was a sneaker that could lace itself. They are a year late but guess what; we now have the world’s first power-lacing sneaker!

Nike had unveiled a sneaker that could lace itself, all with just a touch of a button. However don’t expect to see this sneaker anytime soon. The self-lacing sneaker, which has the unfortunate name of "Nike HyperAdapt 1.0," will only be available for members of its loyalty Nike+ app. So normal mortals like you and me are out of luck.

Still, it is a self-lacing shoe. That means that the future is here, ladies and gentlemen. The future is here! 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Comics this week

Astro City #33- What an issue! I know I’m a broken record by now saying Astro City is great but this issue show why writer Kurt Busiek and artist Brent Anderson are so highly regarded. Steeljack’s walk down memory lane is nothing short of superb. His talk on the roof with old partner-in-crime Cutlass is easily one of the best thing I had ever read in Astro City, and that’s saying something. The only problem I have is that Busiek has sort of foretold the ending of this arc with all the introduction of kids and grandkids of Astro City’s old villains. However the brilliance of the story cannot be overstated. This issue is that good.

Injection #8- I said before that Vivek Headland is Ellis' love letter to Sherlock Holmes, only darker and more unbalanced. Now we have a character who is mentioned as this world’s Doctor Who, and another who could be a James Bond-like character. Slowly writer Warren Ellis’ version of the world is coming into existence and I love it! Of course having an artist like Declan Shalvey helping you doesn’t hurt but this series is getting more and more interesting for me. Considering how much I love the ending of the first arc, that’s saying something.

Monstress #4- This series started with a band. The debut issue was one of the best debut I had ever read and I have been reading comics for over 20 years. Since then however, writer Marjorie Liu has been slowly drawing out the world Maika is living in. This issue shreds some more light on the backstory of the world and show that the monster inside Maika might not be the worst thing around. War makes monsters of all of us and Liu had no problems showing us that. Killing and torturing kids for information? Sometimes the monster that looks normal is more terrifying than the real monster. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

By-Election in Bukit Batok

With the resignation of Member of Parliament (MP) for Bukit Batok David Ong, the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has lost another MP due to ‘personal indiscretion’. He follows former Speaker of Parliament Micheal Palmer who resigned in 2012.

This proves what I had been saying all along; political parties should not force their MPs to resign due to affairs. It is just stupid.

Now I won't say there is no ground for it, but these people were elected by the people of Singapore and I strongly believe their fate should be decided at the ballot box and nowhere else. I said this when opposition MP Yaw Shin Leong was forced to resign by the Worker's Party (WP), I said this when Michael Palmer was forced to do the same thing by the PAP, and I will do so again now.

Most Singaporeans do not care about the infidelity of their MPs. So what if David Ong is married with 3 kids, that is his domestic situation. As long as it does not affect his work, I personally don't care if he has a whole harem on the side. Yes, the PAP is reaping what it sown for stupidly attacking the WP in 2012 but I would think they should have learn their lesson when they lost Punggol East after the resignation of Michael Palmer. 

The plus this time for them is that Bukit Batok is widely considered a stronghold for the PAP. Still, this is a by-election and the opposition tend to do better in them. Stranger things has happened before in by-elections. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Comics this week

Jupiter's Circle Vol 2 #4- One of the problems of a prequel is that everyone knows the ending, so how could you put in excitement for the whole thing? A favorite tactic is to throw a red herring to readers and this seems to the method of choice for writer Mark Millar. Since the beginning of Jupiter Circle, Millar has been doing this but he took it to a whole new level this issue. Simply put, Skyfox's abrupt change of heart makes no sense. This guy kidnapped the Vice-President of the United States of America, and then turned around and rescued the only group of people who are capable of stopping him? What? And Skyfox is supposed to be the smart one in the bunch? That makes no sense!

Ms. Marvel #5- This is fun. Writer G. Willow Wilson has tried from the start to give an unique voice to Ms. Marvel. She has mostly been successful and this issue showed why. Between the Kamala Khan clones, Bruno’s desperate cries for help, the upcoming wedding, fighting blue ninjas all over Jersey; you would think there’s too much going on. In fairness, there were times in this issue when it felt that way but it never went overboard. For that, a lot of the credit has to be given to artist Nico Leon who managed to handle the energy beautifully with art just this side of being totally goofy. Nice, fun issue. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Well Played

With the nine-man Constitutional Commission mulling over “possible changes” to the Elected Presidency, former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock is attempting to check the Constitutional Committee by announcing his candidacy...17 months before the Presidential Election.

In 2011, Tan came within a hair’s breadth of becoming Singapore’s head of state.  A veteran Member of Parliament (MP) of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), Tan retired as an MP in 2011 and then entered the Presidential Election against PAP candidate Tony Tan. He lost to Tony Tan by a mere 0.34 percentage point, or 7,382 votes.

Everyone in Singapore believes that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong set up the Constitutional Commission to ensure the presidency stays within the control of the PAP. He does not want another contest as close as the one in 2011. It seems Tan thought this as well and is now trying to pre-empt the Constitutional Commission.

It probably will not work, but Tan is showing Singapore his political skills and experience by making it as difficult as possible for the PAP to stop him from contesting the Presidential Election in 2017. Not only that, he is also making it doubly hard for the PAP to do away with the election all together. How can you get rid of an election when there is already a viable candidate for it already? 

So well played, Mr. Tan, well played! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Computer 1; Human 0

Go, the ancient game created in China several thousand years ago, is now in threat of going down to a computer program. A grandmaster of Go is now playing a 5 game series against a supercomputer in South Korea for a million dollar prize, and the human has lost the first game.

South Korea's Lee Se-dol, a 18-time world champion, is facing Google's DeepMind AlphaGo program in what experts are calling a landmark battle between man and artificial intelligence (AI). Using black-and-white stones on a grid, players are supposed to use their pieces to surround their opponents pieces with their own. Unlike chess, a Go player typically has a choice of 200 moves and as such, many people believe a human player (with human intuition) has an advantage against a computer program.

Obviously this advantage is not enough because DeepMind won the first game. Hopefully, Lee could come back in  the other 4 games. If not, Go is going to join the ranks of chess when IBM's Deep Blue beat chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov in 1997.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


The biggest sporting news this morning is the press conference held by tennis star Maria Sharapova who announced that she had failed a doping test at the Australian Open in January. But before you start on a rant on sporting stars who doped, you should know the details.

The drug Sharapova got busted for is called Mildronate, a drug Sharapova has been taking for the past 10 years. The drug only came onto the list of banned drugs on 1/1/2016. We don’t know when the drug test was taken but The Australian Open was held between 18–31 January 2016, so the test was done within this period. Not only that, the name of the drug on the banned list is actually “Meldonium”, which is the medical name of Mildronate.

It seems Sharapova was not the only athlete who got caught out by this medical name change. At least 7 other athletes had been caught out by this including Olympic gold medalist ice dancer Ekaterina Bobrova and Endeshaw Negesse, the Ethiopian winner of last year's Tokyo Marathon. Tennis, and Maria Sharapova, however is much more high profile and I’m interested to see how the ITF (International Tennis Federation) handles the issue.

Looks like a clear mistake made by several athletes, not just Sharapova, but when it comes to doping, athletes nowadays are guilty till proven innocent. That’s why she will be suspended while the case goes under appeal. I hope she and the other athletes gets clear though I’m not sure if that’s a plus or minus for Maria that she’s just one of a bunch of athletes caught with Meldonium/Mildronate. What’s clear to me however is that the people handling and administering the anti-doping program need to clear stuff up, like the names of the drugs they are banning.

I mean these are athletes; how in the world are they supposed to know all the different names of the drug they take. It’s unfair to ban them over a simple mistake anyone, including myself, could make. They need to tweak the anti-doping program to make things simpler, fairer and more transparent for everyone, including Maria Sharapova. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Gay Luke?

 Okay, it is official. Hollywood’s love affair with homosexuality has gotten out of hand.

Now Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams has been publicly saying that future Star Wars adventures will include gay characters. Okay, I have no problem with that but when Luke Skywalker himself, actor Mark Hamill, says that Luke's sexuality is “open to interpretation”, that’s just bullshit.

Hamill was quoted as saying, “"They say to me, ‘Could Luke be gay?’ I’d say it is meant to be interpreted by the viewer. ... If you think Luke is gay, of course he is. You should not be ashamed of it. Judge Luke by his character, not by who he loves.”

That is just silly. Luke Skywalker is clearly not gay. You know why? Because he kissed a girl that happened to be his sister in the original trilogy! Everyone would like to forgot it happened, but it did. He kissed a girl, it was his sister, now he might be gay?

What nonsense! Are you kidding me? Was the trauma of kissing his sister too much for him? All those years living as a hermit And here I thought the new Star Wars trilogy is supposed to be canon.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Hell No!

What happen when you give Americans power in the world of football? You get nonsense like how "big" clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United are more "deserving" of being in the Champions League than clubs like Leicester City, even if Leicester City wins the EPL (English Premier League).

Charlie Stillitano, chairman of Relevent Sports, practically openly said this after meeting representatives of five of the biggest Premier League clubs to discuss a new structure for Europe's top club competition. According to Mr. Stillitano, teams that generate most of the revenues in the sport deserve to be in the top competition, no matter where they finish in their domestic league.

Sorry but that is total nonsense. Is Mr. Stillitano saying that Chelsea, which is currently 10th in the EPL, deserve to be in the Champions League more than the winner of the EPL? That would only make sense to an American with their crazy sporting system of tanking seasons (with a S) to get good lottery picks positions. Do you know the New York Knicks is considered a "top" team in the NBA even though they haven't the title since 1973?

Do you want that in football? Hell no!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Comics this week

Deadly Class #19- With the new story arc running on all cylinders, the question becomes who will survive the freshman finals? Even running out of the school offered no respite as Victor and his crew chased down Marcus. However what's shocking in this issue isn't Victor's backstory or how violent the action is; it's the fact that none of the characters chased or being chased has any qualms about putting innocent bystanders in the line of fire. The school was supposed to make these kids into assassins and murderers, and for the most part they have succeeded. To the kids, survival is everything and if that means putting innocents between you and a bullet, then that's what they will do. Writer Rick Remender and artist Wes Craig has put together an amazing pulse-pounding issue here. Pick it up!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Ministerial Statement Is Not Helpful

As the Minister for Law and Home Affairs, I think it’s fair to say most Singaporeans expected K. Shanmugam to defend the actions of the police yesterday. However, if it was Mr. Shanmugam's intention to cool things down, then I’m afraid his Ministerial Statement in Parliament is having the opposite effect.

This is what we know. 

An 11-year old girl accused 14-year old Benjamin Lim of molest. The girl’s family made a police report. 5 police officers went to Benjamin’s school to pick him up. They interviewed him without his parents or a lawyer present for 3 and a half hours and then the boy was released. He was found dead hours later at the foot of his HDB block. Everyone, including the police, believes he jumped to his death.

Mr Shanmugam said that a Coroner's Inquiry will try to establish the cause of Benjamin's death and that the rules of Sub Judice generally preclude any discussions which may influence proceedings. I find this part of the statement very strange.

These are the facts. They are not in dispute. Whether you are defending the actions of the police or not, no one is doubting this chain of events. This was what happened. Saying there was no basis linking the death of Benjamin Lim to the way the police acted does not hold water because it is clear the boy jumped to his death due to him being picked up by the police.

Now the boy might be guilty. It's possible he jumped because of a guilty conscience, but to say his death is not linked to the actions of the police is just not correct. They clearly are. 

However I think the biggest mistake Mr. Shanmugam made yesterday was in another part of his statement, Mr. Shanmugam said that when the police went to the school, they were unaware of Benjamin's identity. He also said that in most cases like Benjamin's, the person involved will be let off with a warning.

When I read this, I (like most Singaporeans) have to ask why it required 5 police officers to pick up 1 lone 14-year boy? I applauded the speed of the police but by the minister's own words, this is a minor case. Even if the police did not know who he was at that time, surely the police has better things to do than to send 5 officers to pick up 1 young teenager. 

In many ways, that's the crux of the problem for Mr Shanmugam. The statement from the minister does not really help the case of the police. Legal or not, some of the actions of the police were very strange and I don’t think the Parliamentary Statement yesterday was helpful at all to them. I’m not the only one. Almost no one I spoke to who knew about the case thinks so either. 

Coroner's Inquiry or not, I think Mr. Shanmugam need to step up and give a proper statement to the Singapore public. His Ministerial Statement in Parliament is doing more harm and good, and he need to step up to defuse the situation he just helped inflamed yesterday. Cooling things down is in everyone's interest. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Review of Deadpool

Like its comic book character, the movie version of Deadpool is like a cockroach that just refused to die.  The movie version of Deadpool first showed up in X-Men Origins: Wolverine where the character ended up with it’s mouth sewn shut and it’s head chopped off.

However using the Days of Future Past reset, director Tim Miller with writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick totally ignore the version in X-Men Origins and created a version far similar to the character’s comic book origin. As the box office shows, it worked! With a total gross of over US$600 million worldwide, Deadpool is a huge gamble that had paid off handsomely for 20th Century Fox.

Reprising his role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, actor Ryan Reynolds is Wade Wilson. A former Special Forces operator who now works as a mercenary in New York City, Wade meets escort Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin) at a local bar and they become romantically attached. One year later, Wade proposes to her and she accepts. However Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer and though Vanessa chose remains by his side, he does not want her to watch him die and enter a secret program that offers a possible cure for his cancer.

At a laboratory, Wade met Ajax (Ed Skrein) and Angel Dust (Gina Carano) and discover the program he signed up for was an experimental one where they try to awaken the latent mutant genes within the subjects. To do this, the subjects are subjected to days of torture to induce stress and to trigger the mutation. Ajax also reveals to Wade their true purpose: to make super-powered slaves to be sold to wealthy customers.

After horrendous torture, Wade develops a healing factor that cures his cancer but also leaves him severely disfigured as a side-effect. He escapes and attacks Ajax but hesitated when told that his disfigurement can be cured. Using the moment of hesitation, Ajax manages to defeat Wade and impales him with a bar. He then leaves Wade for dead in the burning laboratory.

Of course, Wade survived and after consulting his best friend Weasel (T.J. Millar), Wade decides to hunt down Ajax and have his disfigurement cured. He becomes a masked vigilante and takes the name of (you guess it) "Deadpool". His confrontation with Ajax leads to a huge battle along an expressway which got the attention of two X-Men, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead.

Ajax escape from Deadpool and goes on the counterattack. He goes to Weasel's bar with Angel and learns about Vanessa. In response, Weasel calls Wade and tells him Vanessa is in danger but they were too late. Ajax and Angel kidnapped Vanessa and Deadpool is forced to enlist Colossus and Negasonic to help him rescue her.

As I said earlier, Deadpool was a huge gamble. One of the reasons it was considered a gamble was the simple fact that it was an R-rated superhero comic book adaption. There’s just not many of those around. Luckily the brutal combat and foul-mouth antics gives the film a crazy energy that fits the character to a T and film-goers are lapping it up.

A lot of the credit has to go to Ryan Reynolds. I will admit I’m not a big fan of the actor. His CV has far more misses than hits and I never understood why he’s considered a big movie star. Deadpool makes me “get it”. I finally understand why people in Hollywood like him so much. His performance here proves to me he can be great if given the right role and this, Deadpool, was a role he was born to do. His winking while breaking the fourth wall was especially effective.

The movie was also gleefully irrelevant. It doesn’t take itself seriously and it more interested in creating a fun movie. That it does manage. Deadpool is fast, funny, and mercilessly not family-friendly. The encouragement Deadpool gave his Indian taxi-driver was hilarious, totally unkid-friendly and has some of the best scenes in the movie.

Of course, the movie is not perfect. For a movie that’s so wonderfully non-standard, the ending was very much so. A damsel-in-distress, a tortured hero, and a happy ending; been there and done that. It just doesn’t gel with the rest of the movie.

Also, I never felt there was any danger to Deadpool. Ajax and Angel were just not creditable threats to a guy who can regenerate a hand that’s been chopped off. This is one movie that required a bigger badder villain than what was on offer. On the power meter, Ajax and Angel just weren’t on the level of Deadpool and that was a problem.

However, I would still recommend the movie. The movie is a breath of fresh air much like Guardians of the Galaxy, and I think that’s a good thing for the superhero genre. Deadpool is very much a black comedy and one that works. Come on Cable!