Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Please Don't Tell My Parents I've Got Henchmen by Richard Roberts

Anyone who has been reading my blog knows I’m a big fan of Richard Roberts’ “Please Don't Tell My Parents” books. “Please Don't Tell My Parents I've Got Henchmen” is the third book of the series and after reading it, I must say I like the new direction Roberts is taking the series.

At the end of the second book (“Please Don't Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon”), Penny Akk (still determined to be a superhero) decided that the best way to be recognized as a superhero was to have a second super identity outside supervillain Bad Penny. A challenge from a schoolmate gave her that chance but after a public fight at a school football match, Penny’s parents shut down her superhero career before it could begin.

However all is not lost because the public superpowered fight encouraged more of her schoolmates to come out in the open with their powers. As it had been hinted before, a lot of kids at the school have powers and as they joined Penny’s official superpower school club, Penny became de facto leader of them. The school even roped in retired supervillain, Bull, as an advisor.

Unlike the first two books, “Please Don't Tell My Parents I've Got Henchmen” is more of a coming-of-age story and you know what; I dig it. The members of The Inscrutable Machine are growing up and Roberts isn’t afraid to show it in this book. Ray is thinking of leaving L.A; Claire is thinking of a solo career as a cat burglar; Penny actually starts the book as a solo superhero. Kids grow up and when they do, they drifted apart. It would have been easy for Roberts to just continue their adventures as a group, but credit to him for not taking the easy way out.

The story has morphed from the misadventures of a trio of 13 year old kids to a story of these same kids grappling with the future, sometimes to their own surprise. Penny found out she don’t really like being a leader with underlings. She could do the job but would much rather spent the time she has toying with her inventions and hanging out with her friends. Claire understood her best friend would rather be a hero, so she’s considering how she could make it as a solo villain (I don’t see why she can’t hire henchmen. With her money and powers, controlling henchmen should be a breeze).

Ray even has two potential careers outside the normal superhero/supervillain routes lined up once school is done. This is a bit of world-building from the writer who built a world where superpowers are if not normal, at least not rare, so it make sense there are careers out there for superpowered people who do not want to fight.

Character growth seems to be the name of the game in this book, and not just for the main characters. The side characters also got their moment in the sun. Claudia reconciled with her father, Bull, and is seriously considering ending her superhero career as Generic Girl. Marcia actually stole items from both heroes and villains to gain superpowers, and became friendlier with Penny because of it. Bull retired and became a superpower mentor at school. Several new side characters were introduced in this book and most of them also grew in personality and power throughout the course of the book. At the start of the book, Beaddown was certain her powers were useless for combat but at the end, she was one of the most powerful kids with a versatile power setup. My personal favourite was Charlie who went from joke of the school to someone who could make it.

I also like the fact that sometimes the superpowers give as much problems as benefits.  Gathering Shadows has superhero parents that believe her power set are not suitable to being a hero and Marcia’s new powers makes her crazy. It’s not always roses when you have a superpower and that’s how it should be.

Having said all that, I can understand why some fans did not like this book. It’s honestly a different kind of book from the first two. “Please Don't Tell My Parents I've Got Henchmen” is more sedate and lack the energy of the first two books. In some ways, this is understandable. Put together, the first two book took place within 2 months. The timeline of this book is about half a year. It’s much slower paced than the earlier two books.

Also, there’s not much of The Inscrutable Machine being together. Again, this is due to the structure of the book which has Penny, Claire and Ray doing their own thing most of the time. Sure, they are together in school; Penelope and Ray get on with their relationship on; and Penny and Claire went on a heist; but there’s little action with all 3 of them together. Like I said earlier, sometimes growing up means drifting apart.

Overall, I have to say this was an excellent book. It doesn’t clear the high bar set by “Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain”, but I have to rate it as better than “Please Don't Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon”. Just be warned; it’s not the same book as the first two. “Please Don't Tell My Parents” is a coming-of-age story, not an action-adventure story. Personally, I liked it. Bring on Book 4, “Please Don't Tell My Parents I Have a Nemesis”.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Zika In Singapore

When the Zika virus first became a huge problem in Brazil, it seems so far away. Well, no longer because there is now 41 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Singapore. None of the infected people are known to have travelled to Zika-affected areas, which mean that the transmission occurred locally.

Thus far, all of the infected people are in the Aljunied Crescent and Sims Drive area but considered how pack Singapore is, there’s almost no doubt that will change in the coming days. The good news is that 34 of the 41 infected people had recovered and there are no reports of any of the infected being pregnant.

However with no cure of the virus in sight, chances are the Zika virus is here to stay in Singapore. Let’s just hope they find a cure or a vaccine quickly. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Haze Is Back

Our old friend, The Haze, is back. After all the talk about heavy fines issued to companies involved in the burning of the forests in Indonesia, today Singaporeans woke up to the haze as usual.

According to the website of the National Environment Agency, the 3-hour PSI level for Singapore stood at 168 as of 12pm today. Honestly, I think that's downplaying it because the haze was truly bad this morning.  

Oh well, time to bring out the masks again.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Comics this week

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #10- It’s an indication of Ms. Marvel’s popularity that she is now guest-starring in other comics. It’s kind of weird as Kamala is herself a new hero but strangely, it works! Both Kamala and Lunella are young female heroes who are also Inhumans; it makes sense that they have contact with each other. The simple way writer Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare worked in Ms. Marvel is very effective and made this filler-issue a lot better than it should have been.

Rai #16- After all the twist and turns in the series, I almost forgotten how it how started. Writer Matt Kindt did not! With the 4001 New Japan event ongoing, Rai has been a series undergoing some changes but Kindt has managed to close the arc in a satisfying way that remind readers how it all started. The only problem I see is that you really need to be reading from the very start to fully understand just how good this issue is. Luckily for me, I've been reading since the beginning so this issue is GREAT!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dial It Back

Okay Singapore, it's time to dial it back. I know Joseph Schooling is Singapore’s Golden Boy after winning Singapore's first Olympic gold medal but this is getting out of hand! Today, the Singapore New Paper state that Joseph Schooling, Usain Bolt, and Michael Phelps as the three leading lights of the Rio Olympics. 

I'm sorry but "No"! 

As great as Schooling's gold medal win is, he's not in the same class as Bolt and Phelps. Come on, Phelps has 23 gold medals; Bolt has 9; Schooling got 1. Hell, Schooling is not on the same planet as Bolt and Phelps! My fellow Singaporeans; it's pretty fine to be proud of Joseph Schooling's achievement but let's not go too overboard here. Dial it back. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Scare At The National Day Rally

The National Day Rally is usually a sedated boring affair here in Singapore. The Prime Minister (PM) would go up on stage and deliver a long televised speech that most Singaporeans would not remember in a week’s time.

Not so this year!

Yesterday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong caused a scare when he fainted briefly while delivering the National Day Rally. More than two hours into his speech, the 64-year-old cancer survivor suddenly stopped speaking and had to be helped off the stage. An hour and 20 minutes later, he returned to complete the speech. Aides blamed fatigue and dehydration and many Singaporeans has send in well-wishes to the PM.

Thus far, there’s nothing to indicate this is anything serious and chances are, even if it is, the Singapore government-owned Strait Times probably won’t be telling. After all, how many of us know of Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s problems before he collapsed from a stroke during a cabinet meeting in May?

The unfortunate incident yesterday however has shone a spotlight on the succession issue. Is there anyone who can take over from PM Lee? Currently, it’s not a big issue as the PM is still going strong but it’s food for thought. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Politics Rule In the IAAF

The Rio Olympics athletics program was already in the dumps with the strange case of the Russian athletics team being thrown out, but the case of the United States' 4x100m women's relay team has just made athletics a total joke.

The American team just won their solo race against the clock to book their place in the Olympic 4x100m women's relay final, even though they dropped the baton in the heats. In their appeal, the Americans say the dropped baton exchange between Allyson Felix and English Gardner was due to a knock from Brazilian runner Kauiza Venancio. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) agreed. They disqualified Brazil, who did not make the finals, but ruled that the Americans must run again, in a highly unusual solo flying lap, to beat China's eighth fastest qualifying time of 42.70sec. The Americans did and the IAAF dismissed the expected Chinese protest.

Question; does this means that every time someone is knocked off-stride, the IAAF will grant a re-run? Runners get knocked by other runners all the time. In distance running, it's almost an accepted fact. Even in short distance, it has happened before. In 2011, Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang was blocked by another athlete. No re-run then. Hell, the Rio Olympic flame was lit by marathon runner Vanderlei de Lima who was attacked by a crazed spectator while leading the marathon in the 2004 Summer Olympics. Any re-run then?

So why is there one now? That is just stupid! If the Americans were knocked by a Chinese runner and the Chinese team went through, I can understand the decision but that's clearly not the case here. Unless someone is saying the Brazilian team knocked the American team on purpose on behalf of the Chinese, this decision make no sense whatsoever.

But then again this is the IAAF and as shown in the Russian case, it is a place where politics rule all!  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Comics this week

Justice League #3- Now we are finally getting somewhere! "The Extinction Machine" story has been mostly disappointing but writer Bryan Hitch may be aiming for a bait-and-switch here as he is dropping hints that the Awakened might not be the bad guys here. The fact that they do look a little like Dr. Manhattan...is icing on the cake. Not the greatest but hinting at the resolution of some of the mysteries is a good step in the right direction.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Joseph Schooling's Deferment

Last week, Joseph Schooling won Singapore’s first Olympic gold medal. After the historic Olympic gold medal win, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) made the right decision to defer Schooling's national service (NS) so that his training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will not be disrupted.

I'm fully in favor of the deferment, but I have to ask this; why only him?

Singapore sent many athletes and the issue of NS has been a bugbear to all the male Singaporean athletes. Schooling won the gold and got his deferment, but he should not be the only one to get it. There's a lot of budding male athletes in Singapore whose sporting development are derailed by NS. Surely MINDEF cannot expect all of them to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games before granting their deferment. 

That's just silly. I think MINDEF should grant more deferment to male athletes. If they do that, then who knows...we might not need to wait another 50+ years before we get Singapore's second male athlete to get a gold in the Olympics.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Welcome Home!!!

Yesterday, the United States of America got its 1,000th gold medal at the Rio Olympics. While you have to congratulate the U.S for their achievement, no one in Singapore care about that. In fact, all our eyes will be at Changi Airport because today, Singapore's very own Joseph Isaac Schooling is coming back home.

Joseph Schooling is Singapore's golden boy because he just got Singapore's very first Olympic gold medal! I must admit; I had my doubts. I mean he sacrifice his entire Olympic program just for his pet event, the 200m fly. And he still need to beat Michael Phelps to win!

Amazingly, he did it. He’s done Singapore proud and is coming home with an Olympic gold medal around his neck. Congratulations Joseph Schooling and welcome home! 

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Pokemon Go Job Opening

I thought it was a joke. When reports came out yesterday that a company, Funzing Singapore, had advertised for the job of a Pokemon Master on its Facebook page, I seriously thought the company was joking.

If it was, it’s a joke a lot of people are taking seriously. The company has been swamped with more than 1,000 applications from all around the world for the job. People from Singapore, Indonesia, The Philippines, Israel, Turkey, Sweden and Brazil had applied for the job which according to Funzing Singapore will involve organizing activities around the game like Pokemon Hunts or Pokemon Walking Tours. The “Master” is also supposed to give tips and bring players to “the next level” of Pokemon Go.

Of course I have to question how that’s possible when the game had only been out for a month worldwide and in Singapore for only a week. Then again it’s a job to play a game, so what’s there not to like? Too bad my HP can’t play the game… 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Comics this week

Birthright #18- I had said before that Birthright is an ambitious project. I had also said before that at times, writer Joshua Williamson took on too much. This issue unfortunately was one of those issues. It's the Rhodes family versus the world and while there’s nothing wrong with the plot, there was too much going on. The story went on 3 threads which meant that there was no space to do each of them justice. I for one would love to see more of the action between the 2 mages. Too bad!

Superwoman #1 – Written and drawn by Phil Jimenez, it is clear to me this is a passion project for Jimenez. From start to finish, this issue has a story that will draw you in even if you, like me, do not read the Superman series. Between good banter among the main characters, plenty of action, a few genuine surprises and some wink, wink to the past history of Lois Lane and Lana Lane; this issue is everything a debut issue should be. Buy it! 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Comics this week

Justice League #2- I will say this; Artist Sandu Florea knows how to draw the Justice League! The art in this issue is really good and goes a long way in making up for the story. Writer Bryan Hitch is clearly going for the long game, setting things up so that the team could face a threat that feels genuinely big enough for a team like the Justice League. It’s strange to have a setup issue in just #2 but luckily for Hitch, he has Florea. Not great, but a good issue nevertheless.

Moon Knight #5- After Warren Ellis’ run, I thought it would be very difficult for his successor to top him. With the end of the arc, I can safely say this; I was wrong! If you don’t believe me, then buy this issue. Writer Jeff Lemire and artist Greg Smallwood has put together a gem of an issue that not only great, but did something I didn’t expect; it continue the story from Ellis’ run! I think a lot of fans missed this but if you remember how Ellis’ Moon Knight series ended and read this after that…it make a lot of sense. Lemire knows what he is doing and this book reached dizzying heights that I would be shocked if anyone could top. So once again; BUY THIS ISSUE! 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pokemon Go Player Finds A Body...In Singapore

Okay, that didn't take long. Pokemon Go was just released in Singapore on Saturday and on Sunday morning, a Pokemon GO player is already in the news. According to reports, Azmi Suarez discovered a body floating near the Woodlands Waterfront Jetty while out playing the mobile game on Sunday (7 August) morning. 

Much like the case in America where a female teenager found a dead body while hunting Pokemon, this was what player Azmi Suarez was doing when he found a female body. The Singapore Police has classified this case as "unnatural case" which in Singapore means the woman could have been murdered. With the game requiring players to go to far out places, I think it's safe to say it is going to be harder and harder for murderers to hide dead bodies in the future. 

All jokes aside, I do hope the Singapore Police find the murderer. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Crazy Expectations

As the third film in the DC-Warner Bros movie franchise, there’s a lot riding on Suicide Squad. It's box office expectations are high, and after the US$800million+ haul of Batman vs Superman, I can understand why. Having said that, I sometimes wonder what world Hollywood is in?

According to reports, it took US$175million to make the movie. It took them another US$100million to market it. That’s US$275million in total. Let’s put it at US$300million. So it took Warner Bros US$300million to make the movie, yet those same reports state the movie would NOT be considered a success unless it make back between US$750-US$850million.

What? A movie need to make half a billion dollars in profit to be a success? Mind you, this is not US$500million in box office receipt (which would be profitable) but US$500million in profit! Either Warner Bros are really confident in the movie or the executives there are delusional; maybe both! 

I intend to see the movie to find out which is it.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

SAO Live-Action TV

Sword Art Online! Also known as SAO, it is a franchise in Japan similar to Harry Potter and like Harry Potter, it is a franchise with its foot in various media. Starting out as a series of books, it became an anime, anime movies, manga, video games, and now…a live-action television series!

What’s more is that it is going to be an American TV series!

American independent production company Skydance Television just announced it got the global live-action television rights for the SAO and is now planning to launch of a live-action television series based on the main SAO story. Usually, plans like these die in development hell but it seems Skydance is on the fast-track, especially if the upcoming live-action movies of Alita: Battle Angel and Ghost in the Shell are successful.

Honestly, I’m kind of surprised at this news. A live-action television series based on a Japanese franchise that is about a group of gamers trapped in a virtual-reality, massively multi-player online (MMO) world where they can died for real? Sounds like a stretch, but I hope they can do it and make it a success. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Not A Book?

Now, I'm not a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. I've seen all the movies and read most of the books, minus the last two which I heard were bad, but I can't say I'm a fan.

So maybe that's why I wasn't one of the thousands of people who queued up overnight at bookshops all around the world to get their hands on the latest Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Written by Jack Thorne and approved by JK Rowling, the book on Harry and Draco Malfoy's sons, Albus and Scorpius. Reviews have largely been negative with most saying the script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was incomplete without seeing the show.

Wait what? What show? Upon research, I discovered Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is not really a book! It is in fact the script of a hit West End play. The show only opened last week and the book was published to allow the play to reach a wider global audience of fans. Aka, it's a cash-grab. 

I must say I am shocked by this. Everything I heard about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child called it a "book", not a script and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in thinking this. Man, I only hope the fans who queued overnight knew what they were getting.