A Korean Odyssey – A Fine K-Drama But …

My wife and I are big fans of Korean TV dramas. A Korean Odyssey is possibly one of the finest out there. I have read the original Chinese version of Journey to the West. I enjoy the familiarities; I enjoy the Korean twists. What puzzles me most is the plot or rather, a special aspect of the plot. What follows would be classified as spoilers. If you intend to watch this TV-series, read no further (but do come back!).

Main characters are Son Oh-gong (the Monkey King) and his love interest Jin Seon-mi (the ‘female’ Buddist Monk). And then there is the Bull Demon King and his love interest Princess Iron Fan. Secretary Ma – a dog demon who is the faithful follower of Demon King. PK is the pig demon who has a rather intimate relationship with Richie – a human turned zombie and then possessed by an ancient priestess. I think PK sees Richie as a sister that he didn’t have while Richie sees PK as a boyfriend she never had.

We also have the previous incarnation of the Buddist Monk (who was actually a guy but did not make a lasting appearance) and his female guardian (who had been wanting to die but couldn’t). Last but not the least and onto the theme of body sharing, we have the siblings Summer Fairy and General Winter sharing a male body. And we have Jade Dragon (a ‘he’) taking possession of the body of Alice who was PK’s love interest.

So, what’s wrong with the script?

As it turns out, almost all female characters in A Korean Odyssey have to die at least once. Here is the breakdown.

  • Richie was murdered in a car accident and was resurrected by Jin Seon-mi or rather Sam-jang’s blood. Technically speaking, her name was Jung Se-ra.
  • Richie the zombie was killed numerous times, though she couldn’t quite die as a zombie.
  • Richie was possessed by a priestess who in the end, being vanquished willingly. That ended Richie the human, Richie the zombie, and Richie the priestess. All dead.
  • Princess Iron Fan – the love interest of Bull Demon King – has died many, many times throughout the cycle of incarnation. Until she has become … flowers.
  • Summer Fairy has to die in order to save General Winter. Technically speaking, she was dead before this story begins.
  • Jade Dragon has also died. Since all along, we the audience see ‘him’ as Alice and it was Alice who died in the show, I take the liberty of increasing the female body count by one.
  • The female guardian of the previous incarnation of Sam-jang has committed suicide using the sword that she killed the previous incarnation of Sam-jang (whom she loved) – the same sword that Son Oh-gong was supposed to use and kill his love interest Jin Seon-mi, which he did …
  • And Jin Seon-mi was killed and went to hell.
  • You could also count Secretary Ma the dog demon’s award-winning death faking scene as one.

The only female character that survives is the grandma of Bull Demon King’s son (and Secretary Ma of course). The rest of the female cast – all wiped.

Movies Lately – I, Tonya and Shape of Water

These days, I sort of dread having to answer how my weekends go. I wish it was something exotic. Like spending a weekend shopping/hiking/adventuring overseas. Or picked up a really cool hobby. Learned something useful.

In reality, I have been so worn out at work that the most satisfying thing to do for me is just to … sleep. Or stay up late catching up on some TV-series with my wife on Netflix. Or wake up slightly early to have a nice brunch somewhere.

My wife and I seldom visit a theater and watch a show these days. Because we have Netflix. And we have YouTube. Not too long ago, one of my wife’s colleagues/friends at work – let’s call her Y – has passed her a pair of tickets. Star Wars The Last Jedi. Y said that her husband has bought the tickets online at a wrong location. And that wrong location happened to be right next to where we live. I told my wife that Y must have wanted to buy us a gift. But my wife did not think that way …

… which is totally fine.

Normally we like to pick seats that are smacked right in the middle of the theater. We would count the rows from the front and the back. And we would count the seats to the left and the right. Right in the middle.

Y bought us lover seats. Lover seats here in Singapore are seats that are combined into one. Just like the ones in the airplane. Some love seat setups would allow the armrest to be lifted. Others may not even come with an armrest.

Lover seats are usually located at the very back of the theater. Why it is so, I would leave it to your imagination. Anyway, it was the first time we have experienced lover seats. And it was a pretty pleasant experience! It wasn’t as far away from the screen as we have imagined. There was no one behind kicking our seats or sticking their shoes right next to our faces. In short, we have started to like the lover seats.

I wanted to watch I, Tonya because I find the Australian actress Margot Robbie very charming. I have been watching her in Jimmy Fallon’s show on YouTube. In addition, my wife loves to watch Figure Skating. So that is perfect. We love the show. I hope Margot would win the Oscar.

I have picked Shape of Water because I like sci-fi. I also like the director Guillermo del Toro. Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favorites. This show also did not disappoint. It reminds me of the video game Bioshock. The sea, the water, the vintage American feel, and the science and magic. I also hope that Shape would win some Oscar.

This pretty much sums up my weekends of late.

Marvel Heroes Omega – The Final Curtain 2017.12.31

This is a transcript for one of my YouTube videos on the final shutdown of Marvel Heroes Omega servers.

Hello Marvel Heroes fan, my name is Wilfrid and I have spent around 4,000 hours playing this game. I have also spent US$660 supporting Marvel Heroes. And once upon a time, I was a one-off game reviewer with Stuff magazine. I have written an article for Marvel Heroes 2015. In it, there was an interview piece with Mr. Brevik, the then-CEO of Gazillion. I have played Marvel Heroes since closed beta back in March 2013.

In the past few weeks after Gazillion has gone silent on their forum and social media, every morning I woke up, I would check my phone and read the news collated by Google based on my browsing preferences. I was expecting some news from Gazillion because they just could not stay silent for that long. I have speculated the various possible outcomes as I have shared with you in one of my recent videos. In the morning of November 17, the news has arrived. And the official statement from Gazillion says:

We’re sad to inform our players and our entire Marvel Heroes family that Marvel Heroes Omega will be shutting down. The Marvel Heroes servers will stay on until Dec 31, 2017, and we’ll be removing real money purchases as soon as possible. Players will be able to play the game entirely for free once this sunset period commences. We will share the exact date things go completely free as soon as we can.

We’ve had the privilege of entertaining and collaborating with our players for over four years. We’re extremely humbled by that privilege and wanted to get this message out: Thank you. Thank you to our players, our tireless employees, and everyone involved in the life of Marvel Heroes, Marvel Heroes 2015, Marvel Heroes 2016, and Marvel Heroes Omega.

In the past 36 hours, many of you contacted me through YouTube, Steam, Blizzard Battle.net chat and the official forum asking how I feel. Shocked, yes. Sad but not unexpected. The feeling is best described by the first thing that came into my mind when I read the news.

It is like this. You used to play with your neighbor’s dog a lot in the past, not because he is the most popular dog in the neighborhood. But rather, you have developed a bond with him that many cannot comprehend.

Not too long ago, the dog has grown sick. You don’t play with him as much, though occasionally you give him a rub on his tummy when you see him. You know dogs don’t live forever but you wouldn’t expect him to be gone anytime soon.

Then one day, you read the news from a vet saying that your neighbor’s dog is terminally ill. He has to be put down by this New Year’s Eve. You are shocked, yes. Sad but not unexpected.

And that was exactly how I felt.

According to Gazillion, from now till the server goes dark, we shall be able to play this game entirely free. I logged into the game late last evening after a long day at work. I scrolled through all the costumes that are now within my grasp and the rest of the team-ups that I now can unlock. That includes all the pay for power items that I now can afford as well. Instead of being happy, I felt even sadder. I looked at my heroes coming alive with voice-over and animation, all I could think of was ‘what it could have been’.

What it could have been had Gazillion not abandoned the PC platform?

What it could have been had Gazillion put the veterans first?

What it could have been had Gazillion listened and worked with us to make this game better?

I am not angry. Instead, I am disappointed with the wasted opportunities. I don’t regret the time and money I have put into the game for vast majority of that investment was made when the game was still fun to play. I don’t regret playing this game for there are many good takeaways.

Fond memories!

My first hero was Ms Marvel. I love her voice acting; I love her sparkling fists; and I love her agility. Besides, she has great legs. I did not know the character. But I read her up after playing this game. In a way, Marvel Heroes the game has over time introduced me into the Marvel Universe.

Fond memories!

I have left the game briefly after its launch. Emma Frost brought me back to this game. She has taught me that it is okay to be a villain turned hero. She has also shown me that it is okay to be naked in a superhero game so long as you look as good as a diamond. And she was totally fun to play, destroying everything that crossed her path.

Still, more fond memories!

I used to have a supergroup called Red Riding Hood with a local presence. They have followed me through World of Warcraft, Firefall, Diablo 3, and Guild Wars 2 – just to name a few. We would organize social outing whenever a Marvel movie hit town. When we met, we would call each other by our favorite in-game superhero names. There was a Dr. Strange and there was an Ironman. My wife was Rocket Raccoon and they just called me Lace since I couldn’t and still can’t decide on which my absolute favorite is. There were others too. And those were the good times. Looking back, everyone except me has left round about the time when Mr. Brevik left Gazillion as the CEO. Deep inside, I feel there is an unspoken connection on Brevik’s departure and the state of the game thereafter.

Motivated by the review piece that I have written for this game by serendipity, I have decided to put up videos on YouTube hoping that more would get to know this game. Back then, there were not a lot of online resources explaining how this game works. So I took the time to figure things out and I shared my findings on YouTube.

Over time, I think I have achieved what I have set out to do and I am blessed to have a passionate and caring community in my channel. Some of you have spoken in the past on how I can do better. And, unlike Gazillion, I have listened. Your support has been the sole motivation for me to continue even when the time is bad. That is another takeaway that I deeply treasure and will deeply treasure in time to come. I have learned so much from you and from this journey.

On a more personal note whereby I am not in the liberty to share the details, this game and the comic book heroes were with me through some of the most trying and difficult time of my work and life in the past couple of years. In my most recent trip to a hospital when someone I love lied on a bed in an operation theater, I drew strength from reading the Inhuman series in the waiting room while the operation went on beyond scheduled end time. A story whereby everyone is unique and abnormality to our eyes is just a feature to the Inhumans. A story whereby triumph shall unfold given time. A story on why sacrifices have to be made. And a story whereby love conquers everything in the end. During those days, I would log into the game and play Black Bolt and Medusa. Through them, I found comfort and inner joy.

The above is just my personal story. I am sure there are plenty that you have experienced in your life, through the comic book heroes and through this game.

What would I do from now till the end of this year? I have planned to continue covering this game till the server goes dark, as I have promised. Perhaps play a different hero each day. I will also continue making videos of different games and genres. I would love to continue our connection here in my YouTube channel. Because we are gamers at heart. Our path will cross.

The transcript of this video can be found in the link at the description below, in case my accent gets in the way. Thank you very much for watching this. My channel will go on. But you have already known that.

May Odin bless you in all that you do. See you!

It’s a Beautiful Sunday

Having a hectic work in the office these days makes me treasure my weekends much more. My wife and I slept late last night catching up on a Japanese drama series on Netflix (Good Morning Call). I slept throughout the night – which is rare nowadays though my Garmin watch says that I had very little deep sleep (and that’s not good). I woke up at nine. Normally I would go back to sleep. Today, I have plans.

My not-too-cheap breakfast

We ran out of milk. Hence we could not make Nespresso in the morning. And hence, a perfect excuse for me to propose having breakfast outside. Besides, in this “early” hour, parking at the mall nearby would be much easier. I have been dreaming about this breakfast outing for months.

The cafe is along Upper Thomson Road called Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters. The coffee is pretty good. Food too. This place is always crowded regardless what time the day it is, for good reasons. Great ambiance. Plenty of sun from the glass panels. A bench full of very high-tech looking coffee and tea making machines. A hip place full of youngsters consuming very expensive food and drink. Among the crowd were my wife and me.

After our breakfast, grocery shopping at the mall where we parked our car was rather stressfree. Except for the unusual long queue at the fish counter. Apparently, well-to-do Singaporeans tend to wake up early on a Sunday and order a whole fresh salmon. One salmon costs around S$100. In front of me, five whole salmons were queued to be cut into filets. I have picked a red snapper and I was told that it would take fifteen minutes for it to be gutted and cleaned.

“Come back later,” said the guy who was handling all the fish orders.

“In that case, could you put some ice on my fish while I wait?” I asked.

In the end, I did not need to wait for fifteen minutes. I stood there and the guy just took my single red snapper and he jumped the queue for me – which totally made sense. In front of me, there were orders like a whole salmon or a plate full of fish. I am just a dude with one fish.

On our way back, I saw some big splash of water hitting my car’s windscreen. I did not pay much attention until when we were home, I saw a huge splash of bird poop on my car’s bonnet.

That was one mother-$%@#-huge bird!

It was great actually. I was looking for an excuse to have the car washed. And since we have spent so much money yesterday ordering food to be home delivered (I did hair henna for my wife – a very proud husband), we did not feel like paying S$8 for a car wash. Besides, I would need to drive out again.

I don’t mind car washing. It can be a rather good workout. And I love the results, always.

The car wash was good. Except, that somewhat spoilt my plan to set up my home music studio because I was exhausted after the car wash.

Time for Intenso on Ice! (Hint: Nespresso).

The biggest white elephant in our home is – actually we may have a few – a Zoom R24 Recorder. It is a multi-track recorder that can be acted as a mixer too. Right before my band No Eye Candy went into hiatus, I bought a Zoom R24 Recorder so as to replace my old USB Mixer. It was meant to be an upgrade because no longer would I need to operate the mixer with the PC (for recording).

Then, our drummer felt in love and has decided to leave Singapore. Our lead guitarist has a baby. That left my wife and me.

Fast forward to today, I have long wanted to set up my home music studio with this “new” toy that is not that new anymore. It took me a while to make it works with my electric guitar (stereo output through my VOX tube guitar effect box) and my mic. My wife has a new bass amp. For now and since I am not recording, I don’t need the bass input. For future though, I ought to think of micing her bass amp with an SM57.

And I have not got an SM57, yet.

PS. I just recall another white elephant in the house – a flat response monitor headset that I have yet to use. I shall start recording … one day.

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Schreier – A Must-Read for Passionate Gamers

As an avid video gamer, this book has been an incredible read from start to finish. It is a collection of stories behind how videos games are made. The author – also the news editor at Kotaku.com where I visit on a daily basis – has interviewed hundreds of people. Some officially. Others unofficially. Some games are triumphant. Others not.

While each video games are created under very different circumstances, there are common themes within. It is art meets science where the scope, timeline, and cost is just as fluid. How much detail should be put into a video game? How large and how many maps should that be? How many times the storyline has to be rewritten? Is the game fun? Can the game afford another delay knowing that the extra time would help with the bug fixing but the company would miss the fiscal year financial target? And etc. Above all, I can feel the passion of the game developers within each game title. The various challenges they face.

This book features 10 games. Some are big-budget titles. One is very much a one-man show. Each has its own distinct ending. It is true blood, sweat, and pixels.

  1. Pillars of Eternity – I have recently discovered that I have a copy in my Steam account!
  2. Unchartered 4 – Heard about it. But I don’t have a next-gen console.
  3. Stardew Valley – Never heard of before reading this game. I have added this to my Steam wishlist.
  4. Diablo III – One of my favorite games of all time. I am still playing it. I have read this chapter twice.
  5. Halo Wars – Heard about it. But I don’t have a XBox.
  6. Dragon Age: Inquisition – I have played Dragon Age: Origin. Love it. But I read that Dragon Age 2 is a disappointment. So I have avoided Inquisition. Or BioWare in general.
  7. Shovel Knight – I have seen it featured in Steam often. Still not really into its concept.
  8. Destiny – Very interesting read. Mainly because I have planned to pre-purchase Destiny 2 (PC).
  9. The Witcher 3 – Also a very interesting read. I have purchased the first two installments but still yet to find the time to play. Who knows? One day I may play The Witcher 3.
  10. Star Wars 1313 – Never heard of. Because it was meant for consoles.

The Game Of Love

You know how it is like when you live through a certain stage of your life or pass a certain age, you don’t experience certain things in life anymore. Like the frustration of finding love, the thrill of falling in love, the insecurity of being in love, the worry of falling out of love, and the heartache and the path of self-destruction in the name of love. Thereafter, the road to recovery, trying so very hard not to think of the one, hardly any effort to forget someone until it has turned into a story of melancholy. You begin to forget the face, the scent, the touch, even the tone of the voice. It is as though all that you have gone through is relegated into nothingness.

So what’s the point?

I guess, it is the love experience and the journey that counts.

So for someone like me who has lived through a certain stage of my life, passed a certain age, I don’t get to experience the game of love anymore.

Except of course, when in a dream.

I had a dream last night. A vivid one. One that I can remember most of the story and especially from beginning to end.

There was this girl. Petit and fair. Not the pretty type. Certainly charming with her eccentric attitude. My dream character (a.k.a me) and she had become close. Since she was popular, she had many admirers. Now, I was rather casual as I did not think I had a shot. She has this aura that made me felt that she was into me. For all I knew, she could have this aura turned on for all the guys around her. Or to the least, the guys she wanted to attract.

We hang out. In parties. And in a casual setting. Most of the time, we were not alone. There were others. But she or rather we often found ways to have moments of light intimacy. Like the brushing of our hands. The occasional locking of eyes. That exchange of a secret smile. At one stage, I vividly remembered that I was in love. I looked forward to seeing her. I felt happy when we were together. Down when we were not.

Somewhere somehow like how most love stories unfold, the relationship had gone down south. Perhaps she was tired of me. Perhaps she was toying with my feeling. I had no idea. It was the classic case of a crash and burn. The sadness was overwhelming. The heartache was so intense that I must have woken up in the middle of the night.

Because there was a cut scene to the time I was supposed to have healed. Years later it must have been. There was this very old car that I drove. The same car that we were used to having when the girl and I were together. In my dream, I have revisited the places we have been to. I must have tried to regain some of the lost memories. No one wants to lose the entire journey experience just because of a bad heartbreak.

It was a school. Perhaps. And I met the new students there. A canteen. A large roundabout at the lobby. It was at night. I observed the sky with the new students. Such peace. The open sky. I could not help but wonder, where was the girl and how had she been? She had faded in my mind, a great deal.

The night was late and I was lying comfortably on a mat with three other students. Two guys and two girls. And we were chatting casually. The girls were in skimpy dresses. All of a sudden, one of the girls had started to … and I gasped …

I guess that was the time when things got erotic in my dream. In real life though, my wife has woken me up asking me what’s for breakfast.

My wife has impeccable timing.

This Year’s Easter Weekend

When people ask me what my plan is for the Easter long weekend, I can’t help but think that they are expecting some sort of exotic answers. Like getting out of town, hiking, movies, parties and more parties. While my wife and I have indeed watched a movie – The Fast and the Furious 8 – as Catholics, we spend time going to Church over the weekend.

Good Friday, it rained heavily. Our car barely made it out of estate when my wife Cynthia cringing in pain. So we made a U-turn and headed back to our condo. I dropped her off at our lobby and drove to Church after knowing that it was not a matter of emergency.

By the time I have reached the Church – pretty early in normal circumstances but Good Friday is by no means normal – it was packed. I managed to find a seat in the front row. This Mass participation was for me and for my wife. I can always pray for my wife too.

Station of the Cross

Easter Sunday, we have made it to the evening Mass. Father Mike was not the celebrant. Another Indian Priest instead. This Priest is good. He speaks with conviction and clarity. During the homily, he spoke of the presence of the Rising Christ. Since almost none of us have met Jesus in real life, it is really all down to faith. Having said that, where can we sense the presence of Jesus?

First is the Bible, which is a no-brainer. Second, is the Communion – one of the reasons why we have to go to Church at least every Sunday. Third, is the community because when two or more gather in His name, He is with us.

In the theme of Easter, the Priest talked about the three P’s too. First is Peace, the single most important tool to counter life’s ongoing challenges. Second, is not punishment – ha! – but power. The power of mercy so as to forgive. Third, is to proclaim Christ.

So there you have it. This is how my wife and I have spent the long weekend. At least the more significant bits.


Different Types Of Friends As You Leave Your Workplace To Another

When you are young in your career, it is easy to make work becomes you. As though consciously or subconsciously, work is the single most important thing in life. Over time, you may find your balance. And recognize that workplace is just an entity. Your boss doesn’t own you a living. Neither do you own him or her your life.

With the amount of time we spend at work, inevitably we make friends. Or at least be friendly to others. We talk about our weekends, our overseas families that visit us, the joy – wedding, childbirth, or promotion – and the sadness – aging parents, a sick child, or health issues. We talk about our “friends” at work. We talk about our “enemies” at work. Enemies become friends (less likely). Friends become enemies (more likely). A workplace can be fun (less likely). Or it can be toxic (more likely). Most of us could probably write a book about work than writing about what happens after work, though I sincerely hope not.

Eventually, one leaves from one workplace to another. This is where I have come to the realization that besides those whom I don’t care about and those who likewise don’t care about me in my day-to-day work and beyond, there are different types of friends as I leave one workplace to another.

Type I. Friends who no longer talk and are turning into strangers.

People can be nice to each other thanks to the work environment. We find topics to talk about that are largely work related. We need each other at work. We have common goals. Outside of this environment, there really isn’t anything worth catching up on. So when separated, there is hardly any reason to be friends.

I suppose most of my colleagues at work would fall under this category.

Type II. Friends who continue talking with me most likely they still need something from me in near future.

While no one is indispensable at work, when one leaves, someone else would need to take over. It is hard to say whether or not that someone would continue befriending me when I am of no value to him or her in near future.

Pessimistically or realistically, type II can become type I. Or it can become type III.

Type III. Friends who become friends for real.

I have worked for more than two decades. I can say with conviction that I do come across people whom I have got to know at a workplace and we keep in touch after we parted. In fact, many of my best friends in life were once upon a time my colleagues.

When you come across type III friends, count your blessing. Hold onto them and stay in touch. Time works both ways. It can grow friendship; it can also kill friendship.

Photographs from Our Holiday in Taipei (2017)

So I did it! I have managed to processed all the photographs taken during our trip to Taipei within three days of return. That is a feat of discipline. I still have years old albums unprocessed, waiting to see the day of light. With more and more different shapes and forms of distraction we have in our daily life, it is getting harder to focus on to something and get it done. This change of mine is so positive that I am feeling the energy. Next, I would like to memorize some quotes from Romeo & Juliet so that I can pen down something artistically intelligent in public without referring to the Internet. It is a long story for another day.

This is me in Shifen, Taipei - a photo taken by my wife Cynthia.

My wife and I have spent six nights in Taipei. We stayed in Mandarin Oriental for three nights. Then we stayed in Our Home 187 in Jiufen for two nights. Finally, stayed in Mandarin Oriental for another night. I brought along my Nikon D700 as well as my two lenses – Nikkor 24-70mm f2.4 and Nikkor 70-200mm f2.4. Pretty heavy stuff but it was worth it. Especially the long lens for photographing the animals in Taipei Zoo. I always love the results from my Nikkor 70-200mm anyway, even for the portrait. Photo albums as follows.

In addition, I have also taken some pictures using my Nexus 5x. The quality is not as good. But at times, the phone camera serves its purpose to add context to short journals. Links to the entries as follows.

A Sense Of Surrealism When Life Seems To Have Bottomed Out

The past one month or so was terrible. Early last month, it was on the 10th when I had planned to spend the Friday shopping for a Valentine’s Day gift for my wife. Something suddenly struck my life’s trajectory like a meteor hits a planet. Instead, I ended up eating one of the saddest lunches ever in a food court at VivoCity and did not have the mood to do anything else. The Vietnam beef noodle was horrible. No spice nor fragrance . Just salt and water with some tasteless slices of overcooked or reheated beef. As for dinner, I thought nothing could go wrong with my comfort food at Asia Square. That burrito was one of the saddest burritos I have ever tasted. The guacamole that was supposed to be inside was unceremoniously squeezed out from the wrap in the process of being wrapped up with the aluminum foil. I really wanted to ask the girl to make another one. Why didn’t I?

Taken from 9th floor of MBFC

Looking back, it has been a really tough year. In fact, this rather challenging time has lasted for a good few years. Issues with my neighbors. Massive lack of sleep. Some really personal matters that are family related. On top of all these, there is work.

Good news is that last Friday something has struck my life like the first cells first created in a barren planet.

Like all things in my life, everything is so last minute but yet the timing is so good. Great stuff. Time to evolve, once again.