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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

An Introduction to Malaysian Reality TV Singing Contests

A few days ago, Suki was just crowned the first ever "One in A Million" champion. I hardly watched the show, the timing didn’t agree with me, but by and large I follow most of the local (and foreign) reality TV singing contests.

But first, some definitions - these shows are really just singing contests, not much different from your school year-end "talentime" contest. But the difference in these so-called "reality shows" is that instead of the just judges scoring the singing, the scoring is entirely (or partly) decided by the viewers – either via call-in votes, the ever popular SMS votes (text messaging) and even online voting. Further to that, some shows (notably Akademi Fantasia) ups the “reality” portion of the show by showing daily footage of the contestants in their everyday lives (they are usually housed together for the duration of their participation) to let the viewers “get to know” the contestants better.

some of these shows prelude the contest proper with footage of the judges touring round the country for open auditions, usually with the editors focusing on the very bad ones (for humor value) and the potentially good ones to balance it out.

It all started with American Idol (AI). That’s not a local production (obviously), it’s the massively popular American edition of the original Pop Idol show from the UK. Astro our local cable broadcaster started showing from the 3rd season in 2004 onwards, the one where Fantasia Barrino won. The subsequent winners were Carrie Underwood (2005) and Taylor Hicks (2006). AI usually starts in January and goes on until May.

So let’s see what we have here:

Malaysian Idol (MI) – this is the local edition of Pop Idol, spawned mainly from the huge success of its American counterpart. By and large, it follows the same format as the worldwide franchise, with Paul Moss, Fauziah Latiff and Roslan Aziz as the resident judges. As successful as it was to attract the best undiscovered talent in the country, the show never really captured the popularity or media frenzy as its main competitor Akademi Fantasia or compared to American Idol. Strangely enough, it only lasted for two seasons. The inaugural champion was seasoned performer Jaclyn Victor, followed by pretty-boy Daniel Lee (who, most people noted, beat the more talented Nita in the final). I feel that MI, in its short run, had a very cosmopolitan appeal in terms of contestants and viewer following, and because of the maturity of the finalist, I felt that the level of talent (subjective as that may be) was the highest overall (although not necessarily with Daniel – my running joke it’s that he brought the series to an end…)

Akademi Fantasia (AF) – the local version of La Academia, has been wildly popular in recent editions, partly due to the massive media advertising and tie-in campaign, and particularly its appeal to both the urban and rural Malay teenagers. There has been 4 editions to date, however in the first year, 2003, it hadn’t really reached it widespread popularity yet (maybe it had something to do with the fact that AI hadn’t been telecast here yet). The first winner was Vince, followed Zahid (2004), Mawi (2005) and Faizal (2006). The biggest contention against this show is that due to its largely schoolgirl following, the male contestants stand a far superior chance of winning the contest, evident when more talented and but less popular singers (especially the girls) were eliminated. It can be said that the importance of the ‘popularity’ element of the show far outweights the 'talent' half of the equilibrium. The second contention is that with the age of the contestants decidedly lower, the talent of the participants are usually said to have not reached their maturity yet. But it is undeniable that in terms of exposure and financial success nationwide, this one comes out tops. Traditionally, the series starts in May right after AI.

One in A Million (OIAM)– the successor to MI. They basically reformatted the whole show, with a myriad of different elimination processes, renamed and rebranded it, recycled Paul Moss and saved a whole of money in franchise licensing fees. There may be other reasons, but I didn’t really follow the series. But the big selling point of the show is that it offers a million ringgit to the winner. The first winner this year is Suki. This being the first year, it was moderately successful, but next year, plus the attraction of the biggest cash prize so far…

Project Superstar – Mandarin version of AI, originating from Singapore. Malaysia just concluded their first season, but since me no speak good Mandarin, so me no really watch so much. But what I do know is that the judges have a say in the voting, and they are usually highly critical of the participants.

(Astro Talent Quest doesn’t count as a reality singing contest because the winner is chosen by the judges, although they have a special prize for viewer’s choice).

Mentor – TV3’s reply to Astro’s AF, but far less popular. Far, far, less. In this show, the judges’ vote constitutes 70% of the scoring. Unsurprisingly, not many people have even heard of this show.

(all images from wikipedia)

[tags]American idol, Malaysian idol, suki, one in a million, akademi fantasia, vince, AF, mawi, Astro, Astro talent quest, mentor, project superstar, pop idol, jac victor, daniel lee, paul moss, roslan aziz, fauziah latiff, fantasia barrino, taylor hicks, carrie underwood[/tags]

Monday, November 20, 2006

My Very First RTS (15 Years Ago): Dune II...!!!

I’ve just got my new PC up and running, so If you see less and less around here, you should know what I’m doing instead of blogging

I’ve played quite a lot of games over the years since the mid-80’s, and I have had lots of favourites, spanning Apple, PC and Playstation (and Gameboy even). These days real time strategy (RTS) games are dime a dozen – you see so many of them at the shops. You have them based in medieval Rome, exploring the New World, outer space (Starcraft!), global domination, almost every thinkable historic or fictional scenario for a RTS, its probably been done before.

Basically, the concept is the same – gather resources (usually involving some environmentally unfriendly activity like chopping down trees and mining gold), build city, then amass bad-ass army, and go and battle. Some games has levels with slight variations, like ‘cross to safety, Hero must survive’ (made famous by Warcraft) and even hold against the zerglings for 15 minutes (ditto by Starcraft)…

The very first RTS I ever played was Dune II, back in the 1993. I think it the very first major one ever released. Before that, strategy games were turn-based, not ‘real-time’ so to speak. It was a bit like playing board games like Risk – everyone waits for one person to finish his turn. I doubt in real life George W. Bush would wait for Osama to ‘finish his turn’ before mobilizing his troops.

The graphics back then were pretty crude by today’s standards, and the level of difficulty was low. The game was loosely based on Frank Herbert series in name only. Here you gather the spice mélange, the primary commodity in the game. Harvesting the spice was super-dangerous, if you weren’t careful, giant worms would come out and swallow your precious equipment.

You had 3 factions to choose from - the noble House of Atreides, the insidious House of Ordos and the evil House of Harkonnen (my favourite). The Atrides have to advantage in the Ornithoper, the fastest craft in the game, and the help of the Fremen, the native warriors that could camouflage themselves. The Ordos were pretty weak (they didn’t exist in Herbert’s books), but they had this annoying gas launcher that could convert your units into theirs (something like the priest in Age of Empires). The Harkonnen were the best – they had long range missiles. Kaboom.

Undoubtedly Dune 2 inspired that other great series, Command & Conquer and it’s many sequels, and ultimately Microsoft’s Age of Empires and of course, Blizzard's super successful Warcraft (and it's many incarnations...)

Some years ago they released an updated version called Dune 2000, although I didn’t get to play it.

Anyone want to recommend a new RTS for me to play? The last one I played was Rise of Nations, I think.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Top Ten Signs You Should Start Updating Your Resume (…and Consider Quitting Your Job)

Another year end. Time to start doing all the work you were supposed to have done in the past 10 months, review coming up... Another year of hoping for a non-existent bonus, another year of promises by the management.

Where's that floppy with your resume, then?

Top Ten Signs You Should Start Updating Your Resume (…and Consider Quitting Your Job)

  • Every morning, in order to get into your office, you have to dodge the chettiars and money collector thugs banging down the front door looking for your boss.

  • Company has reported a RM4million pre-tax loss for the 3rd consecutive, while all your boss has just upgraded his brand new Lexus Harrier to the an even newer E-Class Merc.

  • Every Friday evening after work, instead of having drinks together at the pub, the company accountants spend the whole night shredding documents. They call it a ‘good housekeeping practice’.

  • Analysts have downgraded your company’s stock from a call of 'hold' to 'sell' to 'sell immediately' to "OMG, get the hell out NOW".

  • You joined the company 5 months ago as a junior exec. Yesterday they just promoted you to the CFO – the 7th one in the company this year.

  • Every time you ask your Financial Controller "How’s the SC investigation coming along?" he inadvertently runs off and curls under his desk in a foetal position, bawling "I don’t know anything about it…!" like a baby.

  • One fine day, while reading in the toilet, you realize that your company’s business plan, mission statement, 5-year strategy and SOP were all copied entirely from old [tag]Dilbert [/tag]comic strips.

  • The last time you’re the server crashed, the office computer guy valiantly saved all the data – after getting serious help from the tea lady, the garbage collector and an imaginary friend called 'Skippy'.

  • In order to get past the first round of interview of this job, your GM required you to beat him at online Texas Hold 'Em.

  • At the [tag]Google[/tag] and [tag]Microsoft[/tag] offices, they have machines dispensing free soft drinks and candy for the staff. Your office has vending machines dispensing [tag]Prozac[/tag], Maalox and legalized weed.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Some Lines That Probably WON'T Appear in the New Harry Potter Book

You know what? In a few months time, the whole world is going to go crazy with Harry Potter mania. Already now, J.K. Rowling's hype machine is in full swing, gearing up for the release of the last (or so she says) book in the HP series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Although i've read all the books so far, i'm not particularly a fan, more of just to see 'what all the fuss is about'.

Everyone's curious as to who are the main characters that Rowling will kill off and what will happened to Harry.

But I know some things for sure. The following passages WILL DEFINITELY NOT be appearing in the new book.


"Really?" said the new first year Hogwarts student to Harry Potter. "You don't look like a 17-year old wizard. More like a 18-year old child actor who once posed topless for Equus. But that’s just me..."


Hermione burst into Harry's room in the Gryffindor dorm and her jaw nearly hit the floor when they she what greeted her. It was Harry's shocked eyes that first greeted hers. "I wanted to tell you all along… it's not what you think!"

"How could you not tell us?!" Hermione screamed, close to tears. "You? And Ron?! Oh put down the baby oil, for Merlin's sake."


"I don't know," replied Harry, as he looked up to Ron and Hermione from his Defence Against Dark Arts textbook. "Yesterday, during Quidditch practice, for no apparent reason, I was overcome by this overwhelming feeling that millions of book-buying muggles out there was getting pretty sick of me. All of a sudden. What do you guys make of that?"

"Oh don't worry, Harry. It’s probably just the euphoria of being the most popular kid in Hogwarts," replied Hermione. As she turned away from Harry, he was puzzled to spy her roll her eyes at Ron.


"Oh come now, Harry. Why bother with the other players in Quidditch? It's just buggery waste of time, innit? It doesn’t matter how hard we play or how many we score. Just wait for the Golden Snitch while we all go for some tea in the dining hall."


The crowd of students in the Great Hall hushed down and focused on Professor McGonagall who was getting up from her seat. "Thank you for your attention, students. I'd like you all to meet two gentlemen who will be with us for a few days," she said, gesturing to the two strangers with unkempt facial hair and strange spectacles. The acting principal continued, "They will be carrying out some research of their own, so please give them your fullest cooperation.”

The two gentlemen grinned back at Professor McGonagall. The first one nudged the other and whispered, "This is going to be our best experiment on Mythbusters yet…"


Voldermort turned to Harry slowly, and with a slow deep dying breath, said, “"Dumbledore has taught you well, but Harry, I AM YOUR FATHER…"


Snape was white with anger, and he raised his arms theatrically… "Oh for crying out loud, not the freaking Invisibility Cloak again?! How many times are you going to use that freaking cop-out plot device? The next thing you’ll be telling me there’s another 3 books to follow! Or a prequel!"

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