Week 48.21: Musings on Misery Men

  • Paraphrasing what I wrote on my NFT page earlier in the week, my sometime dabbling in the Web3 scene as a technology gawker and small-time buyer evolved to a new level this week when I started minting some amateur sketches on OpenSea (as promised back in Week 46.21). Everyone has been really kind and saying nice things about them the whole time, which is sweet but also suspicious.
  • It’s been cool to notice how my own perspective and approach has been changing even within this short period. It began with emotional distance and defensiveness, like “I’ll toss out a few doodles and price them preposterously high for fun, like thousands of dollars, so no one would buy them, and nor would I expect them to.” And then, the more I drew and spent time coming up with new ideas for them, the more I felt like I might as well be doing a better job of it.
  • So my drawings started to improve from the repetition and experimentation, and I began to view it as a learning activity (plus it’s been a lot of fun). I joked that the publication of this collection was me learning to draw in public, in real time, on the blockchain. I can’t delete anything that’s now owned by anyone else (I’ve given a bunch away) and I’ve locked some of the older ones into decentralized storage so they’ll be haunting me eternally.
  • A breakthrough occurred when I drew no. 39 while talking to Rob, intending to make a portrait of him. It was the most detailed one yet with hair partially obscuring the basic head shape; suddenly, I had more freedom. The quality improved from there, and I started doing them in color with skin tones, starting from #49. Looking at the contrast between the first one to the latest, after a week and a half’s worth of self practice, I’m frankly stunned as a person who hasn’t done much drawing in general.
  • The way I see it now, it’s not enough to just throw some stuff on OpenSea for a laugh. Nothing’s stopping me from larping as an artist, so I’m gonna keep on doing these to see where I end up, but until I actually sell one, I can’t say I’ve had the full NFT experience. So I’ve been taking the prices down to try to find a couple of different price points that the market might accept.
  • It was also Black Friday, which I didn’t get too excited about for once. A couple of days prior, I got a little bit of money from an airdrop and couldn’t think of anything I actually wanted to buy for myself. I asked a couple of people what they’d get, and none of the answers gave me any inspiration. Maybe not having any need for retail therapy is a sign of… not needing therapy anymore? In the end, I just ordered some things that were already on my Christmas gift shopping list, renewed my VPN subscription, and downloaded Doom Eternal for the Switch at 60% off.
  • Speaking of the Switch, it’s now also my sole source of exercise via Ring Fit Adventure. At the height of pandemic lockdowns, supplies of this game and its physical accessories were so constrained that scalpers were selling it for nearly S$300. I got mine now for just S$76, and I’m certain it’s better than any gym membership or fitness video. I’ve done two sessions so far and it’s hard work, but doing gamified squats and crunches to battle monsters is a fair bit better than just doing them to bad music or trainers who look better than you ever will.

Week 47.21

  • Went out for coffee and it turned into a night. Ended up with a hangover the next day, a thing which hasn’t happened in a while.
  • Messed up my YouTube feed by watching a couple of new micro-genres: Leica Q2 Monochrom reviews (I won’t buy one, I hope), “Day in the Life” videos of various people in Singapore (enlightening because, well, you just don’t know how others live until you see it), and Chinese street interviews in Tier 2/3 cities designed to teach the language but that are entertaining to me because, well, most of us just don’t know how Chinese people live.
  • Saw No Time To Die, and liked it a lot better than Spectre, although that’s not saying a lot. Like others have already observed, it sends Daniel Craig off while (for the first half) feeling like the first time he’s truly been in a classic Bond outing with glorious globetrotting, stylized set pieces, one-liners, and a new female co-star every 30 minutes. The villain’s entire plot is still nonsense if you think about it afterwards.
  • Got started on Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop series. It’s kinda bad, but works better if you turn on the Japanese soundtrack. The dramatically OTT performances on it better complement the visual and tonal schizophrenia, which attempts exaggerated silliness and deadpan noir almost at the same time.
  • In case you didn’t know, Netflix also has a Japanese audio track for Seinfeld, and it’s surreal to try out. George is played like a timid, wheezing ojisan, and Elaine is a vainsexy mature woman.
  • I also saw the first episode of My Name and it was the rare Korean television show I could watch through without skipping ahead in frustration. It’s not above relying on revenge movie tropes, but moves quickly and the fight choreography is better than Cowboy Bebop’s.
  • Also got back into Animal Crossing New Horizons for the first time in a year — I found a pile of red leaves in my driveway from the last time, and hey it’s fall again now — there’s so much new, while the world feels soothingly familiar. Several friends have said that just hearing the game’s music instantly brings them back into the memory cocoon of playing it in mid-2020 amidst the chaos, and to me it’s an untouchable place we can visit any time. I’m glad so many of us had that one nice thing in common.

===

  • Cleaning up some of my old stuff over at my parents’, I found a couple of things worth keeping.
  • One, a pair of Olympus film cameras that I remember fondly. The XA and XA2 were marvels, much better compact point-and-shoots than anything else you’d find on eBay in the 90s and 2000s. It’s years later now, so I can finally confess that I once won first place in a Lomography photo walk contest using the XA2 instead of an LC-A (mine wasn’t working that day); they are distant cousins, I reasoned. They probably need a good cleaning out and restoration before being used again, but will make nice shelf objects in the meantime.
  • Two, souvenirs from the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka that we visited once, a decade ago. Still in the paper bags and plastic sleeves they came in, these pins, stickers, animation flipbooks, and music boxes may now find a place in our home. A drawer in our home, at least.
  • Three, a slim autographed volume of what I suppose you’d call juvenilia by now-published author Alexandra Kleeman, probably from my university days when I read her blog (technicolor.org) in awe and jealousy. I can’t remember how exactly I came into possession of it; perhaps it was offered in an early homerolled Kickstarter project. Googling its title, Matchbox Gods, turned up exactly zero hits, so I pinged her on Twitter with a photo (I live on it and yet the internet still amazes me) and got a response within the day. She said she only knows of one other person who still has a copy, so I’ll just record this info for future rummagers and closet cleaners coming online to find some context. I have nostalgia for how reading strangers’ blogs used to make us feel like we knew them a little through their thoughts, in a way you don’t get from Instagram or Twitter updates. I hope she’s having a great life.
  • Four, a couple of Game Boy Micros including one commemorative edition in Famicom red and gold. I tossed out many compact digital cameras because their batteries don’t work anymore, can’t be replaced, and their bodies weren’t particularly beautiful and worth keeping. The Game Boys still look great, so those can go somewhere.
  • Threw out all my iPods with some regret. Really anything with a battery that’s sealed or discontinued is pretty much useless today without extraordinary effort, unless used as display pieces. And my iPods were scratched up and haven’t held up, quite frankly. The whole white plastic phase of industrial design will not be looked back upon fondly by anyone. They were objects to be used and enjoyed in their time, but not any longer. AirPods aside, it’s nice to see most of our devices today being made with recyclable and longer-wearing materials that should look better a few decades from now.

Week 46.21

  • We’re about six weeks from Christmas when it feels like it should be six months. This year’s time progression has been slippery; because I had clear point in the middle when I started to take time off work, it feels a little like two years in one, and yet much less. I’ll bet it’s the same for everyone buried under lots of work and not going out enough anyway, because a lack of New Stuff happening each day just makes them go by faster.
  • I read something somewhere about the mental health toll that working from home is taking on people, and of course someone quoted said the lack of human contact was bringing them down. Something in my head said, “well now you know how work felt for everyone who doesn’t love being surrounded by lots of people, but had to do it anyway for all of their lives”, but I’m sure that’s already been said. I land somewhere in the middle: I can do either infinitely and hate them equally.
  • I met Khairul for a coffee earlier in the week, for the first time in maybe a year. He’s been exploring new interests and possible personal projects during his time off. So it was great to talk with someone in virtually the same boat, and we both gave each other some homework to research and think about before the next chat. After that we took a short walk around Chinatown where my first-gen Ricoh GR got some use.
  • Speaking of projects, I was inspired by this Twitter thread of Venkatesh Rao’s wherein he goes down the web3 rabbit hole and ends up minting NFTs out of his old blog/newsletter artwork. What happened with me was initial dismissal, curiosity, then buying a couple of NFTs to see if I was wrong, before moving onto other topics (currently trying to grok DeFi 2.0 bonds) without considering that I could make some NFTs of my own, just for kicks. I hardly have the skills for it, but why should that stop me?
  • So now I think I‘ll do it, starting with a collection of these Misery Man doodles I started drawing by accident a couple of years ago, which became a joke signature/tag of sorts I’d leave on whiteboards around the office. I’ll probably draw a bunch of variations, maybe a hundred, and put them up on OpenSea soon.
Basic Misery Man
  • I spent a little time on Decentraland this week checking out the alternative metaverse. It’s rough by modern game standards, but it’s cool that anyone can create assets and straight plug them into what is essentially an MMO, or sell them on an open marketplace. I wandered downtown and saw buildings that companies had built as shrines to themselves, on plots of virtual land that they’d bought and now hold as NFTs. It’s early days because no one really knows what to do with them. One company recreated their org chart in the lobby as photos on shelves, and if you go upstairs to a cathedral-like space with glass and high ceilings, you can browse their website in a Jumbotron-sized window.
  • Speaking of giant things, KAWS’s Holiday artwork is now in Singapore as part of its world tour, albeit embroiled in some legal mess that means it can’t officially open to the public yet. That said, it’s still up, and it looks great (better?) from afar. I love the idea of a giant character chilling out in different cities, but it loses that magic for me the closer you get. We had the opportunity to visit before it was meant to open, and yeah if there was merch on sale, I’d say definitely go. If you’re just nearby on the Helix Bridge, that works too. I brought my D-Lux 7 out for that. The iPhone is great and all, but as I said to Joseph in a chat yesterday, everything is so crispy and bright and HDR these days, it’s a relief to shoot with a “real” camera based on aging technology now and then.
  • We’re watching Only Murders In The Building, a 10-episode series set in New York, with some strong Manhattan Murder Mystery wannabe vibes. Instead of Woody Allen, Alan Alda, and Diane Keaton, you get Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. And oh, they’re making a podcast of their amateur murder investigation as they go. It doesn’t always feel consistent — there are some admittedly cool ideas choppily shoved in but they mess with the tone and pacing — but I’ll take what I can get because cozy, fun weekend viewing is rare these days.

Week 45.21

  • On Monday we had the day off, so it was off to IKEA for some shopping (reasonably crowded for a weekday) and then the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands (not very crowded) to check out two exhibitions. One was kinda video gamey, curated by Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Lumines and Rez fame, and the other was about Sound: artworks visualizing it, historical inventions, and novel ways of experiencing it.
  • The most powerful bit was probably at the end of the above mentioned Orchestral Maneuvers attraction. 40 loudspeakers, each one playing a discrete recording of a single vocalist, working together to literally surround you with a choral musical work. You know what stereo separation sounds like, and even what spatial audio with Dolby Atmos sounds like, but this was on another level for recorded sound. You could walk around and change the mix, as it were.
  • Thursday was another day off, with the Diwali/Deepavali public holiday here. We didn’t do anything of note apart from going out to eat way too much Chinese hotpot. I still think of our visit to Taiwan just before Covid-19 hit, and how we ate at this Wulao hotpot restaurant multiple times. If there was stomach space left at the end of a night after cocktails, Wulao. No plans for lunch the day after, Wulao. I’d previously never gotten into that sort of food before, so it was making up a lifetime of ignoring hot tofu skin, coagulated duck blood, and other things that don’t sound so nice when typed out.
  • We saw the new Apple TV+ movie, Finch, starring Tom Hanks. Two of the biggest films on the service star the same guy, which is slightly odd. Anyway, I enjoyed it just fine. They also did good work on the CGI because I often forgot that a certain element wasn’t actually there in real life. 3.5 stars.
  • Someone mentioned a mutual acquaintance had gotten a job at Facebook, and a quick look on LinkedIn indicated that they are hiring aggressively for the local office, which led to a discussion (okay maybe more of a rant on my part) about people who make the Faustian bargain of working there. Then I came across this piece in The Atlantic saying perhaps it’s time we regard the company as a hostile foreign power rather than just a corporation. Still, calls like these have been made for years, and I think the simple fact is that Facebook has reached a state of untouchability. Money breaks down enough resistance to ensure that they’ll always be able to hire; hell, we all have a price. I see little hope of them being dismantled by either customer outrage or legal process. We can only hope for an unforced error. May the Meta era push for ecosystem ownership be full of them.
  • Radiohead’s newly rereleased KID A MNESIA albums have been on rotation. It was an amazing period for their music, although I’d still have to give the crown to OK Computer. I remember having a copy of Amnesiac that came in a little red hardcover art book. I wonder where that went.

Week 44.21

  • This is the first post to be late since I started over a year ago. Apologies to myself; I/you were busy all day yesterday on Monday, which I guess I’ll only explain in the next report.
  • Apart from walks around the neighborhood, where I was surprised at my surprise to see a few Halloween-decorated houses because who does that right now + it’s nice that we think we could or should, I went out exactly once this week: to meet Cien for brunch and coffees on a weekday. Doing this after a long time kept in the cubicle cage leads one to wonder, “who are all these other people lounging, chatting, walking dogs in athleisure, looking jobless?” It’s perhaps a process of normalization for the brain; this gestures at ongoing freedom is a legitimate community too, transitory or not.
  • Transitory is probably going to be some dictionary publisher’s Word Of The Year.
  • After lunch, about an hour’s walk in blazing sun and humid air, getting wound around on top of our own footsteps, lost in the Tiong Bahru area while taking photos with my underutilized CL. I shall try to make it something I don’t leave home without these days.
  • I came across this article about the New Balance 990, a classic “dad shoe” the likes of which are now cool on account of looking uncool, I think. Back in the day, they were coveted in some circles for being the high-end of the low at $100, the best shoe that NB knew how to make in the USA, and so a bit better than “premium mediocre” actually; they would have been more comfortable and better-made than most. Well, I’ve recently had to toss out a few pairs of sneakers after wearing them black and broken after many years, so I immediately ordered a fresh pair of these after reading. They arrived in two days from an outlet in Chinatown. They look so dorky but I like them.
  • A cousin’s Chinese wedding dinner over the weekend. The first I’ve attended in Covid times: the rule is now five to a table rather than the customary 10. Where courses would normally be displayed in the center and doled out for sharing, accessible for any who wanted seconds, it’s now individual portions delivered directly. All expected, all logical, an improvement to the experience in many ways, deficit in other intangible ones, hindering interaction and breaking connection with our traditions and past — “that’s just how it’s always been done”, until one day, no longer.
  • As NFT floor prices crashed across OpenSea over the week, I found myself irrationally tempted to buy into some formerly (and really, still) overpriced collections. I had to talk myself down, but I’m glad I managed. Outside of Bitcoin and DeFi, there’s a lot of potential in the so-called crypto space with token-based projects and DAOs, namely new models of ownership and running a business, but this stage looks like pure spaghetti-on-walls and speculation. I accept that it’s part of the process, but I want to fast-forward to the next bit where it happens without so much get-rich-quick motivation. And the less is said about play-to-earn, the better.
  • On Netflix, we’ve been watching El inocente, yet another Harlan Coben TV adaptation. I think this will be the last one because it feels too much like the other we saw a few weeks ago: mechanically reliant on outlandish coincidences and undisclosed (to the viewer only) pasts to provide the twists it thinks are necessary to keep you hooked. Well, maybe they are.

Week 43.21

  • Apple unveiled their long-anticipated MacBook Pro redesign on Tuesday, and for once it wasn’t about thinner and sexier, but thicker and comfier. Pretty sure I saw a joke somewhere along the lines of “who among us isn’t thicker now”. I’m glad to see the reversion to more ports, MagSafe, and an integrated SD card reader, more because it shows the company is still willing to correct mistakes, but don’t actually want or need anything I saw — I’m happy not being a Pro and just puttering around doing casual normie shit on my Air.
  • Some people have waited a long time for the 3rd-generation AirPods, and while I’m a little annoyed the AirPod Pros have now been bested at battery life, not resuming music inappropriately when in a pocket, and charging via MagSafe (unless you buy a pair now and get the updating charging case), I understand they’re on their own development path and will someday get new features. Until then, there are attractive new Beats earbuds coming that look like they’ll fix my continuing fit issues with AirPods.
  • A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Covid cases here went nuclear, reaching up to 2,000/day. Well, in the days since we’ve become numb to numbers of about 3,500/day, and they’re not letting up. The majority of us have been vaccinated, so these cases would mostly be without much consequence (well, who can say? This Swedish report is worrying), but as long as it spreads widely and we have people who won’t get vaccinated, we seem unable to risk opening up further. So the authorities have extended restrictions for another month into November. It’s still dining out and movement for people in groups of two only.
  • I finished Journey Mode in Tetris Effect Connected for Switch, which I wasn’t able to do when I played it on the PS4. Maybe a matter of controllers, or luck. The multiplayer modes are novel, and I love the one where you team up with two other human players online to battle the AI, occasionally joining up your three individual playfields into one super-wide collaborative screen. When you pull off a win, it feels like a moment of miraculous teamwork with strangers; good natured, fun, and communicative.
  • I managed to complete last season’s Battle Pass in Call of Duty: Mobile, but just barely in time. For those who don’t play, that means I spent enough time grinding for in-game currency that I can enter the next season without paying real money. But fatigue is setting in. I don’t think I can do four consecutive tours of duty. Will probably drop out after this new Halloween-themed one is done.
  • Tricky released a new album with some friends under the banner of “Lonely Guest”, which is also the name of the album (Apple Music). It’s very high on my to-do list, but I’ve heard a bit and it doesn’t disappoint.
  • Verve/Impulse Records also released a live performance of A Love Supreme from Seattle, 1965. It’s not really mixed for headphones, sadly, so put this on your HomePod if you’re fortunate enough to have one, as they are STILL NOT AVAILABLE IN SINGAPORE DESPITE THIS WEEK’S ANNOUNCEMENT OF NEW ONES.
iPhone 13 Pro macro photo from a walk this week, film look via the Prequel app