From a Hong Kong-style cafe we had a late dinner at tonight. It’s been awhile since I made myself a peanut butter sandwich, and I’ve never plastered on as much as they did here. It makes for a saturated taste sensation, like melting a block of great chocolate in your mouth after a glass of whisky, except this probably had a thousand calories from being finished with lashings of condensed milk. It was like a post-apocalyptic PB landscape turned into a nutty archipelago by tidal waves of artery-clogging dairy effluence. I say that now, as I sit here with heartburn and the weight of a distended belly on my lap, but it was really good at the time.
The Kinokuniya chain of Japanese bookstores seems to have commissioned its own line of Moleskine notebooks. They carry more of those things than any other store in Singapore that I’ve seen, from the graphed sketchbooks to weekly planners. Lots of little things get on my nerves – I’ve just come to accept that this is how my life is much harder than yours – and people pronouncing the name “mohl-skin” is one of them. I don’t even like the damned things. They are the notebook equivalent of Lomo cameras, or tall burgers. The lines often aren’t drawn evenly from top to bottom (a defect that also plagues paper products from the “Prints” chain of stores in Singapore, despite their ridiculously high prices), the covers aren’t even leather (just saying, because many people seem to think they are), and the vertical elastic band isn’t as useful as, say, Ciak’s horizontal bands that can hold pens. I really miss having an Ordning & Reda store here. Those were expensive notebooks that at least came close to justifying their prices.
Earlier today I posted a link to a New Yorker article by Sasha Frere-Jones over at Blast!, where he talks about his considerable affection for the FM3 Buddha Machine – colorful plastic modern musicboxes, decidedly low-tech and appropriately straight out of China, where their musician/makers are based.
The devices use 2 AA batteries and feature creaky, distortion-prone plastic bodies and cheap speakers, but tend to retail for many times more than what you’d imagine they cost to make. Their designs are reminiscent of little FM radios I coveted as a child, except these only play back nine looping audio tracks of under a minute each. Recently, an iPhone app has become available, bringing the cost of sorta-owning a Buddha Machine down to between SGD$3 and $8 (depending on whether a sale is on). If you want a hi-fi, free, but sadly Buddha-Machineless experience, the soundfiles are available for download at the official site.
While you’ll do just fine with one, as I did for awhile before receiving another as a gift, there’s a lot of fun in getting several to play off each other. In Frere-Jones’ interview with one of the creators, there’s mention of several hour-long “performances” in underground Chinese clubs, where audience members take turns to adjust the settings on their way to the bar. I just bought the iPhone app tonight and listened to the three of them droning on for… I don’t know how long. Both my physical boxes are Version 1.0 models; later Version 2.0 models played nine totally different tracks. The iPhone app contains all 18 sounds.
Here’s a video I took, although the sound isn’t great. Let’s see if my new Posterous account can handle this.