Week 11.23

  • Do you remember Paper by fiftythree, the sketching app that was at one point the very best digital ink engine on iPad? Actually, it kinda still is. I recently decided to use it again because Apple Notes and Freeform have really ugly lines, and Procreate is overkill for anything besides making art. I subscribed to Paper Pro (a very reasonable S$13/yr) which finally lets me sync my skeuomorphic notebooks across devices. I used to sketch scenes and take silly notes on vacations with it, and I’m doing it again now on my iPhone. Paper’s focused simplicity and lovely UI makes it possible, and enjoyable.
  • Someone remarked that maybe travel brings out the artist in me, to which I replied no, it’s probably more like “not working” makes me happier and more creative?
  • On the eve of our journey I was playing with the new v5 model in Midjourney (it’s incredible at photorealism) and had the idea of rendering soldiers jumping away from dramatic explosions, but the explosions are ramen. The final images reminded me of the award-baiting print campaigns I saw in my early career as a copywriter. It used to cost thousands of dollars and weeks of several creatives’ time to plan, photograph, and digitally edit these scenes. But here I was lying in bed with the idea of turning them into Pot Noodle ads, and would you know it? I was able to make every word and misaligned pixel of these on my phone in a matter of minutes. The world has changed so much.
  • We’re in Japan!
  • We got on the wrong train from the airport which cost us maybe an extra 15 minutes, and it was after midnight by the time we checked into the hotel. But on the street nearby, a cheap ramen restaurant open 24 hours on weekends. A bowl of tonkotsu ramen, a side of fried rice, and a mug of Kirin beer for S$10 — unbelievable value partly thanks to the depreciating yen 🥲
  • The next day was cold and rainy, and I met Michael for a coffee and long chat — our second ever meeting, and the first in eight whole years. 2015 oddly doesn’t seem that long ago. I think the cafe overcharged us. But at least we remembered to take a photo this time.
  • Maybe due to the lack of sleep, change of climate, and sudden increase in daily steps, my body rebelled in the evening with a fever that had me shivering under the covers. Obviously I was afraid it was Covid. I woke up feeling much better the next morning apart from a backache, so perhaps it’s just a mild flu. The Covid test came out negative, so I dragged myself out to visit Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara for old times’ sake and see what was new.
  • The camera section has shrunk down to half its former size, if not more. Side note: the Bic Camera in Ikebukuro has about eight floors of stuff, and no cameras. The Ricoh GR display in Yodobashi is about two feet wide, in their home country. The industry really looks to be in a sad state. And yet, several crowded shops devoted to old and analog cameras exist.
  • I had lunch at Coco Ichibanya and it was very good. How the Singaporean franchisee has managed to hold onto their business is astounding — they do such a bad job of it. One thing that’s changed is touchscreen ordering at each table. That, and plastic dividers between each patron, seem to be Covid-era innovations that have also made Japan more tourist friendly.
  • It’s only been a couple of days but something feels different about this visit. Maybe I prepared myself too well for never traveling again under Covid and now this feels like being woken in the middle of the night, disoriented. Maybe I no longer fantasize about moving out here and living a sleepwalking, alien life. Or maybe it’s the fact that many of the things I used to enjoy seeing and buying in Japan can now be found back home (more expensively, of course), or aren’t actually desirable anymore. Case in point: I saved at least an hour today bypassing the hundreds of headphones in electronic stores because between the AirPods Pro and Max, I don’t really need other headphones. Over the past ten years, the things I get excited about have dwindled and become software. Dedicated hardware toys like music instruments and Boogie Boards are just apps or features on an iPhone. They may still sell CDs here but I just stream the songs. Japanese games are plentiful (check out the Nintendo Switch aisles), but I can’t read them so… maybe in the next life. On one hand, less stuff and a neater, more minimal life. On the other, less shopping, silly delight, and souvenirs.

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