Week 21.22

The week started with a public holiday (Vesak Day), which I spent having coffee with Peishan and Cien at the National Gallery. We ended up not having any time to see the exhibits. Mid-week, I joined Howard and Hunn at a random crypto meetup in town that one of them had heard about. We didn’t last long there, but ended up drinking at a cocktail bar in Golden Mile Complex for the next four or five hours. I will probably develop Covid in the coming week, let’s see.


Out of nowhere, I decided to start making a new series of abstract paintings/drawings/doodles that I’m calling Subconscious Heirlooms. Drawing them has somehow been very satisfying, and they’ve consumed most of my free time in the past few days.

So far I’ve done 30, some more awful than others, but I want to keep them in series where you can see progression in the process. Taken together with last week’s greater-than-zero creative output, I can only interpret this productive surge as my right brain’s last gasp of protest before returning to regular employment, a “please, can’t you see what we could be?” Hail Mary plea for me to continue being unemployed and free each afternoon to create whatever nonsense strikes me. Well, if you want to support this mission, you can buy one of these as an NFT on OpenSea! Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Here’s the official description/museum wall text:

Endless images lie dormant in our minds — generational lessons encoded in DNA; disassembled dreams; reflections on a lifetime of inaccessible memories. Subconscious Heirlooms is one attempt to surface a small collection of primal forms and concretize them for future generations.

Recursively inspired by automatic drawing and generative art, each piece is made without intentional direction, using a small but continually expanding vocabulary of elements that occur, repeat, and evolve freely over the creative process. Some may cause you to feel a sudden and inexplicable affinity, affirming the connectedness of our lived experiences.


Media activity:

  • Finished reading Daniel Suarez’s Delta-V, and just so you know going in, it’s going to be a series. It also feels like it was written for a film or TV adaptation, which is a feeling I also have with Blake Crouch’s books. It’s fine, anyway, and is a bit of The Martian meets Armageddon with a little more paranoid drama. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the asshole billionaire role would definitely be best played by Jared Leto.
  • Just for maximum memory cross-talk, I immediately started on Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves next, which is also set in space, with another version of the ISS and another band of doomed adventurers, and I’m already getting a little mixed up.
  • I decided to see the Uncharted film, having played all the games. The casting is all wrong for sure, but once you get past that… it’s still a pretty bad movie. The first half works quite well, following the infallible Indiana Tomb Raider formula of ancient clues, exotic locales, and parkour. But by the end, I was on my phone and rolling my eyes at improbable set pieces that would look ridiculous even in a game.
  • How do you follow that? I asked my Instagram followers to vote between Morbius (Jared Leto in a role nobody asked for) and Memory (Liam Neeson in a role he’s done 1000x before). People are sickos, and 100% of people voted for Morbius, so I put it on… and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected. There’s a good film in there somewhere underneath, most of it probably on the cutting room floor (isn’t that a weird saying to still be using? Should we say “still in the Final Cut project library?”). I’ll venture that it’s a better film than Uncharted, but being able to waste time on both of them was a luxury.

Week 20.22

A week of calamity for many participants in le monde de la cryptographie, as the Terra project unraveled at shocking speed, its two main tokens shedding over 99% of their value in a couple of days. I’m told that other tokens and the entire stock market also had a bad time, but I hardly noticed tbh. Everything looks good next to a raging gasoline fire.

I try not to mention (and certainly not encourage) any proper crypto stuff here, apart from talking about the technology or artistic merits of some NFTs, and this is why. Many people lost life-changing amounts of money this week, and some apparently took their own lives too. A couple of friends checked in to ask if I was affected and if I was okay, which was honestly sweet and appreciated. In short, I am/will be okay. I would be even better had I followed some basic risk management rules I knew well enough but chose to ignore. 🤷‍♂️

While on the subject… I discovered a bunch of new enefftee art of merit, that made me feel the urge to buy despite the screams, cries of doom, it’s-all-overs, etc. all around. Vice Motherboard reported that Neal Stephenson himself has purchased his first NFTs, which felt like a momentous occasion in SF history. He’s made interesting picks, with the series I liked best being Neophyte MMXXII by Sterling Crispin, which renders living simulations of plant growth in each artwork (disclosure: one now resides in my wallet too). I decided to send the VR-themed Misery Man #61 as an unsolicited gift to his address. As much as I’m fond of that one, if anyone deserves it, it’s surely the man who coined the term “metaverse”.

I also found myself attracted to Memories of Qilin by Emily Xie, which are generative paintings inspired by East Asian art. Both of the above are collections curated by Artblocks, the same platform that launched Fidenza by Tyler Hobbs, and exploring their site and Discord led me to Screens by Thomas Lin Pedersen, abstract pieces based on simulating screen printing techniques and featuring beautiful structural planes with swirling geometry that collide to suggest insane urban architecture and spatial depth. Ancient Courses of Fictional Rivers by Robert Hodgin visualizes the winding paths of rivers over time, and then the growth of human settlements on their banks. It’s beautiful art and a wonderful concept. Finally, Edifice by Ben Kovach also plays with the grids of imaginary cityscapes, generating the facades of impossible buildings. If I were rich I’d collect heaps of these.


Heyo three new creative outlets emerged!

1) Before Covid, I received a DJI Mavic Mini drone as a gift and then never got a chance to fly it properly. Those were the days when going outdoors unnecessarily was prohibited, and then even after the rules were relaxed, I was lazy and it didn’t happen (an example of how much time has passed: DJI just announced the Mavic Mini THREE). It’s been on my to-do list to start flying it during this time off, so that finally happened. My dad’s been into remote-controlled things his whole life, so he had the experience and interest in doing it with me. It was a fun afternoon, and I got some good photos from its pretty capable camera.

When your size is not size.

2) The Kabukicho webcam mentioned in previous weeks is still my background video feed of choice. I’ve decided to embark on a new project where I blow up this live scene onto a wall with my projector, watch it intently, and take photos (not screenshots) of interesting things happening. It’s street photography, but remotely!

Sure I’m restricted to just one angle, but for all purposes it’s a covid-era adaptation to not actually being there to document life on a seedy rat-infested street in a red-light district. And without the threat of being beaten up, as a bonus! The results are filtered through the mediation of space, codecs, optics, light; they look more pixel art than photos. But still street photography, one could argue! Sometimes you’ll see shadows cast by my body or items in my environment. It has layers of removal, but still ultimately real life in Shinjuku. I’ve just started, but already I’ve got a lady flashing her underwear to passers by, a man peeing against a wall after midnight, police stopping an altercation, people mugging for the camera…

3) It’s been five years since Rob and I had the opportunity to work together on something, but now something is coming together over the next few weeks, which should be fun. Albeit remotely and in two different time zones. I hope to be able to share more when it’s over.


Media activity:

  • I’ve been reading Delta–V, the latest book by Daniel Suarez. It’s set in the near future, and concerns the first deep space expedition by a private company. They want to send a team of extreme adventurers and a few physically impressive scientists up to mine an asteroid for valuable materials, because it makes more sense to get building blocks from space to build stations and ships in space, than to fly it all up there from Earth. It’s good fun so far.
  • Big week for new music. I’m still making time to hear it all; certainly too early to share any proper thoughts.
  • The new Kendrick Lamar album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. Such a huge deal, the entire top of the Browse tab in Apple Music was taken over by carousels and featured tiles for this one album.
  • Ryan Adams is back with a new double album, just weeks after releasing Chris, which was dedicated to his late brother. Now it’s time for Romeo & Juliet, billed as a summer heartbreak album of sorts, and much more accessible.
  • Them Yorke and Jonny Greenwood have a new band with another guy, but Pitchfork says it’s pretty much like a new Radiohead album, and that’s very high praise. The Smile — A Light for Attracting Attention.
  • Florence + the Machine — Dance Fever. Not sure what that title is about.
  • Oh No — OFFAIR: Dr. No’s Lost Beach. I haven’t heard an Oh No album in years, but good stuff.
  • Röyksopp — Profound Mysteries. I’ve never been a fan, but I played this once through and I’m keeping it in the library.
  • Finally, Jens Lekman has rereleased two of his seminal albums from the past under new names, with some tracks rearranged and rerecorded, apparently because they are meant to be living works and changing over time. He’s serious about this, because the previous versions are no longer for sale or streaming! I recommend listening to The Cherry Trees Are Still In Blossom (formerly known as Oh You’re So Silent, Jens), because it has more of the songs I love, including Black Cab, of which there are two new versions here. The other album is The Linden Trees Are Still In Blossom (formerly known as Night Falls Over Kortedala).
I actually saw Jens up close when he performed in Singapore wayyy back in Jan 2007!

Week 4.22

First, some bad news. The Shake Salad vending machine that was meant to propel me back to better health… has vanished from the neighborhood. I suppose it didn’t make enough money to pass the trial, despite my best efforts at propping it up. Back to hot dogs and fried chicken, then.

And speaking of food in the neighborhood, one of the best restaurants near us is closing down, so that’s another option gone, although it was always on the pricier end and more of a nice night out kinda place. We paid it a final visit earlier in the week and it was full (on a weekday). A shame they couldn’t make it work.


I sold a couple more Misery Men NFTs and decided to get slightly more serious about the project. I’d started off playing with NFTs as a technological format, but needed to draw stuff to make it happen. Eventually that’s led to me becoming more invested in the drawing part, and now it seems a shame if that’s all these are. I know some people who don’t know anything about crypto but like the characters anyway. Since I’m having fun larping as an artist, it seemed time to expand horizons.

The first step was to stop posting on my own Instagram account, which led to setting up a new dedicated account which you may now follow at @misery.men.

Wondering what the next step should be, I thought it would be great to make some real-world merchandise. The last time I did this was back in my university days, offering some questionable t-shirt designs off CafePress. Obviously the dropshipping landscape has exploded since then, so I should be able to start pretty quickly, right?

I looked into it on Thursday and went with Printful, one of the larger operations. However, they don’t actually offer you a storefront; they’re just the backend fulfilling your orders, although they can interface with your platform of choice e.g. Shopify or Squarespace. Since those come with regular monthly costs, I decided to go with Etsy, which I always thought was a sort of handicraft eBay. Turns out you can sell anything there, and Printful will handle the heavy lifting (and shipping).

The Misery World™ Etsy shop was up and running by the end of the day with a handful of products I’d put together using the existing artwork. Oh wait, that’s not accurate. Logotype needed producing, and a couple of art-inclined friends/colleagues kindly reached out to give feedback. Unsolicited, if that gives you any idea of how disquieting the initial version must have looked to professional eyes.

On Friday, in need of a URL to point both the new Instagram and Shop to, and a site to hold it all together (this domain didn’t seem like the right place), I bought the MiseryMen.com domain and set up a landing page and blog. That’s practically a new brand and sales channel set up in 48 hours with just a double-digit capital outlay. What a world we live in.

I’ve made one product sale so far, and hey, as a struggling and unknown creator, that’s nearly made the whole exercise worth it! 🥲


On Saturday, we popped over to the Keppel Distripark area to take in S.E.A. Focus, an exhibition that was part of Singapore Art Week 2022. There was an NFT gallery sponsored by Tezos, how à la mode. I took some pictures so I wouldn’t have to talk about my feelings.


Media activity:

  • Not a whole lot! I guess it was more of a creative week than a consumptive one.
  • Some more Disco Elysium…
  • A few episodes of a TV show that I’ll talk more about when I can…
  • A British crime drama on Netflix called Paranoid that’s just okay…
  • And listening to Utada Hikaru’s new album Bad Mode, which has greatly exceeded my cautiously lowered expectations. It’s good to see them continue to work and put out what they want.

Memes, Myths, and Machines

This is an addendum to the last weekly update (3.22).

As part of Singapore Art Week 2022, we visited The Culture Story on Sunday afternoon to see ZXEROKOOL’s first local exhibition entitled Memes, Myths and Machines. He’s done a new series of NFTs that were presented as large format prints, and we spoke briefly about how a new class of art buyers are excited by the flexibility of printing these pieces at whatever size suits their needs or residences, while retaining ownership certification through the NFTs in their wallets.

These were of course familiar arguments for the technology, but his anecdote about a previous exhibition in China and the concern of buyers there about the veracity of a limited run brought home the need for this control, held by the artist, limiting run size as intended. Personally I love that artists can continue to get a cut each time a work changes hands, which is an innovation I don’t think was feasible before smart contracts.

ZXEROKOOL explaining his work to a journalist

I had two favorites at the show: Meme-vangelion and The Garden of Internet Delights. The former is a mashup of Shiba Inu and Evangelion imagery, complete with the Spear of Longinus piercing the puppy’s heart. I left wanting to buy one of them, but by the time I got around to it the next day, some other fan had bought the last edition of The Garden of Internet Delights. No matter, Meme-vangelion isn’t a consolation prize. Though the whole collection plays with the visual vocabulary of the internet as many of us have experienced it over the last decade, I think this work stands alone in its astute selection of two icons that will surely stand the test of time?

Meme-vangelion

Week 3.22

Ladies and gentlemen, you are now hearing from an actual commercial artist, technically speaking. My Misery Men NFT project reached a new milestone: the sale of two works (#45 and #51) on OpenSea this week! 🍾🍾

I’ve been on a break from drawing them since Christmas, but have now resumed “production duties” and will be releasing more leading up to a pair of Lunar New Year ones in early February. One of the new releases is #79, which was fun/therapeutic to make by plonking down hundreds of dots with the Apple Pencil until all the space was filled up.

Misery Man #79

A little more on my amateur art endeavors. I’ve been trying to get a feel for digital watercolors in Procreate, but the results are anemic and frankly embarrassing. I’m happy to own that, so here’s an example. Safe to say this will not be my main medium, will stick to my day job (oh wait), maybe more of a words person, et cetera.

Caveats in Paint (Digital) #4: View of an office building (function assumed) seen on one of my walks (rarely undertaken), 2022.

Yesterday we took our littlest niece out for her animal-themed Christmas present: a visit to an art studio that has cats running around for inspiration and/or distraction. She whipped up a colorful, abstracted cat with acrylics in about 15 minutes and then spent the next two hours playing with real ones. I slapped paint around and ended up with this below. It’s… jarring to move from digital to physical. Not only do you not have Undo and Fill tools, but you have to plan your layers differently. Ugh!

Passing Time, acrylic on canvas, 2022.

Edit: We also visited an exhibition and bought some digital art. More in this follow-up post.

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A few years ago, I made a conscious effort to lose weight by eating better, and discovered that salads are not really horrible and can be quite satisfying as a lunch item. I think I ate salads nearly every day for about a year and lost 10% of my body weight.

It was helped along by an abundance of salad shops in my office area, both reasonably and luxuriously priced. Where we live now, there haven’t been any options, and making my own every day is kind of a last resort I’m saving for the late Elvis or Marlon Brando stage.

BUT! Last week I encountered a new salad vending machine in the neighborhood that isn’t bad/expensive at all. You choose a base and dressing, with the option to buy add-ones like chicken, smoked duck, eggs, and baked salmon. It’s from a company called Shake Salad, and stock is somehow replenished daily. It is ALRIGHT and I ate a salad for lunch four days in a row this week. I think the machine is here as a trial, so I want to be as hospitable as I can and prove the viability of keeping it around full time.

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Media activity:

  • Finished Psycho-Pass 3 on Amazon Prime Video. Was not left as excited as I was with the first season a decade ago. Perhaps sign of maturity. Will eventually watch the three-part “movie” sequel to this series.
  • Marvel’s Eternals was an awful waste of time.
  • Still reading Plum Rains.
  • Finished NEO: The World Ends With You. Was not left as excited as I was with the original DS game 15~ years ago. Maybe down to its design, but it doesn’t feel like a full-priced console game. More like a portable/handheld game. Thanks to the Switch, those lines are now blurred. But it really has about a couple hours of content stretched to 30 hours thanks to repetitive battles and pin grinding. If there’s ever a sequel to this sequel, I’d like to see a real evolution of mechanics and storytelling.
  • Played more Disco Elysium on the Mac. This is hands down the most impressed I’ve been with a game in years. Now that it’s out for consoles, I hope everybody (except minors) gets a chance to play this. The atmosphere, world building, writing, and voiceover performances are best in class. It’s also very funny, despite the bleak subject matter, thanks to your detective’s absurdly broken moral compass. Once, I paused to tell my wife about a joke and couldn’t get it out for laughing every time I tried to start. I ended up in tears.
  • So I had to read up on the team behind it; the writing surpasses most novels I read last year, but I never saw the author’s name mentioned anywhere. His name is Robert Kurvitz, an Estonian writer, and the story of how it got made sounds amazing and documentary worthy. Kurvitz and his band mates came up with the world in 2005, and then wrote a novel set in it, which was published in 2013. When that failed to sell, he spent three years in alcoholic depression (much like the main character), and eventually emerged to found a video game company (with no game dev experience) to bring it to life again. They somehow managed to secure funding, hired a team, and created this insane, beautiful, sprawling adventure and won multiple awards in 2019. Instead of stopping there, they went back and polished it, recording every line of dialogue, and released the enhanced Final Cut version in 2021 for no extra cost. Recording sessions for the narrator’s voice took eight months (the performance by Lenval Brown is excellent).

Week 1.22

It’s another year, and the start of a new series of weekly notes to myself and anyone who might be eavesdropping. I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions, but maybe I should change up how I do these. They could stand to drop some words or look a little sharper.

I sometimes end the year with a post about the music I enjoyed and a playlist of my favorite songs released over the year, as an indirect means of reflecting on what happened. I didn’t do that in 2021, because… well, despite having had a few months of rest, I just didn’t have the energy to do a good job of it.

Scrolling back in my Apple Music history, however, I made a mental selection of albums I remember enjoying enough to say I enjoyed them, and here they are in no particular order apart from the top spot. Any playlist I made would have involved one song from each of these anyway.

The Best (tied)

The Rest

Reissues


It was the week after Christmas… woof. A lot more eating amidst the tiredness that tends to follow so much social interaction. I spent my downtime trying to draw a little bit, which I wrote about in this post a couple of days ago.

I also slayed the dragon called the Goodreads Annual Reading Challenge, with a paltry-by-some-standards-but-still-alright-if-you-ask-me 24 books read. Like most challenges, it’s unfortunately turned into a stupid online performance metric that doesn’t reflect any actual value, with some people I see setting goals that go into the triple digits. Outside of a literature degree program, it seems a little much. I’ve set my 2022 goal to 24 books again, because I plan to get on some novels that are about as thick as three regular ones, so a simple count doesn’t really serve to quantify the effort or resultant thoughtfulness, if any.

Nintendo sent out their version of Spotify’s Unwrapped awhile back, and I was shocked to see my total gaming hours on the Switch quite low at only 71 hours. It was over 200 hours in 2020, mostly due to Animal Crossing New Horizons. To try and remedy that, I’ve bought a bunch of new games on sale but haven’t gotten around to any of them yet. Instead, I’ve been grinding NEO: The World Ends With You, which has been mentioned before as the sequel to a Nintendo DS game I loved.

Disco Elysium came by way of a tweet that recommended it. Pretty sure I glanced at it before but decided it wasn’t my thing. Couldn’t have been more wrong, going by the very strong first four hours I’ve experienced. I suppose it’s an RPG game like classic Fallout was, but your vault survivor is an alcoholic noir detective and there’s no combat at all. I picked it up for my Mac in the Steam sale; reviews of the Switch version warn of very long loading times.


Some friends brought their kids over and I helped take photographs. Pixelmator recently released a free update that adds iPhone support to their previously iPad-only Pixelmator Photo editor, in addition to some new tools. I wanted to see how it would do with the DNGs out of my CL.

After some experimenting, I am sad to report that their ML-powered Auto Enhance corrections tend toward overexposure, and when paired with the built-in presets, the results are almost always garishly colored with too much contrast. You always have to adjust the intensity of the recommended changes and disable auto white balance altogether, and after all that it just didn’t work for me with the portraits. I finally crawled back into the arms of Lightroom whose Auto mode is at least designed to recover details and provide a neutral starting point for edits.

I have to say though, for iPhone photos (HEIF/JPEG), Pixelmator Photo is not half bad, provided you tone things down as mentioned. Here’s an example I took on a walk earlier today. I’ll keep trying to use it because I like some of the UI changes they’ve made, but tbh if Darkroom ever adds a good Auto mode, it’d be my go-to editor for life.