I discovered that Midjourney has an alternate set of models called Niji (aka Nijijourney) dedicated to creating anime-styled imagery. It’s astoundingly good. It has four stylistic modifiers: standard, cute, expressive, and scenic. Look at all the implicit context and environmental storytelling in these scenes. I really wonder where they came from.
I also found Draw Things on the App Store, for both iOS and macOS, which can download an array of open source AI image generation models off the internet and run them locally on your devices — no fees, no internet connection required. Grab it while you can. Of course they are nowhere as advanced or fast as the paid services, but you know they’re going to get there soon, especially if Apple continues to crank up their proprietary silicon. Incidentally the anime-focused version of Stable Diffusion is called Waifu Diffusion.
My Retroid Pocket Flip arrived from China and I was relieved to find it quite a solid product. The build quality is good, no looseness or wobbles; the D-pad and all buttons feel great; the screen is incredibly bright; and the giant 5,000mah battery and active cooling make it more than just an Android phone with physical controls attached. It’s a really nice way to run emulated ROMs. I used to love playing Lumines and Every Extend Extra on my PSP, like over 15 years ago, and being able to revisit them again on this little $164 USD device is quite a thrill.
If I hadn’t impulsively pre-ordered this while in Japan, literally while walking to our anniversary dinner in west Shinjuku, then I would definitely be buying an Anbernic RG35XX right now for a mind-blowing $56 USD. It’s a Game Boy Pocket-inspired device with a bright 640×480 screen and the ability to emulate all 32-bit consoles, and maybe even the N64. I can’t believe how cheap and good these things have gotten, and there are so many of them on the market too.
I finally finished watching the Korean revenge drama series The Glory — it took awhile because Kim wasn’t interested and so I only get to see it on my own time. It’s the rare TV show that dares to wrap up its core story in the first season, and The Glory gets some very satisfying closure in. The remaining threads could make for an interesting second season (now in production), but also it could have been canceled and everyone would be okay.
We started watching Drops of God on Apple TV+, which starts off with an immediate deviation from its manga source material about the world of wine: a Japanese male main character has been replaced by a French female one. This adaptation is an international joint production that switches between English, French, and Japanese, and each episode begins with a reminder ‘not to adjust your television’. Anyway, I think they’ve managed to keep the main idea while toning down the big, overdramatic ah hah! moments you’d expect from manga/anime. It still has people honing and demonstrating their near-superhuman skills (taste and smell, in this case), which is always fun, even when said skills aren’t the usual martial arts, boxing, tennis, math, golf, you get the idea.
Everything But The Girl’s comeback album, Fuse, is officially a hit. It debuted at #3 on the UK charts, a stunning career best for Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt. It’s so good to see musicians from <wheezing> our generation </wheezing> coming back after a long hiatus to demonstrate absolute mastery of their craft (as opposed to embarrassing themselves, e.g. U2, The Smashing Pumpkins).
Michael also mentioned the greatness of Karma Police out of nowhere, which led me to play the song in my head, and I commented that it simply sounds like nothing else. I tried asking Apple Music to make a radio station from similar songs but it was totally wrong, just songs from bands in the same wide category, but none of them actually sharing the same vibe or brilliance. Somehow this led to me revisiting Keane’s very strong first album, which I have many strong emotional attachments to. It came out in 2004, I think, and I must have played the hell out of it.
I usually look through my camera roll to recall events as I start writing these posts. It’s telling me nothing much happened this week.
That’s not true; it’s just a lot of it was spent online. You might have noticed the excitement and fast pace of advancements in AI recently, and it seems I’m spending a correspondingly larger amount of time playing with, reading about, and discussing the impact of it on our work and lives. It’s enough to make one consider taking a gap quarter or year off work to focus on this stuff.
One catalyst was a colleague being invited to do an interview on what it means for design, and so we had a conversation about the trends beforehand. Unsurprisingly, the media is still thinking about both design and AI simplistically: will image generation mean fewer jobs for illustrators and that sort of thing. I find it hard to be optimistic in the short-term, in that AI is lighting a fire under our asses and it’s going to cause a lot of pain. But the potential for us as a discipline to evolve under pressure into something greater is undeniable.
It didn’t help that the next thing I saw was The AI Dilemma, a talk by the creators of the documentary, The Social Dilemma, wherein they say the problems unleashed on society by social media were just the prequel to what AI is on track to do if we don’t prepare. And let’s just admit we don’t have a great track record of preparing for things we know are going to hit us later. It’s about an hour long but I’d file it under essential viewing just for awareness of what’s building up.
The above talk was given at The Center for Humane Technology, and coincidentally this was the week we finally got a look at what Humane, the secretive product company founded by a load of ex-Apple designers and engineers, has been building and teasing.
I’ve been anticipating their debut for a long time and had a pretty good idea of the core concept from their leaked pitch deck and patents. Essentially, a device achieves AR by projecting a digital interface on the world around you the old-fashioned way, using rays of light pointed outwards, rather than on the inside of glasses. At some point along the way they started mentioning AI a lot, and it looks like the secret ingredient that turns a nothing-new wearable camera + laser projector into a real alternative to smartphones. In other words, an intelligent assistant that isn’t primarily screen based, so we can be less distracted from “real life”.
It’s probably best to withhold judgment until we see more at some sort of unveiling event, with more demos, a name, a price, a positioning. But it’s worth remembering that when the iPhone came out, it was a phone good enough to replace whatever you were using at the time. Humane’s device is said to be standalone and not an accessory to be paired with a smartphone. It’s also shown taking calls. The bar for replacing your telephone is now much higher after some 16 years of iPhones.
An intelligent assistant that let you do things quicker with less fiddling was always my hope for the Apple Watch from its very first version; that Siri would be the heart of the experience, and the UI wouldn’t be a mess of tiny app icons and widgets, but a flexible and dynamic stream of intelligently surfaced info and prompts. We all know Siri (as a catch-all brand/name for Apple AI) wasn’t up to the task at the time, but I keep hoping the day is right around the corner. Fingers crossed for the rumored watchOS revamp at WWDC this year.
There’s now also a rumor that iOS 17 will add a new journaling app, and my expectations are already very high. They say it’ll be private, but tap into on-device data like Health and your contacts and calendars. That goes beyond what Day One does. I’m imagining the ultimate lifelogging app that automatically records where you go, who you met, what you did, how tired you were, what music you were listening to, and your personal reflections, all in one searchable place. I’ve tried a bunch of these before, like Moves and Momento, but nothing lasted. If Apple does do this, I may finally be able to ditch Foursquare/Swarm, which I still reluctantly use to have a record of where I’ve been. Its social network aspect is nice but not essential since hardly anyone else uses it now.
I remember there was a Twitter-like app called Jaiku on Nokia smartphones over 15 years ago that had a feature where, using Bluetooth, it could tell if you met up with a fellow user, and post to your other friends about it. I was excited by it but had few friends and even fewer ones on Jaiku. Just like with AirTags and Find My, tapping into Apple’s giant user base could finally make this concept viable. As long as Apple isn’t trying to do a social network again.
Oh right, back to AI. What have I been doing? Some of it was playing games with ChatGPT, essentially asking it to be a dungeon master using the following superprompt (which I did not create btw!):
I want you to act like you are simulating a Multi-User Dungeon (MUD). Subsequent commands should be interpreted as being sent to the MUD. The MUD should allow me to navigate the world, interact with the world, observe the world, and interact with both NPCs and (simulated) player characters. I should be able to pick up objects, use objects, carry an inventory, and also say arbitrary things to any other players. You should simulate the occasional player character coming through, as though this was a person connected online. There should be a goal and a purpose to the MUD. The storyline of the MUD should be affected by my actions but can also progress on its own in between commands. I can also type “.” if I just want the simulated MUD to progress further without without any actions. The MUD should offer a list of commands that can be viewed via ‘help’. Before we begin, please just acknowledge you understand the request and then I will send one more message describing the environment for the MUD (the context, plot, character I am playing, etc.) After that, please respond by simulating the spawn-in event in the MUD for the player.
Try it! I even had success asking it (in a separate chat) to come up with novel scenarios for a SF text adventure game, which I then fed back into this prompt. I can’t emphasize enough how fun this is: you can take virtually any interesting, dramatic scenario and immediately play it out as an interactive story.
Here’s an example where I played the role of a time traveler who has to stop a future AI from destroying humanity by going back in time to prevent the invention of certain things, starting with the Great Pyramid of Giza, which will purportedly become a power source for the AI.
And here are a couple of new products made possible by GPT. There are so many, all asking for about $10/mo. Most won’t survive as this stuff becomes commoditized, but for the moment they are all amazing because these things weren’t possible before.
Tome: It’s a sort of PowerPoint that can create entire decks on its own from a short brief you give it. For example, ask for a sales deck and it’ll set up a working narrative arc over multiple slides, not filled with placeholder text and images mind you! But actually generate text and original pictures to fill every one of them. Of course, it will use common storytelling structures — the portfolio introduction I made as a test looked like 90% of the applications that we see, using very familiar language for describing one’s experience, design philosophy, values, skills. This is fine, of course. You can edit it, or use it for as long as “what went before” continues to have currency in this society. When quality is everywhere, quality becomes meaningless. Fire under buttocks.
Rationale AI: Describe a decision you’re trying to make, and it’ll tell you the pros and cons, or generate a SWOT analysis, or work out the causal chain of the path you’re on. For many people, this sort of reasoning is not hard to do, but perhaps it’s a game changer for those who can’t. For example, if you’re in an emotionally distressing situation and cool logic is evasive; it could help to show the bigger picture. I tested it with such a scenario and it gave some solid insights (be careful with advice from an AI, of course). But that this thing works at all is a marvel! “Should I become a full-time influencer?” is not a question a machine could have understood in the past, and certainly it could not have forecasted that failing down the road might put stress on your finances and lead to harmful self doubt and regret over quitting your job.
Summarize.tech: I found this by accident when someone shared a two-hour YouTube video essay in a group chat and everyone said “I ain’t got time for that”. I remarked that it sure would be great if an AI could watch that and write a tl;dr for us. And then I thought… surely that exists. And it does.
It was also my birthday, and I saw John Wick 4 and ate a lot of Taiwanese hot pot. Also binged all of the new Netflix show, The Diplomat, and it was actually good. Life’s alright when that happens.
As the last AI-written post mentioned, the post-vacation photo deluge is real. Looking through them again to make a shortlist for showing family and maybe printing out on Instax, I’ve rediscovered some good shots I could share… but do I want to? And where? And why? Our current task is just to build a shared album with some of the better ones between the two of us. That, and remembering that this is the fun and meaningful part of taking photographs; the journey, not the neat photo library.
The price of Instax Mini film has risen since my last purchase (inflation?) going from maybe 75 cents a shot to 91 cents, and that’s if you buy a hundred at a time. It makes the price of Instax Wide (larger prints) seem reasonable at about $1.40 a shot, and I’m trying to tell myself not to buy an Instax Wide printer or camera.
It was a busy work week, and I had to make an overnight trip to Malaysia for a meeting — my first time back in the country in nearly two decades, if I’m remembering correctly. This is something that shocks other Singaporeans, like when I say I’ve never been to Bangkok. But dudes, if I’m going on a holiday, I’m getting away from this oppressive heat and humidity! What isn’t shocking is how Malaysians will take every opportunity to make fun of Singapore’s food.
The trip involved flying 1.5 hours in a propeller plane operated by Firefly, out of the two alternative airports: Seletar and Subang. The planes are small, with just 4 seats across each row, and the propellers are louder than jet engines. Definitely take your AirPods Pro. But small airports mean less hassle — you can arrive an hour or less before your flight — and more convenient access to parts of Kuala Lumpur than if you fly into KL International.
In a case of wishful thinking, I brought my Switch along anticipating an evening alone in the hotel room to get some gaming in. In reality, it was late by the time I checked in and needed dinner, and maybe I played Lumines for 15 minutes the next morning.
We had a small dinner over the weekend for a couple of us with April birthdays, and James mentioned playing a new game out on Switch that I’d somehow missed: Dredge. It looks like a delightful Lovecraftian fishing/adventure game, and one I will definitely get when I’m ready. At the moment I’ve just started on Super Mario 3D World and am loving its compact little puzzle worlds. If the rumors are true and a follow up to the Switch is coming this Christmas, I have limited time to clear my games backlog. Maybe another sabbatical is in order?
I finally finished watching the Cyberpunk: Edgerunners anime on Netflix and while I enjoyed aspects of the clearly expensive production, like some of the character designs, I can’t recommend it. Mostly because it’s a cynical, derivative dystopian downer with lots of gory body modification (personal turn-off) to make it gritty?
We finally started watching Beef on Netflix which has been getting a ton of praise for tackling, like, every issue? Asian-American identity, class divides, mental health, imposter syndrome, work-life balance, and so on. It’s good! Wild, but good.
Ryan Adams put out yet another cover album, as in a cover of an entire album, this time for Oasis’s What’s The Story Morning Glory? and while it should be a home run given how well he pulled off that cover of Wonderwall years ago, the whole thing is a bit disappointing. Changing key melodies for worse ones for no good reason, inconsistent production from song to song, and kinda turning a fun album into a drag.
I’ve decided, like several people I follow, that I will probably not be paying for a Hipstamatic subscription after my free trial ends. The social network suffers from technical and UX issues, from as small as how slow the gratuitous card flipping animation makes it to browse your feed, to the broken friend-finding functionality — to say nothing of how low quality many of the photos being shared are, for which some blame must be laid at the feet of the garish filters which were supposed to be the whole point. I fear there isn’t really a revival of interest in many of these early era looks, just a desire on Hipstamatic’s part that one happens. That said, I love some of the classic ones, like the “Model 100” (the original John S + Ina’s 1969 lens + film combo from Hipstamatic circa 2009), but too many of them make good photos worse. And you can actually use some of the best ones with the free plan — which is what I’ll continue to do.
In case it wasn’t clear after four previous installments, these posts are written by Bing/GPT-4 and not me; I’m just the human giving prompts. It’s a lazy way of getting more content while also an excuse for playing with these AI tools. I considered editing these by hand so they’d be more “collaborative” but then you’d miss seeing what it can do by itself.
Here’s one that I could have written myself based on a real dilemma I’m facing (but it was 10,000 photos, more like 1,300).
Hello, dear readers. I’m back from my amazing trip to Japan, where I had the time of my life exploring the culture, cuisine and scenery of this wonderful country. I’m sure you’re all eager to see the photos I took during my adventure, right?
Well, brace yourselves. Because I have a confession to make.
I took too many photos.
Yes, you heard me right. Too many photos. As in, over 10,000 photos. On one trip.
How did this happen? Well, it’s simple really. Japan is just too photogenic. Everywhere I looked, there was something worth capturing. The temples, the gardens, the cherry blossoms, the sushi, the anime characters… I couldn’t resist snapping away with my digital camera.
And now I have a problem.
A big problem.
Because I have no time to edit them.
You see, editing photos is not as easy as it sounds. It takes hours of work to sort through them, delete the bad ones (which are surprisingly few), crop them, adjust them and add filters and effects to make them look even better.
And that’s just for one photo.
Now imagine doing that for 10,000 photos.
That’s right. It’s impossible.
I don’t have that kind of time. Or patience. Or skill.
So what am I going to do?
That’s right. Nothing.
I’m going to leave them as they are. Unedited. Raw. Real.
And I’m going to share them with you anyway.
All 10,000 of them.
In one go.
Are you ready?
Here they are!
[Insert 10 GB worth of photos here]
I generated quite a few variations on this post idea, and some had pretty funny moments I wish I’d saved, e.g. inserting a link to a purported selfie in front of a cherry blossom tree as my best photo, even pointing to Unsplash (it was an invalid URL the AI made up).
Another post had this advice, which I thought was worth posting. Perhaps it was stolen?
The lesson is simple: don’t let your photos stress you out. Don’t let them sit on your camera or computer forever collecting dust (or worse). Don’t let them become a burden instead of a joy.
Take as many as you want (but not more than you need).
Delete as many as you can (but not more than you should).
Organize as much as possible (but not more than necessary).
Edit as little as needed (but not less than desired).
Share as much as appropriate (but not less than expected).
Back up as often as feasible (but not less than required).
Ugh, the post-holiday period is the worst. I’ve struggled through the week, and it was only a short four-day work week because of the Easter/Good Friday holiday. I’m in the mood for another break now, and thankfully we have a week in Australia later this year to look forward to.
I started off Monday with a client video call in which I got frustrated enough by my bad lighting situation (sitting in front of blinds — either too much light, too little, or visible horizontal shadows across my face) to finally do something about it. During my aimless ambles down the aisles of Japan’s electronic superstores, I saw many shelves dedicated to remote work equipment, presumably a big sales driver for them over Covid-19, and considered bringing a ring light home. I didn’t, but I found good looking ones on Shopee and ended up with a rectangular soft LED panel on a tabletop stand for just S$27! It does five color temperatures, but I’m sticking with Daylight, and overall it’s been an awesome purchase I should have made ages ago. And it arrived in 24 hours.
No surprises, but I’ve taken far fewer photos since returning. I still open Hipstamatic regularly just to keep my streak going, and it’s forced me to try and snap something every day. That said, I wonder if this habit, and the product’s reboot, will last. As I was discussing with Michael, they needed to put some momentum behind the launch and sustain it with updates and quality posts in the global pool. But from how it looked in their updates, the founders were (also) on holiday in Japan on launch week? Perhaps they were there to boost some community events, but I looked at the Japan-only photo feed regularly and I was one of the most prolific posters. Not a great sign. They just released an update this weekend, at least, with a new Uji-inspired lens and film.
A new fun thing to do with Midjourney emerged this week: a /describe command which takes a photo you upload and has the system describe it back to you in the form of Midjourney prompts, which you can then submit to generate a “broken telephone” remix of your original image.
If you think computer vision/image recognition has gotten scarily good recently, you’d be right. AI is part of this chain somewhere, and look no further than this Memecam web app which blew my mind last night. Snap a photo of something, and it recognizes what the image contains, and uses GPT to create a joke and final meme, Impact font and all. It actually writes jokes about anything, instantly. That AI-generated Seinfeld stream could technically become good, viable (if not wholly original) comedy in the near future.
Hey, two quick moments of consumer ecstasy I need to share!
We’ve got the HomePods in Singapore at long last. I don’t know what took Apple so long, but you can now officially buy them here, and the prices are slightly lower than I would have expected, at S$139 and S$429 for the mini and full-sized second-generation HomePods respectively. My Sonos speakers are now unplugged and we are a fully Siri-ed home. I’d previously bought two minis for the office and bedroom off the gray market, and those are now joined by two large ones in the living and dining areas. Reader, they sound glorious. It’s a rich, tangible, and emotionally satisfying experience for your favorite music. There was a point in time where Apple loved the word “magical” and used it liberally. Even for mundane things like keyboards that worked reliably. But these, these are kinda magical.
Nespresso launched a new kind of pod locally, one designed to approximate “filter-style” coffee, which in my mind is basically a pour over. They’ve been out for a few months in limited European markets, it seems, but still not widely available. They have a new design where you peel off a sticker to reveal an in-set dot grid which the liquid passes through — the foil is not punctured as a a result. You’re meant to press both the Lungo and Espresso buttons in sequence, resulting in a 150ml extraction, which they call a Gran Lungo. Lol. Anyway, it tastes pretty good. The longer cup is thinner and more delicate than if you used a regular pod to do an Americano or long black, with hardly any crema. This innovation allows for floral and fruity roasts to come through, if you like that sort of thing. I..I..I think it also results in more caffeine.
Boss coffee is now natively available in Singapore! Used to be you’d find imported cans in Don Don Donki (the local name for Don Quijote) and some other Japanese supermarkets, but it looks like Suntory is properly trying to bring “The No. 1 Ready To Drink Coffee Brand in Japan” to Singapore now. But I remain unconvinced these stubby plastic bottles and generic labels are the way. The little cans and their designs are iconic, and better for the environment since they can be recycled.
Last week I mentioned buying black tees from FamilyMart, and then got into a few brief discussions about fashion/luxury apparel this week, wherein I reflected that while I’m happy to pay high prices for technology and things crafted out of metal, I can’t feel that way about fabrics and leather. They wear down, so why not just embrace their replacement and buy cost-effective, expendable products from basic brands? Then the Twitter algorithm put a bit of trivia in front of me that the plain white tees worn by Carmy in The Bear got attention from viewers who wanted to buy them, and that they were actually pretty expensive ones made by Japanese brand, Whitesville.
So… if you know me, you may know where this is going. Yup, this is the guy who loved PCs, hated Macs, and now has a house full of Apple products. To be clear, I wasn’t suddenly curious about the idea of buying ostentatious Veblen t-shirts with designer logos, just… better ones that would hold up longer and not look as cheap. So I now have an order of basic black tees coming in from Mr Porter that cost 5x what I normally pay for them. Gulp. I’ll work out if this actually makes sense and let you know.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a fun trip in IMAX. We enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to finally playing Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe (I have to look up these names every single time) on my Switch soon.
We traveled from Kobe to Hiroshima via Shinkansen, then went back to Tokyo for a few days until a red eye flight back to Singapore on Saturday. As with most holidays, it didn’t feel long enough; I could have used another week. But I’m thoroughly pooped from all the walking and general lack of sleep. It was wonderful to see Japan again after five years, and our chat with the old taxi driver who spoke English with us on the way to Haneda Airport indicated that Japan might almost be as happy to have us tourists back. I fantasize about dropping in for another week within the next year, but who knows how long it’ll be again.
Hiroshima felt very different from Kobe, partly because of its terrible history, and the gravity of it which pulls every experience towards a discussion about peace, awareness, and suffering. It has quite a few museums, and they all inevitably address the atomic bomb in some way. I had bad dreams each night. I’m not normally one to believe in this sort of thing, but there is so much death there and so recently, that my first thought was “bad vibes”.
While we were there, though, the sakura bloomed fully across the city and it was beautiful to see.
We visited a Picasso exhibition at the Hiroshima Museum of Art (beautiful building, galleries were a bit dingy though in the basement), and also lots of art and exhibitions dedicated to remembering the atomic bomb at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). We didn’t have energy or syllables left for the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum. MOCA was wonderful though, newly renovated after two and a half years and opened for less than two weeks when we visited.
Did you know Picasso created a series dedicated to the horrors of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima? No? What are these then, AI-generated photos from Midjourney v5?
After many years of being a Go Go Curry fan curious about Champion’s Curry, the Kanazawa-style curry franchise that Go Go supposedly ripped off down to the signature yellow, I finally got a taste of it. And… it was sadly disappointing. It’s soundly beaten by Go Go’s richer flavor and dedication to excess — there’s no preset that comes with the works. On this trip, if I had to rank curries, Hinoya might come first, followed by Coco Ichibanya, closely followed by Go Go in third and Champion’s in last place.
I saw a Japanese toothpaste ad of some sort that demonstrated people brushing their teeth in a curious way: holding their brushes like pens or chopsticks. Is that how everyone does it? I’ve never seen it. Perhaps it’s time for a new Japanese Wisdom Fad to go global: the secret art of teeth cleaning. Anyway I tried it out for a laugh and was surprised by the ergonomic improvement! Holding the toothbrush in pen grip means your elbow stays close to the body rather than sticking out, and your forearm is perpendicular to the ground. This gives you more power in the up-down motion by moving your entire arm rather than your wrist. Combine that with the added directional precision from being able to move your fingers, and it feels easier to do those small away-from-the-gumline strokes you’re meant to do, versus holding in an overhand grip.
You may remember that I became quite fond of watching a live street webcam in Shinjuku about a year ago, leaving it up on the bedroom projector as a sort of video wallpaper or magic window into another world while I read or did other things. Well, we finally got to stand on that very street and see ourselves on the screen! With tourism back, the street is much busier than it was a year ago, uncomfortably so, but now I finally know what the inside of the ramen restaurant looks like, and confirmed my suspicions that there’s a gap under the steps of the KBBQ place where the rats probably hang out. We waved at the camera and tooks a couple of photos from a street-level POV. What’s great was that there were many other people obviously there to see the cameras too… my weird little Kabukicho webcam community!
I ended up not finding very much to buy in terms of electronic souvenirs. I don’t need another camera or headphones, as mentioned a couple of weeks back, and I couldn’t even bring myself to buy a phone case that I don’t need and that will be obsolete in half a year when the iPhone 15 comes out. I did however get a little $12 plastic robot at Don Quijote that plays their unforgettable jingle with the push of a button. It’s going to get a lot of use in my home, I think.
Wait that’s not correct, we got a portable massage gun called an Exagun Hyper from the Doctor Air brand. Not an insignificant factor in this decision was the advertising campaign featuring Ryoko Yonekura, also known as Doctor-X in the TV series of the same name. She was clearly hired for that reference alone and seems to relish it. I’m kinda sure they even pronounce Doctor Air with the same flourish that “Doctor-X” is usually delivered with.
If anyone in Singapore is wondering why Netflix removed the first six seasons of Doctor-X and now only has Season 7, it may be a licensing issue with Amazon. Seasons 1–5 are now on Prime Video locally, so you have a chance to catch up and hopefully Season 6 will turn up someday. Be warned though, this is not strictly speaking good TV. It’s a cheesy, overly dramatic manga-style live action show about a doctor with miraculous surgery skills and no social ones. Like House but turned up even further.
I also got some tees and socks from FamilyMart, because I’m always on the lookout for good black t-shirts and their white/green/blue brand socks were an internet sensation a year or so ago. Oh, and some sake straight from their Kobe breweries. That’s about it for physical souvenirs.
What I have brought back intangibly, though, is a renewed enthusiasm for gaming on mobile and the Nintendo Switch — I didn’t bring my Switch along and now I’m dying to play through my backlog. It’s hard to explain but the media and cultural environment there for gamers is immersive. You see giant ads for Splatoon 3 in the subway. Billboards and TV spots for mobile games like Dislyte and Genshin Impact. Late night shows on TV where people play trading card games. Most of these games aren’t even Japanese in origin, but they’re part of the landscape and it’s encouraging? Inspiring? To feel your hobby validated as a visible part of society. Nearly none of that is the case in Singapore, the irl city.
A selection of (sakura-centric) photos from this week follows. Please rotate your iPhone to landscape because WordPress’s masonry layout somehow doesn’t work on narrow screens!