Six years after I booted up my Nintendo Switch for the first time and slotted in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s cartridge, I finally took on the final boss this week and finished the game. Before you think this game is a monster (although it is), I effectively took a 5.5 year hiatus.
My first experience with the game was both exhilarating and overwhelming — here was a non-linear open-world adventure designed to be an exercise in self determinism. Yes, the princess has been locked in a bubble, literally waiting 100 years for you to wake up and save the kingdom, but that didn’t mean you had to hurry. You could decide to be a chef and spend time gathering rare ingredients and experimenting with recipes. You could examine every curious crevice of the natural landscape to discover the Korok seeds deviously placed by the designers, or climb foreboding mountains just for the hell of it (you’d probably find Korok seeds for your trouble).
This was a game that demanded longer play sessions — no dipping in for just five minutes — and frequent ones at that. You kind of had to remember what you were last doing and where you wanted to go next. So, faced with too much commitment and mental load, I started to distance myself from it and play other games instead.
If you’ve been following along in recent weeks, you’d know that the release of the sequel, Tears of the Kingdom, spurred me to try completing it once and for all. And it’s been quite the journey: I had to re-familiarize myself with the game’s laws of physics, Link’s complicated powers, and in the process discovered that I’d spent those first 40 hours or so essentially mucking around in just one corner of the world.
By last week, I’d finally uncovered the whole world’s layout, but with some places still unexplored and doubtlessly many secrets left to be found. I’d gotten good at fighting, and was told that I was ready for the final showdown with “Calamity Ganon”. Except… I wasn’t, not mentally.
So I spent this week’s game time mucking about and doing inconsequential side quests, like helping a group of arguing scientists collect evidence of giant monster skeletons using my digital camera (yes). And then, on Friday night, I said ‘fuck it’ fought my way to the center of the map, took the big baddie out, and saw the credits roll. It was an absolute anticlimax, partly because I was in a hurry and took a bunch of sneaky shortcuts to the final fight, instead of exploring the giant castle like I suppose I was meant to do.
So I guess the moral of the story is err… heh… it’s the journey, not the destination? And as I was telling Cien earlier that day, the game is designed so that it’s possible to start the game and simply walk a beeline straight to the final boss and kill him instantly, if you had the skills and weren’t interested in slowly unfolding the whole experience for yourself. So this implicit message was always present, and I’m glad I took the time this year to enjoy more of it.
Speaking of picking up old games again, I re-subscribed to the New York Times in order to play their crosswords. The last time I played a lot of them was when they released a Nintendo DS game back in 2007. In recent weeks, a group of people at work starting playing them collaboratively, and I found the experience fun enough to give it a shot. The current promotional price is just $20 USD for the first year of All Access membership ($90 afterwards).
With the installation of the NYT Games app, I’ve also got the main news app again, of course. It does a couple of things really well, namely it presents simple text and images beautifully with a handful of layout variations, and it has a personalized tab called “For You” that is finite and completable each day.
I didn’t realize how much I’d missed having a primary source of news in my life, with its own Home Screen button, but of course I’m prioritizing it only because I paid for it. I’m still enjoying Artifact, and I’ve just told it that I have an NYT sub now and it promises to prioritize it for me. Artifact has a real chance here of being the winning news aggregator.
It makes me upset how Apple Music’s personalized tab could be so much better, like an AI-compiled digest of what’s new in music that I’d be interested in. Fingers crossed for WWDC next week! (Disclaimer: I know nothing.)
Friday was Vesak Day here and a public holiday, so I spent the afternoon with Peishan and Cien visiting two cafes, and let me just say I am disappointed that we are allowing so many Instagrammable cafes to flourish. They’re all variations of the same bare concrete interior, tables and stools placed closely together, serviceable coffee + $20 and up full English breakfast plates template of an F&B business. We managed to land in two that offered differented value: Acoustics on Neil Road, which understands that bare concrete is a terrible environment to have conversations or listen to music in, so they invested in sound dampening wall panels and impressive looking speakers; and the Allpress pop-up cafe down the street on on 73 Duxton Road which, well, offers Allpress beans.
Back to AI, Jose pointed me at the Planet Money podcast which is currently producing a series of episodes about GPT. They’re using it to write and create a full actual episode, and documenting the process. Parts 1, 2, and 3 (the actual AI-produced episode). Listening to the first episode, I observed them going through the same cycle of revelations that I went through recently as I experimented with using AI to do elements of my own job. The initial curiosity and excitement, the sudden surprise at how good it is, the disbelief when it’s sometimes even better, and the slow acceptance of the chaos to come as you realize no one knows how this is gonna turn out. We live in interesting times.
I watched the finale of Ted Lasso’s third and possibly final season. Season 1 is everyone’s pick for the strongest arc, but I think Season 3 is right behind it now. Season 2 was disjointed and strange to me, so quite a distant third place.
I said of the episode in a group chat:
The Ted Lasso finale is one of the best I’ve ever seen. On brand, unashamed, fan servicing, heavy-handed symbolic closure with all the love in the world. 5 stars.
There’s a line in it about how absolute perfection is boring, and by being imperfect on its own terms, the final episode was effectively, truly perfect. They made some polarizing choices this year and didn’t give us what we wanted at times, but the last episode gives it all. It mirrors the beginning, it offers thematic and narrative closure, and it gives room for the satisfying character growth it nurtured to show itself off.
Their choice of song to play over the final minutes was spot on, obvious, schmaltzy, perfect. It might have been better if they’d used my favorite version featuring Fiona Apple, but what do I know.
A couple of weeks ago Michael pinged me to talk about Daft Punk, after I wrote about Random Access Memories, saying sheepishly that Discovery was probably his favorite album, as if RAM was a purer musical endeavor and Discovery was sonic candy for philistines. I was mostly surprised that anyone could fail to love RAM best, and admitted that I hadn’t heard Discovery in many years and hardly knew it well.
Then I saw this YouTube video by “Digging The Greats”, in which they break down the achievements in sampling that Discovery contains. Absolute magic. I keep telling myself to spend more time on shows like Song Exploder and Watch The Sound on Apple TV+ and This Is Pop, but I never seem to make the time. What I love about this 15-minute video is they don’t just play the samples and show you what Daft Punk did; they load them up and perform the melodies live on an MPC to show you how the band did it.
Then on Sunday night, the algorithms delivered me this endearingly old-fashioned 20-minute talk from Pearl Acoustics (they seem to make loudspeakers) in which their technical director, Harley Lovegrove, inducts RAM into his list of Great Recordings, and proceeds to discuss why he thinks the production and musicianship on it are noteworthy. He’s got a trained ear as you’d expect, and spends quite a bit of time talking about the incredible Giorgio by Moroder, pointing out things like how there are two different drummers on the track (I had no idea!). What makes it more fun is the fact that this is clearly not the kind of music he normally reviews — other Great Recordings include Jacqueline Du Pré’s Elgar Cello Concerto (this often moves me to tears on good headphones), and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. Anyway, loved this video and it helped me appreciate a favorite album even more.
A different sort of band, but I bought the 2023 Pride band for my Apple Watch. Rather than the heavy and vibrant rainbow bars of previous versions, this year’s design has a white base with scattered color pills. It looks like birthday cake sprinkles or confetti, which is a fun vibe you don’t see in any other official Apple Watch bands, almost like something Swatch would do.
And now, for this week’s conclusion, brought to you by GPT:
In wrapping up, there’s something uniquely human about picking up where we left off, be it a beloved video game, a trusted news source, or a favorite TV show. That’s the joy of life’s continuity, the pleasure in seeing where a journey takes us, especially when it’s one we didn’t quite finish the first time around. These past weeks, I’ve immersed myself in familiar worlds, marveled at the capabilities of AI, and watched characters grow, and it made me realize how we continuously strive for balance, exploration, and ultimately, an understanding of our own story. We may stumble, we may take detours, but isn’t that the beauty of life’s game?