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.