Week 46.21

  • We’re about six weeks from Christmas when it feels like it should be six months. This year’s time progression has been slippery; because I had clear point in the middle when I started to take time off work, it feels a little like two years in one, and yet much less. I’ll bet it’s the same for everyone buried under lots of work and not going out enough anyway, because a lack of New Stuff happening each day just makes them go by faster.
  • I read something somewhere about the mental health toll that working from home is taking on people, and of course someone quoted said the lack of human contact was bringing them down. Something in my head said, “well now you know how work felt for everyone who doesn’t love being surrounded by lots of people, but had to do it anyway for all of their lives”, but I’m sure that’s already been said. I land somewhere in the middle: I can do either infinitely and hate them equally.
  • I met Khairul for a coffee earlier in the week, for the first time in maybe a year. He’s been exploring new interests and possible personal projects during his time off. So it was great to talk with someone in virtually the same boat, and we both gave each other some homework to research and think about before the next chat. After that we took a short walk around Chinatown where my first-gen Ricoh GR got some use.
  • Speaking of projects, I was inspired by this Twitter thread of Venkatesh Rao’s wherein he goes down the web3 rabbit hole and ends up minting NFTs out of his old blog/newsletter artwork. What happened with me was initial dismissal, curiosity, then buying a couple of NFTs to see if I was wrong, before moving onto other topics (currently trying to grok DeFi 2.0 bonds) without considering that I could make some NFTs of my own, just for kicks. I hardly have the skills for it, but why should that stop me?
  • So now I think I‘ll do it, starting with a collection of these Misery Man doodles I started drawing by accident a couple of years ago, which became a joke signature/tag of sorts I’d leave on whiteboards around the office. I’ll probably draw a bunch of variations, maybe a hundred, and put them up on OpenSea soon.
Basic Misery Man
  • I spent a little time on Decentraland this week checking out the alternative metaverse. It’s rough by modern game standards, but it’s cool that anyone can create assets and straight plug them into what is essentially an MMO, or sell them on an open marketplace. I wandered downtown and saw buildings that companies had built as shrines to themselves, on plots of virtual land that they’d bought and now hold as NFTs. It’s early days because no one really knows what to do with them. One company recreated their org chart in the lobby as photos on shelves, and if you go upstairs to a cathedral-like space with glass and high ceilings, you can browse their website in a Jumbotron-sized window.
  • Speaking of giant things, KAWS’s Holiday artwork is now in Singapore as part of its world tour, albeit embroiled in some legal mess that means it can’t officially open to the public yet. That said, it’s still up, and it looks great (better?) from afar. I love the idea of a giant character chilling out in different cities, but it loses that magic for me the closer you get. We had the opportunity to visit before it was meant to open, and yeah if there was merch on sale, I’d say definitely go. If you’re just nearby on the Helix Bridge, that works too. I brought my D-Lux 7 out for that. The iPhone is great and all, but as I said to Joseph in a chat yesterday, everything is so crispy and bright and HDR these days, it’s a relief to shoot with a “real” camera based on aging technology now and then.
  • We’re watching Only Murders In The Building, a 10-episode series set in New York, with some strong Manhattan Murder Mystery wannabe vibes. Instead of Woody Allen, Alan Alda, and Diane Keaton, you get Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. And oh, they’re making a podcast of their amateur murder investigation as they go. It doesn’t always feel consistent — there are some admittedly cool ideas choppily shoved in but they mess with the tone and pacing — but I’ll take what I can get because cozy, fun weekend viewing is rare these days.

Week 45.21

  • On Monday we had the day off, so it was off to IKEA for some shopping (reasonably crowded for a weekday) and then the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands (not very crowded) to check out two exhibitions. One was kinda video gamey, curated by Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Lumines and Rez fame, and the other was about Sound: artworks visualizing it, historical inventions, and novel ways of experiencing it.
  • The most powerful bit was probably at the end of the above mentioned Orchestral Maneuvers attraction. 40 loudspeakers, each one playing a discrete recording of a single vocalist, working together to literally surround you with a choral musical work. You know what stereo separation sounds like, and even what spatial audio with Dolby Atmos sounds like, but this was on another level for recorded sound. You could walk around and change the mix, as it were.
  • Thursday was another day off, with the Diwali/Deepavali public holiday here. We didn’t do anything of note apart from going out to eat way too much Chinese hotpot. I still think of our visit to Taiwan just before Covid-19 hit, and how we ate at this Wulao hotpot restaurant multiple times. If there was stomach space left at the end of a night after cocktails, Wulao. No plans for lunch the day after, Wulao. I’d previously never gotten into that sort of food before, so it was making up a lifetime of ignoring hot tofu skin, coagulated duck blood, and other things that don’t sound so nice when typed out.
  • We saw the new Apple TV+ movie, Finch, starring Tom Hanks. Two of the biggest films on the service star the same guy, which is slightly odd. Anyway, I enjoyed it just fine. They also did good work on the CGI because I often forgot that a certain element wasn’t actually there in real life. 3.5 stars.
  • Someone mentioned a mutual acquaintance had gotten a job at Facebook, and a quick look on LinkedIn indicated that they are hiring aggressively for the local office, which led to a discussion (okay maybe more of a rant on my part) about people who make the Faustian bargain of working there. Then I came across this piece in The Atlantic saying perhaps it’s time we regard the company as a hostile foreign power rather than just a corporation. Still, calls like these have been made for years, and I think the simple fact is that Facebook has reached a state of untouchability. Money breaks down enough resistance to ensure that they’ll always be able to hire; hell, we all have a price. I see little hope of them being dismantled by either customer outrage or legal process. We can only hope for an unforced error. May the Meta era push for ecosystem ownership be full of them.
  • Radiohead’s newly rereleased KID A MNESIA albums have been on rotation. It was an amazing period for their music, although I’d still have to give the crown to OK Computer. I remember having a copy of Amnesiac that came in a little red hardcover art book. I wonder where that went.

Week 44.21

  • This is the first post to be late since I started over a year ago. Apologies to myself; I/you were busy all day yesterday on Monday, which I guess I’ll only explain in the next report.
  • Apart from walks around the neighborhood, where I was surprised at my surprise to see a few Halloween-decorated houses because who does that right now + it’s nice that we think we could or should, I went out exactly once this week: to meet Cien for brunch and coffees on a weekday. Doing this after a long time kept in the cubicle cage leads one to wonder, “who are all these other people lounging, chatting, walking dogs in athleisure, looking jobless?” It’s perhaps a process of normalization for the brain; this gestures at ongoing freedom is a legitimate community too, transitory or not.
  • Transitory is probably going to be some dictionary publisher’s Word Of The Year.
  • After lunch, about an hour’s walk in blazing sun and humid air, getting wound around on top of our own footsteps, lost in the Tiong Bahru area while taking photos with my underutilized CL. I shall try to make it something I don’t leave home without these days.
  • I came across this article about the New Balance 990, a classic “dad shoe” the likes of which are now cool on account of looking uncool, I think. Back in the day, they were coveted in some circles for being the high-end of the low at $100, the best shoe that NB knew how to make in the USA, and so a bit better than “premium mediocre” actually; they would have been more comfortable and better-made than most. Well, I’ve recently had to toss out a few pairs of sneakers after wearing them black and broken after many years, so I immediately ordered a fresh pair of these after reading. They arrived in two days from an outlet in Chinatown. They look so dorky but I like them.
  • A cousin’s Chinese wedding dinner over the weekend. The first I’ve attended in Covid times: the rule is now five to a table rather than the customary 10. Where courses would normally be displayed in the center and doled out for sharing, accessible for any who wanted seconds, it’s now individual portions delivered directly. All expected, all logical, an improvement to the experience in many ways, deficit in other intangible ones, hindering interaction and breaking connection with our traditions and past — “that’s just how it’s always been done”, until one day, no longer.
  • As NFT floor prices crashed across OpenSea over the week, I found myself irrationally tempted to buy into some formerly (and really, still) overpriced collections. I had to talk myself down, but I’m glad I managed. Outside of Bitcoin and DeFi, there’s a lot of potential in the so-called crypto space with token-based projects and DAOs, namely new models of ownership and running a business, but this stage looks like pure spaghetti-on-walls and speculation. I accept that it’s part of the process, but I want to fast-forward to the next bit where it happens without so much get-rich-quick motivation. And the less is said about play-to-earn, the better.
  • On Netflix, we’ve been watching El inocente, yet another Harlan Coben TV adaptation. I think this will be the last one because it feels too much like the other we saw a few weeks ago: mechanically reliant on outlandish coincidences and undisclosed (to the viewer only) pasts to provide the twists it thinks are necessary to keep you hooked. Well, maybe they are.

Week 43.21

  • Apple unveiled their long-anticipated MacBook Pro redesign on Tuesday, and for once it wasn’t about thinner and sexier, but thicker and comfier. Pretty sure I saw a joke somewhere along the lines of “who among us isn’t thicker now”. I’m glad to see the reversion to more ports, MagSafe, and an integrated SD card reader, more because it shows the company is still willing to correct mistakes, but don’t actually want or need anything I saw — I’m happy not being a Pro and just puttering around doing casual normie shit on my Air.
  • Some people have waited a long time for the 3rd-generation AirPods, and while I’m a little annoyed the AirPod Pros have now been bested at battery life, not resuming music inappropriately when in a pocket, and charging via MagSafe (unless you buy a pair now and get the updating charging case), I understand they’re on their own development path and will someday get new features. Until then, there are attractive new Beats earbuds coming that look like they’ll fix my continuing fit issues with AirPods.
  • A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Covid cases here went nuclear, reaching up to 2,000/day. Well, in the days since we’ve become numb to numbers of about 3,500/day, and they’re not letting up. The majority of us have been vaccinated, so these cases would mostly be without much consequence (well, who can say? This Swedish report is worrying), but as long as it spreads widely and we have people who won’t get vaccinated, we seem unable to risk opening up further. So the authorities have extended restrictions for another month into November. It’s still dining out and movement for people in groups of two only.
  • I finished Journey Mode in Tetris Effect Connected for Switch, which I wasn’t able to do when I played it on the PS4. Maybe a matter of controllers, or luck. The multiplayer modes are novel, and I love the one where you team up with two other human players online to battle the AI, occasionally joining up your three individual playfields into one super-wide collaborative screen. When you pull off a win, it feels like a moment of miraculous teamwork with strangers; good natured, fun, and communicative.
  • I managed to complete last season’s Battle Pass in Call of Duty: Mobile, but just barely in time. For those who don’t play, that means I spent enough time grinding for in-game currency that I can enter the next season without paying real money. But fatigue is setting in. I don’t think I can do four consecutive tours of duty. Will probably drop out after this new Halloween-themed one is done.
  • Tricky released a new album with some friends under the banner of “Lonely Guest”, which is also the name of the album (Apple Music). It’s very high on my to-do list, but I’ve heard a bit and it doesn’t disappoint.
  • Verve/Impulse Records also released a live performance of A Love Supreme from Seattle, 1965. It’s not really mixed for headphones, sadly, so put this on your HomePod if you’re fortunate enough to have one, as they are STILL NOT AVAILABLE IN SINGAPORE DESPITE THIS WEEK’S ANNOUNCEMENT OF NEW ONES.
iPhone 13 Pro macro photo from a walk this week, film look via the Prequel app

Week 40.21

  • The mooncake festival is over, but I finally got my hands on a bunch of double-salted-yolk ones, which are now being slowly savored out of the refrigerator on a daily basis. I haven’t weighed myself in several months and don’t want to.
  • I started reading David Mitchell’s Number9Dream and will probably take it in slowly over a couple of weeks. So far it’s intriguing, different, quite brilliant.
  • Like everyone else in the world, we saw the Squid Game series on Netflix. Most of it at 1.25x speed, because it’s unnecessarily slow moving at times, dragged out for god knows what reasons. It could have been done in fewer episodes, but that doesn’t help Netflix I suppose. Most of it was watched in the English dub, because we heard the subs aren’t entirely accurate and the dub script differs in places (so at least we get two incorrect signals to triangulate rather than just one), and also because the original performances are a little… whiny? I’ve seen takes proclaiming it the ‘most disturbing show ever’, going on about its hellish vision, saying it’s given people nightmares, and so on. I can’t understand why. There’s not much new in its rehashed survival contest/psychological horror tropes, and they even appear often in comics and anime. I remember being disturbed by videos of awful bum fights back in the early days of the internet. The real world is the most disturbing show ever.
  • Covid cases here exploded-ed-ed even further, nearly touching 3,000 cases a day at one point. Despite that, I went out a couple of times and had coffee with an old friend I mentioned here back in June. We hadn’t properly talked in about two decades, but have reconnected now thanks to Twitter and Telegram. She lives elsewhere but came back to town on some unexpected business, and I’m glad we had the chance to meet.
  • We also had a couple of friends over, and all of this irl activity hasn’t been as bad as I might have once felt. Don’t get me wrong, I still love being alone, but maybe not having to interact with people daily for work has recharged my social battery. But it’s still a broken one with <80% battery health, though. Don’t make me go to things. Especially if I have to dress up. <— Note to wife.
  • My iPhone 13 Pro arrived earlier than estimated, which prompted discussion of whether Apple and its delivery partners are deliberately underpromising and overdelivering, and whether they should stop this because it’s inconvenient for people who’ve made plans to be home on a certain date only to be suddenly told “it’s coming tomorrow”. It worked out fine for me this time. I am satisfied to have it, but haven’t had much occasion to test the new camera out much. More to come.
  • Inspired by a Twitter account I started following for its vibrant and vibey film photography, I made a preset in Darkroom that tries to get at the look: faded green shadows, soft magenta tones, lots of grain, and a steep ramp up into blown-out highlights. I also separately recreated the look of the “Positive Film” effect on my first-gen Ricoh GR, and I think I got quite close by shooting a color chart with both cameras for reference. Sadly, Darkroom removed the ability to share presets quite awhile back when they rebuilt the app, and we’re still waiting for that feature to be reintroduced.

Filter test, shot on iPhone 13 Pro
Filter test, shot on iPhone 12 Pro
  • Kanye updated Donda with a few subtle changes, so I re-added the album to my Apple Music library and put it on several times over. I haven’t been playing it much since it came out, but the music has had time to sit in my subconscious and open up. Now after this booster shot, I’m beginning to see it’s a better album than I first gave it credit for. It might be my favorite of the year in a couple of months.

Week 39.21

  • For the first time since it stopped being necessary to line up for hours outside a telco HQ or Apple Store to get one, New iPhone Day (Sep 24) came and went without a DHL employee appearing at my doorstep. Dear reader, I was late to the finish line this year and my unit only arrives in early October. I begin each day by wondering if I should do the right thing and cancel it. We know I won’t.
  • Adding weight to that argument is the fact that the iPhone 13 Pro has a camera bump so comically large that it interferes with accessories such as Apple’s own MagSafe Duo Charger, and my beloved Backbone One game controller. For the latter, the company has quickly designed a spacer/adapter, which customers can fabricate on their own. I’m hoping to be able to buy one since I don’t have access to a 3D printer. Even without accessories, the bump is enough to cause substantial see-sawing when the phone (with or without a case) is placed on a table and the corners are tapped. I know because my wife has her iPhone 13 Pro already and this power imbalance does not feel comfy.
  • I neglected to mention in a previous week’s post that we did get around to seeing The Matrix Revolutions, and it was just as disappointing as I’d recalled. My disappointment at the time was so strong that it effectively wiped all details from my memory (while I vividly remembered the first two). I think it can be blamed on an overall lack of fun, visual craft, and other core ingredients that made the first movies so loved: well-choreographed wire-fu, novel special effects, a mystery that we are made to care about seeing solved, and big action set pieces where incredible, iconic things happen — a bunch of flying tentacled robots drilling into an underground city doesn’t count.
  • I came across this still image from the film that looked like something right out of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and decided to google the two franchises together to see if there were any links. That’s when I found this cool “trailer” that someone made for Evangelion 3.0+1.0 (warning: lots of spoilery scenes used) cut to the music from the The Matrix Resurrections’ trailer. Damn, the new EVA looks so epic.

  • Unfortunately, this week’s viewing time was effectively squandered by the mysterious decision in our household to watch Love Island Australia, which is absolutely stupid and 30 episodes long. I think we’re into the final third now but I’ve long stopped paying it most of my attention, and use the time to rack up progress in the Temple Run match-3 game from Apple Arcade. Why melt your brain in only one way at a time?
  • We did see the first two episodes of the Foundation series on Apple TV+ though, and it looks very promising albeit still clearly a television thing. I can’t stop thinking about some of the gobsmackingly beautiful/chilling frames in the Dune film we saw last week, and I wish someone would make a TV show that strives to that level of abstraction and perfection.
  • I finished two books: Unity by Elly Bangs, and The Test by Sylvain Neuvel. Both are worth reading. Unity is a better dystopian SF adventure novel than Firebreak which I read recently — the comparison comes to mind because both contain a program to turn orphans into super soldiers — and blends some fun concepts like hive minds and body snatching, with a dash of Ted Chiang’s short story Understand. Meanwhile The Test is a very short novella you could read on a Sunday morning, and the less it’s described, the better.
  • I’m still a habitual Goodreads user, but signed up to check out its sexy new competitor, Literal.Club. It’s already a faster and nicer experience, but since it’s still in invite-only mode, lacks the friends and years of book review data that will keep Goodreads around as long as Amazon wills it. Add me at @sangsara if you’re on!
  • Oh, and thanks to the announcement of a new Kirby game coming next year on the Switch, I chanced upon the depths of the series’ dark and complex lore. At first, it seemed like a hoax: what, this cute and cuddly Nintendo thing for kids is actually a horrific end-of-times apocalyptic tale with gene splicing and satanic worship and the death of countless civilizations, except the protagonist is so innocent and pure that everything rendered through his eyes looks like how the games end up looking to us? That’s sort of the gist, and there are a bunch of explainer videos on YouTube. I won’t recommend the ones I’ve seen, as they’re kinda incomplete, but here’s a popular one I intend to watch soon.

  • Covid cases here have gone kinda nuclear, from a couple hundred a day just weeks ago to nearly two thousand cases yesterday. So we’re back to two-person groups (you can still eat out in a pair if you want; life’s not completely shut down) for the next month, and more working from home for those who still have jobs. Stay safe out there.