Week 50.21

  • We made it through another 50 weeks of a pandemic year. It’s surprising to see the number; saying it aloud instantly recalls many things that happened and also a sense of regret for all that couldn’t. Time is often called the ultimate scarce asset, but I think being time rich is useless if one is energy poor.
  • Energy is the one thing I don’t have this very moment, having just received my booster dose yesterday. I went with Moderna for my first two and experienced some trippy and difficult side effects. The rumors are true: Pfizer isn’t as bad, but it’s not nothing. Much like me, my immune system is prone to overreacting. It also means I can’t do Ring Fit Adventure for the recommended two weeks, during the worst time of year to skip exercise.
  • Maybe I already mentioned our scent-challenged Christmas tree last week. Well, it finally got decorated and there are now gifts under it. As a gift to myself (that I’ve already started using), I got the new Fujifilm Instax mini Evo camera. It’s just launched locally and in Japan, with a North American debut planned for February. Like the various crappy toy cameras that were popular awhile back, the Harinezumi and such, it’s a low-quality digital camera meant for fun shots with a grainy/blurry, poorly exposed aesthetic. On top of that, it has an Instax printer built in, so you can chuck out giveaway photos at a party, funeral, or board meeting. It’s not Fujifilm’s first attempt at this, but it’s the first that isn’t ugly or burdened with some other gimmicks (the last one recorded accompanying sound clips you could play via a QR code on every photo).
  • Many years ago when Go Go Curry shut their local outlets, I was pretty bummed about it and was especially offended by the franchisee spinning up their own copycat brand where all the restaurants used to be. It was a pale imitation, with several gimmicks thrown in that were not to my liking, but made them popular nevertheless. I generally dislike when food is “adapted to local tastes”. Anyway, this week we were near one around dinner time and decided to give Monster Curry another go, since it’s been years and the sour memory needed updating. And… they were actually good? I was just in disbelief that they turned it around: better quality ingredients, properly fried katsu, no skimping on the curry. Credit where credit’s due.
  • We don’t often use our Amazon Prime Video subscription, given the smaller library here, but I went looking for interesting things and came across an exclusive anime series called Babylon. I ended up watching all 12 episodes of it despite the unevenness, hoping for a payoff and some answers. Nope. It ends abruptly without much of a satisfying conclusion to the big questions. Avoid unless they make a second season.
  • Not disappointing at all is Micaiah Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds, which I’m currently reading. The title and premise may make you think it’s a mediocre YA SF-lite adventure novel, but it refreshes ideas like traveling between parallel worlds, and utopian cities with all the have-nots living beyond the walls, and adds excellent writing around race/class/identity politics, spiritualism, and the lasting effects of violence.
  • Tons of new music got added to my library, but I haven’t had a chance to hear any of it. At the front of the line is Alicia Keys’ and Aimee Mann’s new albums.
I like that they tried to use the X series’ design language, but the actual product is very plasticky and the charging port is literally covered with a flap of soft PVC.
Under the right conditions, the Instax mini Evo can take pretty good shots!
Most suffer exposure metering issues like this white plate of improved curry (you can manually stop down but it’s fiddly).

Week 49.21

— It felt like a long week. Part of that might be related to binging the eight-hour entirety of The Beatles: Get Back in a matter of days. And then consuming more videos and articles to fill in the blanks. If you haven’t yet heard the yelps of appreciation for it online, it’s Peter Jackson’s four-year attempt at editing together a never-before-seen side of the band’s final album coming together, down from 60 hours of footage and 150 hours of audio. At the lowest level of why it works, watching talented people create something as ephemeral as pop music through messy collaboration is irresistible.

I won’t repeat too much of what’s already been said, except that it’s given me an even greater appreciation of them all, Paul in particular. When I look at him, I think about two things: one, he looks like my friend Christian when he had a beard, and two, it’s so hard to mentally connect the guy on screen (just 26 years old!) with the older Paul that I’ve always seen. I don’t know his solo material as well, but it’s probably safe to say he was at his best when playing off the boys. His enthusiasm for them giving it a proper go again suggests he knew it too at some level.

So my listening shelf now has on it:

— After two months of ADD-ed attempts to finish David Mitchell’s Number9dream, I finally did it. It’s a great book, but every time I tried I would get distracted by something else after a couple of pages. It led me to think that any time in the future I find myself stuck on a hazy and challenging book, I should simultaneously read something dead straight on the side, non-fiction like, just to keep the habit regular. But maybe I’m just coming out the end of a no-reading funk, the kind I seem to encounter every year.

Afterwards, I went for something totally different, Ben Mezrich’s follow-up to The Accidental Billionaires (which turned into the The Social Network film), titled Bitcoin Billionaires. I usually detest books that try to tell true stories narratively, pretending to know every character’s thoughts at critical moments, and boy does this one do that with a huge dollop of cheese on top. But… it’s an interesting story at its core, about how the Winklevoss twins got over losing to Zuckerberg and successfully invested in their next act. So I managed to read the whole thing in a day.

That was followed by My Korean Deli: Risking It All For A Convenience Store, which has been on my list for years because I just like convenience stores and stories set in them. Except this one isn’t really a Korean deli at all, although the author’s wife’s family is Korean. It’s just a dilapidated American corner store in Brooklyn, there are several tonal issues like borderline racism and lame jokes, and it’s quite whiny. The image of the American convenience store just depressed the hell out of me but I finished it anyway.

— I’d like to keep the book streak going, but I’ve played next to no video games lately. The only ones I’ve touched are two beautiful but ultimately shallow and unfun mobile gacha games, Figure Fantasy and Blue Archive. The former has a great idea: some people like to collect figurines, why not turn that into an AR game? They even made it look like several million dollars, but didn’t spend enough on the awful translation, so that was deleted quickly. The latter has a great English translation, but there was nothing in the core game (auto squad combat) to keep me, so that’s gone too.

— The release of Misery Men NFTs continues on OpenSea, and I’m still enjoying the somewhat meditative experience of drawing and coloring them in my spare time.

— Our Christmas tree arrived and was decorated after sitting naked and neglected for a few days. It’s a little short on the usual pine scent, despite being very green and flourishing, so either we’ve got the Covid or the trees have mutated as well.

— Covid numbers have been falling; we actually had a couple of days with cases under 1,000, which doesn’t sound like a huge achievement but can you believe it’s been two months since that happened? In the meantime, we’re just waiting on more Omicron deets like everyone else. Nevertheless, I went out a couple of times this week, either to drink Guinness or coffee.

On Friday I saw Ci’en, Peishan, and James at a cafe/restaurant that seems to be geared towards startups and remote workers. Just groups of four to five young people on long benches and round tables, hammering things out on PC laptops (weird) and playing mobile games on their breaks while ordering coffee and snacks. I sat there for six whole hours and everyone in my vicinity was there longer. Not a bad place to go hang out and work with your team, but I wonder how they turn a profit.

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