Week 21.22

The week started with a public holiday (Vesak Day), which I spent having coffee with Peishan and Cien at the National Gallery. We ended up not having any time to see the exhibits. Mid-week, I joined Howard and Hunn at a random crypto meetup in town that one of them had heard about. We didn’t last long there, but ended up drinking at a cocktail bar in Golden Mile Complex for the next four or five hours. I will probably develop Covid in the coming week, let’s see.


Out of nowhere, I decided to start making a new series of abstract paintings/drawings/doodles that I’m calling Subconscious Heirlooms. Drawing them has somehow been very satisfying, and they’ve consumed most of my free time in the past few days.

So far I’ve done 30, some more awful than others, but I want to keep them in series where you can see progression in the process. Taken together with last week’s greater-than-zero creative output, I can only interpret this productive surge as my right brain’s last gasp of protest before returning to regular employment, a “please, can’t you see what we could be?” Hail Mary plea for me to continue being unemployed and free each afternoon to create whatever nonsense strikes me. Well, if you want to support this mission, you can buy one of these as an NFT on OpenSea! Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Here’s the official description/museum wall text:

Endless images lie dormant in our minds — generational lessons encoded in DNA; disassembled dreams; reflections on a lifetime of inaccessible memories. Subconscious Heirlooms is one attempt to surface a small collection of primal forms and concretize them for future generations.

Recursively inspired by automatic drawing and generative art, each piece is made without intentional direction, using a small but continually expanding vocabulary of elements that occur, repeat, and evolve freely over the creative process. Some may cause you to feel a sudden and inexplicable affinity, affirming the connectedness of our lived experiences.


Media activity:

  • Finished reading Daniel Suarez’s Delta-V, and just so you know going in, it’s going to be a series. It also feels like it was written for a film or TV adaptation, which is a feeling I also have with Blake Crouch’s books. It’s fine, anyway, and is a bit of The Martian meets Armageddon with a little more paranoid drama. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the asshole billionaire role would definitely be best played by Jared Leto.
  • Just for maximum memory cross-talk, I immediately started on Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves next, which is also set in space, with another version of the ISS and another band of doomed adventurers, and I’m already getting a little mixed up.
  • I decided to see the Uncharted film, having played all the games. The casting is all wrong for sure, but once you get past that… it’s still a pretty bad movie. The first half works quite well, following the infallible Indiana Tomb Raider formula of ancient clues, exotic locales, and parkour. But by the end, I was on my phone and rolling my eyes at improbable set pieces that would look ridiculous even in a game.
  • How do you follow that? I asked my Instagram followers to vote between Morbius (Jared Leto in a role nobody asked for) and Memory (Liam Neeson in a role he’s done 1000x before). People are sickos, and 100% of people voted for Morbius, so I put it on… and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected. There’s a good film in there somewhere underneath, most of it probably on the cutting room floor (isn’t that a weird saying to still be using? Should we say “still in the Final Cut project library?”). I’ll venture that it’s a better film than Uncharted, but being able to waste time on both of them was a luxury.

Week 20.22

A week of calamity for many participants in le monde de la cryptographie, as the Terra project unraveled at shocking speed, its two main tokens shedding over 99% of their value in a couple of days. I’m told that other tokens and the entire stock market also had a bad time, but I hardly noticed tbh. Everything looks good next to a raging gasoline fire.

I try not to mention (and certainly not encourage) any proper crypto stuff here, apart from talking about the technology or artistic merits of some NFTs, and this is why. Many people lost life-changing amounts of money this week, and some apparently took their own lives too. A couple of friends checked in to ask if I was affected and if I was okay, which was honestly sweet and appreciated. In short, I am/will be okay. I would be even better had I followed some basic risk management rules I knew well enough but chose to ignore. 🤷‍♂️

While on the subject… I discovered a bunch of new enefftee art of merit, that made me feel the urge to buy despite the screams, cries of doom, it’s-all-overs, etc. all around. Vice Motherboard reported that Neal Stephenson himself has purchased his first NFTs, which felt like a momentous occasion in SF history. He’s made interesting picks, with the series I liked best being Neophyte MMXXII by Sterling Crispin, which renders living simulations of plant growth in each artwork (disclosure: one now resides in my wallet too). I decided to send the VR-themed Misery Man #61 as an unsolicited gift to his address. As much as I’m fond of that one, if anyone deserves it, it’s surely the man who coined the term “metaverse”.

I also found myself attracted to Memories of Qilin by Emily Xie, which are generative paintings inspired by East Asian art. Both of the above are collections curated by Artblocks, the same platform that launched Fidenza by Tyler Hobbs, and exploring their site and Discord led me to Screens by Thomas Lin Pedersen, abstract pieces based on simulating screen printing techniques and featuring beautiful structural planes with swirling geometry that collide to suggest insane urban architecture and spatial depth. Ancient Courses of Fictional Rivers by Robert Hodgin visualizes the winding paths of rivers over time, and then the growth of human settlements on their banks. It’s beautiful art and a wonderful concept. Finally, Edifice by Ben Kovach also plays with the grids of imaginary cityscapes, generating the facades of impossible buildings. If I were rich I’d collect heaps of these.


Heyo three new creative outlets emerged!

1) Before Covid, I received a DJI Mavic Mini drone as a gift and then never got a chance to fly it properly. Those were the days when going outdoors unnecessarily was prohibited, and then even after the rules were relaxed, I was lazy and it didn’t happen (an example of how much time has passed: DJI just announced the Mavic Mini THREE). It’s been on my to-do list to start flying it during this time off, so that finally happened. My dad’s been into remote-controlled things his whole life, so he had the experience and interest in doing it with me. It was a fun afternoon, and I got some good photos from its pretty capable camera.

When your size is not size.

2) The Kabukicho webcam mentioned in previous weeks is still my background video feed of choice. I’ve decided to embark on a new project where I blow up this live scene onto a wall with my projector, watch it intently, and take photos (not screenshots) of interesting things happening. It’s street photography, but remotely!

Sure I’m restricted to just one angle, but for all purposes it’s a covid-era adaptation to not actually being there to document life on a seedy rat-infested street in a red-light district. And without the threat of being beaten up, as a bonus! The results are filtered through the mediation of space, codecs, optics, light; they look more pixel art than photos. But still street photography, one could argue! Sometimes you’ll see shadows cast by my body or items in my environment. It has layers of removal, but still ultimately real life in Shinjuku. I’ve just started, but already I’ve got a lady flashing her underwear to passers by, a man peeing against a wall after midnight, police stopping an altercation, people mugging for the camera…

3) It’s been five years since Rob and I had the opportunity to work together on something, but now something is coming together over the next few weeks, which should be fun. Albeit remotely and in two different time zones. I hope to be able to share more when it’s over.


Media activity:

  • I’ve been reading Delta–V, the latest book by Daniel Suarez. It’s set in the near future, and concerns the first deep space expedition by a private company. They want to send a team of extreme adventurers and a few physically impressive scientists up to mine an asteroid for valuable materials, because it makes more sense to get building blocks from space to build stations and ships in space, than to fly it all up there from Earth. It’s good fun so far.
  • Big week for new music. I’m still making time to hear it all; certainly too early to share any proper thoughts.
  • The new Kendrick Lamar album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. Such a huge deal, the entire top of the Browse tab in Apple Music was taken over by carousels and featured tiles for this one album.
  • Ryan Adams is back with a new double album, just weeks after releasing Chris, which was dedicated to his late brother. Now it’s time for Romeo & Juliet, billed as a summer heartbreak album of sorts, and much more accessible.
  • Them Yorke and Jonny Greenwood have a new band with another guy, but Pitchfork says it’s pretty much like a new Radiohead album, and that’s very high praise. The Smile — A Light for Attracting Attention.
  • Florence + the Machine — Dance Fever. Not sure what that title is about.
  • Oh No — OFFAIR: Dr. No’s Lost Beach. I haven’t heard an Oh No album in years, but good stuff.
  • Röyksopp — Profound Mysteries. I’ve never been a fan, but I played this once through and I’m keeping it in the library.
  • Finally, Jens Lekman has rereleased two of his seminal albums from the past under new names, with some tracks rearranged and rerecorded, apparently because they are meant to be living works and changing over time. He’s serious about this, because the previous versions are no longer for sale or streaming! I recommend listening to The Cherry Trees Are Still In Blossom (formerly known as Oh You’re So Silent, Jens), because it has more of the songs I love, including Black Cab, of which there are two new versions here. The other album is The Linden Trees Are Still In Blossom (formerly known as Night Falls Over Kortedala).
I actually saw Jens up close when he performed in Singapore wayyy back in Jan 2007!

Week 19.22

This was the first week in probably the entire time I’ve been doing these weekly updates (maybe a year and a half) where Monday came and I forgot to sit down and start drafting.

My sabbatical from work is coming to an end, and it’s quite likely that it’ll be hard to continue doing this in its current form once I have meetings to attend and less head space for frivolous introspection and mental health protection — what a concept! Ha ha! I will probably gather bullet points over the course of the week instead, or just write less, which may be a blessing anyway.

The wife-away season of 2022 has begun, as I said on my Instagram stories, but it’s too soon to say if I won’t die of malnutrition, lack of attention, insect infestation, sudden tumbles down the stairs, strokes, or other incidents — with no one to realize my demise until a week later, when one of these blog updates fails to materialize (and now I’ve gone ahead and pre-empted that they may be late; what a genius I am).

===

What have I been doing? I started playing Spiritfarer on the Switch. It’s beautiful, it’s chill, I think it will break my heart eventually.

I met up with my closest cousin after probably four years without a proper conversation. Some of the blame must be shouldered by the times we live in, but some of it is mine as usual.

I went to an NFT meetup the other day on Howard’s invitation. It wasn’t nearly as awkward as I expected. I met a couple of good people who were clearly experts in their fields; the time investment and esoteric ecosystem knowledge just radiated from them. I also met some explorers like myself, who know enough from dabbling but are still bewildered by glimpses of the outer lands. Perhaps we don’t need to go there at all. But good to know there are guides.

I’ve been talking to the team behind a project I find fascinating and artistically sound. We might do something together. It feels right and effortless to be involved in something like this on my own time. Perhaps that’s how getting back to work will work out.

Sigrid has a new album out this week. I need to find the time to hear it.

I finished reading A Gentleman In Moscow, and found out that the television adaptation is being made for Apple TV+. That’s restored my faith in the project, because I know they won’t shortchange it. It’s funny how ATV launched with the promise of quality over quantity, and how we felt that wasn’t a real positioning. Fast forward to 2022 and the imminent collapse of Netflix subscriber numbers thanks to a perceivable decline in content quality, and Apple’s seal of assurance is suddenly valuable. Some of the best series I’ve seen this year have been on their service: WeCrashed, Slow Horses, Severance. Anyway, fantastic book, not schmaltzy and populist at all. 4.5 stars, I’d say.

See you all next week.

Week 12.22

It’s probably time to admit I’ve gone too far with collecting 0xmusic NFTs and need to stop. It’s the euphoria of coming across something additive, with an actual concept, after feeling negative about all the crap out there. Even then, there has to be limits. This week I bought a couple more and spent some time fooling around in GarageBand just making sure I don’t have any latent music production talent. Almost sure now. Will do a couple more tracks next week before I call it. Here’s an earlier noodle, based on “Syn City”.

But hey if you like the band Blonde Redhead, you might be interested to know that the 0xmusic team was inspired by them in creating the style of the “Serena” series. On the anniversary of the album Misery Is A Butterfly, they airdropped a pair of professionally mixed songs to holders, and published this article on the band and their music.


We had lunch at a place called Lad & Co. (unsure, but likely unrelated to the other chip shop called Lad & Dad) where a large haddock and chips costs S$29. I had to text Rob and ask what a comparable serving costs in the UK these days, and as it turns out… about the same, upmarket! Although you can always find some for less in grubbier places. I don’t know why I was surprised by how much it’s risen in the last few years. Long gone are my student days of getting a takeaway cod and chips for £4.

On the way back, we heard a program on the radio about inflation. On top of rising electricity costs that affect everyone, restaurant operators are getting it on several fronts from ingredient supplies to labor shortages. The head of a charity was saying that in some hawker centers a single fishball now costs 80 cents. Even the humble Gardenia brand loaf is up from $2.40 to $2.60. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the cost of eating out go up 30% over the next year. This was topped off with a worrying factoid I’d never heard before: 15–20% of Singaporeans might be suffering from food insecurity.

Right after that, I happened upon the physical front page of the national newspaper (it’s been awhile) and guess what was on it? Tips on how to survive the rising costs of living. Well, at least it wasn’t as bad as Bloomberg’s take yesterday.


Media activity:

  • Got back into Billions where we stopped in Season 5, and have now finished that, ready to go into 6. I’ve never bothered to watch past the first episode of Succession, which people say has great writing. That pilot just showed awful rich people who weren’t any fun. The Billions team definitely has fun with their reprehensible characters, always grandstanding and speaking through cute references alternately aimed at Gen X and millennial audiences.
  • Also had a bit of a true crime spree on Netflix, finishing Bad Vegan over the weekend, plus an episode of Worst Roommate Ever. If you thought The Tinder Swindler had a crazy con going, this one exceeds it. Too easy to think these people are dumb and being told what they want to hear; more unpleasant to wonder what scams you’re falling for in your own life.
  • The first three episodes of WeCrashed on Apple TV+ exceeded my expectations, which were admittedly not high because of Jared Leto’s reputation. But he kinda nails his impression of Adam Neumann and his reality distortion field, a place somewhere between charismatic and cancerous that isn’t too dissimilar from all those other true crime/con shows.
  • Kim was busy, so I finally watched a film that she would absolutely have hated: Mandy, starring Nicolas Cage. Okay, I suspected I was going to hate it as well. It wasn’t as superb as some reviews made it out to be, but I enjoyed the progressive melting down (of both film logic and Nicolas Cage) after the central tragedy, ending in a surreal otherworld that perhaps goes on too long. 3/5 stars.
  • More contrarian film reactions: I enjoyed Don’t Look Up and didn’t think it was so heavy handed as to be off putting. I’d suspect that maybe I’ve lost all taste, but I didn’t love Spider-Man No Way Home last week, so that can’t be it.
  • Finished Episode 5 of Ace Attorney Chronicles. That means I’m done with the first of the two games in the collection. Undecided if I’ll keep going right now.
  • Listening to: Charli XCX’s new album Crash.

Week 11.22

  • I met Mavis and Cong for drinks one last time at 28HKS before they went on back to Tokyo. I may have mentioned before, but they emigrated just before the pandemic began and were only now able to come back for a visit. Several times this week it occurred to me just how much time has passed since this began, and it’s a very slippery concept.
  • I’ve been playing Wordle for 60 consecutive games now, and it’s become a hard habit to quit. The day often can’t proceed until I’ve cleared it. But now I’ve found Semantle and it’s a very different sort of game; one might not even be able to finish it daily. Instead of guessing a word by spelling, you throw out words until you find one semantically similar to the secret word, and then try to close the gap. I’m still trying to figure out how best to play.
  • Spider-Man No Way Home was finally seen, and while it was “fun”, it also felt “off”. The pacing was lumpy, awkward dialogue beats were passed off as comedy too many times, and some transitions/events were just lazy and illogical. That said, it’s the rare film where the actors playing teenagers really do pass for younger.
  • Emboldened by how The Weekend Away last week surpassed our expectations of a Netflix Original movie, we decided to watch Alyssa Milano in Brazen, (also based on a trashy novel) about a writer of trashy crime novels who has to solve her sister’s murder, and it was… just straight awful.
  • 0xmusic is the only NFT project I’m interested in anymore, and I added a Serena to the collection this week. They just opened a beta that allows collectors to save MIDI files of the songs generated by their NFTs, so I tried that out. Importing the songs into GarageBand lets you swap out the default instruments and use higher quality virtual synthesizers. Pretty cool and lots of fun, despite my not having the skills to actually jam over them and make something new, but Rob took what I sent him and played some bass over it. I opened a Soundcloud account so I would have somewhere to save the experiments as I go.
  • Stromae was apparently a proper big deal in music a decade ago, but I somehow missed him completely. He’s back with his first new album in years (I think I linked a music video a few weeks ago): Multitude. I’ve been listening to this and a leaked version of Donda 2, which I’d previously sworn to ignore the existence of since it’s not being released like a normal person would release albums. So far, it’s an uneven mixtape which I would assume Kanye’s still working on.
  • (Next day addition) I’ve somehow fallen into the habit of watching Bloomberg TV over lunch and into the afternoons. This is something I would never have done before. I suspect as a side effect of following Twitter discussions of crypto markets, I’m now able to make a little sense of what they’re saying. It’s like reading a basic language handbook and then being able to pick out certain words when watching a foreign film. And obviously it’s a pretty eventful time in the world, so I’m really watching news about the war in the Ukraine, through the blurry lens of financial implications.

Week 8.22

1.
After posting about the 0xmusic project (NFTs that infinitely generate rule-based but non-repeating music) in last week’s post, I thought I’d start recording some of the output to concretize it for future reference. As Rob put it, the music is kinda “plonky”, but not half bad as BGM. So I recorded two ugly, short screen recordings of “DJ Drip” on its webpage onto YouTube, one of which was appended to the last post.

After that, what’s a guy with free time to do but take it to the next level? I recorded a 60-minute length of “DJ Syn City” and set out to make one of those YouTube music videos, you know the kind, usually lofi or cafe jazz compilations with an illustrated scene on loop. How is it we don’t have a specific word for that sort of thing?

I wasn’t in the mood to find videos in my library that could loop well, so I used a photo I took in Akihabara back in 2018 and dumped a bunch of overlays on it with a bit of motion*, mixed it all together in iMovie, and voila! If I find a way to create more/better music, I’ll probably make a bunch of these.

*How? You’d be amazed what one can do with an iPhone and free apps these days.

2.
Covid hit closer to home this week with two cases in the family. All are vaccinated and coping okay with only flu-like symptoms so far. Anecdotally, it’s everywhere. Multiple colleagues and friends have already had it this the past month. The relaxed policies at present haven’t helped: even if you or someone in your household is infected, you can go out as soon as you test negative via ART self testing. And you don’t have to document or prove the result in any way; it’s an honor system. To make things worse, the tests don’t seem consistent. Some test negative at home and then positive at a clinic, and vice versa.

I was feeling fatigued/achey and worried that I’d gotten it after being briefly exposed, but three home tests this week said no, so I wondered if it was just my usual psychosomatic, hypochondriac imagination filling in the blanks. Just to be safe, I canceled every meeting during the week.

3.
When it was safe (7 days after contact), I made one exception to join Rob for a yakitori and beer hangout with old work buds who haven’t all been together in years. The food was quality, but damn if yakitori isn’t criminally overpriced in Singapore. It was probably triple what a comparable meal would cost in Japan.

It was afterwards while we were watching YouTube that I learnt from Jose that the extreme longboarder Josh Neuman passed away this month at the age of 22. You can’t help but imagine the worst… losing control and flying off a cliff, crashing headfirst into oncoming traffic… but no, he died in a plane crash.


Media activity:

  • Finished the 18th Jack Reacher book, Never Go Back. It’s definitely one of the better ones, with a cast of supporting characters and good momentum. I can see why they picked it for the second film with Tom Cruise in the role. They chopped a lot out though, and I didn’t recognize much of the plot in this. Which just makes it clearer to me how much better suited the Reacher novels are for TV: one book, one season.
  • We’ve been watching Apple TV+’s Suspicion and The Afterparty on a weekly basis. The former is a British production with Uma Thurman in a supporting role. It’s quite a slow burn, but I do want to know the answer to the central mystery of how these unconnected people could be connected to the crime they’re accused of. Hmm, that seems to be quite a common set-up, also seen in one of the other shows mentioned below.
  • Regrettably, a lot of bad TV this week. I half-watched all of Love Is Blind Brazil S1, and we are now caught up on both new seasons of the USA and Japanese editions, both slated to conclude by the end of this month. The episode template and overall season arc gets old; they’re essentially the same across all the shows. But the shows couldn’t be more different from a cultural standpoint. There’s no ass-grabbing on the Japanese one, for starters.
  • We’ve also started One Of Us Is Lying on Netflix, based on a YA novel that I’ve heard about but never got around to looking at. A handful of teens in high school are suspected of murder and everyone has motive. Every actor in it is at least a decade older than their character is supposed to be. They also wear t-shirts with generic slogans and designs that are hilariously meant to broadcast their wearers’ archetypes: cool geek, arty girl, anti-establishment outcast.
  • Best line so far: “If he hadn’t shown up, I’d be taking selfies with Jesus right now!”
  • Much better is the Kanye West documentary jeen-yuhs. It’s obviously a Kanye-approved version of history, but it’s hard to overstate the value of such a behind-the-scenes document. I mean, it was shot over 20 years, an entire career. You see him when he no one would take him seriously as a rapper. He’s out there taking meetings and kinda embarrassing himself trying to get heard. Everyone fronts in hip-hop, saying they’re going to be the greatest, the biggest, but there’s something about young Kanye’s hustle and confidence that suggests he really believed he would be where he is today.
  • Side note: Donda 2 is meant to launch tomorrow. When he announced he wasn’t going to release his album on streaming or digital, and only on his own $200 Stem Player device, I wrote it off. I said that I wouldn’t buy it, and the album was dead to me. It’s tremendously wasteful to create a dedicated piece of expensive plastic junk to play one album. I saw it as disrespectful to the fans, and egotistical even by Kanye’s standards. Since then I’ve learnt that the device can be updated with additional music, like an MP3 player (whether it will be is a different story). It’s still too costly and excludes many people, but perhaps it’s a novel experiment worth checking out. I’ve bought FM3 Buddha Machines before. I can feel my hold slipping.