This post is delayed on account of the Lunar New Year weekend; hope you had a good one if you celebrate!
After two years of restrictions and fear (not to mention peace and quiet), we returned to the old chaos with a few family gatherings and house visits. Unfortunately, one of my favorite parts of the whole thing, a large reunion dinner on the Eve with some of our most senior relatives, was still off the table on account of their mounting health issues. I wonder if we’ll ever get a chance to see everyone on that side of the family all together again.
I brought my GR III out to capture some of these moments, and fortunately Ricoh released their previously mentioned new Diary Edition model just the day before, which meant the firmware update for older models to get their new Negative film-inspired “Image Control” mode was also released. After some experimentation, I’ve settled on these settings: Saturation +1, High Key +2, Contrast +1, Shadow Exposure -1. Am looking forward to using it for more everyday snaps in 2023.
While hanging around with some relatives in the afternoon of Day 1, a few of us downloaded the Dimensional personality test app and began answering its slew of profiling questions to compare our toxic traits, love languages, and all that. It co-opts a bunch of well-known existing frameworks like the MBTI and so on into one gigantic pile of traits. Does that constitute a unique and proprietary offering? I don’t know, but it’s fun enough and free. Be warned, completing all available questions can take over an hour.
Speaking of apps, my advance pick for 2023’s game of the year launched this week on Apple Arcade: Pocket Card Jockey Ride On. It’s a remake of the Nintendo 3DS eShop exclusive now fixed up with better graphics and subtle gameplay tweaks. If you never played the original, do yourself a favor and give it a try. It’s an addictive solitaire-based game; the main downside (for me) is it’s time-based and needs some concentration and so isn’t something you can play while in a noisy environment.
My Mastodon use has fallen off a little. I actually prefer Twitter’s algorithmic timeline to a chronological one because I tend to follow too many people to keep up, and need some help sifting out the “best” content from the rest. Mastodon is beginning to give me the uncomfortable feeling of a full inbox, but perhaps I should simply follow fewer people.
The general rule around here is to avoid talking about work — although it is usually such a big cost center for my time — but we had a new colleague relocate from Shanghai, and it was nice welcoming them to town and having a couple of impromptu beers on a weekday night.
Last episode, I mentioned seeing some Tezos NFT art at Singapore Art Week. Well I came across one of the pieces for sale (entitled D-909 Groove Arcade) and decided to go through the trouble of creating a Tezos wallet and getting some funds in so I could buy it. It’s one edition out of 167, and so was only like USD$20, but I’m super happy to have it. Can art be absolutely adorable and funky at the same time? Provably yes!
I also continued generating non-existent videogame screenshots using Midjourney, expanding the fictional timeline to include modern-day remakes of old games. I should spend more time pushing this idea further but so far I’ve only done it in spare moments or when I should really be doing something else.
Everything But The Girl is back after what feels like decades, and the video for their new single is an incredible piece of choreography and one-take execution. I could only think of the immense pressure on each person not to fuck up. Dimensional seems to concur, reporting that my main motivation is Security.
We kind of started planning our trip to Japan later this year, but there’s still a lot to figure out in terms of what to do, and where to spend our time. It seems a lot of the popular hotels and destinations are selling out fast, if not already sold out, because of the resumption of travel out of China. I’m going to use this as a test of two new collaboration features in iOS and macOS: shared Safari Tab Groups, and the new Freeform whiteboarding app. In theory this should allow us to gather links to interesting ideas and plot them out together across our devices over several days.
On Friday afternoon, I was excited to see an article saying that one of the best bowls of ramen I’ve ever had was finally coming to Singapore. In fact, it was their opening day, and we decided to just go down right after work to try and get a seat. After about 20 minutes of queuing (which was nothing compared to the maybe three hours we spent in line for the main restaurant in Tokyo), we got into Nakiryu at Plaza Singapura, and were sorely disappointed. For starters, their signature Szechuan-style Tan Tan/Dan Dan noodles were sold out. We ordered shio and shoyu ramen instead, and they were roundly mediocre. The service was also spotty and uncoordinated.
It’s a pattern that the local franchisee Japan Food Holdings (who’ve done the same thing with Afuri and others) seems to be repeating: bring in a brand people are excited for, then do nothing to capture the original taste and quality. I suspect if you did a side-by-side comparison of the ramen from several of their brands, you’d find they’re just selling the same product under different names. Sadly, they’ve probably got the connections to get these deals and as long as the money flows in, the original companies don’t care how badly it’s done outside of Japan.
Singapore Art Week is back and we attended two events: SEA Focus and the creatively named Art SG. The former’s at Keppel Distripark where the Singapore Art Museum’s temporary spot is, and features a little NFT art corner sponsored by Tezos. In contrast to the other exhibits, I found the work in there refreshingly playful, modern, vibey.
At Art SG (a large and mostly serious gallery fair over two floors at Marina Bay Sands), I also found myself reacting more to the digital or digitally inspired work. There was a large print of a CloneX pfp, attributed to Murakami, mounted on a wall that I saw from across the hall and made a beeline towards. The Pace gallery (which I only happen to know because of their collaborations with Art Blocks) space featured teamLab’s NFT project, and a James Turrell projection. The teamLab one is cool: anyone can download and run the artwork (an app) on their PC or Mac. These are regarded as authentic and valid copies of the work. However, one can also own an NFT of the work (there are only 7), and these collectors can change the text seen in the art for everyone else. Oh, and they’re $200,000 each.
Elsewhere, I saw a work that was a white flag printed with a surrender message that I’d read before but didn’t know where. I googled the text but nothing came up. Later, I found a tweet from early 2022 referencing it: an on-chain exchange between two MEV… “searchers”? The tweets only have between a couple hundred and a couple thousand likes, so it’s probably not a widely known thing. But I definitely saw and remembered it from last year, which means I’ve spent too much time spectating in a very small fringe community. And my time spent appreciating generative art has definitely ruined traditional abstract art for me.
Speaking of which, I was excited to add an edition of The Field by Beer van Geer to my collection this week. It’s an interesting (animated) work in that all 369 pieces are different views of the same “territory”, starting at random points, zoom levels, and rendered with different palettes, but viewers of any section can move away from those starting points and explore. As I understand it, the field itself was created from noise data created by aggregating hundreds of images from the artist’s body of work, trying to derive a sort of pattern map or artistic fingerprint from their ouevre. Isn’t that so much more exciting than static paint on canvas??
Ricoh announced a new special edition of the GR III compact camera, called the “Diary Edition”. Yeah it sounds like one of those translated-from-Japanese names that sounds slightly awkward in English, but I like it. As a name, you can’t get much clearer about the concept of a camera that you’re meant to carry around to intentionally document everyday life, and it even comes with a new “negative film” look that will also come to older GR III models via a firmware update. Whether or not this behavior is one that users will actually embrace when they already have smartphones, I don’t know. I suspect not, outside for a few glorious weirdos. But the atmosphere and quality of these photos could hardly be more different than your smartphone snaps, unless you go the film route.
As a new colorway, I also love the look of the Diary Edition.
Here are a couple of photos I took with my GR III on the way to the art fair:
We watched a couple of spy TV shows, of which Jack Ryan’s season 2 was the undisputed best. We’ll start on season 3 soon.
Miyachi’s second album, Crows, is out. I heard it through once and it’s a bop. I don’t know what he’s rapping about but I’m sure it’s slightly problematic.
I finished Arcade Spirits but can’t recommend it if you’ve got many great games in your Switch backlog. To recap, it’s a Western visual novel about running a video game arcade. Some of the background art is basic and not very polished. I was struck several times by the thought that a game creator today could create far better generic bar/beach/arcade interior background art in seconds using AI. And they probably will/are already. So as an artifact of our pre-AI phase, Arcade Spirits stands out as a bit lacking in the production quality department.
Here’s a tweet showing a game prototype someone purportedly threw together using AI tools to create the graphics, icons, and voice acting!
Quite coincidentally, I started experimenting with Midjourney prompts on Monday trying to get the EGA/VGA PC game look of the Sierra games I played in the 80s and 90s. I found a good solution and started using it to visualize screenshots of #fictionalgames from the golden era of PC games, ones that never existed, or that might be made today with modern concepts.