It’s been a fairly busy week at work, and it might just be the beginning of a longer stretch of stressful problem solving and multitasking. But we are off to Japan in two weeks! It’ll be my first vacation since Covid began, the last being Taiwan in late 2019.
I’ve forgotten how to do some of this stuff, from packing to making lists and generally getting in the right mind space to be comfortable going away. It’s also been an expensive week because I’ve had to buy a new suitcase (one of ours got broken last year when Kim had to travel), travel insurance, new power banks, new clothes for cold weather (no, the current cool and rainy spell we’re experiencing in Singapore, with hitherto impossible lows of 21°C, don’t really count), and pre-booked Shinkansen tickets which cost as much as domestic flights.
Two decisions which are easier this time than they usually are: what headphones and camera to bring.
The new AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are so much improved in noise canceling ability and sound quality than I have no reservations about using them as my only pair of headphones. Tokyo is a short flight of about seven hours, and their batteries should last the whole way with a short recharge in the case during meal service. Normally I’d pack a pair of over-ears, but I see no need here.
Since we’re traveling light, I could say I’m just going to rely on my iPhone 14 Pro (I’ve actually done that once; don’t know what got into me), but the Ricoh GR III is small and convenient enough that it will cost me very little to try using it as a main camera. Can’t the iPhone compare at 28mm? It’s probably closer than it’s ever been this year, but the GR sensor-lens system should still have the edge in pure optical quality terms, and there’s no substitute for the shift in mindset and focus you get when walking with a camera in your hand.
One tip we found on YouTube: there’s a new digital service from the Japanese government called Visit Japan Web where you can pre-declare your immigration and customs forms and save time filling in those arrival cards. You can do it all on your phone and get two QR codes to show at the airport. This should be the default everywhere.
We saw Knock At The Cabin, M. Night Shyamalan’s new film, and enjoyed it. I shouldn’t mention the premise, as not knowing much is always part of the fun, but it cobbles together elements of other films and reworks a few tropes.
While talking about it afterwards, I realized that Shyamalan has two superpowers: he knows how to steal good cinematic tricks and make them great (for awhile I mistakenly thought JJ Abrams did too), and a knack for creating turning points in his films where your perception of the world flips or your immersion intensifies. That can be something like suddenly believing in one of the two dueling narratives (e.g. Is X real? Is this the present and not the past?), or the kind of big twist he became famous for. Often these two things happen at the same time.
I told Kim that I can’t think of one particular scene in The Sixth Sense without tearing up, and literally did so at that moment, which seemed to startle her. It’s the one with Toni Collette and Haley Joel Osment talking in the car, where the son says something that undeniably proves to his mother that he really does see dead people, which she absolutely did not believe up to that point.
It doesn’t matter whether you as the viewer already believed or not; their performances are so extraordinary, the scene is so deftly written, that you can’t help but experience the world-reversing revelation through her eyes. It also comes with a manipulative emotional gut punch (a bit ham-fisted, but whatever), which is why it’s stamped in my memory so hard. And The Sixth Sense is great because it does this over and over. It’s a triumph in the way musicians’ first albums are — years of stored-up ideas and raw energy packed into one work.
Anyway Knock At The Cabin had at least one of these moments for me, and Dave Bautista is a treasure. I’ve read reviews comparing him and The Rock as two former pro wrestlers turned actors, but it’s clear these days Bautista is the Actor. Strong 3.5 stars out of 5.
- We finished seeing every episode of Seinfeld. I can’t think of a better show about awful people. I’ll always love it.
- We started watching Succession at long last, and it’s also a show about awful people but I don’t enjoy it much at all. There’s no payoff; they’re just all pathetic human beings with rich people problems? Perhaps they suffer greatly in the following episodes and you’re supposed to get a kick out of that. I’ll try to make it through the first season.
- Sharper on Apple TV+ is a good 4-star film billed as a neo-noir, whatever that is. In this case, sharper is a noun, one carefully explained on an opening text card so as not to give too much away. If you don’t already know what the word means, don’t even look it up, just see the film.
- I did a speed run through a 12-episode anime called Darwin’s Game on Netflix because it’s leaving the service this month. I got through it in a couple of hours. Not recommended unless you love battle royale style stories where people play supernatural “death games” organized by some sadistic game master, a la Alice In Borderland and too many others.
- I made only one thing with Midjourney this week, a series of Tokyo-ites posing for street fashion photos.