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 10.22: Stayin’ home, playin’ games

Probably nothing significant happened this week, apart from losing some money doing dumb trades. People seem to think all I do during my time off is play video games and watch TV, and for once this week that was actually kinda true.

Mood!

Media activity:

  • Picked up Doom Classic on sale for the Switch, only $2.49 USD to relive one of the most impactful moments of my youth. I remember walking into the game store the week it came out and seeing people play through the first episode. It was like a glimpse into the future: dark atmospheric “3D” graphics far better than anything I’d seen, with incredible music synthesized through a Roland sound card (real sampled electric guitars!) — I couldn’t believe it. It was thrilling just to watch. When I asked how many floppies it came on, and I think the answer was two, my head exploded. Shareware? Two disks, not a CD-ROM? And it would run on my lowly 386-SX?! iD Software pulled off a moonshot that raised the bar for all games.
  • I made it through 4 of 10 episodes in Ace Attorney Chronicles. It’s probably the best (least annoying) game in the series I can recall. Mild spoilers follow. A large portion of the game covers the protagonist going to Victorian London, and there’s a fair amount of racism and xenophobia depicted. People calling you an untrustworthy Nipponese from a backwater Eastern land, and so on. What’s cool is that your party’s initial impressions upon arriving are so positive, so rose tinted about everything being wonderful and better there, that I thought I was in for an entire game of Japanese people romanticizing England to death (another trope), but then came the swift and surprising subversion. An hour later and your lawyer character starts questioning how superior the “world’s greatest legal system” really is.
  • Puzzle Quest 3 came out on mobile as a free-to-play game. I loved and played the hell out of the original on several platforms including the Nintendo DS, bugs and all. So I was ready to get sucked in again, but it’s hard to recapture that kind of charm, and the addition of in-app purchases and timers don’t help at all. I’ve leveled up my character to a point where I’m now caught between being too strong for easy missions and too weak for normal ones, and I’m not sure how to even grind upwards because the UI is inscrutable and I can’t see a way to replay previous story missions, which would help. Sad.
  • Bad television: the reunion episode of Love Is Blind USA, all but two remaining episodes of Love Island Australia, and a trash new Netflix movie starring Leighton Meester, The Weekend Away. I have to admit I really enjoyed the latter, which appears to be based on a book which is probably found on shelves next to The Girl On The Train and other improbable, twist-filled paperback murder mysteries.
  • We finished The Afterparty on Apple TV+, a comedy murder mystery not unlike Only Murders In The Building, but without the thing I liked most about that one: nosy amateur sleuths. In The Afterparty, the police are doing the detecting, and everyone’s a suspect. Worth a watch because each episode emulates a different film genre and most of it works well.
  • I also finished season 1 of Foundation on Apple TV+ and daaammnn. I started watching it way back when the new Dune came out, and it looked distinctively “TV” against the scale and aesthetic of that film. It took a few episodes before I found the core of the show for me, and that core is actor Lee Pace in the nuanced role of the tyrannical galactic emperor. You cycle through all possible feelings for him over the story arc, and making that work sure isn’t easy. There are a bunch of other things that could be improved/decheesed, but I’m down for season 2 ASAP.
  • Saw Part 2 of jeen-yus, the Kanye documentary, which made me go back to playing The College Dropout again. Undeniably great and timeless. The documentary is also a priceless artifact, because how often do you get a camera following an artist over 20 years, from before they even make it big? Can’t wait to see the third and final part covering his journey into madness and arguably even further greatness at the same time.
  • The Beatles 1 compilation album of all their #1 hits received a full Dolby Atmos remixing at the hands of Giles Martin, son of George, and you can hear what that means using spatial audio on an Apple device with Apple Music. They went back to the original four-track tapes and separated the instruments, previously flattened together into a single mono channel, so you can now hear them with a fullness that can only be described as “live”, especially with dynamic head tracking enabled on AirPods/Beats Fit Pro. So I’ve been listening to some of that, slowly.

Week 9.22

In William Gibson’s book, The Peripheral (soon to be an Amazon Prime Video series!), there are references to an epoch-making event that turned everything to shit, and it’s all quite vague so you don’t know at first whether it was a nuclear war or some natural catastrophe. Everyone calls it “The Jackpot”, and you soon figure out that it wasn’t one thing, but several bad situations improbably lining up and landing at the same time. Not necessarily on a single day but a longer period of months or years maybe — still short when zoomed out on the timeline. We might already be living in a Jackpot of our own, but if not… it sure felt like the final “7” rolled into view this week.

All the updates and gory details of the Ukrainian invasion shared in real time now seems completely expected, but the invasion itself wasn’t, and so probably airdropped several tokens of ANX(iety) to everyone’s wallets. Coincidentally, I started reading Jenny Odell’s How To Do Nothing, a series of essays about how to resist social media and its effects. She prescribes exposure to nature quite a few times, which just isn’t going to work for me in this climate. Back to Twitter, I guess.

Locally, our Covid numbers hit a new high with 26,000 cases in a single day. Medical services are stretched, and the government has taken the step of telling employers to just believe employees when they say they’ve got Covid and can’t come in, no medical certificates needed. Unsurprisingly, this was followed by reports of companies still insisting on them.

Perhaps stupidly, I went out more this week than I have in a long while. I know because the number of socks in my laundry load went back to pre-pandemic levels. First was to see a couple of friends who moved to Japan just before Covid and are only now able to leave for a visit back here. There was also a night out with too much expensive tequila that I don’t need to remember, but I got a cat photo out of it.

I also saw Rob a couple more times before he left, and we took his kids out to eat “the best chicken rice in Singapore” (it’s not Tian Tian at Maxwell — don’t get me started). I asked his eldest what he thought of being back, and “it’s hot” was inevitably said, but he also observed that “everyone likes to say ‘it’s freezing’ when it’s like 30º”.


Media activity:

  • Rob turned me onto Jonathan Richman’s song That Summer Feeling, during a conversation about songs that induce nostalgia. Pulp’s Disco 2000 was my pick for a song that made even young people overcome with the regrets of growing old.
  • We started on the new season of Young Wallander on Netflix, a title I will never tire of saying out loud. I remember almost nothing of the first season, but this is going well.
  • As an antidote to all the murdering and double-crossing in our weekly TV diet, we’ve also started on season 3 of Love Island Australia, which is exactly what you’d expect. Some highlights include a girl who doesn’t know anything about Western Australia because she’s not good at “geometry”, and a guy who tried to say something wasn’t in his wheelhouse, but used the word “jurisdiction”, which he tried to pronounce several times before giving up and going with “it’s not in my area”.
  • On the Switch, I’ve started playing Ace Attorney Chronicles, which takes two previously Japan-only installments for the 3DS and translates, remasters, and packages them as a single purchase for USD$40 (often on sale for USD$30).

Week 6.22

A happy Lunar New Year (previously called Chinese New Year but LNY is more inclusive) was had, as much as was possible under the circumstances. Where once we could have a reunion dinner with 30–40 of my closest relatives (some still unknown), thanks to still burning pandemic fires — we recently hit 13,000 cases in a day — now just immediate family members around one table. Instead of large and raucous household gatherings on Day 1, now intimate sit-togethers. Still, having a spectrum of different LNY experiences in one lifetime is not a terrible thing. Never thought I’d miss those reunion dinners though.

I got some more samples of Misery Men merch in and made tweaks to improve print and product quality. The recycled cotton “eco tote bags” in particular were not very sturdy, so they’re gone in favor of regular ones with denim handles that can apparently hold 20kg of stuff. Take a look.


My shirt was clinging to me in the pre-rain humidity as we trudged out onto the field. I would later find that I’d stepped in literal horseshit. The people running the place wore masks and dark sunglasses under hats and visors, so you really couldn’t see them at all as they looked you over. Were they wondering if I had any prior experience? Why I was so sweaty? No, they’d overlooked our booking and had forgotten we were coming.

We were bringing our nephew out for an introductory archery experience as part of his Christmas gift. He was running around and excited for it. Kids seem to be impervious to environmental discomfort when they’re having fun. I shot a few arrows. It’s a disturbingly easy weapon to operate. After about half an hour and 20 tries we were markedly better than when we began, hitting the middle of the target often enough. Thanks to our strict gun laws, I never worry about encountering an armed lunatic in everyday life but now I may have to start worrying about bows and arrows in the wild. There were little Korean children, no more than eight years old, practicing beside us and consistently hitting targets maybe 30 meters away. Frightening.


Media activity:

  • We saw Simon Kinberg’s latest disaster, The 355. I don’t know how the script got approved, or why the actors agreed to be in it. An utter waste of about two hours.
  • Unfortunately, Mamoru Hosoda’s new animated film Belle did not live up to expectations either. In direct contrast to Summer Wars, it spends too much time and exposition establishing the world and not enough on the characters, so I didn’t care at all for the story, which was sadly a mess.
  • I finally finished Plum Rains by Andromeda Romano-Lax, which mashes up elements of Pachinko and I, Robot with a heartbreakingly dry core about the migrant worker experience.
  • As a palate cleanser, I’m now reading Jack Reacher #18: Never Go Back. I’ve been waiting for this one a long time, because a couple of books back, Jack started flirting with an army major over the phone (she’s currently occupying his old job at his old unit), and he’s been making his way across the country to see her, interrupted by several books’ worth of coincidentally encountered wrongdoing that needed setting right along the way. Of course, as soon as he arrives on the army base, she’s missing and he’s being framed. Good times!
  • Still playing Hades, but have started a new visual novel on the Switch: Worldend Syndrome. It was on sale for USD$10 and reviewed well. Positives include nicely animated backgrounds and fully voiced dialogue, while the main negative would be a supernatural horror element that I hope is just misdirection and it’s only a regular ol’ psychotic, murdering schoolgirl that we’re dealing with.

Week 3.22

Ladies and gentlemen, you are now hearing from an actual commercial artist, technically speaking. My Misery Men NFT project reached a new milestone: the sale of two works (#45 and #51) on OpenSea this week! 🍾🍾

I’ve been on a break from drawing them since Christmas, but have now resumed “production duties” and will be releasing more leading up to a pair of Lunar New Year ones in early February. One of the new releases is #79, which was fun/therapeutic to make by plonking down hundreds of dots with the Apple Pencil until all the space was filled up.

Misery Man #79

A little more on my amateur art endeavors. I’ve been trying to get a feel for digital watercolors in Procreate, but the results are anemic and frankly embarrassing. I’m happy to own that, so here’s an example. Safe to say this will not be my main medium, will stick to my day job (oh wait), maybe more of a words person, et cetera.

Caveats in Paint (Digital) #4: View of an office building (function assumed) seen on one of my walks (rarely undertaken), 2022.

Yesterday we took our littlest niece out for her animal-themed Christmas present: a visit to an art studio that has cats running around for inspiration and/or distraction. She whipped up a colorful, abstracted cat with acrylics in about 15 minutes and then spent the next two hours playing with real ones. I slapped paint around and ended up with this below. It’s… jarring to move from digital to physical. Not only do you not have Undo and Fill tools, but you have to plan your layers differently. Ugh!

Passing Time, acrylic on canvas, 2022.

Edit: We also visited an exhibition and bought some digital art. More in this follow-up post.

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A few years ago, I made a conscious effort to lose weight by eating better, and discovered that salads are not really horrible and can be quite satisfying as a lunch item. I think I ate salads nearly every day for about a year and lost 10% of my body weight.

It was helped along by an abundance of salad shops in my office area, both reasonably and luxuriously priced. Where we live now, there haven’t been any options, and making my own every day is kind of a last resort I’m saving for the late Elvis or Marlon Brando stage.

BUT! Last week I encountered a new salad vending machine in the neighborhood that isn’t bad/expensive at all. You choose a base and dressing, with the option to buy add-ones like chicken, smoked duck, eggs, and baked salmon. It’s from a company called Shake Salad, and stock is somehow replenished daily. It is ALRIGHT and I ate a salad for lunch four days in a row this week. I think the machine is here as a trial, so I want to be as hospitable as I can and prove the viability of keeping it around full time.

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Media activity:

  • Finished Psycho-Pass 3 on Amazon Prime Video. Was not left as excited as I was with the first season a decade ago. Perhaps sign of maturity. Will eventually watch the three-part “movie” sequel to this series.
  • Marvel’s Eternals was an awful waste of time.
  • Still reading Plum Rains.
  • Finished NEO: The World Ends With You. Was not left as excited as I was with the original DS game 15~ years ago. Maybe down to its design, but it doesn’t feel like a full-priced console game. More like a portable/handheld game. Thanks to the Switch, those lines are now blurred. But it really has about a couple hours of content stretched to 30 hours thanks to repetitive battles and pin grinding. If there’s ever a sequel to this sequel, I’d like to see a real evolution of mechanics and storytelling.
  • Played more Disco Elysium on the Mac. This is hands down the most impressed I’ve been with a game in years. Now that it’s out for consoles, I hope everybody (except minors) gets a chance to play this. The atmosphere, world building, writing, and voiceover performances are best in class. It’s also very funny, despite the bleak subject matter, thanks to your detective’s absurdly broken moral compass. Once, I paused to tell my wife about a joke and couldn’t get it out for laughing every time I tried to start. I ended up in tears.
  • So I had to read up on the team behind it; the writing surpasses most novels I read last year, but I never saw the author’s name mentioned anywhere. His name is Robert Kurvitz, an Estonian writer, and the story of how it got made sounds amazing and documentary worthy. Kurvitz and his band mates came up with the world in 2005, and then wrote a novel set in it, which was published in 2013. When that failed to sell, he spent three years in alcoholic depression (much like the main character), and eventually emerged to found a video game company (with no game dev experience) to bring it to life again. They somehow managed to secure funding, hired a team, and created this insane, beautiful, sprawling adventure and won multiple awards in 2019. Instead of stopping there, they went back and polished it, recording every line of dialogue, and released the enhanced Final Cut version in 2021 for no extra cost. Recording sessions for the narrator’s voice took eight months (the performance by Lenval Brown is excellent).