- If last week was long and exhausting then the trend is only accelerating. This week involved a lot of extroversion, conversations, and digging deep for social energy. But there’s change here: talking too much used to wipe me out. Now it can feel worthwhile. Sometimes I even wander into the “need to shut up and listen” zone. Part of this is getting old — people might let you, but it doesn’t mean you should.
- I spent some time with a visiting colleague of sorts, and got to talking about how I spent the last year (rest, goofing off, learning random things), and takeaways from this entire period of work and personal growth since joining the company. It’s no wonder I’m tired; I barely recognize who I used to be five years ago. Things that were hard then are easier now, which reminds me of this “NLP” phrase that used to be in the Pzizz sleep app: let things that are easy… be easy. Is it cringe motivational shit? I think a lot of people could learn from it.
- Last week I tried to buy a Ricoh GR IIIx and my order got canceled because of supply issues. This week I took my Ricoh first-gen GR out for a bit and decided I’d rather stick to a 28mm field of view and crop if needed, so I’ve ordered a regular ol’ GR III instead. Thanks to Shopee’s June 25th sale, I managed to get a better price than what I found in Funan’s camera stores. Let’s see if it manages to be delivered.
- Painfully aware I haven’t played any games recently. The creator of Downwell made a new mobile action game for Netflix, called Poinpy. I’ve only spent 10 minutes on it. It’s much friendlier and cartoony looking, but you can still definitely draw parallels with Downwell.
- If you’re a child of the 80s and 90s, you may remember playing Westwood Studios’ point-and-click game adaptation of Blade Runner, which was hailed as a groundbreaking experience. I hadn’t even watched the film at that age, so the game was just weird to me, but it still looked like nothing else owing to its voxel rendering and motion captured actors. It’s now been remastered and released on the Nintendo Switch for just $10 USD, so I’m planning to give it another go.
- After seeing some Twitter chatter about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s brief but remarkable impersonation of Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 3, we watched it again from my iTunes library and… it’s not the movie I recall. Something about its oversaturated colors and tight framing makes the film feel much older than it is, and nowhere as thrilling as I think it was in the theaters. Ah well. At least now I have this line stuck in my head ready to be repeated all day.
- Netflix has a new (bad) reality TV show called Snowflake Mountain where a bunch of spoiled young people living off their parents get told they’re going to be on a show set on a luxurious resort, but then they get dropped into a wilderness survival experience. It’s so bad we watched all 8 episodes in one go on Saturday. It’s enjoyable mainly because some of them do grow up and become more mature, but I wonder what the producers would have done if all of them remained insufferable and selfish. That said, the brainwashing playbook is well established! Throw them into adversity to break their spirits, add a little kindness and positive reinforcement to bring them back in, then keep them on their toes throughout.
- There’s a fair bit of hip-hop in my library, but Logic’s work is a blind spot. His new album Vinyl Days came up in Apple Music’s New Releases list and I’ve been enjoying its classic production throughout the week.
Week 26.22Cameras, Film, Games, mobile gaming, Music, Netflix, Switch, Television, Work
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.
- The high point of the week was probably a celebratory meal at a fancy sushi place on Monday, an appointment that had to be booked two months in advance. I’d like to say the iPhone’s camera performed well on this occasion, but it did not. Specifically, when using the 3x telephoto in low light conditions and the phone decides to shoot with the wide lens and crop in instead, which happened every time I thought I was using the 3x lens. You might not notice it on screen at the time, but these are usually unusable when looking at them later. I still maintain 2x on previous iPhones was a more useful focal length, and when it did happen, a 2x digital zoom is nowhere as bad as a 3x one. So this makes third-party camera apps like Halide an unfortunate requirement rather than a nice-to-have affectation for “pros”.
- Finished reading Grace D. Li’s Portrait Of A Thief which I’d happily give 4 stars for the overall experience: a fun heist caper sprinkled with Chinese-American YA identity crises and politics. The entire cast is Asian; there’s not even a token white friend or anyone else of color that I can remember. That, along with the mechanics of the sophisticated art thievery by confessed amateurs, seems unreal? But perhaps it does feel that way sometimes being Chinese in America, I dunno. There’s apparently a Netflix series being developed around this, if it wasn’t canceled in the last few weeks along with so many other projects, and I’d love to see it at the very least match the production quality of One Of Us Is Lying, but of course To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before levels are welcome.
- Am now on A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles, an author I know nothing about, but the book came highly recommended at some point I no longer remember. Was afraid it would be the Paulo Coelho sort of 5-star book, but so far it’s very enjoyable. Looking it up on Wikipedia, it seems there is also a TV adaptation being developed, to star Kenneth Branagh. I can see this role being completely appropriate if he can resist hamming it up.
- While reading in bed late at night, it’s become a habit to put up webcams on the projector. And my absolute favorite now is this street-level livecam in Shinjuku that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It has ambient sounds unlike most cams, so it’s great for having on in the background like a window to another place. I feel like I know this area intimately now, the way people leave bars around 11pm to get the last trains, how the touts stand in the middle of the lane to pull people into their establishments, and (especially) the movements of the rats outside the ramen shop. It’s a Night Trap-like delight whenever I look up and catch a rat scurrying out at the exact time a woman walks by, triggering a scream.
- I also saw an altercation on camera one time, but partially obscured by a passing vehicle so I’ll never know how exactly it started. A man seemed to bump into a nerdy looking guy on a bike, but whether he started it or not, the nerd eventually became the aggressor and shoved the guy to the ground with such force he rolled over backwards. It was raining and he practically landed in a puddle. Then the nerd stood over him and menacingly grabbed his collar and said a few words before going off and cycling away. The victim just sheepishly got up and straightened his jacket, picked his phone off the ground where it landed a few feet away, and walked off. Plenty of people nearby, nobody intervened or wanted to stare.
- Vanillaware pulled off a pretty ambitious story with 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. My playthrough clocked in about 24 hours, but I just missed 100% completion because of some bonus objectives that weren’t met. I don’t want to think about it too much more, but perhaps there was just one too many twists for the story’s good. If anything needs a multimillion-dollar TV adaptation, this absurd mashup of The Matrix, Cloud Atlas, The Fountain, Pacific Rim, Evangelion, The Island, Battlestar Galactica, The Terminator, and maybe a dozen more SF classics, is begging for it.
A quiet few days, in which I was mostly left to my own devices (namely iPhone, MacBook Air, Nintendo Switch) on account of a traveling wife. Owing to her absence and one particular event to be celebrated, I had a massive number of calories in the form of curry rice, duck ramen, pasta, pizza, Indian takeout, cocktails, and then more cocktails.
It’s all media activity this week:
If you edit photos on your iPhone or iPad at all, you’ll know the Darkroom app. I think I even wrote some primitive thoughts on it way back when it first came out. Let me see… here we go, from seven years ago (ugh). They moved to a subscription model awhile back, as all good apps are fated to, but I’ve been grandfathered into a legacy license all this time on account of old in-app purchases.
Their latest major update is the first with features that require having a subscription, namely a set of very handy AI-powered masks. I mean the kind that automatically selects segments of the image, not animated face filters or anything like that. To be fair, other apps like Polarr have already had this, and Snapseed has always had a method for making very intuitive selective adjustments via touch gestures. But Darkroom has them now, and they are implemented logically and quite well. So with a few taps, you can select the background in a photo to darken it and allow subjects to stand out, or cast light on faces in shadow, and so on.
I played around with it and was quite happy to subscribe, because I don’t actually want to use Polarr (cumbersome UI, too many features I don’t use, no P3 color space support) or Snapseed (just about completely abandoned by Google, surprise!) as my main photo editors. Darkroom, VSCO, and Pixelmator Photo are now all I need when iOS’s built-in tools aren’t enough.
I went back to play Disco Elysium and was shocked to see my last save game dated back in mid-January; where did the time go? Fortunately, it was easy to get back into, and I eventually finished my (first) playthrough the next day — a total of about 25 hours. My thoughts from before still stand: it’s a magnificent achievement in writing, voice acting, ludonarrative design, whatever. Good jokes. A great cast of characters. If Baldur’s Gate was a noir-inspired political-philosophical tragicomedy.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim has also been hard to put down. I think I’ve got a handle on what’s really going on in its bizarre Greatest Tropes of SF story, but since I’m only halfway through, there are probably a few more twists ahead. Beautiful art direction, like raster art from a world where 64-bit consoles never made the move to 3D.
Saw The Batman in a single sitting. Like most citizens of Earth, I’m mostly tired of this franchise but I found the first third or so quite enthralling because Robert Pattinson’s brooding emo version is like an odd mashup of Robin/Nightwing and Batman. The vulnerability and inexperience he portrays does do something different. As an attempt to cast the Batman into a realistic world like our own, it surpasses all of Nolan’s soulless movies, because here you truly observe the weirdness of a man in a rubber suit moving through the city, talking to cops, fighting in nightclubs — he’s just a cosplayer with a death wish. When a cop spits the word “freak” at him, it makes more sense than ever before.
Unfortunately, the second half of the film lets itself down, and by the time you get to the scene where Bruce uses a spray can to draw a giant but very basic mind-map on the floor of his own apartment, something a child could have done mentally, it’s too late. It ends unintentionally funny and a bit cringey.
We also saw Everything Everywhere All At Once and I don’t have much to say except it’s possibly perfect. When I went to log it in Letterboxd, I couldn’t do any less than 5 stars. And this is coming from someone who’s not really a fan of Michelle Yeoh’s recent work either. But she’s perfect, as is the whole cast, every frame, all of it. It’s more film than should fit under a single banner. It’s also an unexpectedly sincere and authentic expression of how family works for much of the modern Chinese diaspora. It’s worth supporting with your depreciating dollars.
Had a couple more opportunities to use Superlocal this week. I’m not sure it’ll stick as a habit because 1) it takes awhile to check in, because photos are mandatory, and 2) I only have one friend on at the moment; two others can’t get past the invite gate because of a bug that will only be fixed in the next update. The problem with network effects or lack thereof here is the team has (rightfully) designed an app where the noxious crypto stuff is optional, which also means no real revenue until it takes off, and by extension most users aren’t incentivized with imaginary money. So now they have to rush to build all the useful features that Swarm already has, like telling you how many coffee shops you’ve checked in to, or the last time you were here. Without which there’s little to drive user growth, and nobody wants to use a social network with no friends.
One time I met Peishan and we had vegetarian food and I really wanted the ability to rate the place (poor!) rather than just check in. Someone in the Superlocal Discord asked if they’re building a recommendations database or a general social network, and it’s a really good question. Swarm still works great for my needs despite being covered in cobwebs, though they could use some competition.
My wife has a lot of work travel ahead this summer, which is disconcerting but it looks like we’ve collectively decided the situation out there is fine. Many people in Singapore are back to working in offices at least some days a week, and a good proportion of friends have holidays planned. Me, I’ll be staying home in my hermetically sealed pretend submarine while she’s out on the first leg next week. I’ve got snacks, bread in the freezer, and an armful of video games to get through before the end of my sabbatical.
When staying up late at night in solitude, I’ve found it quite cozy to put global webcams from YouTube up on the projector. There was a tweet yesterday being derided up and down the internet where someone claimed Japan has no homeless people, drunks, giant rats, or litter. Later at 2am, I had a feed of Kabukicho up and saw a messy group stumbling into an all-night diner with a giant rat bounding down the street behind them. Perfection.
- Turning Red is a rather good Pixar film that dares to tread new ground (Toronto, and periods), and has so many great sight gag ideas. It feels like a story they had fun telling, and really wanted to tell, although I could have done without the overused meek Chinese dad archetype, true as it may be.
- We also saw Drive My Car and WeCrashed, which are fun to mention in the same sentence. The former is a three-hour long film that uses the first 45 minutes as set up, and then the credits start showing. I loved the audacity. There’s a strange flatness to one character’s performance that was probably intentional or perhaps speaks to some nuance of Japanese culture, in any case that broke the spell for me. Overall, a solid four stars. For the latter, I don’t think Jared Leto will ever have a better-suited role, so he should just retire now please. Anne Hathaway is brilliant as always.
- I’ve put Great Ace Attorney Chronicles aside for now; just couldn’t handle the wall of unfunny text anymore. Started 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim now that it’s out on the Nintendo Switch. It’s… actually breathtaking. Loads of text to read here as well, but you hardly think about it because every movement and interaction is animated with a staggering amount of hand-drawn sprites and backgrounds. I’ve never seen 2D characters in a game move with this much variety and complexity. The story is also building up to be a bonkers SF mashup that probably includes time travel, multiverses, memory downloads, giant mechs, kids being manipulated to pilot giant mechs, aliens, and whatever else you care to imagine.
- A few weeks ago, I saw someone mention Spiritfarer on Twitter, calling it a very cozy game you can play on the Switch to relax, but also ugly cry sometimes because it goes to some deep places (you’re ferrying souls to the afterlife). I looked up reviews and decided it was a definite buy, but waited for a sale. That moment is now, my friends: it’s half-priced at $15 on the eShop for Easter.
- Checked out loads of new music and recommendations this week. Kae Tempest’s The Line Is A Curve is a brilliant sort of spoken word/hip-hop. Banks released Serpentina which sort of describes its own sound, although Electro-Serpentina would have been better. Omar Apollo released Ivory, which is more produced and poppy that his last EP, Apolonio, which I still have to say I prefer. I discovered the work of Dijon through someone on the internet, and oh man, you must listen to Absolutely. Syd’s new album Broken Hearts Club is also pretty cool, but I’ll need to give it another go. And finally, LIA LIA is a German-Chinese artist from Berlin who’s just released a single, City Of Tears. I think it makes a good test track for a sound system’s sub-bass response.