Week 5.22

Welcome back, it’s the last week of the year for people who love the moon. I decided to draw two Misery Men who look like a pair of oranges (which are traditionally exchanged as gifts during the Lunar New Year), and they are proactively numbered #87 and #88 (a famously lucky number in Chinese culture). Numbers 83–86 are done, but will be released later.

From an artistic standpoint, I think I learnt something new with the little tael hat on #88. The intention was to make it shiny and gold; I could see it in my head but wasn’t sure how to make it happen on the screen. In the end, trial and error got me close enough to be happy.

Last week, Michael linked to this two-hour video explaining why NFTs and Web3 are a scam at worst, and based on unstable premises at best. Since then I’ve encountered it more on Twitter and set aside the time to watch it. I think everyone touching the space should watch it, whether they’re involved out of personal interest in the tech/money/culture, or on behalf of clients who want to explore it. It covers a lot, but if I had to oversimplify my takeaways, I’d say that I mostly agree with his views — there are glaring flaws in the architecture of the prevailing networks today, enough to suggest a collapse or dystopian outcome if they grow to become infrastructure that the world depends on. I think there are many opportunities to be scammed out there, alongside a lot of space-wasting junk (content, apps, bots) that only exists because of the potential for asymmetrical upside. Maybe natural selection will sort it out and hone the landscape into a workable form, or it won’t. One place I don’t agree: he spends a little time at the start dismissing Bitcoin, but the rest of the video builds a case for why it’s something completely different from “crypto”.


People say Chinese New Year is generally a time of eating too much, which hasn’t been the case for me because I don’t particularly care for much of the seasonal food, except pineapple tarts. However, dinner on two consecutive days this week was Korean BBQ, as in loads of fatty pork belly, closer to a kilogram than not. We finally got a new smart scale after the old one died a few months ago, and it’s not something I want to confront right now.

Ironically, I got the new Beats Fit Pro, presumably so named because they 1) fit ears well and 2) are for fit people who work out. In brief, EarPods/AirPods have never fit me well and always feel on the verge of falling out, at least on my left side. But I haven’t gone back to other buds because of their Apple ecosystem convenience, audio features, and pocket-sized case.

The Beats Fit Pro fix the fit with wingtips that you know Apple would never put on AirPods (that would require acknowledging inconvenient truths about human anatomy), while offering every other benefit of the AirPods Pro. Okay, the case is a little bigger, but it’s manageable. They also have the latitude to sound more fun (whereas Apple would prefer being neutral, aspirationally audiophile) and come in several colors. After being acquired for the platform that would become Apple Music, it seemed at times like the Beats brand might not survive long under the master’s roof, but I’m glad it has.

Also, this “Behind The Design” video strikes me as one of the best product videos to come out of Apple lately. It simply starts with a strong problem statement and then shows you how they solved it. Then it’s just good music, pretty exploded 3D visuals, and shots of the headphones in use by above average looking people.


Media activity:

  • Went back to Hades on the Switch in lieu of starting a big new proper game. It’s good.
  • Watched The Puppet Master on Netflix, a 3-part documentary on an extraordinarily bold and psychotic conman who ruined some people’s lives in an unbelievable way. Worth watching just to remind yourself it can happen.
  • Started Den-noh Coil on Netflix, a landmark anime series from 2007 that I’d never heard of before. It has an art style that looks of its time, but the story and central technologies (AR/XR glasses on everyone creating a parallel world) could have been written for today. I’m only three episodes in, but I think I’m gonna love it.
  • The Beatles’ legendary rooftop performance, restored and featured in the Get Back series, has been released as its own album (Apple Music), mixed in spatial audio with Dolby Atmos. Just great on a new pair of headphones.

Memes, Myths, and Machines

This is an addendum to the last weekly update (3.22).

As part of Singapore Art Week 2022, we visited The Culture Story on Sunday afternoon to see ZXEROKOOL’s first local exhibition entitled Memes, Myths and Machines. He’s done a new series of NFTs that were presented as large format prints, and we spoke briefly about how a new class of art buyers are excited by the flexibility of printing these pieces at whatever size suits their needs or residences, while retaining ownership certification through the NFTs in their wallets.

These were of course familiar arguments for the technology, but his anecdote about a previous exhibition in China and the concern of buyers there about the veracity of a limited run brought home the need for this control, held by the artist, limiting run size as intended. Personally I love that artists can continue to get a cut each time a work changes hands, which is an innovation I don’t think was feasible before smart contracts.

ZXEROKOOL explaining his work to a journalist

I had two favorites at the show: Meme-vangelion and The Garden of Internet Delights. The former is a mashup of Shiba Inu and Evangelion imagery, complete with the Spear of Longinus piercing the puppy’s heart. I left wanting to buy one of them, but by the time I got around to it the next day, some other fan had bought the last edition of The Garden of Internet Delights. No matter, Meme-vangelion isn’t a consolation prize. Though the whole collection plays with the visual vocabulary of the internet as many of us have experienced it over the last decade, I think this work stands alone in its astute selection of two icons that will surely stand the test of time?

Meme-vangelion

Caveats in paint (digital)

While taking a break from my Misery Men series of profile pics, I’ve been trying to draw other things. Bear in mind that I’m in the process of learning to draw at all, through trial and error. Yes I could/should probably look up proper resources or watch a YouTube video on some basic techniques, but it’s kinda fun to just bumble my way through this?

It started with this living room scene with our Christmas tree that I included in the last weekly update.

Remembrance of a Christmas tree (the red rug is a fiction), 2021.

In doing it, I learnt how the “oil paint” brush works in Procreate for iPad (used it for the fire on the TV). I also attempted two things that seemed like professional ideas to me: starting with a rough pencil tracing to block out the space before inking/coloring, and trying to render light emanating from the TV onto the tree, the Nintendo Switch beside it, and some of the floor. I guess all drawing is deciding how much realism you can/want to trade off?

Hypothetical (thoroughly imagined) desktop of the artist (generously defined) based on resource allocation (time + money squandered), 2021.

The next day I started doodling a camera and decided to do this imaginary scene of a leather pad on a desk, with some objects that represent my hobbies and how I spend most of my free time. I wouldn’t say any single area took more effort than the other, but I figured out early on that everything would just be black and gray, and it seemed to work well.

The next day’s challenge was to draw a top-down view inspired by our bathroom sink, which I have plenty of time to stare at every day while brushing my teeth. I wanted to work from memory only, so again I started with a pencil outline to compose the space. Trying to do the marble texture on the counter was the hardest bit by far, and I still wasn’t happy with it after the first pass. You should see a widget above with a slider that lets you compare the sketch with the first draft.

From there I tried to make something presentable out of it. In addition to adding dried toothpaste everywhere, I moved some objects around, added shadows, put a mirrored medicine cabinet above, and added an ambient glow and the reflection of its underside fluorescent tube to the marble countertop, which was smoothed out.

Here’s the final state of it:

Standing over (with an amateur’s understanding of perspective) bathroom sink with peripheral clutter (understated), 2021.

I know there are super impressive time-lapses out there of artists slapping incredible lighting effects onto proper scenes like their brains just know how to see light, but I’m just a little bit happy that I managed to figure this out myself as an amateur! Let me have it!

I may do some more, I don’t know when. But since I’ve enjoyed titling them with stage-whispered apologies and side comments, I’ll be calling this series Caveats In Paint (Digital) and that will be the name of my eventual exhibition to which you are all invited.

Week 48.21: Musings on Misery Men

  • Paraphrasing what I wrote on my NFT page earlier in the week, my sometime dabbling in the Web3 scene as a technology gawker and small-time buyer evolved to a new level this week when I started minting some amateur sketches on OpenSea (as promised back in Week 46.21). Everyone has been really kind and saying nice things about them the whole time, which is sweet but also suspicious.
  • It’s been cool to notice how my own perspective and approach has been changing even within this short period. It began with emotional distance and defensiveness, like “I’ll toss out a few doodles and price them preposterously high for fun, like thousands of dollars, so no one would buy them, and nor would I expect them to.” And then, the more I drew and spent time coming up with new ideas for them, the more I felt like I might as well be doing a better job of it.
  • So my drawings started to improve from the repetition and experimentation, and I began to view it as a learning activity (plus it’s been a lot of fun). I joked that the publication of this collection was me learning to draw in public, in real time, on the blockchain. I can’t delete anything that’s now owned by anyone else (I’ve given a bunch away) and I’ve locked some of the older ones into decentralized storage so they’ll be haunting me eternally.
  • A breakthrough occurred when I drew no. 39 while talking to Rob, intending to make a portrait of him. It was the most detailed one yet with hair partially obscuring the basic head shape; suddenly, I had more freedom. The quality improved from there, and I started doing them in color with skin tones, starting from #49. Looking at the contrast between the first one to the latest, after a week and a half’s worth of self practice, I’m frankly stunned as a person who hasn’t done much drawing in general.
  • The way I see it now, it’s not enough to just throw some stuff on OpenSea for a laugh. Nothing’s stopping me from larping as an artist, so I’m gonna keep on doing these to see where I end up, but until I actually sell one, I can’t say I’ve had the full NFT experience. So I’ve been taking the prices down to try to find a couple of different price points that the market might accept.
  • It was also Black Friday, which I didn’t get too excited about for once. A couple of days prior, I got a little bit of money from an airdrop and couldn’t think of anything I actually wanted to buy for myself. I asked a couple of people what they’d get, and none of the answers gave me any inspiration. Maybe not having any need for retail therapy is a sign of… not needing therapy anymore? In the end, I just ordered some things that were already on my Christmas gift shopping list, renewed my VPN subscription, and downloaded Doom Eternal for the Switch at 60% off.
  • Speaking of the Switch, it’s now also my sole source of exercise via Ring Fit Adventure. At the height of pandemic lockdowns, supplies of this game and its physical accessories were so constrained that scalpers were selling it for nearly S$300. I got mine now for just S$76, and I’m certain it’s better than any gym membership or fitness video. I’ve done two sessions so far and it’s hard work, but doing gamified squats and crunches to battle monsters is a fair bit better than just doing them to bad music or trainers who look better than you ever will.