- I got a haircut, waheyyy
- According to the Been Outside app I started using last week, I’ve been out of the house for a total of 34 hours. That seems like too much if you ask me.
- Zane Lowe has an in-depth interview series on Apple Music that I’ve never watched before, until a clip with Damon Albarn started going viral (that term feels so old). In it, Damon demonstrates how almost the entire backing track of the Gorillaz’s single Clint Eastwood was lifted from a demo preset on his Omnichord plastic keyboard. You can see that moment and the whole interview here on YouTube. The show is not so easy to find in Apple Music’s app itself. It’s filed under “Radio”, and if you go to the Gorillaz artist page, it’s not shown with the other music videos, but through a separate tile for “The Zane Lowe Interview” which looks like it could be an audio podcast, but it’s actually video.
- Anyway I’m usually not too excited about Gorillaz releases and I don’t think I’ve made it through one of their albums in years, but the interview made me curious about this latest one, Cracker Island, and it’s alright! Skinny Ape stood out on my last listen through.
- This week also saw the release of the 20th anniversary edition of Jesse Malin’s The Fine Art of Self Destruction, which I’ve been waiting months for. On top of the original album, he’s recorded new versions of some songs, but sadly not all. I’d expected all-new interpretations of the whole suite, but well, maybe that didn’t make sense without a coherent theme to approach them with.
- I’ve been on the waitlist for Artifact, the news app from the founders of Instagram, and in a nice surprise this week, they opened it up to everyone. It’s basically a successor to Flipboard, without the flipping, and with magic AI dust sprinkled on top of it to attract buyers? Too cynical? I don’t have a great way to surface personalized news at the moment since I’ve cut back on my Twitter use, so I’m hoping this fills the gap.
- Back in the 90s when Event Horizon came out in theaters, I was too afraid to see it. It was billed as an extreme sci-fi horror film with demonic themes and mutilation, and I was probably like NOPE! I saw a screenshot of it a few months ago that made me want to download and see it, but I only got around to it now. Time has reduced it to (or maybe it always was) a campy, schlocky, gory fun afternoon watch that’s more a 90s CD-ROM FMV game than anything, but the design of the ill-fated spaceship’s interiors is seriously god-tier work. It evokes so much NOPE at a glance: Ancient Evil glyphs etched into walls, steel pillars with tight tiling like a prison bathhouse, and a rotating mechanical gateway to hell that is definitely not good news. 3.5/5 at best.
- Whenever I see a movie, I try to log it on Letterboxd, which is like a Goodreads for films. Now I’m happy to have discovered Marathon, which is like a Letterboxd for television. It’s a good looking app and if a show has enough viewers, you can see their ratings not only for entire seasons but individual episodes. If nothing else, it’s a useful way to keep track of what you’ve seen, need to finish seeing, and how much time you’ve spent on shows. You can find me on all these services as “sangsara”, I think.
- Setting up Marathon helped me remember we were halfway through For All Mankind on Apple TV+ and need to get back into it. We also started on the latest season of You on Netflix, which managed to be more terrible than ever and yet still left me interested enough to keep going at the end of episode 1.
- Alright! We kept things short this week. Not a lot of Midjourneying done but I’ve got a couple to see you off.
We got our fourth vaccine shots today. Based on historical results, I’m going to be ill tomorrow and she’ll be fine. It’s been about four hours and I’m already feeling a little lightheaded and tired.
It feels like it’s been raining here almost continuously since late December — dark all the time, and practically every day we get storms that last most of the day or night. And so it feels unusually cool and damp indoors, and our dehumidifiers have been working overtime to get clothes dry and keep mold at bay.
This Chinese/Lunar New Year period is often associated with blazing, cloudless skies, and sweating through one’s new red clothes while shuttling around to visit relatives, which makes this year an outlier. And it’s not just me saying it! Several taxi drivers have used this observation as a conversation starter these past few weeks.
And every year, there’s an outsized “Hong Bao” lottery draw that generates long queues at betting outlets. I bought a single ticket for fun while in a convenience store one night, and in the process of getting the link above have discovered that I’m sadly not one of the three winners of the S$12M prize. Or a consolation prize, even.
I generated some cityscape illustrations using a mix of anime and artwork keywords with Midjourney (no artist names), and got some surprisingly great compositions — good enough that I’m using one of them as my phone’s wallpaper now. And then just to mix things up, I asked it to put Godzilla in the cities, and that actually worked.
We finished all 10 episodes of Echo 3 on Apple TV+, a quasi-action series involving a group of special forces types conducting some personal business in Columbia. It’s not a straightforward, fast-moving Jack Ryan sort of show, although it could have been. Its typographic title styles actually reminded me of 80s-era Golan–Globus films — a look and feel and attitude I wish Hollywood would unironically revive. But no, Echo 3 has arthouse ambitions and slows things down with gauzy dream images, flashbacks, and psychologically troubled characters. Which I can’t say I cared that much for! 3/5
We’ve now been subscribed to HBO for a full week and only started using it yesterday. The Last of Us is good television after all, not leaning too much on the game beyond key pieces. My main complaint so far is that shots of the wider world look too much like how I remember the game: CGI rather than realism.
Something odd is happening here in terms of anime licensing. SPY×FAMILY started out on Netflix, then new episodes appeared simultaneously on Amazon Prime Video. I thought this title sharing was a weird one-off, but now Chainsaw Man is no longer on Prime Video only; it’s also on Netflix. If only this disruption of exclusivity happened more so we didn’t have to subscribe to every service.
Incidentally, I finished Chainsaw Man despite not really having any appetite for demon-hunting stories — this one is wild, weird, and really well done.
Speaking of strange behavior, I discovered the #youngstar playlist on Apple Music at some point last year and enjoyed its focus: emerging J-Pop acts that have gained traction first on alternative channels like YouTube and TikTok. But when I checked it out today, I found an international version of the playlist, with English songs only.
Checking in with Michael, I realized some localizing or geofencing was afoot because he still saw the Japanese version (with a US account, in Japan). Highly annoying that we aren’t given a choice which version we see; is it so difficult to just publish separate playlists like “#youngstar (Japan)”, “#youngstar (International)”? So we’ve done that, manually, for anyone else who wants them. You can send us the checks, Tim.
Singling out one song off the Japanese playlist, I enjoyed XG’s Shooting Star and then found myself sucked into their YouTube channel for awhile. For a group that’s only put out about four full songs, they have a ton of content, from training sessions and mixtape-style demos to random behind-the-scenes videos like one where two members practice a rap segment for about seven minutes. The polish on the Shooting Star video reminds me of early Blackpink, and I think these girls are going to be huge (they have 1.1M YouTube subscribers now). It helps that they sing in English, Japanese, and Korean. How do you even source talent like that, and seven of them? Headhunters and recruiters in every other industry need to learn from the music business.
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.