Week 4.22

First, some bad news. The Shake Salad vending machine that was meant to propel me back to better health… has vanished from the neighborhood. I suppose it didn’t make enough money to pass the trial, despite my best efforts at propping it up. Back to hot dogs and fried chicken, then.

And speaking of food in the neighborhood, one of the best restaurants near us is closing down, so that’s another option gone, although it was always on the pricier end and more of a nice night out kinda place. We paid it a final visit earlier in the week and it was full (on a weekday). A shame they couldn’t make it work.


I sold a couple more Misery Men NFTs and decided to get slightly more serious about the project. I’d started off playing with NFTs as a technological format, but needed to draw stuff to make it happen. Eventually that’s led to me becoming more invested in the drawing part, and now it seems a shame if that’s all these are. I know some people who don’t know anything about crypto but like the characters anyway. Since I’m having fun larping as an artist, it seemed time to expand horizons.

The first step was to stop posting on my own Instagram account, which led to setting up a new dedicated account which you may now follow at @misery.men.

Wondering what the next step should be, I thought it would be great to make some real-world merchandise. The last time I did this was back in my university days, offering some questionable t-shirt designs off CafePress. Obviously the dropshipping landscape has exploded since then, so I should be able to start pretty quickly, right?

I looked into it on Thursday and went with Printful, one of the larger operations. However, they don’t actually offer you a storefront; they’re just the backend fulfilling your orders, although they can interface with your platform of choice e.g. Shopify or Squarespace. Since those come with regular monthly costs, I decided to go with Etsy, which I always thought was a sort of handicraft eBay. Turns out you can sell anything there, and Printful will handle the heavy lifting (and shipping).

The Misery World™ Etsy shop was up and running by the end of the day with a handful of products I’d put together using the existing artwork. Oh wait, that’s not accurate. Logotype needed producing, and a couple of art-inclined friends/colleagues kindly reached out to give feedback. Unsolicited, if that gives you any idea of how disquieting the initial version must have looked to professional eyes.

On Friday, in need of a URL to point both the new Instagram and Shop to, and a site to hold it all together (this domain didn’t seem like the right place), I bought the MiseryMen.com domain and set up a landing page and blog. That’s practically a new brand and sales channel set up in 48 hours with just a double-digit capital outlay. What a world we live in.

I’ve made one product sale so far, and hey, as a struggling and unknown creator, that’s nearly made the whole exercise worth it! 🥲


On Saturday, we popped over to the Keppel Distripark area to take in S.E.A. Focus, an exhibition that was part of Singapore Art Week 2022. There was an NFT gallery sponsored by Tezos, how à la mode. I took some pictures so I wouldn’t have to talk about my feelings.


Media activity:

  • Not a whole lot! I guess it was more of a creative week than a consumptive one.
  • Some more Disco Elysium…
  • A few episodes of a TV show that I’ll talk more about when I can…
  • A British crime drama on Netflix called Paranoid that’s just okay…
  • And listening to Utada Hikaru’s new album Bad Mode, which has greatly exceeded my cautiously lowered expectations. It’s good to see them continue to work and put out what they want.

Week 1.22

It’s another year, and the start of a new series of weekly notes to myself and anyone who might be eavesdropping. I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions, but maybe I should change up how I do these. They could stand to drop some words or look a little sharper.

I sometimes end the year with a post about the music I enjoyed and a playlist of my favorite songs released over the year, as an indirect means of reflecting on what happened. I didn’t do that in 2021, because… well, despite having had a few months of rest, I just didn’t have the energy to do a good job of it.

Scrolling back in my Apple Music history, however, I made a mental selection of albums I remember enjoying enough to say I enjoyed them, and here they are in no particular order apart from the top spot. Any playlist I made would have involved one song from each of these anyway.

The Best (tied)

The Rest

Reissues


It was the week after Christmas… woof. A lot more eating amidst the tiredness that tends to follow so much social interaction. I spent my downtime trying to draw a little bit, which I wrote about in this post a couple of days ago.

I also slayed the dragon called the Goodreads Annual Reading Challenge, with a paltry-by-some-standards-but-still-alright-if-you-ask-me 24 books read. Like most challenges, it’s unfortunately turned into a stupid online performance metric that doesn’t reflect any actual value, with some people I see setting goals that go into the triple digits. Outside of a literature degree program, it seems a little much. I’ve set my 2022 goal to 24 books again, because I plan to get on some novels that are about as thick as three regular ones, so a simple count doesn’t really serve to quantify the effort or resultant thoughtfulness, if any.

Nintendo sent out their version of Spotify’s Unwrapped awhile back, and I was shocked to see my total gaming hours on the Switch quite low at only 71 hours. It was over 200 hours in 2020, mostly due to Animal Crossing New Horizons. To try and remedy that, I’ve bought a bunch of new games on sale but haven’t gotten around to any of them yet. Instead, I’ve been grinding NEO: The World Ends With You, which has been mentioned before as the sequel to a Nintendo DS game I loved.

Disco Elysium came by way of a tweet that recommended it. Pretty sure I glanced at it before but decided it wasn’t my thing. Couldn’t have been more wrong, going by the very strong first four hours I’ve experienced. I suppose it’s an RPG game like classic Fallout was, but your vault survivor is an alcoholic noir detective and there’s no combat at all. I picked it up for my Mac in the Steam sale; reviews of the Switch version warn of very long loading times.


Some friends brought their kids over and I helped take photographs. Pixelmator recently released a free update that adds iPhone support to their previously iPad-only Pixelmator Photo editor, in addition to some new tools. I wanted to see how it would do with the DNGs out of my CL.

After some experimenting, I am sad to report that their ML-powered Auto Enhance corrections tend toward overexposure, and when paired with the built-in presets, the results are almost always garishly colored with too much contrast. You always have to adjust the intensity of the recommended changes and disable auto white balance altogether, and after all that it just didn’t work for me with the portraits. I finally crawled back into the arms of Lightroom whose Auto mode is at least designed to recover details and provide a neutral starting point for edits.

I have to say though, for iPhone photos (HEIF/JPEG), Pixelmator Photo is not half bad, provided you tone things down as mentioned. Here’s an example I took on a walk earlier today. I’ll keep trying to use it because I like some of the UI changes they’ve made, but tbh if Darkroom ever adds a good Auto mode, it’d be my go-to editor for life.

Week 50.21

  • We made it through another 50 weeks of a pandemic year. It’s surprising to see the number; saying it aloud instantly recalls many things that happened and also a sense of regret for all that couldn’t. Time is often called the ultimate scarce asset, but I think being time rich is useless if one is energy poor.
  • Energy is the one thing I don’t have this very moment, having just received my booster dose yesterday. I went with Moderna for my first two and experienced some trippy and difficult side effects. The rumors are true: Pfizer isn’t as bad, but it’s not nothing. Much like me, my immune system is prone to overreacting. It also means I can’t do Ring Fit Adventure for the recommended two weeks, during the worst time of year to skip exercise.
  • Maybe I already mentioned our scent-challenged Christmas tree last week. Well, it finally got decorated and there are now gifts under it. As a gift to myself (that I’ve already started using), I got the new Fujifilm Instax mini Evo camera. It’s just launched locally and in Japan, with a North American debut planned for February. Like the various crappy toy cameras that were popular awhile back, the Harinezumi and such, it’s a low-quality digital camera meant for fun shots with a grainy/blurry, poorly exposed aesthetic. On top of that, it has an Instax printer built in, so you can chuck out giveaway photos at a party, funeral, or board meeting. It’s not Fujifilm’s first attempt at this, but it’s the first that isn’t ugly or burdened with some other gimmicks (the last one recorded accompanying sound clips you could play via a QR code on every photo).
  • Many years ago when Go Go Curry shut their local outlets, I was pretty bummed about it and was especially offended by the franchisee spinning up their own copycat brand where all the restaurants used to be. It was a pale imitation, with several gimmicks thrown in that were not to my liking, but made them popular nevertheless. I generally dislike when food is “adapted to local tastes”. Anyway, this week we were near one around dinner time and decided to give Monster Curry another go, since it’s been years and the sour memory needed updating. And… they were actually good? I was just in disbelief that they turned it around: better quality ingredients, properly fried katsu, no skimping on the curry. Credit where credit’s due.
  • We don’t often use our Amazon Prime Video subscription, given the smaller library here, but I went looking for interesting things and came across an exclusive anime series called Babylon. I ended up watching all 12 episodes of it despite the unevenness, hoping for a payoff and some answers. Nope. It ends abruptly without much of a satisfying conclusion to the big questions. Avoid unless they make a second season.
  • Not disappointing at all is Micaiah Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds, which I’m currently reading. The title and premise may make you think it’s a mediocre YA SF-lite adventure novel, but it refreshes ideas like traveling between parallel worlds, and utopian cities with all the have-nots living beyond the walls, and adds excellent writing around race/class/identity politics, spiritualism, and the lasting effects of violence.
  • Tons of new music got added to my library, but I haven’t had a chance to hear any of it. At the front of the line is Alicia Keys’ and Aimee Mann’s new albums.
I like that they tried to use the X series’ design language, but the actual product is very plasticky and the charging port is literally covered with a flap of soft PVC.
Under the right conditions, the Instax mini Evo can take pretty good shots!
Most suffer exposure metering issues like this white plate of improved curry (you can manually stop down but it’s fiddly).

Week 49.21

— It felt like a long week. Part of that might be related to binging the eight-hour entirety of The Beatles: Get Back in a matter of days. And then consuming more videos and articles to fill in the blanks. If you haven’t yet heard the yelps of appreciation for it online, it’s Peter Jackson’s four-year attempt at editing together a never-before-seen side of the band’s final album coming together, down from 60 hours of footage and 150 hours of audio. At the lowest level of why it works, watching talented people create something as ephemeral as pop music through messy collaboration is irresistible.

I won’t repeat too much of what’s already been said, except that it’s given me an even greater appreciation of them all, Paul in particular. When I look at him, I think about two things: one, he looks like my friend Christian when he had a beard, and two, it’s so hard to mentally connect the guy on screen (just 26 years old!) with the older Paul that I’ve always seen. I don’t know his solo material as well, but it’s probably safe to say he was at his best when playing off the boys. His enthusiasm for them giving it a proper go again suggests he knew it too at some level.

So my listening shelf now has on it:

— After two months of ADD-ed attempts to finish David Mitchell’s Number9dream, I finally did it. It’s a great book, but every time I tried I would get distracted by something else after a couple of pages. It led me to think that any time in the future I find myself stuck on a hazy and challenging book, I should simultaneously read something dead straight on the side, non-fiction like, just to keep the habit regular. But maybe I’m just coming out the end of a no-reading funk, the kind I seem to encounter every year.

Afterwards, I went for something totally different, Ben Mezrich’s follow-up to The Accidental Billionaires (which turned into the The Social Network film), titled Bitcoin Billionaires. I usually detest books that try to tell true stories narratively, pretending to know every character’s thoughts at critical moments, and boy does this one do that with a huge dollop of cheese on top. But… it’s an interesting story at its core, about how the Winklevoss twins got over losing to Zuckerberg and successfully invested in their next act. So I managed to read the whole thing in a day.

That was followed by My Korean Deli: Risking It All For A Convenience Store, which has been on my list for years because I just like convenience stores and stories set in them. Except this one isn’t really a Korean deli at all, although the author’s wife’s family is Korean. It’s just a dilapidated American corner store in Brooklyn, there are several tonal issues like borderline racism and lame jokes, and it’s quite whiny. The image of the American convenience store just depressed the hell out of me but I finished it anyway.

— I’d like to keep the book streak going, but I’ve played next to no video games lately. The only ones I’ve touched are two beautiful but ultimately shallow and unfun mobile gacha games, Figure Fantasy and Blue Archive. The former has a great idea: some people like to collect figurines, why not turn that into an AR game? They even made it look like several million dollars, but didn’t spend enough on the awful translation, so that was deleted quickly. The latter has a great English translation, but there was nothing in the core game (auto squad combat) to keep me, so that’s gone too.

— The release of Misery Men NFTs continues on OpenSea, and I’m still enjoying the somewhat meditative experience of drawing and coloring them in my spare time.

— Our Christmas tree arrived and was decorated after sitting naked and neglected for a few days. It’s a little short on the usual pine scent, despite being very green and flourishing, so either we’ve got the Covid or the trees have mutated as well.

— Covid numbers have been falling; we actually had a couple of days with cases under 1,000, which doesn’t sound like a huge achievement but can you believe it’s been two months since that happened? In the meantime, we’re just waiting on more Omicron deets like everyone else. Nevertheless, I went out a couple of times this week, either to drink Guinness or coffee.

On Friday I saw Ci’en, Peishan, and James at a cafe/restaurant that seems to be geared towards startups and remote workers. Just groups of four to five young people on long benches and round tables, hammering things out on PC laptops (weird) and playing mobile games on their breaks while ordering coffee and snacks. I sat there for six whole hours and everyone in my vicinity was there longer. Not a bad place to go hang out and work with your team, but I wonder how they turn a profit.

Week 45.21

  • On Monday we had the day off, so it was off to IKEA for some shopping (reasonably crowded for a weekday) and then the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands (not very crowded) to check out two exhibitions. One was kinda video gamey, curated by Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Lumines and Rez fame, and the other was about Sound: artworks visualizing it, historical inventions, and novel ways of experiencing it.
  • The most powerful bit was probably at the end of the above mentioned Orchestral Maneuvers attraction. 40 loudspeakers, each one playing a discrete recording of a single vocalist, working together to literally surround you with a choral musical work. You know what stereo separation sounds like, and even what spatial audio with Dolby Atmos sounds like, but this was on another level for recorded sound. You could walk around and change the mix, as it were.
  • Thursday was another day off, with the Diwali/Deepavali public holiday here. We didn’t do anything of note apart from going out to eat way too much Chinese hotpot. I still think of our visit to Taiwan just before Covid-19 hit, and how we ate at this Wulao hotpot restaurant multiple times. If there was stomach space left at the end of a night after cocktails, Wulao. No plans for lunch the day after, Wulao. I’d previously never gotten into that sort of food before, so it was making up a lifetime of ignoring hot tofu skin, coagulated duck blood, and other things that don’t sound so nice when typed out.
  • We saw the new Apple TV+ movie, Finch, starring Tom Hanks. Two of the biggest films on the service star the same guy, which is slightly odd. Anyway, I enjoyed it just fine. They also did good work on the CGI because I often forgot that a certain element wasn’t actually there in real life. 3.5 stars.
  • Someone mentioned a mutual acquaintance had gotten a job at Facebook, and a quick look on LinkedIn indicated that they are hiring aggressively for the local office, which led to a discussion (okay maybe more of a rant on my part) about people who make the Faustian bargain of working there. Then I came across this piece in The Atlantic saying perhaps it’s time we regard the company as a hostile foreign power rather than just a corporation. Still, calls like these have been made for years, and I think the simple fact is that Facebook has reached a state of untouchability. Money breaks down enough resistance to ensure that they’ll always be able to hire; hell, we all have a price. I see little hope of them being dismantled by either customer outrage or legal process. We can only hope for an unforced error. May the Meta era push for ecosystem ownership be full of them.
  • Radiohead’s newly rereleased KID A MNESIA albums have been on rotation. It was an amazing period for their music, although I’d still have to give the crown to OK Computer. I remember having a copy of Amnesiac that came in a little red hardcover art book. I wonder where that went.

Week 43.21

  • Apple unveiled their long-anticipated MacBook Pro redesign on Tuesday, and for once it wasn’t about thinner and sexier, but thicker and comfier. Pretty sure I saw a joke somewhere along the lines of “who among us isn’t thicker now”. I’m glad to see the reversion to more ports, MagSafe, and an integrated SD card reader, more because it shows the company is still willing to correct mistakes, but don’t actually want or need anything I saw — I’m happy not being a Pro and just puttering around doing casual normie shit on my Air.
  • Some people have waited a long time for the 3rd-generation AirPods, and while I’m a little annoyed the AirPod Pros have now been bested at battery life, not resuming music inappropriately when in a pocket, and charging via MagSafe (unless you buy a pair now and get the updating charging case), I understand they’re on their own development path and will someday get new features. Until then, there are attractive new Beats earbuds coming that look like they’ll fix my continuing fit issues with AirPods.
  • A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Covid cases here went nuclear, reaching up to 2,000/day. Well, in the days since we’ve become numb to numbers of about 3,500/day, and they’re not letting up. The majority of us have been vaccinated, so these cases would mostly be without much consequence (well, who can say? This Swedish report is worrying), but as long as it spreads widely and we have people who won’t get vaccinated, we seem unable to risk opening up further. So the authorities have extended restrictions for another month into November. It’s still dining out and movement for people in groups of two only.
  • I finished Journey Mode in Tetris Effect Connected for Switch, which I wasn’t able to do when I played it on the PS4. Maybe a matter of controllers, or luck. The multiplayer modes are novel, and I love the one where you team up with two other human players online to battle the AI, occasionally joining up your three individual playfields into one super-wide collaborative screen. When you pull off a win, it feels like a moment of miraculous teamwork with strangers; good natured, fun, and communicative.
  • I managed to complete last season’s Battle Pass in Call of Duty: Mobile, but just barely in time. For those who don’t play, that means I spent enough time grinding for in-game currency that I can enter the next season without paying real money. But fatigue is setting in. I don’t think I can do four consecutive tours of duty. Will probably drop out after this new Halloween-themed one is done.
  • Tricky released a new album with some friends under the banner of “Lonely Guest”, which is also the name of the album (Apple Music). It’s very high on my to-do list, but I’ve heard a bit and it doesn’t disappoint.
  • Verve/Impulse Records also released a live performance of A Love Supreme from Seattle, 1965. It’s not really mixed for headphones, sadly, so put this on your HomePod if you’re fortunate enough to have one, as they are STILL NOT AVAILABLE IN SINGAPORE DESPITE THIS WEEK’S ANNOUNCEMENT OF NEW ONES.
iPhone 13 Pro macro photo from a walk this week, film look via the Prequel app