Week 8.22

1.
After posting about the 0xmusic project (NFTs that infinitely generate rule-based but non-repeating music) in last week’s post, I thought I’d start recording some of the output to concretize it for future reference. As Rob put it, the music is kinda “plonky”, but not half bad as BGM. So I recorded two ugly, short screen recordings of “DJ Drip” on its webpage onto YouTube, one of which was appended to the last post.

After that, what’s a guy with free time to do but take it to the next level? I recorded a 60-minute length of “DJ Syn City” and set out to make one of those YouTube music videos, you know the kind, usually lofi or cafe jazz compilations with an illustrated scene on loop. How is it we don’t have a specific word for that sort of thing?

I wasn’t in the mood to find videos in my library that could loop well, so I used a photo I took in Akihabara back in 2018 and dumped a bunch of overlays on it with a bit of motion*, mixed it all together in iMovie, and voila! If I find a way to create more/better music, I’ll probably make a bunch of these.

*How? You’d be amazed what one can do with an iPhone and free apps these days.

2.
Covid hit closer to home this week with two cases in the family. All are vaccinated and coping okay with only flu-like symptoms so far. Anecdotally, it’s everywhere. Multiple colleagues and friends have already had it this the past month. The relaxed policies at present haven’t helped: even if you or someone in your household is infected, you can go out as soon as you test negative via ART self testing. And you don’t have to document or prove the result in any way; it’s an honor system. To make things worse, the tests don’t seem consistent. Some test negative at home and then positive at a clinic, and vice versa.

I was feeling fatigued/achey and worried that I’d gotten it after being briefly exposed, but three home tests this week said no, so I wondered if it was just my usual psychosomatic, hypochondriac imagination filling in the blanks. Just to be safe, I canceled every meeting during the week.

3.
When it was safe (7 days after contact), I made one exception to join Rob for a yakitori and beer hangout with old work buds who haven’t all been together in years. The food was quality, but damn if yakitori isn’t criminally overpriced in Singapore. It was probably triple what a comparable meal would cost in Japan.

It was afterwards while we were watching YouTube that I learnt from Jose that the extreme longboarder Josh Neuman passed away this month at the age of 22. You can’t help but imagine the worst… losing control and flying off a cliff, crashing headfirst into oncoming traffic… but no, he died in a plane crash.


Media activity:

  • Finished the 18th Jack Reacher book, Never Go Back. It’s definitely one of the better ones, with a cast of supporting characters and good momentum. I can see why they picked it for the second film with Tom Cruise in the role. They chopped a lot out though, and I didn’t recognize much of the plot in this. Which just makes it clearer to me how much better suited the Reacher novels are for TV: one book, one season.
  • We’ve been watching Apple TV+’s Suspicion and The Afterparty on a weekly basis. The former is a British production with Uma Thurman in a supporting role. It’s quite a slow burn, but I do want to know the answer to the central mystery of how these unconnected people could be connected to the crime they’re accused of. Hmm, that seems to be quite a common set-up, also seen in one of the other shows mentioned below.
  • Regrettably, a lot of bad TV this week. I half-watched all of Love Is Blind Brazil S1, and we are now caught up on both new seasons of the USA and Japanese editions, both slated to conclude by the end of this month. The episode template and overall season arc gets old; they’re essentially the same across all the shows. But the shows couldn’t be more different from a cultural standpoint. There’s no ass-grabbing on the Japanese one, for starters.
  • We’ve also started One Of Us Is Lying on Netflix, based on a YA novel that I’ve heard about but never got around to looking at. A handful of teens in high school are suspected of murder and everyone has motive. Every actor in it is at least a decade older than their character is supposed to be. They also wear t-shirts with generic slogans and designs that are hilariously meant to broadcast their wearers’ archetypes: cool geek, arty girl, anti-establishment outcast.
  • Best line so far: “If he hadn’t shown up, I’d be taking selfies with Jesus right now!”
  • Much better is the Kanye West documentary jeen-yuhs. It’s obviously a Kanye-approved version of history, but it’s hard to overstate the value of such a behind-the-scenes document. I mean, it was shot over 20 years, an entire career. You see him when he no one would take him seriously as a rapper. He’s out there taking meetings and kinda embarrassing himself trying to get heard. Everyone fronts in hip-hop, saying they’re going to be the greatest, the biggest, but there’s something about young Kanye’s hustle and confidence that suggests he really believed he would be where he is today.
  • Side note: Donda 2 is meant to launch tomorrow. When he announced he wasn’t going to release his album on streaming or digital, and only on his own $200 Stem Player device, I wrote it off. I said that I wouldn’t buy it, and the album was dead to me. It’s tremendously wasteful to create a dedicated piece of expensive plastic junk to play one album. I saw it as disrespectful to the fans, and egotistical even by Kanye’s standards. Since then I’ve learnt that the device can be updated with additional music, like an MP3 player (whether it will be is a different story). It’s still too costly and excludes many people, but perhaps it’s a novel experiment worth checking out. I’ve bought FM3 Buddha Machines before. I can feel my hold slipping.

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.

Week 51.21

  • The Christmas dinners have begun, with a large potlucky one yesterday at ours that was vegetarian but not at all lacking. Impossible!, you cry. Yes, we did have their meatballs. And already this afternoon we’ve eaten too much and had a gift of some sugary pastries arrive unexpectedly. This all follows swiftly after a five-course dinner on Friday night, the last in a trilogy of pandemic-struck celebrations for my sister-in-law’s no-longer-news wedding. I expect I still weigh the same regardless, having lost a significant amount of moisture to wearing a suit for photos in the middle of the day. I wonder if that’s what the stillsuits in Dune feel like: being rolled up in one of those hot towels they give you on Singapore Airlines flights.
  • After dinner, we played a new party game I discovered on the Apple TV (also available on Xbox and PlayStation). Jeopardy! PlayShow is a premium title, not to be confused with the various ad-ridden free mobile games released over the years, with insultingly easy multiple-choice questions. No, this is the real thing for everyone who’s ever watched a game show and answered aloud alongside the contestants. It’s that exact experience: streaming video of real Jeopardy! episodes, except you can buzz in and answer (using your voice!), and see how you stack up against the champs. S$14.98 gets you the base game with 10 episodes, and each additional pack is another S$14.98. Oof! Buyer beware… the game’s servers stalled halfway through our play test, so we had to move on to SongPop Party (Apple Arcade). Epilogue: I gave Jeopardy! another go the next morning and it worked fine.
  • I finished The Space Between Worlds which I was reading last week (five stars), and have moved on to Xiran Jay Zhao’s Iron Widow, a bonkers story about giant mechs fighting alien invaders, piloted by couples in a mind meld that usually kills the woman (twist: not this time!), set in a world/society inspired by Chinese history. It starts a little rough, but once you get into her style and some jarring cultural references, it goes hard.
  • The Goodreads Reading Challenge hangs around my neck like a large bird. Even after Iron Widow, I’ll be two books short of my modest 24-book target in a year where I really have little excuse. It seems unlikely I’ll be able to do it with just 11 days to go. Nevertheless, I plan to follow this up with Christina Sweeney-Baird’s The End of Men and Naomi Alderman’s The Power, to construct a sort of male-murdering fantasy trilogy.
  • Last week’s viewing of Babylon was anime disappointment, but I’m now watching a series on Netflix called Vivi: Fluorite Eye’s Song that more than makes up for it. It’s an unsung (sorry) masterpiece about a robot singer who receives a message from the future, and follows her on a 100-year quest to change the course of history and prevent a war between humans and AIs. It works because the art is beautiful with few compromises, the writing is sharp, and it isn’t afraid to skip large chunks of time abruptly to keep things moving.
  • Speaking of time, you don’t believe you could watch a 1-hour and 20-minute-long video on how Garfield has been transformed by internet fans, but give yourself some credit. Michael, my main inspiration for these weekly updates, often posts about the video essays he discovers, which is something I never thought would be for me, but welps the YouTube algorithm has a new thing for me now. We’ve all seen that Garfield minus Garfield project on Tumblr, but trust me, this goes way beyond that. You won’t believe the depth and quality of fan art and lore that’s out there.
  • I’ll leave you with an update on the Misery Men project. There are now 73 “artworks” published on OpenSea, and every so often I look at one of them and think the quotation marks could soon be dropped. Like, it’s not impossible to imagine a couple of them blown up and framed in a home somewhere. Maybe not a very nice home, it might be a caravan, but I think there’s something here.
  • If you chat with friends on Telegram and want to send them a sticker expressing a specific sort of sadness or disappointment, you may now add my Misery Men sticker pack for absolutely free. I’ll be updating it with the latest ones periodically.
What was on my plate last night. Photo taken with the newly updated FiLMiC Firstlight camera app on iOS, which has some lovely film-inspired filters.
Misery Man #72
Misery Man #73: one of my personal favorites.

Week 47.21

  • Went out for coffee and it turned into a night. Ended up with a hangover the next day, a thing which hasn’t happened in a while.
  • Messed up my YouTube feed by watching a couple of new micro-genres: Leica Q2 Monochrom reviews (I won’t buy one, I hope), “Day in the Life” videos of various people in Singapore (enlightening because, well, you just don’t know how others live until you see it), and Chinese street interviews in Tier 2/3 cities designed to teach the language but that are entertaining to me because, well, most of us just don’t know how Chinese people live.
  • Saw No Time To Die, and liked it a lot better than Spectre, although that’s not saying a lot. Like others have already observed, it sends Daniel Craig off while (for the first half) feeling like the first time he’s truly been in a classic Bond outing with glorious globetrotting, stylized set pieces, one-liners, and a new female co-star every 30 minutes. The villain’s entire plot is still nonsense if you think about it afterwards.
  • Got started on Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop series. It’s kinda bad, but works better if you turn on the Japanese soundtrack. The dramatically OTT performances on it better complement the visual and tonal schizophrenia, which attempts exaggerated silliness and deadpan noir almost at the same time.
  • In case you didn’t know, Netflix also has a Japanese audio track for Seinfeld, and it’s surreal to try out. George is played like a timid, wheezing ojisan, and Elaine is a vainsexy mature woman.
  • I also saw the first episode of My Name and it was the rare Korean television show I could watch through without skipping ahead in frustration. It’s not above relying on revenge movie tropes, but moves quickly and the fight choreography is better than Cowboy Bebop’s.
  • Also got back into Animal Crossing New Horizons for the first time in a year — I found a pile of red leaves in my driveway from the last time, and hey it’s fall again now — there’s so much new, while the world feels soothingly familiar. Several friends have said that just hearing the game’s music instantly brings them back into the memory cocoon of playing it in mid-2020 amidst the chaos, and to me it’s an untouchable place we can visit any time. I’m glad so many of us had that one nice thing in common.

===

  • Cleaning up some of my old stuff over at my parents’, I found a couple of things worth keeping.
  • One, a pair of Olympus film cameras that I remember fondly. The XA and XA2 were marvels, much better compact point-and-shoots than anything else you’d find on eBay in the 90s and 2000s. It’s years later now, so I can finally confess that I once won first place in a Lomography photo walk contest using the XA2 instead of an LC-A (mine wasn’t working that day); they are distant cousins, I reasoned. They probably need a good cleaning out and restoration before being used again, but will make nice shelf objects in the meantime.
  • Two, souvenirs from the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka that we visited once, a decade ago. Still in the paper bags and plastic sleeves they came in, these pins, stickers, animation flipbooks, and music boxes may now find a place in our home. A drawer in our home, at least.
  • Three, a slim autographed volume of what I suppose you’d call juvenilia by now-published author Alexandra Kleeman, probably from my university days when I read her blog (technicolor.org) in awe and jealousy. I can’t remember how exactly I came into possession of it; perhaps it was offered in an early homerolled Kickstarter project. Googling its title, Matchbox Gods, turned up exactly zero hits, so I pinged her on Twitter with a photo (I live on it and yet the internet still amazes me) and got a response within the day. She said she only knows of one other person who still has a copy, so I’ll just record this info for future rummagers and closet cleaners coming online to find some context. I have nostalgia for how reading strangers’ blogs used to make us feel like we knew them a little through their thoughts, in a way you don’t get from Instagram or Twitter updates. I hope she’s having a great life.
  • Four, a couple of Game Boy Micros including one commemorative edition in Famicom red and gold. I tossed out many compact digital cameras because their batteries don’t work anymore, can’t be replaced, and their bodies weren’t particularly beautiful and worth keeping. The Game Boys still look great, so those can go somewhere.
  • Threw out all my iPods with some regret. Really anything with a battery that’s sealed or discontinued is pretty much useless today without extraordinary effort, unless used as display pieces. And my iPods were scratched up and haven’t held up, quite frankly. The whole white plastic phase of industrial design will not be looked back upon fondly by anyone. They were objects to be used and enjoyed in their time, but not any longer. AirPods aside, it’s nice to see most of our devices today being made with recyclable and longer-wearing materials that should look better a few decades from now.

Week 44.21

  • This is the first post to be late since I started over a year ago. Apologies to myself; I/you were busy all day yesterday on Monday, which I guess I’ll only explain in the next report.
  • Apart from walks around the neighborhood, where I was surprised at my surprise to see a few Halloween-decorated houses because who does that right now + it’s nice that we think we could or should, I went out exactly once this week: to meet Cien for brunch and coffees on a weekday. Doing this after a long time kept in the cubicle cage leads one to wonder, “who are all these other people lounging, chatting, walking dogs in athleisure, looking jobless?” It’s perhaps a process of normalization for the brain; this gestures at ongoing freedom is a legitimate community too, transitory or not.
  • Transitory is probably going to be some dictionary publisher’s Word Of The Year.
  • After lunch, about an hour’s walk in blazing sun and humid air, getting wound around on top of our own footsteps, lost in the Tiong Bahru area while taking photos with my underutilized CL. I shall try to make it something I don’t leave home without these days.
  • I came across this article about the New Balance 990, a classic “dad shoe” the likes of which are now cool on account of looking uncool, I think. Back in the day, they were coveted in some circles for being the high-end of the low at $100, the best shoe that NB knew how to make in the USA, and so a bit better than “premium mediocre” actually; they would have been more comfortable and better-made than most. Well, I’ve recently had to toss out a few pairs of sneakers after wearing them black and broken after many years, so I immediately ordered a fresh pair of these after reading. They arrived in two days from an outlet in Chinatown. They look so dorky but I like them.
  • A cousin’s Chinese wedding dinner over the weekend. The first I’ve attended in Covid times: the rule is now five to a table rather than the customary 10. Where courses would normally be displayed in the center and doled out for sharing, accessible for any who wanted seconds, it’s now individual portions delivered directly. All expected, all logical, an improvement to the experience in many ways, deficit in other intangible ones, hindering interaction and breaking connection with our traditions and past — “that’s just how it’s always been done”, until one day, no longer.
  • As NFT floor prices crashed across OpenSea over the week, I found myself irrationally tempted to buy into some formerly (and really, still) overpriced collections. I had to talk myself down, but I’m glad I managed. Outside of Bitcoin and DeFi, there’s a lot of potential in the so-called crypto space with token-based projects and DAOs, namely new models of ownership and running a business, but this stage looks like pure spaghetti-on-walls and speculation. I accept that it’s part of the process, but I want to fast-forward to the next bit where it happens without so much get-rich-quick motivation. And the less is said about play-to-earn, the better.
  • On Netflix, we’ve been watching El inocente, yet another Harlan Coben TV adaptation. I think this will be the last one because it feels too much like the other we saw a few weeks ago: mechanically reliant on outlandish coincidences and undisclosed (to the viewer only) pasts to provide the twists it thinks are necessary to keep you hooked. Well, maybe they are.

Week 42.21

  • As a careful handler and frequent upgrader of iPhones — I joke that it’s one of my few excesses, and if I get hit by a bus, I don’t want one of my regrets to be that I’d spent the last 11 months tolerating the old model — buying AppleCare+ has been a waste of money. I pay for two years, only use one, and don’t actually use it because I never put a scratch on it.
  • This year, I discovered thanks to my friend and colleague Henry that Singapore has also implemented the ability for you to cancel your AppleCare+ plan at any time and get a pro-rated refund. In other words, pay only for what you need. This change happened a year or so ago in the US, but I assumed it wasn’t ever coming here (like the HomePods). So I was able to end my iPhone 12 Pro’s coverage with just a phone call.
  • Afterwards, I managed to sell my iPhone without having to deal with hagglers and trolls on Carousell (local eBay equivalent), or going around to used mobile phone stores and negotiating with them. Reebelo.com literally brings those merchants to you. You specify the condition of your phone/tablet, and get an instant quote from one of them. Set a date and time, and someone will come to your doorstep with cash (there’s still a bit of haggling as they will invariably find a scratch you never noticed before).
  • Last week I mentioned succumbing to a new “Nintendo Switch (OLED model)”, which, hand on heart, is its official name, which should tell you something about the migration process to expect. It is NOT an elegant or lovable user experience. There will be no plug-and-play on Christmas morning with Nintendo at the helm; I spent over an hour individually transferring each user profile over wirelessly (although they were already on the removable SD card), and then redownloading all the games over the internet (already on said SD card), and then manually downloading a separate app onto both systems just to transfer Animal Crossing’s saved data over (yup, SD card) because it’s just a special game don’t you know. Obviously I’ll draw a link to restoring a new iPhone from iCloud (the Switch actually has cloud backups of all save games!) and how comparatively easy that is.
  • The OLED screen is unbelievably, eye-searingly vibrant, and while it’s definitely an improvement over the muddiness of the original Switch’s screens, it will take some getting used to. It’s made by Samsung, and maybe having that knowledge is making my brain go “yes, the saturation does sort of remind me of using a Galaxy phone”.
  • I’ve been playing Tetris Effect: Connected, a game I already bought once for the PS4, but Tetris has such history as a handheld game (especially on Nintendo platforms), so it had to be done.
  • Despite all the wallet emptying or maybe because of it, I’ve really appreciated being funemployed this week.

  • TV-wise, we binged the new season of Love On The Spectrum on Netflix, a reality dating show following people with autism, started on the new season of You, a dark comedy-drama following a romantic serial killer, and continued watching Seinfeld, a period sitcom following a politically incorrect group of friends through romantic misadventures.
  • I’ve been slowly taking in Godzilla Singular Point, an anime series on Netflix that seems to be slowly making its way (reluctantly?) to a story that must have Godzilla in it at some point, driven by an interesting cast of human characters and one adorable AI assistant in cartoon dog form.
  • The new Super Deluxe remastered edition of The Beatles’ Let It Be is finally out, and it sounds pristine as one might expect. I don’t know what Beatles fanatics think of this album — do they think it’s patchy? Aren’t they all in some way? — but it might be one of my favorites.