We spent four days in Tokyo and three in Kobe. Lots of walking and aching old legs. Lots of eating and drinking with mild hangovers. Kobe has been a surprise: a delightful city that feels close to nature despite an industrial background. Friendly, warm, and helpful people. Affordable prices. It feels like a great place to buy property and partially retire in. We had our first proper Kobe beef meal and it didn’t disappoint, and dropped in on a live jazz bar that felt like a small, well cared-for living room. I recorded a couple of songs using Voice Memos on my iPhone and the quality turned out pretty great. The microphones on this thing are perhaps more impressive than the cameras (see upcoming post on Hipstamatic — the iPhone 14 Pro may not compare well enough to a proper camera but it has a place if you use it as your fun camera).
Anyway I’ll let some photos do the talking. All but two of these are from the Ricoh GR III. One of them is straight from iPhone’s 3x telephoto camera, and the other was edited with Hipstamatic. Can you tell?
Please rotate your iPhone to landscape because WordPress’s masonry layout somehow doesn’t work on narrow screens!
This post is delayed on account of the Lunar New Year weekend; hope you had a good one if you celebrate!
After two years of restrictions and fear (not to mention peace and quiet), we returned to the old chaos with a few family gatherings and house visits. Unfortunately, one of my favorite parts of the whole thing, a large reunion dinner on the Eve with some of our most senior relatives, was still off the table on account of their mounting health issues. I wonder if we’ll ever get a chance to see everyone on that side of the family all together again.
I brought my GR III out to capture some of these moments, and fortunately Ricoh released their previously mentioned new Diary Edition model just the day before, which meant the firmware update for older models to get their new Negative film-inspired “Image Control” mode was also released. After some experimentation, I’ve settled on these settings: Saturation +1, High Key +2, Contrast +1, Shadow Exposure -1. Am looking forward to using it for more everyday snaps in 2023.
While hanging around with some relatives in the afternoon of Day 1, a few of us downloaded the Dimensional personality test app and began answering its slew of profiling questions to compare our toxic traits, love languages, and all that. It co-opts a bunch of well-known existing frameworks like the MBTI and so on into one gigantic pile of traits. Does that constitute a unique and proprietary offering? I don’t know, but it’s fun enough and free. Be warned, completing all available questions can take over an hour.
Speaking of apps, my advance pick for 2023’s game of the year launched this week on Apple Arcade: Pocket Card Jockey Ride On. It’s a remake of the Nintendo 3DS eShop exclusive now fixed up with better graphics and subtle gameplay tweaks. If you never played the original, do yourself a favor and give it a try. It’s an addictive solitaire-based game; the main downside (for me) is it’s time-based and needs some concentration and so isn’t something you can play while in a noisy environment.
My Mastodon use has fallen off a little. I actually prefer Twitter’s algorithmic timeline to a chronological one because I tend to follow too many people to keep up, and need some help sifting out the “best” content from the rest. Mastodon is beginning to give me the uncomfortable feeling of a full inbox, but perhaps I should simply follow fewer people.
The general rule around here is to avoid talking about work — although it is usually such a big cost center for my time — but we had a new colleague relocate from Shanghai, and it was nice welcoming them to town and having a couple of impromptu beers on a weekday night.
Last episode, I mentioned seeing some Tezos NFT art at Singapore Art Week. Well I came across one of the pieces for sale (entitled D-909 Groove Arcade) and decided to go through the trouble of creating a Tezos wallet and getting some funds in so I could buy it. It’s one edition out of 167, and so was only like USD$20, but I’m super happy to have it. Can art be absolutely adorable and funky at the same time? Provably yes!
I also continued generating non-existent videogame screenshots using Midjourney, expanding the fictional timeline to include modern-day remakes of old games. I should spend more time pushing this idea further but so far I’ve only done it in spare moments or when I should really be doing something else.
Everything But The Girl is back after what feels like decades, and the video for their new single is an incredible piece of choreography and one-take execution. I could only think of the immense pressure on each person not to fuck up. Dimensional seems to concur, reporting that my main motivation is Security.
I fell down. It happened walking right in the middle of the sidewalk, where someone had decided to place stone benches, a civic design decision made nowhere else in the entire country that I know of. I’d just been avoiding its siblings in the moment before, most of them brightly painted, but the one that got me was dark gray, and it was 9pm and dim, and I was looking at a giant mural to the side while talking about it with my companions. We’d been out all day to see art, ending up at the ongoing Singapore Night Festival.
I stubbed my right big toe first, I think. Then my right shin. Then I toppled over the bench, knees first, palms outstretched. Smashed both knees down onto the concrete sidewalk from seating height, and thankfully avoided a broken face with my hands. Everything still hurts now, the day after. Maybe I’ve fractured the toe. It doesn’t want to bend. I think I’ll be okay, but any sympathy is welcome.
I got up quite quickly and felt the burn, but was alright to keep going. My friends said, “sit down for a minute and catch a breath, you’re over 40 now. Take it easy. It’s too late for parkour.” This is good advice in general.
Earlier that day with Rob (he’s back in town again, hence I took some time off), we saw the strange work of Australian artist Patricia Piccinini at the ArtScience Museum: We Are Connected. I suppose you could describe them as grotesque, body horror explorations of biological variety, mostly in the form of human-animal chimeras. Kim found the exhibition for us, saying “It’s weird. I think you’d both like it.” For the record, she would have hated it.
Rob said they reminded him of the work of Ron Mueck, so afterwards we dropped his name into a MidJourney prompt and created something not too far from what we’d seen.
Later in the evening, we visited another exhibition of AI-generated art, pieces clearly composited from MidJourney outputs — scenes similar to what we’ve also created playing with these tools. What happens to art some day when viewers can engage, challenge, and remix on equal footing with artists? When execution counts for nothing, and only what you’re saying matters (RIP the massive teams of studio interns)? Will you walk into a gallery and see a textual prompt and seed number in a frame? Hmm… gimme a minute!
One of the better things from that afternoon: a crude 3D animation about viruses, played across seven screens, with a shot of a man licking an android’s eyeball.
This was at the Singapore Art Museum’s temporary outpost at Keppel Distripark. Which is a pretty stark middle-of-nowhere-feeling industrial space, interesting in itself. We saw an old sign that said “climb the stairs to the fifth floor for more artwork”, which turned out to be a cruel exaggeration on a very hot afternoon. There was but one lonely birdhouse-sized installation, a sort of wind-powered music box based on structures we’d already seen on the first floor. But the view sort of made up for it, and watching shipping containers being loaded onto trucks is not bad at all.
I finally leveled up my deca.art Decagon to L30. Left with nothing else to shoot for, I bought a basic one and started leveling it up too.
This week’s been a good reminder that you’ve gotta have fun/meaningful things going on a regular basis, otherwise you’ll be left talking about LEVELING UP AN NFT as the most exciting thing that happened outside of taking an afternoon off and getting injured.
Last week I mentioned the MusicHarbour app and started talking to Michael about music recommendation engines. He mentioned Apple Music’s “For You” playlists, and I realized I hadn’t used any of them in weeks, maybe months. Today I tried my New Music Mix and discovered the RZA has put out new stuff both as himself and his Bobby Digital persona. Two album/EPs, actually! Saturday Afternoon Kung Fu Theater with DJ Scratch, and RZA presents: Bobby Digital and the Pit of Snakes. I also wanted to correct my earlier opinion of King Princess’s Hold On Baby: it’s grown on me and I love it now. The same thing happened with her previous single Pain. It sounded absolutely crap the first time I heard it, and then it absolutely slapped. How does she do it?
We’re about six weeks from Christmas when it feels like it should be six months. This year’s time progression has been slippery; because I had clear point in the middle when I started to take time off work, it feels a little like two years in one, and yet much less. I’ll bet it’s the same for everyone buried under lots of work and not going out enough anyway, because a lack of New Stuff happening each day just makes them go by faster.
I read something somewhere about the mental health toll that working from home is taking on people, and of course someone quoted said the lack of human contact was bringing them down. Something in my head said, “well now you know how work felt for everyone who doesn’t love being surrounded by lots of people, but had to do it anyway for all of their lives”, but I’m sure that’s already been said. I land somewhere in the middle: I can do either infinitely and hate them equally.
I met Khairul for a coffee earlier in the week, for the first time in maybe a year. He’s been exploring new interests and possible personal projects during his time off. So it was great to talk with someone in virtually the same boat, and we both gave each other some homework to research and think about before the next chat. After that we took a short walk around Chinatown where my first-gen Ricoh GR got some use.
Speaking of projects, I was inspired by this Twitter thread of Venkatesh Rao’s wherein he goes down the web3 rabbit hole and ends up minting NFTs out of his old blog/newsletter artwork. What happened with me was initial dismissal, curiosity, then buying a couple of NFTs to see if I was wrong, before moving onto other topics (currently trying to grok DeFi 2.0 bonds) without considering that I could make some NFTs of my own, just for kicks. I hardly have the skills for it, but why should that stop me?
So now I think I‘ll do it, starting with a collection of these Misery Man doodles I started drawing by accident a couple of years ago, which became a joke signature/tag of sorts I’d leave on whiteboards around the office. I’ll probably draw a bunch of variations, maybe a hundred, and put them up on OpenSea soon.
I spent a little time on Decentraland this week checking out the alternative metaverse. It’s rough by modern game standards, but it’s cool that anyone can create assets and straight plug them into what is essentially an MMO, or sell them on an open marketplace. I wandered downtown and saw buildings that companies had built as shrines to themselves, on plots of virtual land that they’d bought and now hold as NFTs. It’s early days because no one really knows what to do with them. One company recreated their org chart in the lobby as photos on shelves, and if you go upstairs to a cathedral-like space with glass and high ceilings, you can browse their website in a Jumbotron-sized window.
Speaking of giant things, KAWS’s Holiday artwork is now in Singapore as part of its world tour, albeit embroiled in some legal mess that means it can’t officially open to the public yet. That said, it’s still up, and it looks great (better?) from afar. I love the idea of a giant character chilling out in different cities, but it loses that magic for me the closer you get. We had the opportunity to visit before it was meant to open, and yeah if there was merch on sale, I’d say definitely go. If you’re just nearby on the Helix Bridge, that works too. I brought my D-Lux 7 out for that. The iPhone is great and all, but as I said to Joseph in a chat yesterday, everything is so crispy and bright and HDR these days, it’s a relief to shoot with a “real” camera based on aging technology now and then.
We’re watching Only Murders In The Building, a 10-episode series set in New York, with some strong Manhattan Murder Mystery wannabe vibes. Instead of Woody Allen, Alan Alda, and Diane Keaton, you get Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. And oh, they’re making a podcast of their amateur murder investigation as they go. It doesn’t always feel consistent — there are some admittedly cool ideas choppily shoved in but they mess with the tone and pacing — but I’ll take what I can get because cozy, fun weekend viewing is rare these days.