Week 16.22

Had a couple more opportunities to use Superlocal this week. I’m not sure it’ll stick as a habit because 1) it takes awhile to check in, because photos are mandatory, and 2) I only have one friend on at the moment; two others can’t get past the invite gate because of a bug that will only be fixed in the next update. The problem with network effects or lack thereof here is the team has (rightfully) designed an app where the noxious crypto stuff is optional, which also means no real revenue until it takes off, and by extension most users aren’t incentivized with imaginary money. So now they have to rush to build all the useful features that Swarm already has, like telling you how many coffee shops you’ve checked in to, or the last time you were here. Without which there’s little to drive user growth, and nobody wants to use a social network with no friends.

One time I met Peishan and we had vegetarian food and I really wanted the ability to rate the place (poor!) rather than just check in. Someone in the Superlocal Discord asked if they’re building a recommendations database or a general social network, and it’s a really good question. Swarm still works great for my needs despite being covered in cobwebs, though they could use some competition.

===

My wife has a lot of work travel ahead this summer, which is disconcerting but it looks like we’ve collectively decided the situation out there is fine. Many people in Singapore are back to working in offices at least some days a week, and a good proportion of friends have holidays planned. Me, I’ll be staying home in my hermetically sealed pretend submarine while she’s out on the first leg next week. I’ve got snacks, bread in the freezer, and an armful of video games to get through before the end of my sabbatical.

When staying up late at night in solitude, I’ve found it quite cozy to put global webcams from YouTube up on the projector. There was a tweet yesterday being derided up and down the internet where someone claimed Japan has no homeless people, drunks, giant rats, or litter. Later at 2am, I had a feed of Kabukicho up and saw a messy group stumbling into an all-night diner with a giant rat bounding down the street behind them. Perfection.

===

Media activity:

  • Turning Red is a rather good Pixar film that dares to tread new ground (Toronto, and periods), and has so many great sight gag ideas. It feels like a story they had fun telling, and really wanted to tell, although I could have done without the overused meek Chinese dad archetype, true as it may be.
  • We also saw Drive My Car and WeCrashed, which are fun to mention in the same sentence. The former is a three-hour long film that uses the first 45 minutes as set up, and then the credits start showing. I loved the audacity. There’s a strange flatness to one character’s performance that was probably intentional or perhaps speaks to some nuance of Japanese culture, in any case that broke the spell for me. Overall, a solid four stars. For the latter, I don’t think Jared Leto will ever have a better-suited role, so he should just retire now please. Anne Hathaway is brilliant as always.
  • I’ve put Great Ace Attorney Chronicles aside for now; just couldn’t handle the wall of unfunny text anymore. Started 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim now that it’s out on the Nintendo Switch. It’s… actually breathtaking. Loads of text to read here as well, but you hardly think about it because every movement and interaction is animated with a staggering amount of hand-drawn sprites and backgrounds. I’ve never seen 2D characters in a game move with this much variety and complexity. The story is also building up to be a bonkers SF mashup that probably includes time travel, multiverses, memory downloads, giant mechs, kids being manipulated to pilot giant mechs, aliens, and whatever else you care to imagine.
  • A few weeks ago, I saw someone mention Spiritfarer on Twitter, calling it a very cozy game you can play on the Switch to relax, but also ugly cry sometimes because it goes to some deep places (you’re ferrying souls to the afterlife). I looked up reviews and decided it was a definite buy, but waited for a sale. That moment is now, my friends: it’s half-priced at $15 on the eShop for Easter.
  • Checked out loads of new music and recommendations this week. Kae Tempest’s The Line Is A Curve is a brilliant sort of spoken word/hip-hop. Banks released Serpentina which sort of describes its own sound, although Electro-Serpentina would have been better. Omar Apollo released Ivory, which is more produced and poppy that his last EP, Apolonio, which I still have to say I prefer. I discovered the work of Dijon through someone on the internet, and oh man, you must listen to Absolutely. Syd’s new album Broken Hearts Club is also pretty cool, but I’ll need to give it another go. And finally, LIA LIA is a German-Chinese artist from Berlin who’s just released a single, City Of Tears. I think it makes a good test track for a sound system’s sub-bass response.

Week 10.22: Stayin’ home, playin’ games

Probably nothing significant happened this week, apart from losing some money doing dumb trades. People seem to think all I do during my time off is play video games and watch TV, and for once this week that was actually kinda true.

Mood!

Media activity:

  • Picked up Doom Classic on sale for the Switch, only $2.49 USD to relive one of the most impactful moments of my youth. I remember walking into the game store the week it came out and seeing people play through the first episode. It was like a glimpse into the future: dark atmospheric “3D” graphics far better than anything I’d seen, with incredible music synthesized through a Roland sound card (real sampled electric guitars!) — I couldn’t believe it. It was thrilling just to watch. When I asked how many floppies it came on, and I think the answer was two, my head exploded. Shareware? Two disks, not a CD-ROM? And it would run on my lowly 386-SX?! iD Software pulled off a moonshot that raised the bar for all games.
  • I made it through 4 of 10 episodes in Ace Attorney Chronicles. It’s probably the best (least annoying) game in the series I can recall. Mild spoilers follow. A large portion of the game covers the protagonist going to Victorian London, and there’s a fair amount of racism and xenophobia depicted. People calling you an untrustworthy Nipponese from a backwater Eastern land, and so on. What’s cool is that your party’s initial impressions upon arriving are so positive, so rose tinted about everything being wonderful and better there, that I thought I was in for an entire game of Japanese people romanticizing England to death (another trope), but then came the swift and surprising subversion. An hour later and your lawyer character starts questioning how superior the “world’s greatest legal system” really is.
  • Puzzle Quest 3 came out on mobile as a free-to-play game. I loved and played the hell out of the original on several platforms including the Nintendo DS, bugs and all. So I was ready to get sucked in again, but it’s hard to recapture that kind of charm, and the addition of in-app purchases and timers don’t help at all. I’ve leveled up my character to a point where I’m now caught between being too strong for easy missions and too weak for normal ones, and I’m not sure how to even grind upwards because the UI is inscrutable and I can’t see a way to replay previous story missions, which would help. Sad.
  • Bad television: the reunion episode of Love Is Blind USA, all but two remaining episodes of Love Island Australia, and a trash new Netflix movie starring Leighton Meester, The Weekend Away. I have to admit I really enjoyed the latter, which appears to be based on a book which is probably found on shelves next to The Girl On The Train and other improbable, twist-filled paperback murder mysteries.
  • We finished The Afterparty on Apple TV+, a comedy murder mystery not unlike Only Murders In The Building, but without the thing I liked most about that one: nosy amateur sleuths. In The Afterparty, the police are doing the detecting, and everyone’s a suspect. Worth a watch because each episode emulates a different film genre and most of it works well.
  • I also finished season 1 of Foundation on Apple TV+ and daaammnn. I started watching it way back when the new Dune came out, and it looked distinctively “TV” against the scale and aesthetic of that film. It took a few episodes before I found the core of the show for me, and that core is actor Lee Pace in the nuanced role of the tyrannical galactic emperor. You cycle through all possible feelings for him over the story arc, and making that work sure isn’t easy. There are a bunch of other things that could be improved/decheesed, but I’m down for season 2 ASAP.
  • Saw Part 2 of jeen-yus, the Kanye documentary, which made me go back to playing The College Dropout again. Undeniably great and timeless. The documentary is also a priceless artifact, because how often do you get a camera following an artist over 20 years, from before they even make it big? Can’t wait to see the third and final part covering his journey into madness and arguably even further greatness at the same time.
  • The Beatles 1 compilation album of all their #1 hits received a full Dolby Atmos remixing at the hands of Giles Martin, son of George, and you can hear what that means using spatial audio on an Apple device with Apple Music. They went back to the original four-track tapes and separated the instruments, previously flattened together into a single mono channel, so you can now hear them with a fullness that can only be described as “live”, especially with dynamic head tracking enabled on AirPods/Beats Fit Pro. So I’ve been listening to some of that, slowly.

Week 9.22

In William Gibson’s book, The Peripheral (soon to be an Amazon Prime Video series!), there are references to an epoch-making event that turned everything to shit, and it’s all quite vague so you don’t know at first whether it was a nuclear war or some natural catastrophe. Everyone calls it “The Jackpot”, and you soon figure out that it wasn’t one thing, but several bad situations improbably lining up and landing at the same time. Not necessarily on a single day but a longer period of months or years maybe — still short when zoomed out on the timeline. We might already be living in a Jackpot of our own, but if not… it sure felt like the final “7” rolled into view this week.

All the updates and gory details of the Ukrainian invasion shared in real time now seems completely expected, but the invasion itself wasn’t, and so probably airdropped several tokens of ANX(iety) to everyone’s wallets. Coincidentally, I started reading Jenny Odell’s How To Do Nothing, a series of essays about how to resist social media and its effects. She prescribes exposure to nature quite a few times, which just isn’t going to work for me in this climate. Back to Twitter, I guess.

Locally, our Covid numbers hit a new high with 26,000 cases in a single day. Medical services are stretched, and the government has taken the step of telling employers to just believe employees when they say they’ve got Covid and can’t come in, no medical certificates needed. Unsurprisingly, this was followed by reports of companies still insisting on them.

Perhaps stupidly, I went out more this week than I have in a long while. I know because the number of socks in my laundry load went back to pre-pandemic levels. First was to see a couple of friends who moved to Japan just before Covid and are only now able to leave for a visit back here. There was also a night out with too much expensive tequila that I don’t need to remember, but I got a cat photo out of it.

I also saw Rob a couple more times before he left, and we took his kids out to eat “the best chicken rice in Singapore” (it’s not Tian Tian at Maxwell — don’t get me started). I asked his eldest what he thought of being back, and “it’s hot” was inevitably said, but he also observed that “everyone likes to say ‘it’s freezing’ when it’s like 30º”.


Media activity:

  • Rob turned me onto Jonathan Richman’s song That Summer Feeling, during a conversation about songs that induce nostalgia. Pulp’s Disco 2000 was my pick for a song that made even young people overcome with the regrets of growing old.
  • We started on the new season of Young Wallander on Netflix, a title I will never tire of saying out loud. I remember almost nothing of the first season, but this is going well.
  • As an antidote to all the murdering and double-crossing in our weekly TV diet, we’ve also started on season 3 of Love Island Australia, which is exactly what you’d expect. Some highlights include a girl who doesn’t know anything about Western Australia because she’s not good at “geometry”, and a guy who tried to say something wasn’t in his wheelhouse, but used the word “jurisdiction”, which he tried to pronounce several times before giving up and going with “it’s not in my area”.
  • On the Switch, I’ve started playing Ace Attorney Chronicles, which takes two previously Japan-only installments for the 3DS and translates, remasters, and packages them as a single purchase for USD$40 (often on sale for USD$30).

Week 6.22

A happy Lunar New Year (previously called Chinese New Year but LNY is more inclusive) was had, as much as was possible under the circumstances. Where once we could have a reunion dinner with 30–40 of my closest relatives (some still unknown), thanks to still burning pandemic fires — we recently hit 13,000 cases in a day — now just immediate family members around one table. Instead of large and raucous household gatherings on Day 1, now intimate sit-togethers. Still, having a spectrum of different LNY experiences in one lifetime is not a terrible thing. Never thought I’d miss those reunion dinners though.

I got some more samples of Misery Men merch in and made tweaks to improve print and product quality. The recycled cotton “eco tote bags” in particular were not very sturdy, so they’re gone in favor of regular ones with denim handles that can apparently hold 20kg of stuff. Take a look.


My shirt was clinging to me in the pre-rain humidity as we trudged out onto the field. I would later find that I’d stepped in literal horseshit. The people running the place wore masks and dark sunglasses under hats and visors, so you really couldn’t see them at all as they looked you over. Were they wondering if I had any prior experience? Why I was so sweaty? No, they’d overlooked our booking and had forgotten we were coming.

We were bringing our nephew out for an introductory archery experience as part of his Christmas gift. He was running around and excited for it. Kids seem to be impervious to environmental discomfort when they’re having fun. I shot a few arrows. It’s a disturbingly easy weapon to operate. After about half an hour and 20 tries we were markedly better than when we began, hitting the middle of the target often enough. Thanks to our strict gun laws, I never worry about encountering an armed lunatic in everyday life but now I may have to start worrying about bows and arrows in the wild. There were little Korean children, no more than eight years old, practicing beside us and consistently hitting targets maybe 30 meters away. Frightening.


Media activity:

  • We saw Simon Kinberg’s latest disaster, The 355. I don’t know how the script got approved, or why the actors agreed to be in it. An utter waste of about two hours.
  • Unfortunately, Mamoru Hosoda’s new animated film Belle did not live up to expectations either. In direct contrast to Summer Wars, it spends too much time and exposition establishing the world and not enough on the characters, so I didn’t care at all for the story, which was sadly a mess.
  • I finally finished Plum Rains by Andromeda Romano-Lax, which mashes up elements of Pachinko and I, Robot with a heartbreakingly dry core about the migrant worker experience.
  • As a palate cleanser, I’m now reading Jack Reacher #18: Never Go Back. I’ve been waiting for this one a long time, because a couple of books back, Jack started flirting with an army major over the phone (she’s currently occupying his old job at his old unit), and he’s been making his way across the country to see her, interrupted by several books’ worth of coincidentally encountered wrongdoing that needed setting right along the way. Of course, as soon as he arrives on the army base, she’s missing and he’s being framed. Good times!
  • Still playing Hades, but have started a new visual novel on the Switch: Worldend Syndrome. It was on sale for USD$10 and reviewed well. Positives include nicely animated backgrounds and fully voiced dialogue, while the main negative would be a supernatural horror element that I hope is just misdirection and it’s only a regular ol’ psychotic, murdering schoolgirl that we’re dealing with.

Week 2.22

Most people attempt a “Dry January”, but I’ve taken that literally with my latest obsession. We inherited a Novita dehumidifier on Monday, and within hours it was sucking liters of water out of the air in our apartment. Living in Singapore, you take the constant 80–95% humidity as a given. I don’t know any Singaporeans who have dehumidifiers, and it’s always (anecdotally) the expats who seem to buy them.

If you get good airflow through your home, then mold probably isn’t an issue, but things still feel horribly moist all the time. Air-conditioning makes up for it, but I’ve found now that keeping humidity around or below 60% seems to make for a cooler feeling environment. A couple of days after, thoroughly sold on the concept, I bought another smaller De’Longhi unit for our bedroom in Lazada’s “Prosperity Sale”.

This has made going outdoors more disagreeable; the contrast now upon stepping out is akin to that moment when you disembark from your plane in Changi Airport after having been in a temperate climate, and it feels like being encased in a giant block of jello at 50% opacity.

I took two walks this week. The weather service promised a really cool month but nope, hot and humid as ever.

———

Media consumption:

  • I read David R. Palmer’s Tracking, the published-decades-later sequel to Emergence, which I enjoyed many years ago. Earlier book followed adventures of 11-year-old genius named Candy who survives an apocalyptic event and learns she’s technically a mutant, for lack of a better word. Came out in 1984 and probably still a fun read, written as a collection of Candy’s own journal entries.
  • The new installment is sadly not as good, overburdened with many uninteresting technical details and intent on stretching the limits of credibility even for a story involving super-gifted humans. 2.5 stars, for fans of the first one only. Please don’t start here.
  • Still on a Matrix/Wachowski kick, decided to revisit Sense8 which I only saw a couple of episodes of and abandoned years ago. Am now caught up to where I was before. Expectations lowered, it’s okay? Dialogue is pretty much the first thing you think of, though. Perhaps developing mutant future-scrying powers of my own.
  • Continuing with Psycho–Pass 3 on Amazon Prime Video. Each episode is twice the length of a standard anime series’, and it’s hard to stay focused. Maybe because the pace is slow, the mysteries are tedious, and many of the original season’s logical flaws are still present. Although it tries to seem deep, this is still a style over substance show, I think.
  • Finished Dexter: New Blood this week with the season finale. 10 episodes was a good target length for this story arc, and I’m glad they wrapped things up pretty neatly. I don’t know that anybody needed a return to Dexter, but clearly it made You possible, and maybe one more future spin-off where we’ll root for a serial killer.
  • Still grinding my way through NEO: The World Ends With You. Am right at the end, and all the battling has gotten tedious. The game is little more than a combat engine with some limited exploration and loads of 2D illustrated conversation scenes. In my rush to finish it, I’ve probably ruined the fun for myself.
  • Wheel Of Fortune on the Switch was on sale for $8 USD. It’s really a bit of Ubisoftian crap, but fun to play with couch multiplayer as an alternative to trivia games where some people who don’t spend their lives learning useless factoids might feel disadvantaged.

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.