#2121| “Coco” is the most important animated film this year

When I was 10, I was sitting in a dark theatre with my parents, two hours into a movie, and I heard a sniff. Scrap that: I turned around in my seat and the entire row behind me was a hot mess. Tissues were out, tears were streaming, some people were openly bawling. I looked up: my mother was next to me, staring straight ahead, eyes glistening. I think it might have been the first time I saw my mother cry. The year was 2002, the movie – I not Stupid by Singaporean filmmaker Jack Neo.

Since then I have bawled at many movies, but no movie has had the same effect on me: entire rows behind me, eyes wet, openly crying, all of us sitting in the dark and communal in a kind of vulnerable, open emotion. That is – not until Coco.

I was in San Fran for the Coco Country day last month, an immersive full day experience at Pixar Studios Emeryville dedicated to understanding the process behind the art, research, and animation, as well as running interviews with pixar employees and the filmmakers. I got very excited over the technical aspects of the film there – the art direction is brilliant, the film is a visual spectacle, and the fact that it was created by the same team that brought us the Toy Story franchise was also very promising. They had just finished the final version of the film the friday before I reached, and so we watched a 20 minute screening whilst there, which was just enough to confirm the above: gorgeous, vibrant, engaging, etcetera.

But when I watched the movie in its entirety back in Singapore? I was blown away.


Repping SG in Pixar Studios

The best Pixar films in my opinion have always been able to operate on two levels – the first being a straightforward (yet enchanting) story, the second being a unique ability to offer insight into some aspect of human nature. The Toy Story franchise explored the parent-child bond, Wall-E commented on the human tendency towards unchecked excess and its consequences, and UP was a touching ode to the process of ageing. All of them also operate at a basic level of technical excellence, dont get me wrong, with cinematic technique that classify them more as animated films than simply being cartoons. But they’ve always been able to tap on a deep emotional and dramatic vein, and that is what has made the most successful of their films so iconic during their Golden Age.

And at the end of Coco, I found myself wondering if this might just be the film to bring the Golden Age of Pixar back.

The film is set against the annual Mexican celebration Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which is a celebration of life, and a display of respect and love for deceased family members. It’s a day of family festivities, and in this particular story, we follow twelve year old aspiring musician Miguel Rivera growing up in a family which sees music as a curse (this is explained at the film’s beginning with some exposition about his great great grandfather walking out on them to pursue a musician’s life). Despite this, Miguel makes the decision to pursue his passion for music, and things get a little complicated when he steals a famous musician’s guitar and gets transported to the actual land of the dead. His hero’s journey, then, is figuring out how to return to the land of the living by obtaining the blessing of his idol, a (dead) suave musician who uses too much hair gel, before the sun rises and he’s stuck in the land of the dead forever.


Admiring the coco concept art that’s hung all around the Pixar campus

When watching any film, the first thing that strikes an audience is the technical proficiency of the storytelling, and Coco is a visual feast. A good 70% of the movie takes place in the land of the dead – who knew animated skeletons could look so expressive? – which gives the filmmakers space to be visually creative with the rules of the underworld, and the result is a dazzlingly rendered cinematic universe. The graphics are accompanied by a solid soundtrack – Disney Pixar for some reason won’t officially call it a musical film, but that’s what it is to me. The soundtrack is fantastic (scores by Michael Giacchino – Ratatouille, Inside out, Zootopia, Doctor Strange, Rogue One, Spider-Man: Homecoming, UP, and so on) and it really shows off amazing vocal range from the cast. Goosebumps when they break out into song, all around. The story itself is also compelling – it’s the classic chase-your-dream story, with heavy emphasis on familial love. This recurring theme of familial love turns out to be the strongest emotional bloodline for Coco, and different iterations of this resonate throughout the movie – the overwhelming love that teeters on suffocating, the idea that family knows best, and the young protagonist’s struggle between finding his individuality while balancing his love and respect for family. At the end of the day, the cumulation of all these things climax in a beautifully emotional sequence that will play your heartstrings like a fiddle. And as the credits roll, you think, damn, Pixar has done it again.

So on that level, the film is already a triumph. It is emotional and beautiful and yes, it will probably make you cry.

But on another level, the film centers itself as iconic in today’s world because there is no considering Coco without a subtle nod towards the political situation in the West right now. In a time when the real world threatens to build walls, Coco’s animated world sings it down, Jericho-style. This is the first film Pixar has released since Trump became president, and while it doesn’t directly comment on politics (how can art, really?), it’s a film designed to make you fall in love with Mexico and it’s rich culture. Disney’s recent movement towards a more diverse, inclusive storytelling world has never been as straightforwardly laid on the table as it has been with Coco, and yet, the filmic universe surreptitiously charms the viewer into being immersed into a world where the humanity of interpersonal relationships is key. When the film concludes and we are left with the hot mess of today, you can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia for the animated world you were invited to participate in for a short moment. And if anyone really needs it spelt out, director Lee Unkrich has famously called the movie “A love letter to Mexico.”

You can feel it whilst in the film, too. Coco is the first Disney Pixar film to feature an all-Latino cast, but beyond the voice actors themselves, the set designers, show runners, and technical designers all hail from various backgrounds, and all of them emanate immense pride at being part of this project. The film itself is a celebration of Mexican culture – beyond the obvious reference to the biggest annual Mexican celebration, the film highlights other aspects of Mexican culture as well: the traditional ofrenda (family altars that welcome the spirits of your loved ones back to the land of the living), the recurring image of the magnolia (a mexican flower) as a bridge between the land of the living and dead, the heavily featured Alebrijes (colourful fantasy Mexican spirit animals), and even the protagonist’s animal sidekick that isn’t randomly chosen – it’s a breed of Mexican hairless dog called the Xoloitzcuintli. There is an insane amount of care that has obviously gone into making sure the film represents the culture and celebration accurately (Disney hired cultural consultants, and the filmmakers made multiple trips to Mexico for research), and even then, Lee is quick to state that he is not trying to make “the definitive Mexican movie” – he’s just telling one good story, and hopefully more will follow.

Character design for Coco, pasted on the walls of one of their meeting rooms

As an audience member born and based in Singapore, the amount of contact I have had with Mexico to date remains minimal and firmly limited to the F&B realm. Coco dazzled me with it’s fully realised and vibrant universe – and I enjoyed it so much that it made Mexico, a place I’d never been to before, seem so real to me that I felt close enough to reach out and join the Rivera family’s group hug. And I can only imagine how important the film must be for Latino children all across the world. Pixar’s greatest strength has always been the creation of emotional empathy while making a larger point on humanity (read: the hidden message in pixar films), and now they are using this empathy as a means of showing solidarity in a divisive time. I am here for it is what I am saying.

Coco is not the first film about Mexican culture – Daniel Craig’s SPECTRE 007 opens with a Day of the Dead sequence shot, Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) has a scene sequence featuring the festival, and 20th Century Fox’s 2014 animated film The Book of Life also gravitates around Dia de los Muertos – but the fact that it’s Disney Pixar doing it does make a strong statement that immediately cements the film as iconic. Here’s to hoping Coco opens the floodgates for more films celebrating different cultures to take centerstage, but for right now: may we all sign off on this love letter to Mexico.

Disney Pixar’s Coco opens in Singaporean cinemas on November 23rd, 2017.


#2120 | 40 degrees in a Goyang Autumn


Goyang, Korea

I was in Korea two months ago to film a web travel short with Klook Asia, and as it happens, my body betrayed me two days into the trip. I woke up on night zwei, clammy with horror, and I thought, oh boy. If my life were a netflix original this might have been the turning point where our dear protagonist (aka me) had an epiphany on the nuances of transitioning from girlhood to adulthood, etcetera, but.. no. There is no romanticism to being bent double over the cold tiles of a toilet floor, gripping the sides of a bowl and staring at your half-digested ddeokbokki from the night before, I can tell you that.

The following four days I had a fever which stubbornly refused to break, and if you know me, you’ll know how damned affronted I was by this defiance. I fall sick precisely once a year, and then, only for a maximum of forty eight hours at a go. This was my third time this year. Obviously, at twenty five, I have reached Peak Asian, and from here on it is just downhill. How else does one explain this nonsense? Also, as if just for dramatic quality, the daily call time was about 630am, and the shooting itinerary involved 1. paragliding off a freezing mountain, 2. hair tosses atop a speeding open air bus, and 3. ice skating. I adore these things separately, but when they collide with a forty degree fever in fifteen degree weather, well, the only thing you can really do is throw back your head and laugh.

In the photo above I am standing outside the ice skating rink and drinking banana milk, sipping emotional comfort associated with korean childhoods that I consumed in droves from dodgy streaming sites. In all the television shows, korean children drink banana milk, and if you are not a child and are being given banana milk on television, you must be emotionally distressed or crying or something. Invariably characters are happier post-banana-milk, having had absorbed some kind of wisdom from the mysterious banana milk. Later, at 24, when I took Korean classes, the first thing the teacher taught me to say (and the only thing that stuck) was banana milk – pa-na-na-uu-yuu. Commercially, emotionally, and in terms of national pop culture importance, this banana milk is obviously a timeless icon. You can get it for 1,000won in any korean convenience store.

This is to say that I am a sucker for branding and marketing, because I immediately felt better after that banana milk, and I did not throw up that night. A magical recovery it was not, but I definitely experienced a mild uplifting in spirits, I might have even heard the strings of a korean OST play in the background of my mind. There is a scientific term for this – the placebo effect – and I remembered laughing when I thought of it that night, vomit free. I went back for more banana milk the next day, convinced that it was the key to emotional and physical health. I must have had three servings of banana milk the day after. And I thought, this is it, everyone laughs at korean dramas for being unrealistic and fluffy, but here I am, nausea free and happy! It was wonderful. I bought more banana milk. It was a good time, I told myself, to be young and alive.

I should have seen it coming; it surprises me that I did not. It landed me right back on the toilet. I had conveniently forgotten the inconvenient fact that I was mildly lactose intolerant. And so it goes.


#2119 | Jemma for Airbnb: Apartment Goals in Melbourne facilitating Life Goals in Overall

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This Airbnb Listing, Melbourne CBD
Sign up at Airbnb.com/Jemma for $50 off your first trip!

You always know it’s going to be a good trip when you check into your airbnb and gasp.

Which was exactly what happened on day one of Melbourne – when our host opened the door and we were greeted by the most sublime living room, opening up to a balcony offering mad views of the city.

“Ooh,” Jenny (our host) said, looking at us. “I do so like it when people love the place.”

And then she gave us a quick house tour (washer and dryer here, here’s how the nespressso machine works, and please water my flowers for me every other day!) and left us to soak in the place. And soak it in we did. In fact – we wanted to move in permanently and live here forever – so intense was our level of affection for the place!!

The pictures of the place actually dont do it justice – nothing quite captures the way the natural light fills the space with a sense of calm, nor the way the french cafe music (Cafe De Paris, Disc 1) floating from her cd player fills you with a sense of deep seated satisfaction. Or the way the cool air rushes at you as you step into the balcony to water the flowers or people watch (the balcony overlooks many nearby rooftop bars). Or the way you’re gently woken each morning by the sunrise peeking in from the strategically positioned bedroom window (you can pull the blinds down if you’d prefer to sleep in).


Waking up to this every morning T-T

The apartment isnt family-home kind of large, it’s more 2-3 adult housemates living together kinda size. And everything in the apartment is geared towards that chic adulting lifestyle – from the thoughtful interior design (the little mirror and drawer by the door for a last minute hair check and to leave things like keys, sunglasses, lipsticks, that you’d need to remember to bring out) to the creation of reading nooks to either read alone or hang with friends before bed. It reminded us so much of our Airbnb in Paris from two years ago, and we couldnt help but swoon over every little detail in the place and surreptitiously take notes for future reference.

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Mirror by the main door to do final checks before heading out


Small passageway between the living room and bedroom – with a shelf of books!

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Morning coffee run from a street down – Seven Seeds Coffee from Traveller Coffee

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Working remotely in the mornings by the kitchen table in the living room

And let’s talk location. Located in the private little alley of Liverpool Street within the busy CBD, the apartment already has the air of being a private find. It was so incredibly central that although it was within the Free Tram Zone, we walked everywhere – the only times we needed to take the public transport was to St Kildas on a different side of town, and also when we booked a Klook tour bus to take us to Yarra Valley.

The fantastic location meant that we could wake at 6 (I started transitioning into a happy morning person in Melbourne, possibly because there is no better way to be woken than by french music and the gentle rays of first light?) and go for a coffee run – Traveller Coffee one street down opens at 7am and serves coffee from Seven Seeds – and then come back and work remotely off my laptop till 11 before heading out again for brunch. Words cannot describe how happy this arrangement made me: I’m a bit of a self confessed workaholic, and I loved, loved the fact that I could wake up early and be productive for a good five hours before going about my day. Already the day is a winner when you start by ticking a whole bunch of things off your to-do list. Five hours means replying all my emails, finishing strategy proposals for a client, drafting two or more blogposts, and mining administrative tasks (making bookings for the coming week, planning out the finer details of my anniversary with Shane – to be the day after I landed back in Singapore). Xiaoqi would often wake a couple of hours later, by which time I would have take out coffee and bagels waiting for her, and we would work across each other on the wide kitchen table before getting ready at 11 to head out to brunch. Twice on the trip we woke early to set our laundry to wash, a sure sign of adulting.

After brunch, we would roam around the city, see things we wanted to see, and then head back to the apartment to work out at about 4-5pm and transfer the laundry from washer to dryer if it were laundry day. Because Xiaoqi is a fitness nut, she actually brought a yoga mat, and so daily we would meander back to the apartment before dinnertime to work out together in the living room, shower, then finish up some work on our computers before heading out for dinner and wine. This arrangement worked because she definitely knew she wanted to exercise everyday (to be fair, if you were in Melbourne, foodie city, you would feel the need to work out daily too) and we knew two things to be true: 1. nobody can work out after wine and 2. we would have wine every night.

And then after a fantastic dinner (we went to amazing places. AMAZING.), we would happily return to the apartment to wind the night down by reading a couple of chapters from our books (i went to town in a small cozy bookstore a mere two minute walk from our apartment, I tell you) either in the living room or in bed – warm bedside lights facilitated this – and then turn in, happy with our day.


All the time I thought to myself THIS IS THE LIFE I WANT TO PERMANENTLY LEAD.

So much about the apartment and it’s location facilitated this. Beyond being an amazing apartment contained in itself, it was also a vessel to achieving that adulting life goals I had always dreamed of. If I lived here, I told myself, I would be the happiest, most productive person ever. To be fair, I’m generally happy in disposition, but I was in a very, very good place in Melbourne – and much of this had to do with my insane love for our airbnb.

Most of our treasured finds from the trip were also stumbled upon mere minutes from our apartment. Let me lay it out for you:

Right at the foot of our apartment building: Rice Paper Scissors, incredible fusion vietnamese tapas and wine. 0 minutes walk from our Airbnb.


Also, a comic bookstore right at the foot of our building.


Paperback Books

Around the corner: Paperback Books, a curated cozy bookstore overflowing with handpicked books. 2 minutes walk from our Airbnb.

Next to Paperback: what is possibly my favourite wine and cheese bar in the world – Self Preservation, full blogpost here. 2 minutes walk from our Airbnb.

Two steps from Self Preservation: The best pizza in the WORLD – Ombre Salumi Bar, full blogpost here.2 Minutes walk from our Airbnb

In the other direction: Bodega Underground – late night Mexican joint, where the octopus tacos and beef quesadillas made us emotional. Open till 3am, perfect for a little nightcap. 1 minute walk from our Airbnb.
Read the full bodega blogpost here.

Down the street from Bodega: Chinatown and Little Shanghai – famous for xiaolongbao, a type of chinese soup dumpling, and with perpetual long queues. It opened at 12, which meant living nearby ensured we were FIRST IN LINE. Actually this applied to most places, our location meant a bit of strategic navigation ensured we hardly had to queue for anything. 3 minutes walk from our Airbnb.

Down the main road from Liverpool Street: Princess Theatre, Melbourne, where the Book of Mormon was showing at the time. We were so near that on the first day, after checking in, we could rush down to the theater to inquire after last minute tickets – and we snagged first floor platinum stall tickets originally retailing for about 278AUD according to the counter girl for 50AUD each. For comparison – when I first watched Book of Mormon in London, I paid about 100SGD for the furthest seats from the stage. So this is INCREDIBLE VALUE. Last minute tickets are the way to go man. And what a way to start our trip! 3 minutes walk from our Airbnb.

I could go on. But get the idea?

I have said over and over again that when selecting a good place to stay, factor in location, because if youre paying a bit less to stay somewhere further that you’re going to have to pay more daily for transport, then it only makes sense to top up a bit more for the better experience of staying somewhere you have to pay less (or on our case, nothing at all) for on-trip transport. And this airbnb was the perfect example of that. It only makes it more perfect that the apartment was what it was – gorgeous, chic, our dream adult home. I recommend this place so hard – I know if and when I come back to Melbourne, I’ll be back to stay with Jenny right here.

This Airbnb Listing, Melbourne CBD
Sign up at Airbnb.com/Jemma for $50 off your first trip!


#2117 | Getting my first Chromebook!

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Hey guys,

So I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, but in November, I finally stopped dithering, went out and bought myelf a chromebook.

This came as a surprise to most people – I have a perfectly fine macbook pro (old, but trusty) and I work off a second hand iMac in my office (bought off carousel for $400, can you believe it?). But I wanted something portable and functionable enough that I could use for travel – I’m always on the go, and more often than not I’m out of the country at least once a month. I don’t always need a laptop on these trips, but I do get a bit nervous whenever I dont have it cos I’m afraid something urgent will crop up, so I end up lugging it along out of habit anyway. And half the time, it ends up being deadweight, because I either dont use it, or use it just once on the trip. Of course, a simple solution would just be not to bring anything – but the occasion has popped up more than once where I needed to rush some edits, or do some writing, and I’ve always been glad in those instances to have broguht my MBP with me.

My travel set up is hectic, because I usually have my laptop, DSLR, and an extra lens if I’m headed on a big trip. All things that I obviously will not put in my check in baggage, so I’m always lugging around at least 3kg of electronic weight around with me in my carry-on backpack, in addition to other miscellaneous plane things. I knew I wanted to streamline this because not only is it cumbersome, it’s also not great for my back. And all signs seemed to be pointing to getting a portable work machine that would serve my basic needs while on the go to complement my more fully fleshed out work set up back home.

Ever since my chromebook appeared in my instagram posts, multiple people have written to me asking me to do a review of the chromebook. I’m not a tech expert, so if you want to know the super technical specs stuff, please do your own reserach. But from a user’s experience? Sure. Here we go:

Chromebooks – what?

Chromebooks are basically computers that run on the google chrome OS. It is not a brand, it is a type of device – like a phone, a tablet, or a computer. My particular chromebook is made by HP (it’s the HP Chromebook 11 g5), but you could get one from Lenovo, Acer, Asus, etcetera. Their defining characteristics are usually that they’re cheap, and that they run on the Google OS. Beyond that, each chromebook differs.

Chromebooks – why?

Like I said, I wanted a work machine for travel. I considered getting a tablet, but I quickly realised that Im a traditionalist and I need a keyboard. The tablet + keyboard combo would add up to too much money for my liking, so that was out. My boyfriend pointed out that I could have upgraded my current 4 year old macbookpro to the latest one which is way lighter, and so reduce the number of devices I would need to own in total. But my MBP is chugging along fine, and the new macbooks start at a ridiculous 1,900 to 2,000SGD, which I refuse to pay unless my current MBP dies completely.

That left netbooks and chromebooks. They’re both cheap options – netbooks are tiny laptops that usually run Windows 10, and chromebooks are tiny laptops that run the Google OS. Most retail for 500SGD or under. They’re also smaller and lighter, thus fulfilling the portability requirement for me. I debated for very long between the two, but finally went with the chromebook.

Chromebooks – why I decided to get it and how I decided which model was right for me

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My matte black chromebook! You can identify chromebooks by the little google logo at the top corner

What I got was the HP Chromebook 11 G5. I bought it from the HP store at Marina Square Singapore for $449, and it came with a one year warranty, the charging cable, and a free squishy sleeve.

Deciding on this was a matter of sitting down and writing out what I wanted vs what I needed, what I would realistically use it for (which begs the question: what I was willing to compromise on), and what was available to the Singapore market.

What I wanted
Portability (weight)
Portability (size/dimension)
A good keyboard
Good battery life
Touchscreen option
A nice screen?
Something cheap (<$500) Something that doesnt lag too much Something that looked nice

All of the above I would have liked, but I know that at $500 which I refused to budge on, compromises would have to be made. So I narrowed it down. Portability was key – weight was more important to me than size, although preferably I hoped to find a sweet spot between the two). I had to have a good keyboard because I would be using it mainly to write. I tried one of those super thin keyboards before and hated it, I need a solid keyboard that’s evenly spaced and with good key travel (kind of like the amount of depression you get when you press the keys). Everything else was just a wish list. So this is what my list of needs looked like after considering the above:

Something light
Good keyboard

Everything else I reasoned, would be a bonus, but I wouldn’t die without. And I knew for $500, I couldnt expect something that would blow my mind – but that’s ok. I just needed something that worked for my purposes. Everything else would be fluff and glitter dust.

What I would use it for

Narrowing down that above list of requirements came with truly knowing exactly what I was in the market for. People can get overboard when buying new things, and I’m like that too. I want everything! I want a sexy looking laptop that weighs next to nothing and has three USB ports and an SD card reader and solid wifi connection and a screen that will blow my mind, and preferably this dream laptop costs nothing!!

But that’s unrealistic. To narrow down what you truly need vs what you want, ask yourself what you are using it for. For me, I needed something to 1. Blog on 2. Reply emails 3. Possibly book tickets for things when I’m travelling.

So that’s like, a glorified blogging machine. Ok. If I can watch Netflix on it on the go, great, that’s a bonus. But I don’t need a fantastic screen or something that’s got a hardcore enough processor to edit photos on. I can do that on my phone. I just need something small that I can write on. Ok. Great. That simplified things a lot for me. So if youre thinking of getting one, ask yourself what youre going to be using it for, then work backwards from there!

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Working off my Chromebook on my lap on a plane ride. It’s very light, so it balances quite easily.

What was available at my desired price point and for my needs?

For under five hundred bucks, honestly, my options were a B grade tablet, a netbook, or a chromebook.

I needed a keyboard, so a tablet was out.

That left netbooks and chromebooks. I was more inclined towards a chromebook because my girlfriend Kate from New York uses one (they’re pretty rare in SG) and she swears by it, and also because it was new to me and thus exciting. But the netbook seemed safer because the Windows OS is something more familiar, and it has all the things you would traditionally see in a computer – Microsoft office, offline apps, etc. Whereas the chromebook would only run things off Google and the Chrome app store, and its utility was mostly reliant on the availability of a solid internet connection.

So I went on various tech websites to read reviews of specific net vs chromebook models, but it wasnt helpful because the verdict was like, everything had pros and cons and HELLO? Dont tell me that. Just tell me which is better. But nothing gave me that answer. Then I went on tech forums (mostly useless, too much technical jargon) and finally, to reddit. Reddit, the place I go when I wanna hear conspiracy theories about the meaning of the latet Black Mirror episode. But it turned out to be a pretty good thing because the support for chromebooks on various Reddit threads was nearly unanimous.

I realised quickly while browsing threads that I didnt need the windows OS – it was just a more familiar, safe option. Also, windows netbooks tend to be slower, because the hardware developers pay rights to Microsoft to run Windows, so the leftover money invested into the hardware is less. Whereas Google and Chrome is free, so the cost of the chromebook mainly goes towards making a solid book. Then they have profit markups from there.

Lastly, and specific to me: I use a Mac and macbook as my main computers, and I have two phones (work and personal, 2 numbers), one iPhone and one Android. The one thing that would unify everything was the google platform. It seemed unnecessarily complicated to add a Windows OS to the mix, and now I had a solid reason to move most of my work to the cloud. Now, I can edit my documents in Google Drive on any one of my computers, then pick up my phone and add notes if I think of anything extra on the go. It was all about streamlining my workflow, and the Google OS made the most sense for this.

The purchase of most chromebooks will also come with 100GB free Google Drive storage, valid for 2 years. This is really a great bonus!!! It’s obviously to encourage you to store things in the cloud instead of on the device itself, which, yknw, im totally fine with.

Availability in the Singapore market

Chromebooks are not popular in Singapore – I think many people are not willing to move to something that’s so web-based and away from a familar platform, and brands may not think it’s worth it to bring an entire line in? Most great chromebooks arent actually brought to Singapore, and I didnt want to ship something so expensive from the States because I’m paranoid and also cos sorting the warranty out would be a pain. I had my eyes on the Acer R11 and Asus C201, both of which arent available here. So from the existing options I picked the HP. It was between this and an Asus model, but I went to both stores and tried them out several times, and the HP has a truly great keyboard which is crucial for me. It also looks slightly more chic, coming in a nice matte black. So the HP it was!

Chromebooks – My experience so far

I’ve had the chromebook for a week now, and I’ve used it pretty frequently in that time. Obviously, my review might change after six months or one year of use, but here’s my take for now.

The HP Chromebook 11 G5 has a truly, truly amazing keyboard. Typing is so comfortable on this that it is an immediate win for me. And it is so light (just over 1kg) and small (smaller than A4) that I have no problems slipping it in my tote bag when I travel, and sliding it out to pick up work on an existing document on the go. In fact, this blogpost was entirely typed out on a car ride from Pakbara Jetty Terminal to the Hat Yai city center.

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The keyboard is matte, has good key travel, and is decently spaced out so typing for long periods doesn’t cramp your hand.

The battery life is sick. Way better than my Macbook – because it doesnt have to do as many things as my mac, and so it doesnt have all the battery consuming applications of a macbook. The advertised battery life is 12 hours, but I usually get about 8-10 out of it, depending on whether I’m working off the internet or not. Either way, I have never had to bring a charger out with me, as my chromebook lasts and lasts and lasts.

Because of the improvements made by Google to it’s offline drive support, I can create and edit documents offline, which becomes immediately synced to the online server once I connect to wifi. Then when I pick it up again from either my Mac or back again from the chromebook, I just copy-paste the contents to my wordpress composer and finalise the draft before posting it. When I work offline, it just autosaves a draft every five seconds or something, so I’m never worried that my work will be lost halfway.

The offline G drive support wasnt available as recently as 2 years ago, and without it I definitely wouldnt have gotten the chromebook because i want to be able to work offline. The offline capability means I only really need the internet to back it up to the cloud server – before Google added offline functionality, chromebooks were useless without internet. This was also was a good signal to me because it indicates that as long as Google keeps updating and improving its services, my chromebook will benefit from it, be it one or five years from now, as long as the hardware doesnt die on me.

For those of you who still want to use MS Word to craft documents, they do have that available as an application. It’s slightly stripped down from the full desktop version IMHO, but still workable. Google owns Android, and in a recent move, they’ve allowed newer chromebooks to access the Android Play store. This means chromebooks with a touchscreen can play games now.. But it’s not something I need or want to do. I downloaded the apps for MS Word, Netflix, Spotify, Dropbox, and Multi Messenger (a multi platform app that lets you chat with whatsapp, FB messener, and Telegram all within the same tabbed app), and that’s all that I need right now. I’m trying to keep my Chromebook free of things that i dont need, because I want to keep the expereince as straightforward as possible and I am conscious of the fact that too many apps will slow it down. So far, it’s been pretty smooth.

And lastly, my chromebook is so fast. Start up time is almost immediate, it springs into action once I open it, and it hasnt given me any lags so far yet. This is also because I take care not to run too many applications at a go or have like more than 10 tabs open, as I know that might slow it down, but so far user experience has been smooth.

Things that I dont like about the chromebook so far are minor physcial things – my HP chromebook’s keyboard, while amazing for typing, doesnt have a backlight. So if I’m working in the dark, I cant see what I’m typing. But I’m so used to keyboards that I can type without looking at the keys, so thats fine. It’s just a minor inconvenience and also something that’s a bit jarring when you first notice it.

My monitor’s hinge is limited to slightly over 90 degrees, and I would have liked the option to push the screen back a bit more so if I work in some positions it makes the screen more comfortable to look at. But this is something that only comes up when I’m working while in cars/planes, and it’s also solvable by adjusting my seating position.

The trackpad is pretty mediocre, it’s not bad, but after coming from using a macbookpro for almost six years, it sure is a noticeable difference. Still, none of these things bother me in the long run because I just smirk at the fact that the whole computer only cost me 450$ ho ho.

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Chromebook relative to human

Chromebooks – Is it right for you?

For those of you who wrote me asking about the chromebook, I know youre scanning through this post thinking so is it a good buy or not!?

Well, that depends ultimately on you. Different people have different needs, and all I can do is give you an honest recount of my experience. I will say that it will never be my primary laptop purely because I need apps like Pages/Word for writing, and when I’m in full on work mode, I have like seven hundred things running at once. But for travel? It’s perfect. The Chromebook makes an excellent secondary laptop, and it’s been a joy so far.

Some of you who wrote to me want to use it as a primary laptop for school. I dont know if I would recommend this because school sometimes requires groupwork and I dont know students these days are ok to work entirely off Hangouts and Google Docs? Again, be sure you know what exactly you want to do with your new computer and if this can be done within the limitations of the chromebook. Heavy video / photo editing and gaming, for example, is a no go. But if youre using this mainly to take notes and do web-based work, I think it’s a pretty good deal.

And if you’re a working professional looking for something light, productive, and power efficient? You won’t be disappointed with a chromebook, I think, not when offline functionality for Google has been so improved and when there’s wifi hotspots nearly everywhere in the city anyway.

The bottom line is, it’s a $450 machine that’s very value for money, does what it’s supposed to do, and this model in particular looks pretty neat while doing so. In other words, yes, Baymax, I am satisfied with my care.


#2116 | life in multicolour


Photos taken on the Google Pixel2XL

The last two weeks have been pretty much nonstop – since touchdown from Melbourne, I’ve been on nonstop shoots (new cinema ad launching this week guys!!), workshops, meetings (I’m in post-production stage for another film project I’m working on), and the rest of my time has basically been dedicated to working on the edits to my thesis, which is now in amendment phase. My plan to slowly transition into being a morning person has totally and spectacularly failed – the last three 5am workdays unequivocally proved that, with 5am being the time I wrapped my day, not began it. Still, I have found that at twenty five, I can no longer proffer the excuse that I am still figuring shit out because there is no pretending at naivety or kid-like innocence at twenty five (23, 24, is still passable, but 25? that’s borderline embarrassing) and so as a result I have doubled down to MONSTER UP my day and confront challenges with hopefully more finesse and less fluster.

Regardless, that is to say that it has been a very exhausting two weeks. I say this often, I realise, and so I think it is prudent to clarify that I by no means label this a complaint. I love working. I love being tired. Being tired signals to the asian in me that i am doing something right because laziness is a disease, etcetera etcetera. Insert other traditional asian values here. But either way, tired is tired is tired, and so I am always glad for the opportunity to take a short breather in between hustles to just play, which was exactly what I got to do today in the Google Asia HQ’s giant ball pit.

We were there for the Google Pixel2XL’s launch in Singapore, and although I’ve been to the Google office several times before, the installation of this ball pit was new to me. Obviously I jumped in. And I tell you, lying back in that ball pit, homegirl did not want to get up. It was like being on a more colourful, less ergonomic beanbag. I felt myself relax into the pastel and quite literally disappear (I’m not very tall, the ball pit isnt that shallow, do the math). I wanted to sink to the bottom of the ball pit and hide there for a quick nap – a plan which was going quite well till Bex burrowed her way over to me and grabbed my feet. Cue ball fight. I dont care what anyone says, no one is too old for a ball pit fight, and we may have thoroughly embarrassed ourselves to the amusement of the Google crew, but at least our working defence is that we are creatives..?

Anyway. Good times with the click crew, always. We recently celebrated our 10th anniversary (I wanted to blog about that, but haven’t gotten around to it, and the gist is that YES WE ARE TEN!) and I’m so proud to have been part of six of those ten good years. People who can do adulting good but also throw pastel coloured balls at each other and dissolve into giggles shortly after. That is the aesthetic I now aim for, ja genau.