Art Debaser Design Meta Uncategorized Web

Digging Through the Archives

At long last, my archives are back. Most of them at least.

Some of you may recall that back in early 2014, I had the great misfortune of the web host I was using pulling the rug from under me, which meant that my entire website — which dated back to 2002 — suddenly disappeared.

And I didn’t have proper backups.

Eventually I did find some SQL database backups from 2011, which meant that I could probably eventually try to reconstruct the site, and then do some digging through the Wayback Machine for the missing 3 years. But I was so disgusted with what had happened that I wasn’t looking to self-host something right away, and decided to just use Tumblr, which is what I had set up quickly to keep on writing.

Jump to now.

A friendly poke the other day from my old friend Craig Mod came my way. He mentioned that it was a shame that all those archives of me covering the art & design scene in Tokyo/Japan during the 2000s weren’t available online anymore, and I couldn’t agree more. It was the kick in the ass I needed to just go ahead and finally spend the time required to getting all of this back up and available for everyone. After a post on Facebook to enlist some aid on what to do with that old database, it was another old friend from my Tokyo days (Michael, an ex-AQ staffer who was a pro at wrangling WordPress) who helped me out — I ended up creating a locally-hosted WordPress blog on my laptop, managed to connect to that old database (after a few modifications), and now I’ve taken the step of self-hosting a blog again (using the quick-and-easy WordPress hosting by, which is the company I use for my domain hosting).

So a first step has been done, and it’s what you now see here. As you can see in the sidebar to the right (at least for now, as I imagine I’ll eventually settle on another theme to use), you’ll find full archives of the site, from the very first post on September 4, 2002, going to August 2011, and then the posts from the new Tumblr-hosted site I had from March 2014.

(I actually started writing regularly on the web in 1998, in the form of weekly columns about my life in Tokyo, all coded in HTML, but that content may truly be gone for good.)

Unfortunately, none of the images from those posts made it over — although I may still have some I can manage to add, as I found an old folder with a good amount of them — and I still need to try and find those 3 years of missing posts (as I mentioned, fingers crossed that I’ll be able to find them through the Wayback Machine).

But at least for now, it sure feels good to have a lot of this stuff online again, and I’ve been having a blast going back and randomly reading old posts. It reveals a younger me who is so excited by what he’s experiencing, deliciously naive (in a fun way).

Digital diaries from the Japanese front.


Doing the Domain Dance

More than anything else, this is just a notice that if this site should suddenly disappear, don’t worry, it’s not a repetition of the great site death of 2014. 

I’ve used GoDaddy to register my domains for probably close to 10 years. The reason I went to them was because I came very close to losing my domain around that time, because of some shady dealings by the registrar I was using at the time. After I was able to rescue it, I decided I would go with the biggest company out there, one that wouldn’t just suddenly disappear.

On top of all of the ethical reasons you may not want to stick with GoDaddy, the other thing is that their site is a pain to use, and the constant upselling of services you need to endure every time you want to do something on their site (like renew your domains) is an absolute pain.

So I’m moving.

I’ve decided to move the two domains I still have – and (I let the other ones I’ve had through the years expire) – to It’s a service that I saw my friend Craig tweet great praise about – and if you’re going to trust anyone about web services, I can’t think of a better person.

I’m currently in the process of transferring the domains, and so things may go smoothly or not, who knows.

Update: Just as I posted this, I noticed that did indeed become unavailable, while the transfer is in progress. I’m not sure how long it will take, but in the meantime you can find this site at its Tumblr URL.

Magazines Meta Technology Web

The Magaziner

I gotta say I’m getting a kick out of this: In the past 24 hours I conceived of a site, a name, bought the domain, got it working, installed WordPress, imported posts from this site, found a theme that I modded to my liking, and have now launched my latest project, something I’m calling The Magaziner. What’s a magaziner you ask? Here’s my made-up answer:

We hereby define a new term, that of the magaziner, described as a person who exerts an unhealthy amount of love for all things magazine. The Magaziner is a site that mostly focuses on the intersection between magazines and the digital frontier, and what it means for the medium. This does not preclude the inclusion of a healthy amount of print love.

It all started last night when I was reading a comment on Facebook by Craig Mod, who suggested that all of the magazine-related coverage I’ve been doing over the past couple of months is getting lost within the rest of what I post here. I think he made a good point — and god knows I have a lot of respect and admiration for what he’s accomplished over the past year or so — and so I decided to launch a new site that would be exclusively for all of the magazine stuff. Expect the same kind of coverage you’ve been seeing here — commentary, news, new release announcements, reviews — that weighs heavily on the emerging digital side of the magazine publishing industry, something I’m quite passionate about (although I do still love my lovely print publications, thank you very much).

So this site returns to being a hub for news on me and all of my various projects, which on top of The Magaziner includes Codex, my new weekly music podcast, Radio OK Fred, SNOW Magazine, PauseTalk, and other fun stuff. Hope you’ll continue to follow what I’m up to here, and if you really enjoyed the magazine coverage, then please head on over to The Magaziner — and you can of course subscribe to an RSS feed. There’s a Twitter account too (@the_magaziner) that I’ll be using to post magazine-related news as well.

Oh, and one more thing about The Magaziner, please consider this a beta version of the site. As I said at the top of this post, it all came together rather fast, so over the coming weeks I’m sure I’ll be changing things here and there, fixing things I missed, and maybe coming up with new features or sections to add.

Design Magazines Technology

Craig Mod Is Not Anti-Magazine Design

I’d like to follow up my post from earlier today — about how I felt that Craig Mod’s recent pieces on digital publishing don’t really take into account the desire for beautiful magazine layouts — with a few comments that were tweeted to me by Craig in response.

Everyone is conflating my desire (demand? 🙂 for real text with an anti design stance. Not the case at all.

I want layouts just as interesting / unique as today’s magazines. But with more accessibility / respect for digital text.

I’m arguing not for a certain type of book or magazine, but a certain kind of accessibility of text.

Sure, then it does sound like we’re on the same page after all. I think the problem I had with his recent essays — and the latest one in particular — is that he continues to push for a better kind of accessibility of text in digital form, but from all of the examples that he tends to give, some of them just don’t jive with creating an iPad-formatted page (using those dimensions) of a magazine that can’t be affected by user interaction.

There’s no reason why text in iPad magazines can’t be selectable (a few examples have been popping up recently), which could then mean adding text copying/sharing and the like. But part of his “accessibility package” — as far as I can tell — also includes being able to adjust text size, and that just won’t work.

I do have a solution though: For every article in a magazine, include a button that lets you open just the text as a separate “window,” which would be adjustable. It’s similar to what you see in certain magazines on Zinio — instead of having to zoom in and out on each page to read text that is too small, you can read the text separately, at a larger size, on a separate page.

And I said my favorite *reading* experience is Instapaper, not ‘favorite magazine’ 😉

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, but I was pretty sure he said “magazine,” which is why it stuck with me.

I want someone to build a magazine that’s as comfortable from a content consumption POV as instapaper. I’d happily read it.

That’s something I can definitely agree with. As I said, I absolutely love what Instapaper has done in terms of making long-form journalism (or essay writing if you will) more accessible. I’d love to see magazines do their own thing to make this happen, just not in the same way.

readability + accessibility + well considered typography != anti-design.

Yes, it certainly is, and it’s what made me want to write that post. I don’t think that a good magazine can really be “anti-design,” and so by promoting all those other things, it sort of contradicts the idea of beautifully designed magazines (in terms of graphic design, layouts) also attaining the pure goals of that trifecta he so holds dear (although I think two of them can easily be achieved).

Magazines Technology

Books Are Not Magazines, and Vice Versa

Craig Mod recently posted a new essay in relation to digital publishing — the throat swallowing titled “The ereader incompetence checklist (for discerning consumers, editors, publishers and designers” — and as with everything else he’s written of late, it’s a must read for anyone with even a passing interest in the topic.

BUT, I do have to say that I’m starting to disagree with some of his stances, and mostly because I feel that he continues to treat the digital treatment of books and magazines in a similar manner, while these are in fact quite different mediums, and the way we interact with them is quite different as well.

The biggest issue I have with his views on magazines is that he prioritizes readability over any thoughts of design, and that’s just not how I experience most of the magazines I love. For me, the beauty of the magazine medium is in its marriage of text and images, and the ways that art directors manage to combine these in an appealing presentation. Text alone or images alone do not make a magazine (although I’ll readily admit that there are some magazines, like The New Yorker, where it’s really just about the text).

While we were out for drinks the other night — in commemoration of his leaving Tokyo for more “digitally charged” pastures — he mentioned how his favorite magazine experience on the iPad is through Instapaper, and I think that says it all. Don’t get me wrong, Instapaper is not only of my favorite apps (on both iPhone and iPad), it’s also one of the apps I access the most, and it’s because of it that I was able to get back into reading long-form journalism (something I’ve never felt comfortable doing over the web). But a great magazine experience? There’s no magazine experience there at all, it’s just a better way of reading an article, independently of any design touch.

For me, same goes for Flipboard, the “Social Magazine.” While yes, it does offer a more pleasing (compared to the web) and magazine-y way to read collections of articles, the fact that it’s automatized means you quickly tire of the layout. I think “Social Newspaper” would be a better way to describe it, since most of the time (and emphasis on the “most,” since there are definite exceptions out there) layouts in newspapers tend to be conservative and relatively standard. It’s why I love the New York Times iPad app, and wouldn’t really want it to change (although I’m quite tired of the inclusion of image heavy/slideshow photo rounds-ups, with the images missing).

So going back to Craig’s piece, I’m of course all for a greater level of accessibility in digital texts, but when it comes to magazines, not at the price of losing any though of layout that doesn’t simply copy a web-like approach (long flows of text).

Update: The discussion continues — with a response from Craig — in this post.

Books Design

Using Kickstarter to Startup

I’m pretty sure I hate Craig Mod, and the reason is because he keeps writing awesome essays and is doing plenty of things — like starting a “publishing think tank” called PRE/POST — that make me jealous. You really do need to go read his latest journal entry, “Kickstartup,” which tells the story of how he used Kickstarter to successfully fund the new edition of Art Space Tokyo, sharing everything he learned from the process. And even though it’s long, don’t Instapaper it, because you’ll miss out on the beautiful layout.

Pictured, Art Space Tokyo covers drying, after they’ve been hand-printed.

Events Meta

PauseTalk Vol. 42

Well, what a great PauseTalk we had this past Monday (Vol. 42), with a terrific group of 36 participants joining up for some good talk, laughs, and maybe even a bit of inspiration (OK, yes, I will make public my complete and utter admiration — and jealousy — of what Craig Mod has been doing of late).

The next PauseTalk (Vol. 43) will happen on the first Monday of next month, as usual, which falls on August 2, and it also doubles as a reception party for the SNOW Magazine Cafe, and will hopefully include lots of magazine-related talk.

As I did last month, I put out an attendance sheet to fill out, and so here is a partial list of attendees (just email me if you want to be added).

Meta Photography

Panasonic Lumix G2

One thing that’s happened to me over the past few years is that I’ve pretty much stopped taking photos. Sure, the odd iPhone-to-Twitter shot is still a regular occurrence, but in terms of taking photos with a relatively descent point-and-shoot — in my case, a series of Canon PowerShots — either for this site, for other sites, or even just for personal use, that just kinda stopped. You’ll notice it also if you check my Flickr account — except for a little rekindling courtesy of an iPhone/Toy Camera fling last year in Macau, not much has gone up over the past couple of years, to the point where I haven’t even renewed my pro account in years, and this coming from someone who was particularly active there.

So why? That’s a good question, and there are several answers to it. One thing is that I grew dissatisfied with the quality of what I was taking and sharing, but lacked the energy (and money) to move up to decent gear and shoot (yeah, pun sadly intended) for more. It also doesn’t help when you have a lot of friends who are so damn talented when it comes to photography — some would say this can be inspirational, but I’m on the side that tends to think, oh well, better leave this to those who are better at it.

But to be honest, the biggest reason is one that actually affected a lot of the content that you saw appear on this blog, and that’s even pre-SNOW Magazine. It got to a point where I just couldn’t “experience” anything for myself anymore. Every time I was out and about and spotted something interesting, I was immediately composing a blog post in my head about it (even if I had absolutely no intention of writing one) and taking photos to “document” it. This ended up literally getting in the way of my enjoyment of things. Many are sure to say that this is a handy skill to have, and I wouldn’t disagree, but it can also be a negative in the sense that I started losing something rather important, and that’s the pure sense of enjoying the moment/space you occupy.

Sure, this wasn’t just about photography, but I think one way to fix this for me was to remove that part from the equation. And you know what, after a while it did in fact work. I no longer cared which angle of what I was seeing or experiencing would best tell the story.

“OK, Jean, but this post is titled ‘Panasonic Lumix G2,’ no?”

Yes, how perceptive of you.

My wife has been wanting a decent camera for a while now, at first mostly to use for her next field research trip to China, but also to just start taking better photos of the things around her, including of course our dog. She finally pulled the trigger on a purchase yesterday and ended up getting the aforementioned Panasonic Lumix G2, the follow-up to the company’s G1, the camera that kicked off the whole “Micro System” craze. For months I’d been suggesting to her the GF1, in part because of Craig Mod’s amazing field test article, but also because at least 5-6 of my friends ended up buying one, to great satisfaction. She was able to get something a bit better — the GF1 is sort of a paired-down more compact version of the G2 (or rather its predecessor, the G1).

So this means we have a nice new camera in the house, and she says I’ll be able to use it when I want — although there seems to be some sort of unwritten rule stating that such sharing will happen after a fixed amount of time. The prospect of learning photography has me rather excited, and despite my fears of getting back to that sense of always being in reporter mode, I’m thinking that it will help get some more original (not reblogged) content on SNOW Magazine.

To be fair, I also have a feeling that the iPhone 4 is going to help with that. I finally got around to ordering one yesterday — the wait will take up to a month though — and from the examples I saw in this Boing Boing post, I think it will make for a great device when you’re in a pinch. But more than just the camera, it’s the prospect of HD video recording that has me excited, and I’m hoping that you’ll see the results on SNOW as well — and hey, that G2 takes some pretty decent HD videos too, just look at what Craig was able to get out of his GF1.

Next up is moving to some more serious photo editing tools — iPhoto and quick Photoshop touch-ups have been fine so far, but I want to move up. After asking about Adobe Lightroom versus Apple Aperture on Twitter, the feedback was overwhelmingly pro-Lightroom, and Adobe certainly makes it easy for you to try it out for yourself. It seems that Lightroom 3 was actually released just recently, so looks like I’m hopping on at a good time.

What you see at the top of this post is just me having fun with some of the filters in Lightroom, on a photo my wife took of me this morning — this is pretty much what I look like, and where I find myself, everyday. Funny how adding a vignette/sepia filter makes everything look oh-so serious. Looking at the photo, I really feel like a hard-working writer. Yeah.

Art Books

Art Space Tokyo Success

Some great news today: as of an hour ago, the Art Space Tokyo team reached their goal of raising $15,000 to reprint/update the book, as well as produce a free iPad version. Keep supporting the project though, because I know they low-balled the amount (if you don’t reach your goal on Kickstarter you get nothing) and so every bit more will help make sure Craig and Ashley can both devote the amount of time necessary to making this as awesome as it deserves to be.

Art Books Design

Reviving Art Space Tokyo

My friends Craig Mod and Ashley Rawlings produced this terrific book a couple of years ago called Art Space Tokyo, you may have heard of it — I’ve certainly plugged it and recommended it countless times to anyone I talk to when it comes to the art scene in Tokyo. It has unfortunately been out of print for quite a while now, but Craig and Ashley recently got the rights back (as Craig is no longer involved with Chin Music Press), and they’ve launched a Kickstarter project to not only get an updated version of the book back in print, but to also produce a free iPad version. So go, and support what will undoubtedly be an awesome pair of products.