Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Plastic Prophets of Vinyl Redemption — Deluxe Edition

I’ve posted from time to time about the digital coffee table book of my photograph, Plastic Prophets of Vinyl Redemption, which was released this past summer, exclusively for Apple’s family of iOS devices. Creating the book was tons of fun, and I’ve been very pleased with the reception the book has received from the ebook community.


Being a collector of books (and toys, and records, and art, and CDs, and devils, and, and, and…) I remain completely enamored of objects I can touch and relate to in ways that will never be matched by the bits and bytes trapped within a digital device. What can I say? I like the feel of a book in my hands, and there are great untold mysteries in slipping a sleeve from a big, beautiful album cover and reading the liner notes as black vinyl spins beneath the soft touch of a diamond stylus. Real books feel special. They smell like knowledge.

While I’m very proud of my digital book, and I’ve been quite excited to see how people have enjoyed flipping and zooming through the colorful pages on the iPad, I still wanted to produce a physical object that people could turn in their hands, explore, and connect with in ways that are difficult to mimic in a digital book.

And, so…

Over the past couple of months I’ve been hard at work creating a deluxe edition of Plastic Prophets, and I’m very excited to announce that the package is now available!!

Deluxe Edition box with cover photo printed on glass!

The Deluxe Edition comes packaged in the box you see on the right. Each wooden box is hand painted, signed and numbered, with a cover image that’s been printed on beveled glass and mounted to the lid. Inside are all kinds of collectable treasures you couldn’t possibly replicate in a purely digital release. The highlight is a 32 page full color “mini book” featuring many of the standout images from the digital book—here, reconfigured to be printed and bound in a limited softcover edition.

Hidden away in the box are other printed goodies, including a Plastic Prophets sticker, a Wind-up Dreams web card (randomly selected from a dozen different designs), and a signed, miniature, Certificate of Authentication.

Want a little more?

You’ve got it!

Your new best friend inside the luxurious Deluxe Edition box!

Lift the glass cover and inside the deluxe box you’ll find your very own kewpie doll, just like those you see in my photos! Your kewpie comes direct from Japan, and wears around its neck a miniature flash drive filled with a host of exclusive digital content.

The drive holds two digital versions of Plastic Prophets of Vinyl Redemption. The first is exactly the same as the digital ebook available on Apple’s iBookstore and compatible with the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. And just in case you don’t have access to one of those devices, the flash drive includes the full 135 page book as a PDF that can be viewed on any personal computer.

iPad users will find another added bonus on the flash drive: 95 custom wallpaper images pulled from the pages of the book to give your iPad a custom Wind-up Dreams look that will be the envy of all your friends! Kewpies, bathing beauties, robots and presidents. They’re all on the flash drive to brighten your electronic day.

So what are you waiting for? Click on over to the Wind-up Dreams & Vinyl Nightmares Etsy shop for more information!

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Who of my countless readers believe in coincidence?

Well, then, wouldn’t you know, on the same day that Borders announces the closing of their remaining retail stores and the laying off of thousands of brick’n’mortar booksellers… my eBook of photography for the iPad—Plastic Prophets of Vinyl Redemption—is finally available in Apple’s iTunes bookstore! Yes, 135 pages of splashy digital color, filled with behind-the-scenes photos, sketches and in-depth analysis of the photos I shot for my first large scale solo exhibit at Distinction Gallery in 2009.

I’d place this particular coincidence in the category of “painfully bittersweet,” as I absolutely LOVE to wander the stacks of a sprawling bookstore, and find the mounting closure of neighborhood stores disturbing in a way reserved for fears of the apocalypse. On the other hand, it would have been quite impossible for me to publish (and sell!) the book I’ve just released without the benefit of electronic distribution. Oh, not that I wouldn’t have liked to produce a lavish coffee table tome… and, I actually did just that! In the weeks leading up to the original exhibit I designed and printed a quite superb 100 page hardcover book that chronicled all the work that had gone into the exhibit.

Note to art collectors of the future telepathically browsing eBay in the year 2525 for an original printed copy of Plastic Prophets of Vinyl Redemption… At the cost of $120 each in the year 2009, I printed exactly two copies: one to be on display during the exhibit, and one for the owners of the gallery. So any other copies you might see advertised are likely (gasp!) forgeries. Be forewarned!

So why not mass produce the original book and sell it through my web site or local independent bookstores? Uh… as mentioned above, just one copy of the book—full color, full-bleed—cost 120 bones to print. Repeat… cost. That means I’d have to retail the book at around $150 or so, or (to bring the price down to, say, $40) print it in China at sufficient quantities that my otherwise safe and comfortable home would become a warehouse firetrap of unsold inventory. I mean, people like my art and all, but I think it would be difficult to find thousands of people who might be willing to plunk down forty or fifty dollars for a printed copy.

On the other hand… I thought there might be quite a lot of people who would quite happily pay a wee bit of cash for a version of the book they could enjoy on their iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. Just think… hours of artsy browsing pleasure for the price of a heavily sweetened cup of coffee!

I took the original 100 page book and expanded it greatly, with tons of additional photos, more insightful prose, and images of the installation I’d constructed in the center of the gallery. The original hardcover had been slapped together in two weeks while I was working full time. As such, sacrifices were made and the bar I’d set for completion was that ol’ standby of the Time Constrained… good enough. This time around, with no deadline gripping at my collar, I spent close to four months on design, layout, and figuring out the hitherto mysterious (and grossly under documented) features and capabilities of Apple’s new illustrated book format. Yes, it’s good to have an engineering degree!

The result?

An electronic coffee table book on a bright, shiny screen filled with glorious color pages that can be…



Panned all around the screen!

And the very best part? No printing costs. No distributor costs. No unsold inventory piling up through the hallways of my home. In fact, apart from the reasonable percentage Apple takes from each sale… no split of the revenues with a billion people. And this means I can sell my beautiful book for whatever price I want.

How does $3.99 grab you?

Note: The grabbing will be 2.99 euros in France and Germany, and 2.49 pounds in the UK, but still $3.99 in Canada and Australia.

Yep, no big profit game here. I just wanted to be able to share my work as widely as possible and provide people a fun, interesting, and engaging way to experience and explore what lies behind each of my photographs.

Did I mention there’s a link to the book? I should do that… Check it out in the iBookstore!!

Wanna see some screen shots? Of course you do!

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Back in the not-so-distant past of February 2009, John had a solo exhibit at Distinction Gallery in Escondido, CA entitled Plastic Prophets of Vinyl Redemption. This well thought-out series of photographs addressed the themes of power, greed, evolution, and desire–you know, your usual Valentine’s Day fare. Besides the super fun videos John created for our fellow art lovers to watch as an accompaniment to the photos, he also printed a monograph so curious lookie loos could take a peek at behind-the-scenes information and learn how he devises his photographs and sets them up. The book proved to be so popular, we wanted to make it available for viewing by everyone, not just those (awesome) folks who were able to attend the exhibit. As we explained in this post from January 2010, printing the book was a bit pricey, so John, in all his engineer-y genius, created an online version.

Fast forward to 2011. A little something called the iPad 2 comes out and along with a billion other people, John becomes enamored with this incredible piece of technology. Hmm…wouldn’t it be great if we went back to the Plastic Prophets book and added more info, photos, and insights we couldn’t include the first time around? So that’s just what we did. After several months of some intense coding on John’s part, and intense editing on my part, we are thrilled to announce that Plastic Prophets of Vinyl Redemption is now available for your delight and pleasure in iTunes. It’s a fascinating read on how an artist brings an image from his mind into reality, and the book is jam-packed with photos so vibrant, you want to lick them. (You have my permission to use that in your book review.) At only $3.99, it’s an incredible bargain. Besides the US, Plastic Prophets is also currently available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the UK. Please head on over to the iTunes store and check it out. We’d love to hear what you think!

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So far I’m  kind of liking this blog thing, which is intended to cover a broad range of topics; not just self-serving boasts about my photography and writing exploits.  Well, today is different, since that is exactly what I plan to cover in this post.  Yes, that’s right, this post is about me! me! me!  I have a bunch of fun projects in the works, and thought I’d share some information about what’s coming in the weeks and months ahead.

Record Store Day! 

Anyone who knows me reasonably well knows that my favorite day of the year — better than Christmas, my birthday, and Opening Day of the baseball season all rolled into one — is Record Store Day!  As always, I’ll be hitting some of my favorite independent record stores and looking for all the special releases some of my favorite bands have planned for that day.

This year, though, is different…  I’ll be offering a special Record Store Day deal to all of my Twitter and Facebook followers!  I figured, why not?  Having relied so heavily on vinyl records for the many years I’ve been taking photos, it only seemed natural to find a way to share all this vinyl goodness.  If you’re not already a follower on Twitter or a friend on Facebook, sign-up now, and wait for the special announcement coming on Saturday, April 16.

Plastic Prophets Digital Book

My first solo exhibit was in early 2009 and I spent the better part of the previous year cramming every night and weekend with an incredible amount of work in preparation for the opening. Being one of those people who is always on time or early, I completed everything for the exhibit with several weeks to spare.  Good, because I would not suffer the embarrassment of arriving at the opening reception with photos yet to hang, but also bad because I felt as though all my energies had yet to reach their full potential.  Clearly, I needed another project.

That project was a 100 page book, written, designed and printed in about 3 weeks that was filled with behind-the-scenes images and information about the creation of every photo in the show.  I printed two copies of the book and had one on display in the gallery for the run of the exhibit.

Why only two copies?  Because each handsomely bound hardcover book cost about $120 to print, and while people do seem to truly enjoy my work, I imagine very few would want to mortgage their kids to buy a book of my wild photos and witty prose.

The solution?  Digital!

I’m in the homestretch of an effort to redesign and expand the book for the digital age, and should have Plastic Prophets of Vinyl Redemption available for the iPad sometime before the summer.  Where the original version was constrained by time and page count (no more than 100 pages through Apple’s print service), the new version adds many, many more photos, a lot more text and “fun facts”, and sketches, and expands areas that I had to cut due to space limitations.  It’s going to be a spectacular burst of full-bleed color for your screen and eyes (and you know we all need more full bleed in our eyes).  Best of all… I’ll be able to sell the book on the iPad Bookstore for a bargain basement price! Good for me, good for the collective pocketbooks of the world.

New Photo Series

Though I’ve not yet committed to my next large scale exhibit, I’ve been slowly producing a fresh batch of new photos that are sure to amaze and delight!  Yes, of course, you’ll continue to see buxom bathing beauties, religious figures and my ever-present kewpie dolls, but be prepared to be introduced to a host of new plastic and vinyl characters wandering about my work in their own playful and devious ways.  Four new pieces are now complete with many more on the way.

Summer Group Shows

I’ve been invited to participate in a pair of group shows at Distinction Gallery and Artist Studios during the summer of 2011.  These will both be themed shows (one, for a very deserving charity), and I’m in the process of preparing early sketches for how my vivid cast of characters will spin and muck with the guidelines.  In any case, expect something fun!

Submissions Galore!

I’ve submitted my work to a number of art and photography exhibits taking place in San Diego and beyond during the summer months.  Open calls are always a crap shoot left to the discerning eyes of the jurors, so when my work gets in I’m grateful; when it doesn’t it, I simply chalk it off as one of those eyes-of-the-beholder things.

In any case, wish me luck!

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Way back at the beginning of 2009 while I was wrapping up work on my 2009 exhibit at Distinction, I created a one-of-a-kind monograph for the exhibit. 100-plus pages of behind-the-scenes photos and stories that revealed insight into the process I went through in creating the photographs that were to be part of the show. The book was a lot of fun, and I was very pleased with how it came out and how well it was received by those who visited Plastic Prophets of Vinyl Redemption. People really liked it!

One problem…

Printing the book was EXPEN$IVE!

Though I would have liked to make the book available for sale, I really didn’t see a strong market for a book of photos that cost in excess of $120. So, there were only two copies printed.

Still, I like to share, and I’ve just completed work on a web browsable version of the entire book. It’s not real fancy, but you can flip through all the pages and read all the text. Fun facts! Alternate shots! Weird interpretations of what all this crazy stuff means!

I’ve placed a permanent link to the book on the Publications page, or you can simple click on the cover above to open the book and start your exploration through Plastic Prophets of Vinyl Redemption.

And… maybe someday, I’ll find an affordable way to produce the book for real so that you can have a spectacular, colorful copy in your hot little hands.

Have fun!

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Small joys are underfoot at the San Diego swap meet

Since I don’t have anything especially newsworthy to share (Hey! I have a book coming out! Hey! I have a new exhibit opening! Hey! I’m going to be appearing on Saturday Night Live!) I thought I’d bring folks up to date on some soon-to-be newsworthy items that should become reality over the next few months.

Ray Caesar — Art Collection: Volume One

Coming up in December is Premier Art Collection: Volume One, the first book collection featuring the magnificent art of Ray Caesar. The book is being published by Murphy Design (so you know it will be eye poppingly beautiful), and will include an essay I wrote for the project over the summer. This was a fun project and I was given a pretty loose rope in writing my piece. The result is something that I hope compliments the wonderful speculation and deep emotional connections Ray brings to his work. One part biographical essay, one part psychedelic fiction, one part table setter for a book full of magnificent artwork. Hope you all enjoy it, and do stop by the Murphy website and reserve yourself a copy.

San Diego Citybeat — Feature article

Earlier this month I spent some time with Kia Momtazi, one of the fine arts writers over at San Diego Citybeat, who will be writing a feature article about my photography for an upcoming issue. We met over two Saturdays, first at my place, then the next weekend at the San Diego swap meet where we searched for vinyl LPs and toys (the photo above was snapped on the arena asphalt). All along the way we talked art, photography and all things creative and fun.  The article should hit the news stands sometime in January,so watch for it on the street (and here on my site, of course). Hope I make for an interesting and somewhat humble subject!

Focus Magazine — Focus Gallery

I’ll have a four page spread in the upcoming Collectors issue of Focus Magazine, officially the February 2008 issue, which probably means a street date of sometime in December or January. Focus is rapidly becoming one of the premier periodicals for fine art photography, and I was very honored to have my gallery submission accepted for publication. Four of my very best photos will be reproduced in the magazine, in addition to a brief biography that attempts to explain how it is that my photography is considered fine art (i.e. conceptualization, technique, blah, blah, blah). My work is somewhat of a departure for Focus, which I think is a good thing. I’ve seen a preview of the upcoming issue (which features some great interviews and amazing photography throughout) and am very proud to be included alongside some truly gifted artists. Focus is published out of New York and distributed to galleries and collectors across the country, so this will definitely be the broadest exposure for my photography yet! Keep your fingers crossed that my slightly demented photographs capture the  the eye of an exuberant collector or the imagination of a discerning gallery — of course, with a taste for toys, records and robots!

Focus is printed using the highest quality paper and printing imaginable; definitely worth the cover price! Watch for it on your favorite magazine stand in the next month or so.

That’s it for this short update… more soon, I hope!

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At the bottom of each one of my news items you’ll always see a convenient “Add a comment” link, which… uh… yeah, allows you as the reader of my blog the opportunity to add a comment to whatever I’ve shared. You know, stuff like…

Oh John! Your wondrous photography has made me a better lover!


Nuns as bowling pins?!?! Hula girls shaking their hips at seminary students?!?! Dinosaurs witnessing the birth of a nativity tiki god on a beach in Hawaii??!?! John! You are surely going to Hell!!

Comments are your way to join the community spirit of the web and engage in discussion about the items I post.  Good, bad, indifferent. Thanks, praise, criticism. Post your own insights, ask questions or make fun of my socks.  And if I don’t like what you add… I can always delete it.

My site doesn’t get a tremendous number of comments; just a smattering, really. But I like and appreciate everything that people have in the past contributed, and therein lies the purpose of this particular blog entry…  My precious comments are gone! Vanished!  Disappeared like fleas from a dog on a bonfire! (There’s something you can comments on… and I like dogs!) I’m not sure what happened, exactly, but suffice it to say “I did something” and the technology that commands my site decided that what I did was bad and heinous, and decided to punish me by zapping every one of the comments I’d collected in the year or so that I enabled reader comments.

So, so sad…

Anyway, for the moment, the cruel winds of time have covered the footprints of past comments in this sandy oasis of culture and creativity. The slate has been wiped clean and begs for the creative, thoughtful prose of readers around the world! Express your inner critic. Toss in a comment about my photos, my book, art, music or your favorite toys.  Lots of past posts to choose from throughout my little web world, and all you have to do is… click. Thanks for playing….

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You’ll notice a new button over there on the left side of the page… a flickering candle that will always take you to information about my first novel — The Extraordinary Adventures of the 25 Year Old Birthday Muse. The book was recently published by Wind-up Dreams & Vinyl Nightmares Publishing, which is actually just me. Yep, my book is self-published, a revelation usually met with secreted groans and rolling of eyes, because we all know that “self-published” really means not good enough to be a real book. At least, that’s what I’ve always thought.

Not this time.

My book is really good!

Honest. It is!

The story has developed over four drafts, dating back to the summer of 2004, and was recognized in that original form as a semifinalist in the 2005 William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition. Where that first version was 18,000 words and nicely printed like a glorified 8 1/2” x 11” book report, the published version is a hair shy of 32,000 words, 176 pages, and printed as a 6” x 9” novel with a glossy paperback color cover and fully illustrated interior. Four months went into the interior layout and cover design and I’m very, very happy with the results. The book is laid out just like the storybook fairy tales you remember as a child with tons of pictures, fancy chapter headings, detailed paragraph breaks and all the little touches that made reading such an adventure and a treat. I even designed my own logo to make “Wind-up Dreams & Vinyl Nightmares Publishing” look as professional as possible.

I published the book through lulu.com, an on-line print-on-demand site that allows authors to submit their own books for publication. Once a book is published it can be ordered — just like on Amazon — and printed in as many or few copies as you like. Two “private press editions” were prepared: a Standard Edition and a special Deluxe Edition. The two editions are basically the same, but the 80-plus paintings and photographs sprinkled throughout the text are presented in full glorious color in the Deluxe Edition. In the Standard Edition, these illustrations appear in crisp, nicely shaded grayscale.

After the many months spent preparing the book (and suffering through 4 mistake riddled proof copies), you can imagine the anticipation after all the bugs had been worked out and the first box of 20 books arrived at my doorstep. I was thrilled with the quality of the printing and binding, and very proud to call this book my own!

There’s more information about the book on the Writing page….

… or just click the   any time you like!

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That’s a question I’ve been hearing quite a bit lately… what’s up with your Birthday Muse story? And, yes, I’ve been a bit negligent in posting updates here on my site to bring people up to date on The Extraordinary Adventures of the 25 Year Old Birthday Muse. So, here’s the scoop….

The book is being published!

By me!

For me!

And, no, you don’t get to read it!

Huh?!?! What? John, you slimy selfish book-hoarder!

Actually, the book was getting nice traction in my efforts to find an agent and publisher, and I’m reasonably sure I would have found an energetic and enthusiastic representative for my work. However, as my agent search progressed and I continued making small changes to the story (new adventures, tighter writing, solidifying the story) my vision for the actual book continued to scream in terms of how the book would actually look in production.

While the words in the story are certainly the focus, the design for the book, in my eyes, was equally important. Being somewhat of a control freak when it comes to my own work, I would want a say in page layout, cover design, font selection, chapter breaks, graphics and all the other refined appointments that would make my book the storybook I envisioned in my mind. In fact, every version of the story, from the very first 18,000 word copy printed on 8 1/2 by 11 paper and packaged in a spiffy plastic velo-bind, has included all kinds of in-line full color paintings and illustrations of the mythological characters who make cameo appearances throughout the story. Think “fancy book report” or “really long magazine article” and you have the idea.

Now, ask yourself, what publisher in their right mind is going to take a full-color chance on a complete unknown for his first novel? While it would be great to see my book at Borders or on an Amazon best sellers list, I’d ultimately be compromising “what I wanted to see” for mass market black & white reality.

Instead, I decided to try my hand at designing the book as I’d like to see it published, and I’ve spent the past couple of months making all the decisions a publishing house would face in bringing a new project from loose-leaf, double-spaced monotony to the finished product you find in your favorite local book store. The art work has been given the page space each magnificent painting deserves, headers and footers have been set, chapter breaks speak boldly… it looks very, very nice and I’m quite happy with the book I’ve created. It does justice to the charming story within.

All told, the finished product is now over 31,000 words, filling 176 pages of glorious 6”x9” novel-size color — and, as I suspected, the production cost is something few profitable book dealers would dare touch… about $31 per book. That’s without tacking on any hand grease for the publisher, distributor, retailer or me.

So, this is truly a self-indulgent exercise of realizing my own vision, which is cool with me, I just wanted something to place on my shelf that looked nicer than a book report.

There’s a very nice on-line self-publishing house I’m working with to produce the few books that will be printed-on-demand (www.lulu.com), and as I type I’m awaiting my first proof-copy. No doubt, I’ll find some kind of flaw before making changes and then printing up those few, special copies being reserved for family and friends.

That’s the scoop and I like my book. Perhaps, the finest no one will ever see!

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Jonathan Weiner’s first book, Tranquil Aftermath, is now out!  The book contains an introductory essay/critique that I contributed titled “A short tale of secrecy and apprehension” — my second such essay to appear in a published art collection. The book was designed by Murphy Design and is being published in conjunction with Jonathan’s current exhibit, “The Attacker’s Move” at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York.  The exhibit is running through June 10th with a book signing from Jonathan scheduled for the final day of the exhibit (which happens to be Jonathan’s birthday, so bring small gifts of artistic appreciation).

Those not able to make it to New York for Jonathan’s signing can pre-order signed copies of the book from the gallery.

The first printing of the book is being limited to an edition of 2,500, so get your copy quick!! A second, more lavish edition is in the works, limited to a scant 150 copies, that will include a one-of-a-kind drawing from Jonathan Weiner and packaged in a cloth covered slipcase. Contact the Jonathan Levine Gallery for more details.


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