So... Substack...

This is how it's starting.

We all have compulsions and addictions.

I guess mine is healthier than most. Mine is pretty much blogging…

I started writing quite late in life. Well, not true, I always kinda wrote, but I never thought anything of it. As a child and a teenager, I didn’t think that writing was really for me. And yet, I was a lot into reading, and both kinda go hand in hand, right?

A turning point for me was a French assignment in 10th grade.
Remember, my native language is French, so French class for me was like English class for you (if you’re a native speaker of English that is).

We had a writing assignment, and for the first time in my life, this assignment was basically a creative writing assignment!

Back in the days, I was not really good in French class, I didn’t even like French class nor literature (which is interesting when you consider that I started a Ph.D. in French literature at some point in my life - I didn’t finish it, though, but that’s a story for another day). Also, I didn’t get along with my 10th-grade teacher at all.

Still, I loved the assignment. I was a lot into Tolkien and tabletop roleplaying games at the time, and the topic for the assignment instantly woke up my imagination. It had something to do with using metaphors. I wrote this essay/story with all of my heart as I had never done before. It probably wasn’t longer than a paragraph or two, definitely less than a page long. I remember that I basically described a battlefield, set in medieval times, right after a bloody and destructive battle that had taken place in a fantasy world not dissimilar to Middle Earth. It was full of blood, bodies, mud, carrion birds, and more destruction. You know, things teenage geeks like to write about.

I don’t remember my grade, nor whether it was actually graded or not. However, 32 years later, I still remember what the teacher wrote on my page:

Good job! However, are you sure you wrote it yourself and that it’s a completely original work?

And I remember being quite upset and angry at her. I told her. It didn’t help our already tense relationship.

It’s only much later that I understood the silver lining coming with her thinking that I may have plagiarized the assignment.

She actually thought it was good.

My French teacher, who disliked me and who was frustrated with me, actually thought I could write!

It’s only years later that I started to write more. Journals, fiction, whatever. I’ve pretty much been writing constantly for the past 25 years or so.

There was another turning point.

The internet came into my life in 1997. It changed my life in many ways. Well, it changed all of our lives in many ways, but one way it changed mine was that thanks to the internet, not only I could write but I also could be read!

Before the internet, just a handful of friends had ever read my writing. And really, just a small part of what I wrote had ever been seen by someone other than myself.

With the internet, the whole world could read me! Well, in theory, at least.

I started spending a lot of time on forums, where I met people who - among others - would become some of my best friends today. I also learned very early on about the darker side of the web: trolling, endless arguments, and such pleasantries. And if I’m good at dealing with those now (pro tip: don’t feed the trolls!) I wasn’t always.

I also started my own homepage. And I started writing on it. And people started reading what I wrote. I’m sure that at least three or four did.

One day, I heard about something called blogging. When I did pay attention to it, I realized that it was pretty much what I had been doing on my homepage for years already. Yes, I’ve basically been blogging since before the word blog even existed.

Eventually, I started a real blog (on Blogspot), and another one and another one. First, I thought that not mixing languages maybe was better. So it meant that I needed to have one blog in French and one in English. Then, I started developing an interest in Japan (I blame my wife, she’s Japanese), so I started a blog about Japan, then another one (the two languages thing again).

Shortly before moving to Japan, I met a group of serious bloggers and this encounter led me to leave Blogspot and get my own self-hosted websites and blogs, which kinda felt like reaching “pro-level” back then. Minus the money that comes with the “pro” status usually.

I can’t remember how many blogs and sites I have created over the past 11 years. More than 10. Some were bad ideas that I abandoned quickly, some lasted a few years and then went dormant for various reasons (the main one always being time constraints) and some are still active and have been for all of these years.

So yes, my addiction is blogging.

When I first heard about Substack, I didn’t think much of it. It didn’t sound too different from Blogger or similar platforms. However, the more I heard about it, the more intrigued I got. Until a few days ago, when I finally decided to jump in and create an account and a newsletter (well, actually two, there’s also one in French coming soon, you’re starting to get the gist, right?)

Why did I do that?

Told you, it’s my addiction, I’m a compulsive blogger.

What really grabbed my attention with Substack is the way subscriptions work. And the newsletter format too. Of course, there is a possibility for monetization, but my readership is not big enough to bother with that. Well, there are ways to give me money if you really want to, I’ll never say no.

Still, what’s the point in starting a newsletter on Substack when I already have so many blogs?

The keyword here is “newsletter” indeed. This is something that has been missing in my blogging experience. A way to keep in touch with readers, tell them about various things, updates, thoughts that are not exactly blogging itself. Of course, there are social media and I’m somewhat active on them, but not everyone uses them, and they have a lot of drawbacks too.

A newsletter? Coming directly to your mailbox but that you can also read on the web if you want to? Sounds like a great idea!

And so, here we are…

Basically, I’m going to use this space to communicate with you about my blogs, as well as other thoughts and things. Things I sometimes want to share and that don’t really fit on any blog for one reason or the other.

Also, because I have so many blogs and I always start new ones and close old ones, sometimes people have a hard time following all the things I do, they miss some, they’re not even aware that some others exist.

With this newsletter, I’ll be able to tell you about all the things that I have published in a given timeframe (I want to venture the word “weekly” but I’m not making any promises here) so that you can check them out, especially when they’re published in places where you may not want to be a regular reader. For example, your interest in Japan may be limited, but once in a while, an article may interest you.

Not mentioning, not one, but two generalist blogs, I currently write.

Those are notoriously difficult for getting an audience as not every topic will be interesting for everyone. Well, this newsletter is for you. So that you know what I wrote about lately and you can see if you want to read it or not.

What do you think?

And how about we start right now?

So, yes, I currently have five active blogs, three of which have content in English.

The first one is

Setouchi Explorer

This site is dedicated to the region of Japan that I have called home for the past 10 years, namely Kagawa Prefecture, the Seto Inland Sea, and its islands. A chunk of these islands are internationally famous nowadays thanks to an art festival that has become the most important in Japan and one of the largest ones in Asia, that is the Setouchi Triennale. You may have heard of it.

It just so happens that the Setouchi Triennale 2022 has started its preparation, and my latest post was introducing the artists who are going to have new art for the festival next year.

You can read it there:

Artists of the Setouchi Triennale 2022

Recently, I also talked about a small visit to the local park, considered one of the most beautiful gardens of Japan:

Ritsurin Garden in October

Liminal Web

Wait, I have seen this name before. Oh, it’s also the name of this newsletter.

Liminal Web is my most recent site, but it’s also old in spirit as it is pretty much the direct descendant of that proto-blog I used to write on my homepage 20 years ago. It’s basically a personal blog. The place where I post whatever crosses my mind and that doesn’t really fit in my other online publications. Basically, just some space on the internet to freely express myself without editorial constraints.

I recently posted my attempts at Inktober 2021 there. I didn’t go very far this year, partly because of lack of time, but mostly because I didn’t really feel it for some reason. I should resume doing Inktober 52 very soon, though. I actually find drawing one thing a week every week more useful and interesting than drawing 31 things in 31 days. People like these kinds of challenges. I like improving my drawing skills.

I also posted a very short piece about this mandarin tree that I’ve had in my garden for a few months and that is doing…. Well… You’ll see there:

The Lone Mandarine

Swamp Media

Finally, there is Swamp Media, it’s also a more recent (re)incarnation of the blog I first started on Blogger, 15 or so years go, but this time with a twist. I’m not the only author and the content of this site is a bit magazine, except in blog format. You’ll find some travel writing, some cultural things, interesting everyday life tidbits and things like that.

My last two entries on it are:

  • Kyoto without tourists!
    In which I talk about a recent trip to Kyoto and the once in a lifetime chance to experience the city without hordes of tourists. It was a priceless adventure.

  • DavidB, Gator & a movie: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
    An experimental thing combining several of my interests. First, it’s a webcomic, but as my drawing skills are not that impressive, I’m using Lego minifigures instead. And writing movie reviews is something I used to do long ago, and I thought it’d be fun to resume doing but in that very short and somewhat silly form.

And Big Kamo, my main co-author, just posted a short text and a video about the way addresses in Tokyo work:

OK, I think that is all for now.

Of course, this newsletter will evolve over time, but right now that is the idea. To tell about a thing or two depending on what has happened in my life or in the world recently, along with links and short descriptions of my latest blog posts.

If there is anything else that you’d like to see in this newsletter, please tell me, I’ll see if I can include it.

Oh… Is it common practice on Substack to include at least one picture in the content like it is with blogging? I have no idea. Well, here is one:

In the meantime, thanks for reading till the end, do not forget to subscribe if you haven’t yet, share with your friends and family if you think they could be interested, and take care of yourselves.


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