J.P. Chan 

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The Best View

The Best View

My life would have been very different had I grown up closer to the Hayden Planetarium. I was obsessed with space and astronomy as a kid but only got to visit the Planetarium’s predecessor a handful of times growing up. Then and now, this is a magical place.

(Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History)


Welcome to Eugene


It’s been a few months since my last post, so I’ve got a small backlog to work through.

Here’s a shot from my visit to Eugene back in April. I was there to show A Picture of You at the DisOrient Film Festival.

Despite being sick the entire time I was there, I had a great time. It’s a wonderful festival in a very friendly town.

(Eugene, OR)


Computers for Everybody

Computers for Everybody

When it comes to computing gear, I’ve been an Apple fan since college. I love my Macs, iPhone, and iPad and wouldn’t trade them for anything. They’re reliable, beautiful, work great, and hold their resale value very well.

But I admit that when it comes to price (as opposed to value), Apple has never been the cheapest option. That’s why growing up in a working-class family, I never owned an Apple computer. We just couldn’t afford them.

But we could afford (barely) a succession of Commodore 64s and, eventually, an Amiga — all of which I got great use out of. So while I may have grown up envying my friends’ Apple IIs and Macs, I didn’t miss out on the benefits of computing. Commodore truly made computers for the masses, which I’ll always be grateful for.

Given this, I was especially happy to see these old hallmarks of my computing youth during a recent visit to the Computer History Museum. I also liked that the Commodores sat on the top shelf of their affordable early microcomputers display. For those of us who loved computers but didn’t have much to spend on them, they truly were top shelf items.

(Computer History Museum, Mountain View, CA)


Beijing Haze

I woke up today thinking about the passing of another year, the dreams we all have about our lives, and how we reconcile who we are with who we’d like to be.

The conclusion is always the same for me: happiness comes mostly from pursuing the dream, not necessarily achieving it. (Though achieving it every now and then is pretty nice too.)

And then I realized this is an idea I continually re-visit and re-discover, and not just on New Year’s Day. In fact, I made a short film about it six years ago. So much for progress…

In January 2008, my short film Beijing Haze premiered at Slamdance before going on to play at SXSW and a bunch of other festivals. But it’s never been available anywhere else.

Today seemed like a good time to change that. You can now watch it for free on my YouTube channel.

Of the shorts I’ve made, this is my favorite. I hope you enjoy it too.

Happy New Year everyone! Let’s all chase our dreams in 2014.


Monday is Cat Week: Top Shelf

Monday is Cat Week: Top Shelf

Sometime next year, this bookcase that Helena’s crouching on will probably be replaced by cat shelves. I have a feeling she can’t wait.


Bloomberg Tower

Bloomberg Tower

I’ve liked 731 Lexington Avenue since it went up almost ten years ago. But until this week, all I’ve ever seen of the interior is the subterranean Home Depot on the Third Avenue side of the complex.

So this week I felt especially lucky to visit the building twice, getting to see both the space-age Bloomberg LP offices and Le Cirque Cafe. Unsurprisingly, the building is even nicer on the inside.


New Times Square


Even though the first part of the permanent Times Square pedestrian plaza only opened today, it feels like it’s always been there. That’s the sign of a great plan.


Dognitive Pissonance

Dognitive Pissonance

I get that this sign is aimed at the owners and not the dogs themselves, but still: why make the thing you’re trying to prohibit look so fun?

Even the dog who’s following the rules looks jealous-as-heck of the ones who aren’t.

Note: this happens in Taiwan, too.

(East 91 St, Manhattan)


Mission Beach

Mission Beach

For our first night at SDAFF to screen A Picture of You, we were lucky to stay with a festival board member and his wife.

They generously opened their beautiful home to us and treated us to a view we’ll never forget.


City of Bronze

City of Bronze

Even though I’ve lived in NYC all my adult life, I never get tired of rooftop views. No two are ever alike.

(Pod Hotel, Lexington Av & 39 St, Manhattan)




Recently, I visited XFR STN at the New Museum with a group of archivists. The folks behind the exhibit gave us a brief but very thorough overview into their data recovery workflow.

I totally geeked out seeing their workstation of old drives for reading obsolete digital media like floppies (3.5/5.25/SD/HD/SS/DS), Zip disks, Jaz drives, and (soon) optical. I got nostalgic for the Commodore 64s and Amigas I owned during childhood. I also got a little sad thinking about all the data lost forever on the floppy disks I threw away.

I’m glad exhibits like XFR STN exist, because I don’t think there’s nearly enough awareness of the digital dark age we’re potentially living in. I made Digital Antiquities a few years back in an attempt to bring attention to this issue and I have a feeling I’ll revisit these ideas in future work. I hope this is a topic that becomes part of the cultural conversation in a bigger way, soon.


My Tern

My Tern

I’m the first to admit that I don’t really need a new bike. Between my trusty Bike Friday and a Citi Bike membership, I’m well-covered when it comes to access to two-wheeled transportation.

But my Bike Friday turned twenty this year (I bought it second-hand in 2005) and it may finally be showing its age. So I’ve been looking for an affordable way to let the Bike Friday transition into semi-retirement. The goal was to find a good-quality folding bike that could be my commuting and grocery-hauling workhorse, which would let me use the Friday as my stripped-down, go-fast recreational bike.

Introducing my new used 2012 Tern Link D8. I found this bike on Craigslist from a woman who was leaving New York. She’d purchased the bike last fall after Hurricane Sandy knocked out the subways downtown but stopped using it once the trains returned. The dust all over the bike seemed to back up her story, so I took the plunge. For $280 in cash, I got the Tern, a Kryptonite lock, and a Bern helmet.

The Tern is extremely sturdy and easily carried 25 pounds of Trader Joe’s groceries over bumpy Manhattan streets. I hope I get a good twenty years out of it. And another twenty from the Bike Friday now that it doesn’t have to carry produce anymore.


Riverside & 94

Riverside & 94 (1)

Visiting a friend’s house on the Upper West Side and seriously enjoying the view.

Riverside & 94 (2)

Rooftop water tanks have their own secret community high above it all.

Riverside & 94 (3)

A Brooklyn brownstone is still my NYC dream house, but I’m pretty sure a Manhattan penthouse like this would satisfy me as well.


Coney Island Yard

Coney Island Yard

Even subway trains need a place to rest when they’re not working. For many NYC subway trains, that place is Coney Island Yard.

For a taste of how a smaller yard works, see this time-lapse of Corona Yard, home of the 7 train.

What does Coney Island look like in action? Stay tuned…


My Badass Brother

My Badass Brother

I spent the afternoon watching the vaguely Muay Thai-related Only God Forgives. My brother Jack spent it prepping for his first-ever Muay Thai fight.

A little after 9:30pm, Jack won his match amid a cheering crowd at a sweaty boxing gym in The Bronx. I’m so proud of him.


To Each His Own (Lane)

To Each His Own (Lane)

I’m a regular user of the First Avenue bike lane in Manhattan and I love it. It’s by no means perfect — there’s still too much pedestrian dodging required in the East Village and Upper East Side — but it’s a huge step towards a safer and better use of that very wide avenue.

These days, my favorite stretch of the lane is the segment in front of the United Nations. The urban planner in me just loves how the bike lane merges beautifully with the vehicular lanes on the south end of the First Avenue tunnel, taking you comfortably past an area that used to be tricky for cycling. As an added bonus, there’s also now a Citi Bike station directly across the street from the Secretariat Building.

The only improvement I can think of would be giving one lane of the tunnel to bikes if cycle traffic one day warrants it. I’d love to see that in my lifetime.


Stonewall Inn 10:36 p.m.

Stonewall Inn 10:36 p.m.

Not yet at the finish line, but a pretty great day nonetheless.


Eighteenth & Tenth

Eighteenth & Tenth

The transformation of far west Chelsea is really breathtaking, especially since it’s nowhere near over. It’s part of a decades-long metamorphosis of the west side of Manhattan that stretches from the Village to the Upper West Side and which shows no sign of stopping.

I remember how these blocks on Tenth Avenue used to feel so desolate, forgotten, a little dangerous. It always seemed like this part of Manhattan was secret hiding in plain sight, not far from the busy corridors but never really seen.

Then over the course of twenty years came Chelsea Piers, Hudson River Park, clubs, galleries, Chelsea Market, the High Line, Google, IAC, and high-end residential.

And with Citi Bike stations all over the neighborhood, now even those long blocks from the subway on Eighth Avenue don’t seem so long anymore.


Manhattan Circle (Mostly)

I haven’t circled Manhattan on my bike in several years, so I decided last-minute to try it again yesterday afternoon.

The good news: it’s easier than ever to do this route now, despite the few missing links. The path almost everywhere is in very good condition and you’ll have plenty of company except along the Harlem River parts.

The bad news: at one of the missing links uptown, I ran into a dead end (on the FDR!) which extended my ride. Those few extra minutes were enough to fully drain the GoPro’s batteries, so you won’t see my triumphant finish in this video.

But it’s all about the journey not the destination, right?


John Chin Trio


Sadly, I can count the times I’ve been to a jazz club on one hand. But after seeing John’s trio tear it up Monday night at Small’s, I realize I really need to get out more often.