Friday, 31 May <link>Thinking about my Eye Site
Thursday, 30 May <link>How could I be nostalgic for some place I've only lived for a few months, that I only just left a few weeks ago? Tokyo takes over my senses, with jetlag it's a high and low ride immediately upon arrival. Mom is strong silent following me through the crowds here.
Recently, I've been enjoying MP3s and albums by Dealership, The Ballad of Bonita Marie by Dakota Smith, Shake All Over by Lisa Rein, I Come From San Francisco by Gold Chains. Blectum from Blechdom. And E40, whose wildly exaggerated diction and word/theme choice were the most arresting thing I heard this month on Bay Area radio.
I want to cut up pieces of MP3s, add vocals recorded directly into my laptop with a cheapie microphone, and mix in sounds recorded around Japan with a minidisc recorder. All these I want to sequence and layer in a few separate tracks. I don't care about fidelity. I just need to make some music! Now I just gotta track down the right PC software.
Monday, 27 May <link>Tomorrow Mom and I head to Japan. She taught me to travel. But now I am the guide. So I have booked us rooms at Shigetsu Ryokan, a comfortable, Japanese inn for two nights in Tokyo. And then? I have a list of places and people I'd like her to see, mostly places I haven't been so we can explore together. The deeper into the interior of Japan we go, the less she will be able to communicate. And I have no itinerary scheduled for us. No confirmed reservations. She seems quite happy about this - happy that she can't be reached so easily from America, happy to have some adventure ahead, happy, even, it seems, to be in her son's hands. Nice to have her faith. Now I have to honor it by paying attention. Two weeks.
Saturday, 25 May <link>
Each year in May Los Angeles hosts the Electronic Entertainment Expo, giant airplane hanger-sized conference center rooms stacked with noise and light, the future of fun for the next year. Across too thin carpeting, programmers toting giveaway plastic bags loaded with squishy balls adorned with logos wait in line to look at more stylized violence and pose with buckled leather-thong wearing models. Behind them rows of televisions and flat screens show off stylized sameness - the stories of some slender sliver of the human race iterated with increasingly fine pixels.
e3 2002 photos
Ryan and Justin enjoy another game of War of the Monsters
During a tough economic time, when people were losing their jobs, the entire video game industry grew 43%. The best selling game last year was a free-flowing crime simulation, Grand Theft Auto 3. Economic woes and war got you down? Take out your troubles on Vice City.
E3 is about fun, ostensibly, so people wander looking for the most provocative or unusual means of electronic stimulation. This year the most talked about footage was Doom 3, a revival of one of gaming's most sacrosanct legends, the roots of immersive ultraviolence, the second first person shooter. Space marines are back fighting the all too effable horror this time, the graphics are no longer cartoon but realistic visions that might have had Lovecraft recoil, pitching his typewriter through the screen. It was stunning, beautiful, state of the art normal-mapped graphics, gripping shocking horror and visceral. Maybe it will be entertaining.
I found the best game at E3 elsewhere, in the Sony PlayStation 2 booth - "War of the Monsters" presents giant creatures you can let loose in a city, scaling buildings, throwing cars at helicopters, destroying the urban environment as you stand taller than most architecture. The graphics are perfectly cartoony, evoking B-horror-movies and comic book genetics gone wrong. The two player mode with competative city-destroying and monster bashing is a total blast. It was great fun: mouth open, yee-hawing good times. I don't know if it moves the video games medium forward but it made me want to buy it so I could play it with all my friends.
It's an honor to meet some of the people responsible in part for making these games I enjoy so much. And then to find out that they are thoughful, learned people who are curious about the world and eager to talk about their medium. And so I find that all I have been studying since Software Etc. and before, the literature of games has some company both in lively Jane and CHecker and Harvey and Lulu, people associated with Ion Storm Austin, mostly PC game-oriented people (now descended, it seems, from Looking Glass Studios). These media creations that I enjoy so well are fashioned by people who make for good conversation. They push back on my ideas about media and politics and culture, technology and interactivity. As I write about the medium of videogames, I consider these folks my teachers. Besides that they're fun to be with. So this is my favourite part of E3. That and moderating a slightly scrappy panel which brought up lots of great issues about much smaller-scale games, games for mobile phones. I'll be writing that up soon for TheFeature.com or WirelessGamingReview.com
Wednesday, 23 May <link>Krusty: How is Justin's Japanese?
Sunday, 19 May <link>seized by some silent violent loving paroxysm
clutching my head mouth open i am shuddering
Alone working rainy Sunday empty office
another final draft of the guidebook
I have memories and plans, big fucking waves of deliciousness.
My mentor Howard met Jane. On our way back driving through Marin, she had her head on my shoulder, my hand on her knee, avoiding her eyes or hair for the road sweet I said, "he's going to write me email about you. And he's going to say, 'don't fuck it up,' because he liked you."
Howard wrote me the next day, he said, "Don't fuck this up!" That made me smile.
Next week I'm going to Los Angeles for E3. I'm moderating a two hour workshop Tuesday afternoon on Mobile Phone games. I'll hustle for content, like last year's article auction. Ryan is coming, we're going to tape spot interviews with gamers and game makers to entertain ourselves and develop an as-yet unformed video on video games.
New WinMX 3.1 file sharing software released; no Arizona Dranes appearing on anyone else's harddrive besides mine.
Yesterday attended an officially-sanctioned Department of Defense military personelle entertainment event - Form & Reform Armed Forces Day a most violent city party - fire worship as flamethrowers and engines are set off in a middling-sized courtyard bounded by tall fences topped with razor wire. As bottlerockets shot from closed human fists whizzed haywire in any direction I pictured either my charred bleeding eyesocket or my hands ripped and torn trying to climb out. While actively terrorized by exploding illegals just standing with this lady my only real casualty suffered was a firework fragment spat hard in a leg.
And Dealership played when the evening fell and some more wandering music finished they took to the pavement with hard guitars, no keyboard and played through fast Major Tom and some of their more punk numbers. Around them fireworks and crackers cackling. A bottle rocket exploded in front of frontman Chris's face leaving a bloody spot below his eye. Jane dodged foam frisbees. All three huddled behind the drums when hundreds of meters of flashbangpops were unrolled around the courtyard and the party went up loud like fast war. And then drummer Chris stood up amidst the blowing smoke and small explosions with his hand drawn up in a salute above his darkened goggles. Dealership played for and paid respects to fire worship, love for technologies of destruction.
Driving back through West Oakland, she was tipsy her head on my shoulder, my hand on her knee and I was focused on the road past the shiny American cars with no plates, we had been talking about Troy and the Greeks, the Illiad and the roots of Rome. She recited from memory the first three lines of Virgil's Aeneid in Latin and then translated some - I sing of arms and man.
Thursday, 16 May <link>
Iggy's Now I Wanna be Your Dog on repeat blasting painful from shitty computer speakers I'm naked under a gifted army jacket in Chris's office overlooking sailboats and sunlight in the Oakland Harbor
Wilson sent in a new cover now boasting godzilla, Kenji and Cory provided book back quotes, Jane's got last minute translations
My first book is going to the publisher Monday and I feel bad as hell to be makin' real: Just In Tokyo!
Order it here.
Tuesday, 14 May <link>
(now with photos from Kenn Hwang, thanks Kenn!)an information hustler.
Last week I stood and spoke to an audience and felt some fire - I want to do this! I said - I want to talk to people. For real, stand up. So after that room packed with beer swilling hipsters the next day I was in East Palo Alto at the Cesar Chavez Academy talking to seventh and eighth graders. Look out, these kids are tough, said the newbie teacher, a young sandy blond haired white guy with glasses wearing a tan corduroy jacket. "They'll come in here and look you in the face and say 'fuck you.'"
A friend at Deloitte & Touche asked me to talk with these kids about my career as a freelance writer. And so I stood up in front of them and shared - "I'm homeless, in debt, and my clothes smell because I live out of a beater car." And they looked at me confused and a loud little girl with long thin braids in a bright pink parka down in front during the second section said, "Why should we listen to you then?" and I said, "because I do what I want and I love my life."
And so we spent two hours rapping and singing and talking and they yelled "dance! dance!" and I did just a little twitch and moonwalking and talked about capsule hotels and freelance writing. I have no boss, no regular job, I said, I find something neat and I tell people to give me money to write about it. And the loud little girl in front said loud and definite, "So you're a hustler." And I laughed, I had to agree, "Yeah, I'm an information hustler.".
follow these footsteps
Being part of a group of visiting consultants set me at some distance. So I had the kids each introduce themselves, their name and what they were in to. Most were into music or sports, or shopping. One guy with a powder blue shirt, a large necklace and a well oiled ponytail said he was into pimping. I asked, because it ain't easy but it's necessary? He looked at me confused.
I made some dumb jokes to provoke them. Music, like opera or country? No, not opera or country, but rap. They asked me what music I liked? I said any kind of music. Sing something! They cried. I started in fast and heavy on the most pedantic western song I know, Colonel Caverleigh's Chorus from The Soldiers of Our Queen.
They started booing and throwing things at me. I continued until I couldn't remember what came after a reckless and rollicky Lord Waterford, and then I launched into the rap I know best, rote into my mind from eighth grade on, the opening to Bring tha Noize from "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back"
and they sat silent, slightly wide-eyed, as I spat out Chuck D smooth and hard, Farrakhan and all. And I realized, they might recognize the form and perhaps even the language as rap, but it's nothing they've heard before. I'm singing hard and hip and I'm aged and altered.
But they were taking me straight and they came back with more questions since I'd already made a fool of myself they didn't have to beat me. During introductions, two kids said they were into nothing. Everything sucked they said. So one of them, a chubby kid in a plain gray t-shirt, he looked at me, "what do your parents do? maybe you're just following in their footsteps."
"well my Dad is dead. So I'm not following him. My Mom's a lawyer, she came from a tiny town and worked real hard and when she went to class at law school the guys held up signs saying 'no women in here' and she just said screw 'em and became a kick-ass lawyer anyhow."
He looked at me and held up his hand, "my Daddy's in jail," he ticked off a finger, "my Uncle's in jail," another finger, "my other Uncle is in jail" listing until he was looking past all his extended five fingers at me in my rainbow bright colored shirt in front of this crowd
"Well my Daddy drank too much and killed himself so I don't think I want to follow in those footsteps and maybe if your Dad and your Uncles are in jail you don't want to follow them either, maybe we got to make it up for ourselves and that's what I'm doing here and you can do it too."
I passed around my Japanese mobile phone and showed them that it can take pictures. Half the kids joked about stealing it. I never thought for a moment they would because I trusted them in public space. The chubby kid got a gleam in his eyes, "I want to go to Japan!" he declared. "I thought you weren't into anything?" I asked him. It was nice to see some enthusiasm come through after he had been so nihilistic.
Someone told me that one of these East Palo Alto kids had his feet set on fire by some gang members in a school near here. He was in the hospital for three months. He wouldn't rat them out because they said they would kill his family.
Listening to Dealership sing "Anarchy in the U.K." with some light tones and vibraphones style is a fitting sound track for the Deloitte & Touche "Impact Day." For one day this year the Bay Area offices of this large consulting firm come down to the sunny south bay, to East Palo Alto, a disadvantaged part of town, to landscape, paint, fix, renovate up a school. As much as I'm inclined to be cynical about the "impact" of a single day when there's hundreds of other days available every year, it's a good thing to do. And they've been planning this day for over five months. And the staff at the school seems grateful. And these nice people at Deloitte & Touche shouldn't be held responsible for perpetuating inequalities that create conditions which these schools try with too little to fix. I can't decide if Dealership or D&T is having more fun with their contradictions.
Dealership's cover of Anarchy in the U.K. makes it modern, attractive, a California-toned alarm clock jingle where pain must be sussed out from harmony. It's a song that seems to rip the flesh off of the scrawny Sex Pistols. But history and reading reveal the Sex Pistols to be less thin and more jowly, perhaps, so the Dealership cover comes as a timely reintroduction, a study of the results of punk lifestyle. These are punk's children, defiant and pretty. Why shouldn't we enjoy pleasant song-making? It's a sweet pain this Dealership cover of Anarchy in the U.K.
These consultants are so pretty. I park my shuddering car next to one blonde-streaked guy who has windsurfing gear tied to the roof of his sedan; he expects to catch some good afternoon breeze in the Bay nearby he says. He helps develop software solutions for large companies managing customer call centers.
Two D&T ladies chatting about the library committee stand near me sitting on the floor of the gymnasium where breakfast is being served before we start work. I'm camped out with my mobile phone and laptop communicating away, at knee-level and a ten-foot-pole from most of these folks. One lady looks at me, "what a consultant he is!" she says to her friend.
Some kids poke their darker faces in the door and look around at this room full of chatting coffee sipping consultants. They step in about three paces, "there's no food!" one says to the another. Oh yes there is, I offer, halting their quick exit. Past the sea of consultants in new, white D&T Impact Day t-shirts, there's tables loaded with muffins and bagels and bread, I speak knowingly, and even cupcakes. The kid eyes widen and they dash back into the room. I stop one to tie his shoe, he doesn't do so permanent a job; it's undone again as he dashes off.
They come streaming back, faces grinning stuffed and hands loaded with small chocolate cupcakes. Nice to see these kids close to mingling in the social time with these consultants, enjoying the aging refreshments. But then the authorities come - not from D&T, but from the school - immediately impatient and even angry with these kids: what are you doing here? Why do you have food? Why are you in here?
And these kids say they were sent down here to work on construction, victims of confusion. I tell the authorities that I told these kids there was food they could eat. The principal chides them and sends them off and she looks me over sitting on the floor not wearing a company T-shirt with my laptop and mobile phone and says, you can't let them in here to get food or else they're going to run back and tell all of their homies and then there'll be a line out the door. And I giggle because that's an image I like, hungry kids shoving and pushing past these sunlit chatting young urban professionals I went to college with. But it's unsustainable I guess, "you got to learn how to work with these kids" Principal Roundtree says. I got a lot to learn, I nod and readily agree.
I was on my way out, checking to see if these consultants had felt any impact this day, realizing how bleak these settings could seem. Full of some sad indignation, I stopped two random white men to ask them a challenging question. As we eyed each other I realized one of them had been my best friend in kindergarten and I had not spoken to him in nearly ten years. We stopped talking about the plight of these kids and he shared his dream of developing a service to help young professionals donate time to non-profits.
I drove up to San Francisco confused. Visiting Tom at Foote Cone Belding, a San Francisco advertising agency. Their giant atrium offices with copper walls and everywhere ergonomics or kitsch or style stood in marked contrast to the bunkers and trailers where the chubby kid and the loud girl and the rest of them were trying to keep from having their feet set on fire.
Tom asked me to speak to some FCB about Japanese mobile phones. I had to change my appointed time the day before to fit in the kids in the morning, so turnout was not thick. A few polite professionals in neat casual clothes didn't ask me to dance, or sing; they listened, laughed occasionally, asked pointed questions. We exchanged information. I got a parking ticket and no honorarium.
I tried not to think too hard about why some kids play in glass atriums and some kids play on concrete. Suffering I can acknowledge some but I can't understand easily why it must be so. It seems to be systemic, and if I think about politics, and radical political change, I just don't feel I can easily give up on this social order because that would mean too much pain for too many other happy-enough people. How about alternatives to this split I saw today in California? Artistic vision - I think about Anarchy in the UK again. Reading Please Kill Me, these punks don't seem to envision much of a difference in the social order. Sid Vicious had about as much vision and impact on society as Deloitte and Touche. They each did something that made them feel valid in the context of getting laid and paid. Stoned and boned. I went back to Jane in the East Bay. Now I wanna be your dog.
Thursday, 9 May <link>Thanks to Patty S I'm reading Please Kill Me an oral history of punk rock. Great gossipy tales, how some artists lived. I'm always curious how creative people set up their lives and stimulate themselves. In this case, the early punk rockers flirted with politics - hippy, communist, anarchist. There was a lot of queer activity, public expressions of sexual transgression as a means to personal liberation. Experimentation with identity. Much "I went to this rock show and I saw that other performer and he/she/they didn't give a shit - they just rocked out and it was the most amazing show I'd seen and so I knew I wanted to be a performer." And it began to have that effect on me.
So Ryan Junell calls up - hey Justin, Killing My Lobster is having a cabaret tomorrow at the Cafe Du Nord. Do you care to participate? I can get you a ten minute slot. And I thought, what the hell would I do with ten minutes? And then I remembered all these punks who just took any chance they could get to scream with the world and so I said fuck yes I'm there.
Ten thirty AM Ryan wakes me up asleep sweating in my leathers in my sunlit car, I'm sleeping parked outside of her office, I've got the slot. And no idea what I'm going to perform. So I go back to reading about Lou Reed sucking Patti Smith's cock in a house Dee Dee Ramone broke into while Nico is nodding off. I consider singing Searching the Desert or Talking to Myself, maybe rewriting them. Nothing is coming clear; I decide not to shower or change out of my clothes. Hours flirting with my lover by email and phone. What do I know to talk about? Ten days ago I just got back from Japan. Couldn't I whip out some cute vignette from that time and place? All that I've been studying and caring about is this woman.
My grandparents were small town Nebraska schoolteachers. They were religious, maybe Calvinist. My mother was raised that way. But then she was a lawyer with my father, so I wasn't raised with my religion. My dad died when I was eight. I was trying to figure out how to assess fault there. A few weeks from summers in Nebraska left me with some rudimentary religious understanding; I decided to take a side in morality and so I would surruptitiously give the devil the bird, sneaking, pointing my swear finger down at the ground.Be funny, Ryan had said. But more than that, he had confidence in me. Later he reminded me we met when he saw me tell an hour and a half straight stories from taking a laptop and digital camera by Greyhound Bus from Baltimore through Mobile and New Orleans to Arizona and Los Angeles. That crackling grip of lights and love from stage is exhilarating. The other acts were funny send-offs of lounge singers or rehearsed stand-up comedy and skits. One guy came up to me afterwards, he offered, "That was fucked up dude." I knew it. I felt like a great badass and I had a short blast. That people laughed at what I said was just a matter of setting and timing; I could have been doing stand-up comedy or Narcotics Anonymous.
For the last six months I've been living in Japan. For about the last month I was homeless. Each night crawling out of work at 2am there are places in Tokyo for the men who don't make it home, who get too drunk to walk - you can rent a plastic coffin for $25. Or if these are full, you can sleep on a massage table whether or not you let the 28 year old Chinese immigrant girl give you a handjob.
A beautiful cultured musician writer came to town and dug out my phone number and we went on a twenty hour date. It was talking and I'd been wandering this country for weeks without a boss or a direction so much just me searching and that was great but the second time you're standing in that massage parlour, you wonder if you might not just be lonely.
So after about a week of two or three hours a night on the phone from Tokyo I came back to America. Now I've spent about ten days up inside of this woman. And I love it.
I used to carry a quote around with me: "The way is easy for the person with no preferences." It's a great way to travel - if you don't care who you talk to, or what you eat, or where you sleep, there's all sorts of opportunities for adventure. People are excited to share of themselves and if you don't care who you are with, you can enjoy anyone.
But now after ten days with this girl, I feel like I'm beginning to develop preferences! It's desire and drugs. I look at her and I'm high and I'm hungry. This feeling in my chest big and growing like I can talk with my fingertips and make magic and all this power and lose my mind and merge finally with someone. It's desire right?
And then I wonder if this desire isn't the devil. Maybe this is the same desire that made my Dad drink and mistreat his first wife and his second wife and then kill himself.
But maybe desire is progress too. It makes us change. And I like change! I love computers. And I want to make babies.
When the Internet went big I was elected by some "the journalist of the future" and then some kind of "correspondent on internet culture" and I was flown around and I gave hyperactive talks and it paid a lot of my bills 1995-2000. Now that business has dried up some.
And I wonder, wouldn't I want to have regular reasons to stand up in front of people and unwind my mind? There was the graduating speech in high school that seemed to pleasure people. And I have been invited back to many of the conferences I speak at. Good feedback always, and I love the work. I'm learning how to speak and how to use timing and physical gesture to grab people and break monotony that characterizes people working hard to say something and not simply communicate. I usually have nothing to say, nothing more than "what's going on."
Occasionally someone with some brains and a curious eye regards my work and writing and says something like "You should distill down your message and package that for people." Recently, it was "You're not writing a guidebook to Tokyo, you're writing a book to inspire people to travel the way you did. Or just a book to encourage people to believe in themselves the way you have." Help motivate people - tell them how easy some things can be. Be a coach, a motivational speaker, inspire people directly. It's potentially quite lucrative, you know, and it might do a lot of people some good.
I have tried writing abstract things that describe the world I see. Maybe I should buy some "motivational books" and see what is inside. But I have these stories and I love to tell them and I wonder if I can really sell optimism to people and believe it. Maybe there's too many questions and personal inflections to believe that I know how people should live. So I should write novels instead? That's an indirect way to describe a lifestyle you can believe in. Somehow, I feel a new direction coming on. Who am I to question how I might best serve the world?
(thanks to Seth for the zen quote)
Monday, 6 May <link>we spent a weekend wandering amidst west marin what you might call hippies in that they have an everyday pagantry in occasional bursts of color and feather and amidst this her just slight overextended elbows took my arm and we took to the beach
whipped by sun and sand we kneeled over tidepools and wondered about biology drawing people together and giving them a cough from all talking and little sleeping
i say that i saw this girl and i felt amplified around her both and not with her, alone. i have written it before, it is a breadth of subjects obviously studied with some useless passion and depth as though she wished to find the truth in obscure poems or video games, 69 love songs or japanese history, so now has a brain brimming with ready subjects
but this weekend i realized it is more the reason that i am so comforted always to be with her, around her. she touches me, to put her hand in the small of my back as i am walking, or wraps her fingers around my neck driving, or encircles me initiating a hug as wind whips sand on the beach, gently as we are walking or doing something that requires no relaxation and inhalation deep breath in the corner of her neckhair.
And it doesn't matter so much who she might be but more how she makes me feel and if that's selfish its more just that i have a sense that i maybe should be more clean about a kitchen or it doesn't matter if i'm messy hair or clothes but sometimes i want to be stylish she is my mirror and this is what i say when she is talking about what she likes in me i am only her mirror and we can do that for all of each other anyone can in this human race and perhaps even plants and animals and things but in this case we are able to wind our bodies up so that all is refracted, this light coming in yellow across her wood floor in the morning or the pale blue dashboard clock that was the only thing visible as i wanted to drive down the nighttime west marin road without headlights - sometimes that vertigo and motion unknown is what i feel great beauty around me and
and i say it doesn't matter so much about her because those are the specific things i sometimes recall, that maybe our tastes would be different? or inclination to mingle with particular folks? and i can note her traits and then correct myself in an endless loop of love amendment, scorekeeping. that's just silly and what's more is her face before her shower this morning, front of her lips turned down and corners up reminding me that i make her feel
all this together shifts me what is more to want than understanding? and my only reservation today is wonder if i am being too selfish to enjoy this feeling between two, that is to say, isn't it better to serve in the world and not develop so much so small a thing as a relationship between two people? but this feels like myself, my support, this woman is my stand up side partner strong. and i can feel slower potential around her. and i am grateful for this grounding.
Friday, 3 May <link>
When Health Fails
- Inspired to reduce that unsightly bulge in my pocket:
- TheFeature.com: Wish upon a Wireless Wallet
- Exploring race-mixing, Japanese name-calling and Asian book-cover judging:
- A new issue of Chanpon.org online.
Goodbye George Alec Effinger. I enjoyed your books as a young man they made me want to put chips or drugs in my brain and consort with people in the arabic creole sex fringe in dirty markets with kindhearted edgy mafiosi. There was something decidedly weird and totally alluring about his Budayeen, a teeming synthesized mixed-up western muslim hustle bustle with so much loose sex identity and drugs and technology addled fantasy. It was obviously fun, perhaps to write, definitely to read, and even to play. A good influence for a teenager trying to figure out how wide he should extend his arms for culture; the answer was a very large brass-plated circle held by a one-eyed man-woman wearing a turban with hallucinogens dripping from sacs implanted in place of one of her lungs and a chip in her neck that caused her to tourette's spew bits of william blake.
only much later would i appreciate what rare wisdom there was in forseeing a mostly muslim future as a western scifi writer, drawing from sex identity play and sex work to mix with lively culture of the southern and eastern mediterenean. mixing up the strictly religious and the real life of yearning for the chance to remake one's body and desires; rich fun brain food.
I looked you up in a New Orleans phone book in 1996 before I headed to Burbon street; there was no answer at your house as listed.
April - I am in love!