[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
No Cash? Advertise In This Space
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Howdy. I'm Justin Hall, a freelance writer living in Oakland California. I spent much of the last two years living in Japan, researching the social impact of new technologies and electronic entertainment. Now I write articles, contribute to Chanpon, Game Girl Advance and TheFeature.
Thanks for stopping by this old web site.
Photo by: Robin Hunicke
February 28, 2003
Las Vegas - Made in Vagina
Long a creative force, hard uttering agressive intelligence but not paid to produce of his own mind, college friend Wilson has discovered a craft in the world of low-fi boutique fashion. Last week, Jane and I volunteered to be his "Made in Vagina" models.
February 27, 2003
Law and Virtual Worlds
Jane and I lived in Tokyo, Japan last fall and winter, at the same time Lawrence Lessig was posted to Tokyo University as a visiting professor. He loved it, he said, because no one knocked on his door, few people ever called on him. Well, maybe save us. We had a great time with him and his wife a few nights and days.
Jane and I were studying games with increasing fervor at that time; including one extended session as houseguests in his rental apartment playing Dark Age of Camelot.
Lessig was planning a class for this Spring semester on "Law and Virtual Worlds" at the Stanford Law School, along with Julian Dibbell (author of the seminal piece on law and social conduct, "A Rape in CyberSpace").
So he asked us to help him out with that class, presenting an online game culture overview, and being available for discussions. We've had the chance to sit in on some stimulating sessions with Larry, Julian and twenty law students arguing over issues that barely register on most other radars. I've got pages of notes on virtual community governance, property and ownership, reflected on in part by the likes of Rheingold and Kim but in this case narrowed through the artificial scarcity and systems developed for online persistent-world avatar-based role-playing games.
This last session we had a chance to listen to Edward Castronova. Castronova is an economist who was slightly bored of his trade and decided to apply the tools of economics to his hobby of online gaming. His highly-downloaded papers on the Economics of EverQuest reflect his unique approach to these games; he has a capacity to describe the ordinary life of active online role-playing citizens that is extremely vivid, and prescient. The class room fairly well crackled as he spoke of self-determined economic activity in multi-player persistent online worlds. Economic value is tied to human attention, he observed, and so it is conceivable that the economic value of Earth assets might diminish as people increasingly invest in online lives. !!! Hah! I love hearing things like that - obvious or not, his statement tossed all human toil upside-down in my mind for just a moment.
If these games continue to grow in population, and people select their affiliations and nations in avatar states, then laws and economics of virtual worlds will become increasingly important. That sort of reasoning gives this class a weight that negates any lingering doubts about studying "play" when few other people are paying much attention.
This semester, Jane and I are listed as Non-Resident Fellows at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society - a welcome bit of legitimacy for our independent, self-directed video game studies.
February 26, 2003
God Bless America!
Down the street from my house in Oakland, nestled in with the ramshakle TV repair place, Sid Campbell's karate studio and a store selling second-hand pagers and cellular phones, there has forever sat a forelorn Round Table Pizza. Their fare may be considered "generally-satisfying" but the decrepit chain restaurant facade was never tempting enough for me.
Today I discovered that ye olde Round Table Pizza has been replaced by a bright new Vietnamese Pho noodle joint. Hallelujah! I'm tickled by the prospect of having beef brisket and rice noodle soup garnished with lime and chilis, or perhaps grilled pork and tangy fish sauce, within walking distance. If ingredient and preparation quality are equal, it's more entertaining to dine regularly on Vietnamese than pepperoni and cheese with creamy ranch.
You can probably measure the relative affluence and "hip-factor" of many California neighborhoods by their position relative to sushi restaurants. I can't even think of where the nearest sushi restaurant is yet here. Maybe in Grand Lake. Or Montclair.
February 25, 2003
Jane and I recently took a look at erotic/personal uses of mobile technology for The Feature: Mo' Smut in Japan. It was posted on Valentine's Day (awww). As some folks noticed it took us too long to get her bio and a group photograph attached.
This was fun! I've got instincts for tracking down sources, she's got good media sleuthing skills and a better sense of Japanese culture and language. We both wrote on the same document throughout, though she lamented that I wrote the last draft and added too many sentence fragments. I'll let her have the last draft next time. Writing together takes some good communication; when we're getting along well we can do great fun work.
We're also sharing game reviewing too - two TVs and two laptops before the fireplace here in Oakland. Jane wrote about Animal Crossing and I wrote about Super Monkey Ball 2, both for Mindjack since Donald bugged us to do this and secured games for us. Jane and I pass the controllers and the laptops back and forth, critiquing games and our writing about it.
February 23, 2003
are you on the internet right now?
Invariably, the internet is within reach, so I do as he asks. I give him an overview of the directions. He responds, "Okay, but tell me how to get there from Guadeloupe Parkway - that's the street I'm on now."
I offered to give him the phone number for the store, so they could talk him through this too specific request. "I already called them," he replied, "but they hung up on me. They were too busy helping customers."
When I was living in Japan, it seemed that most of the cars, even the tiny crappy cars, so many of them had car navigation systems - "Navi". 3D flythrough mappings of popular destinations and spoken guidance to get you there. In Los Angeles this weekend, my rented car had a navigation system in it - pretty handy once you tamed it by avoiding the 405 freeway ("recalculating route, recalculating route"). I think I'm going to encourage my brother to get a car navigation system installed in his next automobile. I considered putting one in my little Honda, but then the installed electronics would exceed the value of the car. And who knows when I might next visit Eli's Mile High Club and get my automobile media devices ripped off again?
Colin replies, "Thanks for the directions, if I get lost I'll call you back."
February 22, 2003
Two days one night in LA visiting Scott and Mimi and Luna and Eamon at their small house with a garden long enough to have a chicken coop where I couldn't hear it in the morning sleeping in the dismantled bunk bed in the children's room.
I came here to brainstorm with them their next generation of personal/professional web sites. And to meet with USC Interactive Media Department to talk about knowledge management (ie, posting things (links) and talking about them online). And to drop by OJR unannounced, talk to Josh for hours and emerge with another idea for an unwritten article.
Scott is at my side now, trying to figure out how to classify his thoughts and projects. "My books are all packed up in the garage, they're supposed to remind me of what I'm interested in." The chirp squak garden sounds leak in the windows and open door. "Oh!" He sits up, "I can check the names of my [file] folders [on this laptop]."
February 20, 2003
Today seven fifty AM thoughtful dog-walker woman in a red goretex™ jacket knocked and then rang the bell as I ran through my shorts holding jeans and shirt shivering at the front door she announced that a raccoon was steadily wheezing sad dying laying in my driveway.
Mercy she cried, clouded in other words, this is a dying beast, as her puffy black dog strained at the leash to have another look and maybe a bite? No disease, she surmised, but I saw blood on raccoon's whiskers.
I am charged with a feeling of disquiet I can distract with play and beauty. I am still not sure what I should be writing. Tangibly, there are three projects: a novel lacking a rear end, a travel guide to tokyo/japan memoir one quarter revised, and a "book about games or digital living" that I must either coherently brainstorm/outline or write more articles in that area to better flesh out my thoughts/qualifications.
This week I went to Las Vegas to perform briefly as a model in a fashion show. Last night I played "Splinter Cell" an Xbox sneaking and shooting game for two hours. Before, Jane and I watched "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum." surprise I bought that movie last week because she mentioned it was one of her favourites growing up. I can see the camp in it, the media parodying media, the exuberant acting of Zero Mostel, the latin-in-jokes, the roman context. It was fun to watch with her -
cultivating love. I am in a relationship with a woman so beautiful and intelligent to me. I work to find things for us to do, for us to share, that we can develop bonds and appreciate each other. And she does for me as well - her most recent drawing, klee-inspired, sits on the dining table where we last ate eggs cooked in the grease of the bacon from breakfast. That was earlier this week.
All of her mind and resources, all that we could collaborate on. All that my debt reminds me I must produce something. Even recent weblogs remind me why writing might emerge from the soul
at least on a weekly basis. There's a financial imperative to keep selling ideas. To twist my "wow!" view of all human endeavor to be specific and audience-minded. I sit amidst so many toys and tools and technologies, I talk to many artists and writers and thinkers. I see culture because I take time to lift my chin from the pavement and conveyor belt. And then I have to package it and sell it. Push it.
That would be easier if I had a common thread - if I knew the package wrapping my thoughts and interests. Participant or observer? Involvement, conflict of interest.
I'm reminded daily by small needles inscribed by tiny lasers reading "money" and "relevance" - they poke prick my hands and I find myself in cabs in the desert phantom typing emails to publishers and provocateurs to continue surrounding myself with stimulation and settings that might pull from me my purpose.
And with Jane. To share without stifling, to understand how intertwingled might be our work writing. And the mesh netting pink surrounding is love, cultivated, spontaneous. Sometimes stress planning cuts away at those strings. And expectations. Concerns about money and relevance. We spent a half an hour this morning synchronizing our calendars.
And I kiss the dirty ground that today I will wonder, cable or satellite? Is TV worth having? Will I enjoy it on the couch with my baby? Or sitting with notepads and laptops, dissecting what's shoveled, pulling back pixels to reveal hurried attempts to make something passable to make a buck to fuel true desire. What does this have to do with our studies? Media literacy. Which media? That I have these choices, with this lady, is my delight. But I must justify. Torn! Money. Love!
February 17, 2003
There's all this talk of war, yes. But other pursuits win my attention. Wilson's SameLab is having a fashion show in Las Vegas tomorrow, Jane and I will be walking the catwalk as prom king and queen. And, I called my credit card company to ask "How can I switch my account from your company to another company with a lower interest rate?" And they lowered my interest rate.
Conversation about War
The people running the current American government have a history of ulterior motives and hidden agendas. An agenda is not necessarily evil, I just object to the "hidden" part of it. Tell the world more honestly why we should going to war with Iraq and let us decide. Instead, we have a publicity storm and a frenzy of international arm-twisting, bribery and negociations designed to create acceptance for a substitute excuse. This seems to mask their real intent, which if it becomes known after the fact, might fan the very flames of anger and terrorism we should strive to put out.
Much conversation about war these days, in all quarters. It undermines so many other discussions and creates conversation in the streets where there was none. That must be good in some ways, but I can't quite track the mood - I'm coughing hard, ill, so I'm staying home, watching the provocative and timely film Deterrence, as Jane suggested, and surveying all pro-and-con activity on the Internet.
My attention invariably drifts to the group in charge of the current American War effort. George W Bush and his crew - a crew ideologically inherited from his father. These are a group of people who have shown singular disregard for the American democratic process. Iran-Contra - a group of rogue Republicans decided on what they thought was the right thing, and against the wishes of congress, the elected representatives of the citizens of the United States, they funelled money and trafficked in drugs and arms to perpetuate war in Central America.
The last noticeable thing George H.W. Bush (Senior) did before leaving office was to pardon most of those men. So here is Bush Junior, growing up at his daddy's dinner table, learning that this kind of conduct: secret, covered-up, outside of the democratic system, this is noble, pardonable, commendable conduct. Maybe even necessary conduct.
I don't presume to judge the contours of the Iran-Contra affair now. But the trials made a big impression on me when I was young - these men who were running our government were caught lying about their policies, violating their trust with their citizens, and they didn't care.
Today Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and Powell decry the evil regime of Saddam Hussein, as Saddam might next week contribute a weapon of mass destruction to global terrorists with a hatred for the U.S. Swagger. They're making a very public case, with remarkably little evidence. And I wonder, what else is going on here?
Considering Bush's past, and Cheney's past, and the Carlyle group, it has to be oil. Oil and weapons and ego - these men are invested in regime change. There is a history of inequality and human rights violations in this area, but I don't see this driving the war effort.
Today oil from the Middle East does ensure the smooth functioning of a global, petroleum-powered economy. Either way, regardless of their resources, the citizens of that region deserve more stability and equality and honest leadership than they have had to date.
If they wage war, and somehow more democracy emerges in that region, somehow there's more tolerance, more equality, then that will be wonderful. Maybe we can help Iraq, gracefully depose their leader and help support a local democratic alternative. I will be pleasantly surprised if that much good can come out of half-truths and a legacy of lies on both sides. I would be more likely to favor this "War in Iraq - Part Deux" if our oiled-up and rarin' to go leaders had some kind of a vision to share for what, or who might be left after the debris settle.
In the mean time, I will continue reading about Iraq from a friend of a friend posted on Bud.com - Ben in Baghdad. Ben maybe a strife junkie, but he is more honest about events and his agenda than the world leaders I'm hearing. Well, save France, because I think they might be right about one thing - if we push the wrong kind of war effort, we're likely to assist with Al Qaeda's recruiting.
February 14, 2003
After terrorists attacked New York and Washington DC on September 11th, 2001, I saw many cars and businesses proudly displaying American flags. Now those flags have been replaced by signs saying "No War with Iraq" or "No War for Oil."
February 13, 2003
My eight year old neice Cassidy has discovered Internet chat - instant messaging. It's her entertainment software it seems; these last two days she's been sending me messages saying "gtg!" (got to go!) and then logging off right away. Usually people don't call you up to say goodbye - I think she likes provoking me at my computer. I can picture her giggling on the other end of the Internet, tee-heeing as she searches for another distraction. A text prank call across the world's greatest communications tool.
Before that she was quizzing me about Jane, asking when Jane would be on to chat. I told her Jane's chat nickname, I wonder if she's prank calling Jane too? Probably not right now, since Jane is back here at my side on the couch visiting her friends in Animal Crossing. We celebrated her return from Japan with some hearty Mexican food at Picante and a few moments of deep breathing each others scent and smiles flat and standing before returning to our screens, together again.
February 11, 2003
Show and Tell with RyanJ
I work as a freelancer. During the course of a week, I have appointments, I visit other freelancers in the Bay Area.
Typically I travel to their house. They show me what they're working on. And they show me media artifacts that fascinate them.
Today, I visited Ryan Junell. Ryan and I first started working through WebZine, a conference in San Francisco promoting independent web media production. Ryan was the event organizer, I was the emcee.
Ryan and I always do show and tell - it's a sizeable part of our time together. Looking over books, video clips, web sites, listening to music. Ryan turned me on to Charanjit Singh. I gave him a copy of the book Satellite of Love. Today, he showed me a great video Nada, and some unusual video mixings of pharmaceutical ads "Radial Medicate" from David Tinapple on the reline.net DVD collection of video art. It's only about $12 - a good cheap fee for unusual video art, though Ryan did say he wished there were more clips included.
Most of the creative projects we covered have MP3s available online. I love talking about music here that I can link to so anyone can download it and experience it for themselves! I want those creative folks to be able to make money, and I like being able to support them, to buy a piece of it, a collection maybe - often a DVD. I'm increasingly intrigued by this idea of making short bursts of intense media for downloading (MP3s, video clips) and then selling a DVD or other merchandise to support the work. Dealership discusses this kind of distribution in this interview with Creative Commons.
Ryan awakens my desire to work with video, taping myself and the world I see, and preparing it for distribution. Time to start saving up for my own digital video camera! And then maybe a used computer to edit clips on. I already know where the video clips will end up once I get started - recently I've been watching more TV and video clips over the Internet than I have over regular TV.
February 08, 2003
Mr Hall Goes to Washington
A flotilla of armored Cadillacs and sport-utility vehicles festooned with blue and red lights plowed steadily down the cleared street as pedestrians stood at a curious distance and cars impatiently waited a return to normal commerce. I wondered who was inside - I asked the cop with his blocking arms nearest to me. "How important do you have to be to ride in a motorcade?"
I wondered if it was someone's brother or sister - visiting them at the White House. "Okay, thanks for giving me back these golf tapes. I'll see you at Mom's in two weeks."
Walking the White House
My last afternoon, I took a walk around the President's mansion. It was very locked down. Roads around it were patrolled by foot police and guarded by vans and guardhouses. Impressive-looking gates and barriers kept anything larger than a squirrel at 150 yards (note to self: if I need to get a camera in on the White House grounds, strap it to a small furry mammal).
I passed two police - one inside the fence, one outside. The one closest to the President was dressed like a tech-Ninja - a neck to toe black pasti-fabric suit accessorized with a vest of pockets. He was carrying some kind of folding machine gun hung from his shoulder, a large clip with small bullets on top. Adjusting my notebook and camera, I cheerfully asked "Are those rubber bullets or real bullets?"
I remembered from my American History class that Andrew Jackson had an inaugural party that involved a rather large party on the White House grounds with a great many kegs of whiskey - I believe it was open to the public. I wondered when all these fences were built. I stuck my head through the bars as far as I could to look at the seat of government as it must have looked before the President lived at a greater, more secure distance from his people. The cold bars seared my temples.
Despair set in - democracy was about keeping government close to the people. But this government seemed quite far away from me.
As I stood at the South end of the White House lawn, I lifted my head to hear the conversations of the other passing citizens and visitors. A half dozen middle-aged women walked by, eying the large off-white mansion, and one said, "I heard it's for sale!" The others chuckled.
I strolled a bit and came upon five lads standing at the fence. One gazed up at the far building, asking his mates, "You think we can take it?" Guffaws erupted and they took turns bragging and strategizing about storming the White House.
I couldn't help myself - I broke into a smile. Here were citizens gazing at this armed, sealed, guarded group of governors and making dumb jokes. They weren't taking all this pomp and power seriously - they felt inclined to bridge the distance between them and their leaders with humor.
I left the White House in a taxi. As I headed towards China Town, I spied the Congress off in the distance. Ahh, I remembered, I had only seen the Executive Branch of the US Government. Probably the Congress is nowhere near as well protected - they are more numerous and more frequently replaced. Aren't they? My paranoia surrounding the armed encampment surrounding the President came creeping back.
I was only distracted riding past the Department of Justice. I found it partly encircled by a twelve foot high cyclone fence topped with barbed wire. Above a doorway read an inscription - "This Place of Justice is a Hallowed Place."
February 07, 2003
So this next few days is a bachelorhood redux - Jane has gone to Japan with her sister Anne for a week. While Jane is busy shopping for pink fishnet leg warmers and speaking to gamer.tv I'm watching over the family cats and trying to urge myself away from the keyboard.
My goal today is to pause on polishing up my new web code in time to beat the grocery store closings - if I'm going to be an alone at home cat-caretaker, I want to have a large pot of something like beans n' greens simmering on the stove so I can constantly refill bowls to eat with bread. That leaves my mind free to hack, write and game without having to think about showering, dressing, or leaving the house.
Bachelor-hood - actually, kinda similar to time Jane and I spent in Kakio. The difference? I'm not opening my mouth much. I listen to jungle music constantly. And maybe I'll go out for fried chicken. Tho Jane recommended I read Fast Food Nation and so far it's put the fear of the colonel in me.
lively experiment lively
I've had a lot of time to develop my own manner of updating these web pages; editing and pasting new ideas up on the front page and on sub pages, nested directories deep within my special interests. Now I'm going to try to use some weblogging software to see if I can make that process easier - easier to post from anywhere (not needing SSH client to emacs), easier to archive (not needing handcopied pinkie finger on the control key emacs cut and paste and cut and paste to make yestermonth's archive page equally ugly and utterly inflexible), and easier to play (nested server side includes is only one technology - lacking trackbacks!)
[I just moved my 553mb tarred gziped web site off of one Cyborganic server and on to another - the first move in five years or so - means I have to poke through my antiquated ways of stringing together rough-hewn HTML in favour of something more modern and suited to a state-of-the-art hosting arrangement that might finally begin to charge me regular money to serve all this crap I've spewn]
The core desire is to map my long-winded brain online. In order to approximate the diffusion of interests and attention, I'm going to experiment with multiple weblogs that are all piped in to the front page. That's not terribly relevant to you - it just means my web page will look busy. Not much use in talking about what I'm planning - I've got to get started screwing up so I can change it again.
One side effect of running this Movable Type software is that I can now have user comments when I post new things. I'm looking forward to your help figuring out some thorny issues! Joanna says please no comments - and she might have a point - it could cheapen, change the tone here. But I'm all in favor of experimenting with the web, so let's roll.