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The New Orleans Bookfair

Thursday, 23 October -<link>

filthy, cluttered

I haven't showered since Korea. Two days ago? I would shower, but I'm busy. Working - cranking, making webthings. It feels good! Even better since I found Room Full of Mirrors online (saved me having to rip it from LP), now playing on repeat. Now if I could just stop scratching my head - a phantom itch is turning into something irritated; I haven't cut my nails since Tokyo.

That and I managed to go to Aikido again. A morning session, in the middle of my work day. I woke up at 3am, put on my aikido robes and sat there for five hours until class started. Still haven't changed clothes. So work indicators are favorable; personal hygeine is in the early conceptual stages. I did scrub the kitchen down today though; that's cleaner than I am.

All this comes up in part because I have a houseguest. Actually two. I knew I'd be gone for about three months this fall, so I needed someone to roost in my home machines. Writer Austin is staying here, between apartments. With his cat, and all of his possessions. He wrote me email a few days before I came back:

Just to warn you, there's a slight problem with my stuff. Basically I had more stuff than I anticipated, and it's kinda filling up your house. ... it currently looks like one of those hyperspace accidents where one space ship appears inside another, and everyone dies.
I tend to give a lot of slack to people who make me laugh; most people make me laugh. Austin makes me laugh. And he makes me want to clean the kitchen - about the only room in this hobbit-warren house where half-empty suitcases and boxes filled with papers aren't overtaking human seating and resting places.

Wednesday, 22 October -<link>

stopped in flight

I have a choice right now, as always - how to spend my time. There's a folder full of pictures to sort through; when I look at them I think of words and stories surrounding them, how they might be thumbnailed and laid out for the web. People seem to like my travel stories, more when there are pictures. I could do that, and people might be happy. I like looking back on my pictures as well - it reminds me that I've been places, seen things, participated in things.

There's a number of photos of me in this batch - other people grabbed the camera, or I set it up that way. Jane noticed that I'm often aware of a camera. She noted that in a sort of disdainful way, and perhaps I can see that in these faces - that abnormally young visage grasping machines and extending tongues and poking fun. How much fun can you have on screen?

The movie ended and I crept across my asile-seatmate to the bathroom. In the mirror I saw my reddened eyes. I laughed at myself, the site of my bespectacled self still teary. I had been choking up for the last forty minutes, and just as I shook out the last of my clear piss, I fell against the wall of the bathroom for another sob.

Acceptance of a father, I thought, that's what she wanted. Manifesting her own power and being proud. And he? He wanted to understand things, in context.

I feel so trapped. Perhaps slightly less so when I manage to cry at a well-crafted film. Whale Rider sews up its plot with some mysticism and comforting resolution. I used to dream about whales; long tales extending beyond my vision, dark amidst the deep blue, pushing forward as I followed behind. Even that memory holds some chest jerking power now if I remember it properly - linger with the picture in my mind. This film put that picture onscreen, with an estranged young woman reaching into it.

I don't have much adversity in my life - death, absence and ignorance. I have time to worry about customer service and upgrades. I'm just trying to get along, to comfort myself amidst auto-generated chaos and trevail. It's not exactly guilt that challenges me today. I don't linger and I think I do it on purpose.

There's a lot of smoking in Korea. I sense the outer edge of a thin cloud and I quickly inhale, holding all the air I can. It pushes up at the top of my ribs, arching sensation through my shoulders. I feel completely constrained, I realize how shallow my breathing is. I'm on edge, you could say, or ready I propose, breathing sallow to stay awake.

Maybe someday I'll tired of being awake. I don't want to miss things. But I'm looking at this boy around me and I've been slowly studying what it means to be an adult. Money was easy - there's media about money all around me. I have good advice to follow from my step-father George and my brother Colin spends his days watching dollar signs. I'm just beginning to understand how to increase money in my life, how to play with it, how to restrain it and watch it grow.

That's a ready challenge; my world demands it. Can't be a steady roaming freelancer without some idea of where your next meal comes from. And for my leisure days I must provide - some security when I no longer wish to pound pavement and keyboard to craft the spun truth of the day.

I've turned more professional over time, you know? Still I have comments on my web site now, a few more voices in my head as I'm crafting stories. Here's an emerging belief of mine - if I want to write personally on the web, but still maintain the composed exterior of a strategic visionary's web site, I can bury my thoughts and feelings deep in extended pieces of text. I watch myself as a guide in this regard - I would seldom if ever read something this long online.

All this adulthood is fine and good, I'm wondering what longer-term challenge I might face. Howard is my teacher, I'm proud to say. I tell people who dig into my story in person, people who don't know me - I found a writing mentor and boss and he's now my best friend. Howard surrounds himself with images drawn from the psychic recesses of disparate traditions. Extra-geometric eagles stare down somnulent leaf-faced wood spirits. Last year, before he began sculpting in earnest, he was gazing into misty landscapes drawn in staggered dimensions. Peering into old souls - he quoted Han Shan. Howard has handed me books before; the last one I picked up spoke simply of elemental systems.

Eating with two pescatarians, I ordered the live octopus. I had heard some tales of food tentacles moving on a plate; struggling against eaten. And there they came, nerve-ending's life, to be quenched between my teeth. Should I write shorter? Condense these thoughts into line and verse - mercifully loaded with images, the work to be carried out later in mind and on tongue, saving eyeball time to scan all these lines. I think of little poems penned by Ikkyu that inspire me now - he laments his desire to consume eight-legged ocean dwellers as he remembers his calling to enlightenment. In far less space than I consume!

Ikkyu's calling could have been place and time specific. There are many Ikkyus, perhaps - energetic buddhist priests then and now - some animated on television, some told by a Daitokuji tour guide in Kyoto - Ikkyu remade the temple after the wars, remade it and remade the faith. Perhaps this woman sensed my auto-generated sense of comraderie with a corpse now absorbed into the earth - he brought abstraction to faith. Abstraction grounded in desire, understanding! He wore a red thread.

On a plane arching over the internet buried deep in the ocean, Whale Rider seems to be a film made to charge tradition with new current. How to combat a sense of drift and social ills with modern Maori? With the art and ritual that girded the loins that built and shoveled for this civilization. Wherever it is. My recent tradition is professionalism. And good conduct -

My mother is a lawyer, tell her that. Kim leans over towards his girlfriend and translates, inflecting some small surprise in his voice. She took one week off from work to have me. One week? he asks, eyes wide, incredulous. Yes, one week to make me and then back to work. He translates again, and before he can finish I am speaking again, "and now she's helped make a school to teach young women math and science and technology." He is kind to continue translating my admiration, though my mother's kind deeds hold slightly less sensation in Seoul than the story of a working woman with little leave for maternity.

I travel the developed world - countries where you're likely to find wireless connections (and I'm likely to write about them). Even there they have problems - problems that confound me as the basic needs being met amplify social imbalances. I found Korea very chauvenist. Is that something I should write about on my web page? For whom? For Christine, who might add a story, a rebuttal or confirmation? For Jane, so she might see that I'm attuned to gender oppression in her absence? For myself, to understand what I care about?

If we measure my cares by my words, the only unpaid writing I've done in the last few days before this screed was to pen ideas for an internship. I want some company is all of this.

Write a new bible. Run for office. Speak a prayer. Be the first to dance. Visit a friend. My love is large, my needs as well. I can push myself to so much; I lack the means to measure the proper use of my remaining moments. I can learn a million things - watch me. I'll share my notes here, those I make time to transcribe.

Reaching for the door bolt in the bathroom, next month I might go to Europe. Another plane ride like this. Would I work my way up to business class again? Those thoughts were gone fast - replaced by memorized desire - other challenges. New challenges! Like a vow of silence and long days spend out of the running for anything. I could be a spiritual person, I thought, a technology journalist who stopped buying things.

Monday, 20 October -<link>

full blast cold

It's probably from travelling for a month - staying out late and eating irregularly. I've been swabbing the inside of my nose out with Zinc each day for a week. And drinking Vitamin C tablets! But five days ago we lost the remote control for the air conditioner in this hotel room, and the AC unit up in the wall has been blowing cold air hard on us as we slept ever since. We can't shut it off! And then we drank Brian's contact lenses by accident. So it's been lively. And unhealthy.

Except perhaps yesterday morning; I finally got Brian into the bathhouse below our hotel. We showered and soaked with the other Korean men somehow able to luxuriate in water in the middle of a Monday. Having been there before - I felt slightly bold and familiar. I requested a "te mele" for us - a Korean body scrub. Armed with a stiff, somewhat scratchy towel, this gentleman in boxer shorts scrubbed over all of our skin as we lay naked before him on a rubber table. I watched him work over my arms - his stiff towel pulled off my first few layers of skin. Shortly, aftter just a bit of scrubbing, there were piles of gray, dead old Justin laying there on the table. Astonishing to lose things you couldn't even see! Am I constantly a little bit gray?

After this Korean body scrub, I was a little bit pink. Relief came as warm water was tossed over my exfoliated body, and he finished up by covering me completely with suds, soaping and massaging my skin. What a wonderful twenty minutes.

Now Brian is gone. I have less than 24 hours left in Seoul - two meetings, and perhaps a chance to keep these sniffles, coughing and sneezing down to a minimum before the long flight back to America. An ass-pocket full of photos and a boy looking forward to a long time in his bed.

Wednesday, 15 October -<link>

Writing Broadly: TGS2k3

My recent trip to Tokyo was based around the Tokyo Game Show 2003 - a place to take the pulse of the Japanese video game industry. I spent the week after in a series long trips to various game company offices, collecting photos and interviews. Then I followed up by email, amassing impressions.

hall_index_lg.jpgI spent the first five days in Korea sifting through all of that material to make a linked-up, image-rich Event Wrap-Up: Tokyo Game Show 2003 piece for the web site of Game Developer Magazine. (You'll probably need a name and password to see the article - free to read after registration). I didn't get enough sleep and I pushed myself towards a body breakdown, but I'm proud of this article, the first commission I've had to research and write broadly about the Japanese game industry.

After the conference, I struck up conversation with a smiling foreigner in a Tokyo hotel elevator. He turned out to be Bill Swartz, someone who had been working between Japan and the USA for decades, with a strong sense of the state of the industry. A perfect, if unlikely connection. I'm finding that random interactions with friendly strangers can yield fantastic contacts for future stories.

Tuesday, 14 October -<link>

Mobile Religious Ringtones

A recent post on BoingBoing inspired this question: should your mobile phone profess undying devotion to your diety?

Monday, 13 October -<link>

Robin Rocks

robinAvid photographer Robin Hunicke snuck up on the web and posted reams of photos from our week together in Tokyo. We went to the fish market, here's her Tsukiji Tokyo Fish Market Photos (including my favourite - quel atmosphere!). It's fun to see another set of eyes on my Tokyo travels, including my footwear! Heck, all her photos are good looking. Here's an astonishing photo of the guy who is staying with me in Oakland, Austin. Don't see much of him these days though. In the last month, I've seen more of Robin!

Monday, 13 October -<link>

Triple Teamed at Barber DoDo

In the second basement of the Coatel Chereville, there is a small health club with a lot of machines for exercising. Nearby is a "sauna" they call it, with a number of bathing facilities. There's the "amythyst room" with large chunks of quarts stuck in the ceiling, a poppy rendered in mosaic. There you sit in hot, wet air. There's the "yellow soil room" - pans filled with hot earthy chunks sit near an electric heater in a large wood walled, clay ceilinged space. Nearby are three tubs - hot, hot with jets, and a cold cold pool. Near there are sitting and standing shower facilities, and past those, two rooms for snoozing.

Access to that will cost you five thousand won. I paid and I was only in there for thirty minutes. While I have the capacity to spend half a day in a tub and sauna arrangement, I wanted to use the facilities to clean up and relax a bit - I was going to have a massage.

When I was leaving Tokyo last week, I got halfway from Shinjuku to Narita airport when I realized I'd left my passport at the hotel. I had been running very early for my flight; having to double-back was going to make me very late. I wasn't sure I was going to make it. The next express train to Naria would have me disembarking at 6.27pm, and my flight left at 7. That's not a lot of time for ticketing, security, customs and immigration. I spent the late afternoon in a quandry, a panic. Where would I sleep? At the airport? Was it even worth making the effort to get there so late? I called United and warned them, and I decided to push on, in the face of no compelling alternative option. I wanted to get to Korea that night.

I got off the train at 6.30pm. I ran through all stations. Once I was ticketed, a member of the United staff went along with me through security and immigration. The flight was leaving from gate 36, the last gate in the airport. I was running with my bag, hup hup hup - not in very good shape. Every hundred meters, someone from United would say "Are you Mister Hall?" and then they'd radio in that I was on my way.

I made it to the plane by 6.44pm. Un believable - 14 minutes for checkin on an international flight. I was drenched in sweat, breathing ragged, and totally relieved to have made it on the plane.

Still I had run back and forth across Tokyo, heaving my bags up and down staircases. I had so much stress in my neck, I felt deeply clenched. As I wiped heat and sweat off my glasses I thought to myself, I'm going to have a massage when I get to Seoul.

In the first basement of the Coatel Chereville in Seoul, there is a barbershop, "Barbershop DoDo." They have signs promoting "female massage" all over the hotel. An ambiguous tagline - for females? by females? of or pertaining to female things? I didn't care - after I was clean from a sauna, I went in for the full course, the body massage.

I undressed, put on a pair of boxer shorts and sat in a sort of swiss army chair. It looked like a normal barber's chair, in a small private room, but over the course of the next hour, it would unfold and extend and raise and twist to accomodate my long bulk.

A woman joined me, dressed in a black and red polyester skirt uniform. She reclined me in this technology seat, and proceeded to gently wash my feet and each of my toes. Then she flipped me over, oiled my back and worked me with her elbows. She followed deep rubbing with incredibly hot towels, laid across on my back, and covered with some kind of tarp. Then while my skin steamed, she went to work on my thighs in similar fashion. Reaching back up, she pounded my back through the towels, then removed the towels and pounded me some more. She kneaded my neck, my shoulders and my back. She climbed on top of me and walked on me with her knees. Then she flipped around and lifted and manipulated my legs. I was exhaling as much as I could - speaking no Korean save for thank you and excuse me, I tried to express my appreciation by grunting and giving the okay thumb-and-forefinger sign. And saying thank you a lot.

She flipped me over, and asked me if I wanted a face massage. Sure! I tend towards the full experience. A second woman came in, wheeling a large apparatus. She stuck a giant nozzle near my head and ran steam over me as she rubbed oil on my face, massaging my forehead and cheeks. Meanwhile, the first woman had climbed up into my chair and she was somehow bending my knees around my other knees and pulling and hitting my legs. It all felt fantastic. One woman rubbed my oiled chest, while the first woman kneaded my oiled thighs. Two sets of oiled hands working over my oiled flesh - I felt quite lucky. I was shocked that I didn't have a giant erection. I felt too relaxed and astonished to be sexxed up.

I think they were making jokes. They would ask me things and I would smile and shake my head and say thank you. So instead they talked to themselves, gesturing at my body and laughing. Eventually the second woman left and I was alone with the first woman. She went to work on my arms - a total relief since I have been computing near constantly since I landed. Finally I realized that she had been saying things to me all along; I hadn't understood them: she was telling me the parts of the body in Korean. I learned the words for hand, and fingers and arm and shoulder and chest. Maybe I learned the word for good, but it's hard to use a shared vocabulary of "okay" and "thank you" to build abstract concepts like "good" and "wonderful" and "gosh, please don't ever stop rubbing my shoulder."

Another woman dropped by, it was closing time. She had a perm and a frilly shirt on. She oogled my chest and pointed at my nipples and my eyelashes. Look at how long his eyelashes are! I believe she said to my massaging compatriot. She dangled a wet towel over my chest and gave a throaty laugh. She left.

The first woman gave me a glass of orange juice. I was feeling blissfully woozy. I looked down at my feet. In metal, the footrest of the chair read "Utopia." She asked me if I wanted a shampoo; the second lady had rubbed massage oil through my hair so I figured I might as well get it cleaned. A man joined us and wrapped my torso in matte silver plastic, ordering me to sit up facing the sink. Instead of leaning my head in backwards, as most hairdressers do in the states, he used a hand nozzle to wet rinse my hair as I sat up, the water and suds running down this sheet into the sink. Meanwhile, my old friend, my language teacher, was lightly pounding and rubbing my back. One set of hands rubbing my scalp, the other keeping pressure on behind me. I felt truly blessed.

She gave me some mouthwash to rinse and spit out on my plastic sheet. Then I sat up and the man blow dried my hair as she stood by. He asked where I was from, and how old I was. California 28. He finished and left. She brought out my clothes and turned away as I changed underwear. Then she helped me button my shirt. We bowed at each other, said thank you and I left for the cash register.

As I took out my wallet my hands were shaking. Lazy man's exercise - my muscles haven't been that stimulated since I hit the road and stopped going to Aikido. And travelling alone now, I hadn't been touched, sustainedly, by another person, in weeks.

How much would you pay? One hour (it seemed like three, a good three, a blissful three). I figured each of the questions, "do you want a face massage?" "do you want shampoo?" - they had all been upsells. I was prepared to pay over $200 and chalk it up to experience. Wonderful experience.

Instead, the bill was 100,000 won. Roughly US$ 85. For three people working on everything from my toes to my tits. The staff had gathered in the foyer and they were watching me. I could barely stand and I was completely happy. After I paid, the woman said, "Tip!" and I gave her another 10,000. I should have given her 20,000 or 30,000!

I left thinking that I should figure out a way that I can afford the time and money to have a massage like that every day.

Saturday, 11 October -<link>

Mobile Japan Fall Gallery posted

fall 2003 mobile phone Japan galleryfall 2003 mobile phone Japan galleryfall 2003 mobile phone Japan gallery
Pictures from the Mobile Japan Gallery

Saturday, 11 October -<link>

i have to use the bath robe

"Front desk, may I help you?"
"Hello, can I have a bath robe?"
"You have one already."
"I do? Where? I didn't see it."
"When you enter the door to your room, near there."
"Oh! Okay, I'll look again."

a few minutes later:

"Front desk, may I help you?"
"Hello, can I have a bath robe?"
"Yes, I'll send someone right up."

Shortly a maid arrives with some tissues and toilet paper.

After sixteen rings, "Front desk, may I help you?"
"Hello, can I have a bath robe? You know, like clothing, you wear after a shower."
"You have a bath robe in your room!"
"Where? I looked."
"When you enter your room, it is on the right or left."
"I don't see it!"
Positively mystified, "I'll send someone up."

A few minutes later, a young man in a suit shows up - "You don't know where your bath room is?" he points to the open door leading to the shower, toilet and sink.
"A bath robe, like you wear after a shower," gesturing with two hands over shoulders, over a bare chest, wearing only a towel.
"Oh, if you go to the second basement, there is a spa. You can wear a robe there."
"Can I bring one up to my room?"
"No, I'm sorry."
"I'll pay money."
"No, I'm sorry."
"How about if I hide one inside my shirt, and sneak back up to my room with it?"
"No, I'm sorry."
"Okay, thank you."

Friday, 10 October -<link>

email the government

A few months ago I finally joined the EFF. I was primarily interested in their struggle to preserve the rights of people with computers to continue to express themselves freely, and to share those expressions online.

There's been an unending series of sad legislation coming through the US and EU congresses/parliaments, threatening to limit these freedoms. Perhaps the internet will continue to treat censorship as damage and route around it. But there is a mightly load of money, fear and recalcitrance working to curtail the potential of digital citizens. In case innovation needs some help, I lended my voice to a recent campaign to stop the "broadcast flag" legislation:

The best inventions of humanity are made by people with access to tools and ideas. Those people make life better for everyone when they are able to share the results of their experiments.

There is a legitimate commercial interest in buying and selling media. But the primary interest of people is to solve our problems, together. I am concerned about upcoming legislation like the FCC-mandated adoption of "broadcast flag" technology for digital television. I worry that legislation like this will restrict our access to tools and ideas in favor of commercial interests, and this will slow the development of technology and culture.

At best, other people and other countries will step in to take America's place as a leading home for free thinkers. At worst, we will lead the world with blinders and earplugs, aware primarily of the loudest and largest things on the screen. There is a lot that is human and important in the margins.

American media companies, and media companies worldwide, have managed so far to keep up with a incredible torrent of technological change. They should learn to work with their audiences to make more exciting means of telling stories, instead of asking the government to help them tithe and restrain citizens from thought and commerce that comes naturally with our new and exciting machines.

This proposed broadcast flag technology is trying to solve a problem of values. Perhaps taxpayer money and political time could be better spent endorsing the importance of shared intellectual property. A discussion of the importance of the stories undergirding this culture might lead people to treat media differently, with more respect. With more participation! It seems reasonable to believe that respectful participation should be among the highest goals of this democracy. Certainly that makes more sense than trying to legislate morality with regards to media production.

Please do not mandate broadcast flag technology for digital television. Thank you for your time.

Lend your voice as well! Email the government.

Other Recent Entries:
- small hours in seoul - 7 Comments
- spametry - 7 Comments
- tears for two - 17 Comments
- my link to ODB - 12 Comments
- provoked - 10 Comments
- Pathetic, or just busy? I can't decide. - 27 Comments
- Reaching Robots at all - 1 Comments
- Personal Plug-In - 7 Comments
- recruit an airline ally - 4 Comments
- Optimal Optio - 5 Comments
- self-motivated to live - 2 Comments
- Seeking Translation - 6 Comments
- The Quickening - 6 Comments
- more time for media notes - 2 Comments
- a weakling with an indulgent mind - 4 Comments

Browse the last two months': October 2003 (18) September 2003 (13) or most everything.

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.


Thus spake:
> erika on stopped in flight
> Carlo Suares on filthy, cluttered
> alison on full blast cold
> Adelle!!!!! on Media Pirates of the Caribbean
> Mark on Review of the Helsinki Scandic Continental Hotel

waka waka! by Robin


Photo by: Robin Hunicke

I saw this girl at the Tokyo Game Show wearing these totally rad glasses. I asked if she was a game designer; she said she was just talent, a model, a booth babe sort of. But she looked like a young artist! Quirkily arrayed. I encouraged her to take her funky wardrobe and make some software. Then my disappointment was offset when she offered to let me wear her glasses after I heaped praise on them. And Robin snapped this photo!

October 2004

face front archives

I write for Game Girl Advance quite often - here's a list of my last few posts there:

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Justin's Links, by Justin Hall.
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