Justin Hall's personal site growing & breaking down since 1994

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Saturday 30 June

Bow Tie
My First BowTie
For a MediaBistro meal.
Thanks Sandy!

I love to write you, you know I do. It's not that I don't value this relationship, it's just that I have to get out and experience the world while I'm young. It's not good for either of us if I just stay put, even if staying put does mean stroking you all day long, which you know I'd enjoy thoroughly.

Besides, if I learn enough of a new language and culture, I can share that with you. Even if you don't really like to leave the house, I know you like to see what people do when they move about.

And you'll be glad it's testing me as a human being - I'm learning my own limits, watching myself squirm about as this education I've taken up forces me to weigh more carefully all my joyously joined commitments and lifestyle of the last few years. To be truly good at any one thing requires a lifetime of servitude. Seeing this far foreign language is an invitation to commit. Maybe I'm taking you for granted, but your language is the one I feel best wrapped around my tongue. I've been speaking so well since we began talking! You've seen some of the things I said before we met. The progress we've made together makes me think I could undertake nothing more than this and still develop all the potential I have to contribute hot air to the human race.

lce In Japanese class, I've found a friend Evans-san. Smart, mathematically inclined. He's taught me to study better. The youngest in the class at 18, pleasantly disinterested and dismissive of the stranger things in my life. I think you'd like him. He has a certain sort of encyclopediac brain which he's filled with Simpsons quotes and relatively obscure english vocabulary. I read one of his papers from high school where he used the word "phallocentric." Where did he come up with that? Lisa Simpson. And he loves early 80s music, like you do. He was just a wee one then; he wasn't buying Nu Shooz 45s like I was. I guess people are seizing the music of our childhood and identifying with it as their culture.

"Gaijin" Japan Stories:
  • Tara and Seth Immell
  • Forest Linton
  • GinJ Boards
  • Stefan's Photos

    The cake-taker:

  • Home Page by Sam Sloan
  • nihon night I have four hours of class, three hours of tutorial and three hours of homework. When I'm good. When I'm bad, I allow myself to wallow in Japanese movies, trends, hygiene, cooking and correspondence - cultural learning, I figure, which allows me to keep from being too disciplined. Idle but not idly. Otherwise I risk commitment, and verily I wonder if I can be committed anything besides you.

    You've done so much for me over the years, taught me so much. Both about you and about myself! It's as though I have met something I can fuse with my very being. This feeling steals my words sometimes, and other times I brim over with excitement ready to share the love I feel with you with the whole world.

    Two of the weighty black mothers next door are screaming their disapproval at someone - "boy you'd better get your ass back in here now!" It's an appropriate balance to the kind of communicating you and I do here.

    So I'm glad you're still willing to talk with me, even if I have neglected you. I never asked you to be entirely doting on me, just to serve me as I so gladly serve you. We're both busy, and it's nice to be able to return to the familiar dialog we've had going for so many years.

    Before I save and post this, I'll share these two paragraphs I read in the newspaper the other day. It seems to be a transformative time for this country I'm studying.

    Japan's population is aging more rapidly than any on the planet -- by 2015 one in four Japanese will be elderly. The birthrate has sunk to 1.34 per woman, well below replacement levels. (The birthrate in the United States, by contrast, is 2.08.) Last year, Japan dropped from the eighth-largest nation in the world to the ninth. The smallest class in recorded history just entered elementary school. Demographers predict that within two decades the shrinking labor force will make pension taxes and health care costs untenable, not to mention that there will not be enough workers to provide basic services for the elderly. There are whispers that to avoid ruin, Japan may have to do the unthinkable: encourage mass immigration, changing the very notion of what it means to be Japanese.


    "One spring afternoon, I visited Mitsuko Shimomura, a pioneering female journalist who, in her 60's, has taken over for her 90-year-old mother as administrator of her family's health clinic in Tokyo. She is also director of the Gender Equity Center in Fukushima prefecture, about an hour and a half outside Tokyo. "I don't regret the decline in the birthrate," Shimomura told me. "I think it's a good thing. The [unmarried young women] have unintentionally created an interesting movement. Politicians now have to beg women to have babies. Unless they create a society where women feel comfortable having children and working, Japan will be destroyed in a matter of 50 or 100 years. And child subsidies aren't going to do it. Only equality is."

    -- Parasites in Prêt-à-Porter are Threatening Japan's Economy
    by Peggy Orenstein, New York Times Magazine, 1 July 2001

    Thanks Tinna for the funny link on learning Japanese.

    Sunday 17 June

    I get my car insurance from Wayne de Shera at California State Auto Insurance. He's about six foot six, with a prodigious beard, and he's fond of large black sunglasses indoors, gold chains and Wrangler-brand clothes. His dedicated seventies dress matches a sort of slick but friendly patter than manages to be both encouraging and provocative. I enjoy going to see him, even if going to see him is a sign that I have some insurance troubles.

    Wayne De Shera
    The weather here is bright and hot, usually about ten degrees warmer than foggy San Francisco. Here I'm sitting in my backyard, eating breakfast, reading the paper, procrastinating on Japanese flashcards.

    porch shot   porch shot

    Maybe I was thinking about Amy.

    Daily merging a new language with my own, and as I'm learning Japanese, I'm remembering and replacing English and Spanish - I like the idea that I have a polyglot tongue.

    I would like to send email in hirigana and katakana to Sanae, so I'm screwing around with Microsoft Global Input Method Editors with some help from Enrico. It seems to work! As long as I'm willing to compose email in Word 2000 in Windows 2000, I can write out individual syllables - o-ya-su-mi-na-sai and it puts that into Hirigana. Wondrous! Technology.

    My other task for the last few days has been to finish up the research for the glossary on the Replay book. Replay was a 1999 conference on video games with some very agile minds. I did not attend, but Eric thought I might enjoy the footwork required to explain some of the language and references used by the panelists in their exerpted remarks. He was right - today researching I found New Players, New Games by Brenda Laurel, and Chris Crawford's I Had a Dream speech.

    Thursday 14 June

    practicing unsafe society:

    How exciting - I travel a lot. And then I come home to this:

    weeks of mail

    I've let my car and health insurance lapse, I think. I haven't had time to open that mail - and I wouldn't know which envelope to open first.

    I drive down the road an American Ronin. Driving and living without insurance is a kind of terrorist act here - "existing without reservation" or "existing in a state of trust."

    sucker and suckler are one letter apart As I age and come to see the potential for complicated dismay I want to insure myself. Of course I'm too busy being unemployed to manage my affairs much better than this. Sometimes I think, heck yeah, I'm living life hard in blue sunglasses, like a boy should. Then I remember I'm 26 and as some jaded big talkers put it, that means I'm coming up on thirty. By that point, I'm told, your life pattern is determind, time slows, and you wait for death. As I approach such august circumstances, this lifestyle seems determined by increasingly uninsured velocity - practicing "unsafe society." Each time I learn a lesson, ie, how to be a professional, another aspect of society comes along to teach me, ie, timing and fatherhood. And when I grasp control, and I feel like a professional liver, more activities entice me to lose balance.

    One week in, I'm already behind on my Japanese class homework - my teacher described our class today "like a bullet train" moving so fast it's like a full time job. I love the material, but I seem to think I'm still a freelance writer who needs to explore culture and communicate online. And an aspiring man who reads nutrition charts and cooks himself dinner.

    And an occasional uncle who visits the kids to find Elias like this:


    Nine years old, he's perched over Unreal Tournament, playing and talking on the phone at the same time. It was delightful to see and eventually boring to be around. If only I'd stayed home, we could have played together. (Or if my laptop could handle some better graffix we could have each perched over our machines, wired wraiths, wizard ninjas trading our youth for machined adrenaline, in the same room, swearing so loud that Mom has a problem)

    Gideon, my twelve year old nephew, at the end of the evening, he tells me, "You have a wry sense of humor."

    Still I don't know my Japanese ABCs like sun stains on my eyelids - half the kids in my class speak chinese or korean, that's a leg up, and the other half are brushing up on their high school japanese. And they're all students it seems - I'm some kind of strange post-graduate humper. A semi-professional in an urban oasis of sun splashed shoulders and studied slacking. For fun, I picked the paratrooper's course.

    Still I walk every day the only fool in sleeves and a tie (I left the suit jacket in spring). Around me beautiful young women pile small wrinkles around their noses and thumbs with smoke sticks. And besides the insurance and the STD tests and Rolling Stone not calling me back, I'm going to school again, and I'm learning. Thank you, holy mother, holy father.

    do the hustle

    "Getting paid in the early days of the web? Well, once I figured out how to write for other people besides myself, I wrote for Feed just before they closed, and I wrote for Salon during their last year too. Salon, I couldn't get the contract turned around because I wasn't good with mail then either, so I never got my $50 from them. Yeah, $50 was all they were paying by then. It was a tough time to be a technology culture freelancer. But boy did we have lots of sex with ourselves in those days!"

    Tuesday 12 June

    glasses dudes
    Hello Grampa

    Sunday 10 June

    Travelling I've been meeting a lot of new folks. Sometimes they turn around and ask me some questions too, so I've been doing a fair amount of personal processing along these lines:

    What do you do?

    I study things and I write about my life on my web site.

    How do you get paid?

    Occasionally I am invited to give talks, and that can pay well. Mostly I write for other magazines or web sites.

    So what are you studying?

    Summer 1998, my Macintosh was taken at gunpoint. I started using a PC instead. Using a PC lead me to rediscover the games I loved growing up. Foiled trying to enter the gaming industry directly, I worked at as a way to study games. After two years in the industry, I have a rich range of gaming literate people I can talk to.

    Sign of the Times
    My cabdriver and I each talk to someone we prefer.

    Towards the end of my stay at, it became clear to me that the most exciting thing happening in technology is wireless. As the shine on the internet business stone was being tarnished, the rock of mobile technology was being polished with a lot of attention and cash. Mobile phones, high-speed wireless internet connections, and the types of entertainment and distraction that we might see shoved at us through these devices - this was the natural synthesis of my learning about games and technology.

    In April I travelled to Japan to write about the Tokyo Game Show and the emergent XBox. I was thoroughly stimulated by Tokyo.
    Between games and wireless, I seem to run into Japanese hardware and software designers once every two weeks. They often speak some limited English, but a piece of a technology culture future is locked up in their language.
    For years I've loved Japanese animation; it seems like a fifth of my films have Japanese language soundtracks.

    So open to new studies, Ben mentioned his summer course and I joined him. My intensive intro to Japanese classes starts at UC Berkeley on Monday. Ten weeks, four hours a day, with 2-4 hours of homework nightly. Then at my Uncle Jim's suggestion, I'm going to try living in Japan for a few weeks to rub it all in.

    What do you read these days?

    Hourly: Mindex

    Daily: Slashdot, NYTimes, Plastic, GameDaily (ieMag)

    Weekly: The Economist (in Print), FatBabies, MagicBox, The Feature

    Paperly: Life and Death of Yukio Mishima, a biography of the mid-century Japanese unusual body building obsessed Imperialist latent homosexual writer. Thanks for the loaner WB.

    Well, who do you love?

    Ikkyu, Mama.

    Friday 1 June

    May was getting too long.

    Hello June! Left Stockholm, Linda and DemonBox on May 31, boarded a ferry, and landed in Helsinki

    I've never been on a cruise - this was one of the smaller floating consumer ziggurats, without the pall of luxury or class.

    The Fun Club.
    looking out over the ocean, seated in the "fun club" listening to foreigner and toto, mixed in with finnish pop anthems

    A view.
    looking out the window at a picturesque sunrise, and in the midst of a romantic vista of the Swedish archipelagos islands, three other giant hulking mall boats are lumbering by, leaving a trail of foamy brown sea water.

    (MP3, headphones)
    basking in the glow of the 7pm sun, watching the passing islands, listening to Glassworks remembering a wry girl.

    sea commerce

    These boats are infamous for hosting drunken finns/swedes on useless round-trip excuses to drink. People seemed surprised that I would want to get off at my destination, that I wasn't just going along for the ride. The ticket, for a bunk in a room with four bunks, it was cheap seeming - $45. They make the money up in alcohol sales. Duty/tax free store online sells tobacco, chocolate and likker, and people indulge. The liquor section is perched over the engines - the sound of ten cases of whiskey bottles rattling rapidly is a call to some strange sin.

    Imagining Scandinavian drunken boat mayhem, David said "it's like Ragnarok." At first I was excited by this prospect, then I realized I think I've seen that kind of fun. So I've eaten my bread and avocado purchased offline, and I'm in bed by midnight, after wandering to see many long faced white people and four palestinians? pouring perverted grain between their increasingly loose lips. A cover band with bad lighting played 80s hits while older couples waltzed. I knew three drinks would get me involved, but I had a laptop and a bed more beckoning than lonely girls.

    Portrait of the Curmudgeon as a Young Man.
    Three am the one bunkmate unaccounted for stumbles in with a woman talking backwards, loudly, at great length about nothing I can understand. He uses the bathroom, she continues the conversation, directed towards the sleeping; the man who smoked in our non-smoking room, the ethiopian economics student, and the 143 pound sapling who had the immediate audacity to attempt communication with an angry finger pressed to his lips and an exhalation channelled through lips and teeth. It got us notwhere, after ten minutes downloading drunkenness, this man shifted his performance into a horizontal rhythmic sleep sharing of his abused chest and lungs.

    Preparing to exit the cabin the next day I hear the most gargantuan throat scraping - as though gravel coated in battery acid was being poured onto fresh human skin tightened over a large steel drum. I felt immediate pity for that brother, and when he entered I discovered that the most hard-partying among us had been in his fifties, or prematurely aged to be that way, and I realized that his demons were far sadder than any I'd seen in the Box.

    Some people harnassed the web for cash.
    Some people harnassed that cash for culture.



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