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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.

My memories of


Thus spake:
> Don Wrege on Japan Bound
> justin on The Kids are Alight
> justin on Sitting in the Shadow
> Watkins Dan on Strauss Family Picnic
> on Masked Man
> on Keyboard Kometh
> lucydeecy on Consensual Boosterism
> on absense
> on weird
> on the garnet eyed stranger
> Haider Nadim on still haven't dealt with health insurance
> on Mobile Phone Radiation!
> on First Issue: Island Chronicles
> on Breakfast for Sale
> on Digital Photo Cataloging
> on Sagan's Stars

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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June 25, 2003

Japan Bound

Last night we bought tickets and confirmed our departure for Japan this Monday. As hot and sticky as Oakland has been, Tokyo should be hotter and stickier. I've never spent a "shower-ish" summer there - I've heard Tokyo's the wettest.

mt. justin in Japan - thank you Kenji Mt. Justin in Japan, thank you Kenji Eno
Well Jane and I will be getting wet with the other First International Mobloggers Conference*. We've got an assignment to record the proceedings and I'm moderating a panel. We'll visit Jane's aunt, the best cook I've met in her town. We'll buy lots of socks with individuated toes. We'll eat skewers and noodles and foods I now miss surrounded by burgers and burritos. In short, I'm excited to return. And make one more use of my Japan Journalist Visa!

Work looms, everlarge - I'm constantly questing for purpose. As Jane mentioned on her web site, we've been working on a book about the social impact of video games, studied across Asia and the United States. So that will continue on planes and straw mats and stores lit neon pink. Research will mingle with good people and nostalgia to give our jetlagged footfalls purpose, for nine days.

* - Moblogging - mobile weblogging - basically, posting a picture and text to the web from your mobile phone or PDA. I wrote about Moblogging in November: From Weblog to Moblog.

Sounds like fun doesn't it? Sending pictures and text to friends or the web at large? "Look at all this food! Won't you come join us!" Or, "I just landed in Tokyo, and this is the face of the security officer who will proceed to take my phone away for illegal use of a camera in a secure zone." I wonder what the health-check quarantine zone at Tokyo's Narita airport will look since the advent of SARS in much of the rest of East Asia. Man it's hot in Oakland!

Posted by Justin at 07:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 24, 2003

The Kids are Alight

When I have a chance to hang out with some teenagers, I see a kind of electronic fluency that I only aspire to. They swim in a media soup.

I asked my fourteen year old nephew, when you sleep over at your friend's house, what do you guys do? We hang out, play with music software. You play with it? Actually my friend does. So my nephew Gideon watches his buddy lay down tracks with Reason, a virtual music studio program (the kid saved up to buy a copy). That's pretty advanced stuff! It's the 21st century equivalent of a couple of dudes sitting around with a guitar and a four-track, copying licks from Led Zeppelin or even better, Hot Rats, and gradually making up their own stuff.

rheingoldinI was hanging out with Howard's daughter Mamie, she's eighteen now I think. He has a digital still camera, and she's been burning up the memory card making short videos. I have had a digital camera for years, and that camera has always had the capacity to make short videos. I have made exactly three. I think I'm spoiled by experience - I want to have a full featured video camera device to make videos on. But she doesn't care. She uses a small digital camera, and makes short videos. I didn't get to see them last time I was with her, but there were about six of her friends coming over, and they were going to watch Mamie's works.

These kids don't only play with media technology, they also share it between themselves. And this isn't just printed out poems and stories, like what I shared with most of my friends in high school. It's moving chirping downloadable media that can be shared with any other kid with a computer, who can then edit it and pass it back to you.

Watching all this exploding digital creativity these kids have has me hoping that things like "digital rights management" (DRM) don't slow them down. People who have large investments in old media are working to make sure that digital bits are as precious and hard to copy as illuminated manuscripts. So they're talking to the people who make the tools the kids use so that those tools will protect copyrights arbitrated by publishers. So Gideon's friend better not try to grab too many pieces of other songs to put together in his own song. Or Mamie couldn't add a soundtrack by a commercial artist to her short video clips.

These kids don't seem too preoccupied with all this - grades and the opposite sex are more pressing issues. In terms of media, they're just having fun and sharing with their friends. Let's hope it stays that way.

- Digital Rights Management and Fair Use
- Digital Rights Management and the Disabled
- Microsoft's next release of Windows will have DRM copy protection built-in
- Piracy is Progressive Taxation, an essay by publisher Tim O'Reilly

Posted by Justin at 08:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 19, 2003

Sitting in the Shadow

fondooLast night at a fondue dinner with Jane and Alan, I was greeted with this startling commendation, "My blogfather." A woman of some confidence and smile recognized me as someone with a web page that preceeded her own, and she wanted to honor me with her handshake and a thanks. It was heartwarming. I had just spilled a full glass of wine towards Alan's lap, so I was feeling a bit beside myself, working to reconcile my generous speedy spirit with a propensity to interrupt social flow with accidents. Her enthusiasm was infectious and I felt immediately better. To boot, she dropped a bill on the table towards another bit of wine to replace that I'd spilled - a kind donation I didn't turn away though good grace might have dictated otherwise.

Tish runs FatShadow.com; it looks like a warm place to visit. I read there today about our exchange that she would have enjoyed a hug, a feeling of family or familiarity. Certainly the "blogfather" appelation was intimate-seeming, I felt a not unwelcome warmth crawling up my shirt as she saluted my scrawny self for some kind of seniority. Whew! It was an honor she gave me. And so I would have given her a hug if I had been more present, not recovering from a spill, or shocked to be treated so nicely by a stranger cum friend.

Posted by Justin at 12:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 18, 2003

Strauss Family Picnic

A National Public Radio interview on the issue of military contracts awarded to Halliburton spawned a vigorous family debate tonight. "Don't tell me you believe this Halliburton conspiracy bullshit," one family-member said.

Earlier this year, the government seemed to be saying, "Saddam is a madman. If we don't neutralize him now, he could attack us any day." There are plenty of madmen worldwide; many with US antipathy. I didn't see why Saddam had to be neutralized before we had more worldwide support for the idea. "Because of weapons of mass destruction." Again, lots of countries have those. So why bother? In the absense of honesty in politics, I am left to make my own guesses, as to why we had to invade Iraq in March.

Well that's political reality, a boyfriend of a family member argues. You can't expect them to tell the truth. My reply: I can only be responsible for my own behaviour. I work to be honest, to act with integrity. And so I demand the same from my elected representatives.

Some people at the table felt the US government has undertaken a morally sound reformation of middle eastern politics. But, they argue, the government couldn't be honest about their motives and goals because their agenda was too radical. You can't make important change by committee, that logic goes.

I say its cynical to assume the mistrust of the populace, and then misinform or ignore them. But besides betraying a cynical view of my countrymen, the integrity and honesty vacuum of the Iraq war rationale leaves space for people to wonder if the war wasn't waged for someone's economic gain, or for petty personal agendas.

Imagine if Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Powell had announced, "We want to change the social and political structure of the Middle East, where we get most of the oil we use in the United States, and we want to demonstrate our national power and willingness to use it worldwide." Then citizens could have readily discussed the morality of imposing change on other nations and the type of position we want to have in the world. Instead factions argue over their own facts, scuttling about uselessly while elements within the government carry on without us.

Perhaps citizens aren't supposed to know. But there's that cynicism again. Obviously I need to study more about Leo Strauss.

Posted by Justin at 12:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 17, 2003

Masked Man

sculptWho is this art bandit pictured here? In a customary wide-brimmed hat but now sporting a bandana to protect his lungs from dust, this is a photo of Howard Rheingold, soapstone sculptor, pausing from rasping and grinding to answer the phone. (As is customary on Links.net, you can click on this photo for a blow-up).

Posted by Justin at 08:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Keyboard Kometh

Jane and keyboardI helped Jonathan Steuer clean out his old Dolores Street apartment; he gave me an old Casio CZ-1000 keyboard. I have it on my desk here, in front of the old Mac I use for scanning and scribbing on the Wacom. Now, sometimes, Jane stops by my desk to speak with me, and she can't resist turning it on and practicing a few bars from Dealership, or playing around with new songs. And I can't resist either; after a few hours of pluggity-plug on the computer, I'll stand up, move over about four paces, and noodle around a bit while I look out the window.

Posted by Justin at 08:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Consensual Boosterism

pacific futureSpent the weekend at the Stanford Business School, watching my brother graduate with his MBA. As best I can tell, the business school experience is one long bath in a very specific pool - getting dyed wet with the colors of a high-level network in commerce.

I was on the tail end of being sick, so I wasn't up for some of the late night parties. Just for a moment I turned to Jane and said, "Quick, let's get to know these people! They're going to be running the world!" But really I was struck by their demeanor - they were all optimistic, boostering. Trained to meet new people and see opportunities, they listened and smiled and commended innovation. Perhaps this was just the case with the people my brother introduced me to; like my reunion weekend, I was working to find the common characteristic here.

Myself I've fallen behind a bit - my brother asked, after his graduation ceremony - "did you meet any of the families sitting around you?" I had to answer no, twisting his face up in a moment of disappointment. I sat in a folding chair, talking to Jane, talking to my Mom, talking to George, my family members. I looked up at the sun, I watched the leaves. I flipped through the book listing the graduates, counting letters to see who had the longest name - (I suspect it was Katariina Amara Rajapaksa-Yapa Tuovinen). Jane and I picked out name-fragments we might use for characters in future Dungeons and Dragons sessions. In short, I stimulated myself with the materials at hand, not reaching out to other folks.

Part of that may have stemmed from blowing a giant glutinous glowing snotload every five minutes into whatever paper I could find. That and regular chest-seizing hacking spasms kept most folks at a distance. Illness aside, these days, I find myself lacking some of the appetite for rapid-fire meet and greet since I have so much ongoing conversation to tend to.

Posted by Justin at 07:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 11, 2003


Tonight Jane's playing a concert with her band, Dealership. It's the first time since we've been dating that I've been in California and I've missed hearing them perform. I wouldn't have skipped it if I wasn't a mess, sick.

At her suggestion, I'm listening to "(This Is) The Dream Of Evan And Chan" by Dntel. A young man laments the interruptions of machines over melody and static. I posted something to Chanpon for Mimi. Maybe I'll let movies play as I manuever through Morrowind. I wish I had a copy of 26 Bathrooms to watch.

Dealership is playing again on June 21st and June 28th - these concerts look to be multimedia events, with video and performance besides the band. If I can push back from the computer and console, I'll continue reading a book.

Posted by Justin at 05:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


My weekend roaming in the wee hours shod in wet shoes left me with a wicked cold. Oddly enough, it's a cold that has me burping every few minutes, trying to relieve these massive gas bubbles in my upper chest. Burping and hacking, burping and hacking.

Posted by Justin at 10:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 09, 2003

the garnet eyed stranger

Tales from my recent college reunion.
Posted by Justin at 09:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

still haven't dealt with health insurance

Here's an idea - concoct a gender-ambiguous name and then subscribe that person to some decent health insurance. Then we can trade off being that person.

Posted by Justin at 09:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 05, 2003

Mobile Phone Radiation!

I wrote about duelling scientists here, how I've never researched something with as much disagreement and divergeant opinions as mobile phone radiation.

I originally titled the resulting article "Brain Baking Battles" but I guess that was a little too b-horror movie, so it's now named the rather innocuous Talking Heads. See if you can sense the contentiousness that went into this piece! It's part of a Corporate Social Responsibility series at TheFeature.

Posted by Justin at 07:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 04, 2003

First Issue: Island Chronicles

I just got my first newsletter of "The Island Chronicles" a series of notes from Mark Fraunfelder. With his wife Carla Sinclair, five year old daughter and an infant, they're giving up life in Los Angeles to move to an island in the South Pacific.

Island ChroniclesA former editor at Wired, now a freelance writer and illustrator, Mark has a tone verging on the sardonic considering his attempts at simple living. It's entertaining to read about someone in the media business, and likely surrounded by computers, books and CDs, compacting his life and moving. With family!

I spent much of last year living in Japan. I'd meet people back in the States, they'd say, "It's great you're travelling now [before you get a spouse/kids/real job/serious american life subscription]." In the face of that late-life resignation, it's quite heartening to see an entire nuclear family unit make a radical departure from the ordinary American in favor of a far-off full-fledged adventure lifestyle switch.

Their writing so far has been an affirmation of beauty and relaxation over efficiency and universal access. I'll be curious to see how they fare with that over the long term.

Island Chronicles - including a link to the recommended email journal.

Posted by Justin at 04:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Breakfast for Sale

I cashed in a couple ten thousand United miles to get a US Airways ticket to visit my five-year college reunion. I'll be flying from San Francisco to Swarthmore Pennsylvania, a long way to travel for two nights. I'm looking forward to seeing faces outside of the few I've kept in touch with, and hopefully a few Professors besides (two with personal web pages: Kitao and Burke).

For the last two years, I flew United almost exclusively, back and forth from California to Asia. Now I'm flying another US domestic carrier. My flight leaves at 6.30am. Will there be food service? I asked the operator. "Breakfast will be for sale, for $7." Looks like I'm taking part in a bold new experiment in travel concessions - charging at the door.

Food and drink are one way to make people feel more comfortable. That's true the world over - 'have a drink, stay a minute" or "can I get you some tea?" Even with the elation of a new place or a good companion, travel can be discombobulating, unsettling the stomach and grinding the nerves. I've found a microwave dish of salty cheese pasta that I wouldn't eat on land was among the best thing that could come along during a flight. I wonder how it will be to sit and watch some people order and snack on pricey muffins, while others gaze at the food longingly or quizzically? Maybe people will start sharing reviews and information, or maybe a stray pickle. I'll hope to bring along some of my freezer food, and make all of them jealous.

Posted by Justin at 04:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 03, 2003

Digital Photo Cataloging

Since I got my most recent digital camera in May 2001, I've taken 10.5 gigabytes of pictures, over 16,000. I don't throw many away, so I can reach back into a festival in Japan, or a party in New York and get the inbetween moments, upon request.

But the archives are sprawling. I need some kind of system to catalog them. Ideally, I'd like to have each file tagged with attributes like "event" "people" "place" and so forth. My only filing system now is by month; unfortunately my camera doesn't tag my photos with the date and time. I'm going through my archives about twice a month now to find a photo for somebody else; preferably I'd spend a week tagging every photo and then I could use a search engine on my hard drive and find precisely the shot they want.

Posted by Justin at 11:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 02, 2003

Sagan's Stars

Last night thirty black-clad people with flashlights flocked to the Marin Headlands, a nature preserve with a few fifties wooden buildings scattered amidst the shrubs and trees leading up to the California ocean. Inside an old gymnasium, in the pitch black, we huddled together, ran about in circles, formed constellations, and exploded into squaredance formation. We were stars, galaxies, positrons, for the sake of videocameras belonging to the band Sagan, directed by Ryan Junell.


You can find mention of Sagan members in this San Francisco Chronicle article "Electro punk revolution," which includes a picture I took of Jay, Bevin and Ryan at South by SouthWest two years ago. The human stars in a darkened gym should emerge on an upcoming Sagan DVD.

Posted by Justin at 10:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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