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Tuesday, 27 March

Getting ready to go out of town is always a dash
compounded by the last minute international

in this case, i'm glad i took the time to visit the Rheingolds today -
Judy advised me to observe my socks - I will be showing my stockinged feet to many folks.

so my socks are in the washer now
I'm not bringing any socks with holes
I'm packing foot powder.

I have to pick a look for this trip -
definitely jacket, shirt and tie - I feel more together that way
I have a museum of aged fashions to choose from:
black or color blazer?
western courdouroy with leather patches?
orvis pastel plaid?
pale yellow gauzy?
wear one, pack one?

Judy also reminded me what others had told me -
receive business cards with respect
I realized I don't have any.

clothes in the washer, I head to kinkos.

*   *   *

they don't cover my travel costs,
but I got two writing gigs - Feed and FiringSquad
nice balance of deep geekery and media theory

GX Media/, I'm honoured;
they loaned me a modern laptop and digital camera
On the road again -
the last time I travelled with a laptop and camera and published was many years ago
I'm hungry
we'll see if I can dialup
or if I have to be in the moment

*   *   *

Recently I've been of a mind that travel is best when you don't know exactly where you're headed. Accordingly, I have no hotel or lodging arranged in Japan - if e'er there were an opportunity for this theory to bite me in the ass, it will be after a twelve hour flight, launched seventeen hours into the future, surrounded by cigarette smoke, not speaking the language, carrying a suitcase, with an assignment to cover a Bill Gates speech the next morning. Why go gently?

The best is always to find a travelling companion or neatly coincidental place to stay, some bed that rises out of the ground to meet you after a good conversation or a random corner turned. My backup plan is to find a $40/night capsule hotel.

Tokyo Trip Fundraiser - over $420!
Thanks all y'all.

Saturday, 24 March

I'm seated now in my basement. Two tall black wire shelves I bought stacked with all my old computers surround me.
a lightrope left over from an amy and i bedroom installation, lays on a top shelf shining through.
a ten year old junked stereo has been called into service, along with the CD player Jesse and Sage gave me for my 8th grade birthday.
I love media machines. Now I got a place to file my cords and pile my keyboards and put these beasts into service. my hole in the ground tech power spot.

Thursday, 22 March

Tokyo Trip Fundraiser

Over $130 the first day! Amazing. Thank you!

*   *   *

These dudes are working on my house. Today they finished - the had dug out the basement, lined it with concrete, sheetrocked the walls, and moved the washer and dryer down there. They were taking their lunch at 6.30pm (no wonder they never needed to use my toilet, save once). I bought down a celebratory six pack, and tried to work up some broken spanish:

Este fin de semana, que actividad? (what's goin' on this weekend?)

Parque, parque parque (park, park park)

Caminar? Como se dice 'running'? Futbol? ("Walking? running? Soccer?")


Mi fin de semana, total computadora (i'm on the computer all weekend. (not entirely true this weekend actually))

all weekend?

yeah, all week too. you have a computer?


Three of the four dudes working on my basement share a house together and they don't have a computer. And some of these dudes are young - my contemporaries. I've got like five old computers laying around my house. Of course none of them work entirely well - one's missing a monitor, one needs a network card. But I can cobble together a system for them. Brandishing an Amiga 500, I told Steve, "este computadora - mil, novencientos, ochenta y nueve." (this computer - 1989). Then a Macintosh IIsi "1988." (I was off by two years).

es caro? (expensive?)

no, no tiene internet. (no internet, not expensive, right?)

That didn't seem to cheapen it for him. Heck this seems like the best use of my old technology - fix something up they can write and play games and screw around on. Give 'em some computer lessons too - like when I was fourteen, teaching older Chicago school moms how to use Word Perfect.

I told him, "I'll give you a computer, and you won't need parks, you won't need soccer balls."

Steve mentioned, "We'll still need women."

"Mas o menos."

Wednesday, 21 March

Here's a question - should I fool around with someone who doesn't grab me by the earlobes? Casual, get to know you penetration; possible, advisable?

*   *   *

Hands up!

Tokyo Trip Fundraiser

It's a sign of the importance of video gaming that Microsoft and Sony have joined Sega and Nintendo to fight for the attention spans of us and our kids. The next out-in-the-open skirmish in the battle to be chief global distractor will take place in Japan next week, during the Tokyo Game Show.

Hello NYTimes! Last week in Austin David Collier showed off some insane Japanese mobile phone games - where the screens lit up and danced in color with blinking lights and coherent musical soundtracks. I'm not an out-and-out gearhound, but it does seem like some part of the future might lie in these devices. And the funny thing is, the patterns of use are all being established by young Japanese people, years before my Uncle and old friends and even my Mom end up with the devices. What will Uncle Jim do when his mobile phone has the capacity to run a Hello Kitty screensaver? He'll probably have something more resembling the pond up there.

Anyhow, independent, freelance, nearly broke, Tuesday I discovered that United Airlines would fly me to Tokyo next week for just $800. That seemed pretty cheap to apperoach the other side of this sphere, and pretty cheap to expand my eyeballs with a place I've never felt before.

So now I've depleted my survival money and TV budget with the intent to study a foreign culture and a bit of the future. I started thinking pragmatically about funding sources - I went out and I bought $50 worth of Men's Magazines, and started combing the mastheads, calling each executive editor and getting an email address to pitch my story. It wasn't until Howard wrote me a little aside ("You should have been pitching this two months ago") that the truth assembled itself before my eyes -

I want to travel and write. I process the world around me relentlessly. I can either try to figure out how "PlayGearStuffMaxBoy4Him" Magazine would want my experience packaged (how does a story about a conference in March sound for your upcoming July issue?). Or I can try to have my trip in part financed by the folks who might enjoy reading about Japan. So after Patrick's lead, I started a Trip to Tokyo Fundraiser page. Amazon makes it easier to get money than the checks in the mail (so they get a 15% cut). Plus there's an interactive bar graph there - you give money, it goes up!

Shouty Mack So either way I'm headed out, and whatever I find there to make will end up here. I could stay as long as my budget holds out - well see what a few days will yeild. I aim towards the photographic density of Nepal and the textual depth of Honduras, with some of the whimsey of Swedish Toilets.

Rocky offered me a Duo 2300 to borrow for the trip - I built over one-third the pages on this site with that kind of computer! So I am feeling very excited to be on the road, on my own. Just let those major magazines try to buy my content! They can't keep up with me!

(thanks Wayne for the original gladhanding picture).

Tuesday, 20 March

I turned on "Headline to Mobile Phone" so one or twice a day I get some outlandish notice of Reuters newswires importance:
Today, "Web-Savvy Busboy Allegedly Duped Tycoons"

Monday, 19 March

the wind came,
he blew high
tongue against the sky
he loved that salty rain

"I fell all day and came down when the sun did."

humble Zeus, Hephaestus
make yourself some new leg!

but he leans too much
with his crutch
until he sees the sun
then once he's blind
he can find his ass
with two hands or one

*   *   *

My parents were lawyers. Growing up, I went to a lot of dinner parties and family events with other lawyers and judges. I met a lot of lively lawyer-folk - among the most memorable was Abraham Lincoln Marovitz, Federal Judge, Boxer, Raconteur. He just recently passed away.

I love this story about his namesake: "the tale that Judge Marovitz loved to tell is that his mother heard that Lincoln was shot in the temple, and so she thought he was Jewish."

Saturday, 17 March

Whew it's strange being alone makes me write songs. I came up with a bunch more lyrics today; I write them down but hours later I forget the melody. I have to learn how to write music notes or something.

Today Ryan, Eric and I taped our third TV segment. Yesterday's two segments were from very nice folks, but I couldn't help but think I was too stiff, trying too hard. Strange moments of interviewing, deep questions about what makes them tick. Then the cameras shut down for a minute and immediately we're having a much more fluid, useful interesting conversation. I'd have to tell myself to shut up and try to save that energy and that line of questions for the conversation itself. It was a little disheartening to be with good people who make good stuff and only taste conversational magic for a few fleeting moments.

Today's session with Jay Lesser was a total hoot. He had a big handlebar mustache and I didn't know shit about his art or music and so I just dived in and poked at him and gave him a hard time and laughed and played along. I think staying up late drinking and talking with Mark last night about ladies and loosening up some helped. So did Ryan giving me this interview advice: "Ride them! Grab the reins and ride them!" It was an interview that covered ground and made me laugh and rub my chin and learn something. It's what I had imagined for the best of the fun of making TV. And when it was over Eric thought it was the weakest of the three interviews so far. So that helps me think that maybe between these three folks we talked with there's going to be a good range of appeal.

I walked around San Francisco and visited the Randall Museum, chatting with crippled local birds and gazing long and hard into the busy work of bees and giant water bugs. I ascended a central tall hill and looked out over the city and wrote a bit of a song, straining to understand the urge to merge. I returned home, cleaned up my office, talked about sex with my roommate Tongsue, played some Soul Calibur, and remembered nice things my father taught me.

Friday, 16 March

Man, things are firing fast and fun.

Today is the first day of TV taping with Ryan and Eric. We're starting with Annick, a woman who is a professional freelance chef for a living. We're going to watch her cook and I'll interview her about it. Dream job, right? She's just paying the bills so she can support her printmaking habit! Madness.

Then tonight, Mark Meadows, and his crazy art/madness making and pagan idolatry! Man. It feels good to be getting to work taping this TV thing - step by small step.

I'm writing some wireless web pieces for The Feature, and it looks like I'll be headed back to Reboot in May. So it looks like I can pay my bills and study what I love. (Pay my bills when I stop long enough to open them.) Yesterday I bought a printer/fax machine so I can be more professional and tangible.

And my heart is some heated by this young lady still, but it's clear that I can best serve her in conversation and not necessarily in heated verbal strokings. Still I know I love being in love, so I'm breathing deep, working hard.

Undesigner WB    Wayne has some lovely web design sentiments up

Do yourself a favor, if you haven't already -

Get on your favourite Nap software, and get these three resounding songs from men long dead:

Fats Waller - Dinah
Paul Robeson - Joe Hill
Willie McTell - Statesboro Blues

Wednesday, 14 March

I am a blessed man
standing in the austin sunshine
laying in a wet bed

an amoral evolution
the kindness of strangers
a familiar at my side

Living language languid learning to feel an expanded heart again - it's so strange to enjoy intimacy on the scale of days wiping into one-another through prolonged sleep deprivation due to getting to know you. What a wild intoxicating run we've had where each moment together was stolen and appropriate

a bold head
quick tongue
her head buried near my shoulder

she's a wordsmith and
I'm an old joke
happy to have new laughs
with a young heart

I landed in Austin without a confirmed couch to crash on (with a few wonderful offers, thank you). A nice young couple drove me from the airport to a party where I encountered three young ladies I remembered one from the year before. They had been bumped from their room at the Omni to a suite, where they had a couch for this vagabond. One young lady I was glad to recognize through a year and some tequila haze, she showed me to her room and I believe we spent four days with our mouths open facing each other.

I believe I discharged my panel duties honourably, I learned that Q&A with the audience is more useful when questioners introduce themselves. I kept running into miscreant friends I only see once a year or so at this kind of affair, and while I was drawn to some conversation and late night tomfoolery with them, I was still mostly eager "to be monopolized" by this new friend. It was a conversation of glances and observations and wordphrases that fueled unhealthy sleep patterns and cheeks brushing and even furtive footsie.

That's how we started - I'm so wound up and burnt down, a blackened thin tree standing amidst a cleared out conference - I had forgotten our first night, after accosting a David Cronenberg lookalike to ask him about the anuses in his films, we lay in bed. I'm learning of Catholic education and Mammoth Cloning, and our feet come to brush each other with increasing frequency until four or five or six AM. And each day after.

I became very used to pleasant her very fast quickly such that the trip became essentially our chance to vacation together in a giant ventricle.

By Wednesday, from Friday, her departure left me sleepless and alone.

I celebrated breakfast with Warren Spector, a nice chat with an admirable game designer. I learned some game history, backstory behind game production; the goals and unrealized dreams of the now-aging men who made the PC geek games that sculpted my young mind. And I got a nickel tour of the Ion Storm Austin offices, nestled in a corporate park outside the town. Life in the gaming making world writ quiet - early a Wednesday morning, there was only a quiet hum of future of entertainment fabrication. Not a woman in sight.

Then a good introduction to Nigerian relationship politics from Awala, an Austin cab driver: when we want to marry in Nigeria, we do 'investigative reporting' - we go to interview the pre-school teacher, people who have know them through their life, to ask 'what are they like?' 'what is their character?' And then both extended families gather in a dark room with a few bottles of champagne and if anyone in any of the families objects to the marriage then the marriage is off. Then if the marriage begins to fail, the couple is expected to visit their families again for help and counseling. If it is a financial problem, some money is collected, and so on. He couldn't believe that the priests here in America ask "Does anyone object to this marriage?" at the wedding occasion itself - "Then it is too late!"

Then a great meeting with Katie Salen, a professor of interactive/design/games at University of Texas. I wanted her to be on a panel, it didn't work out, but we were able to do some good talking over future projects. It's clear to me that my game-writing and researching skills are of some ready value to some people I respect - I hope to help her someday. She pointed out that participating in game design might simply be a matter of submitting an idea to a small cool game studio.

At Denver International, on my way home, I showed an article about United's Employee Ownership program failure to a United customer service agent. The article admitted the program had been poorly run, and I was looking for confirmation. Talking work conditions, she told me that more customer service agents are physically assaulted than ever before. More people are travelling, that's part of it; she also blamed the violence on our culture of permission. This same culture of permission she blamed for a public school education that left her son largely unable to read well, although she was able to help a teacher help him learn his senior year in high school by appealing to his mathematical sensibilities.

Today I was amazed what you can learn from relative strangers when you open up some small window of conversation - they will show you an entire wide landscape. Each of these strangers grounded their arguements in books (Awala used Chinua Achebe's works and the United lady liked "It Takes a Village" by Hillary Clinton). Each was discoursing on the broadest issues confronting our society - fragmented relationships, coping with freedom. These are the types of conversations I think I'd like to have in a TV show - intelligent conversations in simple language with all sorts of folks.

Then of course tonight it came easy to email call and chat with a woman on the other side of America. I told her and me that I'm not ready for a long distance relationship, but that doesn't mean I don't wish we were still awake in Austin. It's something different to follow that wonderful stream of conversation with a series of colored, flavoured ice cubes delivered haltingly through mobile phones, instant messenger and email. I think we'll figure it out and stay adequately hydrated.

8 March

Strange, not having money coming in unless I hustle for it. I've got two consulting pitches out, and two article pitches out. As much as I covet hot new (used) hardware I really shouldn't be buyin' nothin' unless I'm making money or unless it's going to lead directly to me making money. Heck it might even soon be time for me to sell my betamax player.

This next week I'll be in Austin for South by Southwest. I'm moderating the panel "Are Games Just for Geeks?" - which has been the fundamental question of my recent life. I'll have a chance to argue it over with these fine folks: David Collier, Katherine Jones, and Warren Spector. The panel is on Monday from 3.30pm. Hope to see you there - bring difficult questions!

Also I'll be appearing at Heather Gold's Internet Roast. I edit Plastic Games daily. There is much to be done! Time to keep up with my rest, as Grampa said.

Tongsue my new roommate doesn't like clutter or kitsch, piled up old packaging. Most of this stuff is worth nothing even on ebay but it's part of my unquenchable urge to create a museum of daily human culture. Of course the house is too small for that and I'm happy to have brought this upon myself, she's making me clean out the bathroom and kitchen and closets with her. The great final frontier is my office, where stacks of long due bills and lost checks from freelance writing teem over books used for research yesterday, half finished paintings, lava lamps and odd cords and wires.

We've had some honest words about me not wanting to share this place with a couple, her and her man - that's about the only issue we've had so far. It's just too small to be standing at the sink with him night and morning brushing my teeth and sharing essential human services. You can't be in one room having a conversation without anyone in any other room here hearing it. This is my home and my office, so I feel entitled to be a prick about it. That and I warned her in advance. That hasn't kept her from pushing back on that rule. Of course, I go out of town a lot, and then this can be a romantic villa for two.

Some blokes today are digging out the basement, to make room for a permanent home for the laundry machines and preserved appliance boxes and shelves with more wires and old computers on them. There's a palpable taste of dust in the air everywhere, and since my bedroom is in the garage, I have some dust to inhale when I sleep, even with a blue tarp over my bed and clothes for the daytime. I only have one more night, though, and then I should come back to an underground lair.

5 March

Amy and I broke off our dinner - probably fitting. We haven't had a chance to dig up some of the reasons we're not together, I'm just now discovering new emotional materials I feel. But I suspect this is an endless well and I shouldn't necessarily expect her to drop a bucket down with me.

I can tell I'm starting to feel something - music lyrics take on special meanings. She Belongs to Me by Dylan ("Salute Her On Her Birthday") and Willie McTell's Searching the Desert for the Blues. Then I look back and I realize it's just poetry and metaphor, and heck I could listen to It's All Right Ma and it would be a direct message from the heavens because my 26th year hasn't meant a final closing of my fontanelle but in fact it's open now like a shutter, and I'm getting a long exposure on the cosmic signals of suffering. Either way I guess it's good that Amy and I should find ourselves driven further apart, so I can be forced to rebuild my social and emotional life. Thing is, I'd figured this out weeks, months ago! Why do I gotta relearn it Ma?

Good news is that I'm working full steam ahead on a TV show with Ryan who turns out to be a fantastic guide, foil, disciplinarian and brainstormer for this enterprise. Oh, and he's got a camera and an itchy trigger finger.

I'm watching TV to see what's missing, what I can contribute. It's easy to see what sucks on TV, it's more exciting finding the cool stuff that I would like to accompany or emulate.

I keep coming back to Mr Rogers - his straightforward demeanor, honest enthusiasm for humanity, and playful experimentation with the world around him. Today I watched a show where he fixed the set! Took a screwdriver to the door to his TV home, while he was waiting for a phone call from Maya Lin. Then he interviews her in her studio, making her as human as his television neighbors at home. His humility, curiousity and attentive ear are remarkable.

4 March

Colin asked Grampa for romantic advice, and Grampa's reply (applicable, I think, no matter what the problem is)

"Don't lose sleep over it. You've got a lot to do, and you need your rest."

*   *   *   *

Kara and Ryan had a baby, last night she emerged at 3.23am. I talked to Ryan last night, joking around, I asked him if he wanted to go to a movie, he said, "Maybe in 10 years."

Sasha and Mama

jah: you were there the whole way through?
agro: oh yeah !
jah: was it difficult to be there or not?
agro: I can tell you its painful to hear your wife in pain
jah: yeah i'll bet
jah: did she take drugs?
agro: nope
jah: wow
jah: tough gal
agro: hell yeah
jah: hah
jah: wow
jah: so she was screaming and stuff?
agro: there where times when I was frozen by the sounds
agro: not screaming more low growl
jah: wow
jah: that's deep
jah: that's some serious shit
jah: low growls wow
jah: jesus
agro: it has to be the craziest thing there is to see
This is the first of my San Francisco peer contemporary couples to give birth. It's very big news in our Mills/Cyborganic community!

*   *   *   *

Along the lines of Carl's Feburary 15 post "Apparently the conditioner was hers," Amy yesterday looked at about five things in my house and car and said, "That's mine." Some of them were hers, but what did she expect? If she doesn't come over and clean herself out the house, I'm going to have her stuff laying around. It wasn't a very fun feeling to have her labelling things, like I've been hiding them from her or something.

I called her this morning to ask her to come pick up some stuff she wants and she said she'd look into it. Then I called back a few hours later, when I was in the midst of cleaning out the garage, my bedroom starting Tuesday, and I needed her stuff out of the way. Joanne said Amy couldn't come to the phone. "Because she's fucking Ben?" I asked half jokingly. "Mm-hmm" Joanne reluctantly replied. Hah well now I have to separate my desire to have her pick up this stuff from my ambient agitation. Why should I be bothered? She's a goddamn chimney these days, but still a luscious lazy chimney. If you can picture that. I was struggling picturing Amy on her back stuffed with some young prick, sweating, heaving and sighing, as I was trying to get my garage/bedroom cleaned out.

I have to keep myself from pouting around thinking, her shit's in my way, when in fact, there's more than enough for me to work on without her picking up her stuff. My pride intervenes, I think, how come she never came over here and cleaned up after she moved out? I start to feel disrespected, and then I remember that I wouldn't care nearly as much if I didn't know she was riding someone this morning.

It was her birthday last week, she turned twenty-five. We've been chatting more regularly these days. For her birthday, she seems to like experiences more than presents - at least the presents I've picked out for her in the past. So she asked if we could go out for a fancy dinner. I said sure, any place she liked. She's requested Chez Panisse, which is a fine restaurant. After consulting with Wells & Fargo, I may not be drinking alcohol that night. But sometimes you gotta cut loose. Drinking may sure accelerate the directitude of conversation between us. I learned young that a fancy restaurant is a fine place for a serious bickering session. But actually, our relations are mostly amicable, so I expect more laughing and smiling than invective and tears.

2 March

Ally McBeal is frightening to look at.

Generally I find TV sitcoms unnerving. Growing up I was always scared by the treadmill nature of the narrative - no watter what happens, they win the lottery, they have an affair, their house burns down, no matter what happens they always end up at the end of the show with the same characters in the same situation. It's a frightening vision of reincarnation.

But after Howard recommended it to me enough, I've taken the time to really come to enjoy Freaks and Geeks. This was a show that ran a year or two ago for only about a dozen episodes, about dorky looking geeks, and burnout freaks in a 1980 midwestern High School. While there's still some verneer, the writing and characters are more nuanced and genuinely funny. Real people are easier to get along with than charicatures!

1 March

Each day, each week is mine
I carefully stack appointments and tasks
Eli calls - "you want to play Starcraft?"

Soon, an artist roommate
I'm excited and foot-dragging
House is too small for her boyfriend

Focus on my task
researching and writing television
video games are not research

Hacking phlegm and upset bowels
Tonight I cook broccoli

Last Month

2001 |

daze | justin's links

justin's links |

justin hall | <justin at bud dot com>

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Thanks, Cyborganic!