Watching the New Years coming in, in the company of a new woman.27 December
A dumb and insane day. I switched from a direct short morning flight from Chicago to San Francisco to a marathon Chicago to Boston to San Francisco odyssey to push myself into a higher mileage/privledge bracket on United Airlines next year. I'll be a Premier Executive. A welcome touch of elitism in the crowded skies I guess - I don't cheat in lines, but I do travel a lot. I'll take being first in line that way.25 December
Now to the heart-tugging strains of Willie McTell I'm taking stock of my online love seeking. By the time Leadbelly and Scrapper Blackwell come on, I'm unpacking some recent reflections on breaking up with Amy.
Coming home to find Fernando's shit only in a litter box makes me happy, but nervous for whatever else might lurk in his bowels. I give him some love, it makes me feel good.
We had an intimate Christmas gathering this year. George, Mom Colin and I. It was great to see my brother, momentarily; he was in town for exactly 48 hours, and he slept for 25 of them.24 December
* * * *After Colin left, Mom George and I went to a Christmas party at Bernie and Jane Sahlins's house. It was a lively affair - many Chicago theatre people there, one old bloke I recognized from popular television, Marshall Sahlins, many large personalities.
Now with a serious headcold, I decided to cut my losses in conversation - "what do you do?" "I'm a public intellectual for a website about video games." That usually skipped about five minutes of explaining what I do and where I work. Either that or the mostly over-50 crowd didn't have much to respond to that with.
I had the best time arguing with Bernie. He's a lovable crank, a gadfly. He's been reading this site some, as it turns out, so we got right down to arguing over gaming. Bernie has been a theatre teacher, immersed in human performance media. I proposed that games are the most important media of the 21st century, merging movies, music and participation into something that either enslaves or expands your brain. He responded in his typical curt inflammatory fashion - "Games are a stimulation, not an experience." What about the choice of the player? That adds a rich layer of involvement in the narrative. "With choice, there's no ambiguity."
I have much to learn about the contours of story and the difference between stimulation and experience. I think I used to crave experience more, but that can get dangerous; now I'm more content to explore stimulation.
Later I remembered how tired Amy/Mom got of that deep affinity I have for arguing.
Home for the Holidays. Saturday morning I left Chris and Peter and their three lovelies in the snowy ski resort Sugarbowl and drove and flew to Chicago, only pausing in Oakland to wipe up Fernando's regular bowel-movement-as-protest and drink a lot of Kava.20 December
For the two days I was in the mountains, I took up snowboarding. It seems to be the sport of my generation. Everyone from Dennis to Nat digs coasting down the hill on fiberglass.
I quickly learned that the first two days snowboarding yeild mostly intense bruising and physical aches. Your feet are strapped to this board and you routinely "catch an edge," ie pitch yourself down the hill, snapping your neck, crashing down hard on your wrists, smashing your face in the snow, banging up your knees while your legs swirl and tumble, your ankles twisting anchored to this devilish board.
One nicely smartalecky young friend suggested that for the first two days snowboarding, I duct tape a pillow to my ass.
Of course it looks easy, like some kind of beautiful easy gliding symbiosis with the hill. I decided to teach myself snowboarding before I had a lesson. I took to a slope, quite steep actually (whoops), and became a human snowball. After two lessons, many hours of struggling and fighting poor visibilty, wet jeans, aching legs, sore wrists, I came to be able to go rather fast and still turn myself to one side of the slope or the other. It was a wildly rewarding feeling to come to terms with the mountain (at first I said "I conquered the mountain" but that sounded very stupid); I celebrated with Advil and a hot bath. In the days after I took to treating my aches by acting like a crotchety old man.
When I would come crashing to rest on my cold ass in the melting snow I could see the great arctic beauty I was paying to speed past. Off the mountain was a gorgeous vista, many snowy pine trees, and little skiing and snowboarding ants clamboring all over the hills. How strange - we travel to snowy mountainsides, clear paths through the trees, speed past nature down the hill and then we use machines to drag ourselves back up to the top.
* * * *Colin sez, after spending the night in this exceedingly dry apartment, "I feel like I'm a part of some experiment in human moisture deprivation."
This place is old, with heat coming from radiators. I thought maybe installing Radiant Heat would solve the problem, but I called Don and he didn't seem to think the radiators were caused the absolute lip-cracking dryness in the air. Instead of a costly reworking of the heating system, he recommended putting a pan of water near the radiators to diffuse moisture into the air.
* * * *Colin's career in large finance is starting to yeild him some essentially disposable income. In an outreach effort, he asked that I take him to buy a gaming system. We went to Best Buy and spent $560 on a Dreamcast, a few games, and some accessories. Besides enjoying Crazy Taxi, he seemed most stimulated by Shenmue (my review), which is easy to imagine. Stunning graphics, wildly immersive gameplay, recreation of an entire town - it's a gaming tour of force. "Is there anything like this out for PlayStation 2?" he asked. Nope, and that's exactly the point.
I was able to get a PlayStation 2 through some frantic clicking on amazon.com (as noted in the NYTimes Magazine har har). It didn't take long to imagine that this $500 entertainment package was too much for a busy guy - what's the use in having hot toys when you're busy? So it seemed like the perfect gift for Gid, Eli and Cassidy. I lugged it up into the ski country with me, so instead of going outside in the real snow, my nephews and neices could stay inside playing SSX. It was a little perverted that way - the kids were wired up about the machine, Elias took to literally vibrating when he was playing Tekken Tag Tournament, chanting "kill! kill! kill!" as he jiggled and mashed on the buttons.
So the PlayStation 2 was appealing to the kids because they could snowboard, race cars, play football, and fight with crispy graphics. That's all good, but there's not too many compelling stories out on the PlayStation 2. Colin bought me a copy of Skies of Arcadia; after a few minutes of that game on his Dreamcast, I think I'm ready to sink $150 into my own machine. Maybe in a few months the PlayStation 2 will have more nuanced titles; until then I'm going where the stories are.
Anyhow, my development as a gamer has been very PC oriented. I just discovered my lovingly preserved backissues of "Computer Gaming World" starting in 1987. uh, yeah. I've got to get in touch with console gaming if I'm going to understand GameForms.
krusty: similar to your links.net/ZD situation http://www.ilind.net/17 December
Had a dream about the large graveyard/themepark down the street.
yestoday is 26. a yearly accounting is in order.15 December
I'm amazed and excited to be alive. Sometimes I hold my youth in my mind, and I can see that I'm moving from "Young adult" to "adult" and I'm still glad to have use of my legs and my eyes and to be able to eat most of what I want.
Still I feel things in greater impact. I exercise a bit now, slowly. I'm gradually trying to eat more balanced foods.
Since I've now been at one job for longer than ever before, I'm trying to pull the flaps of skill of my skull to see what all motivations there are behind my gaming curiousity.
"What it is, is, up to us!"
Howard signs his email "What it is, is, up to us!" And I've been thinking about that lately.
In 1994, I saw the web as having incredible potential - people could post pages and share of themselves across the world over with so little cost. So I visualized a web where personal sites predominated, people wrangling their perceptions into potent shared lovenotes of commonality and humanity.
And in many ways that has come to pass. It is certainly true that the internet is used for basic human communition more than anything else. People want to talk to other people, and people, we are curious about each other's lives. Everyday people emerge as near celebrities and insane local stories fire up people halfway around the world. It's a wild time, and I'm so glad to be seeing it come and go.
Now videogames. I've loved running my mind through simulations and evaluating potentitals and testing myself since I was seven. Now we have fairly sophisticated scenarios - you can run a small country, you can raise a family, you can explore a beautifully surreal landscape.
But still there are few poignant moments (besides, "whoa dude, like when I had those double-shotguns and I ran you down even though you had a rocket launcher"). There are few video game characters worth remembering, and few moments that reflect on the profound joy and deep suffering of being alive.
Now maybe I'm trying to impute some emotional qualities into gaming that just aren't there. But there are glimpses in gaming of this kind of depth. So now I want to visualize a robust computer/video gaming culture. A culture where people spend hundreds of hours in virtual worlds, and emerge asking themselves who they are, and where they live, and why they're alive.
So I have to begin to write this out. I have to understand why I play, and what games can do for my mind/heart/soul. And I have to excoriate, to pull the skin off of games that suck, and games that rule. Games that might be the common stories for the next generation's culture. Games that are bigger than soccer in Korea. Observing the humanity within and behind the games is the best way to avoid a culture of total alienation, where witless women with cleavage blast away at faceless aliens. There's more to that in our culture, and slowly it's coming to the fore in the world of games. It's a constant struggle that other folks have taken up before me, I'm excited to hurl myself into it.
Take this job and love it.
Much of this is stuff I've said here before - what makes it crackle and hum now is that it's the only thing that kept me from quitting my job last week. I lost my way, or maybe it was a milestone creeping up on me to kick me in the ass and say, "Besides escaping from any emotional fallout from your lonely lovelife, why are you still working at Gamers.com so much?"
The answer is that it's still the best place I could find to write the story of the rise of electronic entertainment as the preeminent emergent media form of the 21st century. I'll be giving a talk in Toronto on that topic in February, and I wouldn't be able to build those notions without the fantastic people and content that keeps chugging alongside me at Gamers.com.
I worked hard to have a role as "Director of Innovation" and now a few months later, it's time to reassert myself in that role, to lead the company in research and strategic thinking. There's a rich deep story to be told and I'm feeling my testicles swelling under me as the seeds for that story fill my lower quarters.
Since I work a lot, and Amy and I have mostly parted ways, I've been screwing around with online personal ads. After some time lurking on Craigslist, I found the new Salon/Nerve Personals which have a much more sophisticated system, and will be free until January some time. That's been wild, because as the listings fill up, I'm finding that the people are writers, and artists. Most of the women I've met are erotically aware. Not in a pornographic way, man, they dig their sensuality.
In correspondence with one particular gal I find myself digging into strange parts of myself that I haven't seen in some time - Californian spirituality, raw enthusiasm, and detatched but slightly horny relationship creation through email. It's a funny world, this internet, and I'm getting a great charge out of finding a mind there for mutual tickling. She is a lively soul with some good advice. And of course the drive is to meet each other, to make it real, soon. So now, as well as researching gameforms, I'm studying the development of attraction through technologically-enhanced introduction. And I'm trying to remember that I've earmarked this winter as my time of personal healing and self-improvement. I guess getting to know energized folks can be a good part of that.
Bring it All Back Home
Though we have largely parted intimate company, Amy took it upon herself to coordinate a birthday party for me this weekend. A score friends drove in to Old Weang Ping Village. We ate wonderful food and laughed a bit and had a good old intimate time. I read some poems from Ikkyu and gave a brief thank you speech to the folks. Amy handed me something with a few burning birthday candles stuck in it. Someone started yelling "blow! blow! blow!" and all I could think to do was put my mouth over the candles. Howard commended me on that.
Many of the folks who showed I don't see that much of, because they live in SF, because I work in Richmond, because I don't get out much. I mostly see them in groups of people. I love all of them, their smiles and their jokes and their creative solutions to the life of quiet desparation. That Amy managed to wrangle them all in was quite an honor.
Loads of Links.net Love to whoever can help me find a copy of IKU (elly's link). And Jim sends this, the height of web sacreliciousness.13 December
Touching scenes:12 December
Stay up late fixing the web site. Plan to sleep in until 9am. 8.03: phone rings:
"Is Mr. Hall there?"So now thoroughly awake I travel downstairs to log into my bank's website to see why my automatic BillPayment didn't go through last month.
"Yes, this is he."
"Sir, this is Pacific Gas and Electric. Your service will be cut off due to non-payment the day after tomorrow. You need to pay $201.50 at a paystation by then."
"Where..." click. "...would I find a paystation?"
"Your account information is currently unavailable. Please try again later or call"I am thankful for speakerphone as I settle down to wait.
Dial, dial, dial,
"The average wait time to speak to a banker is, six minutes."
Fernando: "meowrowr"I run upstairs in time to see Fernando spraying juicy stinking shit on my bed for the second time in two weeks.
"Excuse me sir, is there anything else I can help you with today?"
I just barely made it out of Nebraska before the storm isolated the midwest with itself. it would have been my first time being around a school closing - where was this big Jack Frost when I was a tyke?7 December
I'm beginning to hear enough about a pending recession that I'm wondering what happens to the economy in times like that. I've really only been a part of a booming economy, where I could expect to quit my job and find another easily, where the goods I want are available, where the people I know can get a job if they work hard enough. Maybe this economic downturn in the next year (next presidential administration) won't be so severe that life will drastically change. Maybe I'll be glad I work two cubicles over from a guy who knows how to skin roadkill with stone tools and use their brains to tan their hides.
My grandfather is a lively wry guy. 93. Shitkicker. But he would never say that - he doesn't swear. He did however use tobacco once, for his "chivaree" before he was to be married. He smoked four cigars and "it cooked his goose."
Thinking about his marriage is another mindblower - he and gramma were married 69 years. SIXTY-NINE YEARS. I'd better get started soon if I'm going to match that.
My uncle never saw him drink.
When we arrived in his room he leapt up to begin shadowboxing. Here is this slightly stooped man bouncing up and down punching at the sky. Awe.
I was talking loud to accomodate his age and occasional difficulty hearing. After he didn't respond to something I said, I repeated it louder, and he replied, "If you shout, I can't hear you."
Remembering that I had hand troubles, Grampa mentioned that it runs in the family. He wears theraputic magnet wrist braces to bed at night (not to mention magnetic shoe-insoles). He bought me some magnet wrist braces. Also, he gave me six full body pant-suits; I fear they're all too small.
Grampa's rest home is in Bassett, a town of around 700 in North Central Nebraska, four hours west of Lincoln, where I fly in. It seems that few people under the age of 40 live there. Everyone who works in his rest home travels at least a half an hour to get there. We ate all our meals at the Range cafe. It seems quite plausible that this town might simply evaporate - the old people die and the young people flee. And why not? Tradition and history is lost. It's lost every day. Lost every day that people don't tell their stories online. Ahem.
The town my Grandfather grew up close to, Dustin, is gone. Nobody lives there. I guess there's some empty buildings. For all the hell of finding a place to live in San Francisco, it's not to hard to settle down cheap on huge property in North Central Nebraska. Maybe if there's cable modems...
Information about my dad dribbles from my mom. It's tantalizing. Recently she mentioned that he wore nothing but Bally shoes. This morning I remembered that he taught me to tie a double-windsor tie knot. I've never worn a tie another way since. And I decided in the car this morning that each day that I've been putting on a tie for work I have been paying a sort of silent honor to that single memorable skill I learned from my dead-ass dad.
Tomorrow 6am I leave for Nebraska - Grampa's 93rd birthday. That's wild! What a number.1 December
I've got some kind of pain in my gut, underneath my ribcage. I worried that it might be something worth worrying about, but I'm mostly of the chicken soup, rest and water school of medicine. I called a nurse and she talked me through my symptoms and deduced that I probably pulled a muscle in my stomach region. Something like that. Anyhow I'm travelling injured - carrying pain around with me puts me in a different frame of mind. Not necessarily bad, just different.
Fishin with Grampa in Texas
A return to ZDTV, of sorts - I was part of a TechTV a piece about Disabled Gaming - how can you play today's cool video games if you can't use your hands? I used to have bad RSI so I tried playing some games with a headmouse and foot pedal mouse buttons.
Here's the article: Gaming Getting Out of Hand
Here's the video segment: "Justin Hall - Gamer" - Midway through you can watch me trying to play Unreal Tournament with a headmouse and looking like a severly drunken pidgeon in flight.