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

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speaking into Internet History podcast

All this writing and video work is a series of small flags I hoist up in the wind.

Brian McCullough wanders the internet looking for old flags, and then he puts a microphone in front of the wind.

I was grateful to be included in his Internet History Podcast: the "First" Blogger, Justin Hall. The whole episode runs 1 hour 44 minutes so that's bastante talking.

There are few pages on this personal web site more potentially unsettling than catdick. See? I didn't even link it. You can find it if you like. I'll tell you now, there's not a whole lot posted there about lipstick.

So you can imagine my bemused surprise when I received this note:

In the 1990s, I got comments from other weird people; now I get comments from weird algorithms. This kind of solicitation for "please post a link on your site" is the bulk of email I receive these days in response to these rangy pages I've written! What a wild shift of human attention flows. Twenty years ago I wanted to see more people online; now I have more machine intelligences online probing my internet orifices.

Sometimes I feel antagonized by the impersonality of these solicitations. I reply "unsubscribe" to silence.

Other times I try to play with them, "Sounds great - let's collaborate on more articles like the one you found on my web site! Please review content and suggest how we might work together." Perhaps I'm fantasizing that some understimulated human bot-jockey will see my atypical response and be inspired to collaborate on some wild network poetry. I actually had one person reply "yes!!" and say she would ask her company if they could somehow work with to make weird stuff, but that didn't go anywhere.

Ultimately thus far it's not been so fun to argue with robots - they aren't easily baited beyond their quite-limited scope of profit-seeking. So I just get daily emails akin to this one, with no way to filter, and no sign that any human actually thought catdick might help sell lipstick clicks.

23 years on, before becoming a father

This entry is published on Monday, 23 January 2017. 23 years ago, Sunday 23 January 1994, I created a web page that looked like this and soon called it "Justin's Links from the Underground" as I publicly unearthed moist spots beneath rocks online.

My goal was to mess around with technology and permanence. What does it mean to share something of yourself with the world? Who will see it, interact with it and care about it? Blah blah blah - this is a subject I can't stay away from. I published a 40 minute documentary on these topics in August 2015, looking back at 20 years of personal online publishing: "overshare: the story" available free on the internet.

Two months later, I was scheduled to get married to Ilyse on October 10 2015. On October 3, we discovered that our birth control methodology had not forestalled the advent of a viable embryo. We were about to be married, and about to be parents.

In April 2016 I turned a mobile phone camera on myself as I mused over this situation, and evinced some of my wrestling with pending fatherhood. I have been working to look critically at my motivations for parenthood, so I can adapt my own dadrole desires to respect & support whatever little person emerges from that situation, and to continue to support my partner in this adventure.

The baby was born in June 2016, and it's been pretty quiet around and By January 2017, I'm updating this same 23-year-old web site with some personal content, except I'm a father. I've extended my life into another being. How can I make media about my experience of existence, and responsibly include my children?

Here's one attempt:

"before becoming a father" YouTube

"before becoming a father" Facebook

I filmed this video in one take on April 5 2016. I had on a stained shirt and some sweatpants. I realized how slovenly I looked as I started filming, but I felt committed to the moment so I proceeded to film. Then in January 2017, as my child turned seven months and the new year passed, I felt a strong desire to speak to my early parenthood experience. So I scripted and read-aloud another monologue over a blank FCPx timeline. That wasn't quite compelling, so I started poking through my archives. Found this footage from eight months earlier, sliced it a bit, and here we are.

Special thanks to Switzon S. Wigfall III for posting free VJ loop videos for remixing.

23 years later, I enjoy wrestling with media technology and personal storytelling! Perhaps this site could be seen as a sort of child. But it is not independent, it doesn't have any touch with the world these days save me. Comments are turned off on this weblog; there's not really a handle for participation. is a rock I visit a few times a year with a chisel. Except the rock is as sturdy as toilet paper and perhaps the chisel is my butt.

To upfrequent my updates here, I would consider publishing the scraps and notes and scores of micro-moments I've already inscribed. But I want to keep my focus on video storytelling, so for now, I'm saving my fathery feelings for future oral histories. Thank you for somehow ending up on this old web site! And seeing what one guy had to say, a guy that seems ever-older than the lad who foisted this thing online. What miracles.

Thanksgiving 2016

Here's my Thanksgiving grace for 2016; an attempt to reconcile a recent dramatic showdown of two political cultures in the United States:

We are here now together
sitting at a flat surface
perched atop a round earth

it sounds precarious
in the abstract
but these hands feel solid

sometimes its nice to gather someplace flat
since it's not easy to see
and hear each other
on a far distant face of a sphere

for thousands of years
the grinding clash of human civilizations has spelled
a bounty for some, diminishment for others

somehow we here have emerged with autonomy

we join
people all over our northern hemisphere
around this time
celebrating harvest
in our own ways

let's each bring something
to this table
a vision for what we can honor and celebrate
in this changing world

today we practice gratitude.
gratitude for
this precious water drop hanging in space
the dead trees holding up our butts and our plates
the fowl beasts and flora that feed us today
and the people who enacted this whole situation

We don't always see who made
any of this possible;
most of them are dead before us

Our choices for our land and society
leave open fields or dark alleys for future folks
like blessed little Delia and beyond

how can we honor the passed away
and the unborn?
how can we give thanks in a complex world?

today we shall hold hands for a moment
take a breath
and practice a balancing of the flat on the round



Your leaders have no firm knowledge of the future.
What do they know?
They are probably men, they are probably older than you,
and they may know business.
What is business?
Buying what you need and selling what you can.

How do you succeed in business?
I don't know.
Nothing is successful forever.
But humans like novelty.
And many humans like other humans.

Let's put our business
in service of humans.
What does that mean?
I'm not sure.
You can ask your leaders.

You could also make up an idea for yourself
and use your job at Digital Garage
to experiment with your idea
for business in service of humans.

Thank you for experimenting with me.

My wife and I just had daughter in good health. I am so grateful. It's a magical time of transition; we're taking on responsibility and I'm feeling my humanity shift to orient around this tiny person.

We opted-in for local parent education and community. So my life is a more cloistered world of swaddling and breastmilk and clusters of mindblown new parents rocking infants. Barely two months in, we haven't yet begun worrying about childcare and schooling in earnest.

Meanwhile through my magic phone I learn the world beyond our home seems aflame. Brexit, ISIS, the South China Sea. Trump and Black Lives Matter.

What can I contribute to soothe & heal our world? A nicely woke white woman?

My Facebook feed is filled with well-meaning thoroughly educated white people doing penance over their privilege and looking to assert that they believe that black people should not be killed by police. Meanwhile I have a cop friend, who happens to be black, who decries the violence that happens within black communities without any police involvement. It's all a sad testament to the legacy of human slavery in America.

In the 1970s & 80s I grew up in Chicago in a nice house near the Cabrini Green housing projects. Today I own a small home in the Southeastern part of San Francisco somewhat near the Bayview-Hunter's Point. Historically these neighborhoods hosted black Americans who were pushed out of other parts of San Francisco; as writer James Baldwin said in 1963 "this is the San Francisco America pretends does not exist."

What connection to I have to my black neighbors today? We ride some of the same buses around the city. But my birth circumstances otherwise keep me in a largely white and Asian world, swollen with the potential of technology to change lives and empower dream$.

Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' deep article "The Case for Reparations" in 2014 reminded me how black people in America have been systemically denied a chance to participate in prosperity. And now America continues to reel from the sustained pain inflicted by this kind of injustice. I wonder how our country can bring about more equal access to peace and power?

In June 2014, a friend Mamie Rheingold hosted a meet-n-greet for a local politician named Stevon Cook, a first time candidate for San Francisco school board. Rheingold met Cook years before at a philosophy summer school session for high school students at Stanford University and she was impressed by his ambition and perseverance.

Amidst a small audience of Rheingold's friends and family I learned that Stevon Cook was born and raised in public housing in the Bayview-Hunters Point. His parents wrestled with addiction and he was raised by his grandmother. Cook worked hard at his public high school and attended a private liberal arts college. This experience turned him on to the value of education; when Cook finished college he came back to San Francisco and he decided to run for school board in 2014 - the youngest candidate at 28 years old.

Cook lost the election that year by less than 1%; now he's running again in 2016.

Much of politics is a popularity contest; loosely based on ideas - except that most people in San Francisco don't pay attention to the school board election. The most likely path to victory for Cook is to win an endorsement from the SF Democratic County Central Committee, so the legions of democrats in this city might dutifully check check his box when they go to vote in November.

I sat down for an interview with Stevon Cook in February; months before my child was born, when fatherhood seemed more like a looming deadline than a consciousness shift. I sat down to interview Stevon Cook because I want to extend my network to include a wider range of folks around shared values: the importance of education, community-building and increasing access to tools.

I sat down to interview Stevon Cook because I am curious about how a native black American San Franciscan is working to climb up in the ranks of the enfranchised change makers in this city.

Now that I have a daughter in San Francisco, I want to know that she can attend a quality public school here in a few years time. And I want to know that she can choose to live in a fair, free, and fabulous America. So the stakes are growing higher for me.

So please meet Stevon Cook. He's working as CEO of Mission Bit, a non profit teaching coding skills to low income students of color in SF public schools. And Stevon Cook is running for San Francisco school board in San Francisco in November, 2016.

Here is a July 2016 edit of a February 2016 interview with Stevon Cook for the Justin Hall Show:

YouTube: an interview with Stevon Cook, CEO and candidate for SF School Board

Facebook: an interview with Stevon Cook, CEO and candidate for SF School Board

Note: this essay was also posted to