Who needs a hug...
February 7, 2005 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Grandfather of the personal blog freaks out at age 30, after spending 11 years writing about the most intimate details of his life. From the beginning, he was always brutally honest in a time long before it became so commonplace, before any of us knew where this internet business would take us. Naturally he recorded said freakout on video for the world to see, and more or less shut down his storied site. Can we take this kind of display at face value? Is it a bad case of someone substituting net life for the real thing? Is it all just effete whining? Or is this a genuine case of two loves colliding, and a man forced to make a difficult choice?
posted by drpynchon (42 comments total)
Sorry about the lateness here. But I just couldn't let this go unnoticed by a site chronicling the best of the web. I went to school with Justin, ran (literally) with him for a few weeks, and I’ve watched him mature for a decade now. And really, I’m just sad to see him go, but hope he finds happiness.
posted by drpynchon at 8:23 AM on February 7, 2005

Wow, it seems he was genuinly struggling with some intense personal demons. I can see where he was coming from, there is a certain sense of not being alone on the web, but in the end his diatribe is pathetic. just because he makes art he cannot go to the bar and meet a girl?
posted by AMWKE at 8:39 AM on February 7, 2005

Your last three links are bum, by the way.
posted by gramschmidt at 8:44 AM on February 7, 2005

There is a parody of the video - from Waxy's Jan 21 links.
posted by shoepal at 8:48 AM on February 7, 2005

Man, that video's kinda painful to watch. Reminds me of some of my own dark nights of the soul. Still, I've learned that prolonged navelgazing is just self-indulgent (even though I haven't been entirely successful putting that into practice).
posted by zardoz at 8:50 AM on February 7, 2005

It sounds like Vonnegut was right after all...

He grabs my arm. Eyes wild, he grabs my hair, shakes it,

"Can you get this from a computer?"

posted by analogue at 8:54 AM on February 7, 2005

And all this time I thought robot wisdom was the baby's daddy.

"Who is that woman outside my window?"
posted by five dollars worth of thank you cake at 8:57 AM on February 7, 2005

Grandfather of the personal blog? Well, that's one down leaving only 97 people vieing for the exulted patriarch position.

While I didn't watch the video, I have enough angst in my own life that I don't need to seek out the misery of others, I gather that his meltdown was a result of posting intimate details about his life on a public website. It strikes me as odd that after this epiphany he would feel compelled to continue in the same vein.

This seems common with webloggers and makes me wonder why they are so utterly incapable of finding the little button labeled 'power'.
posted by cedar at 8:59 AM on February 7, 2005

On one hand, I want to say, wow, this is intense and I feel sorry for this guy. On the other hand, I want to say shut up, buck up and quit crying. Jesus.

"I'm alone because of what I did and I'm gonna be alone because of what I'm doing..."

Well, get the fuck out from behind the computer. Go outside, meet people, talk to people, live a life. There's a pisspot of us that are in much worse situations. Many of us have no jobs, serious social issues, etc. And this isn't to belittle his issues. The serious of his issues are relative only to him. Still I'm saying, look, you're pretty fucking talented, obviously in somewhat decent shape and so you freaked. Move on. Pull your goddamn pants up, blow your nose and move on.
posted by damnitkage at 9:02 AM on February 7, 2005

That parody video is hysterical.

"I am calling Papa John's Pizza"
posted by emptybowl at 9:09 AM on February 7, 2005

serious social issues

what did you mean by this, damnitkage?
posted by jsavimbi at 9:12 AM on February 7, 2005

Argh, I feel bad for Justin, but I have to second what everybody else says about the angst and navelgazing. (Or at least about the public display of said angst and navelgazing.) That being said, I was having kinda a crummy day today, and the parody video from Waxy has improved my mood about 1000%! Thank Jeebus for Brian! (I mean, the "innernet..." =)
posted by idontlikewords at 9:13 AM on February 7, 2005

The parody is very funny.

"Internet! Internet! INTERNET! OH MY GOD!"
posted by five dollars worth of thank you cake at 9:16 AM on February 7, 2005

The thing is, Justin does have a life offline. A pretty busy one from what I can tell. I think the breakdown has more to do with the chronicling of his life (and probably issues that were there all along) rather then just being chained to a machine.

And of course, it was recorded and posted to the site, so obviously he still has some need to communicate through his website.

And I would say he is the Abraham of blogs-- he may not have called it blogging, but he was the first to combine personal homepage with daily links to stuff all over the web. I also am pretty sure that bud.com was the first group blog.
posted by chaz at 9:17 AM on February 7, 2005

I've read some cathartic stream of conciousness type writing in the past, but shooting and uploading a 70mb video for people to download? Dunno...
posted by fire&wings at 9:23 AM on February 7, 2005

i discovered justin early in my surfing days. he always told me more than i wanted to know. i soon realized i didn't give a shit about his nakedness or his lovemaking habits or his drunk dad or his girlfriends or his professors or his daily epiphanies and that he probably shouldn't either.
posted by quonsar at 9:26 AM on February 7, 2005

the real problem seems to be that he doesn't like himself very well ... and some discretion is a good idea ... not to mention not being focused on autobiographical stuff all the time
posted by pyramid termite at 10:18 AM on February 7, 2005

The parody was indeed very very funny, but the original was HILARIOUS! Wow, that guy is the quintessential caricature of pseudo-philosopher, proto-mulleted poseur - and he's a terrible actor to boot. Somebody get that boy a reality show!
posted by MaxVonCretin at 10:18 AM on February 7, 2005

Am I the only person who wishes 2005 is the year the personal blog dies a horrific and painful death. I mean, I'm pretty sure that even teenage girls quit writing in their diaries at some point. Yeesh.
posted by photoslob at 10:33 AM on February 7, 2005

Be sure to read the comments posted at Justin's site regarding his "breakdown".

Among the comments:

TheMystic posts: Dog and music remix of your misery.

Arlos posts: Audio from this video set to music.
posted by ericb at 10:52 AM on February 7, 2005

Jesus, dude, cheer the fuck up.
posted by jon_kill at 11:09 AM on February 7, 2005

January 2005 : 14:26, cj sez:

I know exactly what you're feeling. Remeber man, there is a God who cares very deeply for you. So much so he gave his life up as a sacrafice [sic] for you. Email me if you want to talk about it.

posted by dhoyt at 11:12 AM on February 7, 2005

Ouch (no permalink, dammit):
I think Justin is finally growing up.

He's been a dilettante, a superficial person who never thought of anyone but himself, for his entire life. He's not a narcissist, as others have proposed.. true narcissists are cruel to others... justin is a kind soul at heart. Yet he has finally seen that a world exists outside his own world. Actual, real people work actual, real jobs and earn their own money.

He's prattled about his "art", where no such art exists. He's never had a real job or ever had to support himself at the ripe old age of 30. Yet reality has caught up with him.

I like Justin, I really do. He's realized that a big world exists outside his own existance, and it kicked him in the ass. Most of us have these histrionic hissy fits when we are 15 or 16... Unfortunately justin learned it later in life. But he's finally growing up a and becoming a man. He's giving up his childish toys (this journal) and venturing into the real world.

We may never hear from him again, and that is a very good thing. He's going to take AT LEAST a year off of posting here and hopefully take this site down forever.
posted by dhoyt at 11:18 AM on February 7, 2005

LOL. Noooo shit. jon_kill got it right.
We have word for that Justin guy.

posted by tkchrist at 11:19 AM on February 7, 2005

Grandfather of nothing.
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:19 AM on February 7, 2005

It's a bit like LiveJournal, but with sound and less funny "Ratings" boxes.
Or maybe DeadJournal? I get them confused easily.

I did my ob-freakout on Usenet - thankfully for posterity Google has not archived much of the .ie domain from the 1980s. Mr Hall does not live in an era of luxuriously patchy digital amnesia.

Then again, isn't this a promo/homework video for his multimedia course?
posted by meehawl at 11:25 AM on February 7, 2005

Living the examined life has its pitfalls. Especially when you spend more time examining your life than living it.
posted by mikeh at 11:48 AM on February 7, 2005

Plot Summary for Deconstructing Justin:

Justin Hall is a well-regarded blogger whose tendency to thinly-veil his own experiences in his work, as well as his un-apologetic attitude and his proclivity for pills and whores, has left him with three ex-wives that hate him. As he is about to be honored for his writing by the college that expelled him, he faces writer's block and the impending marriage of his latest flame to a writer friend. As scenes from his stories and novels pass and interact with him, Justin faces the people whose lives he has affected - wives, lovers, his son, his sister.
posted by idontlikewords at 12:34 PM on February 7, 2005

This guy is a joke.

Give me Murakami or Durrenmatt, thanks.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 1:00 PM on February 7, 2005

Never heard of this guy.

I'll have to check this stuff out when I get home to my sound-card enabled machine.
posted by delmoi at 1:15 PM on February 7, 2005

This, from the comments page on Justin’s site, gives me the creeps:

I want to put you in a nest, so all your fans could nurture you. You could look up and see the hundreds of faces that hold you in their thoughts and prayers...
posted by Termite at 1:46 PM on February 7, 2005

It won't help delmoi.
posted by filchyboy at 1:49 PM on February 7, 2005

I dunno..

I think you guys are being kinda harsh, no? I mean to a degree, this is ultimately about a guy who defined himself in a very unique way for over a third of his life, but then suddenly came to realize that his self-definition was destroying him -- keeping him from finding the very human connections he sought through his endeavors. Is it the same as being homeless or getting diagnosed with a brain cancer? Obviously not. But I think it's fair to call it an existential crisis that shouldn't be snarked at. You may well be seeing bipolar disorder in action, and I assure you that it's more tragic than funny (though there is plenty to laugh at, and the parody is clever). Perhaps kicking someone while he's down is a pleasant way to blow off steam for the more conventional among us.

And believe me, as much as it seems like he lives on the net, the content there is real, so if you actually read his blog, its hard to see him as a shut in. If anybody's sucked some marrow out of life, it's been Justin.
posted by drpynchon at 1:56 PM on February 7, 2005

I started reading Justin's site in 1996, after seeing a link in Newsweek of all places, and it was pretty fascinating stuff back then. He'd already been chronicling his life online for a few years, and as far as I could tell, he was the only one doing it at the time. Now everybody's on board.

His site was compelling, especially because of his writing skills and the ferocity of his commitment. He literally put everything up there, just to see what sharing everything with the world was like. Some of it was incredibly embarassing stuff, but you had to admire his courage.

It's pretty sad that this guy, who basically came up with the idea of a blog out of nowhere in 1994 and pursued it for 11 years, can't get any love from Metafilter.
posted by bingbangbong at 2:02 PM on February 7, 2005

I remember justin. IIRC I started learning HTML using the tutorial he had on his site. Actually I think I started going to the site for his sex links....
posted by hex1848 at 2:03 PM on February 7, 2005

Just as funny now as the first time I saw it. The cake, however, is quite rich... I can only handle a few bites at a time.
posted by basicchannel at 2:19 PM on February 7, 2005

"on 31 January 2005 : 15:16, good citizen sez:

For those of you who have said "at least he's stopped posting," he hasn't.

After this, he posted three more times.
On the 15th: http://www.links.net/daze/05/01/15/as_down_so_up.html
On the 19th: http://www.links.net/daze/05/01/19/wow.html
and then again just this past Saturday: http://www.links.net/daze/05/01/28/hoodoo_you_love.html"
posted by VanRoosta at 3:34 PM on February 7, 2005

It's easy to be dismissive, but I think Justin has some claim to the "grandfather of blogging" title. Certainly he was preaching the potential of web journals with fundamentalist fervor long before the term "blogging" ever existed---when I first encountered his page in late '97/early '98, this exhortation was already there:
my biggest piece of web advice,
to have a well visited, throbbing trafficked site

work on it every day.
put in just a half an hour
and see if you can keep yourself to just that.
And there you have it.

He was responsible for a pretty strong interest in the web at Swarthmore, where I began my freshman year the year after he left. You got differing views on him depending on who you asked. As a new sysadmin for the SCCS, I spent a lot of time with folks who had to deal with the technical side of his ministry, and drpynchon's links show that there was little love lost between him and them.
posted by tss at 8:50 PM on February 7, 2005

Hmm met him one time, he was exploring using voice software because of carpal tunnel.

If you're reading this Justin, not to be flippant, but get some help. Youre a talented guy, but not making yourself happy. You dont have to go there.
posted by mikojava at 1:19 AM on February 8, 2005

I think Justin's work is interesting. It's strangely quaint, somehow, like some relic from a more hopeful era of the internet, when it was going to bind the world together. Reading his stuff, and even watching this .mov, fills me with hope, that the internet is ultimately not neutral but a force for good... these are fleeting emotions, but ones that nevertheless are there. I remember this time of the internet and it's good to know that the spirit still exists, even if I no longer feel animated by it. I read through his entire site once way back in 97 or 8 (possibly earlier, possibly in 96). I never checked back, but it was one of the first indications that I saw that the internet could be something bigger than IPO's and cat pictures.

If he wants to quit, he should quit, he can still keep links.net existing, as a record of an era, a work of art. Perhaps on the web, perhaps simply as a bunch of cd's/dvd's. It reminds me of Tolstoy's autobiography, the unflinching want to be honest, truthful, to not hide anything. Of course it's an impossible task doomed to failure, but it's still an interesting perspective.
posted by Kattullus at 2:35 PM on February 8, 2005

'Time To Get A Life': SF Chronicle, Sun. Feb. 20, 2005-- Page A1
posted by obloquy at 11:32 AM on February 20, 2005

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