Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I'm attending the STS Forum in Kyoto again this year and it turns out that the election date for the Japanese parliament ended up on the same day as the first day of the event. Prime Minister Koizumi was still able to make it to the meeting which is the brainchild of Koji Omi. I'm a great fan of Koji Omi. He's one of the only politicians I know who studies and actually reads everything people send him to read. He's a former bureaucrat who became powerful for his intelligence and analysis among other things. Last night, we were having a nightcap in the hotel as the results of the election were coming in and Mr. Omi was understandably happy as each of the over 40 candidates that he had visited and endorsed came in winning.

Later, I received a distressed email from Karel van Wolferen, with whom I had just had dinner. Karel is very worried about the LDP and Koizumi's ability to reform Japan. He has given me permission to post some material he has written in the past (With Koizumi at the Theatre - September 5, 2005) and is going to be writing a piece for the Asahi about the election which I will post when he sends it to me. I am putting the material on the wiki. I urge you to read it and comment on the wiki. Karel is the most lucid critic of Japanese policy and politics that I know and his book, the Enigma of Japanese Power was the beginning of my increased understanding about Japan. I think he has an important role in helping people understand Japan moving forward and am glad he has come back to Japan (temporarily) to participate in the process. Thanks Karel.

Posted by Thomas Crampton

A friend is heading to Southeast Asia and asked advice on food.

I find that travellers are often obsessive about the wrong things. They are very aggressive about - for example - making sure that the water has actually boiled in their soup, but then order a salad as a starter.

Basically, I never eat anything that has been washed in tapwater (like lettuce) and avoid anything that has milk products (pies with cream or other milk products that can go bad in tropical heat) but you can eat almost anything that has been peeled (fruit) grilled (meat) boiled (soup, noodles, curries, etc). Always wash hands before eating and get in the habit of carrying purell in your pocket. Be wary of cutlery in the sense that you should rub it down with a napkin before using it.

One of the greatest pleasures for me in travel is sampling the local cuisine in street stalls and small restaurants, so I probably push the envelope, but rarely get ill. (Perhaps I have built up resistance)

Medicines I use for rare occasions when digestive issues arise? Peptobismol and - if needed - immodium. Some people take peptobismol before eating, but that such a waste because it ruins the taste.

Also, there is no need to buy water purification tablets. Never in more than a decade of travel through developing countries have I been out of reach of clean water. That said, make sure to keep yourself hydrated in tropical heat. Drink small amounts constantly rather than gulping once every few hours.

Most important: Don't obsess on it! Enjoy your holiday.

I'm in Chicago where I had a one night layover on my way from the East Coast to Osaka, Japan. Last night I hooked up with Jeff Pazen, a friend and former DJ in Chicago that I hadn't seen for over 10 years. (He makes MT websites now!) He took me to the Smart Bar, a bar/nightlcub that was one of key influences in my life. We hung around at the bar and talked about the old days and we both had what felt like a catharsis of memories. I remembered the first time I visited as a student and how I got to know the staff and how they took me into their family.

Around 1988, I was going to the University of Chicago studying physics. I was bored and generally unhappy. One day someone brought me to the Smart Bar. I had been pretty familiar with cool clubs since night-clubbing was a big part of my high school experience in Tokyo, but the Smart Bar was special. It was an eclectic mix of goths, rock and rollers, industrial music fans and a variety of other alternative musics types. The head DJ was Mark Stephens who listened to EVERYTHING and knew every cool track whether it was Madonna, the latest underground deep house unit, or some obscure German band. I practically lived in Mark's DJ booth where he'd chat about music with us.

What was particularly inspiring for me about the Smart Bar was the community. I had lived in Japan and had experience with family, but had never seen such a vibrant community. Smart Bar and other nearby clubs like Medusa's were very inclusive and lots of people who needed a place to go ended up joining these communities. AIDS was just getting into full swing and there were people with a variety of problems and needs. (AIDS eventually took Mark's life and Jeff and I got a little teary eyed talking about Mark... Mark was our mentor and a star...) What was surprising to me was how much the community took care of those in need while still maintaining a fun and edgy style. It was a contrast to the formal and forced interactions that I was having with most of my college professors and fellow students (Sorry folks!). The struggle and the issues faced in college also seemed petty compared to the things people in the Smart Bar community were dealing with. This contract became unbearable and I dropped out of college (again) and became a DJ. My late mother, realizing that I needed to "get something out of my system" was generally understanding and supportive.

Mark helped me land a regular gig at the Limelight and let me spin records at Smart Bar occasionally. To this day, that year or so as a "professional" DJ was probably the most fun I've ever had.

Several years later, with the support of co-owner and "father" of Smart Bar, Joe Shanahan, I invited several of the Smart Bar crew to help me run a nightclub in Japan. This was probably second on my list of the most fun periods of my life. (For a short period I was a "player" in the Tokyo nightclub scene which lead in part to my relationship with Timothy Leary. Tim kicked off my relationship with San Francisco. I'll write more about this some other time.) Jeff had been Mark's first pick of DJs to invite to Japan, but for various reasons Jeff hadn't been able to go and we talked about how things would have been different if he had.

Anyway, even though I'm not going to be in Chicago for even 24 hours this time, seeing AKMA briefly and hanging out with Jeff at Smart Bar reminded me that Chicago is still my favorite city. I need to figure out a way to get back here more.

Want to file for aid online? Better run Windows

FEMA site requires assistance seekers to use Internet Explorer 6

The good news: If you've survived Hurricane Katrina, the government will let you register for help online. The bad news: But only if the computer you're using is running Windows.

Yes, it turns out that to make a claim with the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Individual Assistance Center, your Web browser must be Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 or higher and you must have JavaScript enabled. It even says so right on the page itself. One problem: IE6 isn't available for Macintosh or Linux computers.

This is bad on many levels. I am conflicted because I'm now involved in Firefox through the Mozilla Foundation, but I think this is just rude. I think it's bad when companies argue that Internet Explorer is good enough for everyone, but the government should be held to a higher standard. The government should not be reinforcing monopolies and building such critical services on platforms that are exclusive.

danah boyd has some thoughts on this issue.

Vint Cerf just left MCI to join Google. Congratulations Vint!

Interesting in the context of eBay buying Skype...

UPDATE: Google press release