J’s Notes at 20

Twenty years is a long time by any standard, but for the internet it’s downright ancient.

It seems a little unnecessary to say it’s been an eventful twenty years because, over the course of twenty years, yeah, there’s gonna be some things happening, both personally and globally.

Every now and then I kill some time digging through the J’s Notes archives of nearly 4,000 posts made before 2011 and I’m astounded by a few things:

  1. I’ve come a long way as a writer.
  2. My production is nothing compared to what it used to be.
  3. My tastes haven’t changed too much.
  4. So much of what has been published on the internet in the past is is dead and gone.

The first three kinda run together and makes sense – as one grows they ideally hone their craft (whatever it may be) and how they use it changes as they do. J’s Notes used to be my social media platform where I shared everything I was finding interesting before Facebook and Twitter came along. It was a lot more political when I was. It was a lot more personal when I needed it to be.

J’s Notes was also a catalyst for so much of my life. I turned an interest in weblogging/blogging into an interest in New Media that transitioned into Social Media and getting a reputation for knowing a thing or two about this stuff – which allowed me to turn it into a career.

I’ve made a lot of friends thanks to this too. Like, real world, off-line friends. Heck, I met my wife because of this stuff.

So there’s a certain degree of nostalgia and memories that keeps J’s Notes limping along – certainly more than my inability to throw anything away (I have t-shirts older than J’s Notes).

I’ll be shocked if I’m here again twenty years from now saying “woah, 40 years already?!!” but 2001 Jason wouldn’t have expected to be here now writing this.

Here’s to 20 years of shouting into the darkness of the interwebs!

Dad passed away yesterday afternoon.

There are thoughts and words and memories and more to share about him and his life and his love, but that’s going to take time. For now, please keep him and the family in your prayers.

Love you, Dad.

Chatting with Real Talk Ryan Jespersen

I was interviewed by Canada again this week, only this time they actually went beyond the “isn’t it funny you share a name with someone more famous than you?” line of questioning and asked about politics. And the floodgates were opened. Along with a healthy dose of “ums” and the usual long-windedness.

Thanks to Ryan Jespersen for having me on, was a fun chat. Probably a lot deeper than anyone expected, but hopefully still worthwhile.

Books Off My Shelves III (ARC Edition)

From the age of 18 to 33 I spent about 12 years working in bookstores – a Borders in my hometown of Fredericksburg, VA and a college bookstore in Richmond, VA after I moved down here to finally finish school at VCU.

I may have put that sticker on that book.

The Borders years in particular (1997-2001) were very formative not just for a growing-into-adulthood Jay but also in my interests in music and books and the subsequent collections because it’s hard not to take advantage of a generous employee discount and put all of your money back into the biz when you don’t have much in the way of bills. Most of my existing library and boxed up CD collection is a consequence of these years.

Borders also provided an opportunity to discover new works thanks to review copies of books and CDs that allowed us booksellers to be informed and upsell certain works (mainly the books – most of my review copies of CDs would come from the college radio years at WVCW (2005-2008)). In some cases those books were entirely new authors (to me or anyone else), in others it was a way to get my hands on the newest book of a favorite author before anyone else. Only a handful of these Advance Review Copies (ARC) remained in the library all these years later but they remain as little memories of those halcyon days of being young and carefree and stuff.

Yes, before being a director of big comic book blockbusters, James Gunn wrote a book.
My hands down favorite Jonathan Lethem book.

Previous entries:

Books Off My Shelves II (Derrick Ferguson Edition)

I’ve tried to put into words some thoughts around the passing of Derrick Ferguson earlier this month. Aside from a brief Twitter thread (which I build off of below) shortly after word broke, all I’ve been able to write is: “Damn.”

Damn.

I’d do not exaggerate when I say Derrick is one of my absolute favorite people. Just a fantastic person with a love of reading, writing, movies, so much – and a love if sharing all of that with others.

He truly embodied “write the stories you want to read” but was also always kind, always encouraging, always excited to see what you could do next. Never saw writing and his talent and art as a bubble or competition but as a group exercise, a community that could grow together.

Derrick was a mentor to so many, a hype man that lifted up entire communities and helped so many writers come into their own. He was your Number One Fan, saw talent to be encouraged and nurtured, to be prodded not just because you should write, damnit, but because he wanted to see what could come next.

Dang. See? Number One Fan.

His confidence in the talent of others could make anyone a novelist. Stop being so self-critical, just write, damn it.

I regret not knowing him better, not speaking with him more often, not meeting him in person more than a couple times, but despite all of that he was always there, always a friend, always with an open door and heart. A huge loss.

Damn.

Jason Kenney, Russ Anderson, Derrick Ferguson, Mike McGee, Tamas Jakab (September, 2005)

There is so much more to be said on Derrick, his writings, his influences, his influenced. Others have said it better than I.

Josh Reynolds

“I don’t know, man – who’s this story for?” I asked, one time. Stupid question. I have – had – still have – a bad habit of thinking that ‘market’ and ‘audience’ are interchangeable. Derrick knew better.
He laughed – whatever else, I could always make him laugh – and said, “It’s for me, J. I just write what I want to read.”

Sean Taylor

I’ve long argued that (bear with me here for a moment) Isaac Asimov was the brains of sci-fi but that Ray Bradbury was its heart. In the same way, Derrick was the heart of the community of independent genre writers, and particularly that of New Pulp. But it wasn’t just his writing that put him there and defined it. It was his sort of ambassadorship for the movement, bringing the unrelatable term to the masses with comparisons to movies and other forms or entertainment, his “get started” lists of 100 New Pulp books you need to read, and his action-adventure mindset in regard to everything from his movie reviews to his posts in the Usimi Dero group he ran on Facebook that brought so many like-minded fans together.


You can up some of Derrick’s books on Amazon. You won’t be disappointed. Below are a few I currently have on my shelves.

Books Off My Shelves (Part 1)

A new project for me to never complete: photos of the books that make up my library.

“Never complete” because I’ll probably forget I started it and/or there are a LOT of books and/or I’ll keep getting more so it’s never ending anyway.

Not all of my books are educational or highfalutin, but all of them are here for a reason beyond just being a hoarder of books.

And, before anyone asks, no, I haven’t read all of them. And probably never will. In some cases I worry I’d wreck the book because of it’s age and I have it more for historical or personal reasons. In other cases I ascribe to Umberto Eco’s “Antilibrary” which Nassim Nicholas Taleb covered in Black Swan (which I own and will photograph at some point):

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

So many of these, sure, I’ve read. Many more I WANT to read because they’re knowledge I have yet to gain. Or mindless reads I’m waiting for a good vacation or retirement (HA! HA HA HA HA HA! I’m going to die working.) to get to.

I’ll be presenting these largely without context beyond my owning them. Maybe I’ll feel compelled to provide a backstory or explanation. Maybe not. We’ll see. It’s a lot of books.

Enough with the intro and excuses! Pictures of books!