So, you may have noticed a change over at JRJ.com. When you click on the handy Blog icon on the menu, it brings you here, to my newfangled Blogger page. I've outsourced my blog for a few reasons- ease of interface, presentation (I think this page looks halfway sharp and should improve as time passes), and most of all, the COMMENT option.
I say some ridiculous things in my blog and I've always wanted to give readers a chance to hammer me for my indiscretions in a public forum (aside from, you know, my actual forum). So the next time I say something like, "There's no one in modern Croatian hip hop that's worth listening to!" you can respond with a comment like, "Well, obviously, Mr. Johnson, you've never heard of DJ Zeb and the Dzirn Street Krew." And then we'll all reflect on the brilliant discourse and laugh like kings with mouths half-filled by mutton!
Of course, you don't have to be contradictory... any kind of comments will be welcome.
And no, I still have no idea where the name for the blog comes from. I was drunk when I came up with it and have kept it out of a vague sense of nostalgia, despite its silliness. I suppose it has vague connotations in either sci-fi, math, or hip hop territories. But I've never once written a blog anywhere near the basement. I've done some other things in the basement, but that remains under lock and key (and some of it is under quicklime). What happens in the basement, stays in the basement...
Oh, and for anyone who really enjoyed the old blog entries, they've been archived here at the Blogger page, all under January 2006.
ADA For Collectors-
There are only 16 copies of the "Old, No-Palahniuk-Quote-Having Edition" of Angel Dust Apocalypse left in the known galaxy. 6 have been shipped to my friend John and the remaining 10 are with me, available for purchase at my website. There are less than 300 of these in print, so it may be worth a couple more bucks on eBay some day.
Pick one up if you're interested in having a copy that'll prove you were down for Bizarro work before it was lauded by one of the World's Best Authors (caps and title inserted subjectively by blog-writer). Just indicate "Old Version" in the inscription zone during purchase. These are likely to go quick, so establish a false sense of urgency... NOW!
(Update: "Old Version" copies have dwindled since this announcement, so the sense of urgency could now be considered genuine if this sort of thing is up your bookish alley.)
2005 Top Five Lists
My lists will involve what I call "the cheating," meaning that not all picks will actually have been created in '05. Last year is just when I happened to come across the item.
Oh, and if there were any doubts about how truly un-hip my taste is, these lists should serve as a permanent confirmation. What can I say? Maybe my near-thirty status is starting to show through. Or maybe I've always been a nerd. Probably the latter.
1. Radiant Dawn/Ravenous Dusk by Cody Goodfellow- HP Lovecraft meets David Foster Wallace meets James Ellroy meets Robert Ludlum meets Alan Moore meets... okay, enough of that. What I'm trying to say is that this guy has skills and you need these books. Plan on losing some sleep once you're addicted to this epic chunk of madness.
2. Off Season by Jack Ketchum- One of the most balls-out and lyrical examinations of human darkness I've ever read. Plus, there's some mid-book trickery that will shock you. That Ketchum was capable of pulling off such a nasty coup still amazes me.
3. A Choir of Ill Children by Tom Piccirilli- This book sucks you in from the opening sentence and pulls you deep into a mutant southern gothic that's often poetic, sometimes surreal, and always engaging. It's like someone slipped absinthe into your moonshine.
4. Porno by Irvine Welsh- Being back in the presence of Sick Boy and Begbie made me giddy and nauseous, respectively, but always with a smile on my face (okay, except for that scene with poor Spud and the bar-slag- that's just nasty). Plus, seeing characters from Glue added into the picture helped to further define Welsh's sick and wonderful world.
5. Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk- "Shooo-rook!" From the heartbreak of tales like "Post-Production" and "Exodus" to the straight-out existential horror of "Hot Potting" and "Ritual" this was the year's most enjoyable horror collection.
Honorable mentions include Blood Father by Peter Craig, Play Dead by Michael A. Arnzen, and The Troublesome Amputee/The Horrible by John Edward Lawson.
1. Brokeback Mountain- Forget the words "gay cowboys." That's boring. Really. Just know this- Brokeback is one of the finest representations of love, longing, and loss ever committed to film. Beautifully written, beautifully shot, beautifully acted, and brutal in its emotional implications.
2. Syriana- When's the last time you spent an hour after the film just trying to sort out the plot, but finding the act gratifying? A smart, gritty, and surprisingly even-handed examination of the geo-politics of oil (and a rewarding character study).
3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang- Fast, funny post-modern noir (PoMoNo?) with a real love for the genre and one of the best recent performances from Robert Downey Jr.
4. Ong Bak/Kung Fu Hustle- Hell, both these movies made me want to take up martial arts again. Tony Jaa is like the love child of Jackie Chan, David Blaine, and Jesus. I'm pretty sure he's not even human. And KFH is pure cinema, the sort of thing that feels new but presses the old buttons that made you love film in the first place.
5. Wolf Creek- Yeah, you might think there were a lot of other films worthy of a top five spot, but I've got to hand it to Wolf Creek for sheer effectiveness. I cared about its protagonists more than any other batch of horror flick kids in recent memory, and I started grinding my teeth and having rapid palpitations as they were dragged further and further into their outback hell. Sharp cinematography, too. I don't want to watch it again, but I respect it.
Honorable mentions include Munich, Ju-On, and A History of Violence.
1. Frances the Mute/Scab Dates by The Mars Volta- Did anyone else even try to rock this hard in 2005? Okay, so they got a little indulgent on Scab Dates (who really wants to listen to ten minutes of backstage noise through LSD filters?) but when they hit those high points, there's no-one else I'd rather be listening to.
2. Saul Williams Fader Album by Saul Williams- Saul channels his poetry into more musical structures and adds a new punk energy and aggression. "Shakespeare," his collaboration with Zack De La Rocha, kept me going through four months of harsh marathon training. "When they tell you to achieve, ask yourself, 'Is that for them or for you?'"
3. Vheissu by Thrice- The singer learned how to sing but didn't forget the power of a guttural scream, the songs got even more complicated (but somehow more song-like than their prior work), they donate album proceeds to Eggers' literacy program, and the songs all contain a real sense of urgency in favor of human transcendence. Ambitious without over-reaching, this is a very positive slab of punk-metal energy.
4. A Healthy Distrust by Sage Francis- Every time I listen, I pick up a new genius line. Whether rapping about politics, relationships, or a hip hop battle between the sun and the moon, Sage is furiously on point in his best work to date.
5. Hell's Winter by Cage- I never thought Cage would come anywhere near one of my favorites lists, but something must have happened to him when he went through that mushroom coma (or whatever trauma hit him). His Def Jux debut is so full of neck-snapping beats and sharp lines that I have to give him props. The old Cage was content to offend with nasal tales of drugs and misogyny. The new Cage is flexing a variety of flows on topics like his jacked-up childhood and the "war on terror" over ridiculously hot beats from El-P, Camu Tao, DJ Shadow, and RJD2, among others.
Honorable mentions include With Teeth by Nine Inch Nails, Arular by MIA, Black Dialogue by The Perceptionists, Leviathan by Mastodon, and B-side and Rarities by Deftones. And the best live show of the year was incontestably Ozomatli at the Kauai Convention Center, followed by The Mars Volta at The Rose Garden, The Perceptionists at Doug Fir, and RJD2 at Holocene.
2005 will be a tough year to leave behind. Somehow in the last twelve months I managed to have two books published, run a marathon, get married, and get a literary quote from one of my heroes. In 2006 I'm going to have to get four books published, run an ultra-marathon, move to Utah and marry some more people, and get James Ellroy to co-write a book with me.
I'm going to need some benzedrine, for starters. I better get moving.
And thank you to all the wonderful friends, family, and readers who made 2005 such an incredible year.
Let's make 2006 The Year of the Lazer! (Hint: this will involve lazers!)
I need another drink,