The Blarg No. 87: Morgxn

Full disclosure, I’m writing this on a rainy Sunday night, watching Battlestar Galactica, so if things get dark, well…

Anyway, the annual “Best of Phoenix” edition of The New Times came out this past week, and Limited Engagement was again named Best Cultural Podcast. It’s the second year in a row, and it’s really fantastic. It’s great promotion, it’s great validation from peers in the community, and it means we’re doing something right. If anyone recalls reading my musings on this last year, however, I couldn’t just accept the positivity of the award, or accept that this was, well, a form of acceptance. I’ve been out on the fringes for so long that, to borrow from Groucho Marx, I wouldn’t want to be in a club that would have me as a member.

I was talking to the creator of Tapestry Comics, Tyler Button, for an upcoming edition of LE, and the phrase “impostor syndrome” came up in discussion. I think this is something I’ve suffered from for a long time. I’ve been knocking at the door of the artistic establishment for so long that when the door is opened, I hesitate to go in. I’m doing nothing but work I’m proud of, but if anyone else recognizes it as something with merit, my initial impulse is to disbelieve them. It’s impossible for me to feel that I belong. Maybe that’s good. Maybe that serves to forestall complacency and foster continued grown and experimentation. It’s sure as shit fucking exhausting, though.

I’m working on just taking the praise, affirmation, awards, what have you, at face value. It’s a long road. In all seriousness, though, an immense thank you to the staff of The New Times.

A piece of business I want to get out of the way: on the last LE, I mentioned that we’d changed hosting providers for all Hoot n Waddle podcasts. It saved us a little bit of money, and it allowed me to do what I’ve been wanting to for a while, which is manage all of our podcasts under one account. Simultaneously, we’ve begun in earnest to promote our Patreon account as a way to support Hoot n Waddle in the long term. We have a lot of expenses related to both the podcasts and our publishing endeavors, and the monthly support model is something that will help us out immensely. Since these two things coincided, and I needed to change out all of the files on our website, I made the decision to make the first year of LE available to Patreon supporters only. At this point, that’s only 11 of the now 87 episodes of the podcast (it would be 12 if it weren’t for the infamous “Lost Episode”), and I honestly think that’s fair. What this means is that, going forward, episodes will be available for two years prior to being available only for patrons at the $5/month level. These episodes are no longer available on the website, and over the next month, they will be removed from podcast providers as well. If you would like to voice a dissenting opinion, you’re welcome to do so by email or social media.

On this edition of Limited Engagement, musician and songwriter Morgxn discusses redefining masculinity, starting out in Nashville, the influence the loss of his father had over the making of his new album, Vital, and how he came to record a cover of The Cure classic, “Boys Don’t Cry”

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 87 – Morgxn

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LE 86: Matthew Slusser

Freaking the fuck out.

Guys, what do you do? I realize that’s an odd start out of the gate with no context, but right now, I feel like an odd start out of the gate with no context. What am I talking about? I don’t even really know.

If you’ve been following along on this journey—fuck that. I hate things being described as journeys, but I also equally hate people describing something as a path or a road, because beyond being cliche, it all sounds so planned and linear. Life is nothing if not not linear. I mean, sure, time moves in one direction—forward, but the distance traveled between A and B is never a straightforward thing. At least not in my experience. A is the starting point and B is the end point, but from A there is often a misstep backwards into a steaming shit-pile of Z, then rolling down a steep embankment through thistles to come to a dazed and moaning stop in F, then at last certain you’ve found a shortcut to B but winding up stuck for ten years in H… you get the idea.

I don’t like roller coasters—never have—but it feels like I got on one a few years ago that’s been on a steady climb ever since, and now I’m just kind of trying not to look for the crest and inevitable free fall. It can’t be far off. Except that it can be, and it might never be this terrifying drop I’m anticipating—maybe things will just level off, even out, and everything will be great. That’s not the way I function, though. I wish it were, but it’s not. I don’t have that practiced, self-assured way of thinking. As soon as things start to go well, I go straight to disaster prep mode. I guess you could say I’m a negativity prepper.

So back to the opening question, what do you do? How do you cope? How do you keep yourself from spiraling into an overwhelming pit of depression and anxiety that is not only self-destructive, but makes you difficult for other people to deal with as well?

As I write this, we, Janell and I, are just two days out from the launch party for our first book from Hoot n Waddle, Chris Danowski’s DOGSEAR. I should be filled with joy and a sense of accomplishment—this is exactly the kind of thing that I wanted to be doing with my life—but all I can do is focus on the “what if.” What if no one shows up? What if no one buys the book? What if I just fuck the whole thing up in some grand and fiery way?

I’ve begun having panic attacks. That’s new. I’ve always had problems with anxiety, but it was all in my head. Now, there are these physical manifestations. My breathing gets sharp and shallow, I get a little light headed, I begin to feel like I need to scream, but can’t. I’m sort of going through a little of that now. I need to get grounded and enjoy all of this in the moment—we’re publishing a fucking book! That’s freaking amazing! I don’t know how to be happy about it, though.

The launch is this Saturday. I’m writing this Thursday night so that I don’t have to stress about writing The Blarg and posting the new Limited Engagement and updating all the various things that need to be updated on top of the launch. I guess you’ll have to wait to hear about how I handled the launch and everything after until the next Blarg.

On this edition of Limited Engagement, Matthew Slusser discusses podcasting, Henry Rollins, the end of his band Phantom Party, and much more. Be sure to check out his podcast, Getting Stoked.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 86 – Matthew Slusser

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LE 85: Steve Ciolek of The Sidekicks

Well, I took full advantage of the Labor Day weekend—to the point where I actually missed my self-imposed Monday morning deadline. It’s bound to happen from time to time. Once in three years ain’t bad.

In the little bit of time I carve out for myself to read something that isn’t a Hoot n Waddle manuscript submission, I have finally gotten around to reading Bruce Springsteen’s memoir, Born to Run. I’ve had a copy sitting around for a couple of years now, but I kept putting off reading it—likely out of fear that I’d be disappointed. That could still happen, but I’m enjoying it so far. However, I can’t help but compare it to Elvis Costello’s memoir, which came out the same year, and I think that Costello’s has more elegant prose, but Springsteen’s is like his songs—relatively plain spoken, containing flashes of profound insight into the human condition, and a rough yet poignant and pointed working class poetic. Which is why I could not be more upset that he devotes only three measly pages to Nebraska. He spends more time talking about the red light district on a tour stop in Germany in 1980 than he does discussing any of the songs on one of my favorite albums of all time. There’s no question that Nebraska changed my life, so it’d be nice if it got a little more than what amounts to a, Yeah, I recorded it on four track Tascam, it was kind of a game changer for me in my songwriting, but whatevs—now on to Born in the USA, the moneymaker!

Anyway, there’s a lot going on right now, so I’m just going to run down the list real quick:

Wednesday, I’ll be down at Fair Trade Cafe recording the one year anniversary edition of Chatterbox for later posting as a Chatterpod, and I’ll be telling a story, too (details here). You can pick up a copy by going to our Square shop. You can also now pre-order our 2nd book, Reading T. S. Eliot to a Bird by David Chorlton.

This Friday, I’ll be down reading on Roosevelt Row for the launch of the new Rinky Dink series (details here).

Then, September 15th is the big launch of Hoot n Waddle’s first book, Chris Danowski’s DOGSEAR (details here). If you’re in Phoenix on that date, and you can make it, that would be amazing.

I’ll be co-hosting two new podcasts that’ll be available soon. The first up is called What the Fork?: Exploring The Good Place (Unofficially), which I’m doing with my friend and prior Limited Engagement guest, Jason Keil. Next is an artist catalog discussion called Album Infinitum, and that will feature myself and a number of guests going through an artist’s discography one album at a time. I don’t have start dates yet for either show, but they’ll both be up by the end of the year, with What the Fork? likely premiering before The Good Place season three premier.

Lastly, there’s another podcast, but it’s Patreon-only podcast. It’s called Apocalyptic Popsicle, and it’s a straightforward review show. Sometimes it’ll be me solo, and sometimes, when I’m lucky, it’ll have my partner in life and Hoot n Waddle, Janell. The podcast will be available to any patron who supports Hoot n Waddle with a donation of $5 or more per month, which you can do by going here. We’ll have the first episode up no later than the end of this month.

On the latest episode of LE, I talk to Steve Ciolek, frontman of The Sidekicks, about touring, songwriting, recording with storied producer John Agnello, working with an artist-centric record label, and much more. The Sidekicks’ new album, Happiness Hours, is available now from Epitaph, and you can catch them live on their fall tour, which kicks off on 9/13, and includes a stop in Phoenix at The Rebel Lounge on 9/26.

As always, you can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, our website, and a number of other podcast sites as well.

I think that’s plenty for now.

Best,

Jared

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The Blarg No. 84: Brandon Kellum

Getting Ready for Launch

We are undeniably living in interesting times. In any way you want to interpret that phrase—good and bad. Well, I take that back, because I don’t know what your situation is. Maybe for you, everything is shit right now. If it is, I’m sorry, I hope things get better for you. I’m trying to get away from the inclusive you and the royal we. It creates distance and only serves to generalize the specific. You probably don’t care, and here I’m using “you” correctly and on purpose, but I do.

Let’s start over.

I’m living through interesting times. Good and bad. It’s like a crazy-ass roller coaster. I hate roller coasters. I’m coming to grips, though, with the reality that this is just how my brain works. Some of the forces are external—how can I not absorb all the awfulness? I’ve had to severely limit my exposure to the news. I already can’t watch the news (with the exception of the highly condensed “Last Week Tonight”), I’m beginning to not be able to take listening to the news either (shout out to my local NPR station, KJZZ—when I do listen, I listen to you). I’m making myself read the news, because it’s important to stay informed, but it’s really hard, especially if your a sensitive person such as myself, to not just shut it all off. Vote. Vote your conscience.

Politics aside, it’s still interesting. This podcast continues to grow (thank you all so much for listening and spreading the word about this podcast), Hoot n Waddle is beginning to take off (you can pre-order our first book, DOGSEAR by Chris Danowski, at http://hootnwaddle.com/dogsear), we’ve (and here I’m referring to myself and Janell and Hoot n Waddle, so I’m using “we’ve” on purpose) got a lot of projects in the works. I’m constantly busy working on things I love. That’s the good part of the interesting times.

However, I’m also freaking out. What do I mean by that? Well, as I’ve discussed, I’m a very depressive person. It doesn’t take much to send me into a spiral. Also, and this seems to be more recent, I’m constantly feeling anxious, and I’ve begun to have actual anxiety and panic attacks (there must be a difference—it feels like there’s a difference…). Also, I’ve started having anger issues. Not physical or violent anger, but it doesn’t take much to trigger a negative emotional response. My patience is almost nonexistent. Also, suddenly certain Springsteen songs (“The River,” an acoustic version of “Thunder Road,” “One Step Up”) make me well up every time I hear them. I don’t know. It sucks. I’m certain I need therapy, but I can’t seem to make myself take the leap.

I had wanted to use this edition of The Blarg to promote the DOGSEAR book launch. I wound up writing all this instead. I’m going to leave it all in. If you’re interested in details about the book launch, visit the Hoot n Waddle Facebook page. All the details are there.

About this edition of Limited Engagement:

A founding member and lead vocalist of the Phoenix, Arizona based hardcore punk band American Standards, Brandon Kellum is also a regular contributor to YabYum Music + Arts, as well as the founder of the nonprofit organization, Heart Shaped Canvas. On this episode, Brandon discusses his musical odyssey, songwriting, life on the road, and much more. American Standards’ latest single, “Weep,” is available on Bandcamp, as is their latest album, the critically lauded Anti-Melody. The band was recently featured as one of the 12 bands to watch out for this year by Alternative Press, and they’ll be playing The Nile in Mesa, AZ on September 3rd.

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The Blarg No. 83: Tony Moschetti

I need to get back to watching movies of consequence. I need to get back to watching more movies in general, but I’m talking about stuff with plot, and great dialog, and you’re left wondering whether a great film has to also be entertaining. It used to be that’s all I watched. I would never go see summer blockbusters, popcorn fair, or what have you. Any film I went to see was showing at the old Camelview. Now, I’d say ninety percent of the films I go see are exactly that: Marvel films, Pixar stuff, Star Wars—basically, Disney gets all of my moviegoing money.

Part of that, and I know I’ve talked about it at some length before, is that I denied myself the enjoyment of nerd culture for so long. I am a nerd. I’m proud of it now, but there was a time when my nerdiness, a large part of my identity, was bullied underground. Probably from the ages of about 13 to 25, I eschewed anything that I thought might be considered nerdy or immature, and I went full on high brow. I learned a lot, my horizons expanded, my interests grew. The quality of the films and literature I took in greatly improved, but the fun was missing. Not that some of the films and books I read weren’t fun, but I was definitely focused on being serious.

Slowly, the fun started creeping in around the edges. It was bound to happen eventually. The closer I got to 30, the fewer fucks I gave. Now, at 35, I give zero fucks. I’m a lot happier. I wouldn’t say I’m happy, because I’m also just a miserable fuck with major anxiety issues and self-esteem problems. I think it’s genetic. I also think that the nerd I unleashed in my 30’s has been on an overcompensating rampage. Couple that with the fact that I’ve developed a lot of focus and attention span issues, and I wind up with this current state of imbalance. I think there is a balance. I’m working to achieve it. This year I’ve gone to see two new films that would not be considered mainstream (the most recent being Sorry to Bother You, which was fucking brilliant), I’ve made a point to see things at Film Bar, and I’m very excited about the programming PHX Film Society is doing (and even more excited to that they’re our first sponsor).

That being said, I also just binged my way through the Mission Impossible franchise (I think four and five are legitimately good films, the third is okay, the second is one of the biggest pieces of shit I’ve ever seen). Balance—trying to find it.

On this edition of Limited Engagement, Tony Moschetti discusses the challenges of starting up an independent arts organization (Laughing Pig Theatre), gaining an audience, podcasting on the fly (Starving Artists PHX), and at one point attempts to take over hosting duties. Visit Laughing Pig’s Facebook page for all of the latest information on their events and programming, including workshops, classes, and performances.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 83 – Tony Moschetti

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The Blarg No. 82: Estrella Payton

Some fifty year old satire bearing a strange relevance in modern times, that’s one thing. That same satire bearing a strange relevance AND acting as a harbinger of events to come within the small matter of a couple of days? That’s just fucking nuts, but such was the case just this past weekend.

You may recall in the previous edition of this podcast my mentioning a then upcoming screening Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, the film satirizes Cold War tensions between Russia and the United States, and prominently features a very subdued, cordial, casual, perhaps overly friendly and un-statesmanlike manner. Pure farce, right? I mean, with the arms race and everything, the overarching story was more than plausible, but the absurdity was pretty far fetched.

Then the “summit” between Putin and Trump in Helsinki happened, and well, the whole fucking thing seems pretty closely fetched after that, right? That thing was a ball returned, thrown out into wilds, returned again, and…you get the idea. What the everloving fuck? Kubrick would look at everything going on right now and throw in the towel.

Now, I say this next bit knowing that I will vote my conscience in November, with the notion that enough other people will do the same, and some sort of change can happen, or at the very least someone might apply a tourniquet to stem the flow of blood currently gushing from the gaping wound that not only sidelined this country in terms of humanistic progress, but sent it backwards. The thing is, I don’t have a whole lot of hope. There’s a large percentage, or at least a very overbearing, vocal percentage of the population that has shown itself to be bigoted, small-minded, short-sighted, mean, and angry as fuck. There’s a lot of opposition, but it’s going to take more than rhetoric, it’s going to take mobilization—getting progressives to the polls. Not just the major races, either. I’m saying we need people with progressive ideology, or at the very least a sense of decency, to read through propositions, research candidates for committees, dig into the decisions of judicial candidates, because it’s the local races that are really going to make the difference. The senate and house are so hopelessly bought, paid for, and spineless. Local politics and policy are where we can make a difference and turn the nationalist, fascist tide.

And let’s make art that speaks to and against this jingoistic bullshit, shall we?

On this edition of Limited Engagement, artist Estrella Payton discusses her work, her acclimation to Phoenix, what it means to be “decidedly Midwestern,” community engagement through the arts, and how she strives to bring art to neighborhoods without the privilege of access through her role as Communications and Community Engagement Manager at the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. Estrella’s art is a visceral, endlessly fascinating exploration of the human condition and way we interact within the environs of the structure we impose on ourselves—both personally and inter-personally. You can view Estrella’s work on her website, as well as in-person this November as part of duo exhibition at Cochise College.You can view Estrella’s work on her website, as well as in-person this November as part of a duo exhibition at Cochise College.

Listen to LE 82 – Estrella Payton

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 81: Chris Ayers

Perhaps the least enjoyable aspect of podcasting is the editing process. Well, really, the least enjoyable part of anything is the editing process. Actually, I take all that back. The worst part of a process that involves editing is editing your own work. That’s the worst. The worst for me, at any rate. Other people might really enjoy editing their own stuff, but I can’t stand it. I’m not one of those people who doubts the quality of their work—not anymore, anyway, at least not to the point that I let it get in the way.

Where was I going with that?

Oh, yeah, the whole point is that editing myself is the worst, because whether it’s written or audio, I have to deal with my own voice. Audio is the worst! Who wants to listen to themselves talk that much? I can’t be alone in this. Going back and forth over cut points, making sure the tracks sound right when they’re glued back together… It’s a weekly torture. By the time I put a show up, I’m ready to never hear it again. This has absolutely nothing to do with the person I’m talking to, or the quality of the finished product, it’s simply that I can’t stand to hear the sound of my own voice a moment longer than I have to.

As someone who has suffered from more than a little bit of self-doubt, it’s a wonder I manage to put anything out there at all, and it’s only due to years of feedback from people whose opinions I respect, forcing myself to view my own work objectively, and the cultivation of a strong, healthy “Fuck It” attitude that I keep on plugging away.

This is why I envy the role of a producer who isn’t also the host. The actual editing itself is fun, when it’s someone else’s work. I like doing it. When I edit Chatterpod, it’s great, because I’m not in any of it. I just get to listen back to the storytellers, cut out some of the mic handling noises and transitional silences, level out the sound, and post the episode. I think Limited Engagement is a good, quality podcast, but if I never had to hear myself again, I’d be totally cool with that. Which brings us to this episode’s guest, who gets to happily sit behind the boards, as it were.

Chris Ayers is the producer of On the Grid (hosted by prior guest, Phil Haldiman), as well as the art director at RightThisMinute, and he just started up an awesome passion project, PHX Film Collective, which is dedicated “to bringing culturally relevant cinema to Central Phoenix.” PHX Film Collective’s first event, a screening of Dr. Strangelove, takes place at the Phoenix location of Changing Hands on Saturday, July 14th, at 7:30 pm. Be sure to follow PHX Film Collective across social media platforms for more information on this screening and future events.

Listen to LE 81 – Chris Ayers

Best,

Jared

 

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