Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Blarg No. 51: Kids Need to Read

Let’s be perfectly frank here, folks, if you’re a rational, thoughtful, compassionate, pragmatic person, then these are enormously stressful times. We’re currently dealing with fascism, climate change denial, racism, bigotry, random social media tantrums, narcissism—all of which only scratches the surface, and that’s just one douchebag. We’re dealing with a whole hotbed of scary, scary shit right now. Every hateful worm in the United States feels emboldened by the current sociopolitical climate to slither their way out of whatever muck they’ve been hiding in to spew their vitriolic bile in the path of any progressive ideology and—

Where was I? Ah, yes, stress. There is no end of it, and this week’s blarg is about that. It’s really not healthy to be in such a constant state of agitation, but there seems no other state to be in when, as soon as you read a newspaper, turn on NPR, or even scroll through your Facebook and Twitter feeds, you get sucked right back into how awful everything is right now. And it’s not just awful, it’s unbelievably awful. How did we get to this point? Dark forces seem hellbent on driving us back into the dark ages as quickly as policy reversals, pardons, and executive orders will allow.

There are certain go-to things for me in times of stress. The healthiest and longest-lasting of these coping mechanisms is music. Playing guitar is a great way to take your mind off of a horrific future and ground you in the present, ground you in melody. It is for me anyway. Listening to music, though, is the primary de-stresser. It can’t be just anything, however, it’s got to be something I know, something I can sing along to, or connect with a time of peace, joy, familiar melancholy. This is typically not a time to listen to or discover anything new, because that process of discovery will be tainted by the climate in which it is discovered. Which is a shame, because there are albums I’ve been looking forward to. We were in Zia the other day, and I picked up the new offerings from Randy Newman, Nicole Atkins, Paul Kelly, Queens of the Stone Age, and I decided this is as good a time as any to try and wrap my head around Captain Beefheart, so I picked up Safe as Milk, but when we got back in the car, all I wanted to do was listen to Neil Finn. Last week, all I listened to was Squeeze. Also, I find I’ve been listening to a ton of Wilco, Springsteen, and Elvis Costello lately. These are like comfort foods for my ears. I’ll come at the new albums eventually, when I’m able to isolate them from their surroundings. Maybe that sounds like a bunch of mystical bullshit, but you can deal with things how you want, and I’ll do my thing.

This week’s show is the second in an ongoing series of conversations with non-profit arts and culture organizations based here in the valley. Kids Need to Read “works to create a culture of reading for children by providing inspiring books to underfunded schools, libraries, and literacy programs across the United States, especially those serving disadvantaged children.” Representing the organization in this conversation are Founder and Executive Director, Denise Gary and Operations Director, Lori Cothrun. Visit the Kids Need to Read website to learn even more about the organization and how you can support their mission.

Best,
Jared
Listen to LE 51 – Kids Need to Read

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The Blarg No. 50: Chatterpod pilot

It is getting increasingly difficult to feel good talking about anything other than the horrorshow the country is quickly turning into, because really nothing else seems as important or prescient. Not to mention the headshaking level of disbelief. Whether actually an out and out fascist himself or not (I honestly think that this individual’s narcissism issues overshadow everything, and that they actually do not give a shit about anyone else), for the first time, possibly in American history, there is an individual in the White House who refuses to categorically denounce fascism. Additionally, this individual is so cowardly, they refuse to place the blame for an act of terror and hatred squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrator. Notice how I have thus far refused to use the words president, man, or even person, because people, men, and presidents don’t act the way the thing we currently have as our representative to the rest of the world is doing. I can’t help but feel that it is an enormously dangerous distraction from the real damage that is being done by the people behind the scenes. An extreme case of wag the dog. It’s frightening, and if you’re not frightened, then you’re not paying attention, or worse.

At some point, though, you’ve got to stop taking in the poison and get some fresh air, or risk giving into despair and hopelessness, and there’s a very long way to go and a lot of work to be done. For me, this almost always takes the form of filling my head with music, and I don’t know how many who read this are aware of it, but Neil Finn (he of Split Enz and Crowded House fame) has been staging a series of weekly Facebook live shows that will culminate with the recording of his new album (also live), which will then be available the following week. It’s an ambitious, exciting project that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen done before, and if you’re someone who enjoys great, melodic pop music, I highly suggest you head over to Neil Finn’s website to learn more. Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing for a break, and enough of an unsolicited plug for Neil Finn.

We have on our hands here the 50th edition of Limited Engagement. That’s a kind of milestone, right? I thought it was, and for a while I’ve been teasing a new project, so I thought this was a good occasion and platform to announce it properly.

Hoot ‘N’ Waddle is a project Janell and I have been knocking around for a while, a business we started that has been used to funnel Limited Engagement projects through, but what exactly we were going to do with it wasn’t ever fully cemented. Then, as I was looking for some sort of Phoenix podcasting community and not really finding anything, Janell suggested that I create the community—an idea that sounded great, but one that I was also very hesitant to take on, as I wasn’t convinced I could carry it out at a level that would be up to my standards or something that anyone else would even be interested in. I promptly forgot the idea, or filed it away somewhere, or something, because at some point this summer, after a particularly productive shower, I came downstairs all excited, saying that we could use Hoot ‘N’ Waddle as the hub for arts and culture podcasts in Phoenix, at which point I was promptly reminded that, yes, this was a great idea, and it wasn’t in fact mine. That’s alright, I’m a big enough man to admit it, and a good idea is a good idea.

Launching this Fall, Hoot ‘N’ Waddle will be a home for arts and culture podcasts in Phoenix—a sort of podcast co-op. Some shows will be hosted directly on the site, in other instances we will be more of a portal to a show’s existing platform. In some cases, I will be recording and producing the shows, while Janell creates the design aesthetic; some shows will be entirely the product of their creator/host from top to bottom. I can’t give out all the details yet, or name all of the shows, as some conversations are still in progress, but do stay tuned for more details, and if you’re interested in either creating a show for Hoot ‘N’ Waddle, or including your existing show in the project, contact me at jared@ltdengagementpod.com. The website will be launching soon. For now, if you want to stay up to date on the progress of Hoot ‘N’ Waddle, like the Facebook page, or follow Hoot ‘N’ Waddle on Twitter.

This week, for the 50th episode, we’ve got our first Hoot ‘N’ Waddle show. Created, produced, and hosted by the amazing Jessie Balli, Chatterbox is a weekly storytelling series that takes place on Wednesdays at Fair Trade Cafe. Chatterpod, the podcast version of Chatterbox, features stories told by those participants who consented to have them recorded and broadcast. This is the pilot episode, so we’re throwing it out there as a special edition of Limited Engagement, but future Chatterpods will be their own thing. I’m very excited to be working with Jessie, and Chatterbox is a great storytelling series, so go out there and support it!

Listen to LE 50 – Chatterpod Pilot

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 49: Sophie Etchart of Read Better Be Better

It may come as a bit of a shock to some people, but there was a time…when I loved sports. (Leave pause for gasps or expressions of disbelief, and…) That’s right, as a child growing up in the 80’s in Southern California, we had no good football team, so it was 49ers all the way; basketball was a no-brainer due to the Lakers and them having one of the greatest teams of all time and whatnot; as for baseball, that was another easy choice: one need look no further than the Ang—I’m sorry, I can’t even finish that joke in the name of humor or narrative misdirection by saying the Angels. I was a Dodgers fan. When they won the World Series in October of 1988, I was just shy of six years old, and they had Orel Hershiser, whom I would argue has the most interesting name in baseball of all time.

I was more than just a casual fan, though, I was into the whole thing—I watched games on TV, listened to Vin Scully call them on the radio, I would grab the sports section out of the newspaper and read all the stats, I collected baseball cards. For a little while, I even wanted to be a professional baseball player. That phase didn’t last very long. I had asthma for one, and I’m probably actually more athletic now than I ever was as a kid for another.

It wasn’t long before I moved on to other passions—I think my interests in music, film, and literature took over and collectively shoved sports out of the way, but I still love going to see a baseball game. The other night, Janell and I got to go see the Cubs/Diamondbacks game, and I could feel the same level of excitement I had when I was five years old. There are just some things that take you right back—powerful enough to be an almost physical transformation. A baseball game, Back to the Future, Return of the Jedi, Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” an episode of The A-Team, and boom—it’s like I’m wearing acid-washed jeans all over again, three decades virtually fall away.

This week on the show, I talk to Sophie Etchart, founder of Read Better Be Better, an organization committed to improving reading proficiency in 3rd graders. It was an amazingly insightful conversation, and the way RBBB trains and empowers 8th graders to work with 3rd graders to improve their skills is one of the most moving stories I’ve ever heard. Listen to the show, and then go learn what you can do to support RBBB’s mission.

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The Blarg No. 48: Leah Newsom Pt. 2

The screening is over! At last I can put that portion of the Four Chambers Press manuscript submissions process (say that one five time fast) behind me. What makes it to the next round is in the hands of our immensely talented and good looking associate editors. Finishing the passage of judgement on hundreds of manuscripts in the same week where I received a rejection letter for my own was sort of prescient, I thought. As a writer, it’s hard not to feel the sting (or in some cases painful, painful stab) associated with the receipt of a rejection letter, but the perspective I’ve gained as an editor, and certainly through this initial screening process, has made my reaction much more practical—less total devastation, more, “well, fuck, that sucks.” You have to get over it and move on to the next thing.

There are so many variables in the submission process from the publisher’s viewpoint that a writer can only take it so personally. A publisher has limited resources and has to whittle a staggering amount of submissions down to a small number of projects that will be seen through to publication. Perhaps your manuscript had the misfortune of being too similar to the one read before it, or the one that was chosen for publication the previous year (I know that we like to believe our manuscripts are all unique snowflakes, but that just ain’t the case). Perhaps your style didn’t jive with the mood of the reader that day—editors are people, too. Maybe you missed something in the publisher’s submission guidelines and that rubbed the reader the wrong way. Which, taking off my writer cap and replacing it with my editor fedora, can I just say, it’s not that hard people—read the damn guidelines! Yeesh! Anyway, all you can do is keep doing the work, take your lumps, submit to the next publisher. Hell, submit to the same publisher next year—staff turns over, tastes change, etc.

This week’s show is the second half of my conversation with writer, editor, MFA candidate, and all around awesome lady, Leah Newsom. There is a lot of tattoo talk in this half, which I was very interested in, and may have changed my entire attitude on how I approach getting a tattoo. Be sure to check out the literary journal Leah co-founded, Spilled Milk.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 48 – Leah Newsom Pt. 2

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