Category Archives: The Blarg

The Blarg No. 75: Stina Sieg

Writing without filters

Not too long ago, I copped to having a bout of writer’s block—which makes it sound like a cold or virus, something you can get rid of with bed rest and vitamin C, and I suppose it sort of is in a way. Now, I’ve had plenty of orange juice, but not so much in the way of sleep, so that block still seems to be hanging on, but I can move around it.

One of the ways that seems to work is introducing a random element. A concept that, whenever it comes up, always makes me think of that passage in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where Ford and Arthur are stranded on prehistoric Earth and they hit upon the idea of pulling the great question of Life, the Universe, and Everything out of Arthur’s brain by having him pull letters out of a Scrabble bag. To that end, I said yes to participating in a pair of events where I write poetry on demand. One of the events is done and dusted, and not having done anything quite like it, it was intimidating and exhilarating all at once. It was First Friday out on Roosevelt Row, and I was a writing machine. No time to edit, no time to filter. I asked the person making the demand a few questions, jotted down some notes, and off I went—free-associating like a motherfucker.

I don’t think I’d say writing like this completely removed the block, but I was able to at least work around it and write some things that people were happy with and I thought were pretty decent for being on the spot. If you’re interested, I’ll be doing it again down at the Phoenix Changing Hands location for Independent Bookstore Day on April 28th. Noon to 3 pm I think.

Another thing I started doing to get around my writer’s block is storytelling. I’m okay at it, and I think I’m getting better, but my guest for this edition of Limited Engagement, Stina Sieg, is a great storyteller. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her tell stories at Dan Hull’s monthly Storyline Slam, and she’s fantastic. Not to mention she’s one of the team of journalists on KJZZ who make my daily commute to and from work bearable.

Listen to the conversation on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Google Play Music, Stitcher, and here:

LE 75 – Stina Sieg

Best,

Jared

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The Blarg No. 74: Carly and Mark of Yab Yum Music and Arts

A couple nights ago, I sat with Janell—you know what, as I’m typing this, I realize that it’s the damn opening to “Simple Twist of Fate”: we “sat together in the park/as the evening sky grew dark.” At this point in history, I’m pretty sure that if people have done it, Bob Dylan’s written it down. And if there’s anything Bob missed, then Leonard Cohen took care of it.

Anyway, the park was the front lawn of Desert Song Yoga, and the occasion was a show featuring Jon Rauhouse and Robin Vining. I was under the impression that I’d never seen Vining play before, but I must have seen him play with Minibosses at some point. I’d never seen him solo or in Sweetbleeders, though, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve seen Jon play a number of times now, either with Neko Case, The SunPunchers, or as a duo with Betsy Ganz, but not as a bandleader, and it was the highlight of the night. Joining Jon onstage was his wife Jennifer, Megyn Neff, Vining, and a trombone player who I thought was really good, but whose name I didn’t catch. Aside from the fact that the music was fantastic, they looked like they were having such a blast up there playing together and enjoying each other’s company—it was a moving and infectious thing to witness. That’s the kind of joy in work I’m looking for. It’s getting there.

Speaking of…

If you happened be looking at Facebook this weekend, you might have caught the Hoot n Waddle announcement. If not, I’ll recap it briefly in this space. DOGSEAR. by Chris Danowski is HnW’s first book. We just got our proof copies back from the printer, and they look great. It’s all very exciting and real now. We’ll start taking pre-orders in June, and the official release will take place in mid-September. If anyone reading this is interested in reviewing the book for a media outlet, I have a few physical proof copies available, or I can provide a PDF copy. Email me at hootnwaddle@gmail.com.

On this edition of the show, I talk to Carly Schorman and Mark Anderson of Yab Yum Music and Arts. We discuss the origins of Yab Yum, how it’s evolved into an arts and culture beacon for Arizona, and some of the exciting projects they’ve got in the works. We also compare book collections. It was a blast talking to them, and you should definitely check out the happenings at the Yab Yum website and keep up with them on social media.

Listen to LE 74 – Carly and Mark of Yab Yum Music and Arts

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 73: Venita Blackburn

Focus. I can’t do it. My mind is so scattered right now, that it’s becoming a real problem. I’ve got too much going on. As I’m sitting here writing The Blarg, I’m also editing the next episode of Hoot n Review, writing promotional copy for Hoot n Waddle’s first book, doing social media things for the new Chatterpod, and I’m transferring music files from my laptop to this new PC. I need to slow down, but I can’t. I need a break, but there’s not enough time. I’ll have to make the time, or I’ll become even more unbearable to the people around me. It’s no good.

Anyway, in the name of focus, let’s focus on the new Limited Engagement. I got to talk to the wonderful Venita Blackburn, and it was great. Her debut book, Black Jesus and Other Superheroes, is a brilliant collection of character explorations that blew me away, and if you don’t value my opinion, maybe you’ll listen to the selection committee of the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction, because they selected it as a nominee for the 2018 award, and it made really far into the process. Those PEN/Faulkner people know a few things.

I’ve run into Venita a fair amount over the last few years, but this was the first time we’d had any sort of in-depth conversation, and it was great. Turns out we’re both huge nerds. Warning, there’s some Star Trek talk.

Venita will be reading from and signing copies of Black Jesus and Other Superheroes at Changing Hands in Tempe on Thursday, March 22nd at 7 pm. You should go. I can’t go, because I’ll be recording a show at The Nash, but you should definitely go if you can.

If you want to see more me, I’ll be reading at Four Chambers’ In Sight II event on Saturday, March 24th at 4 pm at Megaphone. I’m not sure if there will be any copies of portion of the collection there, because it’s sold out and the reprint may or may not be done in time, but I’ll be reading from it regardless.

Listen to LE 73 – Venita Blackburn

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 72: Mop and Bucket Press

It’s going to be okay. This is what I keep telling myself. Everything will be fine. The muse occasionally finds another partner. I’m in one of those phases. A spiral. It happens. No big deal. Sometimes I get depressed and feel like I’m not capable of anything good. I know that’s not the case, but I can’t escape the feeling. Over the years, I’ve learned to cope with my head problems. I’m not perfect at it by any means, but generally speaking, I can get by well enough by reminding myself this is just a passing thing. I think that all creative types go through this at some point or another—and some more often than most. There is this looming, perpetual fear that you will never create again, that you will never live up to the way others perceive you and you have presented yourself.

This one’s bad, though. At Chatterbox last week, I went up to tell a story that I had down. I knew all the beats, where all the threads tied together. I went up to the mic, started the story, everything felt great, I hit my first beat, and then… I just totally lost it. Thread gone—the whole thing completely unraveled. I’ve been doing this long enough now that it wasn’t enough to send me running from the mic. I rambled my way through for a few minutes, hoping I’d get it back, but it never happened. I just went off on some semi-related political tangent that was absolutely not part of the story I was planning to tell. It was awful.

I don’t know. I’m tired, I’m stressed out, I have a lot of anxiety right now. None of that makes for a healthy creative atmosphere. Whatever. It’s going to be okay.

If you missed it, there was an announcement. Hoot n Waddle, which is the company Janell and I started that has found its purpose as a hub for arts and culture podcasts based in Phoenix, is also taking on publishing. It’s big stuff, and if you want to know more about what’s going on, you should check out the Hoot n Waddle website and follow our social media accounts.

On this edition of the show, I talk to Levi Smith and Kenny Puckett who are the creative team behind the comic Sleight of Mind and Mop and Bucket Press. It’s a great conversation about enduring friendship and creative synergy, as well as not giving up on your dreams and passions. That sounds corny, but it’s not. Levi and Kenny are great guys, and their comic is really cool, so you should check out their site, follow them on social media, and check out their merch.

Listen to LE 72 – Mop and Bucket Press

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 71: Doug Bale

I can tell you exactly when and where I first heard the music of Doug Bale. It was Thursday, May 30th, 2013 at The Most of Lit Lounge at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. I went because my uncle, Scott Krause, was part of the lineup which also included Tania Katan, Leslie Barton and Where Are All the Buffalo. It was a great show, but I remember being particularly struck by Doug’s sound, which managed to sound like music I loved without being derivative. I really dug it. I dug Doug.

So, when I started this podcast, Doug was one of the first people I wanted to have on. For reasons that will become clear when you listen to our conversation, it was not a good time for Doug to be on the show. I didn’t know that then, though, and then Doug just kind of disappeared. Well, he didn’t really disappear, but he might as well have, having first scooted to California, and then exiling himself in Apache Junction. Well, maybe it wasn’t exile, and my apologies to the residents of Apache Junction, but it sounds like exile to me.

When I heard that Doug had a new music project he was working on, I was ecstatic. I was like, Doug, there’s no excuse now, do the show, and he said, let’s do it, so here you go. It’s one of the strangest, best conversations I’ve had on this show, and it illustrates why I leave so much in all the time. I know some listeners would prefer I cut things down, keep it around an hour, and that would actually probably help me out as far as making the show more commercial, but that would ruin the journey. We had a really serious conversation about some deep shit, but to get there, we also had to joke around about lemons and DJ Boboli, and go off on a long R.E.M. tangent in order to get to the deep stuff.

Quick note: Doug wanted me to let you all know the name of the book he was referring to on why we read is called All Things Shining.

Another quick note: Doug gave me permission to put one of his new Flighty Tronys tracks at the end of the show, so be sure to listen all the way to the end. The new tracks are great!

Doug Bale is an artist and musician. His artwork has been featured in galleries around Phoenix, and you should absolutely check out his Society 6 page and buy some. His new musical project, Flighty Tronys has released its first EP (available on Bandcamp, Google Play Music, iTunes, and Spotify), and you should get the companion t-shirt. Oh, and go listen to Mergatron while you’re at it. Basically, support Doug. He’s awesome.

Listen to LE 71 – Doug Bale

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 70: Collette Sipho Mabingani

70 in the bag!

I’m not even sure what that means, or if it means anything at all, but I like the sound of it. I don’t think I’ll make a really big deal until we get to 100, but 70 is pretty significant—to me at least. I don’t know that I’ve ever done 70 of anything. At least not something I’ve put out into the public consciousness.

The coming months are going to be exciting—scary and exciting—for myself, for Limited Engagement, for Hoot n Waddle (the company Janell and I started), and I hope you’ll come along for the ride—maybe even encourage others to join us for that ride. Announcements are coming soon, and I couldn’t be happier, or more anxious. It’s a freakin’ roller coaster.

Now, to the show at hand.

Last month, I went to Caffeine Corridor to see friends and prior guests of the show, Rashaad Thomas and Jack Evans. Rashaad’s reading was amazing—it had been a while since I’d seen him read a whole set, and his work is powerful, musical, dark, but hopeful. Jack’s reading was fantastic as well, featuring Tom Bell on guitar, and someone I’d never seen before, Collette Sipho Mabingani on percussion and guitar. At one point during the night, Collette played some original compositions solo, and I was like, this is brilliant, I have to get this guy on the show.

My conversation with Collette is unlike any I’ve had to date. He talks openly about growing up in South Africa during Apartheid, his relationship with Nelson Mandela, how music provided an escape from the horror and a path to a better life in the United States. It’s an amazing immigrant story at a time when the current political regime seems hellbent on destroying and killing that spirit.

Collette Sipho Mabingani is a composer, instrumentalist, and educator. During his teenage years, he performed with many bands of various genres, honing his self-taught musical skills, while using the platform of music to stand firm against apartheid, often at his own peril. Mabingani has performed for many dignitaries including Nelson Mandela and performed many venues including a five-year tour of the United States, and a six-month Europe tour. The creative approach for Mabingani is to utilize music from other global cultures in conjunction with South African music to create a unique blend of world music. Underlying his passion for world music is his experience of the transformational power of uniting sounds from across the globe to create unique, fresh, and inspirational music that can be appreciated by people from all walks of life.

Listen to LE 70 – Collette Sipho Mabingani

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 69: Jenna Duncan

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve had a hell of a time coming up with this edition of The Blarg. Sometimes they flow, and sometimes they don’t. This time it REALLY didn’t flow—no matter how many chips I ate, or how long I stared at the screen, so this one is going to be pretty brief, but don’t let that reflect on the episode, because it’s one of my favorites so far.

I do have a couple of things to plug if you’ll permit me that indulgence. I’m not really sure why I phrased it that way, because I’m about to do it regardless. The Blarg isn’t really democracy, is it? I write something, and either you read it or you don’t. That’s the way it should be.

This Thursday, January 25th at 7pm, I’ll be sharing a story as part of the lineup for this month’s Storyline Slam at the Phoenix Changing Hands location. Tickets are $6 in advance, $8 at the door. The theme is “music.” I may have a story or two (thousand) that fits in.

Last week, I went on at length about my feelings regarding the way the Insight II project went down. Outside of those feelings which had to do with the venue and the way the organizers failed to communicate the affiliations of that venue or their politics, I’m actually really proud of the work I did in collaboration with artist Ryan Parra. If you want to see/read that work, you can pick up the chapbook published by Four Chambers Press. Pick up any of the other 17 chapbooks containing the writer/artist collaborations for this project while you’re at it. The work is stunning—focus on the work.

You may know Jenna Duncan from her work for JAVA magazine, her participation in storytelling events around the valley (including Untidy Secrets and Chain Letter), or more generally for her integral role in the Phoenix arts scene. In addition to JAVA, you can read Jenna’s work in the anthology The Grey Alley: Vol. 2 from Empty City Press; you can also see her on Check Please, Arizona on PBS on January 25th at 7pm (available now for Arizona PBS Passport members); and she will be taking part in a reading on February 3rd at 7pm coinciding with an upcoming art sale for Phoenix Nasty Women Unite benefiting Planned Parenthood (location TBA, though probably Grand ArtHaus or {9}).

This show with Jenna is a long one. I tried editing it down, but on listening back to it there wasn’t much I felt I could cut (except for all the “you know”s—I said that a lot this time, sorry about that). This conversation with Jenna is one of the easiest, most laid back ones I’ve ever had on this show, and that’s saying something, because this show can be pretty laid back.

Listen to LE 69 – Jenna Duncan

Best,
Jared

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