Category Archives: The Blarg

The Blarg No. 65: Joy Young

Wearing sweaters as the world burns…

December showed up as it always does. Right on time. One moment it’s November 30th at 11:59 pm, and then, boom, December 1st is right there on top of things. Despite despising the holidays, I actually really like December. I’d say it’s probably my favorite month, and not just because I was born in it. I like the atmosphere, I like the crisp snap of the air, but above all I like wearing sweaters. I love wearing sweaters. I wish it were sweater weather all the time, but in Arizona, sweater time is very, very limited. I’m not weird about it or anything—I don’t have some weird sweater fetish—I like the softness of them, I like that you can get away with wearing them at work, and they’re super-comfortable, so it’s almost like you feel you’re getting away with something. I guess I should say “I” feel that way, because it is extraordinarily presumptive of me to think anyone else might feel the same.

This year, though, something feels off. I’m not getting to enjoy my sweater time as much as I normally do. Maybe, and I’m just hypothesizing here, it’s because it seems as though the entire world is either literally or metaphorically on fire. Hard to feel good about being comfy and cozy when you are also an empathetic person and paying attention to everything going on around you. Again, that “you” is presumptive, and I’m doing my best to quit presumption. I’m sure there’s some sort of presumptive support group or multi-step program, but I’m determined to quit presumption cold turkey.

I had a really fun conversation with Joy Young. I really like their work, and this was the first time I’ve had occasion to talk to them about their process, where their stories come from, and connect creatively. It turns out the reason for this might be that, although we’re both pretty active in similar, often connecting or intersecting literary circles, we’re also both pretty cripplingly shy and suffer from heavy social anxiety. It’s apparently not terribly uncommon for literary types who appear confident and have success on stage to be incredibly introverted. Who knew? Well, I did know actually, but it’s still nice to connect and not feel so alone.

Joy Young is a performance and teaching spoken word artist based in Phoenix, Az. Their poetry and workshops, much of which centers on transgressing borders, entering topics pertaining to social justice through poetic personal narratives has been featured on Button Poetry and Everyday Feminism as well as on stages and in colleges and classrooms across the country. Joy is a co-founder of Off the Page—a monthly recurring workshop and open mic at Wasted Ink Zine Distro that seeks to build connection and community within Phoenix’s diverse literary and performance communities. Learn more about them at https://www.joyyoungpoetry.com/

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 65 – Joy Young

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The Blarg No. 64: Cardboard House Press

What Is Downtime?

I took a little break from Limited Engagement. It had to be done. I needed to relax. There’s a lot of work that goes into producing a weekly show, and I’ve gone over all of it before, I’m pretty sure, so I don’t see any need to rehash it here, but it was all becoming really stressful, and I needed to take a little break, to regroup. So what did I do? I created another podcast. Because I apparently don’t know what “downtime” means.

Hoot N Review is a pop culture review pod, which will focus on my views regarding music, film, TV, literature, and really any other medium I feel I might have something to say about. As a lifetime consumer of “stuff,” with a sort of obsessive need to study and explore beyond the surface, this is a passion project, which I hope some other people out there might have an interest in hearing. We have a super-cute logo. You can listen to it by clicking the picture below.

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LE is back, though, and this week’s guests are Maggie Messerschmidt and Giancarlo Huapaya of Cardboard House Press. We’ve been talking about having them on the show since back when we were still doing the monthly live show, and we finally managed to make the calendars align. It was a great conversation—veering into the political at times, but it’s hard not to—and I’m glad we were able to make it happen.

Cardboard House Press is a non-profit publisher bringing powerfully beautiful works of Latin American and Spanish literature to an English-speaking audience that would otherwise have no outlet or exposure—works of great social, cultural and political import in their countries of origin. They recently setup a subscription plan where you can receive forthcoming publications at either a 6 or 9-title level, and you can learn more at cardboardhousepress.org

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 64 – Cardboard House Press

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The Blarg No. 63: On Songwriting

Have I ever mentioned that it’s really hard to keep a weekly show going? I know I complain a lot, and I’m sorry for that, but not really, but I am. Also, I never go back and re-read these, because, well, I write them, and then I send them, and any sort of re-visitation seems as though it would only be inviting unnecessary self-criticism, because once they’re out there, what is there really for me to do?

Where was I? Ah, yes, complaining.

It is difficult, though, keeping a weekly show on the rails. Especially when you’re doing everything yourself, and I’m not even doing everything myself—Janell takes care of the weekly graphics, but I do take care of the booking, the recording, the editing, the post-production, the social media marketing (as inept as I am at it), and when you combine that with other regular recording obligations, work, life… It quickly becomes not only overwhelming, but all consuming.

Anybody out there want to book a well-received, if little known, arts and culture podcast? That would just be freaking awesome.

All of the above brings us to this week’s show. Our first clip show! Let’s call it a theme show, though, because I hate the whole clip show concept.

Talking to musicians—songwriters in particular—is one of my favorite things to do, and Limited Engagement has afforded me the opportunity to take to some amazing talented practitioners of the art. This show features thoughts, experiences, and wisdom on the subject of writing songs from from Tindal, Robyn Hitchcock, The Haymarket Squares, Jon Rauhouse, Betsy Ganz of The SunPunchers, Scotty Spenner, and Lou Barlow. Hear the full conversations on Limited Engagement, iTunes, and a plethora of podcast dispensaries.

Listen to LE 63 – On Songwriting

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 62: Dan Hull

Down the Collector’s Rabbitt Hole

I’m not merely an obsessive music collector, I’m a nerdy, obsessive music collector. Actually, full disclosure, I’m a nerdy, obsessive compulsive music collector. Every item among my thousands of CD’s and hundreds of records is meticulously organized—first by genre, then by artist, release type (album, ep, single, compilation…), and within these artists and release types, everything is chronological. I will purchase and then keep several copies of an album, because there is a slight difference in the track list, or one version contains a bonus that another lacks. Everything is catalogued, too. Originally, before the prevalence of cataloging apps, everything was organized in a spreadsheet. This morning, I stopped short of squealing with delight over being able to scan the bar code of a Japanese import 7″ Bruce Springsteen single (“I’m Goin’ Down” b/w “Janey, Don’t You Lose Heart”) and have it pop up with cover photo, release notes, pricing details, and the social security number of the individual who manned the pressing machine at the plant (a little exaggeration, but you see what I’m getting at).

One thing I used to be, and find that I am not any longer, is a music snob. If I thought anything was too commercial, too mainstream, too middle of the road, it was open to derision. Then, I hit my thirties, and I found that it didn’t matter anymore. Good music is good music, and the above philosophy led to conflicts in my enjoyment of stuff I loved as a kid: Billy Joel, Huey Lewis and the News, John Mellencamp—at best qualifying something as a guilty pleasure—which is ridiculous. In the years since I have allowed myself to enjoy what I enjoy proudly and openly, and not judge a person (too) harshly when they like music I can’t stand, I’ve found that I enjoy music even more. You know what? “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” is a great fucking song.

This topic was my conversational introduction to this week’s guest, someone I’ve seen around at events for years, but never really had a conversation with. Now that we’ve talked music, though, we might be best friends.

Dan Hull is the founder of The Storyline, a cornerstone of the Arizona storytelling community and a platform for live storytelling events hosted and produced by Hull. The most recent incarnation, The Storyline Slam, is a monthly competitive storytelling event which takes place at The Newton. To learn more, and even throw your name in the electronic hat for the next event, visit The Storyline website.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 62 – Dan Hull

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The Blarg 61: PHX Zine Fest

Up in the Air

On the road again—well, technically, in the air, I suppose. Nothing fun this time, off to Anaheim—a work thing at the Disneyland conference. Never has the happiest place on earth been a less apropos slogan. I haven’t been to Disneyland since 1987 or ’88. It was one of the last things I did with my dad, and I don’t recall being terribly happy then either. We went on Star Tours—that was cool.

I’m a much better flyer than I used to be, but I still hate doing it. I don’t know that I’ve really talked about it much here, so I apologize for any retread. The thing is, I don’t think people belong in airplanes. It’s just not natural being up there in a big metal tube. I understand that there are very scientific principles, sound mathematics, and fancy physics keeping me airborne, but I don’t trust it for a second. People belong on the ground.

Naturally, this conflicts with my love of science fiction and desire to be aboard the Enterprise (TOS or TNG only, thank you very much), or to shoot down TIE fighters in the Millennium Falcon, but what are you gonna do? How likely is any of that anyway? I’m thinking not so much.

I think this week’s show is pretty cool. As you may or may not know, we set up shop (read: a couple of mic stands, mics, and my handy ZOOM H4N) at this year’s PHX Zine Fest and made ourselves available to anyone who wanted to records their experience there—either as a vendor or an attendee. We got some really cool stories, and they are pieced together here for your listening pleasure.

To listen to the show and find links to projects for all of the guests, head here: LE 61 – PHX Zine Fest

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 60: Lou Barlow

Talking Lou Barlow

Fall, such as it is in Phoenix, Arizona, appears to at last be upon us. Summer has finally taken the hint (about a month late) and buggered off to some more appropriate hemisphere. Unless it hasn’t, which it seems like could be the case—like that one friend who threatens to leave, not realizing that everyone wishes he’d left hours ago, but then pops back in to make one more point in an argument he’s already lost. We need the break, or at least I need the break. I need my cool down period, weather-wise, or it starts to seriously impact my ability to function as a pleasant human being, and it’s already a serious chore let me tell ya.

Since last we spoke, we’ve been to the Las Vegas Book Festival (kind of a bust for us) and PHX Zine Fest (a fantastic event where we met a lot of lovely individuals) in order to interact with the larger arts community and grow the audience for the show. This sort of self-promotion is not something that comes naturally to me. It involves a lot of repeating the same spiel, putting on a show of enthusiasm, and smiling. I’m a naturally cantankerous person, and left to my own devices I’d probably rarely leave the house, so dragging Public Jared out for long stretches of time is exhausting.

I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy Las Vegas. I’d never been, and I don’t think I have much interest in returning. I’m sure we were just in the wrong parts, and there are probably some lovely parts, people, etc., but then there’s also the 7-Eleven where the person with the dead-eyed stare is sitting in front of a slot machine in the middle of the night, pulling that lever like he can’t recall a time when he wasn’t pulling the lever. On some level, I know Vegas scares me a little because of my own compulsive tendencies. It doesn’t take much to imagine myself as the guy who can’t stop pulling the lever.

As I mentioned, I met some truly wonderful people at PHX Zine Fest, and some of them were kind enough to sit down with me for a few minutes and share their stories. Charissa Lucille (LE 57) organized a fantastic event, and Unexpected Gallery was a perfect venue for it. It was inspiring to see so many creative folks gathered together, committed to sharing their experiences and artistic vision. You can hear those stories in next week’s episode.

This week, I talk to a guy named Lou Barlow. You may know him as the bassist in Dinosaur Jr., but hopefully you really know him from Sebadoh, The Folk Implosion, and his solo work. Lou’s a unique, gifted songwriter and musician—one of my favorites actually, and it was a thrill to get a chance to talk to him. He wasn’t really promoting anything, so we just chatted about music—it was great. If you’re not familiar with Lou’s work, I recommend starting with Sebadoh’s Harmacy and his first solo album, EMOH. Also, pop on over to loobicore to learn more about the world of Lou.

Listen to LE 60 – Lou Barlow

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 59: Lisa Olson

This is a first: I’m writing The Blarg days ahead of time. I usually do all this stuff on the weekend/just before I post the show on Sunday night. However, this weekend, we’re leaving Friday night to table/promote Limited Engagement for the first time at the Las Vegas Book Festival on Saturday. We’re at the table with a bunch of friends, so it should be fun. Then, on Sunday, we’re over at PHX Zine Fest. I’ve pretty much been going non-stop, and I’m really tired. Since I’m pre-writing this, let’s say that everything was a smashing success, and everything is awesome.

Brief little anecdote, roughly a week apart, we went to two very different concerts. The first, Billy Bragg over at the Crescent Ballroom, was fucking awesome. Despite the fact that he’d lost his voice (and sold out of t-shirts) in California, Mr. Bragg, sans opener, put on a two hour show with nothing but four cups of tea, two guitars, and some of the most natural, entertaining banter. Plus, he was armed with a brace of amazing songs that weren’t even a little bit ruined by a dismissive remark about podcasters. If you don’t know who Billy Bragg is, or it’s been a while since you’ve listened to his music, you owe it to yourself to go have a listen—he’s exactly the sort of singer-songwriter we need right now, and he’s been the kind of songwriter we need for more than thirty years.

The second show was not even one we were planning to go to, and that was Dinosaur Jr. They’re a great band, J. Mascis is an amazing guitarist, but to be honest, I’m much more of a Lou Barlow fan. Sebadoh is one of my favorite bands, and Lou’s solo work—Emoh in particular—is awesome, so I went ahead and reached out to Lou to see if he’d be interested in doing the show, and he said sure, so Janell and I went down to the Van Buren and Lou and I chatted for about an hour or so. Then he asked if we were going to the show, I said we didn’t get tickets (I left out the part about how it was because I needed some sleep), and he asked if we wanted to be put on the guest list. How do you say no to that? So we saw Dinosaur Jr., and they were great, but they were really loud—to the point where I wished I had earplugs, and I felt super old. I’d like to highlight, though, that the whole experience was amazing, and I never thought I’d be at a point in life where I get to sit and chat to my musical idols and get put on guest lists.

Lisa Olson is a really cool person, and she runs this really cool place called Practical Art, a retail space and gallery that features the work of 150+ local artists (and the only store that carries our book, The Arg in Blarg). She’s also a photographer, and you can check out her work here. We recorded in the shop, so you’ll notice a few pauses here and there for customer traffic, some background music, and a point around the 30 min mark where I apparently forgot how to put words together. That last bit has nothing to do with where the recording was done, it’s apparently just a special gift I have.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 59 – Lisa Olson

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