The Blarg No. 93: LIVE with Andrea Scarpino and Matt Bell

The holidays are a problematic time of year for me, or at least they have been historically. The fact that my birthday is December 22nd didn’t help much, nor did a dysfunctional family life, or working in retail for more than 15 years. The season has pretty much been ruined for me—at least from a traditional consumerist and familial standpoint. The season and weather on their own comprise my favorite time of year. One of the perks of living in Arizona, I suppose.

Not working in a retail setting any longer, I actually manage to get Thanksgiving weekend off. It’s been great. I probably should have been doing a lot more work, but I needed a break. I edited and put up this episode of Limited Engagement, put up the new What the Fork?, but that’s pretty much it. There are manuscripts to be read, I’ve got a number of new podcasts to edit—it’ll all wait. I’ve decided instead to start watching James Bond from the beginning. As I’m writing this, I’m also watching Dr. No. I’ve seen almost all of the James Bond films, but it’s been quite some time for most of them, and there are a couple of the Daniel Craig films that I’ve never seen. This renewed interest, I have to say, was spurned on by discovering and listening to the James Bonding podcast with Matts Gourley and Mira.

There’s a lot of peril in revisiting something like this, because of the racism, sexism, and so forth. There are some properties best left in the past, but I couldn’t resist. Dr. No is exactly as awful and simultaneously wonderful as I could have hoped for. There has got to be some sort of allowance for the magic and power of classic cinema, or what have we got left? Nothing is perfect, it’s never going to be, and if I can’t enjoy an old film despite all of its inherent social flaws, what’s the point? Of anything? We can’t go back and fix everything, because that’s not progress. James Bond is a racist, sexist, bigoted, terrible human being. I’m still going to enjoy the films. I’m a pacifist, but I love a good war epic. I don’t think our entertainment necessarily has to reflect our values. Especially when it’s 50 years old.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going with that, and I’m going to go ahead and bypass the soapbox rather than stand on it.

Longtime listeners to the podcast will know that it’s been well over a year since I’ve done a live edition of Limited Engagement. There are a number of reasons for this, most of which I’ve already discussed at length, so I don’t see the point in going over them again. Having gone so long without doing one, though, I was more than a little bit apprehensive. With how stressed and anxious I’ve been lately, I had some serious doubts as to whether I’d have my mojo working. It seems like everything went okay. I apparently now have some sort of “podcast host brain” that kicks in as soon as the recording starts. The questions and conversation just flow. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. You as the listener will be the final judge.

Regardless of where you come down on the quality of my abilities as a host, there’s no arguing that Andrea Scarpino and Matt Bell are fantastic guests. This is another one of those indispensable craft talks for anyone looking to grow and learn as a writer. Andrea’s latest collection, Once Upon Wing Lake, has just been republished by Hoot n Waddle, so you can get that through our shop or locally through Changing Hands bookstores, and Matt’s latest, A Tree or a Person or a Wall, is available wherever books are sold. Matt and Andrea are both wonderful writers, and I cannot recommend their work highly enough.

I’d just like to round back to the holidays quickly before I wrap this up. They can often be extraordinarily stressful and depressing, and should you find yourself in a position where you need to reach out, I’d like to make myself available. If you write to ltd.engagement@gmail.com, I will respond to you and attempt to be useful to you in whatever way I can–even if that is simply being a sympathetic ear.

Cheers and best wishes to you,

Jared

Listen to LE 93 – LIVE with Andrea Scarpino and Matt Bell

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The Blarg No. 92: J. Gonzo

I’m waiting to be seated so that I can order some pancakes and more coffee. The reason for this is that I’m having my windshield replaced, and it’s in Scottsdale, and it made more sense to walk and get pancakes than it did to have Janell drive us the 20 minutes home, wait for an hour, and then drive the 20 minutes back. It’s irritating, I haven’t even had this car for a month, and already it’s costing me more money. This is when I wish I lived in a city that has a great public transit system, or where I could walk to everything, or that I worked from home. On the one hand, I love the freedom of being able to just hop in the car and go wherever; on the other, I would give up owning a car in a second. It’s such a headache! And if I really want to go somewhere, I can rent a car.

Anyway, pancakes sounded like a good idea, so here we are.

When last I blarged (how pretentious does that sound?), the Arizona senate race was still undecided. I’m happy to say that the state I call home, for lack of a better word, finally has a Democratic representative. I’m not so happy that it’s the problematically centrist Sinema, but what are you gonna do? It’s still Arizona.

Not too long ago, I had the immense pleasure or seeing Marc Maron at StandUp Live in Phoenix, and leading up to that, there was a Tweet posted by a local artist who’d created a poster to commemorate the occasion, which Maron re-tweeted saying something along the lines of, Let’s make this happen, which I was excited about, because it seems like everywhere else Maron performs gets a cool poster, but last time he played Phoenix, nothin’. I loved the poster, and purchased one the night one the night of the show, and was like, it’s been a while since I’ve had an artist on the show, I should check this guy out.

It turns out it’s a super small world, and even though J. and I had never met prior to recording the podcast, we have a ton of people in common—my buddy Ernie is friends with John Derrick West who’s friends with J.; J. is friends with and has worked with Alex Empty who’s the husband of my friend (and previous LE guest) Leah Newsom; and just the day before, I got my copy of Tapestry Comics’ A Flower in a Field of Lions with the limited edition alternate cover, and I noticed that it was done by…J. Gonzo. Like I said, small world.

A lot of you who listen to this show are artists, writers, musicians, creative types, and you, like me, are trying to figure out how to make a living with your art, and this conversation with J. is a great resource. He’s someone who has worked hard to make a sustainable living doing what he loves, and he’s done it. He’s worked for big design firms and Todd McFarlane’s company, and most people would be satisfied with that, but he’s gone on to create his own graphic design business and made a name for himself as an independent comic book creator with his series, La Mano del Destino. Along the way, he’s done work as a tattoo artist, done freelance work, worked the convention circuit, and at the end of the day, even though it’s a shit ton of hard work, he gets to say that he makes a living doing what he loves.

It’s Thanksgiving week, and I know that’s a tough time for a lot of us. I hope you enjoy the time off, if not the holiday itself. If you’re unfortunate enough to work in retail, I feel for you. I did that for a long time. It was miserable.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 92 – J. Gonzo

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The Blarg No. 91: Todd Hoover

Meanwhile, in Arizona, we still have no fucking idea who our next senator is. In case it wasn’t abundantly clear, I’m pulling for Kyrsten Sinema. I have my problems with her record, but I believe the alternative to be far worse. As of this writing, Sinema currently holds the lead with nearly 50 percent of the vote. Let’s hope things stay that way.

We also managed to flip The House, so at the very least, there’s at least a check if not necessarily a balance. We’ll have to wait and see what happens at this point. I’m cautious. Note that I’m not cautiously optimistic. I don’t think we’re anywhere near optimism yet, but I am a pessimist and a cynic, so you know, take that for what it’s worth.

If you’re a writer in Arizona, and you’re reading this on Monday, you might be interested in this contest Hoot n Waddle has going on in partnership with the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. Our friends at Piper have given HnW two spots at Andrea Scarpino’s Poetry of the Body workshop, which takes place on Saturday, 11/17 at 10 am, and the reason they’ve done this is because the workshop takes place right before our event to re-launch Andrea’s book Once Upon Wing Lake as a Hoot n Waddle title (it was originally published last year by Four Chambers Press). The event is a live Limited Engagement—the first live show I’ve done in over 18 months—and the guests will be Andrea and writer Matt Bell. All you have to do for a chance to win one of the workshop spots is share our Facebook event and tag Hoot n Waddle in your post. We’ll pick two names at random and message the winners privately.

I had a really interesting conversation with Todd Hoover (who records and releases music under the name The Invisible Teal). He was once a very religious person who went so far as to attend seminary school, but has since denounced religion in the wake of some personal events and self-realizations. His story is fascinating, and his music is a complex, eclectic delight. Todd’s latest album is called Debt and Quandaries, and he plays two tracks from it at the end of the show (“Line of Dots” and “Willey Siegel”). You can check out The Invisible Teal on Bandcamp.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 91 – Todd Hoover

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The Blarg No. 90: The Blood Feud Family Singers

It’s in the mail, that green envelope that holds all my hope for knocking the juggernaut of horror off of its current path of destruction—sidelining it for just a little while so I can catch my breath. Who knows what kind of impact my singular vote will have? All I can do is fervently hope that enough people have a similar dissatisfaction with the current direction of things—whether that’s the recent additions to the Supreme Court, the withdrawal from the Paris agreement, the ban on transgender military service, or any number of other politically, socially, and scientifically regressive policy decisions—that they vote accordingly.

I love the convenience of early voting, but I feel a little bit robbed of the voting experience this time. This is probably the most important election of my roughly twenty years of voting eligibility, or at least it feels that way, and a part of me wishes that I had the experience of waiting in line, standing in a booth, and turning in my ballot in-person.

I’m also a little bit paranoid. With all of the reporting on election tampering of late, I have a desire to follow my envelope on its journey from mailbox to tabulation—just to make sure everything gets counted correctly. It’s all out of my hands, though, and all I can do now is wait and watch the returns.

Anyway, on to this week’s show:

The Blood Feud Family Singers started out when The Haymarket Squares would sit in on Darryl Scherrer’s songs, not entirely unlike Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles. From there, Scherrer and the Square’s Marc Oxborrow thought it would be a great idea to put a band together (they explain it much better in the interview). The band has one album out, No Moon, and they will release their new album, Adversary, on Sunday, November 11th, with an album release show at Last Exit Live at 7:30 pm.

On this, the 90th Limited Engagement, Marc Oxborrow and Darryl Scherrer discuss everything from the formation of The Blood Feud Family Singers, to songwriting, to Darryl taking a pizza order from Tom Waits. Be sure to check out their new album, Adversary, and stick around until the end of the show to hear a track from the album.

Best.

Jared Duran

Listen to LE 90 – The Blood Feud Family Singers

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LE 89: Tyler Button

Oy, okay, what do I want to talk about this time?

Well, first of all, make sure you vote. At least in Arizona, you only have a couple more days to get your early ballot in the mail, so if you’re going to do that, get it done. Otherwise, go to the polls. Vote, and vote informed. Research the propositions. Research the judges. Look at who is running for the school board positions. These local things matter, and they matter a whole fucking lot.

Other than that, it’s just been really crazy busy. We had a really good turnout for the launch of David Chorlton’s Reading T. S. Eliot to a Bird (which you can get here). I’m about to go into editing a new podcast called Album Infinitum, which is a music podcast focusing on one artist, one album at a time. The first artist is Aimee Mann, and the guests I had on to discuss the albums are fantastic, so look forward to that in early November.

Oh, also, I had a mild panic attack the other day. They’re happening more frequently. And my anxiety ebbs and flows, but never seems to truly subside. I can’t relax. It’s a real problem.

I’ve just got too much stuff running around my head all the time, and I’m not sleeping well. I started taking melatonin to see if that helps.

Tyler Button founded Tapestry Comics in 2015 with the aim of “creat[ing] the most exciting and interesting books retelling the greatest tales from our past.” On this edition of Limited Engagement, Button discusses turning one of his passions into a business, working with comic book artists, being a full time dad, and we have a deep philosophical discussion about what it takes to be a successful creative in the social media age as well as what it takes to keep that alive and viable in Phoenix.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 89 – Tyler Button

Ooh—one other thing. We’ll be back next week, because I have a conversation with The Blood Feud Family Singers that needs to go up, which means we may be going weekly. Stay tuned.

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The Blarg No. 88: Barbara VanDenburgh

It has to be talked about, if only briefly. I’d feel wrong otherwise. In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s a complete and total shit show out there. If you’re a right wing conservative, I highly doubt you’re listening to Limited Engagement or reading The Blarg, but if you are, I’m not even sorry. I honestly don’t feel like the Democrats are doing much better at this point in time, but in order to stem the tide of regressive, fascistic, fear-mongering, and my fingers have actually gone apoplectic. That’s how bad things are—my fingers can’t even keep up with the horror running through my head.

What I’m saying is that the prevailing evil is so evil, we are left with no choice other than to vote for the lesser of two, because something has to fucking change and change fast. Irreparable damage to the progress of humanity and science has already been done, and it’s going to take a fuck ton of work just to get back to where we were which, honestly, already was not that great.

We have a job to do. That job is to send a message of undeniable strength and unity, which is that we won’t stand for this dismantling of social progress any longer.

My early voting ballot came in the mail today. I’ve never been more excited or terrified to vote. I’m terrified it won’t work, that we’ve already gone too far down a dark, dark path. If you have a conscience, if you have a glimmer of hope for social progress, you have a choice to make, and you know what the right one is. This is difficult. I am not one to even begin to tell someone what they should do—it just isn’t my place—but this is different. This time, there is something that you should do, and you hopefully know what that is. Don’t let polling make you complacent. They have to feel every vote.

Okay, I’m done with that. Let’s talk about something else.

Oh, we—Janell and I—went and saw a double feature this past weekend. We saw The Sisters Brothers and The Old Man and the Gun. The Sisters Brothers is a fantastic, dark, humorous novel written by Patrick DeWitt. I highly recommend it. I can’t say that I recommend the movie, though. It was the first of the two we saw, and I walked out thinking it was pretty good. Then we got our tickets for the 2nd movie, and by the time we sat down to watch the previews, I’d already downgraded it to being just okay. Walking out of The Old Man and the Gun, my opinion of The Sisters Brothers had settled in at “not that great.” There are some excellent performances, but I had some real problems with the story and the liberties they’d taken with changes to the novel. One of the reasons for the quick slide in rating is how good I think the 2nd movie is. The Old Man and the Gun, though not a terribly surprising or original (I mean, the crime genre has been done to death), is a fantastic movie. Everyone in it is great. Personally, I think Tom Waits steals every scene he’s in, but Sissy Spacek gives a wonderful performance, and Robert Redford… Honestly, is there anyone left in film with the caliber and gravitas of Robert Redford? I highly recommend it—and go see it on a real screen, in a theatre, with other people.

Speaking of films…

Barbara VanDenburgh is a reporter, cultural critic and Senior Content Strategist for USA Today Network (she has a ton of great film reviews you can find up on the AZ Central website), as well as the moderator for the popular First Draft Book Club, which meets once a month at the Phoenix location of Changing Hands. The next First Draft Book Club meeting will be Wednesday, October 24th at 7 pm, to discuss Gary Shteyngart’s new novel, Lake Success. For more information on that, you can visit the Changing Hands site, and for more Barbara, follow her on Twitter at @BabsVan.

Listen to LE 88 – Barbara VanDenburgh

Best,

Jared Duran

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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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