LE 68: Amy Young and Ashley Naftule

Happy New Year, everyone. We made it!

Not shitting anyone, I was going to write this entire blarg about optimism and determination. That was the plan. Then, something came up, and now I feel like I have to talk about that instead. Maybe I’ll try and sneak some optimism in at the end.

This month, first Friday, Four Chambers Press published a series of chapbooks which was the culmination of the collaborative efforts between 18 artists and 18 writers called InSight II (in case the title didn’t give it away, it the follow up to last year’s InSight). I am one among those 18 writers, and my collaboration was with artist Ryan Parra. I’m really proud of the finished work, and this weekend should have been a celebration of the efforts of all those involved. Instead, it all collapsed into a horrible, stinking shithole. New City Studios, the gallery where the work is currently on display, instructed the curators of InSight to remove one of the artist’s pieces (incidentally, the artist, Malena Barnhart, is the person with whom Ashley Naftule, one of this episode’s guests, collaborated for the project) for what amount to religious reasons—specifically that the work is overtly sexual.

I’ve been thinking about how I wanted to respond to this, and if I’d written this immediately upon receiving the news of the work’s removal, I would have written a venomous tirade all about theological fascism. Given some time, this is what I’ve distilled those initial feelings of outrage down to in a much more constructive and objective fashion. Personally, I am vehemently anti-censorship. Additionally, while I am not anti-religion—as I believe that would be hypocritical on my part, I am against the idea that religious institutions have the right to impose their values on anyone who does not choose to subscribe to those values, and that extends to their creative output. New City Studios purports to “[exist] to serve and flourish the arts scene of downtown Phoenix. [We] make a point of promoting local art and artists across as many mediums as we can support.” These words and two other similarly worded expressions of community support are the only elements of text outside of external links that exist on the studio’s site. Nowhere on the website is the fact that the gallery is owned by New City Church reported, nor is there any wording which would suggest that the gallery’s support of the Phoenix arts scene is dependent on that art’s alignment with the church’s views. To use words the church may be familiar with, this presentation of the gallery to the community is both overtly and covertly deceptive. To use words that I would in any normal conversational context, this is really fucking far from okay. If the gallery is a part of the church, and it has become blatantly obvious that it is, then the way to support the arts community is not to deceive it. Even something as simple as the addendum “…so long as the work coincides with the church’s views and beliefs” would serve as an honest attempt to convey the gallery’s aesthetic to any artists who may find themselves involved with the gallery to make an informed decision. I know that would have been enough for me to decide that I did not want to be involved with such an establishment, nor have my work on display. I know that my statement as a writer and creative type is that I will only work with and contribute work to an establishment that is honest, inclusive, and truly supportive of an artist’s right to express themselves without restriction. In other words, not a bunch of theological fascists.

Ultimately, things come down to a breakdown in communications between organizers and artists, and as usual, it’s the artists that take the brunt of the negative consequences. All the hard work and collaboration that went into this project is currently being overshadowed by the sensationalized news story surrounding it. The possibility of this was overlooked by the determination of the organizers to see the project come to fruition regardless of the cost to the artists and writers involved, and I’m not talking monetarily, I’m referring to personal ethos and feelings surrounding the work contributed. As I said earlier, I’m immensely proud of the finished work. I feel like my response to Ryan Parra’s art, and his to my writing, speak to each other in a shared language developed without us ever having worked together in the same room. As a result of the events surrounding what should have been a joyful occasion, I cannot feel good about sharing or promoting the completed project. For me, the whole thing has fallen under a cloud of negativity and resentment. My heart goes out to any other artist or writer who contributed to this project and feels the same way.

Fuck.

Right, onto something much more positive. Amy Young and Ashley Naftule came over to the house to talk with me about their new film podcast, Prizefighting Kangaroo, and we sort of managed to do that. I won’t speak for them, but I had a blast. Our conversation went all over the place, and I haven’t laughed like that in a long time. I think I said during our conversation that I was going to edit a bunch of it out, but I didn’t end up cutting much, because when I was listening back to it, it was all too much fun. I hope you enjoy the chaos.

Amy Young and Ashley Naftule are both deeply ingrained in the Phoenix arts and culture scene. Their new film podcast, Prizefighting Kangaroo, is produced by Yab Yum Music and Arts, and you can hear it on Bandcamp, or via Yab Yum. You can also catch Amy and Ashley hosting Triviadome: Cinema and Culture Trivia over at Valley Bar on January 30th, and curating a new monthly series at Film Bar called “Gateway Drugs: A Director’s Showcase” beginning on February 1st. More info on those events here.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 68 – Amy Young and Ashley Naftule

P.S.
If you listen to us on iTunes, we could really use some ratings and reviews love there.

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The Blarg No. 67: Dario Miranda

The 2nd Annual Music Episode!

Which I’ll get to in just a sec.

First, it’s announcement time: Starting in 2018, I’m moving Limited Engagement to a bi-weekly schedule. There are a number of reasons for this, but the primary one is that I’ve got a number of other projects going, and something has to give. I still love doing the show, and it’s still my primary focus as far as podcasting goes, but I’m also starting up other recording/producing projects, new podcasts, and I need time to write. Things are always subject to change, and if I find myself with a glut of un-posted content, I’ll probably throw up an extra episode here and there, but I’m someone who needs a regular production schedule, and the weekly one has become untenable, so bi-weekly it is! You can forward any comments or complaints directly to our complaints department (aka, the comments section of this newsletter, our Facebook page, by sending us an email, etc.).

Now, to the show at hand:

A while back, I had a conversation with Jason Woodbury about our favorite albums of 2016, and I had a blast—such a blast that I wanted to do it again. I have a blast every time I talk to Jason, but I wanted to spread the Phoenix music community love and branch out this time, so I stopped into Stinkweeds—one of my favorite record stores—and asked if they’d be interested. Owner and founder Kimber Lanning said yes, and that Dario Miranda would be the guy to talk to. We set a recording date, and the results are in this week’s show. Whenever I have somebody over to talk music, the conversation goes long, and this one is no exception. This episode clocks in at just under two hours, and I could have split it up, but I chose not to, so strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

I’m posting this on Christmas Day, so it’s a little late for gift ideas, but maybe you got some gift cards, and maybe you’re looking for some new music, and maybe this will give you some idea of where to start, or give you some things you want to look up and checkout before your next trip to Stinkweeds, or Zia, or Stinkweeds. Stinkweeds is great. You should go there. And if you do so after listening to this show, and you buy something Dario or I talked about, maybe mention that you heard about it here? Or not. Whatever. I probably wouldn’t remember to do that.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to those of you who do that thing, and to those of us who don’t, Happy Everything Is Freakin’ Closed Day.

To listen to the show, read my top ten list, or find a link to Stinkweeds’ staff picks, follow this link: LE 67 – Dario Miranda

Here’s hoping 2018 sucks less than 2017.

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 66: Rosemarie Dombrowski

Get your kicks on The Blarg 66? (Sorry)

If anything can be said to be the modus operandi of 2017, it’s one step up, 2000 steps back; a minor victory followed by countless setbacks; a brief moment of surfacing for air, then right back under water. You get the idea. After a massive effort to keep a pedophile out of congress—a victory so narrow as to not avoid contention or dispute—that same congress voted to end net neutrality, and they’re currently working overtime to push through the most blatantly anti-constituency tax plan ever. To say that the battle is uphill is an understatement of massive proportions. At this point, there is such a disconnect between the government and the people that democracy is flat-out broken, and any meaningful change would take a complete reset—one that could be achieved through votes, but that would first involve a shift in philosophy for the majority of people—a need to make informed, moral, rational, open-minded decisions rather than knee-jerk choices made out of fear and anger.

Barring that, though, here’s an idea: just bench men. The entire gender. There are always exceptions, and I like to think I’m one of them, but another theme of 2017 (and I know it’s not any sort of revelation, believe me) is the inability of men to consider anything beyond the immediate satisfaction of their erection. That can be most obviously seen in sexual misconduct, but it should be pretty obvious that this is likewise the case with all the money boners out there. “You’re giving me how much money? You need me to vote in favor of what? No problem! It’ll screw over which people? The ones who voted for me? Fuck ’em.” So, yes, I’m proposing we take men out of the equation altogether. Who knows, maybe women won’t do any better, maybe they’re equally as corrupt, but I think it’s worth a shot, and my main point is that things are so deeply messed up right now that we’ve got to do something big, drastic, and sweeping in order to progress and break out of this system which is currently hellbent on not only maintaining an arcane, outdated ideology, but dragging us further back into the depths.

One more thing before I put the soapbox away: I am so very, very tired of the standard “man versus Man” defense. Can we just throw that one out? Feeling the need to distinguish yourself as a proper example of the gender doesn’t make you any better, because that is still, in some way, arguing for the superiority of the gender. What really distances you? Being a decent person, that’s what does it. It seems like gender—especially as identity becomes increasingly fluid—needs to move back into the realm of scientific over social function. There are few ideas more exciting than the one that we are the manifestations of our complicated, chemical neural makeup, and not defined by something as simple and arbitrary as the stuff between our legs.

This all has very little to do with my conversation with Rosemarie Dombrowski. Other than the fact that we do spend a fair amount of time discussing the role of art in times of social unrest, turmoil, etc. We also discuss what it means to be the poet laureate of Phoenix, the difference between being a community poet and a feature, and the life-cycle of writing from inception to publication. This also marks Rosemarie’s 3rd appearance on the show (first solo appearance) during December, thus keeping the tradition alive!

Rosemarie Dombrowski is a Senior Lecturer at Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus where she is the co-founder and faculty editor of the student and community writing journal, Write On, Downtown, and where she teaches courses on the poetics of street art, women’s literature, and creative ethnography. Her collections include The Book of Emergencies (Five Oaks Press, 2014), which was the recipient of a 2016 Human Relations Indie Book Award for Poetry, The Philosophy of Unclean Things (Finishing Line Press, 2017), and the forthcoming The Cleavage Planes of Southwest Minerals [A Love Story], winner of the 2017 Split Rock Review chapbook competition. She is also the inaugural Poet Laureate of Phoenix, AZ, the founder of merge poetry journal (2005-11) and rinky dink press, an editor for Four Chambers journal and press, and the co-founder and host of the Phoenix Poetry Series, now in its tenth year.

Listen to LE 66 – Rosemarie Dombrowski

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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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