Tag Archives: Arts and Culture

The Blarg No. 56: Howl Theatre Project

2017 has a lot to answer for, but it’s offered up some amazing moments as well—for Limited Engagement in particular and myself along the way. It’s been rough but rewarding keeping up with the weekly format. I kinda miss the monthly live show, but if I bring it back, it needs to be something that sets it apart from the regular podcast—something special. I’m not sure what that something is yet, hence the continued hiatus as hurl ourselves into October, hoping to burst across December’s finish line. Hoot N Waddle is coming along, slowly but surely. It’s not where I was hoping it would be yet, but patience is something I’ve never been great with. We’re doing Hoot N Waddle right, and that takes time.

To that end, we launched our first podcast on the network, a partnership with Jessie Balli and Chatterbox, the appropriately titled Chatterpod. You can hear the pilot as a Limited Engagement episode (LE 50), and the first official show on the Chatterpod landing page (more episodes are coming soon, I promise). Also, this last week, I recorded a show for Leah Marche and Mike Pfister at The Nash—it was fucking awesome. I’m not sure exactly how or when that is going to come out, but it’s a long-term partnership, and there are more shows to come. Then, this month we’ll be setup over at Phx Zine Fest to record anyone interested in sharing their experience—vendors and attendees alike. Should be fun.

Adding to the milestone of our “Best Podcast” nod from PHOENIX Magazine in their Best of the Valley issue, Phoenix New Times just named Limited Engagement “Best Cultural Podcast” in their Best of Phoenix 2017 issue. It’s really cool to have the show acknowledged and legitimized in the media like this, but I’ve gotta say, it stresses me out a little. Now, I feel like I’ve got more people paying attention, and when you’re named the best of anything, there’s this tendency for people to wait for something to slip quality-wise, so they can say, “Eh, that show’s not that great.” I’ve just got to keep my head down and keep doing what I’ve been doing. I think I can handle that without imploding. I’ll let you know.

This week, I talk to Chris Danowski, Bethanne Abramovich, Jamie Haas Hendricks, and Jake Jack Hylton of Howl Theatre Project. I had a blast talking to these guys. Somehow we managed to get completely absurd while weaving in a serious discussion on the state of independent theatre in Phoenix, as well as talk about the craft and work involved in mounting a stage production. Their most recent show is The New Phoenicians, and if you ever have the opportunity to check out anything they do, you absolutely should, because they’re awesome.

Listen to LE 56 – Howl Theatre Project

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under The Blarg

The Blarg No. 53: Gift Children Books

Saturday night, Janell and I had the great pleasure of seeing first The SunPunchers, and then the Howe Gelb Jazz trio at Valley Bar. The SunPunchers are a superb Americana band led by the sizeable songwriting talent and beautiful voice of Betsy Ganz, and featuring the talents of Mr. Jon Rauhouse—a veritable wizard of a musician. I’m not just praising The SunPunchers because they’re going to be on the show soon, that’s just an added bonus. I highly suggest you check them out—they are equally stunning on record and in person.

For a little while there, it looked like I was going to get a chance to talk to Howe Gelb for the podcast, but it didn’t happen. We were first emailing, then texting back and forth all the way up until the last text I received from him just prior to The SunPunchers set, which reads, “meyer fo.” I’m not sure what that means, I think it was supposed to be “maybe so” based on the conversation we were having, but somehow “meyer fo” is better. No big deal, I think I’ll get to talk to him some day, and it was pretty cool to have a text-versation with a musician whose work I admire deeply.

Howe’s set was fantastic. He and his band have a tight telepathic connection—they have to in order to keep up with the unpredictability of the show (he half-joked about midway through the set that he hasn’t had a setlist in over 35 years). Several references were made to his advancing age and the effects of jet lag, but during a break between piano sets, Howe broke out an acoustic guitar and proceeded to display some impressive, agile, nimble licks. His style as a guitarist is that rare, precious mixture of technical know-how and effortlessly emotional execution that punches you in the head and the heart all at once. The cherry on top was hearing the gorgeous, haunting vocals of Lonna Kelley float over the last few songs of the performance. Howe Gelb’s album Future Standards (which features Kelley heavily throughout) is a gem, and I highly recommend it.

On this week’s show, our 53rd, I talk to Nazlah Hassan, the founder of Gift Children Books, an organization with the mission of getting books in the hands of children from families with economic hardships who would otherwise be unable to afford them. The organization holds annual bookfairs in Harlem and Phoenix, and the Phoenix bookfair will take place on November 11th at Booker T. Washington Child Development Center. November 4th, in the same location from 9am to 5pm, Gift Children Books is holding a fundraising book sale where members of the public will have the opportunity to purchase from a selection of 1500 titles written by and about African Americans.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 53 – Gift Children Books

Leave a comment

Filed under The Blarg

The Blarg No. 52: Chicago Edition

As I’m sitting here, writing this week’s blarg, it is our fifth and final day in Chicago. If you factor in Thursday being our arrival/getting settled in day, Sunday being taken up by wedding—which was the whole reason we flew out, and it was a lovely wedding—and today being the pack things up and leave day, we had roughly two days to explore the downtown area. I have the same feelings about Chicago that I do with any other city I’ve visited, which are that I could live here for years and never really know the city, that I feel most at home in a city, and that I really, really hate driving in the city. Driving is great in the suburbs and more open, rural areas, where there is space, long stretches of scenic viewing, and most importantly, more room between vehicles. Driving in the city is stressful, and I much prefer walking and utilizing public transit, because really, in a well-planned city, you almost don’t need a car. Which is why I would say Los Angeles is not well-planned at all. As the great poet laureate of the endearingly cranky once sang, “I love L.A.,” but I’m pretty sure that it was designed by someone who wondered what it would be like if all of the layers of layer were presented in pancake form.

Chicago has some wonderful, iconic cultural attractions, that I highly recommend you check out when you visit the city, and I hope to visit them as well the next time we come out. What I was more interested in, though, was book and record stores, so if you’re interested in hearing about those, then this week’s show is made for you. Janell’s family is here in Chicago, so the likelihood is that we’ll be back, and I’ll have the opportunity to do more exploring, but there is also an equal likelihood that I will continue to seek out the record stores that I didn’t get to on this trip. I’m a man with a mission, you see—I’ve been looking for a vinyl edition of Frank, my favorite Squeeze album, for quite a number of years now, and this search dominates every excursion we make outside of the Phoenix area. An obsession? Yes. An unhealthy one? That’s debatable. You live your life, I’ll live mine. We did go to a jazz festival, and that was interesting…

This week’s show was meant to be recorded entirely in Chicago, but I had difficulty finding circumstances under which I could record and not look like a crazy person, so some of it is recorded in Chicago, and some of it will be recorded when we get back into Phoenix, and the whole thing is going up a day late, because, well, we’ll say it’s due to the Labor Day holiday. Look for it to be posted late Monday or sometime on Tuesday.

LE 52 contains some thoughts on the institution of marriage and weddings themselves; reviews of the record and bookstores we went to; talk of breakfast food, a particularly delicious cookie sandwich, and our lack of culinary adventurousness; reflections on Chicago; and an explanation of how the unifying thread of this entire trip was the Tom Waits song “Better Off Without a Wife.” If this sort of stream of consciousness thing appeals to you, then this week’s show is so far up your alley, it’s tickling your tonsils.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 52 – Chicago Edition

Leave a comment

Filed under The Blarg

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

Leave a comment

Filed under The Blarg

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Blarg

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

Leave a comment

Filed under The Blarg

The Blarg No. 46: Ernesto Moncada Pt. 2

I find myself compelled to write about delusions this week. Generally speaking, we delude ourselves all the time. I know that I’ve uttered classics such as, “Everything’s fine,” “No worries,” and “I got this” on countless occasions. You may see a theme there—my self-deluded states tend to center themselves around ignoring, glossing over, or denying the existence of problems. They’re never big problems, because I’m also a realist. If there’s a big problem, I am much more likely to openly admit, “Oh, yeah, things are not cool, I am totally, completely, utterly fucked.” You’ve got to acknowledge the big issues immediately, because they have the tendency (read: absolute certainty) of rolling along and attracting other issues to the point where—to use one of my all-time favorite phrases—everything goes tits up and you find yourself hurtling through the jungle being chased by a huge fucking boulder, carrying a golden idol, and Alfred Molina says he’ll throw you the whip if you throw him the idol, but he’s a lying fuck and leaves you for dead. That is how things look to me right now. The government is both Alfred Molina and the boulder, and the yawning chasm across which we have to jump is highly representative of the one between the president’s ears. Oh, and the poisoned blow darts hurtling our way at high speed are really fucking stupid tweets. So, to answer the question you didn’t ask, yes, the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark is the perfect analogy for the straits we find ourselves in.

Some delusions probably serve a positive purpose, right? After all, as creative people, we have to shield ourselves with something, or we’d all just give up and go cry ourselves to sleep every night. Confidence, I think, is at least to some degree a delusion. You gotta fake it until you make it. At some point, if you’re lucky, through success—however one wants to measure that—the ratio of earned, experiential confidence to simply talking yourself up in order to put your work out there, or go for that job, or try out for that part, whatever, tips in the former’s favor, and “I got this” ceases being a functional delusion and becomes certainty, and you know which cup is the Grail, you choose wisely, you save Sean Connery and ride off into the sunset with your buddies. I figured I’d round things out with another Indiana Jones reference, and Last Crusade is unarguably the 2nd best film in the franchise.

This week’s show is part deux of my conversation with Ernesto Moncada. I’m sure I said something last week, but I really enjoyed talking to Ernesto, and I’m excited for you to hear the rest of our conversation. There is more on the notion of things lost in translation, we get to hear some about his experience transitioning from the Mexican literary scene to the arts and culture scene here in Phoenix, and much more.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 46 – Ernesto Moncada Pt.2

Leave a comment

Filed under Arts and Culture, Performance Art, Podcast, Poetry, The Blarg