Tag Archives: Arts and Culture

LE 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.

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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

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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

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The Blarg No. 42: Mike Pfister

Behold! The forty-second edition of Limited Engagement. 42. The answer which, after seven and a half million years, the greatest computer ever built, Deep Thought, supplied as the ultimate answer to the great question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. That’s right, folks: I am a huge dork. I think that this has been well-established, though, and it shouldn’t come as a great shock to anyone.

We went and saw a little bit of the Emancipation Marathon over at the Phoenix Changing Hands location, and while we were only able to stay for about an hour or so, I’m glad we went. The event, which has taken place for twenty years, is run by Clottee Hammons (LE 40), and features community members reading work to commemorate the victims of American Chattel Slavery. It was great to see the inclusion of children among the readers at the event, as it will be up to them to carry on the legacy, and given Clotte’s work in educational outreach, I know this is no accident. Check out Clottee’s organization, Emancipation Arts, on Facebook, and please support her work.

This week, I talk to ASU professor and drummer extraordinaire, Mike Pfister. Mike was an early supporter of this show, originally as part of the audience, and then as an integral part of the live show, performing opening sets with PressPlay, and more recently the experimental jazz quartet, Klee. I’ve known Mike for years and have worked on a number of projects with him, but I found I didn’t know much about him personally, so I learned a lot through our conversation.

Best,

Jared

Listen to LE 42 – Mike Pfister

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The Blarg No. 41: Sean David Christensen

I’m working on something very exciting and very big. Well, I think it’s very exciting and very big, but I can’t talk about it. I hate that. When I’ve got an idea cooking that can lead to something awesome, I want to talk about it with everyone who asks me what I’m up to. Unfortunately, that same stage where I want to tell everyone about something is the same stage where the idea tends to fall apart, because people aren’t as excited as I am, or they try some devil’s advocate sort of thing. All of it is well-intentioned, I’m sure, but it also has an awful deflating effect on me which often leads me to abandon the idea, to lose faith in it. I’m not letting that happen this time. This idea is too important—direction of life changing level.

In the meantime, I’ll settle for teasing the idea and hope that in itself will generate some excitement and keep me going. There is a lot of groundwork ahead—a lot of meetings, conversations…hard, organizational shit that is not my strong suit, that I loathe doing. I am much more of an idea man, like Michael Keaton’s character in Night Shift (if you haven’t seen that movie, I highly recommend you do so). In a perfect world, I’d offer up the idea, the motivation behind it, and then someone else would swoop in and take care of the logistics, but what are you gonna do? Anyway, as they say, watch this space.

This week’s episode is a conversation with Sean David Christensen. Sean is promoting his short film, The Duel, which has had screenings at the Athens International Film and Video Festival and the San Francisco Documentary Festival, and can be seen at the Marfa Film Festival this July. He’s also done a number of other short films which you can find on Vimeo, he’s a frequent storyteller at Chatterbox and Bar Flies, and he’s in the band Maggie Dave. I had a great time talking to Sean, and you should definitely check out his work. The soundscape at the end of the show was created by Rafael Anton Irisarri.

Best,

Jared

Listen to LE 41 – Sean David Christensen

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The Blarg No. 40: Clottee Hammons

Where does anyone find the time to do everything? Really, if anyone has any tips, I’d love to hear them. My plate is overflowing, and while I can’t discuss all the projects heaped up on it, nor would you want to hear it all, there are a lot of irons, and they’re all in the fire—including that annoying metaphor-mixing iron. Between the regular work week grind, the show, Four Chambers, writing, these other projects I’m trying to get off the ground, I feel like I haven’t had time to sit down and catch my breath, to relax for even a brief amount of time. Last night, I had a mild anxiety attack. I freaked the fuck out. Everything’s fine, don’t worry about it.

Normally, I can cope by taking a few moments to sit down and play guitar. For me, playing allows the stress to fall away—rather than looming deadlines, meetings, a never-ending to-do list, I’m concentrating on chord progressions, notes, my mind weaving in and out of the melody. I haven’t allowed myself enough time for that. I need to get back to it. I’m working on creating exclusive audio content for supporters of our Patreon account, and coming up with riffs to open/close those programs is easily the best part for me. The healing powers of music, etc…

On this week’s show, our 40th (another milestone!), I talk to artist, writer, activist, community organizer, and all around amazing person, Clottee Hammons. Clottee is the founder and director of Emancipation Arts, which “provides educational information and discussions relevant to American Chattel Slavery through collaboration and arts programs.” The 20th Annual Emancipation Marathon will take place on June 24th from 10 am to 5 pm at the Phoenix Changing Hands location, and prior to that, there is a meet and greet on June 18th at Copper Star Coffee from 10 am to 1 pm. Go to the Emancipation Arts Facebook page for details.

Best,

Jared

Listen to LE 40 – Clottee Hammons

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