Tag Archives: Arts and Culture

The Blarg No. 74: Carly and Mark of Yab Yum Music and Arts

A couple nights ago, I sat with Janell—you know what, as I’m typing this, I realize that it’s the damn opening to “Simple Twist of Fate”: we “sat together in the park/as the evening sky grew dark.” At this point in history, I’m pretty sure that if people have done it, Bob Dylan’s written it down. And if there’s anything Bob missed, then Leonard Cohen took care of it.

Anyway, the park was the front lawn of Desert Song Yoga, and the occasion was a show featuring Jon Rauhouse and Robin Vining. I was under the impression that I’d never seen Vining play before, but I must have seen him play with Minibosses at some point. I’d never seen him solo or in Sweetbleeders, though, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve seen Jon play a number of times now, either with Neko Case, The SunPunchers, or as a duo with Betsy Ganz, but not as a bandleader, and it was the highlight of the night. Joining Jon onstage was his wife Jennifer, Megyn Neff, Vining, and a trombone player who I thought was really good, but whose name I didn’t catch. Aside from the fact that the music was fantastic, they looked like they were having such a blast up there playing together and enjoying each other’s company—it was a moving and infectious thing to witness. That’s the kind of joy in work I’m looking for. It’s getting there.

Speaking of…

If you happened be looking at Facebook this weekend, you might have caught the Hoot n Waddle announcement. If not, I’ll recap it briefly in this space. DOGSEAR. by Chris Danowski is HnW’s first book. We just got our proof copies back from the printer, and they look great. It’s all very exciting and real now. We’ll start taking pre-orders in June, and the official release will take place in mid-September. If anyone reading this is interested in reviewing the book for a media outlet, I have a few physical proof copies available, or I can provide a PDF copy. Email me at hootnwaddle@gmail.com.

On this edition of the show, I talk to Carly Schorman and Mark Anderson of Yab Yum Music and Arts. We discuss the origins of Yab Yum, how it’s evolved into an arts and culture beacon for Arizona, and some of the exciting projects they’ve got in the works. We also compare book collections. It was a blast talking to them, and you should definitely check out the happenings at the Yab Yum website and keep up with them on social media.

Listen to LE 74 – Carly and Mark of Yab Yum Music and Arts

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 73: Venita Blackburn

Focus. I can’t do it. My mind is so scattered right now, that it’s becoming a real problem. I’ve got too much going on. As I’m sitting here writing The Blarg, I’m also editing the next episode of Hoot n Review, writing promotional copy for Hoot n Waddle’s first book, doing social media things for the new Chatterpod, and I’m transferring music files from my laptop to this new PC. I need to slow down, but I can’t. I need a break, but there’s not enough time. I’ll have to make the time, or I’ll become even more unbearable to the people around me. It’s no good.

Anyway, in the name of focus, let’s focus on the new Limited Engagement. I got to talk to the wonderful Venita Blackburn, and it was great. Her debut book, Black Jesus and Other Superheroes, is a brilliant collection of character explorations that blew me away, and if you don’t value my opinion, maybe you’ll listen to the selection committee of the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction, because they selected it as a nominee for the 2018 award, and it made really far into the process. Those PEN/Faulkner people know a few things.

I’ve run into Venita a fair amount over the last few years, but this was the first time we’d had any sort of in-depth conversation, and it was great. Turns out we’re both huge nerds. Warning, there’s some Star Trek talk.

Venita will be reading from and signing copies of Black Jesus and Other Superheroes at Changing Hands in Tempe on Thursday, March 22nd at 7 pm. You should go. I can’t go, because I’ll be recording a show at The Nash, but you should definitely go if you can.

If you want to see more me, I’ll be reading at Four Chambers’ In Sight II event on Saturday, March 24th at 4 pm at Megaphone. I’m not sure if there will be any copies of portion of the collection there, because it’s sold out and the reprint may or may not be done in time, but I’ll be reading from it regardless.

Listen to LE 73 – Venita Blackburn

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 71: Doug Bale

I can tell you exactly when and where I first heard the music of Doug Bale. It was Thursday, May 30th, 2013 at The Most of Lit Lounge at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. I went because my uncle, Scott Krause, was part of the lineup which also included Tania Katan, Leslie Barton and Where Are All the Buffalo. It was a great show, but I remember being particularly struck by Doug’s sound, which managed to sound like music I loved without being derivative. I really dug it. I dug Doug.

So, when I started this podcast, Doug was one of the first people I wanted to have on. For reasons that will become clear when you listen to our conversation, it was not a good time for Doug to be on the show. I didn’t know that then, though, and then Doug just kind of disappeared. Well, he didn’t really disappear, but he might as well have, having first scooted to California, and then exiling himself in Apache Junction. Well, maybe it wasn’t exile, and my apologies to the residents of Apache Junction, but it sounds like exile to me.

When I heard that Doug had a new music project he was working on, I was ecstatic. I was like, Doug, there’s no excuse now, do the show, and he said, let’s do it, so here you go. It’s one of the strangest, best conversations I’ve had on this show, and it illustrates why I leave so much in all the time. I know some listeners would prefer I cut things down, keep it around an hour, and that would actually probably help me out as far as making the show more commercial, but that would ruin the journey. We had a really serious conversation about some deep shit, but to get there, we also had to joke around about lemons and DJ Boboli, and go off on a long R.E.M. tangent in order to get to the deep stuff.

Quick note: Doug wanted me to let you all know the name of the book he was referring to on why we read is called All Things Shining.

Another quick note: Doug gave me permission to put one of his new Flighty Tronys tracks at the end of the show, so be sure to listen all the way to the end. The new tracks are great!

Doug Bale is an artist and musician. His artwork has been featured in galleries around Phoenix, and you should absolutely check out his Society 6 page and buy some. His new musical project, Flighty Tronys has released its first EP (available on Bandcamp, Google Play Music, iTunes, and Spotify), and you should get the companion t-shirt. Oh, and go listen to Mergatron while you’re at it. Basically, support Doug. He’s awesome.

Listen to LE 71 – Doug Bale

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 70: Collette Sipho Mabingani

70 in the bag!

I’m not even sure what that means, or if it means anything at all, but I like the sound of it. I don’t think I’ll make a really big deal until we get to 100, but 70 is pretty significant—to me at least. I don’t know that I’ve ever done 70 of anything. At least not something I’ve put out into the public consciousness.

The coming months are going to be exciting—scary and exciting—for myself, for Limited Engagement, for Hoot n Waddle (the company Janell and I started), and I hope you’ll come along for the ride—maybe even encourage others to join us for that ride. Announcements are coming soon, and I couldn’t be happier, or more anxious. It’s a freakin’ roller coaster.

Now, to the show at hand.

Last month, I went to Caffeine Corridor to see friends and prior guests of the show, Rashaad Thomas and Jack Evans. Rashaad’s reading was amazing—it had been a while since I’d seen him read a whole set, and his work is powerful, musical, dark, but hopeful. Jack’s reading was fantastic as well, featuring Tom Bell on guitar, and someone I’d never seen before, Collette Sipho Mabingani on percussion and guitar. At one point during the night, Collette played some original compositions solo, and I was like, this is brilliant, I have to get this guy on the show.

My conversation with Collette is unlike any I’ve had to date. He talks openly about growing up in South Africa during Apartheid, his relationship with Nelson Mandela, how music provided an escape from the horror and a path to a better life in the United States. It’s an amazing immigrant story at a time when the current political regime seems hellbent on destroying and killing that spirit.

Collette Sipho Mabingani is a composer, instrumentalist, and educator. During his teenage years, he performed with many bands of various genres, honing his self-taught musical skills, while using the platform of music to stand firm against apartheid, often at his own peril. Mabingani has performed for many dignitaries including Nelson Mandela and performed many venues including a five-year tour of the United States, and a six-month Europe tour. The creative approach for Mabingani is to utilize music from other global cultures in conjunction with South African music to create a unique blend of world music. Underlying his passion for world music is his experience of the transformational power of uniting sounds from across the globe to create unique, fresh, and inspirational music that can be appreciated by people from all walks of life.

Listen to LE 70 – Collette Sipho Mabingani

Best,
Jared

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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. 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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