Tag Archives: film

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. 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. 81: Chris Ayers

Perhaps the least enjoyable aspect of podcasting is the editing process. Well, really, the least enjoyable part of anything is the editing process. Actually, I take all that back. The worst part of a process that involves editing is editing your own work. That’s the worst. The worst for me, at any rate. Other people might really enjoy editing their own stuff, but I can’t stand it. I’m not one of those people who doubts the quality of their work—not anymore, anyway, at least not to the point that I let it get in the way.

Where was I going with that?

Oh, yeah, the whole point is that editing myself is the worst, because whether it’s written or audio, I have to deal with my own voice. Audio is the worst! Who wants to listen to themselves talk that much? I can’t be alone in this. Going back and forth over cut points, making sure the tracks sound right when they’re glued back together… It’s a weekly torture. By the time I put a show up, I’m ready to never hear it again. This has absolutely nothing to do with the person I’m talking to, or the quality of the finished product, it’s simply that I can’t stand to hear the sound of my own voice a moment longer than I have to.

As someone who has suffered from more than a little bit of self-doubt, it’s a wonder I manage to put anything out there at all, and it’s only due to years of feedback from people whose opinions I respect, forcing myself to view my own work objectively, and the cultivation of a strong, healthy “Fuck It” attitude that I keep on plugging away.

This is why I envy the role of a producer who isn’t also the host. The actual editing itself is fun, when it’s someone else’s work. I like doing it. When I edit Chatterpod, it’s great, because I’m not in any of it. I just get to listen back to the storytellers, cut out some of the mic handling noises and transitional silences, level out the sound, and post the episode. I think Limited Engagement is a good, quality podcast, but if I never had to hear myself again, I’d be totally cool with that. Which brings us to this episode’s guest, who gets to happily sit behind the boards, as it were.

Chris Ayers is the producer of On the Grid (hosted by prior guest, Phil Haldiman), as well as the art director at RightThisMinute, and he just started up an awesome passion project, PHX Film Collective, which is dedicated “to bringing culturally relevant cinema to Central Phoenix.” PHX Film Collective’s first event, a screening of Dr. Strangelove, takes place at the Phoenix location of Changing Hands on Saturday, July 14th, at 7:30 pm. Be sure to follow PHX Film Collective across social media platforms for more information on this screening and future events.

Listen to LE 81 – Chris Ayers

Best,

Jared

 

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The Blarg No. 80: Philip Haldiman

80 episodes!

First, though, a quick note of thanks to everyone for the feedback on the intro to the last episode. I was nervous about making myself vulnerable to an audience of listeners, but I felt like it had to be done. Depression, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, it helps to talk about what’s going on, and as a podcast listener, it helps to hear other people going through similar issues, to relate and empathize, so to not open up would have felt dishonest. Again, thanks for listening, and thanks for the feedback.

But, 80 episodes—fuck, man! I don’t know if it’s ever going to sink in that this is a program other people are interested in, that it’s something other people consider worth their time—it’s mind blowing. As of writing this, Limited Engagement has already had more listeners in the first six months of 2018 than we had in all of 2017, which means, at this rate, we might actually double last year’s number. It’s nuts. If you’re reading this and you listen to the podcast (which, really, I’m not sure why you’d read this if you aren’t a listener), my gratitude runs deep. But, also, please rate and review us on iTunes/Apple Podcasts–listens are amazing, and ratings help us get more listens.

Quick Hoot n Waddle plug: we’re taking pre-orders for our first book, Chris Danowski’s DOGSEAR. You can get the book by itself, or purchase a bundle with a t-shirt or poster or both, and there’s a discount on the bundles exclusively for folks who pre-order online. Chris has written a fantastic book, and I am immensely proud to be publishing it.

My guest for our 80th episode is Philip Haldiman. Phil is known to a large swath of rabid fans as Denny from the cult classic film, The Room. In our conversation, Phil discusses what life is like as a member of the pop culture zeitgeist, the comic book he’s written about his Hollywood experience, My Big Break, and much more. Learn more about Phil’s work on his website.

Also on the show, a brief snippet from an upcoming episode of LE of a conversation I had with Tony Moschetti, who is the host of the Starving Artist PHX podcast and a co-founder of Laughing Pig Theatre. Laughing Pig’s original production, Survival Skills, begins a run of four performances at Mesa Arts Center on June 29th. Get your tickets on Ticket Leap and use the code PODCAST at checkout to receive $5 off per ticket.

Listen to LE 80 – Philip Haldiman

Best,

Jared

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The Blarg No. 77: Jason Keil (plus a mini talk w/Dan Hull)

I had two conversations this weekend that made me think about religion. Specifically my personal relationship with religion, which, to be perfectly honest, isn’t that great.

One, with poet Katie Manning, made me consider religion and religious imagery as it appears in my writing, which is not often, but it does. That conversation will go up soon. The other conversation was with friend and neighbor Dan Hull, a short one that you can hear at the beginning of this edition of the show.

Dan has a film premiering on May 25th at The Newton called Bad Buddhist, and he invited me over to watch it with him. A recording of a fantastic one man show he staged at Space 55 a few years ago, the film mines veins of love, ritual, imperfection, and man’s inhumanity to man. Serious stuff, but it’s very funny as well, and the Buddhist lens through which everything is filtered serves to somehow make the film universally relatable in its specificity. The Buddhist rituals that Dan incorporates into the show connected me to memories of donning a yarmulke and saying the prayers as a kid. The ritual and the language of that came back to me instantly, and in Hebrew, too, and it’s easily been 20 years since I participated in anything remotely Jewish from a spiritual standpoint. Cultural and social Jewishness is inescapably ingrained in my personality makeup, but I was surprised, especially as a non-spiritual person, to find myself sort of missing the ritual, and it went a long way towards explaining a lot of my need for organization and routine. It’s something I’m going to have to really think about for a while, which I believe speaks directly to how powerful the film is. You should go see it on the 25th at 7 PM. If you can’t make it to the screening, visit the Bad Buddhist website and contact Dan for the Vimeo link.

Surprisingly, this weaves perfectly into my conversation with writer Jason Keil. Jason is a frequent contributor to The New Times, as well as other publications, and I highly recommend checking out his work. I connected with Jason via Twitter, and it did not take long for us to connect on a primally nerdy level. Jason is the sort of person that I can talk to endlessly about pop culture, so it was really hard to keep this conversation on the rails—which I swear I try to do despite all the evidence to the contrary. In addition to all the shared interests, Jason is just a really amazingly nice guy, and he’s so genuinely enthusiastic and in awe of the fact that he gets to do something he loves and is passionate about and in some way contribute to the pop culture fabric, that I want as many people to read his work and support him as possible. Check out Jason’s website, and be sure to follow all of his social media accounts.

One last quick note, a little bit of business, Hoot N Waddle is officially open for manuscript submissions. We’re currently accepting Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Non-Fiction. You can visit the Hoot N Waddle site, or go directly to our Submittable page to read our guidelines.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 77 – Jason Keil (plus a mini talk w/Dan Hull)

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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. 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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