Tag Archives: pop culture

The Blarg No. 83: Tony Moschetti

I need to get back to watching movies of consequence. I need to get back to watching more movies in general, but I’m talking about stuff with plot, and great dialog, and you’re left wondering whether a great film has to also be entertaining. It used to be that’s all I watched. I would never go see summer blockbusters, popcorn fair, or what have you. Any film I went to see was showing at the old Camelview. Now, I’d say ninety percent of the films I go see are exactly that: Marvel films, Pixar stuff, Star Wars—basically, Disney gets all of my moviegoing money.

Part of that, and I know I’ve talked about it at some length before, is that I denied myself the enjoyment of nerd culture for so long. I am a nerd. I’m proud of it now, but there was a time when my nerdiness, a large part of my identity, was bullied underground. Probably from the ages of about 13 to 25, I eschewed anything that I thought might be considered nerdy or immature, and I went full on high brow. I learned a lot, my horizons expanded, my interests grew. The quality of the films and literature I took in greatly improved, but the fun was missing. Not that some of the films and books I read weren’t fun, but I was definitely focused on being serious.

Slowly, the fun started creeping in around the edges. It was bound to happen eventually. The closer I got to 30, the fewer fucks I gave. Now, at 35, I give zero fucks. I’m a lot happier. I wouldn’t say I’m happy, because I’m also just a miserable fuck with major anxiety issues and self-esteem problems. I think it’s genetic. I also think that the nerd I unleashed in my 30’s has been on an overcompensating rampage. Couple that with the fact that I’ve developed a lot of focus and attention span issues, and I wind up with this current state of imbalance. I think there is a balance. I’m working to achieve it. This year I’ve gone to see two new films that would not be considered mainstream (the most recent being Sorry to Bother You, which was fucking brilliant), I’ve made a point to see things at Film Bar, and I’m very excited about the programming PHX Film Society is doing (and even more excited to that they’re our first sponsor).

That being said, I also just binged my way through the Mission Impossible franchise (I think four and five are legitimately good films, the third is okay, the second is one of the biggest pieces of shit I’ve ever seen). Balance—trying to find it.

On this edition of Limited Engagement, Tony Moschetti discusses the challenges of starting up an independent arts organization (Laughing Pig Theatre), gaining an audience, podcasting on the fly (Starving Artists PHX), and at one point attempts to take over hosting duties. Visit Laughing Pig’s Facebook page for all of the latest information on their events and programming, including workshops, classes, and performances.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 83 – Tony Moschetti

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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. 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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The Blarg No. 72: Mop and Bucket Press

It’s going to be okay. This is what I keep telling myself. Everything will be fine. The muse occasionally finds another partner. I’m in one of those phases. A spiral. It happens. No big deal. Sometimes I get depressed and feel like I’m not capable of anything good. I know that’s not the case, but I can’t escape the feeling. Over the years, I’ve learned to cope with my head problems. I’m not perfect at it by any means, but generally speaking, I can get by well enough by reminding myself this is just a passing thing. I think that all creative types go through this at some point or another—and some more often than most. There is this looming, perpetual fear that you will never create again, that you will never live up to the way others perceive you and you have presented yourself.

This one’s bad, though. At Chatterbox last week, I went up to tell a story that I had down. I knew all the beats, where all the threads tied together. I went up to the mic, started the story, everything felt great, I hit my first beat, and then… I just totally lost it. Thread gone—the whole thing completely unraveled. I’ve been doing this long enough now that it wasn’t enough to send me running from the mic. I rambled my way through for a few minutes, hoping I’d get it back, but it never happened. I just went off on some semi-related political tangent that was absolutely not part of the story I was planning to tell. It was awful.

I don’t know. I’m tired, I’m stressed out, I have a lot of anxiety right now. None of that makes for a healthy creative atmosphere. Whatever. It’s going to be okay.

If you missed it, there was an announcement. Hoot n Waddle, which is the company Janell and I started that has found its purpose as a hub for arts and culture podcasts based in Phoenix, is also taking on publishing. It’s big stuff, and if you want to know more about what’s going on, you should check out the Hoot n Waddle website and follow our social media accounts.

On this edition of the show, I talk to Levi Smith and Kenny Puckett who are the creative team behind the comic Sleight of Mind and Mop and Bucket Press. It’s a great conversation about enduring friendship and creative synergy, as well as not giving up on your dreams and passions. That sounds corny, but it’s not. Levi and Kenny are great guys, and their comic is really cool, so you should check out their site, follow them on social media, and check out their merch.

Listen to LE 72 – Mop and Bucket Press

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. 58: Tom Petty Tribute

No soapbox this week. Sorry, I know I’ve been up there a lot lately, and you know what they say of opinions and assholes and all that…

I go running every morning. It’s something I do. At this point, I’m not sure whether I enjoy it, or I’ve got a problem—there’s a very fine line. This isn’t about that, though. I have a regular path I run on every morning before work, one that I like because it’s a decent area, but also there’s not much traffic at 3:30 in the morning. Occasionally, there are other runners, people out walking the dog, but for the most part it’s dark, quiet, and cool (soon it will be cold, but that’s another matter). Nothing much happens, I just listen to a podcast and do my thing.

Which is why it was simultaneously jarring and slightly mystical when I happened upon a pack of coyotes slinking their way across Missouri Ave, just north of Central. There were three of them that I saw—two ahead of a third, who stood frozen. They didn’t make a move to approach me, and I was waiting to let them pass, but this last one seemed determined to see me go first—much to the apparent chagrin of the other two, whose attitude exuded an air of, “Come on, man, what the hell are you waiting for?”—so I carried on my way, and then they went theirs. That was it. It was Monday morning, October 2nd. Later that day, the news came down of Tom Petty’s death. I couldn’t help thinking that those coyotes were somehow connected.

It seems like we’ve lost an overwhelming amount of iconic musicians lately. This is bound to happen. Life is one long, inexorable march past the end of the cliff. Some people sprint ahead and skip to the end, impatient perhaps, and then others are propelled forward, or pulled forward maybe, taken when it seems they still have work to do, and it is no less tragic to lose those that wait out the plot. There’s always a little twinge of hurt, the sense of some string being cut, but there are a few where it feels as though you’ve lost a limb, the musicians whose songs have woven an inextricable sense-memory into the threads of our personal histories. Joe Strummer, The Go-Betweens’ Grant McLennan, and now, Tom Petty.

This week, Jason Woodbury and I sit and discuss what Tom Petty meant to us—the songs we love, the memories they’re linked to. It’s a personal appreciation, a tribute from two lifelong fans—a conversation that I think anyone who can remember where they were when they first played their Full Moon Fever cassette, or when they first saw The Heartbreakers descending the escalator in the “Free Fallin'” video with “all the vampires walking through the valley” can relate to and maybe take something from.

Best,
Jared Duran

Listen to LE 58 – Tom Petty Tribute

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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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