Tag Archives: pop culture

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. 92: J. Gonzo

I’m waiting to be seated so that I can order some pancakes and more coffee. The reason for this is that I’m having my windshield replaced, and it’s in Scottsdale, and it made more sense to walk and get pancakes than it did to have Janell drive us the 20 minutes home, wait for an hour, and then drive the 20 minutes back. It’s irritating, I haven’t even had this car for a month, and already it’s costing me more money. This is when I wish I lived in a city that has a great public transit system, or where I could walk to everything, or that I worked from home. On the one hand, I love the freedom of being able to just hop in the car and go wherever; on the other, I would give up owning a car in a second. It’s such a headache! And if I really want to go somewhere, I can rent a car.

Anyway, pancakes sounded like a good idea, so here we are.

When last I blarged (how pretentious does that sound?), the Arizona senate race was still undecided. I’m happy to say that the state I call home, for lack of a better word, finally has a Democratic representative. I’m not so happy that it’s the problematically centrist Sinema, but what are you gonna do? It’s still Arizona.

Not too long ago, I had the immense pleasure or seeing Marc Maron at StandUp Live in Phoenix, and leading up to that, there was a Tweet posted by a local artist who’d created a poster to commemorate the occasion, which Maron re-tweeted saying something along the lines of, Let’s make this happen, which I was excited about, because it seems like everywhere else Maron performs gets a cool poster, but last time he played Phoenix, nothin’. I loved the poster, and purchased one the night one the night of the show, and was like, it’s been a while since I’ve had an artist on the show, I should check this guy out.

It turns out it’s a super small world, and even though J. and I had never met prior to recording the podcast, we have a ton of people in common—my buddy Ernie is friends with John Derrick West who’s friends with J.; J. is friends with and has worked with Alex Empty who’s the husband of my friend (and previous LE guest) Leah Newsom; and just the day before, I got my copy of Tapestry Comics’ A Flower in a Field of Lions with the limited edition alternate cover, and I noticed that it was done by…J. Gonzo. Like I said, small world.

A lot of you who listen to this show are artists, writers, musicians, creative types, and you, like me, are trying to figure out how to make a living with your art, and this conversation with J. is a great resource. He’s someone who has worked hard to make a sustainable living doing what he loves, and he’s done it. He’s worked for big design firms and Todd McFarlane’s company, and most people would be satisfied with that, but he’s gone on to create his own graphic design business and made a name for himself as an independent comic book creator with his series, La Mano del Destino. Along the way, he’s done work as a tattoo artist, done freelance work, worked the convention circuit, and at the end of the day, even though it’s a shit ton of hard work, he gets to say that he makes a living doing what he loves.

It’s Thanksgiving week, and I know that’s a tough time for a lot of us. I hope you enjoy the time off, if not the holiday itself. If you’re unfortunate enough to work in retail, I feel for you. I did that for a long time. It was miserable.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 92 – J. Gonzo

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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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LE 85: Steve Ciolek of The Sidekicks

Well, I took full advantage of the Labor Day weekend—to the point where I actually missed my self-imposed Monday morning deadline. It’s bound to happen from time to time. Once in three years ain’t bad.

In the little bit of time I carve out for myself to read something that isn’t a Hoot n Waddle manuscript submission, I have finally gotten around to reading Bruce Springsteen’s memoir, Born to Run. I’ve had a copy sitting around for a couple of years now, but I kept putting off reading it—likely out of fear that I’d be disappointed. That could still happen, but I’m enjoying it so far. However, I can’t help but compare it to Elvis Costello’s memoir, which came out the same year, and I think that Costello’s has more elegant prose, but Springsteen’s is like his songs—relatively plain spoken, containing flashes of profound insight into the human condition, and a rough yet poignant and pointed working class poetic. Which is why I could not be more upset that he devotes only three measly pages to Nebraska. He spends more time talking about the red light district on a tour stop in Germany in 1980 than he does discussing any of the songs on one of my favorite albums of all time. There’s no question that Nebraska changed my life, so it’d be nice if it got a little more than what amounts to a, Yeah, I recorded it on four track Tascam, it was kind of a game changer for me in my songwriting, but whatevs—now on to Born in the USA, the moneymaker!

Anyway, there’s a lot going on right now, so I’m just going to run down the list real quick:

Wednesday, I’ll be down at Fair Trade Cafe recording the one year anniversary edition of Chatterbox for later posting as a Chatterpod, and I’ll be telling a story, too (details here). You can pick up a copy by going to our Square shop. You can also now pre-order our 2nd book, Reading T. S. Eliot to a Bird by David Chorlton.

This Friday, I’ll be down reading on Roosevelt Row for the launch of the new Rinky Dink series (details here).

Then, September 15th is the big launch of Hoot n Waddle’s first book, Chris Danowski’s DOGSEAR (details here). If you’re in Phoenix on that date, and you can make it, that would be amazing.

I’ll be co-hosting two new podcasts that’ll be available soon. The first up is called What the Fork?: Exploring The Good Place (Unofficially), which I’m doing with my friend and prior Limited Engagement guest, Jason Keil. Next is an artist catalog discussion called Album Infinitum, and that will feature myself and a number of guests going through an artist’s discography one album at a time. I don’t have start dates yet for either show, but they’ll both be up by the end of the year, with What the Fork? likely premiering before The Good Place season three premier.

Lastly, there’s another podcast, but it’s Patreon-only podcast. It’s called Apocalyptic Popsicle, and it’s a straightforward review show. Sometimes it’ll be me solo, and sometimes, when I’m lucky, it’ll have my partner in life and Hoot n Waddle, Janell. The podcast will be available to any patron who supports Hoot n Waddle with a donation of $5 or more per month, which you can do by going here. We’ll have the first episode up no later than the end of this month.

On the latest episode of LE, I talk to Steve Ciolek, frontman of The Sidekicks, about touring, songwriting, recording with storied producer John Agnello, working with an artist-centric record label, and much more. The Sidekicks’ new album, Happiness Hours, is available now from Epitaph, and you can catch them live on their fall tour, which kicks off on 9/13, and includes a stop in Phoenix at The Rebel Lounge on 9/26.

As always, you can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, our website, and a number of other podcast sites as well.

I think that’s plenty for now.

Best,

Jared

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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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