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The Blarg No. 47: Leah Newsom Part 1

I am not a man of faith. While raised in a Jewish household, religion was never something that I took to—I just can’t subscribe to a belief in a higher power. There was a time when I would have described myself as an atheist, but I feel that atheism requires a conviction and certainty in the non-existence of anything outside of the empirical world that I lack. Also, most of the atheists I know are assholes and just as insufferable as any religious fundamentalist. I am much more willing to admit that there is a lot going on that I don’t know and can’t explain than atheism typically allows for. I suppose that would make me an agnostic. When it comes to life, I believe that we’re born, we die, and all we have any modicum of control over is what takes place between those two markers.

Where am I going with this? Well, I live in a neighborhood that has a large concentration of Orthodox Jews. For some reason, Orthodox Jews make me nervous—they always have. When I’m around them, I feel terrible for not being more Jewish, as though my being a bad Jew is letting them down; their conviction makes me question my lack of faith, and this in turn leaves me feeling uncomfortable in their presence.

This Saturday, I was out running—it’s part of my normal routine. On my Saturday run, I am used to passing or weaving around Orthodox Jews on their way somewhere. It’s the Sabbath, and while I don’t know all the things Orthodox Jews don’t do on the Sabbath (check the logic of that if you feel inclined, it’s flawless), I know they don’t drive, they don’t exchange money, and they don’t touch anything that has to do with electricity. Anyway, I’m on 12th street, not far from home, and I don’t think anything of the two people in yarmulkes, a man and a boy, coming towards me, but then the man flags me down. He apologizes for stopping me, but it’s the Sabbath, and they’re not allowed to touch a light switch, and there is a ceiling fan in their home that is on too high—it’s shaking and causing some concern, would I mind coming into their home and adjusting it so that it stops rattling?

I don’t hesitate. Of course I would do this for them. I want to convey that I am a Jew, I understand the custom, but I’m also a bad Jew, I don’t subscribe to any of it, and please don’t judge me. I couldn’t do it. I simply walked with the man and his son into their home, apologized for all the sweat, adjusted the fan, they thanked me, and I left. This seems like a nothing of an occurrence, an odd, barely noticeable jump-cut in life’s progression, but it meant a lot to me. I felt I’d done something good, a small mitzvah. Whatever.

I had a nice long chat with Leah Newsom, so here is another part one of two. I’ve known Leah for years, but I didn’t know know her, so we talked about it all—coasters, tissue, Myspace, family, religion, writing, the MFA life, travel, tattoos, deep stuff. Leah is a co-founder and editor of Spilled Milk, an online literary journal focusing on ultra-short form—”a highly caffeinated alternative to mindlessly scrolling your infinite, mundane newsfeeds.”


Listen to LE 47 – Leah Newsom Pt. 1

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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.


Listen to LE 46 – Ernesto Moncada Pt.2

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The Blarg No. 43: Jake Friedman Part 1

Let’s go ahead and talk about writing this week, shall we? Why not? It’s often a topic on the show, and this week’s and next week’s shows (spoiler alert!) deal with the subject very heavily. As someone who has never managed to have a process per se, I’m always fascinated by the processes of other writers—and even more interested when I find out that they likewise do not have one. I have always heard about the importance of process, how you must have a routine. At least that’s what I heard from John Updike, and Updike wrote a lot of books. How many have I written? Not as many as Updike. But what of the argument for quality over quantity? Woody Allen said, “It’s not the quantity of your sexual relations that count, it’s the quality. On the other hand, if the quantity drops below once every eight months, I would definitely look into it.” Not exactly the same thing, but I think it’s applicable, so if I start writing less than once every eight months, I’ll definitely look into it.

I’m knee deep in manuscripts right now. Four Chambers Press put out its first call for manuscripts, and I didn’t think we’d get that many. I was wrong. I was very, very wrong. The submission period doesn’t even close until July 31st. I’m not going to say exactly how many manuscripts we’ve received, but it’s a lot. (Deep breath.) Hey, speaking of Four Chambers Press…

This week I talk to the founder and editor-in-chief of Four Chambers Press, Jake Friedman. Jake’s been on the show a couple of times, but it was either as part of a panel, or as the guest host for the second anniversary show, so he came over, we hung out, then we got on the mics and talked—a lot. We talked for about two and a half hours, so this is a two-parter. We talk about publishing and writing, craft and process. If that’s your thing, these shows will be right up your alley.



Listen to LE 43 – Jake Friedman…Part 1

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