This is an episode of the Libation Liberation Front podcast.
In this episode, another recording from Balticon, we were joined by friends from Philly, J.R. Blackwell and Jared Axelrod, and their friend Ruth. John and I had been wanting to talk to Jared in particular because he did a piece for Philadelphia Weekly on Green Leaf Distillery which makes the Art in the Age series of liqueurs of which we are so very fond. The distillery is actually in LA, where Ruth was located which helped Jared and J.R. make it out to do the story. Jared pulled back the veil on how he wrote the story, in particular the tease for what has been released as Dirt, the base flavor being roasted, distilled parsnip.
Ruth explained a bit about her current situation as well as the trio talking about how they met in Philly before she headed out west. The con, a continuing touchstone of their friendship, they attended while in LA together was Anime Expo. Jared explained the weird feeling of familiarity being in LA, the first impulse being memory and the second realizing sights seen as the backdrops of so many television shows and movies.
John asked after Philly’s drink culture. Jared revealed that at the time of recording, the town was about to experience beer week. For that event, he will be the official Philadelphia Tweetporter, which will require him to attend one to three events a day during the week and share updates on Twitter.
John was curious outside of such a week, how Jared and J.R. tend to pursue their writing. They do tend to be introverted, having dedicated spaces in their home for their various creative pursuits. Having jobs in journalism does take them far more out into the world than they would, otherwise. Jared shared some of the experiences he would never have if not for the job, from a pinewood derby to a Blue, Blue and Blues event and so much more.
J.R. talked about the secretive nature of the town, the stories and places only a local could find or a visitor would need a very well versed guide. The places to get the much debated best cheese steak in town would be one example, in particular the feud between Pat’s and Gino’s. Jared and J.R.’s guidance on the best cheese steak involves a bit of fear, but it will be all right.
I was curious how the journalism jobs have affected their fiction, the writing of theirs for which I have known them for so much longer. Jared says it was the research, for example an unpublished series called Made New about making new things using century old techniques. J.R. found the act of talking to people to do the journalism revealed an amazing amount of positivity, more than you might appreciate just writing fiction where you may not have occasion to see as much inspiration and optimism by going out in the world.
The characters that inhabit Philly reveal what seems like a greater degree of genuineness, again that only going out into the city makes possible to discover. One is Allen Crawford who illustrated Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” He refers to himself as a professional bullshitter and used to write as Lord Whimsy, especially the book, “The Affected Provincial’s Companion,” about being a dandy in the modern world. A fiction writer has to make up the stories about the people they see, a journalist gets to ask, especially when able to muster a good deal of genuine interest.
Jared talked about his initial reticence in approaching journalism. His turning point was interviewing the folks behind “Welcome to Night Vale” including Joseph Fink. Fink was a difficult subject until Jared shared his favorite episode, that sincerity breaking through and greatly easing the rest of the conversation.
John asked J.R. about her approach to photography and whether she always wished she had a camera on her. Counter intuitively, she does not always want for a camera as it can often create inadvertent barriers and distance. She talked about how her photography has evolved as she has been working as a journalist, shifting from staging a shoot just so to having to capture the world exactly as she finds it, without being able to control every last aspect. It has been a tremendous learning experience, that has definitely made its way back into her more creative efforts. She has also gained amazing access to experiences she wouldn’t have otherwise, making up for journalism not being especially lucrative because they still get to live like rich people, at least or perhaps especially in spirit.
Jared explained one adjustment that was a bit stark for them, as children of the bit. So much of what J.R. has photographed before her current gig was captured for online sharing. Photos in print are so much more murky, requiring an obscene amount of over exposure, even more than you think even after seeing the difference.
We wrapped up talking a bit with Ruth about her business offering wigs specifically for people doing cosplay. John asked about the experience of people looking to take on a different look or persona, even when they may not realize that are open to that experience. Jarded prodded her into telling the origins of her business, from selling crafts at SCA events to selling out some clearance sale wigs at an anime convention.
You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License