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The Department of Tangents Podcast


Years ago, playing a sort of improv game with friends in which we all picked super powers based on our personalities, I dubbed myself “Tangent Lad.” I was not a very strong superhero, and I could not defeat a super villain on my own, but I could distract them with Monty Python quotes and football trivia. I have many times since apologized to an interview subject in my capacity as a journalist by saying, “I am either very good or very bad at tangents, depending on how you feel about tangents.”

I had a rough time coming up with the concept and naming this blog/podcast. I knew I wanted to create a place where I could address things I’m passionate about – comedy, music, and horror. Finding a name that communicated all three of those things proved a bit impossible. I bugged my friends, and they all tried to help. To no avail. Then I thought, maybe I’m approaching this from the wrong angle. Maybe my lack of focus should be the focus.

As a journalist, I have written for The Boston Globe since 2000, starting out writing CD reviews and then writing a regular column on comedy for seven and a half years. I still contribute there, and to Kirkus Reviews, and other publications. I’m also a musician, and released my debut full-length album, Blue Skies and Broken Arrows, in March of 2015. And I’ve been publishing short horror fiction for a couple of years.

I like to climb into things I love and see how they operate. That’s what the Department of Tangents is for. I’ll be writing regular features, essays, and news bits about the big three – comedy, music, and horror – and offering clips from people I’ve taped interviews with over the past nearly twenty years of writing. Some of the best parts of the interviews I’ve done have been completely off-point and inappropriate for print. I’ll get to explore more of that here. I’m also hoping to convince some friends to tell me about the things they love that I might not even know about, and pass that along to you.

The DoT podcast might be short or long, depending on where the conversation leads. You cant purposefully create an interesting tangent in conversation – it has to happen naturally. But I can confidently forecast that there will be moments in the individual podcasts where things veer off wonderfully.

The main thing here is love. To write about the things that make I’ve loved forever, and some new things that might stand the test and be around, at least for me, for decades to come. I’ve had to be critical in my writing at times, and it might not all be nonstop roses here, but in the end, what I really want to talk about is the good stuff. That’s why I will regularly write about things I think are “Perfect,” even if someone can demonstrate empirically that they are flawed. Still perfect to me.

Also, fish.

I hope you, dear anonymous surfer person, will come to expect only the highest-quality, free-range, grass-fed tangents. And I hope some of you love the same things I do and find it useful. Or at least a welcome distraction until the others get here.

Aug 15, 2016

A conversation with musician Ruby Rose Fox. Fox released her debut album, Domestic, in May. It's soulful, it rocks, and it has something to say (you can read the review on the Department of Tangents Blog). It's an impressive statement from a songwriter who knows her own voice, even more impressive considering Fox really only started writing songs in 2012. We talked about the inspiration behind some of her songs and her approach to the darker material on the album.

In songs like "Rock Bottom" and "Dance of Frankenstein," Fox takes the thorny issue of how an individual's identity it measured against the whole, and just how destructive that can be. There's a lot to think about in the lyrics, but if people hear the music and just want to dance, she's fine with that, too.

"I toe a pretty dangerous line in terms of like, politics and music," she says. "I think that it’s really just me standing there saying, 'This is what I think.' And I love uncovering stories that I feel like need to be told but we’re maybe too ashamed to tell them or they’ve never been told or a story in my life that I need to uncover or explain. But I don’t have an agenda. I think if I ever get to that place where I feel self-righteous or I feel like, 'You need to think what I think,' then I will absolutely drop music and become a politician."

We spoke at her rehearsal space for the band on a humid day in August, and you can hear the fan blowing in the background. At the end of the conversation, Fox spoke about her future in music, and whether that's the place where she can do the most good in the world. She's not sure what's next. "If I do stay in music it’ll be a different project, I think."

But there are new songs already bubbling up, and Fox sat down at her keyboard to play an unreleased tune called "Conspiracy Theory."

Stay tuned after that for a new song from rock and roll singer/songwriter Beaver Nelson, who releases his newest album, Positive, on August 22.