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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.

Jul 19, 2018

Myq Kaplan’s mind is in constant motion. If you saw him early on in his career, you might have caught him in a constant barrage of one- and two-line jokes, all quick-witted stuff that would flit from one premise to the next. Over the years, Kaplan has retained that rhythm, but he has developed the ideas more. Those smaller bits are woven around a larger theme, as with last year’s <em>No Kidding</em> in which Kaplan explored his lack of desire to have kids.

Kaplan is about to bring his next show, <em>All Killing Aside (A Work In Progress)</em> to the Soho Theatre in London July 27 and 28, and from there to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where it will play through most of August. When I caught up with him for a post-show chat at a local restaurant in Boston last month, he was still working on that show. But he tossed it all out the window to try out new material for the hometown crowd at The Gas, a weekly indie comedy show at the Great Scott rock club. “The most fun is in the motion, the creation,” he says. “The moments where a new thing gets a laugh.”

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We talked about which he liked better – performing a carefully crafted one-person show or riffing new material, about the new show, and about his unrelenting positivity. There are two things you can rely on to get from Kaplan’s social media – snappy jokes and personal affirmations. He’s a joy to be around and it’s fun to watch him work. You can see him at the <a href="https://sohotheatre.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Soho Theatre in London</a> July 27 and 28, and then at the <a href="https://www.edfringe.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Edinburgh Festival Fringe</a> August 1-26 at <a href="http://www.underbellyedinburgh.co.uk/whats-on/myq-kaplan-all-killing-aside" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Underbelly in Bristo Square</a>. Find out more about Kaplan’s tour dates, albums, and podcast at <a href="http://myqkaplan.com" rel="noopener" target="_blank">MyqKaplan.com</a>.

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This week’s featured track is “The Cally,” a track from English folk duo The Rails from their new album <em>Other People</em>, released June 29th. This is a highly pedigreed band, made up of wife and husband Kami Thompson and James Walbourne. Kami Thompson is the daughter of Linda and Richard Thompson. She released her full-length debut as a singer/songwriter, <em>Love Lies</em>, in 2011. James Walbourne has an enviable resume as a guitarist, having been a member of Son Volt, The Pogues, The Pernice Brothers, and Ray Davies’ touring band, and he’s currently the lead guitarist for The Pretenders. I saw on Discogs the band released an EP called Habit under the name Dead Flamingoes in 2001. I have to commend the name change to The Rails for their 2014 full-length debut, <em>Fair Warning</em>.

There are a lot of great songs on this album, but this one I can feel in my bones. It’s the first track, and made me a fan right away. Walbourne wrote it as a tribute to his grandfather Sindey, who would tell him stories about The Cally Pub on London’s Caledonian Road. But it’s also a memorial for a pre-gentrified London, a theme that works its way through a few songs on the album. “The Cally” is both defiant and melancholy, a declaration that however ephemeral a time and place may be, it can still live in your heart. The new album is called Other People, and you can find out more about it at <a href="http://therailsofficial.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">TheRailsOfficial.com</a>.