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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.

Jan 31, 2019

Greetings and welcome back to the Department of Tangents Podcast! We are turning 80 today with this episode, featuring an interview with writer, puppet creator, producer, and all around problem solver Bill Diamond, whom I interviewed live back in November at the NorthEast Comic Con & Collectible Extravaganza, which is happening again next week out in Boxboro, Massachusetts. 

Diamond had a wonderful room full of puppets, from a giant Audrey II used in stage productions of Little Shop of Horrors to a Vincent Price puppet to his own creation, the Moonshins, which he is resurrecting as a television series in the near future. Diamond worked with Jim Henson early in his career, but he always wanted to run his own operation. Which is what he does as head of Bill Diamond Productions which does everything from Diamond’s own shows to windshield wiper commercials. We get into the nuts and bolts of that in front of an audience at the Con. Diamond faces a new challenge every day at work, which is how he likes it. He says you could never pin him down to doing the same job forever. 

This week's feature track comes from the tuneful crunch and swagger of Teardrop City. I had a very hard time choosing which track to feature from the band’s new album, It’s Later Than You Think. Every track is a winner. It’s headed up by Tyler Keith, who I remember from Tyler Keith and the Preacher’s Kids hard rocking album Romeo Hood. Keith had left the Neckbones and recruited Blue Mountain to back him under the name Preacher’s Kids. We’re actually just a week out from the album’s 18th birthday, as it was released February 27, 2001. That’s relevant here because two of the Preacher’s Kids – Laurie Stirratt and George Sheldon – are Teardrop City members. The quartet is rounded out by drummer Wallace Lester. 

If you liked Romeo Hood, you can probably just bypass my spiel and go right to the song. You won’t be disappointed. But if you don’t know Keith or Blue Mountain, you’re in for a treat. I’m playing the title track, “It’s Later Than You Think,” a gloriously ragged tune with plenty of hooks. Stirratt and Keith trade vocals throughout the album, and this one is Keith caught somewhere between Frank Black’s spleen-letting and Mick Jagger’s cool. It’s about, what else? Love gone wrong. You can find out more about the band and the album on Facebook at teardropcityoxfordms or on Twitter at @teardrop_city. Pick it up! 

This is the first Department of Tangents episode in a couple of months, and for those of you who have been looking forward to new stuff and wondering what happened, I had a hell of a couple of months. I’ve been recovering from an illness that put me in the hospital twice. It took a lot of energy to get through it, and I decided the forced break might be a good thing. I spent some of that time gathering more interviews and music, comedy, and book excerpts for the featured track. Thanks to everybody for listening, I appreciate your support.