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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.

May 9, 2019

If you follow the Department of Tangents Blog, there’s a good chance you’ve seen some of Christina Raia’s work. I featured her delightful ghost story <a href="http://nickzaino.com/departmentoftangents/2017/10/23/daily-horror-film-fest-hello/" rel="noopener" target="_blank"><em>Hello</em></a> on October 23 of 2017, and another of her horror shorts, <a href="http://nickzaino.com/departmentoftangents/2017/11/20/2306/" rel="noopener" target="_blank"><em>Night In</em></a>, a month later. This past November, Raia debuted a different kind of film for her, a heist film called <a href="http://nickzaino.com/departmentoftangents/2018/11/20/short-film-christina-raias-enough/" rel="noopener" target="_blank"><em>Enough</em></a> with an ensemble cast. Raia says she loves to direct horror, and she’s got a new horror short called “Gaze” and a new horror/comedy feature called “Silent Night” in the works. But she also hates to be pigeonholed to any particular genre or style. Which is why on May 7, she released a feature-length family dramedy she directed called <a href="http://www.congestedcat.com/about-a-donkey" rel="noopener" target="_blank"><em>About A Donkey</em></a>, written by Kelsey Rauber. You can find it on <a href="https://vimeo.com/ondemand/aboutadonkey" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Vimeo</a> now, and look for it on Amazon Prime and Seed & Spark in June.

<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/270094659" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; fullscreen" allowfullscreen></iframe>
<p><a href="https://vimeo.com/270094659">About a Donkey (Official Trailer)</a> from <a href="https://vimeo.com/congestedcat">CongestedCat Productions LLC</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>

When matriarch Ann Owens announces to her husband Tim and three adult children, Celia, Burgh, and Annie, that she has been diagnosed with depression, no one is surprised. Ann has been keeping to herself for a while, and the kids treat the announcement with humor. What does surprise everyone is Tim’s announcement that he has bought a donkey, one with deep brown eyes, just because he’d always wanted one. And he thinks it’ll help. Mostly it will help Tim feel a bit more useful, having something to take care of now that his kids are grown up and he can’t figure out how to help them with their problems.

It’s a charming comedy, born out of a desire to quietly counter an increasingly combative and unkind social and political climate. I spoke with Raia about this film and her short films, what horror and comedy have in common, Jordan Peele’s work, and, of course, donkey wrangling. What good podcast doesn’t include a chunk about donkey wrangling?

You can find out more about her and her movies at <a href="http://www.congestedcat.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">congestedcat.com</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/Craia9" rel="noopener" target="_blank">find her on Twitter under @Craia9</a>. You can also <a href="https://twitter.com/CongestedCat" rel="noopener" target="_blank">find Congested Cat on Twitter under @CongestedCat</a>. And if you liked this or any other episode of the Department of Tangents Podcast, please subscribe and/or give us a positive rating on iTunes and Stitcher. This is one of the best ways to let other people know they should tune in and give us a try.

This week’s featured trackis "Tobiano Twirl" by next week’s interview guest, songwriter, guitarist, and full-time oncologist <a href="http://karenhaglof.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Karen Haglof</a>. Haglof has a great story to tell, starting in the Minneapolis music scene and moving to New York to join Band of Susans before leaving music to study medicine. About ten years ago, inspired by the documentary It Might Get Loud, she picked up her guitar again after a decade of it gathering dust and started making beautiful music in a variety of styles – heavy, bluesy, twangy, folky, indie angular. This week's conversation was <em>About a Donkey</em>, our song is about a horse, particularly one with a white and brown coloring. Or it’s about driving a racecar. Or both. You’ll have to tune in next week for the full story and more about the new album, <em>Tobiano</em>.