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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.

Jun 14, 2017

Back in April, Michael Nesmith released his book Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff, his take on his 50 years in music, film, and video, with a healthy dose of philosophy. I'd gotten an advance copy, and immediately pitched a feature to Kirkus Reviews, and I was thrilled when they accepted. That piece appeared around the time the book came out -- you can read it here. This is my description of Infinite Tuesday from the Kirkus Reviews:

That’s what Infinite Tuesday is—an impressionistic collection of memories that, when viewed together, create a picture of what it has been like to be Michael Nesmith for the past fifty-plus years.

As often happens, the conversation was wide-ranging, covering everything from the Monkees to Tapeheads to the nature of memory and the place of video in pop culture. Nesmith is very easy to talk to, open to any subject and thoughtful about how he answers. We spoke for nearly an hour, about the nature of memory when it comes to writing a memoir, the idea of "the collective unconscious" from Repo Man, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix, about the Monkees and his solo material, and about the time his idol Bo Diddley pinched my mom's butt. There was a lot there, and it flowed nicely, and I wanted to share that so parts wouldn't be left on my hard drive. After the conversation, a track called "Healin' Slow" from Banditos from their new album Visionland. If you are a fan of Alabama Shakes and The New Pornographers, I think you'll enjoy it. Catch them on tour this summer with Lucero.