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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.

Feb 23, 2018

Two performers. Two microphones. Banjo and acoustic guitar. The Lowest Pair are about as elemental an act as you’ll see onstage. You can hear that approach on their album, up to and including the two releases from 2016, Uncertain As It Is Uneven and Fern Girl. I sat down with Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Lee last year when they played Cinema Salem, and barely got time to establish the conversation before we were off on a tangent about the soundtrack to Get Out and how it worked with the action in that movie. They are a gentle pair with a quirky sense of humor, and that comes across in this conversation.

We got into interesting territory talking about playing banjo and songwriting, how limitations spark creativity, and Palmer’s hidden love for the Eagles. Traditional bluegrass laid a foundation for them, but they’re not as interested in the sound of that tradition as the spirit of it – as Winter points out, they like the sound of people getting together and making music together, hanging out on a porch or in a room somewhere. They will be working on a new album as The Lowest Pair, and both have solo albums in the can waiting to be released.

As this episode is being released, they are about to do a few dates around Washington before heading off to tour in Europe. Find them on Facebook and Twitter and on the Web at

Our featured track this week comes from Girlfriend At the Time, the new album from comedian Paige Weldon on a special thing records. If you are listening to this episode fresh the day of its release, February 23, you’re in luck. Weldon’s album is available today on iTunes or on her Web site,, where you can also see a few short videos. Weldon is a great writer, a smart comic, and a disarming performer. Enjoy!