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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.

Apr 14, 2018

Back in March, I saw this great film at the Salem Film Festival. The festival focuses on documentaries, and the film is Mole Man, directed by Fiorita, who was in attendance. What I thought I was going to see was a quirky portrait of a 66-year-old man in Western Pennsylvania who has built this labyrinthine complex in the woods behind his parents’ house. And that’s where the film begins – we see Ron salvaging things from abandoned houses, picking through things that got left behind, and piling wood and sinks and bags of clocks on this tiny motorbike and bringing them back to this giant collection.

It’s very whimsical, and Ron is a wonderful character. But then the movie unfolds to touch on so many things – autism, family dynamics, economic depression in small town America. Toward the end, it even becomes kind of an adventure film as the characters try to find this mansion Ron keeps describing. If they can locate it, it might help save Ron’s life.

Mole Man Trailer from Guy Fiorita on Vimeo.


It’s an extraordinary film, making the festival circuit now. I would urge you to seek it out. Fiorita says he’s close to getting a distribution deal for it, and I’ll alert you here on the blog when the news breaks. Fiorita and I discuss the film, and along the way, I discover he has tried stand-up comedy, which makes sense considering his comedic timing as a filmmaker. You can find more info on Facebook and more about Fiorita at www.shoutchorus.com and on Twitter.


Our featured track this week is a chapter from the 7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=P4ZVM6A5G6N16258F1V9&" rel="noopener" target="_blank">audiobook of The Shape of Water. The book was written by Daniel Kraus, who is next week’s DoT Podcast guest. This is not a typical tie-in or novelization. Kraus had the original idea that sparked Guillermo del Toro to write the screenplay for the Oscar-winning film. It was something he thought he’d get around to writing eventually, the story of a creature and a human who fall in love in a lab, inspired by the Universal Horror movie, Creature from the Black Lagoon. He got to flesh out the characters in the book, and one of the backstories he tells is about how the heavy, Strickland, plucks the Creature from his home in the Amazon, and how that experience changes him. You can get a feel for that from this chapter, chapter five from part one of the book.