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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.

Mar 1, 2019

I first became aware of Ted Drozdowski when I was working at the <em>Boston Phoenix</em>, reading his reviews and features as I helped to transfer them from the print edition to the Web. It wasn’t until later, when I put together a benefit show and Ted stepped in as a player and an organizer, that I really got to see how powerful a guitar player and songwriter he was and is. Then I got to see how he put the two together, doing a show on the history of the blues at a local museum, and using his guitar to illustrate different periods and styles.

For years, Ted has led recorded and gigged with his project, Scissormen. But with this new album, Coyote Motel, he has expanded his musical landscape. There are more players, deeper textures, more ambitious songwriting. The psychedelic sounds from previous work are at the forefront here, which you might have heard on last week’s featured track, “Still Among the Living.” He’s also still a prolific music journalist, now an editor with <em>Premier Guitar</em>. If you’re a guitarist and gearhead, you’ve likely read his stuff in the magazine’s excellent “Rig Rundown” series.

You will hear about all of that and more in this conversation, as well as Ted’s heartfelt explanation of what moving to Nashville has done for him, as a musician and a human being. You can find out more about Coyote Motel and all of his work at <a href="http://teddrozdowski.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">teddrozdowski.com</a>, on <a href="https://twitter.com/Scissormen" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Twitter at @scissormen</a>, and on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/scissormen" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Facebook under Scissormen</a>.

The featured track this week is an excerpt from Sarah Moss’s new book, <em>Ghost Wall</em>. It’s a short read, and a short audio – just under four hours – but this is a thick and thorny story. The set-up is that a family of three has joined an anthropology professor and a handful of students on a field trip in the North of England to live as the inhabitants would have in the Iron Age.

Teenaged Silvie and her mother are just passengers here for father’s obsession with a time when England was, in his estimation, pure. He insists that Silvie and her mother adhere to the rules of the age, even if the land and local conditions have changed to make that impossible. Silvie’s father uses Iron Age mores as a cudgel and a means of control, a way to shame Silvie and her mother into obedience. Her father is never proud of her unless she is acting as an avatar for his limited view of the world. But out amongst these college students, especially the free-spirited Molly, Silvie is finding her own philosophy, her own sexuality, her own self.

The studies become metaphors for the dangers of nationalism, racism, gender inequality, and romanticizing the morals of a bygone era. The locals used to sacrifice what they love most to the bog, and build walls topped with skulls and bodies to scare off the enemy – their “most powerful magic,” as it’s referred to in the book. We pick up the story here as Silvie is returning from foraging to find her father and the professor talking around the fire. You can find the book on <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Wall-Novel-Sarah-Moss/dp/0374161925/ref=asc_df_0374161925/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312725590734&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=7460088968674969101&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9001916&hvtargid=pla-608379517859&psc=1" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Amazon</a>, <a href="https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ghost-wall-sarah-moss/1128680313#/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Barnes & Noble</a>, <a href="https://www.powells.com/book/-9780374161927" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Powell’s</a>, or your local bookstore, and the audio on <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Wall-A-Novel/dp/B07L3BBNJW/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Audible</a>.