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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 5, 2017

We have reached the quarter century mark, in terms of full-length podcasts. And I'm happy to reach that milestone speaking with musician Chandler Travis. You may have read <a href="" target="_blank">my review of the Chandler Travis Philharmonic's latest<em> Waving Kissyhead vol. 2 & 1</em> when it was released in February</a>, and you may also have <a href="" target="_blank">heard "The Strongman of North America," one of my favorite tunes from that album on EP20 with Nick Vatterott</a> a few weeks ago. In which case, you know that Travis is a wonderfully offbeat songwriter who defies genre descriptions. He prefers "Omnipop" or "Alternative Dixieland" if you have to use a label, but he doesn't much care for them.

Travis has more than forty years worth of material to draw from. He started as a musician in the 70s with a duo called Travis Shook and the Club Wow and wound up opening for George Carlin on the road. Still, as he told me in this interview at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain, he likes to keep things fresh. I talked to him after a fairly long gig that started in the afternoon on a Sunday and ended later that evening. Travis estimates he played just under three hours of music, and that includes more of the new album, plus a bizarre tribute to the Christian children's show puppet <a href="" target="_blank">Little Marcy</a>, for which vocalist Fred Boak donned a giant baby mask and cartoon gloves. You can see that in the gallery below.

If you get the chance to see Travis in any of his bands, do it. It's a wonderful experience. You can <a href="" target="_blank">find his tour dates and news and such on his Web site</a>.

After the interview, listen to a track from comedian <a href="" target="_blank">Jackie Kashian</a>'s new album, <em>I Am Not the Hero of This Story</em>. If you don't know her comedy, you should check out this album and her podcasts, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Dork Forest</em></a> and <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Jackie and Laurie Show</em></a>. At the very beginning of the album, Kashian notes she had a different forty-five minutes of material planned for the taping, but wound up changing it after the election. "I don't do political material," she says, "but I do now, I guess, 'cuz I'm human." On this track, she talks about her reaction to the presidential election and how she worked through it with her friends.