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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.

Oct 10, 2019

If you ask a random reader to name foundational women horror writers, you might get two or three names. Mary Shelley. Shirley Jackson. Maybe Daphne du Maurier or Anne Rice. But as Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson point out in their new book, <em>Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror & Speculative Fiction</em>, if that’s where our knowledge begins and ends, we’re missing out on a lot. Eli Colter, who wrote, amongst other things, weird westerns. C.L. Moore who helped introduce swashbuckling rebels into the sci-fi canon. Angela Carter’s re-imagining of folk tales. There are also works of literary fiction we might not put in the horror genre, like Toni Morrison’s <em>Beloved</em>. 
 
Kroger and Anderson give readers a primer on women writers whose work you may have missed, and puts it in a historical context. You can learn about the origins of the gothic story, the influence of spiritualism in writing and pop culture, how writers supported their families with their short works, a bit about pulp magazines like <em>Weird Tales</em>, and even how one writer put together a group of mystics (or mystic-adjacents) to help guard the coast of England during World War II. But beware – <em>Monster, She Wrote</em> is likely to add considerable height to your reading pile. 
 
A note about the sound quality – we tried to do this interview with Skype, but it kept cutting out. So we had to do it the old fashioned way, the way I started recording interviews in the last century, on speaker phone with a recorder. I’ve sweetened it up a bit through some plug-in magic, but you’ll notice the switch a few minutes in.
 
<em>Monster, She Wrote</em> is out now from Quirk Books and you can find out more about it at <a href="https://www.quirkbooks.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">www.quirkbooks.com </a> or wherever you get wonderful books. You can also keep track of Lisa Kroger’s work at <a href="http://www.lisakroger.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">www.lisakroger.com</a> and Melanie R. Anderson at <a href="https://melanieranderson.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">www.melanieranderson.com</a>. The Know Fear Podcast is at <a href="http://www.knowfearcast.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">www.knowfearcast.com</a>, and <a href="https://twitter.com/knowfearcast" rel="noopener" target="_blank">on Twitter under @knowfearcast</a>. 
 
This week’s featured track from the new <a href="https://music.apple.com/us/album/best-of-boston-stand-up-vol-1/1476273387" rel="noopener" target="_blank"><em>Best of Boston Stand-Up, Volume 1</em></a>. Boston has a long and fine tradition of stand-up comedy, and this album is a good introduction to some of the funniest comedians you can see regularly around town. Veterans like Steve Sweeney, Don Gavin, Tony V., Kenny Rogerson, and Jimmy Dunn; more recent headliners like Kelly MacFarland, Will Noonan, Dan Crohn, Christine Hurley, and Corey Rodrigues, who you are about to hear. 
 
This is a bit about Rodrigues going out for a day at the beach, and the reaction he got when he tried to put on sunscreen. I won’t give away too much, but Rodrigues is black, and the audience at this taping was mostly white. That allowed Rodrigues to have a little fun with their expectations partway through the story. Look for <a href="https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=corey+rodrigues+dry+bar+comedy" rel="noopener" target="_blank">more of Rodrigues’s stuff on the Dry Bar Comedy YouTube channel</a>, and find his album, <em>My Turn</em>, on <a href="https://music.apple.com/album/1169101578?app=itunes&ls=1" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Apple Music</a> and <a href="https://play.google.com/store/music/album/Corey_Rodrigues_My_Turn?id=Bdoyzdtfs366etgubs6x2snsphy&hl=en" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Google Play</a>. His Web site is <a href="https://coreyrodrigues.com/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">www.coreyrodrigues.com</a>.