Welcome to Tangentially Speaking
Hand-crafted, free-range, artisanal, small-batch, no additives or preservatives.
In late 2010, shortly after my first book was published (Sex at Dawn, co-authored with Cacilda Jethá), I was interviewed by a very smart young journalist named Hamish McKenzie. Hamish and I have kept in touch, and I’ve been thrilled to see Substack, the company he later co-founded, growing in prestige and importance.
Over the years, Hamish has occasionally reached out to suggest I might be a good fit for Substack, but my attention was focused on my second book (Civilized to Death), and my podcast, “Tangentially Speaking,” which I’ve been producing since 2012.
Still, I was intrigued to see a growing list of writers whose work I admire finding a home here, and when Hamish contacted me with the news that Substack was expanding into podcasting, I decided it was time to make a move.
That explains the pull, but what about the push?
Watching mainstream media outlets and membership platforms like Patreon buckle under pressure to silence “problematic” ideas was certainly one push. To my mind, problematic, subversive, taboo ideas are often the most interesting and fruitful. I admire Substack’s stated allegiance to freedom of expression and its intentional subversion of the attention economy by empowering human beings who create and consume ideas while excluding algorithms, ads, and click-bait bullshit.
Another, related push comes from my growing discomfort with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, where I have spent way too much time and energy interacting with trolls and bots incentivized (or designed) to stir up anxiety, anger, and apathy, when I was looking for clarity, comity, and community.
Lastly, I feel pushed by my chronic discomfort around monetizing the podcast and my writing. I’ve tried various approaches to monetization including advertising, paywalling content, Patreon, affiliate links, and straight-up groveling.
Substack’s approach resolves the clutter: there’s free content for everyone who subscribes, and additional content for folks who toss a few bucks in the tip jar. Clean. Simple. Minimal groveling required.
So here I am, moving into what I think and hope will be a long-term home for my podcast, my writing, my ranting and my raving.
Who Gets What?
Standard podcast episodes will remain freely available to everyone on all podcast apps. Free subscribers will also get monthly newsletters, email alerts for new episodes and posts, as well being able to participate in comment threads. Most of the more personal stuff will be for paid subscribers only. I’ve chosen the lowest subscription rate ($5/month or $50/year) to avoid pricing anyone out, but if you honestly can’t afford it, but really want the whole enchilada, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll work it out.
If you’re new to the podcast — or have been around for a while, but would like some suggestions on episodes you might want to start with or might have missed, here’s a list of lists I’ve put together.
In addition to the free stuff mentioned above, paying subscribers will get:
- TOMAs (Talking Out My Ass). These are episodes where I tell a personal story about various experiences I’ve had over the years, ranging from the time I spent in a prison in Alaska for stealing a Snickers bar, to when a scorpion stung me while I was tripping on a temple in Tikal, Guatemala, to my experience on the set of a porn film for which I eventually won an AVN award for “Best Non-Sex Performance.”
- BROMAs (Bonus Ranting Out My Ass). This is where I switch on the microphone and rant about whatever’s on my mind: politics, a personal situation I’m dealing with, a book I’m reading, the state of the world, etc.
- Periodic AMAs. (Ask Me Anything). I answer, or at least entertain, listener/reader questions.
- WMTBG? (What Makes This Book Great?). Modeled on Rick Beato’s fantastic YouTube series where he unpacks popular songs, I flex my frustrated literature professor muscles by sharing why I think a particular piece of writing is incredible. Previous episodes have focused on short stories "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," by Ursula K. LeGuin, “Cat Person,” by Kristen Roupenian, and “The Liar,” by Tobias Wolff, as well as the essay, “What You Can't Say," by Paul Graham. Upcoming episodes will feature the work of Carl Jung, Walt Whitman, Milan Kundera, and Ernest Hemingway.
- TSBC (Tangentially Speaking Book Club). A periodic book club, culminating in a Zoom call where we’ll share thoughts on the book.
- Personal Instagram-like photo/essays. I travel a lot and live in a van (“Scarlett Jovansson”) much of the year, (often down by the river). These are photos and anecdotes that had been going up on Instagram that I’ll now be sharing here instead.
- Access to all archived episodes (including well-known folks like Dan Savage, Joe Rogan, Mary Roach, Angela White, and Simon Rex, as well as hundreds of equally fascinating people you’ve never heard of).
How Many Damned Emails Will I Get From You, Chris?
Fair question. I realize that represents a lot of emails coming your way, so if you’re not into that, there’s a Monthly Newsletter you can subscribe to, which will allow you to not get an email every time I post something. Here’s how you do it:
Go to your Substack profile (top right corner).
Go to “account settings.” You'll see your subscriptions. It should look like the image below. (This says “Comped Subscription,” but yours could say “Paid” or “Free.”)
Click “edit” next to Tangentially Speaking.
Uncheck the box next to Tangentially Speaking, but leave the box next to Monthly Newsletter checked, like so:
No need to save these settings, just exit out and you should be good to go. You should get the Monthly Newsletter, but nothing else from my account. You can always opt back in if you change your mind.
So that’s the gist of it. I hope you’ll join me on this trip (and maybe even chip in on the diesel). There’s a lot I don’t love about the modern world, but the ease with which we can interconnect with each other and form community is truly remarkable, and something I’ll never take for granted. Thanks for coming. I hope you’ll stick around.
Questions about the process? Technical issues with your feed? Email email@example.com for support.
Yup free range - my kind of folks/ pets
I meant vortex not some kind of corneal implant