239 episodes

Rolf Potts veers off-topic in this unique series of conversations with experts, public figures, and intriguing people.

Deviate Unknown

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.8 ‱ 157 Ratings

Rolf Potts veers off-topic in this unique series of conversations with experts, public figures, and intriguing people.

    How Rolf Ruined the 1990s (a memoir in grunge)

    How Rolf Ruined the 1990s (a memoir in grunge)

    “Look at any photo from a moment of supposed zeitgeist in American history, and it will be clear that not everyone in that moment represented the cutting-edge of culture.”
    –Rolf Potts
    In this essay episode of Deviate, Rolf talks about why he enjoys listening to Rob Harvilla’s podcast 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s at double-speed, but that he’s disappointed Rob has never alluded to Rolf’s own 1990s grunge band, Swizzlefish (1:45); Rolf describes his move from Kansas to the Pacific Northwest in the year 1990, at a very specific moment in America’s cultural zeitgeist (10:30); the origins of Swizzlefish, and how its formation with Rolf’s friends Ryan and Steve was compromised by the fact that Rolf and Steve were in no way musical virtuosos (18:30); the circumstances of the first Swizzlefish live show, and how it caused an immediate controversy on Rolf’s small Christian college campus (30:00); what Portland’s indie-rock scene was like in early 1993, and what kinds of bands Rolf and his friends saw there (35:00); how the second Swizzlefish concert resulted in the band getting banned from playing on its own college campus (42:00); Swizzlefish’s spring 1993 performance at Portland’s X-Ray Cafe, and how the middle-class normalcy of its fans evoked something true about grunge music (49:00); Rolf’s eventual move to Seattle to work as a landscaper, his experiences at a 1993 Nirvana show there, and the curiously enduring legacy of Swizzlefish more than 30 years later (57:30); and Rolf talks to music journalist Rob Harvilla about Rolf’s brief appearance in the 1992 horror movie Dr. Giggles, their respective experiences with 1990s music, and whether or not Kurt Cobain would have liked them (1:06:25).
    The 1993 Swizzlefish album Big Time Loser is available for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube Music.
    Rob Harvilla (@harvilla) is the creator of 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s, a book and a podcast that explore the pop culture of the decade through music.
    Bands, musicians, and songs mentioned:

    “Love Buzz” (Shocking Blue song covered on Nirvana’s Bleach)
    Elliott Smith (singer-songwriter from Portland, Oregon)
    Heatmiser (Portland indie rock band)
    “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Nirvana song)
    Jane’s Addiction (alternative rock band from LA)
    Mother Love Bone (Seattle rock band)
    Kurt Cobain (lead-singer of Nirvana)
    Jackyl (American hair-metal band)
    “Princess in a Cobweb” (song by Drunk at Abi’s)
    Sprinkler (Portland indie-rock band)
    “Should I Stay or Should I Go” (song by The Clash)
    Carrie Brownstein (musician and comedian)
    Bikini Kill (pioneering “riot grrrl” punk band)
    Big Daddy Meat Straw (Portland indie-rock band)
    “Smells Like Nirvana” (parody song by Weird Al Yankovic)
    “Holiday of Sparks” (song by Dimbulb)
    “Rock Collection” (song by Pond)
    Everclear (Portland rock band)
    Mia Zapata (Seattle punk singer murdered in 1993)
    “Scentless Apprentice” (1993 Nirvana song)
    Kim Deal (Ohio-born musician for The Pixies and The Breeders)
    Dookie (1994 Green Day album)
    924 Gilman Street (all-ages punk-rock club in Berkeley)
    Rancid (Berkeley punk band)
    Avail (melodic hardcore punk band from Virginia)

    Other links:

    Malcolm McLaren (promoter and manager of the Sex Pistols)
    Hype! (1996 music documentary directed by Doug Pray)
    Twin Peaks (TV drama created by David Lynch)
    Grunge (alternative rock genre known as “Seattle sound”)
    George Fox College (pre-1996 name of George Fox University)
    Jumping freight trains in the Pacific NW (Deviate episode)
    Van Life before #VanLife (Deviate episode)
    Brian Epstein (manager of The Beatles from 1962-1967)
    Sub Pop (Seattle-based indie-rock record label)
    X-Ray Cafe (1990s all-ages venue in Portland)
    Rap rock (hybrid music genre)
    Hardcore (punk rock subgenre)
    Portlandia (sketch-comedy TV show from the 2010s)

    • 1 hr 19 min
    "Walk and Talk": Live from Thailand

    "Walk and Talk": Live from Thailand

    “Something about the motion of walking is conducive to generating both ideas and conversation. You can empty your mind and open your mind at the same time.”
    —Kevin Kelly
    In this episode of Deviate, Rolf reports from a “Walk and Talk” across northern Thailand. Interviewees and conversation topics are listed by time-code below. Participant write-ups about (or alluding to) the 2023 Thailand Walk and Talk include:

    The Walk and Talk: Everything We Know, by Craig Mod
    Walk and Talk: Everything We Know (PDF document), by Kevin Kelly
    Walking the Heck out of Thailand, by Craig Mod
    Walk and Talk, by Derek Sivers
    Expanding Home, by Liz Danzico
    Where Do You Call Home?, by Jason Kottke
    2023: Walking, by Dan Wang
    Why Not Pay Teachers $100,000 a Year?, by Daniel Pink

    Kevin Kelly (4:00-15:00)
    Kevin Kelly (@kevin2kelly) is a photographer, writer, and futurist, with much of his work centering on Asian and digital culture. His newest book is Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier.

    Travel can be a way to see the future (Deviate episode)
    Kevin Kelly on the lost world of 1970s Asia (Deviate episode)
    Wired (technology magazine)
    The Cotswolds (region in central Southwest England)

    Liz Danzico (15:00-27:45)
    Liz Danzico is VP of Design at Microsoft, and the Founding Chair of the MFA Interaction Design Program at the School of Visual Arts.

    Long-distance hiking at home (Deviate episode)
    The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs (book)
    Lets Drift (Kenyan hiking club)
    Hoka (brand of walking shoes)

    Silvia Lindtner (27:45-46:00)
    Silvia Lindtner is a writer, ethnographer, and Associate Professor at the University of Michigan. Her book Prototype Nation: China and the Contested Promise of Innovation was published by Princeton University Press in 2020.

    Seeking rural places (Deviate episode)
    Jiangxi (Chinese province)
    Guangdong (Chinese province)
    Yunnan (Chinese province)
    Salzburg (city in Austria)
    The Vulnerable Observer, by Ruth Behar (book)
    Anna Greenspan (media professor)
    Communitas (unstructured community of equals)

    Daniel Pink (46:00-52:00)
    Daniel Pink is a best-selling author of books on work, business, and life. His “Why Not?” project in collaboration with the Washington Post to aims to jolt America’s imagination about possibilities.

    When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, by Daniel Pink (book)
    Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink (book)
    The Power of Regret, by Daniel Pink (book)

    Craig Mod (52:00-69:00)
    Craig Mod is an author and photographer who has written and photographed about his walks across Japan, his love of pizza toast, and his life in Japan.

    Walk Japan (tour company)
    Rich Roll (ultra-endurance athlete)
    The Glorious Boredom of My Walk in Japan, by Craig Mod (essay)
    Kissa by Kissa, by Craig Mod (book)
    Things Become Other Things, by Craid Mod (book)

    The Deviate theme music comes from the title track of Cedar Van Tassel’s 2017 album Lumber.
    Note: We don’t host a “comments” section, but we’re happy to hear your questions and insights via email, at deviate@rolfpotts.com.

    • 1 hr 9 min
    Andrew McCarthy on telling travel stories

    Andrew McCarthy on telling travel stories

    “We ‘massage’ the truth to make it fit the narrative we need it to fit in our lives.”  –Andrew McCarthy
    In this episode of Deviate, Rolf and Andrew talk about how Andrew got started in travel writing, and how writing himself on the page helped him see himself in the world (2:30); when he does and doesn’t conflate certain details in the interest of a good story, and how he balances the “micro” and the “macro” elements of a travel story (12:30); how he decides who to write about, among the many people he meets on the road, which details do and don’t drive the narrative forward, and what it’s like to meet travelers who recognize him from his acting days (23:30); how Andrew structures his travel stories, and what travel storytelling in common with his work as a TV director (31:00); how he balances his writing and non-writing work in life, and how he mixes personal details with place details in his travel writing (38:00); and how memory can be fallible, and how to best write about family members (47:00).
    Andrew McCarthy (@AndrewTMcCarthy) is an actor, television director and writer of such books as The Longest Way Home and Brat. His newest book is Walking with Sam: A Father, a Son, and Five Hundred Miles Across Spain.
    Notable Links:

    Paris Writing Workshops (Rolf’s travel memoir classes)
    Andrew McCarthy on travel (Deviate episode)
    Andrew McCarthy Proust questionnaire (Deviate episode)
    Paul Theroux (travel writer and novelist)
    “Chasing the Black Pearl,” by Andrew McCarthy (Tahiti article)
    Gustav Mahler (classical composer)
    Don George (travel writer and editor)
    The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen (book)
    “A Slice of Paradise,” by Andrew McCarthy (Hawaii article)
    “A Slice of Ireland,” by Andrew McCarthy (Ireland article)
    “Steeped in Darjeeling,” by Andrew McCarthy (India article)
    Osprey (species of bird)
    Finisterre (peninsula in Spain)
    Communitas (unstructured community of equals)
    A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson (book)
    Less than Zero (1987 film starring Andrew McCarthy)
    Nut graph (journalism term)
    Joan Didion (American writer)
    Marco Polo Didn’t Go There, by Rolf Potts (book)
    Claude Chabrol (French film director)
    Henry Miller (American novelist)
    Alison Steele (New York DJ known as “The Nightbird”)
    Vin Scelsa (broadcaster)
    Oliver Sacks (British neurologist and writer)
    Rob Lowe (American “Brat Pack” actor)
    “Courting Vienna,” by Andrew McCarthy (Austria article)

    The Deviate theme music comes from the title track of Cedar Van Tassel’s 2017 album Lumber.
    Note: We don’t host a “comments” section, but we’re happy to hear your questions and insights via email, at deviate@rolfpotts.com.

    • 58 min
    Taking "microadventures" close to home

    Taking "microadventures" close to home

    “Unless we explore our neighborhood, we can’t imagine what might be right under our noses, nor be able to celebrate it, mourn its demise, or take action.” –Alastair Humphreys
    In this episode of Deviate, Rolf and Alastair Humphreys discuss the concept of his new book Local: A Search for Nearby Nature and Wilderness (1:30); what Alastair found on his close-to-home adventures in England (7:00); the surprises he found in industrial and post-industrial environments (13:00); how he learned to pay better attention to the natural environment in the areas he explored (19:30); “rights of access,” and how it affects hiking in Europe; and the idea of the “big here” versus the “small here” (25:00); how Alastair sought to embrace “stillness” during his experiment (33:30); how the changing of the seasons affected his experience of the local environments (40:30); and the role that imagination plays in having adventures close to home (48:00).
    Alastair Humphreys (@Al_Humphreys) is an English adventurer, author and motivational speaker. He is responsible for the rise of the idea of the microadventure – short, local, accessible adventures. His newest book, out this year, is Local: A Search for Nearby Nature and Wildness.
    Notable Links:

    Microadventure (local travel initiative)
    Industrial farming (agriculture practice)
    Souvenir, by Rolf Potts (book)
    Rewilding (conservation biology)
    Korean DMZ (rewilded demilitarized zone)
    Seek (nature identification app)
    Merlin Bird ID (birdsong identification app)
    On Looking, by Alexandra Horowitz (book)
    Henry David Thoreau (naturalist and essayist)
    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard (book)
    Mary Oliver (naturalist and poet)
    Right of way (public right to hike on private land)
    A Journey Around My Room, by Xavier de Maistre (book)
    Traveling in Place, by Bernd Stiegler (book)
    An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, by Georges Perec (book)
    Dustsceawung (Old English term for “contemplating dust”)
    Black Death (14th century pandemic)

    The Deviate theme music comes from the title track of Cedar Van Tassel’s 2017 album Lumber.
    Note: We don’t host a “comments” section, but we’re happy to hear your questions and insights via email, at deviate@rolfpotts.com.

    • 57 min
    The weird emotional power of sports (Super Bowl special)

    The weird emotional power of sports (Super Bowl special)

    “I hate the Kansas City Chiefs with a passion reserved only for things that I love.” —Tod Goldberg
    In this episode of Deviate, Rolf shares his 2002 NPR “Savvy Traveler” dispatch about trying to watch the Super Bowl in Thailand (3:00); then he and Tod Goldberg discuss how they became NFL football fans as kids in the 1970s, and how this affected their fandom later in life (8:00); how it could be difficult in the days before the Internet for kids to find information about NFL teams and players, and which books they read about the early days of pro football (23:00); the origins of the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs in upstart pro leagues, their more recent fortunes in the NFL, and how the last Chiefs Super Bowl appearance was nine months before Rolf was born (38:30); on watching Super Bowls from overseas and following the Chiefs (or 49ers) as adults, the strengths of the 2020 Chiefs and 49ers teams, and the emotional stakes of Super Bowl LIV (49:00); how the Chiefs have dominated the AFC in the four years since 2020, how this success has affected people’s perception of them, and how the Chiefs’ Midwesternness makes them different from other NFL dynasties (1:05:30); the role superstition plays in sports fandom, how some team fandom comes out of love for individual players, how fandom creates a leveling of social classes, and the merits of “fair weather” fandom (1:10:30).
    Novelist Tod Goldberg (@todgoldberg) is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen books, most notably the Gangsterland series of crime novels. He is also the director of the University of California-Riverside Palm Desert Low-Residency MFA.
    NFL games and players:

    Super Bowl LIV (2020 KC Chiefs versus SF 49ers NFL title game)
    Rolf Benirschke (San Diego Chargers placekicker in the 1980s)
    The Catch (touchdown reception in the 1981 NFC Championship Game)
    Christian “Nigerian Nightmare” Okoye (Chiefs fullback in the 1980s)
    Mike Mercer (NFL punter in the 1960s)
    Marshall Goldberg (Jewish Chicago Cardinals running back in the 1940s)
    1934 NFL Championship Game, aka the “Sneakers Game” (title game)
    1940 NFL Championship Game, (73-0 Bears-Giants title game)
    Steve Grogan (New England Patriots quarterback in the 1980s)
    Ed “Too Tall” Jones (Cowboys defensive end in the 1980s)
    Super Bowl IV (1970 Chiefs versus Vikings NFL title game)
    NFL Films: Super Bowl IV Highlights (sports documentary)
    Hank Stram (Chiefs coach from 1960-1974)
    Len Dawson (Chiefs quarterback in the 1960s and 1970s)
    Todd Blackledge (Chiefs 1983 draft-pick quarterback)
    Joe Montana (quarterback who won four Super Bowls with the 49ers)
    Super Bowl XLVII (2013 Ravens versus 49ers NFL title game)
    Patrick Mahomes (current Chiefs quarterback)
    Andy Reid (current Chiefs head coach)
    Jimmy Garoppolo (former 49ers quarterback)
    Super Bowl XVI (1981 49ers versus Bengals NFL title game)
    Jet Chip Wasp (pass play that helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV)

    Other links:

    “Pandemic Love: A personal history of nostalgia“ Deviate episode 142)
    Kumbh Mela (Indian Hindu pilgrimage celebrated every 12 years)
    Tod Goldberg on why sports is so emotionally affecting (Deviate episode)
    Matthew Zapruder (American poet and editor)
    West Coast offense (passing-oriented football strategy)
    Candlestick Park (former stadium that hosted San Francisco 49ers games)
    Tom Landry, Existentialist, Dead at 75, by Sarah Vowell (essay)
    Tecmo Bowl (1980s football video game)
    Sears Christmas Wish Book was great American literature (Deviate episode)
    Nerf (toy brand that made foam footballs)
    Championship: The NFL Title Games Plus Super Bowl, Jerry Izenberg (book)
    The Super Bowl Shuffle (rap song performed by the 1985 Chicago Bears)
    All-America Football Conference (professional football league from 1946-49)
    Los Angeles Dons (football team in the AAFC)
    American Football League (professional football league from 1960-69)
    Battle of New Orleans (1815 battle between British and

    • 1 hr 24 min
    Tim Ferriss on achievement v. appreciation

    Tim Ferriss on achievement v. appreciation

    “Billionaires can’t take a week off? What’s the point of having a billion dollars if they have fewer options than I do?”  –Tim Ferriss
    In this episode of Deviate, Rolf and Tim discuss common travel fantasies, and the fears that keep people from traveling (5:00); how we can redefine what “wealth” is and live fuller lives (18:00); why keeping a healthy perspective on information intake, technology, and “efficiency” is important, both on the road and in daily life (25:00); the “beginner’s mind,” and tips for writing and creativity (54:00);  the merits of going on foot and “getting lost” on the road, and how this figured into Rolf’s writing classes (1:17:00); notions of “success,” and how to definite the notion of success in a way that enhances one’s way of being in the world (1:37:00); and Rolf’s recommendations for drinks, food, documentaries, books, and poetry (1:50:00);
    Tim Ferriss (@tferriss) is a best-selling author and podcaster.
    General Links:

    Paris Writing Workshops (Rolf’s summer writing classes)
    Vagabonding, by Rolf Potts (audiobook)
    The Game Camera (short film cowritten by Rolf and Kristen Bush)
    Tim Ferriss on how to create a successful podcast (Deviate episode)
    Arnold Schwarzenegger on The Tim Ferriss Show
    LeBron James on The Tim Ferriss Show
    Cheryl Strayed on The Tim Ferriss Show
    Jerry Seinfeld on The Tim Ferriss Show
    Tortuga (bags design for long-term travel)
    Unbound Merino (travel clothing company)
    AirTreks (round-the-world flight planner)
    BootsnAll (online travel community)

    Interview Links:

    Van Life before #VanLife (Deviate episode)
    Man bites dog (aphorism about journalism)
    “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography” (quote)
    Beginner’s mind (attitude of openness)
    Adaptation (2002 film)
    Anne Lamott (American author)
    Kurt Vonnegut (American author)
    The Hero’s Adventure with Joseph Campbell (podcast remix)
    FlĂąneur (urban wanderer)
    Situationists (1960s social and artistic movement)
    Psychogeography (exploration strategy)
    Dave Chappelle (comedian)
    John Hughes (filmmaker)
    Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah (American essayist)
    Grizzly Man (2005 documentary film)
    Werner Herzog Reads Curious George (satire)
    Con Air (1997 film)
    Aimee Nezhukumatathil (poet)
    Naomi Shihab Nye (poet)
    Major Jackson (poet)
    Donald Hall (poet)

    Books mentioned:

    Walden, by Henry David Thoreau (book)
    The 4-Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferriss (book)
    The Art of Nonfiction, by Ayn Rand (book)
    Writing Tools, by Roy Peter Clark (book)
    To Show and to Tell, by Phillip Lopate (book)
    Screenplay, by Syd Field (book)
    Story, by Robert McKee (book)
    Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder (book)
    A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway (book)
    Leaves of Grass, by Walk Whitman (book)
    Good Hope Road, by Stuart Dischell (poetry)
    Alien vs. Predator, by Michael Robbins (poetry)

    The Deviate theme music comes from the title track of Cedar Van Tassel’s 2017 album Lumber.
    Note: We don’t host a “comments” section, but we’re happy to hear your questions and insights via email, at deviate@rolfpotts.com.

    • 2 hr 8 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
157 Ratings

157 Ratings

Ilikewaterbottles ,

Great podcast and nuanced conversations

Rolf has a pleasant Kansas twang to his voice, and his conversations range from travel stories, musings, tips, to non-travel topics that push a more nuanced view of the world. Highly recommend! Also, highly recommended to read his book Vagabonding.

cgutfhj ,

Best Travel Podcast

Deviate is my favorite travel podcast. Rolf is a great host in several ways.

A Real Mensch ,

Authentic, nuanced conversations (and more)

The simple production, authentic tone, and nuanced conversations is what keeps me listening.

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