There’s no episode this week, but we know you need your fix. How about trying one of these eight podcasts, video series, and websites we like?
By all rights, the last year should have been a very hard one for a news and opinion website that covers food and restaurant culture. The folks at Eater rose to the challenge and have done some of their best work during the pandemic, tackling tough topics like ghost kitchens and the negative externalities of delivery culture. (While still finding time for topics nearer and dearer to our hearts, including the best bread you can use to make a Philly cheesesteak.)
In December 2020, Google fired computer scientist Timnit Gebru for daring to question some of their assumptions about the ethics of AI. The story highlights Google’s failure to “do good” and also raises some serious questions about accountability in the tech industry in general. The MIT Technology Review and its “In Machines We Trust” podcast have been covering the story in a series of excellent articles and podcasts that deserves some accolades.
On Map Men, comedians Jay Foreman and Mark Cooper-Jones provide some hilarious deadpan looks into geographical problems that are both ridiculous and deadly serious. Some highlights: “The World’s Silliest Time Zones,” “Why Are British Place Names So Hard to Pronounce?” and “Who Owns Antarctica?” Short, informative, and funny as hell.
Okay, yes, it feels a bit silly to express our appreciation for a show that gets broadcast nationally to millions of listeners each week. Even so, you have to recognize when someone does good work, and RadioLab has been churning out great episodes for years. Recent favorites include “Fungus Amungus,” “How to Win Friends and Influence Baboons,” and “Breaking Benford.”
Most of us have to do our traveling vicariously these days. Fortunately for us, there’s the Tim Traveler, whose short humorous European travel videos are always a highlight of our week. Some favorites include “The Forgotten Story of Independent Saarland,” “The Cafe with a Prehistoric Tomb in the Garden,” and a take on that age-old question, “What Happens to a Border if the River Changes Course?”
Like the rest of you, we first stumbled across Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez when we missed an episode of Project Runway and went to the Internet to find out what we missed. Over the years, TLO have transformed from snarky TV recappers into entertaining and thoughtful critics of fashion and pop culture, and lately they’ve been producing some of their best work. Some favorite recent episodes include “When All Culture Becomes Junk Culture” and “Sifting Through the Rubble with Meghan, Harry and Oprah.”
The hidden theme of this list is “British YouTubers who produce humorous educational videos.” And if that’s the theme, you can’t leave off Tom Scott, who’s been at this for years and shows no signs of slowing down. (For reference, he still looks like the picture on the left, only his hair is totally gray now.) Some recent favorites include “Hill Hill Hill Hill, Debunked, Debunked,”
“I Asked an AI for Video Ideas, and They Were Actually Good,” and “Why Real Explosions Don’t Look Like Movie Explosions.”
Sometimes you just want to look at something pretty, and it doesn’t get prettier than Nicholas Rougeaux’s exquisite recreation of an 1821 color mixing guide. You are going to take one look at this site and immediately be struck with the desire to buy some posters.
New Content from Old Favorites
Mark Chrisler’s The Constant continues to turn out great episodes on the hobo who settled Chicago’s east side while it was still underwater, the sad truth about forensic criminology, and crackpots. Go listen! There’s a reason it’s our favorite podcast. (And we’re not just saying that because Mark gave us a shout-out in that last episode.)
Over at Apocrypals, Chris and Benito look into the most extra apocrypha of all, the Book of Jubilees (part 1 & part 2).
Maintenance Phase has been on a roll with episodes delving into the less-than-savory aspects of wellness culture, including Halo Top, The Biggest Loser, snake oil, and Weight Watchers.
The former Pessimists Archive has rebranded itself as the more positive Build For Tomorrow, and asks the important question, “How do we communicate with the future?”
Wild Thing‘s second season may be over, but they’ve continued their investigations into the possibility of alien life through bonus interviews with noted scientists like Clara Sousa-Silvia, Joe Scott, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.