The best thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them while you’re doing other things: Dishes, going for a jog, coloring, and especially, driving. But there are so many podcasts these days that it’s officially impossible to keep up. There are new ones debuting all the time, and it’s hard to know whether they deserve a spot in your feed.
Every week, we highlight new and returning podcasts we couldn’t put down. Whether you’re looking for the latest and greatest or you’re just dipping your two into the vast ocean of podcasts, we’ll find you something worth listening to. This week, we’ve got podcasts about old-school, international video conferences, Topher Grace getting uncomfortable, love in the time of connectedness, and amuse-bouches of historical info.
Why should I listen? It’s a reminder of how technology can stretch the boundaries of imagined communities in surprising ways.
How many episodes are there and how long are they? It’s a four-episode podcast, each about 45 minutes.
Describe it in one word: Spiritualized.
The Chinese word yūgen is sometimes used in Japanese aesthetics, poetry, and theater. It doesn’t have an exact translation, but it’s described as “a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe.” A simple image, like an autumn sky, can evoke the feeling, but it also captures the way astronaut Rusty Schweickart describes being in space.
It’s a select club Schweickart belongs to, and it was even smaller when he met with Soviet cosmonauts at the Paris Air Show in 1969. The metaphysical experience of seeing the earth from above was enough to transcend the Cold War ethos and fostered an atmosphere that allowed spacebridge broadcasts to take place. Video conferencing via satellites allowed everyone from Phil Donahue to Kermit the Frog to appear in these international events. Journalists Julia Barton and Charles Maynes use archival audio and interviews to tell the story of a connection between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during a time that was otherwise fraught with tension and mistrust.
Why should I listen? You might be inspired to try some new, out-of-the-ordinary activities.
How many episodes are there and how long are they? Thus far, the two episodes have been under an hour.
Describe it in one word: Plucky.
Have you ever Googled the phrase “Topher Grace is hot?” If not, you’re not alone. Neither has he — and he was hooked up to a lie detector when he made the denial. Making celebrities answer questions while attached to a polygraph seems like it should be a podcast all its own (and it was a Vanity Fair video series), but in this podcast series Grace goes on a series of indoor adventures he describes as stuff he wants to do but doesn’t necessarily want recorded, like dream interpretation.
In each episode, Grace brings along a celebrity friend, like Paul Scheer, who learns to do telemarketing, and Tig Notaro, who tries out auctioneering. In the first episode, we learn that the That ‘70s Show star hosts board game nights and met Whitney Cummings at a Red Lobster. Be my friend, Topher Grace!
Why should I listen? Singles might get some good tips, while those attached might feel just a little more grateful towards their partner.
How many episodes are there and how long are they? There were eight episodes in season one, none over half an hour.
Describe it in one word: Hopeful.
The 2004 song Profile by Now It’s Overhead was basically a posting for dating in the Friendster era. Fourteen years later, Nancy Jo Sales’ documentary Swiped: Hooking Up in the Digital Age showed the only thing that changed was the increasing number of ways online dating can make you want to throw your phone into the ocean.
Into this atmosphere of being able to access a potential date 24/7 comes season two of Love Letters. Boston Globe advice columnist Meredith Goldstein is single herself and gets countless letters about “dating fatigue,” the feeling that putting all this effort into finding a partner is exhausting as hell. The episodes explore various ways to meet people, like having your friends set you up or an office romance. Goldstein also follows the dating trials of Erin, a 44-year-old woman experiencing some dating burnout of her own.
Why should I listen? Sometimes current events are just too much.
How many episodes are there and how long are they? There are five episodes a week, each about five minutes.
Describe it in one word: Distilled.
Earlier this week, a widely circulated image proved Einstein was right about black holes, a phenomenon even he had trouble believing. On April 12, 1923, 96 years earlier (almost to the day), newspapers reported that Einstein’s theory of relativity had been confirmed by photographs of a solar eclipse.
You don’t need to be a whiz with dates to make that connection. Just tune in to Not Your Century, a podcast hosted by The San Francisco Chronicle’s King Kaufman. It’s kind of like one of those “This Day in History” calendars come to life. In about the time it takes you to brush your teeth, wash your face, and apply some lotion, Kaufman revisits events big and small that happened in previous centuries. Sometimes it’s national news, like the day Ronald Reagan was shot. Other times it’s more local, like when a Los Angeles aqueduct collapsed. Either way, you’ll likely learn something.