.Random Culture Bites to Deepen Understanding

New Year podcast and streaming picks that are better than resolutions

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. In December I tend to hyperfocus on the things I could improve in my future, like financial security, achieving emotional availability in relationships and maybe just being less of an awkward dork.

Then by mid-January, when I’m still a broke dork with unclimbable emotional walls, I spiral into a dance of self-recrimination and blame that lasts until I remind myself that time is an artificial construct and I can try to be less of a single, monetarily deficient film nerd whenever I want.

So, instead of resolutions and recriminations, I think I’ll just stick to business as usual. I’ll keep consuming a staggering number of podcasts, shows and movies to try and find a deeper understanding of the human condition while always attempting to generate more empathy and understanding within myself. I also just like stories.

Here are a few of the random bites of culture I’ve enjoyed sampling in the new year.

In Pod We Trust

I’ll never forget when, a decade ago, news came out that a group of masked vigilantes/superheroes had popped up in Seattle and caused a ruckus. The Rain City Superhero Movement was a group of costumed activists who reportedly stopped robberies and carjackings, and walked people to their cars at night.

The podcast The Superhero Complex breaks down the brief period the superheroes ran the streets of Seattle and the reasons why the movement folded. It’s a jaw-dropping story that seems too insane to be true, so that must mean that it is. With only 10 episodes, this is an easy one to finish.

I’ve always been obsessed with cults, and I’m not really sure why. I want to think it’s probably because I like being creeped out by people who believe in magic comets and cosmic ascension, instead of just being jealous that cultists have found something to believe in so profoundly.

Instead of focusing on cults like Heaven’s Gate or Scientology, Sounds Like a Cult looks at the real mechanisms of cult-like behavior and then applies them to things we normies experience daily like pickleball, Amazon and Taylor Swift. This podcast is simultaneously hilarious and thought-provoking.

Now Streaming

Did everyone miss True Detective as much as I did? It’s been five years since season three, so the newly released first two episodes of True Detective: Night Country had a lot of work to do to remind audiences why the show was such a breath of fresh air when it began. While seasons two and three didn’t come close to reaching the heights of the Woody Harrelson/Matthew McConaughey first season, Night Country is off to a very promising start.

It helps that we’ve got Jodie Foster, force of nature Kali Reis and criminally underrated John Hawkes starring in a murder mystery set in a remote Alaskan town in the throes of several weeks of darkness. Eight men working at a research station all disappear with the only sign of foul play being a severed tongue found under a table in the kitchen.

It’s one hell of a set-up and already has me on board for the cruelly short six-episode season. Foster is a welcome sight for sore eyes, and her interplay with the great Hawkes is worth the price of admission. Former boxer Reis is also giving a performance that should elevate her to movie stardom right away.

If Night Country sticks the landing, this should be a pretty special limited series. With Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and Issa López (Tigers Are Not Afraid) as the new creative team behind the scenes, it wouldn’t surprise me if this ends up being one of the televisual highlights of the year.


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