Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
PodmassPodmassIn Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at podmass@avclub.com.

Camp Monsters
Loveland Frogman

For fans of the Halloween season looking for a low-key, not-too-scary scare, this episode of REI Co-op’s Camp Monsters is the ticket. The series collects regional legends about North American monsters and spins tales out of them. Some creatures, like the Thunderbird or the Jersey Devil, might already sound familiar, but this installment features the eerie, lesser-known Loveland Frogman. Loveland, Ohio, half an hour from Cincinnati, is famous for its bike paths, the Great Serpent Mound, and the seldom-seen but terribly scary frogmen: They’re not frogs, they’re not men, and they might just be the fictional creation of a door-to-door chicken salesman. The legend begins in 1955, when a traveling salesman stopped by the bank of the Little Miami River when a pungent odor overtook his Studebaker, reminding him of something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Feeling brave, he gets out of the car to investigate, and, well, it’s not good. After this incident, the frogmen keep returning to the banks of the river—but what do they want? [Morgan McNaught]


Function With Anil Dash
GIFs As Blackface

Glitch CEO Anil Dash is a tech guy who’s deep in thought over technology’s role in our lives, and Function is a space for him to converse with creatives and culture experts about what effects the digital age has on all of us. The ubiquity of GIFs in social media to express emotion seem innocuous on the surface, but what happens when the images of Black people are often tied to more exaggerated reactions, decontextualized and replayed on an endless loop? Dash speaks with Dr. Lauren Michele Jackson on the concept of digital blackface, a repackaging and appropriation of images and moments via public fandom or corporate brands. No matter the intention of the GIFs, celebrities can benefit from their image going viral in a way that everyday people have little to no control over. Know Your Meme founder Kenyatta Cheese recognizes the strength of this visual medium, using his database to explain the context and history behind the GIFs being circulated. This leads Dash and Cheese to examine the role of tech companies in building a platform with, as Dash puts it, “consent and context built into the technology.” [Jason Randall Smith]


Horror Movie Survival Guide
Don’t Look Now—Fetch Him Back!

Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now has appeared on just about every “scariest movies of all time” list since its release, but remains relatively underseen. The film’s influence can be felt in the works of modern horror filmmakers like Ari Aster and Robert Eggers, and over 40 years later, it still has the power to unnerve its audience. If you finally watch Don’t Look Now for your “31 days of horror” list, this week’s Horror Movie Survival Guide is a pleasant digestif after the main course of terror. Hosts Julia Marchese and Teri Gamble look back on this psychological horror classic in a conversation that is both natural and unpretentious, akin to two friends chatting as they walk out of the theater. The pair eschew any information about the making of the film and instead dive right into the work itself, particularly the controversial (and still arresting) sex scene between Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, which is discussed with a welcome candidness. At 40 minutes, the episode is beautifully brisk, but proceed with caution: Spoilers abound, and you really don’t want to ruin this one for yourself. [Mike Vanderbilt]


Record Store Day Podcast With Paul Myers
Tony Visconti

Vinyl collectors around the globe know that one Saturday every April their local record store will be inundated with stacks of special limited pressings, 7-inch singles, and long-awaited re-releases. It’s a glorious, independent, retail-focused holiday that’s grown to international proportions in the last decade. It’s Record Store Day. And now it’s a podcast. Hosted by journalist, musician, and author Paul Myers, the official Record Store Day Podcast features regular updates on any RSD-related news in addition to lengthy interviews with some of the biggest names in the music industry. How big? Well, the premiere episode features a nice long chat with legendary producer and Brooklyn boy made good Tony Visconti. You might recognize his name from the liner notes of the majority of David Bowie’s 1970s output, but Visconti has had his fingers in a lot of pies over the years and has plenty of stories to tell. He’s also, as one might imagine, a frequent patron of record stores, which makes him the ideal guest to kick off what should be a vinyl-lover’s dream of a show. [Dan Neilan]


Scattered
Soy Andres, A Tus Pies

Chris Garcia’s stand-up comedy has often relied on stories about his father, Andres, a Cuban immigrant who fled the regime of Castro to the U.S. Like many refugees from oppressive and fascist regimes, Andres never told Chris any stories of his time in Cuba; understandable, as Chris and his family assume these memories were traumatic or linked to difficult emotions. After Andres died in 2017, Chris decided to embark on the deeply personal journey of answering the question, “Who was Andres Garcia?” By interviewing family members, colleagues, and close friends and intercutting those interviews with moving narration, this six-episode limited series promises a story that is not just about the Garcia family history, but about the realities of refugee and immigrant families that must abandon their homes and create new ones. Scattered is intimate, raw audio with heart, and it doesn’t put on a brave face and make jokes in the face of tragedy; there’s still humor, but it’s tasteful, at times ironic, and it underscores Chris’ thoughts on racism, generational trauma, and the act of uprooting oneself. [Elena Fernández Collins]


Short Wave
The Squishy Science Behind ASMR

NPR’s newest bite-size science podcast, Short Wave, delivers some literally spine-tingling reporting with an episode devoted to autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR. From softly spoken words to the sound of fingernails tapping on a table, some auditory triggers make a very specific crowd of people feel a low-grade sensation of euphoria often accompanied by a tingling feeling around the neck and upper spine. Reporter Emily Kwong joins Short Wave host Maddie Sofia to sit down and discuss the psychophysiology around ASMR and why it’s only an experience for some people and not all, picking apart the surprisingly recent origins of the phenomenon (and its tight-knit online communities) and interjecting interview clips with a psychology professor who will soon begin lecturing on the subject at the University Of Essex. The episode also dives into the weird and wonderful world of slime and how the fad of squishy noises is captivating the internet. As fascinating as it is brief, this episode of Short Wave is the perfect auditory stimuli for your brain, scalp, and spine. [Kevin Cortez]


The Fear
Andy Nyman “A Flaming Rabbi”

In each episode of The Fear, host Sarah Morgan invites a guest to talk about their phobias and the pop culture that frightens them. This week, she speaks with actor Andy Nyman, whose experiences co-creating the hit horror stage play Ghost Stories have given him many insights into the mechanics of fear. Horror, Nyman says, is all about what is hidden. A haunted attraction in the light of day is just a collection of cheap fairground gimmicks, but when covered in shadow and fog, it can frighten anyone. For Nyman, the things that scare us get their power from how little we understand them, which leads him to lament that as an adult he no longer experiences that rush of fear he used to get from a gory book cover or movie poster as a child. Though he does admit that the opening credits of the show Thriller, which caused him to flee the room when growing up, still has the power to fill him with dread. It’s a fascinating conversation that also covers subjects like loss and mortality in a thoughtful and serious way, making The Fear a perfect listen for all those with a morbid inclination. [Anthony D Herrera]


This Is Uncomfortable
Instrument Of Sabotage

Listening to this episode is guaranteed to enrage anyone new to this story, which went viral in June 2018. A budding orchestral musician is gutted after being denied acceptance to one of the world’s most renowned music schools, where he would have studied for free under a teacher he idolized. Except he was actually accepted then led to believe otherwise via bogus correspondence sent by a bad actor. In the end, the victim is too kind and/or shrewd to pursue criminal charges, opting to sue instead. How he calculates the dollar amount of his missed opportunity is of particular interest to this show, a recent addition to the Marketplace family that focuses on how money messes with life. The musician’s lawyer breaks down costs like the value of free college versus having to pay tuition somewhere else. There’s even an attempt to put a price on the pain of rejection. For anyone who is familiar with the story, there are some juicy updates on the attempts to collect, and the assurance of knowing that despite the cruel setback, our guy is doing fine. [Zach Brooke]


You Must Remember This
Disney’s Most Controversial Film (Six Degrees Of Song Of The South, Episode 1) 

It’s been a minute since we heard from film critic/scholar Karina Longworth, who cuts a path through the dark crevices of Hollywood’s Golden Age on her beloved podcast, You Must Remember This. The new season started last week, and she’s picked a doozy of a big-screen blemish to shine a light on. With Disney about to stream everything from classic cartoons to Marvel blockbusters to whatever the hell Jeff Goldblum wants to do on the new Disney+ service, Longworth will be spending the entire season wondering one thing: What about Song Of The South? In the years since its 1946 release, this live-action/animated musical mashup (set on a slave-filled Reconstuction-era plantation and based on those already racist-as-fuck Uncle Remus folktales) has become a straight-up embarrassment for the Mouse Factory, which has refused to put it out on home video in the States. Longworth, who saw the film on those occasions when it was greedily re-released in theaters, comes out of the gate breaking down its myriad flaws and reminding listeners why Bob Iger and company would prefer that shit stay hidden. [Craig D. Lindsey]


While Black
My Life, My Love, My Way W/ Lisa Cunningham

Each week, hosts Vince and Art seek to uncover all that it means to live life while Black, getting into everything from the politics to the rich cultural experiences. This week Art is away, and Vince sits down with LGBTQIA+ advocate Lisa Cunningham to discuss how she believes Black culture has changed for the better in the past five years alone, especially when it comes to issues of gender and sexuality. The two break down the idea of the “gay agenda” and how there’s no such thing, because all that people are demanding are the rights and protections laid out by the Constitution. Plus, Vince shares why he thinks the term “homophobic” is a cop-out: “You’re not scared, you’re an asshole.” Lisa expresses her desire to use her platform to educate and inspire other young Black people to own their truth and to step into the freedom of who they are—something that historically has not always been accepted. It’s an important conversation on a culture that is always evolving, and the major barriers that have been broken down. This podcast highlights the extraordinary state of living while Black. [Vannessa Jackson]


Zero Hours
Those Familiar Spirits

The new fiction miniseries by Fear Of Public Shame (the team behind Wolf 359, Time Bombs, and No Bad Ideas) is Zero Hours, an anthology of stories about the end of the world. This first episode, “Those Familiar Spirits,” centers on a naïve, flustered priest trying to question the strange woman who shows up unexpectedly in his church. When the woman says she’s a witch, things are already dire, but when she says she has a prophecy about the imminent end of the world, the priest must try his hardest not to unravel at the seams. The episode flits between heavy, profound questions about faith and strange, zany humor. The dialogue has a cadence that feels similar to traditional theater, or even works by philosophers like Socrates. It’s set in the Puritan era, but it also feels unstuck in time—anachronistic, but with purpose. The characters, the setting, and the time period help the writers reach the questions they want to ask the listener to consider, while the form helps dig even deeper into the narrative by placing the listener there. [Wil Williams]

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About the author

Kevin Cortez

Kevin Cortez writes on the internet. He wrote this.

Dan Neilan

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Have Fun — Will Travel.

Mike Vanderbilt

Mike Vanderbilt is a freelance writer and contributor based on the south side of Chicago. . A bartender by trade, he holds a degree in accountancy but he was never very good at it.