Discover more from Webworm with David Farrier
Every Flightless Bird So Far!
The Flightless Bird archive - updated with new episodes weekly.
I thought it would be a good idea to have a list of all the Flightless Bird episodes in the one place, because it’s getting to the point where people will message me things like this (which is a nice thing to do!) —
— but it turns out I have already done said topic (in this case, bottled water) awhile back.
With that in mind, I’ve made this Flightless Bird episode guide, which I will update each week.
The URL will always be: https://www.webworm.co/flightlessbirdarchives
If you want background on how we make the show, I’ve outlined that here:
Oh, finally, the links below take you to Spotify, but remember that these episodes are on all the major podcast platforms (including Apple, Google, Stitcher, Podbean etc).
Flightless Bird exists on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert feed, so can sometimes be hard to find in search. My suggestion is you search “Armchair Expert” + [Episode Name]. For example, “Armchair Expert Toilets”.
But really the easiest thing is to just use this list and listen on dirty old Spotify!
(God this took a long time to do!)
PSA for new readers: Webworm is the job I love the most. If you like, you can subscribe to get my weird investigations straight to your inbox. There’s a free version, and a paid version (if you want more of my stuff, and to support my work):
The Flightless Bird Archive
Updated with new episodes weekly
This week on Flightless Bird, David Farrier investigates America’s extreme love of cereal. He sets out to answer why America needs over 5000 different types of cereal, and why some of the most popular cereals have been discontinued. He meets with YouTube cereal reviewer Thomas Hicks, AKA The Cereal Snob (https://www.youtube.com/c/CerealSnob), to get the lowdown on how much milk should be used in cereal, and what types of cereal are the best. David also discovers that cereal was invented by John Harvey Kellogg in the 1890s, who created the humble cornflake. David finds that Kellogg was trying to create something so bland it would stop people masturbating or having sex!
This week on Flightless Bird, David Farrier begins to notice how much America loves cars. Why do 92% of American households have at least one vehicle? That is so many cars! The country's love of cars has transformed it, with not only roads - but with millions and millions of parking spaces. David becomes obsessed with all of America’s parked cars, sitting down with Henry Grabar - a staff writer at Slate who writes about cars and transportation, urban policy and housing. And Grabar has also been thinking a lot about how much of America is taken up by cars. Why in America, on average, are there up to 6 parking spaces for every car? Why does NY make more money off parking tickets than parking fees?
This week on Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to understand America’s obsession with pinball. He heads to Long Beach California for a meeting of the Long Beach Pinball League, headed by passionate pinball man Tom Walker. His league is part of the International Flipper Pinball Association which is made up of 96,000 players from 45 countries. David then meets Tom Radar, a man who has been obsessively collecting pinball machines for years.
62: Haunted Houses
This week on Flightless Bird, David Farrier takes Monica to a haunted house to celebrate Halloween. And not just any haunted house! Each year Universal Studios puts on its Halloween Horror Nights, using its Hollywood tricks to create some of the scariest haunted houses in America. David and Monica meet with John Murdy, the creative director behind the haunted houses. Monica then comes face to face with her ultimate fear: Chucky. And not just one chucky: Hundreds of Chucky’s.
62: Bail Bonds
This week on Flightless Bird David Farrier investigates bail bonds in America, and more specifically - the bail bondsman. With 15,000 bail bonds agents in America, it seems to be a thriving private enterprise. In Oklahoma he meets with Ron Eden, a bail bondsman who inherited the business from his mother. What’s it like to deal with people accused of crimes, and the families desperate to get their loved ones out while they await trial? David then brushes up on how you get bail in New Zealand, by talking to criminal lawyer Emma Priest. He then talks to Allie Preston, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. Allie explains why having to pay for bail is a problem and who it discriminates against - and also points out that paying for bail doesn’t necessarily make you more likely to turn up for court!
This week on Flightless Bird David Farrier investigates whether we have America to thank for the modern laundromat. After all, there are over 30,000 laundromats in the US - employing 39,000 people, making $5 billion in revenue each year. To help him in his investigation David meets with Brain Wallace of the Coin Laundry Association to discuss how on April 18th,1934 a Texan named CA Tannahill opened the world's first coin operated laundromat. David then discovers how laundromats mean different things to different people in America. He then talks with Jason Sowell, who is very enthusiastic about the importance of the American laundromat, and runs a non-profit called “Current Initiatives” which helps people do their washing. David also learns why Americans have a phobia towards clotheslines.
60: Healthcare 2
After two American surgeons told David he needed back surgery, he fled back to his home of New Zealand where healthcare was less scary! What he discovered in New Zealand surprised him. David calls up journalist Luke O’Neil (writer of the Welcome to Hellworld newsletter and new book A Creature Wanting Form) to chat through what he discovered: Two very different medical systems with vastly different approaches.
This week on Flightless Bird David Farrier investigates pizza, one of America’s favourite foods. He discovers that around 76,000 pizza joints bring in $44 billion dollars each year in the US - where every day 13% of the population will eat a slice of pizza. David begins his journey in Los Angeles, as Rob takes him and Monica to a fancy pop-up called “Chain”. Here, chefs riff on chain food but with their own upgraded twists - and tonight it’s Pizza Hut! Next David heads to New York to eat a variety of NY pizzas, from the cheap slices of Joe’s, to Pauly Gee’s famous Hellboy pizza. What makes a good pizza? There is no clear answer, but Farrier attempts to find out, before going to one last joint - Ops - an upmarket take on what a pizza should be. Along the way Farrier meets some of those eating the pizza - New Yorkers - who truly love their city.
59. Storm Chasers
This week on Flightless Bird David Farrier investigates the incredibly American pastime of storm chasing. There are about 1200 tornados in America each year - for some they are a source of fear and worry, but for others they are a challenge to be bested. David travels to tornado alley, visiting Oklahoma in search of answers. There he meets storm chasers Stephanie & Justin Cox (@oklahoma_weather_couple) who talk about falling in love while chasing storms, and their shared obsession with finding the next big Twister. David reads that the nearby town of Cole has recently been hit by a tornado (two, in fact) so heads off to investigate, meeting the resilient people there who talk about what it’s like to be hit by a twister. Along the way Farrier talks to storm chaser Jennifer Brindley (faceofastorm.com), and her veteran storm chasing partner Skip Talbot (ww.skip.cc), who timed the birth of his children around his storm chasing sensibilities!
This week on Flightless Bird David Farrier investigates America’s obsession with ice. From excessive ice in drinks to the joy of frozen food, Farrier finds that ice is deeply American. Meeting with Reid Mitenbuler, the author of Bourbon Empire, David discovers the story of Frederic “The Ice King” Tudor, who dug up ice from the lakes of New England and got America, and the world, hooked on ice in the 1800s. Farrier then heads to New York to meet writer and academic Heidi Julavits, who muses about the significance of ice in American culture, and tells David about her icy memories from Maine… and 2023’s Coachella. Farrier discovers how the Holiday Inn made ice machines mandatory in American hotels, before he considers the fact Americans want to cryogenically freeze themselves to live forever. There is no denying it: Americans love ice.
ARCHIVE (IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER):
Armchair Umbrella and David Farrier introduce you to Flightless Bird, a show that follows kiwi journalist David Farrier as he embarks on a quest to understand American culture, after getting accidentally marooned here. From football to flags, religion to burgers, David wants to learn about the things that make America tick. “Why do adults love Disneyland so much?” and “why are American toilets filled to the brim with water?” are just a few of the important questions he’ll pose. Each episode sees Farrier documenting a different part of American culture, meeting people who’ll make you see America in an entirely new light with new episodes arriving every Tuesday.
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets out to understand religion in America. Joined by Dax and Monica, he tries to figure out why over 200 million Americans are Christians, and how uniquely Americanised this religion has become - with franchises, brands, and celebrity endorsements. David talks to Mike McHargue - a Baptist who became an atheist who then became a Christian again. We discover how someone can love both Christianity and science - and you may be very surprised to learn your brain may well believe in God… even if you’re a stone-cold atheist!
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets out to discover why the water level on American toilets is terrifyingly high, almost filling up the entire toilet bowl. Joined by Monica, he tries to figure out why it’s so hard to find a public restroom and why the gaps in the doors are so big. David talks to urban sociologist and toilet expert Harvey Molotch, who explains why public restrooms unchanging - segregated into male and female sections - seem to be locked in time. We discover why so many horror films feature scary scenes in toilets and talk to a plumber about his biggest toilet disaster.
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets out to discover how Disney’s parks and experiences division made 17 billion dollars last year - seeing 77 million people through its rollercoasters, rides, and massive queues. Joined by Monica, David tries to figure out what Disney Adults are all about, and why they love those Mickey Mouse ears so much. David talks to a hardcore Disneyland fan to learn about Disney’s biggest secrets, including SEA - the hidden backstory worked into every Disney Park on the planet. We discover the rules behind the elite Club 33 and ask if Disneyland employees love Disney as much as everyone else.
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets out to discover why Americans love suing each other so much - filing over 40 million lawsuits a year. Joined by Dax and Monica, David attempts to figure out how to avoid being sued and talks about the time a New York man sued him... twice. Dax weighs in with his own legal battles and David talks to New York media lawyer Cameron Stracher about what it was like defending the National Enquirer during the Michael Cohen Trump Fiasco. We discover how lawsuits aren’t as frivolous as you might expect - including the famous McDonald's hot coffee incident which saw superheated hot coffee explode on a woman’s lap.
5: Dogs Shows
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets out to understand his favorite American mockumentary "Best in Show" by attempting to immerse himself in the world of competitive dog shows. Joined by Monica, David shares his unusual history in the animal-showing world, before meeting happy animal owners who love nothing more than selectively breeding an animal that is superior to all others. We discover the story of a dog assassination attempt and look at how ethics and boundless enthusiasm collide in the world of competitive animal showing. Warning: This episode also contains a lot of cats.
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets out to discover why Americans love burgers so much, eating 50 million of them a year. Joined by Monica, he tries to figure out why in America it’s always beef for dinner and how that fact has drastically altered the biology of the humble cow. David talks to Ben Wurgaft, author of “Meat Planet: Artificial Flesh and the Future of Food” about the triumphs and problems of creating artificial meat. David also talks to Isha Datar, executive director of New Harvest, about the realities of feeding 8 billion people on earth each year using meat grown in giant vats - and asks whether it’s all just hype. We also discover what Dax Shepard and Kim Kardashian have in common - and yes, it’s related to meat.
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets out to understand why Americans love their flag so much, buying nearly 150 million of them every year. Joined by Dax and Monica, David quizzes them about what it’s like to go to school and pledge allegiance to the flag, before Dax recalls his colourful interactions with an American flag and a flag pole. David talks to flag expert, TedTalker and podcaster Roman Mars about what makes a good flag design, before chatting with vexillologist Tory Laitila - curator of Textiles and Historic Arts of Hawai'i at the Honolulu Museum of Art - about the dos and don’ts of flag etiquette. Thanks to first amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, we discover how the burning of a flag led to one of America’s most divisive court cases.
8: Disney II
This week on Flightless Bird, David embarks on his first-ever trip to Disneyland with Dax, Monica, and Wobby Wob to see if the magic of the place rubs off on him. In amongst discovering the joys of Star Wars: Galaxies Edge and the Cars ride, David investigates Disney Social Clubs, also known as "Disney Gangs." He learns about the alleged beef between two groups, the Main Street Fire Station 55 Social Club and the White Rabbits, and talks to a member of the Sons of Anakin. David discovers the one Disney property that isn't copyrighted and lays eyes on an elusive Disney feral cat.
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets out to understand America’s obsession with bottled water. Joined by Monica, he tries to figure out why tap water just won’t cut it in many US States, leading Americans to spend billions on bottled water every year. David talks to author and scientist Peter Gleick about tap water myths, and how some bottled water companys have accidentally added things like arsenic and cricket parts to their bottled creations. We discover why a new sports stadium purposefully didn’t install enough public water fountains, and get to the bottom of whether carcinogenic chemicals leech from plastic bottles creating a deathtrap.
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets out to understand a game that simply doesn’t exist in New Zealand: American Football. He tries to figure out America’s most popular sport and asks why over 100 million Americans watched the Super Bowl. After watching the Super Bowl for the first time, David travels to Seattle to get schooled by NFL Hall-of-Famer Walter Jones, who was drafted by the Seahawks in 1997. He discovers what a locker room smells like, and why some football players love to chew gum so much. Walter also opens up about his theories on the existance of extraterrestrial life.
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets out to discover why America loves circumcision so much, to the point where 115 million American men now find themselves without a foreskin. Joined by Monica, he tries to figure out why this medical procedure became so popular here, leading to some medical diagrams not bothering to include a foreskin anymore. David talks to a man in his 30s who’s furious he got circumcised when he was a baby, and another who’s annoyed he wasn’t circumcised, as he considers getting an adult circumcision. David talks to a doctor who’s carried out hundreds of circumcisions to find out what all the fuss is about, and spends time with Georganne Chapin, Executive Director of Intact America - who wants circumcision to be thrown out the window.
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets out to understand what makes the American diner experience so special, by travelling to Reno, Nevada. There he meets the staff of Peg's Glorified Ham N Eggs, and meets the regulars who've made the diner their home away from home - including Rainbow Man, a man obsessed with painting human bodies at Burning Man. What makes a diner a diner? How have they changed over the years? David and Monica discuss their various diner experiences, from fights to excessive milkshake consumption.
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets out to make sense of the very confusing American healthcare system. Joined by Monica, he tries to figure out why some Americans end up paying their own ambulance bill, and why over half of the American population is riddled with medical debt. David talks to Luke O’Neil - the journalist and writer behind popular newsletter "Welcome to Hellworld" - about why it falls on children to raise money for their parents medical bills; and discovers why in the US healthcare system teeth are considered “luxury bones”.
This week on Flightless Bird, David prepares to hit “Buy Now” as he embarks into the world of Amazon, the company that notched up 116 billion dollars in sales during the first three months of this year. Joined by Monica, he looks at how this company has slowly inserted itself into the American lifestyle, from TV and film, to products, to Alexa living in everyone’s house, tending to their every need. David interviews Emily West, an Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Massachusets, about how Amazon’s marketing made a brown cardboard box so popular. He also talks to the author of “Fulfillment”, Alec MacGillis, about how Amazon’s various factories are changing the face of America, city by city - as Amazon is now America’s second largest private employer next to Walmart.
This week on Flightless Bird, David dives into the insane world of Insane Clown Posse fans, who called themselves “Juggalos”. David is shocked to discover that due to the criminal enterprises of certain members of the fandom, the FBI decided to classify them as a gang. David talks to one of the first people to document Juggalo culture, Derek Erdman - before meeting another documentary maker who spent years with ICP’s “Violent J” and “Shaggy 2 Dope”, unlocking the magic that makes this band a $10 million-dollars-a-year business. With the annual Gathering of the Juggalos approaching, David learns ICP and their fans tell the story of a very specific part of American culture, that isn’t going away anytime soon. “Woop woop!”
This week on Flightless bird, David gets out his wallet and dives into the culture and politics of tipping. Joined by Monica Padman, he sets out to discover why 52% of Americans tip their hairdresser while only 14% always tip their barista. David interviews Mike Lynn, a professor at the Cornell Hotel School, about the social pressures of tipping and why we tip what we tip. David also talks to Saru Jayaraman of “One Fair Wage”, who explains that tipping is a deeply warped version of what Americans brought back from Europe - and that in America tipping has some fairly racist origins - which has lead to power imbalances for the 5.5 million Americans that that rely on tips. David is encouraged to hear that America is at a tipping point for workers, and there may be a future with a decent minimum wage - as well as tips. Unless you’re one of the 4% of Americans who refuse to tip, ever.
This week on Flightless Bird, David heads to San Francisco to meet the San Francisco Giants. Joined by Wobby Wob, David attempts to learn how to catch a baseball, before becoming distracted by some loud screams coming from the field. It's there he meets the Chicago White Sox's Liam Hendriks, an outspoken Australian with a good arm and lots of opinions. David learns why 16 million Americans play baseball in some kind of organized fashion and talks to bench coach Kai Correa about how to win a game. Farrier then interroates Giants pitcher Logan Webb about pre-game rituals, before watching his first ever baseball game... trying to figure out what he likes more: the game, the drinks, or the food?
This week on Flightless Bird, David descends underground into the world of preppers and bunkers, learning that 40% of Americans believe that stocking up on supplies or building an underground shelter is a better investment than saving for retirement. Joined my Monica Mouse, David discovers that humans have wanted to live underground for the last 2000 years. David interviews ethnographic researcher Bradley Garrett about the mindset of the American bunker enthusiast since Covid, and finds out why Brad was arrested on the tarmac back in 2012, spending two years marooned in the UK. David finds out about the American man who wanted to buy an nuclear bunker with 56 bedrooms, and calls up a bunker company to find out what’s in their million dollar bunker package.
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets out to understand America's obsession with Recreational Vehicles, also known as RVS. Joined by Monica and Dax, David discovers why 11.2 million American homes have an RV of some kind - and why 10 million more are considering buying one within the next five years. David sits down with Monica Geraci, the official spokesperson for the American RV Industry Association, to find out some tips and tricks, before descending into Griffith Park to meet an actor who lives in an RV full time. It's there he learns of a mysterious man who rents RVs out to the unhoused around Los Angeles, begging the question: Is this mystery man doing them a favour, or is he exploiting their situation as a kind of RV slumlord?
This week on Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to explore America’s adult film industry, which has its heart in California’s San Fernando Valley. In this episode Farrier heads for a mansion in the hills of Calabasas to attend an adult film shoot, hoping to understand why Americans spend an average of 9 minutes and 44 seconds on porn sites at a time. David meets a porn director also called “David” to ask why they still have all that dialogue and plot in amongst all the sex, before chatting with porn stars Hadley and Lucas about the joys, trials and tribulations of their unique job. At the end of the day David sits down for 45 minutes as the actors all have sex with each other, and tries to come to a conclusion about what this all means. David also meets one of the (now adult) stars of popular 90s sitcom “Boy Meets World”, to find out why Mailand Ward decided to make a late entry to the adult film industry. They discuss her new book “Rated X” and the challenges and misconceptions of the porn world.
21: Game Shows
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier embraces the American institution of game shows. He sets out to understand how in this time of high caliber TV, Celebrity Wheel of Fortune still manages to pull in four million ahead of shows like Dateline, Undercover Boss and Masterchef. David joins fellow kiwi Rhys Darby as he’s invited on Celebrity Family Feud - thrilled at the idea of meeting comic, actor, author and Emmy Award-winning talk-show host Steve Harvey. Quickly David is shocked to learn he is not only attending a taping, but also going on Family Feud as part of Rhys’ Kiwi “family”. Squaring off against actor and comedian Jay Pharoah (and Jay’s actual, real family), how will Rhys Darby and David Farrier cope? Will they be crushed or come out triumphant? Who will be the best team at guessing what the average American would answer? The American team, or the New Zealand imports? Be warned: This episode quite possibly makes David the most American he’s ever been.
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to understand the Amish, a group of Swiss Germans slash Alsatians that chose America as their home away from home. Why does a country that embraces fast cars, fast money and fast food also embrace the very slow moving Amish? David discovers why back in 2000 there were only 178,000 Amish in the US, and why that number has climbed to well over 367,000 - an increase of 106%. David sits down with Susan Trollinger, a professor from the University of Dayton, to talk about Amish tourism and culture. He also talks to Misty Griffin, who wrote a book critical of the Amish called “Tears of the Silenced” and consulted on the Peacock documentary “Sins of the Amish”. She discusses why she had a terrible time being Amish and the problems she says exist in the Amish community.
23: Shower Curtains
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to understand why America - despite all its advancements in innovation and technology - has decided to stick with the puzzling shower curtain. Why, while countries like New Zealand embrace the shower door, is America stuck in a long term love affair with the fabric (or sometimes plastic) mistress? David calls his old friend Harvey from the Toilets episode of Flightless Bird to discuss American showering habits, before spending the day with the self-proclaimed “Glass Queen” who spends her days removing shower curtains and replacing them with glistening shower doors. He talks to professor David Schmidt about his complex mathematical simulations of shower curtains, to discover why the shower curtain insists on sticking to your body while you shower. Maybe this is a clue to why 66% of Americans shower daily, compared with 80% of Australians… and why 10 million Americans shower once a week or less.
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets to understand where the heck Halloween came from, a holiday which generates over $10 billion in retails sales in the US each year. Why does an average American spend $60 on the scary day, and is it more tied in with paganism, Christianity, or scary monsters? David meets with Regina Hansen - a writer and scholar who teaches at Boston University - to talk about why we used to carve turnips instead of pumpkins, before calling up professor of philosophy and religion Justin Sledge to talk horror movies. Finally, David decides to use the spooky season to try and communicate with a ghost that’s been waking him up every morning at 3am.
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to understand why Americans say “math”, while New Zealand - and most of the rest of the world - says “maths”. He speaks to Dean Koorey about the mysteries of language, before stumbling into the depths of math/maths and the perils of the metric system. How many ounces in a pound? How many pounds are in a stone? And why is America stuck using the imperial system when the rest of the planet loves the sensible metric system? Farrier is shocked to find that NASA once lost a space shuttle thanks to a metric conversion disaster, and meets with aeropace engineer Omar Abed to get to the bottom of the mess.
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David sets out to understand American Network News, and the country’s obsession with rolling 24/7 news coverage. Why does the Fox News Channel average more total viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined, and how is American TV news faring in the wake of Twitter and TikTok? David talks to Stacy Scholder, a professor at the University of Southern California who teaches TV journalism. What is she teaching the next generation of TV journalists, and what was it like covering OJ Simpson’s escape on the LA freeway? He also meets Victor Vlam, a 38 year old man in the Netherlands who has the biggest collection of news theme songs on the planet. Why does he have 876 hours, 2 minutes and 52 seconds of news music? Victor explains the importance of news theme music, and what it says about the news you’re about to hear. What’s the best news theme song, and the worst?
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to understand the American airport, and what makes it tick. Why are the top seven busiest airports in the world all based in America, and what does that mean for the traveler? David sets off for the world’s third business airport - Denver - to dig into the various conspiracy theories surrounding the airport. Why does it greet passengers with a giant terrifying mustang with glowing red eyes, and did it really kill the artist who made it? David descends into the huge underground network of tunnels under the airport to find out what’s really going on there, and tries to find answers to the strange, apocalyptic artwork on display at the terminals.
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to find the perfect turkey, and in doing so discovers what Thanksgiving is all about. Somehow, Farrier gets acclaimed celebrity chef Michael Voltaggio to cook him, Dax, Monica and Rob a full Thanksgiving meal - which involves a lot of turkey, sides, stuffing and pies. Voltaggio and Farrier discuss turkey jacuzzis, and where Michael can be found most Thanksgivings. Puzzled by the origins of Thanksgiving, David talks to Crystal EchoHawk, founder & Executive Director of IllumiNative - to find out the real origins of Thankgiving and how to best spend the Holiday. Kristen and Dax smell the turkey in the air and decide to show up for a tasty Voltaggio meal - and the whole Flightless Bird team gives thanks.
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to understand one of America’s grandest animals, the Grizzly Bear. Emblazoned on the California flag and seal, what does this giant predator have to say about the American people? David discovers that animals kill about 400 Americans every year… how many of those deaths involve bears? To get some perspective on this often misunderstood creature, David sits down with journalist and newspaper editor Rob Chaney, who wrote an incredible book about Grizzlies called “The Grizzly in the Driveway”. What are the main misconceptions about the Grizzly bear, and why does the population of Grizzlies in major parts of America still face being wiped out? Why can other countries co-exist with this giant beast yet America is still struggling? David also learns about how to best protect yourself from a Grizzly attack, what happens to the human body in a Grizzly attack, and why despite their size this spectacular megafauna” still tends to come out the loser when it comes to humans.
30: Leaf Blowers
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to understand why Americans love leaf blowers so much. Plagued by leaf blowers around his tiny one bedroom apartment,
David attempts to reach President Joe Biden to discuss leaf blower use at the White House. Failing miserably, he has to settle for another politician - also powerful - Pleasentville Village Trustee, Nicole Asquith. Why are various cities and States attempting to phase out gas guzzling leaf blowers, and what are they so dangerous? David speaks to Seattle Met magazine journalist Benjamin Cassidy, who recently wrote about the Seattles leaf blower turf war, before musing on American’s obsession with the perfect lawn.
31: Soft Drinks
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to understand the vast array of soft drinks on offer in the United States of America. He ends up stumbling into Waco, Texas, home of Dr Pepper - where he attempts to solve the riddle of what the heck Dr Pepper tastes like. Along the way he discovers Big Red and the chaotic history of bottled soda water. He visits the Dr Pepper Museum where he meets the Dr Pepper obsessed Joy Summer-Smith, asssociate director of the Dr Pepper Musuem. Before he leaves Waco, David hears some ghost stories and attempts to come to terms with the fact he’s very far away from New Zealand’s unique soft drink, L&P.
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier looks at why Christmas is the OG holiday in America. He brings back Mike McHargue from the very first episode of Flightless Bird to talk about how religion and commerce mix. In 2021 Americans spent 800 billion dollars on Christmas related purchases - and this year it looks to soar to new heights! Mike and David delve into the origins of Santa Claus, before Davd takes a trip to “Holiday Road '', a giant Christmas display in Calabasas. Finally, David calls his mum/mom in New Zealand to discuss what it was like giving birth (to him) on Christmas Day.
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier returns to Aotearoa, New Zealand, to investigate why so many of New Zealand's native birds are flightless. Literally. David sets out to find three such creatures: The little penguin, the kākāpō and - of course - the useless kiwi bird. What happened to their wings, and why does the world’s heaviest parrot choose to live in the forest floor instead of the majestic trees? David learns why New Zealand birds are so stinky, and marvels at the weight of the extinct Moa. Also - why did the world’s biggest FLYING bird live in New Zealand? And why does one particular flightless bird lead to so many ghost scares each year?
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier looks at America’s obsession with sandwiches. Why is Subway the United State’s biggest fast food chain, leaving Starbuck and McDonalds in its wake? To get answers, David heads to Philly to investigate one of America’s greatest inventions: The Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich. There he discovers two sandwich stores locked in a decades-long rivalry. What’s the beef between Geno’s and Pat’s? And what of the man who supplies both stores with their tasty sodas? David also meets the man behind popular Instagram account @SandwichesOfHistory, Barry, who recreates sandwiches of yore. Why were ancient sandwiches so disgusting? Why would someone combine peanut butter with tomatoes in a sandwich?
35: Valentines Day
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to understand America’s obsession with Valentine's Day. Why do Americans fork out $20 billion each year in an attempt to woo a mate, or prove their love to an existing one? David discovers he doesn’t have a valentine, so interviews online dating coach Perri Schneider. What are the do’s and don’ts of American dating? Farrier then discovers that sales of vibrators go up on and around Valentines Day, so talks to engineer Anna Lee of Lioness who invented a smart vibrator. What can we learn from this smart vibrator, and why have clitorus’ been mistaken for noses when it comes to the world of vibrator technology?
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out for the DMV in an attempt to get his America’s driver’s license. By his side (and scared in the passenger seat) is Monica Padman, there to assist the New Zealander in his quest. Things take a turn when they discover Monica’s car is far too dirty. A diversion to a carwash, a quick quiche, and a lot of debate over the road rules take the pair to the DMV. Will David pass? What could go wrong? A whole lot, apparently.
37: Waffle House
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to understand Waffle House, the much loved diner found scattered throughout the American south. What makes this chain so special, and what the heck is the Waffle House Index? David interviews Waffle House’s Njeri Boss about the magic of waffles, and why it’s actually more about the hash browns. He also talks to photographer Micah Cash about his book Waffle House Vistas (https://bittersoutherner.com/) and why this generic shoebox restaurant is actually incredibly diverse and special. What does Hootie and the Blowfish and the Bloodhound Gang all have in common? Waffle House!
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to Waco, Texas - taking a drive to visit the Branch Davidians compound, the old home of David Koresh. David is surprised to find that the strange offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventist church still exists - sitting down with the new leader. Why are they still on the same grounds where so many terrible things happened? What do they believe? What is inside their church? And why did things go so crazy here 30 years ago, America essentially going after one man with an army of guns, helicopters, tear gas, 12 tanks, and almost 900 members of the FBI, ATF, Texas National Guard, the Army, the Waco police department and the Texas Rangers.
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier travels to Austin, Texas to investigate America’s love of BBQ. Why do 7 out of 10 adults in America own some kind of BBQ device, and why is there so much BBQ in Texas? David meets up with the BBQ editor of Texas Monthly, Daniel Vaughn. David discovers that Daniel has eaten at over 2000 barbecue spots all over the planet… 2,119 to be precise - many of them in Texas. Daniel agrees to take David on a day of BBQ eating, from Austin to Lockhart to Luling - shoving brisket and sides town their gullets in a feeding frenzy of epic proportions.
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier gets bitten by a squirrel, forcing him to come face-to-face with his greatest nightmare: Rabies. Why does this virus have a near 100% mortality rate, and how are you meant to be treated for it? David joins the 60,000 Americans who find themselves having to reckon with the risk of rabies every year, whether they are bitten by dogs, raccoons, bats… or in David’s case, a squirrel. To learn more, David meets fellow victims Courtney and Paul, who all had to have jabs in their arms, legs and butts! David discovers that American emergency rooms can be very expensive, and that rabies makes you terrified of water! For more on his rabies encounter, see this Webworm.
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to understand America’s fastest growing sport, pickleball. Why did five million Americans turn to pickleball during the pandemic, and why did Tom Brady and LeBron James buy franchises in various Pickleball leagues? David goes to meet and play Pickleball with one of America’s best players, Jessie Irvine, to discover some tips and tricks. Along the way he discovers why Americans are suing each other over pickleball, before talking to Chuck Menke, Chief Marketing Officer for Pickleball America. They discuss what the chances are of pickleball becoming an official Olympic Sport, and whether the rest of the world is embracing pickleball with the same gusto as the US.
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to understand how Americans interact with movies. Motivated by watching Nicole Kidman’s heartfelt introduction before every movie at the AMC theater chain, Farrier sets out to understand the other big chains like Regal. How are these chains enticing people in the door? He finds that AMC has the Stubs A-List, and Regal has Regal Unlimited. Then Farrier talks to Stacy Spikes, the founder and brains behind MoviePass - a subscription service he started, then was kicked out of, then bought back again. Stacy’s new venture is rumored to monitor where your eyes are looking to see if you’re watching ads or not, prompting Farrier to ask “What?!” David also wants to understand how the smaller indie chains are competing and ends up talking to Tim League who started the Alamo Drafthouse chain. He talks about movie showmanship and muses on the state of the industry right now.
In this week's Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to understand why Americans put their eggs in the fridge. Why the fridge, when the rest of the planet puts them in the pantry? David learns that each year each American eats an average of 277 eggs each, and that America has enough chickens to provide each American with at least an egg a day. David then discovers a plethora of organizations exist around the humble egg, from the International Egg Commission to the American Egg Board. After learning America also washes all their eggs, Farrier wonders if the two are linked. But no egg organization seems to have the answers Farrier needs - including the USDA and the FDA! Eventually Farrier finds a comrade in an egg expert at Purdue University, Darrin Karcher. Does Darrin have the answers Farrier needs? Sort of.
In this week’s Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to Florida’s south, deep into the Everglades, in search of the men who live in the glades: Gladesmen. Descending by airboat into the wet marshlands, David discovers he’s on a giant river 100 miles long and 60 miles wide. Surrounded by alligators, bugs, birds and fish, his guide Steve - a third generation gladesman - takes David to a “camp” - the place where gladesmen live. While there David discovers the legend of the skunk ape, Florida’s swampy version of sasquatch. From there he tries to find the truth about the skunk ape, talking to prominent skunk ape expert Dave Shealy. Is this monster legend, or is there a chance the 7-foot tall creature is the original gladesmen?
In this week's Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to the “psychic capital of America”, Cassadaga. On the way he comes across his first Big Tent Revival, so stops to find out what’s going on. Eventually winding his way to Cassadaga, Farrier encounters a group of Americans who not only believe in life on the other side of death, but the fact that you can communicate with those who have crossed over. David discovers Spiritualism, a religion that once boasted 8 million followers in America - amongst them, a former president! David visits a seance room, and comes face to face with a lot of cats - because this sleepy village has also become the unofficial home of hundreds of stray felines.
In this week's Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to discover Florida’s relationship with its 2000 crocodiles and whopping 1.25 million alligators. Traveling to America’s oldest city, St Augustine, Farrier visits the Alligator Farm to discover why crocs are more feisty than gators, and what food they like eating. He then dives headfirst into the phenomenon of Florida Man, after discovering a man high on bath salts once climbed into the very croc enclosure he’s now looking at!
This week on Flightless Bird, David continues his Florida series by going to EPCOT, Disney’s “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”. Joined by two Disney Adults, Elizabeth and Patrick, David eats his way around the world, and discovers why many also choose to drink their way around the world. Along the way Farrier discovers Figment, a Disney character that only exists in EPCOT. After finding out why no-one is allowed to die in Disney World, Farrier heads back to LA to compare Disney World with Universal Studios. He meets up with themepark YouTubers Peter Sciretta and Kitra Remick of “Ordinary Adventures” to talk Super Nintendo Land, and gets a tour from Jon Corfino, Vice President of Creative at Universal Studios. Why is Mario so popular, and what do the kids think about the Super Nintendo Land?
48: The Villages
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets off for The Villages, America’s biggest retirement community - home to over 100 thousand people over the age of 55. What lies in this mysterious land spread out over about 32 square miles, an area bigger than Manhattan? David discovers The Villages are so big, they get their own designation on the census. Taking a tour with a resident, Farrier discovers golf courses, pickleball courts, grocery stores, banks, and a roading system just for golf carts. And while the local paper is full of positive stories, is there a dark underbelly that runs underneath? And is there any truth to the ongoing rumor that The Villages is the STI capital of the United States?
49: Exotic Pets
In this week's Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to understand Florida’s obsession with exotic pets. Why does the sunshine state have more exotic animal species than any other state and, quite possibly, than any other country? David discovers that there are about 50 different reptile species now thriving in Florida - most of them imports. With that in mind he explores the burmese python, an escaped imported creature which is now eating alligators out in the Everglades, taking the positions of top dog in the ecosystem. David wants to find out what happens to Florida’s unwanted exotic pets, visiting the Everglades Outpost in Homestead to meet skunks, foxes, and wolves - plus the odd goat, lion and giraffe. He ends his trip by meeting Snakes, an exotic snake dealer who is dealing with the law changes in Florida.
50: Drug Rehab
This week on Flightless Bird, David sets out to look at Drug Rehab in the state of Florida. According to the CDC, since 1999 over 932,000 people have died from a drug overdose. Since 1999, overdoses involving opioids have increased eight times. With those stats came an exploration of drug rehab facilities - many of which gamed the system and became corrupt. Why did Florida end up leading America in having the most drug centers per capita? What went wrong, and has it been put right? To find out, David met with a number of former patients of rehab centers to find out what’s going on in 2023.
This week on Flightless Bird, David becomes fixated on the beaver, the rodent that’s become synonymous with Buc-ees, the giant American gas station. But quickly David learns there is so much to the beaver, the biggest rodent in the United States. With over 15 million of them spread over North America, they were once hunted almost to extinction for their pelts. David talks to Leila Philip, author of Beaverland, an incredible book about how the beaver transformed America. David learns that the beaver was responsible for creating America’s first multi-millionaire, and how that money was turned into a real estate empire that we can still see today. David also finds out how important America's were to building America, and how we might need them to survive on a planet where wildfires are becoming increasingly prevalent.
52: DMV II
This week on Flightless Bird, David Farrier attempts to get over the trauma of his last trip to the DMV, where Monica Padman’s dirty Prius ruined everything. Will David finally get his license, or are he and Monica doomed to fail for all eternity? To help him on his quest, Farrier talks to the head of the California DMV, Steve Gordon. Gordon was brought in four years ago by the governor of LA, Gavin Newsom, to sort out a DMV plagued by issues - and Farrier figures he might have some tips. Or at the very least clear up why LA driving licenses list your height and weight… and whether driving instructors want you to pass or fail.
53: Electric Kettles
This week on Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to discover why America is yet to fully embrace the electric kettle. Why does America insist on the stovetop kettle when it could be boiling its water so much faster? To find out, David talks to Bruce Richardson, a tea master who founded Elmwood Inn Fine Teas in Kentucky, and wrote a book called “The New Tea Companion”. Bruce is a man obsessed with the correct boiling point of water, whose worst enemy is the microwave. Richardson teaches David about the shady events of 1773, in which a bunch of costumed protestors threw British tea into the ocean in a case of tea treason. Could these events still be felt today in America’s rejection of the British invention of the electric kettle? Or is it a voltage issue? Tony Gebely, author of “The Philosophy of Tea: A User's Guide” has some of his own theories - theories which lead the creator of America’s premiere electric kettle brand, Fellow. Jake Miller prefers his boiling water on coffee, not tea - and he argues (somewhat in jest) that the electric kettle could have a massive impact on America’s GDP.
This week on Flightless Bird, David Farrier realises that New Zealand doesn’t have attics or basements, so sets out to discover why so many of America’s 333 million homes do. David talks to Stephen Fox, an architectural historian and a lecturer at the Rice School of Architecture in Houston, who explains the practical reasons for these spaces, as well as why they’ve turned into habitable spaces. David then talks to filmmaker and architect Giorgio Angelini about what these spaces mean culturally to Americans, as paradoxically a place of safety and warmth but also of mystery and horror. The two of them discuss various formative experiences to be found in the attic, before David turns back to the egg episode, attempting to get closure with his best friend Rosabel following an incident where he cracked an egg over her head.
55. Independence Day
This week on Flightless Bird, David Farrier sets out to investigate what the heck is going on with Independence Day, one of America’s 11 officially mandated holidays. What makes this day so American, and how is he meant to spend it? To learn about Independence Day the day, Farrier turns to Independence Day the movie. Farrier talks to film critic David Chen of DecodingEverything.com to find out what made this film so patriotic it was literally named after the 4th of July. Farrier then tracks down Phil Grucci, President and CEO of “Fireworks by Grucci” - America’s so-called “First Family of Fireworks”. Grucci’s company holds the Guinness World Record for the "Largest Fireworks Display" ever recorded, and he educates David about why fireworks are practically baked into the Declaration of Independence.
An update on Flightless Bird! David explains to Monica and Rob why he’s had to take flight to New Zealand. Defeated by the US healthcare system and his bad health insurance plan, David has temporarily returned to Aotearoa, New Zealand for some minor back surgery! This has disrupted the usual smooth flow of making the show, so for July and August Flightless Bird will arrive fortnightly instead of weekly. Enjoy!
This week on Flightless Bird, David Farrier goes behind the scenes of the food that’s dished up to 30 million American kids at the school cafeteria. He meets Kate Kloet, assistant director of nutrition services for Hemet Unified School District. Donning a hairnet, she takes Farrier into the industrial kitchen where food is made for 23,000 kids in the area, before the pair drive to a local High School to experience the High School cafeteria. What do the kids think of the food,and what do they think of the American High School experience?
More episodes to come…
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