Since I wrote a long post listing my favorite TV shows, I thought I’d follow that up with another source of my screen time: YouTube. While there are many other channels I turn to, this post lists the YouTube channels that I watch with some regularity.
Here’s a list of the topics in case you want to skip there: General Information | Live‑aboard Sailing | DIY & Maker Channels | Astronomy | Adventurizing | Regarding Music | Home Building and Remodeling | Skilled Woodworking | Madcap Experimenters
I’m not thrilled to have a category called “General information,” as it might as well be called “Miscellaneous” or “Stuff.” But I’m not sure how else to categorize one of my favorite YouTube channels: Joe Scott.
Joe Scott presents well researched, articulate essays on a broad range of topics. His presentation is very conversational: it’s like an engaging conversation with an articulate, engaging, and comical acquaintance. That’s right, comical: even on his headiest of subjects you can expect some laughs.
His channel helpfully categorizes his videos into these categories: Science & Technology, Space & Space Travel, Culture, and Comedy.
As for the comedy: It was only when doing research for this blog that I learned that his channel is often categorized primarily as a comedy channel. In fact, in addition to working in marketing as a copy writer and having some success as a screenwriter, Joe at one time tried his hand at being a stand-up comic. I knew that comedy was the thread that tied all his talks together, but I would never have put “comedy” ahead of “educational” in categorizing his channel. My take is that his comedy is the Trojan horse that sneaks data into brains that otherwise might never have opened their doors to learning something new.
- The YouTube channel
- Favorite episodes: I’m sorry, there are just too many to list here…
- Answers With Joe website
- Twitter: @answerswithjoe
- Instagram: answerswithjoe
I’m drawn to the sailing life for the sheer beauty of it, but not enough for me to actually ever have been on a boat, aside from a ferry or just a few brief attempts at kayaking. There are quite a few channels on YouTube that feature people living on their boats and sailing around the world, but there’s only one, so far, that has completely captured my fancy:
This is one of two channels that, after watching one or two videos, I scrolled all the way to the beginning to watch them all. This is the story of Brian Trautman, who quit his engineering job in Seattle and sold almost everything he owned to buy a sailboat. His plan was to spend about 18 months living on board and sailing while he figured out what to do next with his life. A few months later, his brother Brady joined him, and more than ten years later they were still sailing. They added others to the gang along the way, including a rotating crew of friends and Patreon patrons. In fact, Brian met his wife, Karin, on this adventure.
They began regularly vlogging their life on the seas in 2014, although they have a few videos older than that. By the time I discovered this channel, they had matured into experienced vloggers, with a lot of very good videography and drone footage of the exotic places they journeyed to. They also are accomplished divers with the underwater videography gear they need to add great dive footage to their offering.
As with any group of people, the story has evolved as the years have gone by. Brady and his girlfriend are off crafting their own story, whether or not to return later. Brian and Karin took some months off from travel in 2019 to live for a short while in Sweden, returning with a new crew member, baby Sierra. This has certainly changed the flavor of the channel, but I trust that it will continue to be interesting.
- The YouTube channel
- Favorite episodes:
- SV Delos website
- Wikipedia on SV Delos
- Twitter: @sailingsvdelos
- Instagram: svdelos
This used to be in my “DIY & Maker” category, and back then this was hands-down my favorite thing on YouTube. It posts every Sunday, and I was always excited when it dropped. This gem is created by Mads Dahlke, who bought a boat named Athena in the late twenty-teens, sailed it to his home town in Denmark, and spent about two years overhauling it.
He is not an expert boat builder, in fact, much of what he does is stuff he’s never done before. But he is an engineering type with a keen intellect and an obsession for perfection, so watching him precisely (and sometimes over-obsessively) engineer the hell out of every single step is a pure delight. If I am working on something and going overboard on nitpicking it, my partner tells me “You’re being Mads” to snap me out of it. [… and if I am going too fast he’ll tell me I’m being Adam, which is a reference to Adam Savage (see below).]
Mads completed this build and, other than some odds and ends, is no longer in DIY-mode. He and his wife, Ava, live onboard Athena and are adjusting to life as full-time cruiser/YouTubers. (I believe he met his wife through some fans of his channel who thought he’d be perfect for a friend of theirs. I think.) My fantasy is that once there’s nothing left to overhaul, fix, rebuild, or modify on Athena, Mads and Ava will look for the next big project. We’ll see.
DIY & Maker Channels
I am a Do-It-Yourself junkie. Well, to be honest, if there’s a project to do around the house I do-it-myself by calling a handyman. However I love to watch others, especially experts, do-it-themselves.
Okay, that sounded dirty… let me try again: I am the fool that slows traffic by construction sites because I rubberneck to see everything there is to see. Sometimes I wish I could bring a lawn chair and a picnic basket to construction sites so I can watch the build. And since I can’t do that, I watch DIY stuff on YouTube. Better?
Adam Savage’s Tested
Building craft meets nerddom, add in some sheer entertainment, and you get Adam Savage’s channel. Recognize the name? You may know him as one of the two stars on Mythbusters, where he applied his many years of experience building movie sets and special effects to re-create stuff with Jamie Hyneman to prove whether things are real or a myth.
Adam’s channel shows him in his pirates-cave of a workshop (which he actually does refer to as his cave) doing a wide variety of things: building strange costumes and sci-fi gadgets, modding furniture, fixing tools, and generally just trying things out. It also shows him gleefully geeking out on the things he loves, much to my delight.
I think what I like most about this channel is more the opportunity to visit Adam than to watch him build stuff. He is an intensely cheery person, the very definition of upbeat, and a shining beacon of an example of embracing your child within. His building style is to move fast, perhaps too fast, deftly embodying the “good enough is good enough” philosophy. Sometimes as I watch him I think he’s for-sure going to cut a finger off on camera.
- The YouTube channel
- Favorite episodes: Three episodes of Adam playing with a robot: one, two three
- The Adam Savage’s Tested website
- Wikipedia on Adam Savage
I don’t know how much fame she had before she gave this TED talk, but Simone “queen-of-shitty-robots” Giertz (pronounced as “yetch”) is a nerd superhero. Her momentum slowed a bit as she took some time out for health reasons (which she shares a bit with her YouTube followers), but she is back in her workshop making delightful stuff, and has opened an online store to sell some of her creations.
- The YouTube channel
- Favorite episode: Truckla
- Her personal website
- Her store
- Wikipedia on Simone Giertz
I’m not quite a science nerd: let’s say I’m nerd-adjacent. But nerddom isn’t necessary to be amazed by the sheer wonderment of space, let alone the beauty of the night sky.
This weekly show is a conversation between Fraser Cain, publisher of Universe Today, and astronomer Dr. Pamela Gay on and around a set topic. I always learn something new, but beyond that, this channel is like listening in on extremely smart friends talking about a fascinating subject. They take a break every summer and for a few weeks over Christmas, so if you look for them then, you might have to catch up on older episodes until they return.
Weekly Space Hangout
This show, also hosted by Fraser Cain (try not to think about Frasier Crane), features a small handful of guests for a lengthy conversations about the latest news about space: the research, the astronomical events, and more.
Adjacent to the astronomy channels, this channel is more about astrophotography. This is a clever, unassuming guy in the UK, “Mr. Biscuit,” who has a subtle sense of humor and loves astrophotography. He is quite good at explaining it, and takes us along as he experiments with getting good shots. His video editing is awesome, with the occasional cameo by a pink plastic bunny named, well, Bunny, and great (sometimes comical) use of music by his musician buddy Riktenstein.
Unlike some of the other astrophotography channels I’ve sampled, this guy realizes that we don’t all have expensive DSLRs, telescopes, and trackers. While he does cover how to get good photos with his higher-end equipment he will often also show you how to use a smartphone and binoculars to get you started.
- The YouTube Channel
- Favorite episodes:
- The Next Big Breakthrough in our Understanding of the Universe [This video is what the word “gobsmacked” was invented for: it’s on my list of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen on all of YouTube. Watch It.]
- Nerd vs. Robot
- Shooting the Blue Lake on the Moon
- UFO in front of Mars
- Astrophotography Shootout
- Astrobiscuit website
Dr. Becky Smethurst is an astrophysicist at the University of Oxford. She talks with a great deal of “smitten with the wonder of things” enthusiasm about the universe — especially about her favorite topics: black holes and the toenail moon.
She explains things in a way that usually us merely mortal laypeople can understand and, most importantly, without making you feel stupid. She also has a segment in which she tells you where and when to look to see interesting events in the night sky.
There are several channels in this category that I watch, and I promise to fill this in someday. For now I will just briefly list them and will come back to fill this in later.
- Itchy Boots – A fearless woman from the Netherlands and her motorcycle on a trek northward spanning the entire continent of the Americas, from Argentina all the way to Alaska. I’ve very much added her to my list of people I would like to have lunch with.
- Bald and Bankrupt – Another fearless traveler. This fellow from England has a mild obsession with all things Eastern European, especially Soviet (although he goes other places as well). As someone who sometimes travels solo in other countries, I frequently note that he is able to go places and do things that a solo female traveler could never go.
There are many music channels on YouTube. Sometimes I head there to play something in the background while I work, usually Philip Glass, but other than that, YouTube is not my first or even second choice for my music consumption.
But there are two music-related channels I keep coming back to:
My partner enjoys composing music in his spare time and suggested this channel one evening. The first time I watched it I was just humoring Dave, but I was immediately hooked by Michelmore himself.
Michelmore is an amazingly charismatic, interestingly energetic, knowledgeable, and talented guy. He walks his viewers through composing projects using the latest software. We watch him seem to just goof around and then end up with decent music, making it seem like, hey, maybe I can do that!
Even if you have absolutely no interest in composing music yourself, his exuberance is a blast to watch. He is like the very best version of the loud, infectiously funny, wacky-yet-very-wise uncle that every sitcom uncle aspires to be but can never quite achieve. Hollywood writers and novelists need to study Michelmore. I’ve added him to my list of strangers I would love to have dinner with.
Puddles Pity Party
This guy. Wow, this guy.
First off, let me tell you that I have always been one of those people who is incredible creeped out by clowns, or really, anybody in costume. I’d even come this close to calling it a phobia. Hence the surprise from those who know me that I absolutely adore Puddles. His singing is marvelous, his style is bizarrely fantastic, and his demeanor on camera is mesmerizing: He manages to look you in the eye both brazenly and uncomfortably. I cannot look away.
I learned of Puddles when I saw a few of his guest appearances with Postmodern Jukebox. Just like probably everyone’s first time seeing him, I thought, “What the hell is this idiocy?” Then when he started singing, I was amazed. I googled for more and found his YouTube channel as well as some videos of him on America’s Got Talent, and was hooked.
I am a Puddles fan… an admiration that has helped me tone down my general clown creep-factor. Thanks for the free therapy, Puddles!
- The YouTube channel
- His website
- Favorite episodes: Space Oddity, Stairway to Gilligan’s Island, and a few that are not on his channel: this video of his audition for America’s Got Talent in 2017 and Royals.
- Wikipedia on Mike Geier (But let yourself thoroughly experience Puddles as Puddles before unmasking him with this Wikipedia article!)
These channels deserved their own category. In a way I’d call them Makers, but they are more in it for the experimentation, for trying out wild things, and to prove their theories about how things will work.
Mark Rober is a former NASA engineer who makes vastly entertaining videos. One type of video shows him demonstrating and explaining the answers to questions, like whether a shark can really smell a single drop of blood in water, or what would happen if every toilet in an area was flushed at the same time. Another type shows him using his knowledge of science and engineering to make and explain ingenious gadgets that solve life’s little problems, like harassing porch thieves or keeping squirrels out of the bird feeder. Or sometimes just cool hacks, like how to skin a watermelon.
In recent years he has focused quite a bit on scammer revenge, finding and targeting mischief toward Indian call centers that scam the elderly and the gullible. Watch these videos and you’ll find find yourself cheering.
He’s charming and entertaining, with a sizeable side of smart.
- The YouTube channel
- Favorite episodes:
- Wikipedia on Mark Rober
This is a fun channel where two guys seek out cool things at which to aim their incredibly fast camera, usually making a huge mess while they’re at it. Things like: Popping a human-sized water balloon… with a human inside of it. Shooting a gun at fruit. Setting off mousetraps. A cat twisting as it falls so it will land on its feet.
Home Building and Remodeling
That I put this genre so near the end of the list seems a little dishonest, because this is one of my favorite categories. Partly it is the satisfaction of watching a job from start to finish, and partly I like learning more about how things are made.
Whatever the reason, of all the categories on this page: this is my porn.
Perkins Builder Brothers
Erik and Jaime Perkins, two brothers from a family with its roots in construction, have a construction business in North Carolina. They upload [almost] daily build videos on their progress as they build custom homes, starting from a bare lot and ending with a beautiful home with all the fine finishings.
Not only do they show you their work, they talk about how to do the job right and why they choose one method or material over another. They know that many of their viewers are also people in their field, so they also pass along tips and how-tos here and there: watch for their “pro tips”!
They have a regular crew of builders who work for them, and they all seem to be a nice group of guys. I’d love to give them a thumbs-up if I ran into them at the local coffee shop! (Heck, this makes me want to visit Waynesville, NC just for the chance to do just that!)
- The YouTube channel
- Their Facebook page
Trent and Allie
I first found this channel when I was following a few van-lifers: people who customize the interior of a van (or bus) then live in it full time, traveling the world—shipping their van overseas if they have to—and taking us along for the ride on YouTube. I enjoy these channels, but I quickly realized that what I liked best was the part where they spent a few months customizing the van.
The pandemic hit while Trent and Allie were in South America and they had to abandon their van and fly home. Of course, as their home was the van they’d just abandoned, “home” was Trent’s mother’s house near Salt Lake City, Utah, where they decided on their next chapter. And that next chapter was to buy land in the mountains and build a house. Mostly by themselves.
And thus their channel turned from a van-life adventure that minimally held my interest to a home-builder channel that I eagerly follow. However, when they finished their build, my interest was finished as well and I don’t watch them any more. But I leave them on this list anyway, as I really enjoyed their home-building journey and still recommend watching it.
Once I got hooked on Trent and Allie’s “We don’t know what we’re doing but, damnit, we’re going to build a house!” adventure, I hunted for more, and found this gem. This young couple, Mackenzie and Spenser, sold their home in Florida and bought land in Texas in early 2018 with the goal of building a container home and living entirely off-grid.
Their first few videos are a little rocky in terms of quality, but you’re along for the ride as they learn how to manage the audio and video, eventually adding some nice drone footage and some very lovely shots from around their land. You’re also along for the ride as they—well, mostly Spenser—learn how to install an impressive solar system, install a rainwater capture system, and build what is looking to be a very lovely home out of two shipping containers. Honestly, I’m very impressed, I can’t wait for the next video!
Now that their home-build is almost finished, I’m not sure what to expect… might be time for me to find another channel like this!
Ray-Jay Builder Buddies
These two characters from the regular Perkins Crew work together and apart on remodeling projects at their homes. I am not a builder myself so I can’t be sure, but I’m betting that some of what we see here is how not to do things—often I think these guys are mostly having a lot if fun—but I’m generally impressed by their results. (As Jay would say, “That’s one way to do it.”)
I confess that one of the things I particularly enjoy about this channel (and the Perkins channel) is the opportunity to crawl out of my demographic bubble and hang out with people who are so different from my own crowd… arguably something that we all need to do more often.
Continuing on my theme of construction and building, I watch a handful of channels that show woodworking projects from start to finish. Actually, I watch quite a lot of these channels, but there are only a few that stand out.
I could be wrong, but I believe Frank is an architect who discovered his love for woodworking later in life. He has an impressive workshop at his home in Portland, Oregon, including a sophisticated lathe and an impressively massive CNC machine.
He narrates what he’s doing in a way that makes you feel like you’re there figuring it out with him. And his self-deprecating manner and his occasional stop-motion adds charm.
Watch a quiet guy build modern and contemporary furniture in his workshop. I’m sure there are quite a few similar channels, but many of his videos are done in a quiet way that seems almost like a meditation. I’m also a big fan of the style of the furniture he makes: contemporary meets modern with a twist of mid-century.