About 99% Invisible
It’s been said that history is written by the person at the typewriter. But who did the person who made history depend on? Often, it’s impossible to find out. But once in a while, we get lucky, and the story was not only recorded, it’s really good. Well that’s what this podcast is all about. “Significant Others” is a show that tells a story you might not know about a person you probably do. For example, in this episode we explore how Benedict Arnold might never have turned on his country were it not for his wife, Peggy, who influenced his betrayal. Head over to Significant Others to listen to the rest of the episode and to other stories like how Amelia Earhart would neither have found fame nor, possibly, disappeared over the Pacific, had it not been for her husband, George Putnam, or who is really to blame for Friedrich Nietzsche’s connection to Nazism. Listen and subscribe to “Significant Others” wherever you get your podcasts.
What we see on screen has this way of influencing our perception of the world, which makes sense because the average American spends 2 hours and 51 minutes watching movies and TV each day. That’s a whopping 19 percent of our waking hours. Walt Hickey is a data journalist and author of a new book called You Are What You Watch. In it, Walt makes a case for how much film and television shapes us as individuals and as a society, far beyond what we give it credit for. You Are What You Watch
This is the second official episode, breaking down the 1974 Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Power Broker by our hero Robert Caro. New York Times political columnist Jamelle Bouie is our book club guest. On today’s show, Elliott Kalan and Roman Mars will cover Part 3 of the book (Chapters 6 through the end of Chapter 10), discussing the major story beats and themes, with occasional asides from Jamelle Bouie guiding us through the politics of the era. The Power Broker #2: Jamelle Bouie Join the discussion on Discord and our Subreddit
White Castle has its own take on fast food hamburgers. For starters, the patties are square, with five holes in each patty. And they’re small, too –- two-and-a-half inch sliders. Just big enough to fit into the palm of your hand. And since they’re steamed on a bed of onions, everything is infused with this very specific onion-esque flavor. Today, White Castles can be hard to find, depending on where you live. But KCUR's Mackenzie Martin, a producer at A People's History of Kansas City, says that it’s time to stop thinking of White Castle as a semi-obscure cultural punchline, because over a century ago, White Castle invented something that became so important and all-encompassing that, today, it touches pretty much every person in America. Sometimes several times a day. Something that, in other countries, has almost come to define American culture: it has a strong claim to being the first fast-food restaurant. The White Castle System of Eating Houses
Seen from above, Sofia, Bulgaria, looks less like a city and more like a forest. Large "interblock park" green spaces between big apartment structures are a defining characteristic of the city. They're not so much "parks" in the formal sense, with fences and gates, just open green areas growing up in interstitial spaces left behind. But as green as it still looks today, Sofia used to be even greener. Since the fall of Bulgarian communism in the late 1980s, Sofia has lost more than half of its green space. To understand why, one has to look back to how the city evolved and grew in the Soviet era. Between the Blocks
When a highway gets made, there’s a clear and consistent process for doing so. Not so, public memorials. From the Vietnam Wall to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, it’s always different. Sometimes a handful of concerned citizens get together and make it happen. Sometimes a nonprofit pushes for it, or a foundation. There’s usually a lot of activism, and a lot of fraught conversations – about design, location, the story it should tell about what happened, and who it affected. And how does one memorialize such a vast and distributed tragedy like COVID-19, which was devastating physically but also divisive politically? Don't Forget to Remember
A few years ago, at the very start of the pandemic, Roman Mars wrote an episode of 99pi in which he simply talked about design details in his house -- realizing that he, like the audience, didn't have many other places to go. (You should check it out. It's called "Roman Mars Describes Things As They Are"-- it’s a real time capsule and a fan favorite.) Since then, he's been thinking about and wanting to record a companion episode out in the world. Over the next couple months, he's going to three cities that shaped who Roman is and how he thinks about design. We'll start in Chicago. Chicago is a design lover's paradise, from its carefully thought-out original grid to its exceptionally stellar flag design. The city is home to some of the most influential architecture in the US as well. Roman Mars Describes Chicago As It Is Note: This series is made possible by the new 2024 Lexus GX and SiriusXM.
Watch a skate video today, and you'll notice how similarly shaped the boards are. It’s called the “popsicle” design, because the deck is narrow in the middle and rounded off at both ends, like a popsicle stick. This may seem stupid simple, but that basic, clean popsicle shape is actually the product of a lot of experimentation and iteration. In 1989, one particular board would cement skateboard design as we know it. But to understand it, we have to go back over a decade to the mid-70s, as more and more money poured into the growing sport. The Double Kick
Welcome to our first official episode, breaking down the 1974 Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Power Broker by our hero Robert Caro. Robert Caro happens to be our special guest for this episode and you do not get more special than that. On today’s show, Elliott Kalan and Roman Mars will cover the Introduction, Part 1, and Part 2 of the book (the intro through the end of Chapter 5), discussing the major story beats and themes, and then we will bring the great Robert Caro to the stage. Power Broker #1: Robert Caro Join the discussion on Discord and our Subreddit
Fake cities. Imitation nations. People role-playing as civilians, spies, or enemies, complete with costumes and props. It's all part of an effort coordinated and constructed by the U.S. military to prepare soldiers for war. Fake villages designed for training purposes dot the entire United States, not to mention other countries. Researchers have identified over 400 of them around the world. Imitation Nation
Our second and final set of mini-stories for the season: We'll be covering upside-down construction, the linguistics of filler and a fire that has been burning for decades. Check out Lizzie No's latest album Halfsies on Band Camp. She's on tour in 2024. Go see her and say hi for me! Mini-Stories 18
We're revisiting this Christmas classic from 2021. Happy Holidays! Slovenia is a small country in Central Europe nestled between Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary. It's a land of snowy white peaks, green valleys, and turquoise rivers. The country is beautiful in all seasons, but it is perhaps at its most magical around Christmastime. This nation of just over 2 million people is visited by, not one, not two, but three different "santas" every festive season. But it hasn't always been this way. Each Santa has had his moment in the spotlight—each in a different period of Slovenia’s complicated history. And in order to have a Christmas season that reflects that history and speaks to all Slovenians, you need three magical men. The Three Santas of Slovenia
It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's mini-stories season! Gather the kids around the fire because We have a year-end mix of short stories about a rogue architect, spooky kitchens, a hundred year old music streaming service, and the crazy way the French tried to make telling time less crazy. Today's episode featured a story from Sound Detectives. Listen to Sound Detectives on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts, and go to sounddetectivespodcast.com to find coloring pages, sound terms, and more. Mini-Stories: Volume 17
Keeping track of numbers has always been part of what makes us human. So at some point along the way, we created a tool to help us keep count, and then we gave that tool a name. We called it: a calculator. But depending on what era you were born in, and maybe even what country, what constituted a 'calculator' varied widely. Keith Houston wrote about the evolution of the calculator in his latest book, Empire of the Sum The Rise and Reign of the Pocket Calculator. It is exactly the kind of nerdery we like to get up to here at 99% Invisible -- history explained through the lens of an everyday designed object. Empire of the Sum
Today's episode features #1 Robert Caro superfan, Conan O'Brien. The Power Broker by Robert Caro is a biography of Robert Moses, who is said to have built more structures and moved more earth than anyone in human history. And he did it without ever holding elected office. Outside of New York City, Robert Moses wasn't exceptionally well known. Inside of New York, he was mostly accepted by the media as simply the man who built all those nice parks. But The Power Broker, which is subtitled Robert Moses and The Fall of New York, changed all that. It is a tour de force of journalism, history, and biography. Roman also argues it's really fun to read and is strongly in contention for the best book ever written. But there is something of a catch, which can hang readers up: the book is a daunting 1200 pages long. As influential and amazing as this bestseller is, many people own an unopened copy gathering dust on their bookshelf. But that is a crime because this book needs to be read or at least discussed at length on a podcast. Roman Mars and Elliott Kalan (Flop House, Daily Show) are starting The Power Broker book club that will run through all of 2024 as bonus episodes and in this introductory episode, Conan O'Brien joins us to talk all things Robert Caro. Breaking Down The Power Broker
Roman note: This is one of my favorite episodes of all time. Should be a movie. Enjoy! The tradition of the Tomb of the Unknowns goes back only about a century, but it has become one of the most solemn and reverential monuments. When President Reagan added the remains of an unknown serviceman who died in combat in Vietnam to the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery in 1984, it was the only set of remains that couldn’t be identified from the war. Now, thankfully, there will never likely be a soldier who dies in battle whose body can’t be identified. And as a result of DNA technology, even the unknowns currently interred in the tomb can be positively identified. The Known Unknown
The Cassette tape was great in so many ways, but let’s be honest, they never really sounded great. But because the cassette was so much cheaper and easier to use and portable, a lot of people didn't care so much about the audio quality. They just wanted to be able to use something that they could carry around with them. The cassette’s other big advantage: it was easy to record on. We talked to Marc Masters about his new book High Bias, about the history of the cassette. One chapter about concert bootleggers covers perhaps the greatest success story of the cassette: Grateful Dead live tapes. Long Strange Tape Plus we're featuring a bonus story that we produced in 2016 in collaboration with Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything about a place where cassettes were of vital importance.
In a lot of ways, Lincoln Heights, Ohio, sounds just like any other suburb. If you walk around town, you’ll hear kids playing outside the local elementary school. You’ll hear the highway that takes commuters down to Cincinnati. At the woods on the edge of town, the birdsong is delightful. The town feels calm and peaceful - at least, until the gunfire starts. Most weekdays, it begins in the morning, and lasts through the afternoon. Sometimes it goes past sundown, and occasionally into the weekends. Once the shooting begins, it comes in rapid-fire waves throughout the day. People say it makes it hard to focus or relax, and those who work the night shift say they can’t sleep. The noise of gunfire isn’t from street violence. It all comes from an open-air gun range that’s owned by the Cincinnati Police Department. Home on the Range
In the mid-1900s, people flocked to Reno, Nevada -- not for frontier gold or loose slots, but to get out of bad marriages. The city became known as the "Divorce Capital of the World." For much of modern history, it has been relatively easy to get married, and extremely difficult to get divorced -- and for a time, this was true in the New World as well. But Reno provided the cure: The Six-Week Cure.
Most heists target gold, jewels or cash. This one targeted illegal seeds. As the British established their sprawling empire across the subcontinent and beyond, they encountered a formidable adversary — malaria. There was a cure — the bark of the Andean cinchona tree. The only problem? The Dutch and the French were also looking to corner the market in cinchona. And the trees themselves were under threat. This week on 99pi, we feature a story from Stuff the British Stole, a co-production of ABC Australia and CBC Podcasts. So "grab a gin and tonic and come with us to hear how a botanical empire took off — and gave birth to a quintessential cocktail."