About 99% Invisible
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."
For decades, society has dealt with people with dementia and other forms of cognitive decline by storing them away in unstimulating, medicalized environments. But around the world, a new architectural movement is starting to challenge that old paradigm. Designing environments where people with dementia can live as normally as possible, until the very end. Model Village
It’s hard to overstate just how important record album art was to music in the days before people downloaded everything. Visuals were a key part of one's experience with a record or tape or CD. The design of the album cover created a first impression of what was to come. Album art was certainly important to reporter Sean Cole, one particular album by one particular band: Devo. This is the story of Devo’s first record and the fight over the arresting image of a flashy, handsome golf legend on the cover. Plus, former 99pi EP Katie Mingle gets the backstory of the Langley Schools Music Project LP, a haunting and uplifting outsider artist masterpiece. This episode was originally broadcast in 2018 Devolutionary Design
Over a decade after Elvis Presley’s death, the king of rock & roll took over headlines once again as Americans weighed in on which portrait of Elvis would be forever immortalized on a 29 cent US postage stamp. It was put to a popular vote: should the stamp feature an image of young Elvis at the start of his rise, or an older Elvis in his iconic white jumpsuit. The resulting Elvis stamp eventually outsold every single commemorative stamp before and since. You Ain’t Nothin But a Postmark
Over its more than 40 year journey from conception to completion, Boston’s Big Dig massive infrastructure project, which rerouted the central highway in the heart of the city, encountered every hurdle imaginable: ruthless politics, engineering challenges, secretive contractors, outright fraud and even the death of one motorist. It became a kind of poster child for big government ‘boondoggles.’ But the full story is of course much more complicated – and really represents a turning point in how America builds infrastructure. Subscribe and Listen to the full series of The Big Dig. The Big Dig
The Sydney Opera House is one of the most iconic and distinctive buildings in the world. It took a relative newcomer and architectural outsider to dream it up, but the saga of making this world heritage landmark a reality is a tale for the ages: a cautionary tale. And for Cautionary Tales, I turn to the brilliant Tim Harford. I’ve been dying to hear the story of the Sydney Opera House told in this way, and Tim and his team just nailed it, and I know you are going to love it as much as I do. Enjoy.
Brian Merchant is a tech reporter, and he'd been covering the industry for years when he started to notice a term that kept coming up. When he wrote a story that was critical of tech, he'd be accused of being a "Luddite." Like most people, Brian knew at least vaguely what the term "Luddite" meant. But as time went on, and as Brian watched tech grow into the disruptive behemoth it is today, he started to get more curious about the actual Luddites. Who were they? And what did they really believe? Brian has a new book out about the Luddites called Blood in the Machine. And it explores how English textile workers in the 19th century rose up against the growing trend of automation and the machines that were threatening their livelihoods. Blood in the Machine
All kinds of songs get stuck in your head. Famous pop tunes from when you were a kid, album cuts you've listened to over and over again. And then there's a category of memorable songs—the ones that we all just kind of know. Songs that somehow, without anyone’s permission, sneak their way into the collective unconscious and are now just lingering there for eternity. There’s one song that best exemplifies this phenomenon— "Who Let The Dogs Out" by the Baha Men. The story of how that song ended up stuck in all of our brains goes back decades and spans continents. It tells us something about inspiration, and how creativity spreads, and about whether an idea can ever really belong to just one person. Whomst Among Us Let the Dogs Out AGAIN
In most big cities, there’s a housing crisis. And empty office buildings are creating a different crisis known to urbanists as a ‘doom loop.’ Converting an office into housing can solve both of these crises at once, using one piece of property. This solution just seems so obvious and elegant. But for all the hype around this idea, there are surprisingly few adaptive reuse projects actually underway. Office Space
The story of a voice training VHS tape that helped trans women at a time when other resources were hard to access. The way a person's voice changes over time feels like a simple, and overlooked act of magic. Whether intentionally or subconsciously, our voices are products of our environments as much as they are part of us. Today we’re featuring an episode about voices from a series called Sounds Gay, a brilliant show about queer culture, community and music. Plus, guest host Swan Real discusses the universality of voice training with 99pi regular host Roman Mars. Melanie Speaks
Welcome to our second episode of short stories all about what may be the original designed object: the trail. If you haven’t heard the first episode yet you should totally go back and listen. It’s a lot of fun. Take this episode with you on your next hike! Trail Mix: Track Two
Back in January, Bloomberg News published a story quoting an obscure government official named Richard Trumka Jr. He works with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates stuff like furniture and electronics and household appliances. Basically, the agency is supposed to make sure that the stuff we buy is safe, and won't kill us or make us sick. The Bloomberg story talked about how a growing body of research shows that gas stoves are really bad for indoor air quality. They let off pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, and they've been linked to heart problems, cancer, and asthma. And in this story, Trumka said the government would look into it, and maybe recommend some regulations on the appliance. Within days, the US went batshit crazy and gas stoves were all over the news. They had become the subject of the latest skirmish in our seemingly never-ending culture war. Cooking with Gas
Andrew Leland grew up with full vision, but starting in his teenage years, his sight began to degrade from the outside in, such that he now sees the world as if through a narrow tube. Soon—but without knowing exactly when—he will likely have no vision left. In this episode, Andrew takes us through the fascinating history of alternative reading technologies designed for blind people and discusses his fantastic new book The Country of the Blind, which is out today! The Country of the Blind
This past May, the city of Los Angeles rolled out a brand new, state-of-the art feature for bus shelters. It’s called La Sombrita. La Sombrita is a metal screen that’s intended to provide shade for the thousands of people who ride the bus every day. The shade screen is about two feet wide, ten feet tall, and it kinda looks like a curved teal metal surfboard filled with tiny holes. Right away, Angelinos were not happy. This heated conversation got us thinking about our interview with Sam Bloch about inequality and shade and we asked Sam back to get thoughts about La Sombrita, and whether the controversial shade sail could actually be a good thing for shade-starved Angelinos. Shade Redux
In the 1980s, the little Christian comic books known as Chick Tracts were EVERYWHERE. You’d find them in movie theaters and bus station bathrooms, on subways, and all over shopping malls. People would slip them inside VHS rentals or library books. Many Chick Tracts are black and white Christian horror stories that pull from a huge cast of characters: witches, bikers, Hindus, rock and rollers, Catholics, queer people, truckers, Masons and trick-or-treaters. And at some point in the tract, the protagonist often has to make a choice: either accept Jesus as their savior, or get tossed like cordwood into a Lake Of Fire. Chick Tracts have left a really complicated legacy. Collectors are mesmerized by their edginess and kitsch. The Smithsonian regards Chick Tracts as American religious artifacts, and keeps a bunch of them in its vaults. At the same time, many of these comics are filled with some ugly and dangerous messages, including homophobia and Islamophobia. So the same tracts that have been hoarded and preserved have ALSO been boycotted and banned, and condemned as hate speech.