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99% Invisible

Author: Roman Mars

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Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we've just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars. Learn more at 99percentinvisible.org.
661 Episodes
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The leaf blower is one of the most hated objects in the modern world. They’re loud, they pollute, and… how important is a leafless lawn anyway? In a lot of towns and cities, the gas-powered leaf blower has been banned. In others, there are strict guidelines on where and when they can be used. In Los Angeles, California, the leaf blower has never gone quiet, but the war to ban them has been raging for decades.The Los Angeles Leaf Blower Wars 
For a long time, the Court operated under what was called Legal Formalism. Legal formalism said that the job of any judge or justice was incredibly narrow. It was to basically look at the question of the case in front of them, check that question against any existing laws, and then make a decision. Unlike today, no one was going out of their way to hear what economists or sociologists or historians thought. Judges were just sticking to law books. The rationale for this way of judging was that if you always and only look at clean, dry law the decisions would be completely objective.In the late 19th, early 20th century a movement rose up to challenge legal formalism. They called themselves the legal realists. Fred Schauer, professor of law at University of Virginia, says the Realists felt that the justices weren’t actually as objective as they said they were. "Supreme Court justices were often making decisions based on their own political views, their own economic views, and would disguise it in the language of precedence or earlier decisions," says Schauer. The realists said lets just accept that reality and wanted to arm the judges with more information so those judges could make more informed decisions.For a long time the debate between realists and formalists had been mostly theoretical. That is until the arrival of the Brandeis Brief. The Brandeis brief came during a pivotal court case in the early 20th century. And the man at the center of that case was a legal realist and progressive reformer named Louis Brandeis.Fact Checking the Supreme Court 
Uptown Squirrel [update]

Uptown Squirrel [update]

2024-05-2834:135

In late 2018, two hundred people gathered at The Explorer’s Club in New York City. The building was once a clubhouse for famed naturalists and explorers. Now it’s an archive of ephemera and rarities from pioneering expeditions around the globe. But this latest gathering was held to celebrate the first biological census of its kind –an effort to count all of the squirrels in New York City’s Central Park. Squirrels were purposefully introduced into our cities in the 1800s, and when their population exploded, we lost track of how many there are.2024 update: We have a number!Uptown Squirrel
Los Angeles actually used to have a massive electric railway system in the early 1900s, called the Red Car. Jake Berman, the author of The Lost Subways of North America, tells us about how, time after time, when North American cities seemed just inches away from having a robust, utopian future of fast, reliable, and convenient public transportation systems, something gets in the way. That thing is sometimes dysfunctional local politics, sometimes it’s bureaucracy. Sometimes it’s the way our infrastructure favors cars over mass transit, and too often, it’s racism.583- The Lost Subways of North America
This is the fifth official episode, breaking down the 1974 Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Power Broker by our hero Robert Caro. This week, Roman and Elliott also sit down with Brandy Zadrozny, a senior reporter for NBC News who covers misinformation, conspiracy theories, and the internet. Brandy recently finished The Power Broker, and she’s got a great perspective on what the book says about the press and its relationship to power, what has changed in journalism, and what has remained the same.On today’s show, Elliott Kalan and Roman Mars will cover the last section of Part 4 of the book (Chapters 21 through Chapter 24), discussing the major story beats and themes.The Power Broker #5: Brandy ZadroznyJoin the discussion on Discord and our Subreddit
Rocket Man

Rocket Man

2024-05-1445:514

In the twentieth century, the jetpack became synonymous with the idea of a ‘futuristic society.’ Appearing in cartoons and magazines, it felt like a matter of time before people could ride a jetpack to work. But jetpacks never became a mainstream technology, leaving many to wonder... why did they fall off the radar? 582- Rocket Man
It's Howdy Doody Time!

It's Howdy Doody Time!

2024-05-0741:355

The Howdy Doody Show is one of those pieces of 1950s ephemera that has come to symbolize mid-century American childhood. For over a decade, every weeknight at 5pm, kids all across the country would sit down in front of their parents’ tiny televisions and take in the wild west adventures of Buffalo Bob and his puppet sidekick Howdy Doody.The show was disproportionately important in the history of television. It was the first television program to reach 1,000 episodes, one of the first shows to broadcast in color, and it pioneered new ways of marketing products to children. But in the early days of the medium, especially when Howdy Doody first started, the world of television was strange. In many ways, the story of Howdy Doody is the story of the weird, wild-west days of early TV. A story in which programmers, advertisers, artists and money men were inventing everything as they went along. Starting with what to put on television in the first place.581- It's Howdy Doody Time!
Recently we published an episode called Towers of Silence. It's about how the Parsis in India are grappling with the loss of vultures and how it changed something very intimate and meaningful for the community. It was reported by our own Lasha Madan and it is epic and it is beautiful. So first of all, go listen to that story if you haven't heard it. It's so good. On the one hand, it's a very specific story, it's about a unique set of circumstances that happened to a very specific community. But it also feels universally relevant. Because it's a story about death and how we choose to transition out of this world. It's about how we might react when there’s a major cultural shift that we cannot control. And importantly it is about a keystone species collapse, which is something we are on track to see more of in these times. Lasha Madan collected a ton of information about vulture conservation in their reporting but it didn't quite fit into the original story that we wanted to tell but it's so vital and interesting that we're releasing this bonus episode to cover it all.
Mr. Yuk

Mr. Yuk

2024-04-3001:01:017

Mr. Yuk is a neon green circular sticker with a cartoon face on it. His face is scrunched up with his eyes squeezed tight and his tongue is sticking out of its mouth. It's the face you make when you taste something disgusting. He's the pictorial embodiment of the sentiment of yuck. Aptly enough: he was designed to be the symbol for hazardous substances, aimed at deterring children from ingesting them. The idea what that if you saw a Mr. Yuk sticker on something around the house, it meant that that something was poison.Friend of the show, Gillian Jacobs, is a BIG FAN of Mr Yuk, who turns out to be a hometown hero of her beloved Pittsburgh, and talked Roman through the origins of the mean, green face that was meant to save children from their worst impulses.Plus, we revisit another story about warning symbols from our archive: the quest to find a symbol that would warn future humans of dangerous radiation 10,000 years in the future.Mr Yuk
Towers of Silence

Towers of Silence

2024-04-2301:15:493

Situated right in downtown Mumbai, India is an area of about 55 acres of dense, overgrown forest. In one of the most populous cities in the world, this is a place where peacocks roam freely -- a space out of time. This forest is protected by a religious community. It has survived in a relatively undeveloped state in the middle of this gargantuan city. Importantly, it’s also home to an ancient tradition in crisis -- one that is central to the lives (and deaths) of a particular population.There’s a certain point in this forest beyond which almost no one can step -- only special caretakers of these grounds can go any further. They go by many names: khandia, nassassalar, pallbearer, corpse bearer. Their work here is holy. They carry dead bodies to their final resting place – atop stone structures that stand gray against the lush green. These buildings are called Towers of Silence.Towers of Silence
This is the fourth official episode, breaking down the 1974 Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Power Broker by our hero Robert Caro. Roman and Elliott also sit down with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the U.S. representative for New York's 14th congressional district, who describes the lasting impact Moses’ highways have made on her district, and her own philosophy when it comes to political power and bringing ambitious projects to life.On today’s show, Elliott Kalan and Roman Mars will cover the second section of Part 4 of the book (Chapters 16 through the end of Chapter 20), discussing the major story beats and themes.The Power Broker #4: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezJoin the discussion on Discord and our Subreddit
This week we're featuring an episode from The Sporkful's series on the creation of "Anything's Pastable," Dan Pashman's new pasta cookbook.Dan talks with Roman about how this massive project came to be and all the design decisions required to put together a cookbook.And then, in part two of “Anything’s Pastable,” Dan embarks on an epic trip across Italy in search of lesser-known pasta dishes — and to learn about the evolution of pasta more broadly. He starts in Rome, where food writer Katie Parla reveals a shocking truth about pasta. Then an Italian food historian challenges Dan’s thinking about carbonara. Finally, he heads south to meet a chef who was there when a regional specialty called spaghetti all’assassina (“assassin’s spaghetti”) was invented. All of this leads Dan to wonder: What does evolution look like in a food culture that’s so often depicted in sepia tones? And what’s his place in that process?Preorder Dan’s cookbook today (including signed copies), and see if he’s visiting a city near you on his tour of book signings and live podcast tapings with special guests! Follow Dan on Instagram to see photos and videos from the Anything’s Pastable journey.Anything's Pastable: Eat Sauté Love
Hailing from central African cities of Brazzaville and Kinshasa, sapeurs have become increasingly recognizable around the world. Since the 1970s, sapeurs (from: le sape, short for "Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes") have been known for donning technicolored three-piece suits with flamboyant accessories like golden walking sticks and leopard-print fedoras, and then cat-walking through their city streets.In recent years, Solange, Kendrick and SZA have all featured sapeurs in their music videos. The iconic British menswear designer Paul Smith did a whole spring line of sapeur-inspired suits and bowler hats.The Society of Ambiance Makers and Elegant Persons
Chambre de Bonne

Chambre de Bonne

2024-04-0234:135

A chambre de bonne is usually one small room, on the top floor of a five- or six-story apartment building, and it’s usually just big enough to fit a bed and a table. It’s affordable housing in a city where finding housing is nearly impossible. Reporter Jeanne Boëzec tells about the history of the chambre de bonne apartments, and how while cute, they are also cramped and can be unpleasant spaces for people who have to live there, a living embodiment of the gap between the rich in Paris and everyone else.Chambre de Bonne
This is the third and final episode in a three-part series of Roman Mars recording on-location guides to the design features and interesting spots in cities he loves. Roman moved to Athens, Georgia, to pursue a PhD in plant genetics, but dropped out and got into the local music and art scene instead, and started making his way toward radio.Roman Mars Describes Athens GA As It IsNote: This series is made possible by the all-new 2024 Lexus GX and SiriusXM. 
Autism Pleasantville

Autism Pleasantville

2024-03-2738:266

A few years back, journalist Lauren Ober was diagnosed with autism. She then made a podcast about her experience called The Loudest Girl in the World. And she found herself imagining a fantasy world where everything is tailored to Lauren’s very specific autistic needs. And she called this magical imagined place, wonderfully devoid of overwhelming stimuli "Autism Pleasantville.""Obviously," Ober notes, "there’s not a one-size fits all diagnosis or even definition of autism ... as the autism adage goes: 'If you know one autistic person…you know one autistic person.' But despite our wide variety of needs, I wanted to know how design is evolving to better accommodate us" -- how were ideals being handled in the real world.Autism Pleasantville 
In the middle of the 20th century, the small town of Jasper, Indiana did something that no other city had done before: they made garbage illegal. The city would still collect some things, like soup cans and plastics, but yucky junk, like food waste, wouldn't get picked up.This change was made possible by a new appliance: the garbage disposer – that little grinding machine at the bottom of a lot of kitchen sinks.The Monster Under the Sink
This is the third official episode, breaking down the 1974 Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Power Broker by our hero Robert Caro. Blank Check podcast co-host and The Atlantic movie critic David Sims is our book club guest.On today’s show, Elliott Kalan, Roman Mars, and David Sims will cover the first section of Part 4 of the book (Chapters 11 through the end of Chapter 15), discussing the major story beats and themes.The Power Broker #3: David SimsJoin the discussion on Discord and our Subreddit
Toyetic

Toyetic

2024-03-1345:285

This year marks the 40th anniversary of a lot of landmarks in pop culture, especially sci-fi and fantasy. So many franchises were born in 1984. Some came to define the genre or invent new genres. The great podcast Imaginary Worlds noticed this and produced a three-part series about 1984's Cambrian explosion of creativity that  landed on the big screen, the small screen, bookstore shelves and, of course, the toy store.In this episode we learn about at two iconic franchises that launched in 1984: Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They came from opposite ends of the business spectrum. Transformers was a top-down marketing synergy between American and Japanese toy companies along with Marvel Comics to compete against He-Man -- another TV toy behemoth. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle would eventually rival them in cultural dominance, but it began with two indie comic book creators making a black and white comic as a lark. But Turtles and Transformers both ended up wrestling with similar questions around what happens when you put the cart before the horse in creating content to sell products.Toyetic
Intimidating Proposition 65 warnings can be found on all kinds of products manufactured or distributed in the State of California. They can seem rather terrifying at first, but within the state, they are ubiquitous, on everyday objects from power tools to potato chips, dietary supplements, leather jackets, gas pumps, coffee tables, the list goes on. All of which raises the question: if these labels are on so many things, are they actually useful in warning us of real dangers?572- WARNING: This Podcast Contains Chemicals Known to the State of California to Cause Cancer or Other Reproductive Harm
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Comments (562)

ncooty

@57:33: You produced a story on nuclear radiation, yet you pronounce it "nukular"? Good grief. What an ironic representation of the degradation of language and meaning.

May 1st
Reply (1)

ncooty

@53:17: What an amazingly childish, stupid, entitled, short-sighted, self-serving, self-involved, pretextual, flimsy excuse. Essentially, "It's wrong for us to hold ourselves responsible. Externalities are our birthright!" What an absolute POS excuse for a person.

May 1st
Reply

ncooty

Interesting. We had Mr. Yuk stickers and ads in Austin in the 1980s. I had no idea it was from Pittsburgh.

May 1st
Reply

eastman

🧢🧢🧢

Apr 17th
Reply

eastman

🧢🧢🧢

Apr 15th
Reply

GunsDontKill

Stop relying on politicians for information. This goes for both sides.

Mar 19th
Reply

یاسمین رزازان

background shhhh idea just sucks!!

Mar 5th
Reply

ncooty

Terrible writing

Feb 25th
Reply

Steve McKewen

crypto is a scam. it is a pyramid scheme trying to find and fund a legitimate cover. sorry girls.

Feb 21st
Reply

ncooty

It's always weird to hear someone try to use a big word, only to get it wrong--e.g., fracticious.

Feb 18th
Reply

eastman

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Feb 14th
Reply

eastman

perfect

Feb 11th
Reply

hshshhd hdjdjdu

Thanks for sharing this with us also check : https://invisibletext.net/

Feb 5th
Reply

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Feb 4th
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Amber Laila

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Feb 4th
Reply

Liberty Mason

6 minutes of ads for 5 mins of podcasti info? ugh. No thanks - unsubscribed.

Feb 3rd
Reply

ncooty

The conversation with the Republican politician really emphasized how childish and petulant some people are. He was just throwing a tantrum and pouting, as if "not COVID" was an option. Rather than recognize the difficulties and costs of hard choices, they just stomp their feet complaining about how they just wanted "not COVID"... and ice cream. These are childish, unserious, dangerous people--like toddlers in charge of public policies.

Feb 2nd
Reply (2)

Paula Cotter

Wait, how can we talk about Chicago's architecture and design without mentioning Frank Lloyd Wright's houses. Roman, any chance of a separate podcast episode about FLW?

Jan 28th
Reply

ncooty

Wow. What a wonderful guy. It was endearing to hear the admiration and earnestness in every question.

Jan 22nd
Reply

Kathi Mills

Really enjoyed this piece! Just fantastic.

Jan 10th
Reply