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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.
A proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.
439 Episodes
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Diamonds represent value, in all its multiple meanings: values, as in ethics, and value as in actual price. But what are these rocks actually worth? The ethics and costs of diamond rings have shifted with society, from their artificial scarcity perpetuated by DeBeers to their artificial creation in labs. Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us.
Menswear can seem boring. If you look at any award show, most of the men are dressed in black pants and black jackets. This uniform design can be traced back to American Revolution, classical statuary, and one particular bloke bopping around downtown London way back in the 1770s. Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us.
The world of high end perfume is surprisingly lucrative, considering that scent is often the most ignored of our senses. But one can't judge a scent solely by the brand and shape of the bottle. With the right amount of attention, perfume can be a key to a whole olfactory world. Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us.
Brands hold immense sway over both consumers and the American legal system. Few know this as well as Dapper Dan, who went from street hustler to fashion impresario and has spent time on both sides of American trademark law. Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us.
In the wake of World War II, the government of France commissioned its most prominent designers to create a collection of miniature fashion dolls. It might seem like an odd thing to fund, but the fantasy of high fashion inspired hope in postwar Paris. These dolls also forever changed the curator who discovered them almost 40 years later, in a strange museum perched on a cliff in rural Washington state. Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us.
401- The Natural Experiment

401- The Natural Experiment

2020-05-0601:13:111

In general, the coronavirus shutdowns have been terrible for academic research. Trips have been canceled, labs have shut down, and long-running experiments have been interrupted. But there are some researchers for whom the shutdowns have provided a unique opportunity—a whole new data set, a chance to gather new information, or to look at information in a new way. And so, this week, we’re bringing you stories very different academic fields, about researchers who are using this bizarre, tragic moment to learn something new about the world. The Natural Experiment
There have been over 200,000 deaths as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. All have been tragic, but there are two people in particular we’ve lost due to COVID that were part of the world of architecture and design that we want to honor with a couple of stories today. First, we are mourning the loss of architect Michael McKinnell. Along with Gerhard Kallman, McKinnell designed the unforgettable Boston City Hall, completed in 1968. They won the commission for Boston City Hall after submitting their brutalist, heroic monument in a contest when Michael McKinnell was just 26 years old. It was always a controversial structure, much of the public found it ugly and too unconventional, but architects and critics tend to love it. This is the often the case with Brutalism in general and that is the subject of our first story starring Boston City Hall. Another voice who is gone too early was Michael Sorkin. Sorkin was a designer and the Village Voice architecture critic in the 80s. He brought a totally new kind of approach to writing about buildings, one that focused on people and politics. We spoke with design critic at Curbed, Alexandra Lange, about Sorkin's work, and Roman Mars reads excerpts from one of his pieces called Two Hundred and Fifty Things an Architect Should Know. The Smell of Concrete After Rain
Here in the US, we're not used to needing to cover half of our faces in public, but if you look at the other side of the world, it's a different story. In parts of Asia, wearing a mask in response to the coronavirus pandemic was a totally easy and normal adjustment. Rebecca Kanthor is a reporter based in Shanghai who has lived in China for the past 17 years, and she tells us why the culture behind masks developed so differently there, and the doctor who started it all. Plus, we look at the manufacturers who pivoted to make products that are in short supply because of the pandemic. Masking for a Friend We have a book coming out!!! Check out The 99% Invisible City here.
99% Invisible producer Katie Mingle had already been working on a series about unhoused people in the Bay Area for over a year when the current pandemic began to unfold. Suddenly, this vulnerable demographic was cast into the spotlight due to the virulent spread of COVID-19. It is clear from the data that this virus is hitting black and poor communities the hardest. COVID-19 has made American society’s racial and wealth inequities even more obvious. The disease is most dangerous to older and immunocompromised people, two groups to which those experiencing homelessness disproportionately belong. Plus, hotels have long been used as crucial infrastructure during disasters. Now they’re being used to help fight the pandemic. Unsheltered in Place
397- Wipe Out

397- Wipe Out

2020-04-0735:22

If you have tried to buy toilet paper in the last few weeks, you might have found yourself staring at an empty aisle in the grocery store, wondering where all the toilet paper has gone. Although it may seem like a product that we've always been reliant upon, toilet paper has not actually been around very long, and may not be as essential as we think it is. Instead, it's the product of very good marketing. Plus, we talk about the bane of wastewater utilities everywhere: flushable wipes. Wipe Out
In times like these, we could all use a little historical perspective. In this new podcast from Radiotopia, Jody Avirgan, political historian Nicole Hemmer, and special guests rescue moments from U.S. history to map our journey through a tumultuous year. On this episode of 99% Invisible, Jody talks with Roman about his new show and we play two short episodes of This Day in Esoteric Political History. Subscribe to This Day in Esoteric Political History on Apple Podcasts
It was the middle of the night on March 27, 1964. Earlier that evening, the second-biggest earthquake ever measured at the time had hit Anchorage, Alaska. Some houses had been turned completely upside down while others had skidded into the sea. But that brief and catastrophic quake was just the beginning of the story. This is the story of one woman who held a community together. This is Chance! Redux Buy Jon Mooallem’s This is Chance!
On this shelter-in-place edition of 99pi, Roman walks around his house and tells stories about the history and design of various objects Buy Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are and all Beauty Pill records on Bandcamp or wherever you can find it. Roman Mars Describes Things As They Are
The only truly accurate map of the world would be a map the size of the world. So if you want a map to be useful, something you can hold in your hands, you have to start making choices. We have to choose what information we're interested in, and what we're throwing out. Those choices influence how the person reading the map views the world. But a map’s influence doesn’t end there, maps can actually *shape *the place they’re trying to represent and that’s where things get weird. Map Quests
The weather can be a simple word or loaded with meaning depending on the context -- a humdrum subject of everyday small talk or a stark climactic reality full of existential associations with serious disasters. In his book The Weather Machine, author Andrew Blum discusses these extremes and much in between, taking readers back in time to early weather-predicting aspirations and forward with speculation about the future of forecasting, including potentially dark clouds on the horizon. The Weather Machine
391- Over the Road

391- Over the Road

2020-02-2647:26

At the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky, drivers from all over the country converge each year to show off their chrome and exchange stories, tips and gripes. One thing unites most in attendance this year: concerns about the steady march of technology, especially the recently imposed, mandatory electronic logging device, or ELD, which records every detail of a driver’s working hours. Over the Road is an eight-part series that gives voice to the trials and triumphs of America’s long haul truckers. Host “Long Haul Paul” Marhoefer, a musician, storyteller and trucker for nearly 40 years, takes you behind the wheel to explore a devoted community and a world that’s changing amidst new technologies and regulations. Listen to more episodes at OvertheRoad.fm.
390- Fraktur

390- Fraktur

2020-02-1940:37

If you have ever caught even one minute of the history channel, you have seen fraktur. You’ve seen the font on Nazi posters, on Nazi office buildings, on Nazi roadwork signs. Today in Germany, blackletter typefaces are frequently used by Neo-Nazi groups and for many Germans, they bring to mind the dark times of the country’s fascist past. This is ironic because fraktur has a long and strange history that includes the font actually being banned by the Nazis. Plus, we get an opinion from Kate Wagner (McMansion Hell) about “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.” Fraktur
The story of how “Who Let The Dogs Out” 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. About ten years ago, Ben Sisto was reading the Wikipedia entry for the song when he noticed something strange. A hairdresser in England named “Keith” was credited with giving the song to the Baha Men, but Keith had no last name and the fact had no citation. This mystery sent Ben down a rabbit hole to uncover the true story. Whomst Among Us Has Let The Dogs Out
388- Missing the Bus

388- Missing the Bus

2020-02-0538:57

If you heard that there was a piece of technology that could do away with traffic jams, make cities more equitable, and help us solve climate change, you might think about driverless cars, or hyperloops or any of the other new transportation technologies that get lots of hype these days. But there is a much older, much less sexy piece of machinery that could be the key to making our cities more sustainable, more liveable, and more fair: the humble bus. Steve Higashide is a transit expert, bus champion, and author of a new book called Better Busses Better Cities. And the central thesis of the book is that buses have the power to remake our cities for the better. Missing the Bus
Deep within the National Museum of American History’s vaults is a battered Atari case containing what’s known as “the worst video game of all time.” The game is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and it was so bad that not even the might of Steven Spielberg could save it. It was so loathsome that all remaining copies were buried deep in the desert. And it was so horrible that it’s blamed for the collapse of the American home video game industry in the early 1980s. Subscribe to Sidedoor on Apple Podcasts or RadioPublic The Worst Video Game Ever
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Comments (303)

Daithí Baba

D*ck measuring contests? All men? Yawn.. Come on, you can do better.

May 29th
Reply

Dom Finnigan

Could have been a great episode but the music is badly chosen and unfortunately detracts greatly from the enjoyment. In the end I couldn't finish. Who's afraid of incongruous background music?...

May 22nd
Reply

Fifi

The clever Australian comedian @sammyjcomedian (on Instagram) wrote the toilet paper poem "The Ballad of Dunny Roll". See his 12 March 2020 post/video.

May 20th
Reply (1)

Andrew W

Perfume is one of those things that while it's a free country, don't wear it out of respect for the others around you. What smells good to you might be disgusting to others.

May 20th
Reply

Mario Teran

I would've never thought that anyone could be studying "boredom". 🤯

May 8th
Reply

Melora Campbell

The piece on boredom is So funny! They're all good, though. Thank you!

May 7th
Reply

Trevor Smith

music from Fantastic Mr. Fox

May 4th
Reply

Charg

You've answered a question I never knew I wanted to ask. BUT it's actually something that I was very interested in. Thank you 😊

Apr 29th
Reply

Jim Hoadley

Chuy en h la wwplc lo o laopf yq to oñ con ppoci

Apr 27th
Reply

ncooty

Racism is too serious an accusation to be made so flippantly. It's a matter of journalistic integrity; if you don't have statistics or evidence, don't just report inflammatory accusations and rumors. (Just ask, "How do we know that?")

Apr 23rd
Reply (1)

ncooty

I've noticed an odd pattern recently. Young people seem to use subject pronouns immediately after stating the subject. E.g., @7:08: "Dr. Wu, he..." Are their attentions spans so short that they don't remember what they just said? I assume it's just further entropy of English... and dissolution of the bonds between language and thought.

Apr 23rd
Reply (3)

David Soulsby

Hey whats this propaganda about racism and physical attacks. there are no attacks on Chines people in London or anywhere in the UK at least. There is no issues about Chinese people only the government....

Apr 22nd
Reply (2)

David

This episode has unbearable low fi static.

Apr 18th
Reply

agustin venegas

Or... Just use a goddamn bidet?

Apr 11th
Reply

James Yoo

Roman Mars describing his house for 20 minutes is EXACTLY what I needed right now. Well, that and toilet paper.

Mar 23rd
Reply

Sai Besabella

i love this kind of episode.its like real as in real.

Mar 20th
Reply

WLP

Reply All/99% crossover moment made me smile. Thanks Roman!

Mar 18th
Reply

Rebecca MA

I can't believe he sung that song lol

Mar 17th
Reply

Ariel Pérez

dude, why is your voice SO distorted!! stop doing that, please, it's hard to listen to and to understand!

Mar 15th
Reply (2)

Rebecca MA

I love the idea of an acoustic ecosystem. Falling asleep to a symphony of blooms and leaves is such a dream.

Mar 15th
Reply
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