99% Invisible: a Podcast & Kickstarter Recommendation

As I blogged about last fall, Pop Up Magazine Issue #5 was one of my most favorite things, and especially Jon Mooallem’s tale about poor Billy Possum. Fortunately, that tale was then re-told and expanded a bit for Episode 40 of 99% Invisible, a great podcast by Roman Mars about design, architecture and the 99% Invisible activity that shapes our world.

This is the tale of two toys with two very different fates. The Teddy Bear, named after the charismatic president Theodore Roosevelt, was a sensation in the early twentieth century. …. So the powers that be went on the search for the next cuddly companion that America’s children would adore. It was completely logical that they looked at the next president for inspiration, Roosevelt’s handpicked successor, William Howard Taft. In 1909, the toy makers of America placed their bets on the Taft presidency’s answer to the Teddy Bear: the Billy Possum.

I was so happy to have this story show up in another medium. I loved it and wanted to learn more. And, as an added bonus, I learned of the wonderful 99% Invisible, now a staple in my podcast rotation.  The show is incredibly smart, often joyful, and a wonderful way to learn about parts of our daily lives that are often ignored.

UN Plaza, San Francisco, CA

I recommend, especially to my San Francisco readers, to listen to this episode: 39X- The Biography of 100,000 Square Feet

In the center of San Francisco, there is a plaza with no benches. Its central feature at the entrance of the plaza is a unique fountain that was designed by Lawrence Halprin in 1975.The water shoots out at various angles, from inside a sunken pit, filled with large granite slabs. It’s a design that kind of pulls you in and invites you to take the steps down to the water and climb in between the hulking stones. And that’s part of the problem.

After you listen and fall in love, head over to the kickstarter for the third season of 99% Invisible, and pledge a little bit of money to help a great show. As of the writing, there are 49 hours left to go, and your money in whatever amount will allow the show to continue on, and be even better.

This first in a series about supporting media & art that you love. A little goes a long way, and allows individuals to connect with a larger community. (Crossing one off of my “meant-to” blog posts mentioned here).

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Pulling Back the Curtain

One of my most favorite parts of the week comes usually on a Thursday, and is a brief email exchange with friends Joe and Alex. In it we discuss that week’s Slate: Culture Gabfest, one of my favorite podcasts.

I love these emails for a few reason:

  1. chatting with friends is always great, especially as we live in three different states and especially about culture;
  2. one of the hosts, who I love in spite of it, is just so pretentious that talking about him becomes mandatory to sanity;
  3. and most of all, because I convinced them to listen to this show! I love sharing things I love, especially good media.

Hence this post – which is partially a push folks to listen to the Gabfest on a regular basis (basically, three culture critics look at three cultural things from that week – books, essays, movies, music or whatever else), but mostly to push a different bit of media – “Puling Back the Curtain” from WNYC’s On the Media.

A few week’s ago on the Gabfest, they discussed the Bachelor and mentioned that the segment ended up being the longest they had ever talked about one topic. Well, when it reached our ear’s it was only the standard 15 minutes or so of talking. So, here they were showing how much editing goes to produce this piece of media, that feels very edit-free, just like listening to a free-flowing conversation. Both Joe and Alex were surprised to learn how much editing occurs.

This reminded me of “Puling Back the Curtain,” a great segment that looks at how audio media is edited, even in seemingly live scenarios. As the blurb states:

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes here at OTM?

(Hint: Not everybody speaks as cleanly as it might seem.) A few years ago, we invited reporter John Solomon backstage to see how the sausage is made.

The piece originally ran in May 2007, but I heard it sometime in late 2010/early 2011, after the reporter passed away. OTM always has an excellent voice about transparency in media, and the importance of always questioning the truth.

I highly, highly recommend a quick listen. It is fascinating, entertaining, and under 15 minutes long.

Any wonderful bits of media that you would like to share? Podcasts? Essays? Great Game of Thrones mashups?