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.
467- Cute Little Monstrosities of Nature
26:29The French bulldog is now the second most popular breed in America. Their cute features, portable size, and physical features make for a dog that can easily travel and doesn't require a lot of exercise. But these characteristics sometimes have a detrimental effect on the dog's health. Tove K. Danovich writes "Rather than requiring human owners to change their lives to accommodate a new dog, the French bulldog is a breed that’s been broken to accommodate us."Historically, dogs were bred for functional reasons, not aesthetics. But evaluating a breed based on how they accomplish a task is tricky, leading to the rise of visual standards more easily judged. As breed standards were formalized, purebred dogs grew in popularity and became a luxury of sorts; but with a limited genetic pool, this popularity naturally led to a lot of inbreeding to maintain breed consistency.Cute Little Monstrosities of Nature
466- The Weight
45:40Fitness trends come and go. But the simple weight is an anchor in the shifting tides of culture. As workout equipment has become canonized within the realm of home appliances, this heavy metal object aids in our dual — and sometimes conflicting — pursuit of athletics and aesthetics.In season 2 of the Nice Try! podcast, show host and former 99pi producer Avery Trufelman heads inside the home, interrogating how individuals channel utopian ambitions through the lifestyle technologies and home goods that determine the ways we clean, cook, exercise, and sleep in order to lead better lives. But the problems these objects are designed to solve, and the way they solve them, promote a distinctly American ideal that prioritizes personal betterment over improving society as a whole.
465- Shirley Cards
32:18Even if we think of the camera as a neutral technology, it is not. In the vast spectrum of human colors, photographic tools and practices tend to prioritize the lighter end of that range. One example of this bias was Kodak's Shirley Card, a reference photo used to calibrate photo printing machines. For decades all of the models on the Shirley Cards were white. This meant that photographs of people with darker skin tones were often not printed correctly. But that's just one example of the limited dynamic range of photography purposefully excluding people with darker skin.Shirley Cards
464- Finding Julia Morgan
42:10Born in 1872, American architect and engineer Julia Morgan designed hundreds of buildings over her prolific career, famous for her work on incredible structures like the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California.She was also the first woman to be admitted to the architecture program at l'École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the first woman architect licensed in California. But it wasn't until 2014 that she became the the first woman to receive American Institute of Architects’ highest award, the AIA Gold Medal, posthumously.In the New Angle: Voice podcast, "Hear from historians, family, colleagues, and the women themselves, how it was to be an architect coming up in the early 20th century. Imagine sitting with these pioneering women, who opened up the magic of the built environment professions to all who had the gifts, grit and persistence to endure."
463- Fifty-Four Forty or Fight
43:36At a glance, the border between the United States and Canada would seem to be at the friendlier end of the international boundary spectrum. But even though the US-Canada border is now pretty tame, when two countries touch each other over a stretch of 5500 miles, it can result in some surprisingly weird disputes, misunderstandings, geographical quirks and ...really good stories. Fifty-Four Forty or Fight
462- I Can't Believe It's Pink Margarine
26:32Margarine is yellow, like butter, but it hasn't always been. At times and in places, it has been a bland white, or even a dull pink. These strange variations were a byproduct of 150-year war to destroy margarine, and everything that it stands for. During this epic fight for survival, margarine has had to reinvent itself, over and over again. I Can't Believe It's Pink Margarine
461- Changing Stripes
31:30Rioters carried many familiar flags during the January 6th insurrection at the United States Capitol -- Confederate, MAGA, as well as some custom-made ones like a flag of Trump looking like Rambo. Except for onlookers who were already familiar with the design, it would have been easy to overlook one particular bright yellow flag with three red horizontal stripes across the center. This was the flag of South Vietnam.There were actually several confounding international flags present at the Capitol riot that day: the Canadian, Indian, South Korean flags, all were spotted somewhere in the mayhem. But what was peculiar about the Vietnamese flag being there was that it's not technically the flag of Vietnam but the Republic of Vietnam, a country that no longer exists. And what this flag stands for (or should stand for) remains a really contentious issue for the Vietnamese American community.Changing Stripes
323- The House that Came in the Mail Again
33:07The Sears & Roebuck Mail Order Catalog was nearly omnipresent in early 20th century American life. By 1908, one fifth of Americans were subscribers. Anyone anywhere in the country could order a copy for free, look through it, and then have anything their heart desired delivered directly to their doorstep. At its peak, the Sears catalog offered over 100,000 items on 1,400 pages. It weighed four pounds. Today, those 1,400 pages provide us with a snapshot of American life in the first decade of the 20th century, from sheep-shearing machines and cream separators to telephones and china cabinets. The Sears catalog tells the tale of a world -- itemized. And starting in 1908, the company that offered America everything began offering what just might be its most audacious product line ever: houses. Buy The 99% Invisible City!
460- Corpse, Corps, Horse and Worse
30:29When it comes to English spelling and pronunciation, there is plenty of rhyme and very little reason. But what is the reason for that? Why among all European languages is English so uniquely chaotic today?To help us answer that question, we spoke with linguist and longtime friend of the show, Arika Okrent, author of the new book Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme and Other Oddities of the English Language. In it, Arika explores the origins of those phonetic paradoxes, and it turns out some of the reasons for confusion are as counterintuitive as the words themselves.Corpse, Corps, Horse and Worse
459- Yankee Pyramids
1:04:26Presidential libraries are tributes to greatness, "[a] self-congratulatory, almost fictional account of someone's achievements, where all the blemishes are hidden," explains one New York architect. But they're also a "weird mix of a historical repository of records and things that have a lot of meaning." Studying their origins and evolution, one can begin to see how presidential libraries have always involved tensions and contradictions.Yankee PyramidsThe premise of using the extreme example of Trump to heighten the contradictions of executive branch norms is what we do on Roman's other podcast What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law. It's good! And it's not really about Trump, so don't worry. It's essentially a current events based Constitutional Law class taught by an incredible professor, Elizabeth Joh. We included the latest episode here for you to check out.