Decoder Ring

Decoder Ring

By Slate Podcasts

Decoder Ring is the show about cracking cultural mysteries. In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

Episodes

The New Age Hit Machine

For this episode, a story from Slate senior producer Evan Chung about how Yanni, John Tesh and a number of other surprising acts made it big in the 1990s. It’s a throwback to a simpler time—when musicians struggled to find their big break, but discovered it could be possible with a telephone, a television, and our undivided attention. This story originally aired in 2019 on Studio 360 from PRX. We hear from George Veras, Pat Callahan, and John Tesh.  This Episode was written and produced by Slate’s Evan Chung. Decoder Ring is produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. Derek John is Slate’s Executive Producer of narrative podcasts. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director. If you haven’t please yet, subscribe and rate our feed in Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. And even better, tell your friends. If you’re a fan of the show and want to support us, consider signing up for Slate Plus. Slate Plus members get to listen to Decoder Ring without any ads. Their support is also crucial to our work. So please go to Slate.com/decoderplus to join Slate Plus today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
29/11/22·29m 55s

The Butt and the Bustle

For about two decades towards the end of the Victorian era, in the 1870s and 1880s, a large bustle-enhanced bottom was the height of fashion. In this episode we explore how it’s connected to today’s big booty craze. We look at the bustle’s history with a curator fascinated by old undergarments; consider the various theories about its popularity with the author Heather Radke; and then hone in the tragic story of Sarah Baartman. The bustle may be old-fashioned, but it still has a lot to tell us about race, sex, power and how much people know, or let themselves know, about what they put on everyday. We hear from Heather Radke, author of Butts: A Backstory, as well as Kristina Haughland, Janell Hobson, Pamela Scully, and Maria Garcia.  Special thanks to Wesley Stevens and Daisy Rosario. This podcast was written by Willa Paskin, who produces Decoder Ring with Katie Shepherd. This episode was edited by Andrea Bruce. Derek John is Slate’s Executive Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director. If you haven’t please yet, subscribe and rate our feed in Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. And even better, tell your friends. If you’re a fan of the show, I’d love for you to sign up for Slate Plus.   Slate Plus members get to listen to Decoder Ring without any ads. Their support is also crucial to our work. So please go to Slate.com/decoderplus to join Slate Plus today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
22/11/22·46m 38s

The Truth About #TheDress

In the history of viral images, #TheDress has got to be in the top 10. This unassuming photo of a party dress kicked off a global debate when people realized they were seeing it completely differently. Is it black and blue, or white and gold? In today’s episode, we’ll talk to someone who was there when the photo was first taken, and the BuzzFeed writer whose post briefly broke the internet. Then we go down the optical rabbit hole with a neuroscientist who’s been studying the The Dress for years. What does it reveal about the nature of truth? This podcast was written by Willa Paskin, who produces Decoder Ring with Katie Shepherd. This episode was edited by Andrew Adam Newman. Derek John is Slate’s senior supervising producer of narrative podcasts. Merritt Jacob is senior technical director. We’ll hear from Paul Jinks, Cates Holderness, Pascal Wallisch, and David McRaney author of the book How Minds Change. Here’s the optical illusion of the strawberries mentioned in the episode and created by Professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka. If you haven’t please yet, subscribe and rate our feed in Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. And even better, tell your friends. If you’re a fan of the show, I’d love for you to sign up for Slate Plus.    Slate Plus members get to listen to Decoder Ring — and every other Slate podcast — ad-free. Their support is also crucial to our work. So please go to Slate.com/decoderplus to join Slate Plus today. Check out Remote Works here. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
15/11/22·38m 18s

Fall 2022 Teaser

Decoder Ring is back with a new season of juicy topics, like.... Remember the viral phenomenon and optical mind-blower known as “The Dress”? What does another peculiar piece of clothing from the past—the bustle—tell us about fashion trends today? And, what can we learn from the rise and fall of one of the most notorious personal injury law firms in America? You can hear these episodes and more on the new season of Decoder Ring. Launching Nov. 15, 2022. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
10/11/22·1m 8s

McGruff Takes a Bite Out of Crime Pt. 2

McGruff the Crime Dog arrived on the scene at the dawn of the 1980s, just as a firehose of anti-drug PSAs was inundating the youth of America. These messages didn’t always work as intended—but they did work their way into the long term memories of the kids who heard them.  In the second episode of our two-part series on the weird world of PSAs and very special episodes, we look at how the McGruff Smart Kids Album influenced everything from straight-edge hardcore to a couple’s wedding playlist. We’ll hear from Sarah Hubbard, Dan Danger, Joseph Cappella, David Farber, Mike Hawes, Robin Nelson, Daisy Rosario, and Tatiana Peralta. This podcast was written by Willa Paskin, who produces Decoder Ring with Katie Shepherd. This episode was edited by Jamie York. Derek John is Slate’s Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is Sr. Technical Director. Thank you to Tatiana Peralta, Ari Merkin, Wendy Melillo, Dan McQuade, Dale Mantley, Larissa Zargeris, Dave Bledsoe, Larre Johnson, Duane Poole, Eric Greenberg, Charles and Karen Rosen, and Jennifer Holland, Orla Mejia,  Andres Martinez and everyone else at the Rutgers library who helped me listen to some old cassette tapes.  A few things that were helpful in working on this piece: How McGruff and the Crying Indian Changed America: A History of Iconic Ad Council Campaigns by Wendy Melillo, Taking a Bite out of Crime: the Impact of the National Citizens Crime Prevention Media Campaign by Garrett J O’keefe and others, and “This McGruff Drug Album Might As Well Be By Weird Al,” by Dan McQuade for Defector Media. You can hear Daniel Danger’s McGruff cover album in it’s entirety or you can purchase it here. And lastly, if you are interested in hearing the full McGruff educational program or any of Puppet Productions productions they are available for purchase at puppetsinc.com, part of a company that Rob Nelson still runs. If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism. Check out Remote Works here.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
12/10/22·47m 24s

McGruff Takes a Bite Out of Crime Pt. 1

McGruff the Crime Dog arrived on the scene at the dawn of the 1980s, just as a firehose of anti-drug PSAs was inundating the youth of America. These messages didn’t always work as intended—but they did work their way into the long term memories of the kids who heard them.  In the first of two episodes, we take a look at PSAs and their strange afterlife through the lens of a trench-coat wearing bloodhound and his bizarre, yet catchy anti-drug songs. We’ll talk to Dan Danger, Sherry Nemmers, Joseph Cappella, David Farber, Mike Hawes and Robin Nelson to discover how the McGruff Smart Kids Album came to exist in the first place. This podcast was written by Willa Paskin. Decoder Ring is produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. We had production help from Sam Kim.  Editing by Jamie York and Derek John, Slate’s Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is Sr. Technical Director. Thank you to Wendy Melillo, Dan McQuade, Dale Mantley, Larissa Zargeris, Daisy Rosario, Drew Bledsoe, Larre Johnson, Duane Poole, Ari Merkin, Charles and Karen Rosen and Eric Greenberg.  If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism. Check out Remote Works here Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
04/10/22·37m 48s

Slate Plus Exclusive: The Making of This Season

Host Willa Paskin talks about topics versus narratives, translating fabulists, and creating a sound landscape for the world of Mae West. Slate Plus members have access to this whole interview. Sign up for Slate Plus to access this exclusive episode and support the show. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
23/08/22·1m 27s

The “Sex” Scandal That Made Mae West

In the early 1930s, Mae West’s dirty talk and hip swiveling walk made her one of the biggest movie stars in America. But before West hit the big-screen, she was prosecuted for staging not one, but two scandalous plays. In this episode, we look at how West honed her persona when she was under the bright lights of Broadway and the flashbulbs of the tabloids — and briefly behind bars. More than a century later, her career arc offers a blueprint on how to survive a scandal…and maybe even come out ahead. This episode relied heavily on a lot of archival material and innumerable books: When I’m Bad, I’m Better: Mae West, Sex and American Entertainment by Marybeth Hamilton; When Brooklyn was Queer by Hugh Ryan; Lillian Schlissel’s introduction to Three Plays by Mae West,  Mae West: a biography by George Eells and Stanley Musgrove; Mae West: An Icon in Black and White by Jill Watts;  Becoming May West by Emily Wortis Leider; Gay New York by George Chauncey;  Mae West, She Who Laughs Last, by June Sochen: Goodness Has Nothing to Do with It by Mae West; and Linda Ann Losciavo’s play “Courting Mae West” and her blog, which you can find at Maewest.blogspot.com.  This episode of Decoder Ring was written by Willa Paskin. It was produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our Technical Director. Thank you to Benjamin Frisch for this topic.  If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
16/08/22·46m 13s

The First Alien Abductees

When you think of an alien abduction, what do you picture? Humanoid creatures, medical experiments, lost memories retrieved through hypnosis? That narrative was largely unknown until Betty and Barney Hill went public about their own alien abduction in the 1960s. Betty Hill’s niece, Kathleen Marden, recounts how the story went viral and her aunt and uncle became unwitting celebrities. Then professors Susan Lepselter, Chris Bader, Joseph O. Baker and Stephanie Kelley-Romano explain how the Hills’ alien abduction changed science fiction forever. Thanks to Eric Molinsky for bringing us this story that originally aired on his terrific podcast Imaginary Worlds. Eric’s got a lot more stories like this one so subscribe wherever you listen.  Decoder Ring is written by Willa Paskin and produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our Technical Director. If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
09/08/22·41m 6s

The Most Famous Poet No One Remembers

Rod McKuen sold multiple millions of poetry books in the 60s and 70s. He released dozens of albums, was a regular on late night, and was even nominated for an Oscar. So, how did the most salable poet in American history simply disappear? On today’s episode, Slate writer Dan Kois went searching for Rod McKuen, a famous poet who isn’t so famous anymore. We’ll hear from Stephanie Burt, Mike Chasar and Barry Alfonso, author of Rod’s biography A Voice of the Warm. Along the way, Dan meets Andy Zax, a guy who, like him, was bewildered by this forgotten star—until he became an accidental fan, and then somehow the only person keeping Rod McKuen’s flame alive. This episode of Decoder Ring was written by Dan Kois and edited by Willa Paskin. It was produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our Technical Director. If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com. If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
02/08/22·48m 12s

The Mall is Dead (Long Live the Mall)

What do we lose if we lose the mall? 70 years into their existence, these hulking temples to commerce are surprisingly resilient and filled with contradictions. In this episode, Alexandra Lange, the author of the new book Meet Me at the Fountain: an Inside History of the Mall walks us through the atriums, escalators, and food courts of this singular suburban space. We also hear from mall-goers whose personal experiences help us make sense of this disdained yet beloved, disappearing yet surviving place. This episode of Decoder Ring was written by Willa Paskin and produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our Technical Director. If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
26/07/22·45m 25s

Summer 2022 Teaser

Decoder Ring is coming back with a new season featuring a whole new set of questions.... Like, is the shopping mall really dying? How did a poet who sold millions of books and records 50 years ago, come to be completely forgotten? And what does a century old Broadway scandal involving Mae West have to tell us about the creation of celebrity? You can hear these episodes and more on the new season of Decoder Ring. Launching July 26, 2022. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
19/07/22·1m 0s

The Storytelling Craze

When did everyone become a storyteller? Decades after George Lucas and Steve Jobs made storytelling a big business, every company now wants to tell “Our Story.” Instagram and TikTok let everyone else tell their “stories,” and the number of people calling themselves storytellers on LinkedIn is now more than half a million. Something we have done for the entirety of our existence as a species has become just another fad.  In this episode of Decoder Ring, we’re going to look at where this trend came from and where it’s going. What Willa discovered changed the way she now thinks about stories—and it might do the same for you.  Some of the voices you’ll hear in this episode include Margaret O’Mara, historian and author of The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America; Michael Simon, director and producer; Francesca Polletta, sociologist at University of California, Irvine; Steve Clayton, Chief Storyteller at Microsoft; Seth Godin, entrepreneur and author of All Marketers Tell Stories; Everett Cook, Associate Editor at Axios Local; and David Paskin, Willa’s father.  Decoder Ring is written and produced by Willa Paskin. This episode was edited by Dan Kois and produced by Elizabeth Nakano. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our Technical Director. If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com. If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism. Thanks Avast.com! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
17/05/22·41m 8s

“We Got Ourselves a Convoy”

In the 1970s, a song about protesting truckers topped the music charts in multiple countries, and kicked off a pop culture craze for CB radios. In early 2022, that same song became an anthem for a new trucker-led protest movement in Canada and the US. How did C.W. McCall’s “Convoy” come to exist, and what had it been trying to say?  For this episode, which was inspired by a listener’s question, we’ve updated a story that originally aired in 2017, but that could not be more relevant today. Slate producer Evan Chung is going to take us through the history of this bizarre number-one smash, an artifact from a time when truckers were also at the center of the culture. It touches on advertising, hamburger buns, and speed limits but also global conflict, sky-rocketing gas prices, and aggrieved, protesting truck drivers.  Some of the voices you’ll hear in this episode include Bill Fries, advertising executive; Chip Davis, singer and songwriter; and Meg Jacobs, historian and author of Panic at the Pump. This episode of Decoder Ring was written and produced by Evan Chung and Willa Paskin with help from Elizabeth Nakano. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our Technical Director. If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com. If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
10/05/22·35m 4s

The Sideways Effect

In 2004, the indie flick Sideways was released in just four theaters, but it had a big impact, earning five Oscar nominations and $110 million worldwide. “I thought it was just going to be a nice little comedy,” filmmaker Alexander Payne tells us. Instead, the movie became known for something else so notable that it has a name: The Sideways Effect.  In this episode, we explore all the outsized effects of this one little movie on the huge wine industry. Did a single line of dialogue really tank merlot sales for decades? Did an ode to pinot noir jumpstart demand for this expensive grape? Did Paul Giamatti’s sad sack character change our relationship to yet another wine, one that was barely mentioned in the film? Today on Decoder Ring, all of these questions and this one: Is it long past time to start drinking merlot? Some of the voices in this episode include Laura Lippmann, crime novelist; Tim Farrell, wine buyer for Brooklyn Wine Exchange; Rex Pickett, novelist and author of ‘Sideways,’ Alexander Payne, director, screenwriter, and producer; Jeff Bundschu, owner of Gundlach Bundschu; Steve Cuellar, professor of economics at Sonoma State University; and Kathy Joseph, owner of Fiddlehead Cellars. We also mention Travis Lybbert’s paper corroborating the “Sideways Effect,” which you can find here. Decoder Ring is written and produced by Willa Paskin. This episode was produced by Elizabeth Nakano. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts.  If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com. If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
03/05/22·39m 22s

The Madness Behind ‘The Method’

When we think of method acting, we tend to think of actors going a little over the top for a role – like Jared Leto, who allegedly sent his colleagues dead rats when he was preparing to be The Joker, or Robert De Niro refusing to break character on the set of the movie Raging Bull. But that’s not how method acting began. On this episode of Decoder Ring: we look at how “The Method” came to be so well-known and yet so widely misunderstood. It’s a saga that spans three centuries and involves scores of famous actors, directors and teachers. And it altered how we think about realism, authenticity, and a good performance. Our guest today is Isaac Butler, who wrote The Method: How The 20th Century Learned to Act. Decoder Ring is written and produced by Willa Paskin. This episode was produced by Elizabeth Nakano. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts.  If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com. If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
26/04/22·47m 2s

“F--k Everything, We're Doing Five Blades”

In the early 2000s, an arms race broke out in the world of men’s shaving. After decades with razors that had only one blade and then decades with razors that had only two, the number of blades rapidly spiraled up and up and up. It’s a skirmish sometimes referred to as The Razor Blade Wars, and it was a face-off about innovation, competition, capitalism, masculinity, and most of all, how strange things can become after you’ve created something that’s the best a consumer can get — and then you have to keep going. Some of the voices you’ll hear in this episode include Rebecca Herzig, author of Plucked: A History of Hair Removal; Tim Dowling, Guardian columnist and author of Inventor of the Disposable Culture: King Camp Gillette 1855-1932; Dan Koeppel, razor blade zelig; and Kaitlyn Tiffany, writer for the Atlantic.  If you want to read more about razor blades, check out: Cutting edge : Gillette's journey to global leadership King C. Gillette, the man and his wonderful shaving device Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market Decoder Ring is written and produced by Willa Paskin. This episode was produced by Elizabeth Nakano. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts.  If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
19/04/22·42m 12s

Spring 2022 Teaser

Decoder Ring is coming back with a new season featuring a whole new set of questions…and some good surprising answers. Like, how did razors come to have such a ridiculous amount of blades on them? Did one line from Paul Giammati in the movie Sideways really change Americans’ wine buying habits? And why is our understanding of method acting wrong? You can hear these episodes and more on the new season of Decoder Ring. Launching April 19, 2022. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
12/04/22·1m 0s

Decoder Ring Presents Endless Thread: The Rickroll

Hi Decoder Ring listeners! Right now we’re in-between seasons and starting to work on some new stories, but in the meantime we wanted to share something from another podcast we think you’d love: Endless Thread from WBUR, where hosts Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Sivertson dig into online communities to find untold histories, unsolved mysteries, and other stories from the internet.  Right now they are just coming off of a huge, multipart series on memes: the Overly Attached Girlfriend, Slender Man, that image of the Taylor Armstrong from the real housewives yelling at a cat, and more. But today’s episode is probably more famous than all of those: It’s one of the oldest and longest lasting memes on the internet: The Rickroll. Who invented the Rickroll, what’s kept it going, and what does the unsuspecting 80s pop star at the center of it make of it all? Subscribe to Endless Thread wherever you get your podcasts. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
10/02/22·43m 24s

Custer's Revenge

Custer's Revenge is widely considered one of the worst video games ever made. Originally released as part of a series of Swedish Erotica-branded adult games for the Atari 2600, Custer's Revenge involves moving a pixelated General Custer across the screen to rape an Indigenous woman tied to a post. It's unfathomably racist, sexist, and un-fun to play. Today on Decoder Ring we tell the story of how Custer's Revenge came to be, the people who protested it, and the even stranger story of how the whole thing became a considered trolling operation. This is the final episode of our current season, but we'll be back in 2022. If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can get ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. Note: This episode has been edited to correct a misstatement about Women Against Pornography's aims. The group did not advocate the banning of pornography. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
23/12/21·47m 40s

The Fame That Got Away

Today on Decoder Ring: Three stories about fame, and one about monkeys. Are primates susceptible to celebrity endorsements? What does fame do to the mind of a famous person? Who were the famous tattooed ladies of the 1880s? And what's it like to be in a rising rock band, only to see everything fall apart over a beer commercial? If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can get ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
14/12/21·44m 13s

Truly Tasteless Jokes

Note: This episode is about offensive material, and so contains explicit and offensive language. Truly Tasteless Jokes were a series of joke books that dominated the bestsellers list during the 1980s. An equal opportunity joke book: Truly Tasteless Jokes were collections of jokes ranging from Helen Keller, to dead babies, to sexist and racist jokes that from the vantage of 2021, seem entirely abject. For readers in the 1980’s though, these books were ubiquitous. On this episode we dig into the history of these books and their author Ashton Applewhite. It’s a story that involves the tangled history of 1960’s free speech politics, conservative backlash, and the strange moment in the 1980’s when left and right wing speech politics converged to help make these books mainstream.  If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can get ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
07/12/21·50m 28s

The Philosophy of Vampires

In literature, the choice to become a vampire is a metaphor for transformative experiences. On this episode, we bring you a story from Slate's Hi-Phi Nation podcast, which explores problems in contemporary philosophy through story. From real-life blood suckers, to Lord Byron, to Twilight, vampires are a tool for philosophers to think about otherness, sexuality, and the transformative experiences we all go through in life. To listen to more Hi-Phi Nation, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can get ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
30/11/21·37m 5s

You Just Lost The Game

When you think about the game, you lose the game. When you lose the game you must declare that you have lost the game, causing all others in your vicinity to also lose the game. That’s it, that’s the game.  The game is mind game that trades on a quirk of human psychology, and is so intensely viral that it went from a college science fiction club in-joke to an endemic mind virus in only a few decades. If you’re a bit older and already know about the game, you likely learned about it in the aughts, but the game continues to spread through social media, most recently on TikTok, where the game became a meme over lockdown. On this episode, we examine the game to figure out how it works, where it came from, and the curious psychology that powers its viral nature.  Note: A version of this episode was originally released as a secret bonus to our 2018 episode “The Incunabula Papers”, but this is its official public release. The episode has been updated with new voice over, sound design, and minor story changes to bring it up to date in 2021. If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can get ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
23/11/21·26m 40s

The Alberta Rat War

Rats live wherever people live, with one exception: the Canadian province of Alberta. A rat sighting in Alberta is a major local event that mobilizes the local government to identify and eliminate any hint of infestation. Rat sightings makes the local news. Alberta prides itself on being the sole rat-free territory in the world, but in order to achieve this feat, it had to go to war with the rat. On this episode of Decoder Ring we recount the story of how Alberta won this war, through accidents of history and geography, advances in poison technology, interventionist government policy, mass education programs, rat patrols, killing zones and more. The explanation tells us a lot about rats and a lot about humans, two species that are more alike than we like to think.   If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can get ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
16/11/21·42m 4s

The Great Helga Hype

In the summer of 1986, both Time Magazine and Newsweek ran blockbuster cover stories on the same subject: a secret cache of provocative, intimate paintings by Andrew Wyeth, one of America's most famous artists. These paintings were completed over fifteen years and all featured the same, often-nude model named Helga, and had been hidden from his wife and the public for 15 years. The implication was obvious: Wyeth had been having an affair with this woman. But just as the story was breaking in Time and Newsweek, it began to unravel, and something even stranger and more complex emerged. On this episode we examine the story of these secret paintings, the backlash to that story, and question if, maybe, that backlash was itself overdrawn. This is the first episode of our winter season. If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can get ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
09/11/21·56m 2s

Selling Out

In 2001, Oprah Winfrey invited Jonathan Franzen to come on her show to discuss his new novel The Corrections. A month later she withdrew the invitation, kicking off a media firestorm. The Oprah-Franzen Book Club Dust-Up of 2001 was a moment when two ways of thinking about selling out smashed into each other, and one of them—the one that was on its way out already— crashed and burned in public, barely to be seen again. So today on Decoder Ring, what happened to selling out? This is the last episode of our current season. See you in a few months! If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can binge the whole season of Decoder Ring right now, plus ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. For a behind-the-scenes look into some of the articles we read when we create the show, check out our Pocket collection at http://getpocket.com/slate . Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
06/08/21·50m 6s

Tattoo Flash

Time does funny thing to everything, but especially to tattoos. Today, four stories about tattoos whose meanings have shifted with the passage of years, decades, or centuries: first, a look into an archive of 300 preserved tattooed skins, then a personal investigation into into the Tasmanian Devil tattoo, the story of the Zune tattoo guy, and finally mistranslated Chinese character tattoos. If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can binge the whole season of Decoder Ring right now, plus ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
27/07/21·50m 32s

The Tootsie Shot

You know the Tootsie Shot. It’s that shot from the movies: a really busy midtown street, protagonist smack in the middle of it all, everyone going somewhere. It’s one of the most recognizable shots in film. It can be found in Working Girl, Midnight Cowboy, Wall Street, Heartburn, Elf, Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Devil Wears Prada, The Wolf of Wall Street, and so many more. This is a short, transitional moment that often comes in the middle of a montage and takes up 30 seconds max, and sometimes just two or three. It’s just someone walking down a crowded street. So why is it so sticky? If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can binge the whole season of Decoder Ring right now, plus ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
20/07/21·39m 17s

Who Killed The Segway?

In the year 2000, Dan Kois was a junior book agent working on selling a secretive book proposal called IT, a codename for what would eventually be revealed as the Segway personal scooter. This is the story of the invention and development of a potentially revolutionary device, how Dan may or may not have doomed it, how the hype got out of control, and how that speculation helped birth the modern internet. If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can binge the whole season of Decoder Ring right now, plus ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
13/07/21·45m 40s

The Sign Painter

Ilona Granet was a New York art-scene fixture who won the praise of the art world when she put up anti-harassment street signs in lower Manhattan in the mid- 1980s. Her career seemed like a sure thing, but three decades on, and so much more art later, it still hasn’t materialized, even as her contemporaries are now hanging in museums. This episode is not about the familiar myth of making it, but the mystery of not making it. What happens, to an artist—to anyone—when they’re good enough, but that’s not enough? If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can binge the whole season of Decoder Ring right now, plus ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
06/07/21·58m 45s

That Seattle Muzak Sound

If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can binge the whole season of Decoder Ring right now, plus ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. On this episode, we explore the misunderstood history of Muzak, formerly the world’s foremost producers of elevator music. Out of the technological innovations of World War I, Muzak emerged as one of the most significant musical institutions of the 20th century, only to become a punching bag as the 1960’s began to turn public perceptions of popular music on its head. By the 80’s and 90’s, Muzak was still the butt of jokes, and was trying to figure out a new direction as they happened to employ many players in Seattle's burgeoning grunge scene. This is the story of how different ideas about pop music butted heads throughout the 20th century, including inside Muzak’s offices.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
29/06/21·44m 11s

The Invention of Hydration

To say that hydration is an invention is only a slight exaggeration. Back in the 1970’s and ‘80s, no one carried bottled water with them, but by the ‘90s it was a genuine status object. How did bottled water transform itself from a small, European luxury item to the single largest beverage category in America? It took both technological innovation, but even more importantly it took savvy marketing from brands like Gatorade and Perrier to turn the concept of hydration, and dehydration into problem they could solve via their wares. Today, hydration has branched out from athletics to wellness to skincare, but the actual science behind all of it is pretty sketchy. If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can binge the whole season of Decoder Ring right now, plus ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
22/06/21·37m 17s

The Soap Opera Machine

Welcome to a brand new season of Decoder Ring! On this episode, we investigate the wild world of soap operas through the lens of one legendary, decades-long, ripped-from-the-headlines storyline. The rape of Marty Seabrook dared to combine the melodrama of soaps with a serious examination of sexual assault, and over time morphed from an award-winning story about believing victims into a redemption arc for the rapist at its heart. This is the story of those who made it happen: the producers, actors, writers, and the soap opera machine itself: the perpetually moving, forever-churning, complex system that create the miracle that is the daily soap opera.  If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can binge the whole season of Decoder Ring right now, plus ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
15/06/21·52m 37s

Join Slate Plus to Hear a New Episode of Decoder Ring!

Where did all the water bottles come from? Just a few decades ago, no one carried bottled water around with them, and now it's totally ubiquitous. What changed? Hydration is a real thing in science, but it was also a kind of invention: used by marketers of sports drinks, bottled water companies, and the wellness industry to keep us buying and drinking water for clearer skin, better health, and all sorts of other nebulous benefits. To hear the full episode now, sign up for Slate Plus. Otherwise you'll hear this episode in June when our full season launches. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
22/04/21·1m 38s

Decoder Ring Presents The Sporkful’s Mission: ImPASTAble

Right now Decoder Ring is working on a full season of new episodes coming this June, but in the meantime we wanted to share this episode from our friends over at The Sporkful. Each week on The Sporkful Dan Pashman and his guests obsess about food to learn more about people. This episode is the first in a five-part series called Mission: ImPASTAble. The series follows Dan as he embarks on an epic quest: to invent a new pasta shape, get it made, and actually sell it. It's great! To hear the rest of the series, go subscribe to The Sporkful on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
15/03/21·31m 1s

The Blue Steak Experiment

What took blue food so long to catch on? Today it’s all over the freezer aisle, in candies for kids, in tortilla chips, and novelty foods, but it wasn’t very long ago that food experts agreed: blue food was an impossible sell. Their best evidence was a study from the 1970’s in which subjects were served blue steaks to sickening effect. On this episode, we uncover the strange, misinformation-stuffed history of blue food, the rise of blue raspberry, and what to make of the blue food experiment that made those people sick. It may have something to do with Alfred Hitchcock. This episode was produced in collaboration with Proof, from America's Test Kitchen. Proof is a podcast that investigates the food we love. Subscribe to Proof on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify. Special programming note: Decoder Ring is going seasonal! That means you won’t hear from us for a while, but we’ll be back in 2021 with a bunch of new stories released week-by-week. Thanks for sticking with us, we’re excited to try something new, and we’ll see you soon.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
21/12/20·41m 32s

The Cabbage Patch Kids Riots

In 1983, the Cabbage Patch Kids were released, causing widespread pandemonium in toy stores and in the media. How did a children'a toy inspire such bad adult behavior? On this episode of Decoder Ring we explore the strange world of the Cabbage Patch Kids to figure out why they hit it so big. The answer involves butt tattoos, slightly grotesque faces, industrial innovations, an origin story in a cabbage patch, and serious accusations of copyright theft. Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
23/11/20·36m 26s

Jane Fonda's Workout, Part 2: Hanoi Jane's VHS Revolution

How did Hanoi Jane become Exercise Jane? This is the second part of our two-parter on Jane Fonda's Workout. If you haven't yet, listen to the previous episode "Jane and Leni" first, it will give you the full context for this episode. This time around we explore how an academy award winning actor and controversial political activist managed to transform herself into a category defining fitness icon. It's a story involving a persistent VHS entrepreneur, dozens of bizarre celebrity workout tapes, and Tricky Dick, himself. Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
26/10/20·50m 48s

Jane Fonda's Workout, Part 1: Jane and Leni

When Jane Fonda granted us an interview to talk about her famous workout tape, things didn't go as planned. On part one of a special two-part Decoder Ring, we explore the decades-long friendship of Jane Fonda and Leni Cazden, the relationship that birthed the workout that changed the world. It's a story of creation, regret, fame, forgiveness, trauma, survival, politics, and exercise. In two weeks, we return with part two: the story of the bestselling VHS tape of all time. Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
12/10/20·54m 36s

Mystery of the Mullet

The mullet, the love-to-hate-it hairstyle is as associated with the 1980's as Ronald Reagan, junk bonds, and break dancing. But in at least one major way, we are suffering from a collective case of false memory syndrome. In this episode we track the rise and fall of the mullet, and also the lexical quandary at its heart: who named the mullet? Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
14/08/20·50m 34s

The Karen

The Karen, a white woman who surveys, inconveniences, and terrorizes, service workers and people of color is a relatively new term in the culture, but her character type has been with us for centuries. In this episode of Decoder Ring we explore the history of this type, from the code-names used during enslavement, to the contemporary menace of the COVID age. Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
13/07/20·41m 9s

The Metrosexual

In 2003, the word "metrosexual", meaning a well-groomed heterosexual man, exploded all over the English lexicon. It invaded the news, TV, and even American politics. On this episode of Decoder Ring we explore the origins of the metrosexual, and how trend forecasters, marketers, David Beckham, Sex and the City, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy helped make the metrosexual possible. Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
10/06/20·38m 39s

Gotta Get Down on Friday

Rebecca Black's music video for Friday was Youtube's most watched video of 2011, thrusting the thirteen-year-old Rebecca into a very harsh spotlight. Dubbed "The Worst Music Video Ever Made" Friday was an almost universal object of derision. This is the story of how Friday came to be, and how nearly a decade after it went viral, it sounds so different than it did back then. Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
11/05/20·45m 23s

Unicorn Poop

How did poop get cute? On this episode of Decoder Ring we trace the rise of cute poop from the original Japanese poop emoji to more modern poop toys which rely on the Youtube algorithm to get seen and sold. Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
08/04/20·37m 40s

Rubber Duckie

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. How did the humble rubber duck become an icon of bath time? On this episode of Decoder Ring we talk to rubber duck experts, enthusiasts, and manufacturers to find out how the rubber duck evolved, why it's so appealing, and why there are thousands of them lost at sea. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
19/03/20·27m 23s

The Shop Around the Corner

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. The 1998 romantic comedy You've Got Mail starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan is about the brutal fight between an independent bookstore, The Shop Around the Corner, and Fox Books, an obvious Barnes & Noble stand-in. On this episode of Decoder Ring we explore the real life conflict that inspired the movie and displaced independent booksellers on the upper west side of Manhattan. This conflict illustrates how, for a brief time, Barnes & Noble was a symbol of predatory capitalism, only to be usurped by the uniting force at the heart of the film: the internet. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
02/03/20·39m 7s

Friend of Dorothy

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. When Peter Mac was young, he found solace from his troubles in the voice of Judy Garland. He's now been a Judy Garland impersonator for 17 years. On this episode of Decoder Ring we explore the special valence that Judy Garland has for queer people, the history of female impersonation on stage, and what the future might hold for Judy as an icon. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
10/02/20·34m 29s

The Stowe-Byron Controversy

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. When Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote an exposé of Lord Byron's incestuous affair in 1869, it nearly destroyed The Atlantic Monthly, and threw the reputations of two literary icons into chaos. This is a story about 18th century scandal, cancel culture, and Bad Literary Men, that isn't so different from how these stories play out in our own time. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
03/02/20·41m 49s

Murphy's Law

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Nick Spark fell down a rabbit hole tracking down the origins of Murphy’s Law, the ubiquitous phrase that says “If it can go wrong, it will go wrong”. On this episode of Decoder Ring, we follow Nick on his journey while taking a few detours of our own to find out how Murphy’s Law was [maybe] born out of the rocket sled experiments of the dawning jet age. We talk to Nick, hear some of the recordings he collected during his own research, plus talk to researchers who are skeptical of Nick’s hypothesis, all to try and find out how an obscure engineering aphorism spread to world-conquering philosophical observation.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
09/12/19·39m 27s

Gender Reveal Party

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Jenna Karvunidis invented the gender reveal party, but now she has regrets. On this episode of Decoder Ring, we explore the pink and blue world of the gender reveal party, and how Jenna's small barbecue celebration turned into a global phenomenon that's gotten way out of control. We talk to psychologists, historians, critics, and business owners, to figure out why the gender reveal is having such a big, bizarre moment right now, and how we can best understand the strange power they hold over social media. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
06/11/19·40m 39s

Bart Simpson Mania

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. In the early 1990's Bart Simpson became a breakout star while also becoming a target in the culture war, culminating in president George HW Bush speaking out against The Simpsons as an example of a degenerate American family. Today on Decoder Ring we try and figure out why the H-E double hockey sticks people were so worked up about Bart Simpson by examining the great underachiever t-shirt controversy, bootleg Bart merchandise, the rise of the religious right, and more.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
07/10/19·48m 28s

Ice Cream Truck

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Why is the ice cream truck business so bananas? On this episode of Decoder Ring we find out via three seperate stories about the strange world of ice cream trucks—about the first ever ice cream trucks in China, the ongoing ice cream wars of Manhattan, and the life of an ice cream family in Brooklyn. Slate Plus members get bonus segments and ad-free podcast feeds. Sign up now. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
12/08/19·42m 0s

Pillow Talk

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Over the last half century the decorative pillow has been crowding out our sitting and sleeping spaces, multiplying across our beds and couches decade by decade. For some, decorative pillows are a fun design accent, for others a symbol of useless overconsumption. Today on Decoder Ring we explore the world of the decorative pillow to try and figure out why they've become so ubiquitous and what they tell us about our homes, interior design, and the way we develop our tastes.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
15/07/19·30m 51s

Chuck E. Cheese Pizza War

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. The King was an animatronic lounge singer who performed in Chuck E. Cheese locations in the 1980's and early 90's, but then he disappeared. The King was a victim of a conflict known as the pizza wars, when Chuck E. Cheese faced off against its rival, Showbiz Pizza for pizza arcade supremacy. The foot soldiers in the pizza war were the animatronic bands that staffed each location—including The King. This episode is a chronicle of the pizza war, with the founder of Chuck E. Cheese, Nolan Bushnell, it's rival, Showbiz Pizza's Aaron Fechter, the people who designed the characters and animatronics, and the people who continue loving these characters, like Jared Sanchez, who continue to create work with these once discarded creatures. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
11/06/19·49m 8s

Videomate: Men

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Videomate: Men is a VHS tape released in 1987 featuring 60 single men pitching themselves as dates to women on the other side of the TV screen, who could connect to these eligible bachelors from the comfort of their homes. In retrospect, Videomate: Men is bizarre and hilarious, but at the time it was one of many manifestations of what was known as video dating. To find out how anyone thought this was a good idea, Decoder Ring examines the weird and forgotten world of video dating in the 1970's, 80's, and 90's to find out why video dating once seemed like the future, and if that future is still yet to come.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
29/04/19·36m 8s

Truck Nutz

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Truck Nutz are a brand name for the dangling plastic testicles some people affix to the bumper or hitch of their vehicle. Also known as Bull’s Balls, Your Nutz, and other brand names, these plastic novelties have a powerful symbolic charge and are often associated with a crass, macho, red state audience. But Truck Nutz are a surprisingly complicated signifier, one whose symbolic power is increasingly divorced from their real-world usage. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
25/03/19·36m 17s

Baby Shark

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Baby Shark is an megaviral YouTube video, an unstoppable earworm, a top 40 hit, a Eurodance smash, a decades old campfire song, and the center of an international copyright dispute. This month on Decoder Ring we explore the strange history and conflicted future of the song, what makes it so catchy, and how it came to be.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
25/02/19·38m 47s

The Grifter

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Brett Johnson was a career criminal: a fraudster, a con man, a cyber criminal, but now he’s a legal person operating on the right side of the law, helping companies stop people like he used to be. His story is the stuff of a movie like Catch Me iI You Can, it involves wild scams, narrow escapes, redemption, and even a trip to Disney World. Throughout his criminal career he defrauded people on the street, on eBay, on criminal web forums, within the justice system, and even inside the United States Secret Service. There’s great entertainment value in Brett’s story, but there’s also a great deal of complication to it, too. Real life isn’t as neat and tidy as a movie, and the ending is yet to be written.  Today we explore Brett’s story, first by letting you enjoy it, and then we deconstruct it, to decide if we should.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
31/01/19·54m 16s

Sad Jennifer Aniston

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Jennifer Aniston’s story had it all: Heartbreak, secrecy, sex, betrayal. But what it also had was a new kind of tabloid: Us Weekly and its copycats. Brad Pitt leaving Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie would have been a huge Hollywood scandal no matter when it happened, but it became an even bigger one because it was turbocharged by these tabloids. Almost 15 years later, the tabloid In Touch ran an issue with the headline “Brad Stuns Jen! Marry Me again!” What is going on? How is it still going on? Why is it still going on?  This is the last episode of Decoder Ring for 2018. See you in the new year.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
03/12/18·44m 20s

The Incunabula Papers

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Ong's Hat, or The Incunabula Papers, is a conspiracy theory that arose on the early internet. Combining cutting edge science, mysticism, and obvious hokum, it intrigued thousands of people who tried to find out what it all meant. Today we uncover the secrets of Ong's Hat, the man behind it, and the new art form it inadvertently birthed. Check out our showpage at slate.com/culture/decoder-ring This episode is brought to you by the following advertisers: Aleph Mattresses, a handmade mattress experience: TrustAleph.com ② Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
29/10/18·53m 49s

Hotel Art

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Hotel Art used to be one of the ultimate symbols of bad taste, it was often ugly, kitschy, and strange. Today, the art you find in a hotel is far less likely to be the result of one individual's poor taste, and much more likely to have passed through an entire industry designed to help place art into hotels. Hotel art is now almost universally pleasant, if anodyne. How did this happen? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
01/10/18·32m 57s

The Paper Doll Club

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Paper dolls were a ubiquitous part of children’s lives for decades, and then mostly disappeared. David Wolfe was a boy growing up in the 1950’s, with paper dolls as his primary means of accessing a world of glamour and beauty that he didn’t see at home in Ohio. He’d go on to a career in fashion, guided by his paper dolls, just as paper dolls were falling out of fashion themselves, replaced by Barbies and other plastic dolls. This episode is about paper dolls, and their surprising connections to fashion, nostalgia, queerness, and David’s extraordinary career. Producer Benjamin Frisch co-hosts the show to explore the story.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
27/08/18·39m 4s

The Basement Affair

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. What are the real reasons people go on reality TV? This episode follows the story of Ann Hirsch and Cathy Nardone, two women cast on VH1’s “Frank the Entertainer...In a Basement Affair”, a show about an adult man looking for love—while living in his parent’s basement. How did one performance artist and one accidental performance artist make it onto the show? And how did they behave once they made it there? Their story highlights the ways that reality television distorts narratives, obscures intentions and stereotypes women, yet is still irresistible to audiences and performers alike.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
30/07/18·43m 47s

Clown Panic

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every month host Willa Paskin,Slate’s TV critic, takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speak with experts,historians and obsessives to try and figure out where it comes from, what it means and why it Matters. Today: The clown has existed in various forms for thousands of years, what changed and made us suspect and fear them? The modern birthday clown is a very recent invention, by going back into the history of clowns and clowning we see that clowns are far more complex and capable of far more expression than the kids entertainment of Bozo and Ronald McDonald. How those complex figures transformed into obligatorily sunny commercial mascots may also explain why they are increasingly seen as sinister today.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
25/06/18·38m 16s

The Johnlock Conspiracy

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Who gets to decide if Sherlock Holmes is gay? For over a century, fans of Sherlock Holmes have been analyzing, debating, and creating new texts with Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters. Decoder Ring explores the Johnlock Conspiracy, a fan theory about the BBC TV show Sherlock, positing the inevitability of a gay romance between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. With interviews from historians, journalists, and fans at the heart of this controversial idea, this episode explores this theory, how it played out in the real world, and whether this kind of fandom is a meaningful way of interacting with fiction. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
04/06/18·52m 32s

The Laff Box

Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Welcome to Decoder Ring! Decoder Ring is a monthly podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every episode we’ll take on a cultural object, idea, or habit and speak with experts, historians and obsessives to try to figure out where it comes from, what it means and why it matters. Why do we get so invested in fictional romances? What does it mean to wear a baseball hat backwards? Why do we clap? What do people think about all day? Decoder Ring explores questions and topics you didn't know you were curious about. In our first episode, we ask: What happened to the laugh track? For nearly five decades, it was ubiquitous, but beginning in the early 2000s, it fell out of sitcom fashion. What happened? How did we get from Beverly Hillbillies to 30 Rock? We meet the man who created the laugh track, which originated as a homemade piece of technology, and trace that technology’s fall and the rise of a more modern idea about humor. With the help of historians, laugh track obsessives, the showrunners of One Day at a Time and the director of Sports Night, we wonder if the laugh track was about something bigger than laughter. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
30/04/18·32m 57s
-
-
Heart UK
Mute/Un-mute