Decoder Ring podcast

Decoder Ring

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.

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.

 

#100

Sex, Lies, and Hockey Pucks

30 years ago, the Stanley Cup playoffs ignited a rumor that has been messing with [Jane Macdougall] (https://janemacdougall.com/) ’s life ever since.  In 1994, the Vancouver Canucks had made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the New York Rangers. When they barely lost, fans expected the team to come back blazing the next year. Instead, 1995 was a total letdown. Team chemistry disappeared and fans started looking for an explanation. Quickly, a rumor took hold: a defensive player had been having an affair with the goalie’s wife, which destroyed team morale and left the franchise flailing.  In this episode of Decoder Ring, Acey Rowe from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation traces the Canucks rumor from locker rooms to chat rooms. And she talks to NHL players [Kirk McLean] (https://www.nhl.com/player/kirk-mclean-8449474) and [Jeff Brown] (https://www.nhl.com/player/jeff-brown-8445700) to figure out how a story like this can snowball and survive for 30 years. This episode was reported and produced by Acey Rowe. Story editing by Willa Paskin and Evan Chung. Decoder Ring is produced by Willa Paskin, Evan Chung, Katie Shepherd and Max Freedman. Derek John is Executive Producer. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director. A longer version of this story was published on [CBC’s Storylines] (https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-115-storylines/clip/16073513-what-the-puck-the-strange-story-decades-old-hockey) , part of the CBC Audio Doc Unit. Julia Pagel is the Senior Producer of Audio Docs and Anna Lazowski is the Senior Producer of Special Programming at the CBC.  If you have a cultural mystery you’d like us to decode send us an email at [decoderring@slate.com] (mailto:decoderring@slate.com) . Please subscribe and rate our feed in Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. And even better, tell your friends. If you’re a fan of the show, you should sign up for Slate Plus. Members get to listen to Decoder Ring and all other Slate podcasts without any ads and have total access to Slate’s website. Your support is also crucial to our work. Go to [Slate.com/decoderplus] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

19 Jun 2024

37 MINS

37:55

19 Jun 2024


#99

Captain Planet to the Rescue

In 1990, the cartoon superhero Captain Planet swooped onto TV screens all over the world. He was the brainchild of media mogul Ted Turner, and in the face of impending ecological catastrophe, he had the lofty goal of turning kids into environmental warriors.  In this episode, we’re going to look at how Captain Planet came to be, what he aspired to do, and how much he really got done. Captain Planet’s mission was noble, but was it also naive? How much of an impact can even the most well-meaning fictional superhero have on very real environmental disasters? And can we really entertain ourselves and our children into solving our hardest problems? This episode was reported and produced by Olivia Briley. It was edited by Evan Chung. Decoder Ring is produced by Willa Paskin, Evan Chung, Katie Shepherd and Max Freedman. Derek John is Executive Producer. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director. In this episode you’ll hear from [Nick Boxer] (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1028310/) , [David Coburn] (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0167995/) , [Marsha Goodman] (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0329175/) , and [ Illac Diaz] (https://literoflight.org/) . Thank you to Eugene Linden, Dr. Juliette Rooney-Varga, Mary DeMocker, Claire Reynolds, and Kelly Jones. If you haven’t yet, please 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, please sign up for Slate Plus. Members get to listen to Decoder Ring and all other Slate podcasts without any ads and have total access to Slate’s website. Your support is also crucial to our work. Go to [Slate.com/decoderplus] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

05 Jun 2024

43 MINS

43:09

05 Jun 2024


#98

Why Are We Still Using Fat Suits?

A fat suit is a custom-made costume with one goal: to make an actor appear fat without them actually having to be fat. It’s typically a unitard filled with mattress foam and other wiggly, jiggly bits—but it’s also so much more than that, an embodiment of all our cultural hang-ups about fatness. In today’s episode we’re going to consider the fat suit from all angles: how it’s made, how it’s changed, and why it continues to exist. You’ll hear from [Dawn Dininger,] (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0227716/) [Royce Best] (https://www.rit.edu/directory/rlbdls-royce-best) , [ Amy Farrell] (https://www.dickinson.edu/site/custom_scripts/dc_faculty_profile_index.php?fac=farrell) , [ Hazel Cills] (https://www.hazelcills.com/) , [Mia Mask] (https://www.vassar.edu/faculty/mimask) , and [Matthew Mungle] (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0612817/) . This episode was written and produced by Katie Shepherd. It was edited by Willa Paskin. Decoder Ring is also produced by Evan Chung and Max Freedman. Derek John is Executive Producer. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director. We had mixing help from Kevin Bendis. Special thank you to: Mike Marino, Jacqui Lucey, Gina Tonic, Kate Young, Barbara Miller and The Museum of the Moving Image. If you haven’t yet, please 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, please sign up for Slate Plus. Members get to listen to Decoder Ring and all other Slate podcasts without any ads and have total access to Slate’s website. Your support is also crucial to our work. Go to [Slate.com/decoderplus] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

22 May 2024

36 MINS

36:24

22 May 2024


#97

How the Jalapeño Lost Its Heat

The jalapeño is the workhorse of hot peppers. They’re sold fresh, canned, pickled, in hot sauces, salsas, smoked into chipotles, and they outsell all other hot peppers in the United States. These everyday chilies are a scientific and sociological marvel, and tell a complicated story about Mexican food and American palates. In today’s episode, we meet Dallas-based food critic [Brian Reinhart] (https://www.dmagazine.com/writers/brian-reinhart/) , who fell in love with spicy Mexican cuisine as a teenager. Recently, Brian started to notice that the jalapeños he’d buy in the grocery store were less and less hot. So he called up an expert: [Dr. Stephanie Walker] (https://eps.nmsu.edu/faculty/stephanie-walker.html) , who studies chili pepper genetics at New Mexico State University. She explains that the food industry has been breeding milder jalapeños for decades – a project led by “Dr. Pepper” himself, [Benigno Villalon] (https://www.nytimes.com/1982/12/23/us/new-pepper-is-balm-to-delicate-palates.html) .  Finally, Los Angeles Times columnist [Gustavo Arellano] (https://www.latimes.com/people/gustavo-arellano) puts the jalapeño in context, as part of an age-old cycle in Americans’ obsession with Mexican food: one more ingredient that’s been “discovered,” celebrated, then domesticated. Brian Reinhart’s article about the jalapeño ran in [D Magazine] (https://www.dmagazine.com/food-drink/2023/05/why-jalapeno-peppers-less-spicy-blame-aggies/) . Gustavo Arellano’s book is called [Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America] (https://www.amazon.com/Taco-USA-Mexican-Conquered-America/dp/1439148627) .  This episode was produced by Evan Chung, who produces the show with Katie Shepherd and Max Freedman. Derek John is Executive Producer. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director. If you haven’t yet, please 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, please sign up for Slate Plus. Members get to listen to Decoder Ring and all other Slate podcasts without any ads and have total access to Slate’s website. Your support is also crucial to our work. Go to [Slate.com/decoderplus] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

08 May 2024

32 MINS

32:38

08 May 2024


#96

From ‘The Last Archive’: Building an Automatic Songwriting Machine

We’re bringing you an episode of [The Last Archive] (https://www.pushkin.fm/podcasts/the-last-archive) from our friends at Pushkin Industries. In this episode: an exploration of early artificial intelligence, the story of the composer Raymond Scott’s lifelong quest to build an automatic songwriting machine, and what it means for our own AI-addled, ChatGPT. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

01 May 2024

53 MINS

53:52

01 May 2024


#95

Making Real Music for a Fake Band

Pop culture is full of fictional bands singing songs purpose-made to capture a moment, a sound. This music doesn’t organically emerge from a scene or genre, hoping to find an audience. Instead it fulfills an assignment: it needs to be 1960s folk music, 1970s guitar rock, 80s hair metal, 90s gangsta rap, and on and on. In this episode, we’re going to use ‘ [Stereophonic] (https://stereophonicplay.com/?utm_source=gsearch&utm_medium=psearch&utm_keyword=&utm_content=NowInPerfGoogleSearchV1&utm_campaign=inperformances&gad_source=1&gclid=Cj0KCQjwiYOxBhC5ARIsAIvdH5347qeNGhhrhzeUiCLWM4MwG0Ub9wLUvFhwY6vqFBvK7xOiJejYK6oaAheuEALw_wcB) ,’ which just opened on Broadway, as a kind of case study in how to construct songs like this. The playwright [David Adjmi] (https://www.davidadjmi.com/) and his collaborator, [Will Butler] (https://www.instagram.com/butlerwills/?hl=en) formerly of the band Arcade Fire, will walk us through how they did it. How they made music that needs to capture the past, but wants to speak to the present; that has to work dramatically but hopes to stand on its own; that must be plausible, but aspires to be something even more.  The band in Stereophonic includes [Sarah Pidgeon] (https://www.broadway.com/buzz/stars/sarah-pidgeon/profile/) , [Tom Pecinka,] (https://www.broadway.com/buzz/stars/tom-pecinka/profile/) [Juliana Canfield] (https://www.broadway.com/buzz/stars/juliana-canfield/profile/) , [Will Brill] (https://www.broadway.com/buzz/stars/will-brill/profile/) , and [Chris Stack] (https://www.broadway.com/buzz/stars/chris-stack/profile/) . Stereophonic is now playing on Broadway—and the cast album will be out May 10. Thank you to Daniel Aukin, Marie Bshara, and Blake Zidell and Nate Sloan.  This episode was produced by Max Freedman and edited by Evan Chung, who produce the show with Katie Shepherd. Derek John is Executive Producer. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director. If you haven’t yet, please 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, please sign up for Slate Plus. Members get to listen to Decoder Ring and all other Slate podcasts without any ads and have total access to Slate’s website. Your support is also crucial to our work. Go to [Slate.com/decoderplus] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

24 Apr 2024

41 MINS

41:45

24 Apr 2024


#94

Can the “Bookazine” Save Magazines?

Magazines have fallen on hard times – especially the weekly news, fashion, and celebrity mags that once dominated newsstands. The revenue from magazine racks has plummeted in recent years, and many magazines have stopped appearing in print or shut down altogether. And yet, there is something growing in the checkout aisle: one-off publications, each devoted to a single topic, known as “bookazines.” Last year, over 1,200 different bookazines went on sale across the country. They cover topics ranging from Taylor Swift, Star Wars, the Kennedy assassination, K-Pop, the British royal family, and as host Willa Paskin recently observed, the career of retired movie star Robert Redford. In today’s episode, Willa looks behind the racks to investigate this new-ish format. Who is writing, publishing, and reading all these one-off magazines – and why? Is the bookazine a way forward for magazines, or their last gasp? Voices you’ll hear in this episode include Caragh Donley, longtime magazine journalist turned prolific writer of bookazines; Eric Szegda, executive at bookazine publisher [a360 media] (https://accelerate360.com/business-services/a360-media/) ; and [Erik Radvon] (https://www.radvon.com/) , comic book creator and bookazine fan. This episode was produced by Max Freedman and edited by Evan Chung, who produce the show with Katie Shepherd. Derek John is Executive Producer. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director. If you haven’t yet, please 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, please sign up for Slate Plus. Members get to listen to Decoder Ring and all other Slate podcasts without any ads and have total access to Slate’s website. Your support is also crucial to our work. Go to [Slate.com/decoderplus] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

10 Apr 2024

37 MINS

37:05

10 Apr 2024


#93

Andrew Wyeth's Secret Nudes (Encore)

In 1986, Andrew Wyeth was the most famous painter in America. He was a household name, on the cover of magazines and tapped to paint presidents. And then he revealed a secret cache of 240 pieces of artwork, many provocative, all featuring the same nude female model. This collection, called The Helga Pictures, had been completed over 15 years and hidden from his wife, until they were revealed and wound up on the covers of both Time Magazine and Newsweek. The implication of these paintings were clear: Wyeth must have been having an affair, but then the story got complicated. Was it a genuine sex scandal? A hoax? Or something else entirely?  Some of the voices you’ll hear in this episode include [Doug McGill] (http://www.mcgillreport.org/about) , former New York Times reporter; Neil Harris, author of [Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience] (http://www.amazon.com/dp/022606770X/?tag=slatmaga-20) ; Cathy Booth Thomas, former Time Magazine correspondent; [Gwendolyn Dubois Shaw,] (http://www.gwendolynduboisshaw.com/) art historian and curator; Jeannie McDowell, former Time Magazine correspondent; Chris Lione, former art director at Art and Antiques; [Joyce Stoner,] (https://www.udel.edu/faculty-staff/experts/joyce-stoner/) Wyeth scholar; [Peter Ralston,] (https://www.ralstongallery.com/about) Wyeth photographer and friend; and Jim Duff, former director of the Brandywine River Museum. This episode was written by Willa Paskin and produced by Willa Paskin and Benjamin Frisch. It was edited by Benjamin Frisch and Gabriel Roth. We had research assistance from Cleo Levin. Decoder Ring is produced by Evan Chung, Katie Shepherd, and Max Freedman. Derek John is Executive Producer. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director. A very special thank you to Paula Scaire. If you haven’t yet, please 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, please sign up for Slate Plus. Members get to listen to Decoder Ring and all other Slate podcasts without any ads and have total access to Slate’s website. Your support is also crucial to our work. Go to [Slate.com/decoderplus] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

27 Mar 2024

54 MINS

54:16

27 Mar 2024


#92

Why Stylists Rule the Red Carpet

Like a manager or an agent or a publicist, a stylist has become a kind of must-have accessory for well-dressed, A-list celebrities. It’s just expected that they will have hired someone to select the clothes they’ll wear at public appearances. But this was not always the case.  In today’s episode, Avery Trufelman, host of [Articles of Interest] (https://99percentinvisible.org/aoi/) , will guide us through the collapse of a certain kind of Hollywood glamor; to the rise of a growing, financially rewarding relationship between fashion designers and celebrity culture; and then onto the explosion in red carpet events patrolled by fashion police that helped create this new occupation. This episode was produced by Avery Trufelman and Evan Chung, who produces Decoder Ring with Willa Paskin, Katie Shepherd and Max Freedman. Derek John is Executive Producer. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director. You’ll hear from [Teri Agins] (https://twitter.com/teriagins?lang=en) , [Dana Thomas] (https://www.danathomas.com/) , [Melissa Rivers] (https://twitter.com/MelRivers?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor) , and [Jeanne Yang] (https://www.thewallgroup.com/artist/jeanne-yang) . If you haven’t yet, please 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, please sign up for Slate Plus. Members get to listen to Decoder Ring and all other Slate podcasts without any ads and have total access to Slate’s website. Your support is also crucial to our work. Go to [Slate.com/decoderplus] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

13 Mar 2024

42 MINS

42:54

13 Mar 2024


#91

The Gen X Soda That Was Just "OK"

Thirty years ago, a new kind of soda arrived in select stores. Instead of crowing about how spectacular it was, it offered up a liquid shrug, a fizzy irony. OK Soda was an inside joke for people who knew soda wasn’t cool. But what exactly was the punchline? In today’s episode, we’re going to ask how Coca-Cola, a company predicated on the idea that soda is more than "OK," ever bankrolled such a project. It was either a corporate attempt to market authenticity or a bold send-up of consumer capitalism; a project that either utterly, predictably failed or, perhaps more surprisingly, almost succeeded. This episode was written by Willa Paskin. It was edited by Jenny Lawton. It was produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd, along with Evan Chung. Derek John is Executive Producer. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director. You’ll hear from [Sergio Zyman] (https://www.harpercollins.com/blogs/authors/sergio-zyman-880000027844) , [ Brian Lanahan] (https://www.finnpartners.com/bio/brian-lanahan-2/) , [Robin Joannides Lanahan] (https://medium.com/@robinjoannideslanahan/about) , [Charlotte Moore] (https://charlotte-moore.net/) , [Peter Wegner] (http://peterwegner.com/) , [Todd Waterbury] (https://twitter.com/toddwaterbury?lang=en) , Dustin Ness, and Matt Purrington. Special thanks to David Cowles, Art Chantry, Seth Godin, Jeff Beer, Gabriel Roth, Mark Hensley for all the OK Soda commercials and Mark Pendergrast, whose book [For God, Country, & Coca-Cola] (https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/mark-pendergrast/for-god-country-and-coca-cola/9780465029174/?lens=basic-books) was indispensable. If you haven’t yet, please 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, please sign up for Slate Plus. Members get to listen to Decoder Ring and all other Slate podcasts without any ads and have total access to Slate’s website. Your support is also crucial to our work. Go to [Slate.com/decoderplus] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

28 Feb 2024

43 MINS

43:48

28 Feb 2024


#90

Why Do So Many Coffee Shops Look the Same?

The eerie similarity of coffee shops all over the world was so confounding to [Kyle Chayka] (https://www.kylechayka.com/) that it led him to write the new book [Filterworld: How Algorithms Are Flattening Culture] (https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/695902/filterworld-by-kyle-chayka/) . In today’s episode, Kyle’s going to walk us through the recent history of the cafe, to help us see how digital behavior is altering a physical space hundreds of years older than the internet itself, and how those changes are happening everywhere—it’s just easier to see them when they’re spelled out in latte art. This episode was written by Willa Paskin and produced by Katie Shepherd. Decoder Ring is produced by Willa Paskin, Katie Shepherd and Evan Chung. Derek John is Executive Producer. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director. Special thanks to Ben Frisch and Patrick Fort.  If you haven’t yet, please 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, please sign up for Slate Plus. Members get to listen to Decoder Ring and all other Slate podcasts without any ads and have total access to Slate’s website. Your support is also crucial to our work. Go to [Slate.com/decoderplus] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

14 Feb 2024

33 MINS

33:59

14 Feb 2024


#89

2024 Teaser

We’re back with a new batch of cultural mysteries! This year, we’re putting out more new episodes—like many more of them. We’ll be diving down a new rabbit hole every two weeks all year long. Starting with a question hiding in plain sight: why do so many coffee shops look the same? We’re also heading back to the early 1990s to ask if you can successfully sell a soda by celebrating that it’s just… OK? You can hear these episodes and more on Decoder Ring — now in your feed every two weeks beginning Feb. 14. Make sure to follow us so you never miss an episode. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

07 Feb 2024

01 MINS

01:02

07 Feb 2024


#88

The Forgotten Video Game About Slavery

In 1992, a Minnesota-based software company known for its educational hit The Oregon Trail released another simulation-style game to school districts across the country. Freedom! took kids on a journey along the Underground Railroad, becoming the first American software program to use slavery as its subject matter. Less than four months later, it was pulled from the market. In this episode, we revisit this well-intentioned, but flawed foray into historical trauma that serves as a reminder that teaching Black history in America has always been fraught.  This episode was written by Willa Paskin. Decoder Ring is produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. This episode was also produced by Benjamin Frisch, and edited by Erica Morrison. Derek John is executive producer. Joel Meyer is senior editor-producer and Merritt Jacob is senior technical director. We’re grateful to Julian Lucas for his expertise, reporting, and generosity, without which this episode would not have been possible. His New Yorker article, “ [Can Slavery Reenactments Set Us Free?] (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/02/17/can-slavery-reenactments-set-us-free) ,” revisits the Freedom! story as part of an exploration of the live Underground Railroad re-enactments that Kamau Kambui pioneered. Thank you to Jesse Fuchs for suggesting this topic. Thanks also to Coventry Cowens, Brigitte Fielder, Bob Whitaker, Alan Whisman, Wayne Studer, Alicia Montgomery, Rebecca Onion, Luke Winkie, and Kamau Kambui’s children: Yamro Kambui Fields, Halim Fields, Mawusi Kambui Pierre, Nanyamka Salley, and Kamau Sababu Kambui Jr.  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, please sign up for Slate Plus. Members get to listen to Decoder Ring without any ads and have total access to Slate’s website. Your support is also crucial to our work. Go to [Slate.com/decoderplus] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

15 Nov 2023

47 MINS

47:23

15 Nov 2023


#87

The Dating Manual Unlike Any Other

From the moment it was released in 1995, [The Rules] (https://therulesbook.com/) was controversial. Some people loved it—and swore that the dating manual’s throwback advice helped them land a husband. Others thought it was retrograde hogwash that flew in the face of decades of feminist progress. The resulting brouhaha turned the book into a cultural phenomenon. In this episode, Slate’s Heather Schwedel explores where The Rules came from, how it became so popular, and why its list of 35 commandments continue to be so sticky—whether we like it or not.  Decoder Ring is produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. This episode was edited by Willa Paskin. Derek John is executive producer. Joel Meyer is senior editor/producer. Merritt Jacob is our senior technical director. We’d like to to thank Benjamin Frisch, Rachel O'Neill, Penny Love, Heather Fain, Elif Batuman, Laura Banks, Marlene Velasquez-Sedito, Leigh Anderson, Caroline Smith. We also want to mention two sources that were really helpful: [Labour of Love] (https://www.amazon.com/Labor-Love-Invention-Moira-Weigel/dp/0374182531) by Moira Weigel, a paper called [Shrinking Violets and Caspar Milquetoasts] (https://nyupress.org/9780814761212/shrinking-violets-and-caspar-milquetoasts/) by Patricia McDaniel If you haven’t yet, please 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, we’d love for you to sign up for 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] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

08 Nov 2023

37 MINS

37:35

08 Nov 2023


#86

Mailbag: The Recorder, Limos, and “Baby on Board” Signs

We receive a lot of fantastic show ideas from our listeners—and we’re grateful for each and every one. For our latest mailbag episode, we’re tackling five of your questions, including “Why the hell do we teach kids to play the recorder?” (We’re paraphrasing a bit.) Also: We’ll explore the rise and fall of the stretch limo, the incredible versatility of the word “like,” the meaning of the “Baby on Board” sign, and why it took so long to develop luggage with wheels.  Decoder Ring is produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. This episode was also produced by Rosemary Belson. Derek John is executive producer. Joel Meyer is senior editor/producer. Merritt Jacob is our senior technical director. Thank you to every listener who has submitted a suggestion for an episode. We truly appreciate your ideas. We read them all, even if we don’t always respond. Thanks for being a listener and for thinking creatively about this show.  If you haven’t yet, please 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, we’d love for you to sign up for 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] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

01 Nov 2023

40 MINS

40:50

01 Nov 2023


#85

When Art Pranksters Invaded Melrose Place

In the mid-1990s, the prime time drama Melrose Place became a home to hundreds of pieces of contemporary art—and no one noticed. In this episode, Isaac Butler tells the story of the artist collective that smuggled subversive quilts, sperm-shaped pool floats, and dozens of other provocative works onto the set of the hit TV show. The project, [In the Name of the Place] (https://melchin.org/oeuvre/in-the-name-of-the-place/) , inspired a real-life exhibition and tested the ability of mass media to get us to see what’s right in front of our faces.  Decoder Ring is produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. This episode was written and reported by Isaac Butler and produced by Benjamin Frisch. Derek John is executive producer. Joel Meyer is senior editor/producer. Merritt Jacob is our senior technical director. Thank you to Jamie Bennett, JJ Bersch, Mark Flood, and Cynthia Carr, whose book [On Edge: Performance at the End of the 20th Century] (https://www.amazon.com/Edge-Performance-End-Twentieth-Century/dp/0819568880#:~:text=Book%20overview&text=On%20Edge%20brings%20together%20her,nature%2C%20can%20never%20be%20repeated.) inspired this episode. If you haven’t yet, please 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, we’d love for you to sign up for 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] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

25 Oct 2023

41 MINS

41:34

25 Oct 2023


#84

The Fast Decline of the Slow Dance

Judging from teen dramas on Netflix, the slow dance seems to be alive and well. But when you talk to actual teens, it’s clear this time-honored tradition is on life support. In this episode, we trace the history of slow dancing from its origins in partner dances like the waltz to the modern “zombie sway” seen at middle-school dances and high-school proms. Plus, former slow dancers offer up stiff-armed, nostalgia-soaked stories about a rite of passage that’s fading fast. Decoder Ring is produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. This episode was edited by Zakiya Gibbons. Derek John is executive producer. Joel Meyer is senior editor/producer. Merritt Jacob is our senior technical director. Thank you to Benjamin Frisch and Carlos Pareja. Special thanks to everyone who shared their slow dancing stories, including Ralph Giordano, Matt Baume, Meryl Bezrutczyk, Ari Feldman, Ava Canade, Eileen Zheng, and Harper Kois. Here’s the article by Kyle Denis that we mentioned in the episode: [The Death of the Slow Dance? How the One-Time Rite of Passage Has Evolved for Gen Z] (https://www.billboard.com/music/rb-hip-hop/slow-dance-dead-gen-z-evolution-usher-keke-palmer-1235384473/) .  If you haven’t yet, please 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, we’d love for you to sign up for 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] (http://slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

18 Oct 2023

45 MINS

45:43

18 Oct 2023


#83

Fall 2023 Teaser

We’re back with a new batch of cultural mysteries! This season, Decoder Ring explores the decline of an awkward yet unforgettable rite of passage: slow dancing. And, how did millions of TV viewers miss the experimental art installation that was embedded in the 1990s primetime drama Melrose Place? Plus, stories about stretch limos, an ill-fated video game from the makers of Oregon Trail, and the enduring appeal of a controversial dating manual. Launching October 18, 2023. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

11 Oct 2023

01 MINS

01:00

11 Oct 2023


#82

Think Catchphrases Are Dead? Eat My Shorts.

Once you start listening for catchphrases in everyday life—you can’t stop hearing them. From the radio era’s “Holy mackerel!” to Fonzie’s “Ayyy!” to Urkel’s multiple go-to lines on Family Matters, we explore the irresistible quotables from sitcoms, movies and social media that have burrowed into our collective lexicon. Oh, just one more thing… bazinga! (Did I do that?) This episode was written by Willa Paskin, who produces Decoder Ring with Katie Shepherd. This episode was edited by Joel Meyer. Derek John is Slate’s executive producer of narrative podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our senior technical director. Thank you to Luke Winkie, Stephen Langford, Doug Dietzold and [The Good, the Bad and the Sequel] (https://www.sequelsonly.com/) podcast, and Shawn Green for the suggestion and Urkel clips.  If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, you can email us at [DecoderRing@slate.com] (mailto:DecoderRing@slate.com) If you haven’t 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. As a member, you’ll get to listen to Decoder Ring without any ads—and your support is crucial to our work. Go to [slate.com/decoderplus] (http://www.slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

09 Aug 2023

40 MINS

40:23

09 Aug 2023


#81

The Quest for a Homemade Hovercraft

When Slate’s Evan Chung was a kid, he was obsessed with a mysterious advertisement that ran for decades in the scouting magazine Boys’ Life. Under the enticing headline “You Can Float on Air,” the ad assured Evan—and generations of scouts—that a personal hovercraft could be theirs for just a few bucks.  In this episode, the adult version of Evan journeys halfway across the country to wield power tools, summon his latent scouting skills, and conscript his father into a quest three decades in the making.  Will Evan float on air? Scout’s honor: You’ll just have to listen.  This episode was written by Evan Chung, who produced this episode with Decoder Ring’s Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. It was edited by Willa Paskin and Joel Meyer. Derek John is Slate’s executive producer of narrative podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our senior technical director. If you haven’t yet, please subscribe and rate our feed on Spotify, 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. As a member, you’ll get to listen to Decoder Ring without any ads—and your support is crucial to our work. Go to [slate.com/decoderplus] (http://www.slate.com/decoderplus) to join Slate Plus today.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit [megaphone.fm/adchoices] (https://megaphone.fm/adchoices) ... Read more

02 Aug 2023

42 MINS

42:20

02 Aug 2023