99% Invisible December 28, 2015 | By

Podcast Perusal #14: “99% Invisible”

Annie listens to a throwback 99PI.

The Background:

It’s already one of those weeks, and it’s only Tuesday. You can’t find your glasses, so your head hurts. You are drinking multiple cups of coffee to survive the workday, but you don’t normally consume caffeine, so your head hurts. You can’t sleep very well because there are a million things on your mind, from the job, to last-minute gift shopping, to knowing that unless you bite the bullet to buy a real winter jacket, you may actually freeze this year. So, your head hurts. I picked this week’s episode because “99% Invisible” sounded so appealing for the day.

[I’ve been told that my attempts at dry humor do not translate well on paper, so I feel it necessary to include that if you heard me say any of this, you’d be laughing with me.]

99% Invisible is a “tiny radio show about design and architecture.” What a great description. This episode, The Sound of the Artificial World, perfectly fits; not even 5 minutes long, the episode describes the significance of creating artificial sound where it doesn’t necessarily belong. It was over before I even really knew what was happening.

Side note: 99% Invisible is covered on Audiologue by none other than Eric McDaniel – I recommend that you check out his reviews!


The Review:

The brevity was surprising, appealing, and annoying, all at once. I really enjoyed the sound effects, and I definitely could have done at least 10 more minutes of listening to the subject. The truth is that I had never even considered the subject matter of the episode. I learned that there are people who worked incredibly hard to make sure that the Walkman made a ‘clicking’ noise when it closed. That was weird to me – I figured that was just the mechanics of the machine. But it turns out that there is a great deal of effort put into making objects sound the way that people think they should sound, even if they don’t naturally make that sound. Take, for example, the clicking of the keyboard on the iPhone (if you have that setting turned on). Apparently, it is much better received when these objects have those kind of sound effects. I hadn’t really thought about it before.

No one really knows this about me, but I’m someone who enjoys little clicking sounds on an irrational level. There is one scene in each of the movies Black Beauty (the 1994 version) and Lone Survivor that I literally rewind upwards of 12 times so that I could listen to the sounds. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about the sound of crunching gravel/little-clicking noises that I just really, really enjoy. I’ve been known to creep out two different high schoolers that I babysit, because I sit with questionable proximity to their desks (even if it means sitting on the floor) so that I can hear their pencils or pens scratching. I often got distracted during calculus exams because the noise of people hitting the calculator buttons in utter silence was all too distracting.

It’s pretty weird. I fully acknowledge it. Literally, though, faintly clicking heels in an echoing hallway have been known to stop me mid-sentence.




Listen to the episode. It’s only 5 minutes long. To be clear, the more recent episodes are anywhere from 14-21 minutes long (based on a random selection from the website), so if you want something more substantial, it’s definitely an option.


About the Author

Annie Ungrady is a writer at Audiologue, where she writes a weekly column called Podcast Perusal with her impressions of classic podcast and radio episodesYou can email her at annie@audiologue.xyz.

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