18 episodes

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 Slate Magazine

    • Documentary

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.

    Murphy's Law

    Murphy's Law

    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. 
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    • 38 min
    Gender Reveal Party

    Gender Reveal Party

    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.
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    • 40 min
    Bart Simpson Mania

    Bart Simpson Mania

    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. 
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    • 48 min
    Ice Cream Truck

    Ice Cream Truck

    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.
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    • 41 min
    Pillow Talk

    Pillow Talk

    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. 
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    • 30 min
    Chuck E. Cheese Pizza War

    Chuck E. Cheese Pizza War

    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.
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    • 48 min

Customer Reviews

alicht929 ,

Interesting Deep Dive into Strange Topics

This is a really fun podcast that takes a look at odd cultural (often pop cultural) phenomenon. Things that all around us that we never really think that deeply about. The host is engaging and the topics are well-researched. I really enjoy this podcast and would recommend it to anyone!

schooleyks ,

Elvis Cameo

Today I was watching “To Grandmother’s House We Go”. It’s a holiday classic with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. In the movie they go to Chuck-E-Cheese! In the background you see the dancing Elvis and all around the restaurant. Check it out!

otter_blues ,

Mostly good

I enjoy the topics, the narration, and the research/information. Sometimes I feel like the conclusions the host draws doesn’t really sum up the whole topic, which can be a little frustrating. Overall, it’s a good podcast and I hope it gets even better.

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