44 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

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.6 • 1.3K Ratings

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

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.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    The Philosophy of Vampires

    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

    • 37 min
    You Just Lost The Game

    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

    • 26 min
    The Alberta Rat War

    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

    • 42 min
    The Great Helga Hype

    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

    • 56 min
    Selling Out

    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

    • 50 min
    Tattoo Flash

    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

    • 50 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
1.3K Ratings

1.3K Ratings

leesalr ,

Podcast

Awesome!!!!

netherland again ,

People Assume

The post WWll era wasn’t about grown up children starry eyed about technology they didn’t understand. Instead it was the government corruption Eisenhower warned about in his fair well speech. Through campaign finance, official policy was shaped in the image of extreme profits for the companies that were also campaign donors. The Decoder Ring has missed the mark and the main lesson of the 20th century
Van Gogh was fatally shot a day before he passed. It was an accident committed by a boy who was regretful and Van Gogh took the blame to keep the kid from being charged with murder

qaisnt ,

The Portlandia of Podcasts

The Portlandia of podcasts… and it doesn’t know it. An irony within an irony. What happens when schools replace US History with “Hurt Feelings of the Last 300 Years”. Life is apparently absolutely brimming with surprises for this smug, unhappy generation.

Listening to the over-“intelligent” and under-educated dissect the mundanity of life with all the surprise of a caveman - sorry, cave-PERSON - exploring a transistor radio, is mostly entertaining (thus 3 of 5 stars).

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