Mini Stories: Volume 18

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Roman Mars: This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars. Happy New Year, beautiful nerds. It’s 2024, and it is Mini Stories: Volume 18. To ease this into the new year, we have stories of buildings constructed from the sky to the ground, the little filler words that convey nothing and everything at the same time, and a song about a fire that never goes out. Let’s do it. So, I’m here with Kurt Kohlstedt–digital director and coauthor of the 99% Invisible City. And you are here to tell us about the newest, most unlikely craze in skyscraper construction. What do you got? 

Kurt Kohlstedt: Yeah, well, we’ve already covered a lot of different ways of putting up and taking down buildings on the show and in our book. And, you know, there’s bottom-up construction and there’s both top-down and bottom-up demolition, which are pretty fascinating. But now there’s actually something in that fourth quadrant of building that I don’t think we’ve ever talked about before. And that’s top-down construction. 

Roman Mars: Okay. You’re going to have to break this down for me because I cannot imagine how you build a skyscraper from the top. 

Kurt Kohlstedt: Yeah. Yeah. Good question. So, there’s this new tower in Detroit, which is a great example. This is called Exchange. And its levels were built in reverse order–the top floor first and the ground floor last. Here’s a photo that kind of shows you how this is working, like, midway through the construction process. 

Roman Mars: Okay, I see. So, it kind of looks like the top half of a skyscraper, but with legs on it. So, I gather that these thick concrete pillars are kind of holding up the top half of the skyscraper. 

Kurt Kohlstedt: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And part of what I find so fascinating about this is that at a glance, it looks really uncanny. Like, we’re not used to seeing skyscrapers being held up primarily on a couple of spindly legs. But that’s not a reflection of a really big structural difference in how this works versus other skyscrapers. It really is a function of what we normally see and don’t see in the construction process. So underneath it all, this actually works much more like a normal skyscraper than you might imagine. 

Roman Mars: Okay. What do you mean? 

Kurt Kohlstedt: Right. So, the big difference in construction technology is framing cladding versus masonry. And masonry is how we’ve built for most of our history. And when you’re building with masonry units, like bricks or stones, you start at the ground level, and you stack upward, right? Masonry walls end up supporting their own weight and the weight of whatever’s above them. Skyscrapers work fundamentally differently. In those, the exterior walls clearly aren’t structural, right? Like, you don’t hold things up with glass. Instead, what’s holding up the building are internal elements, like steel reinforced concrete columns or, in the case of this top-down tower, a steel reinforced pair of concrete circulation cores. And each floor is built around these vertical supports. And in the end, the whole exterior is just a wrapping of metal and glass that make up these walls that shield us from the elements. They’re not holding up things. 

Roman Mars: Right. So even though the process of building this particular top-down building reveals its legs, so to speak, every skyscraper has those legs. That’s really what holds a skyscraper up, however you build it. 

Kurt Kohlstedt: Pretty much, yeah. Like, most skyscrapers have cores of some kind that work like these stilt legs–they offer structural support, and they house circulation, meaning staircases and elevator shafts. But in a typical skyscraper, you might also have smaller columns spread out across each floor, helping further distribute loads. And if you’re building floor by floor, that’s a pretty easy way to do things, right? You build one floor, you add an array of columns to support the next, and so on and so forth. But in this top-down case, where you’re lifting each floor up, that would be a huge pain because each built-on-the-ground level has to be raised around any vertical supports that go all the way up. And it’s easier to just have these two big pant holes for those stilt legs in each level than to have tons of smaller holes for each and every little support. 

Roman Mars: And so, in the end, it really does look like a normal tower. Like, when it’s done, you wouldn’t know how it was constructed. So then why? 

Kurt Kohlstedt: It’s cool, but why? Well, safety is, like, one of their big arguments for this because instead of sending people up onto these high floors–which, you know, start without walls–the walls are already there when the floors get lifted into place. So, there’s no way for, like, a worker on a high floor to fall off the building. Similarly, you’ve got all these odds and ends and processes that go on typically up high, like cranes lifting stuff into place. And all of that can now happen on the ground, which means, again, you’re not going to have something drop from a crane on your head. 

Roman Mars: But there must be some kind of complication with lifting an entire done floor up. What are we talking about? Like, how much do they even weigh? 

Kurt Kohlstedt: Well, about a million pounds each. So, yeah, it’s not an easy task, right? Like, it’s very tricky. And what they did is they used these things called “strand jacks.” Now, I could nerd out about this technology for a while, but suffice it to say, a strand jack is a hydraulic lift system that gets used when nothing else will do. And they have enough power to pull and lift things like oil rigs, which weigh tens of thousands of tons each. So, if it gets built on shore, they can drag it offshore with strand jacks. 

Roman Mars: And so, you would hook up the strand jacks to these sort of concrete stilt legs, and they just kind of pull up each floor. 

Kurt Kohlstedt: Yeah. And highlights another advantage of this approach, too, because by raising things straight up, you reduce the need for the construction site to spread horizontally. Like, normally you’d have a lot of stuff going on around the building, right? You’d have cranes, and they’d have to be across the street, possibly. And all of that stuff takes up space. And in this particular case, space was really at a premium, and they couldn’t build it that way. So, this was really in part a site-specific solution. And there are elements of this that are not new. Lifting prefabricated elements into place is something we’ve done for a while. This is just–no pun intended–taking things to the next level. So, you know, lifting not just wall panels and boxes and things, but like entire completed floors. 

Roman Mars: I’m pretty sure that pun was intended, but I’m going to allow it. 

Kurt Kohlstedt: Okay. It might have been. 

Roman Mars: So, you mentioned the site specific one in Detroit to solve the problem of not being able to spread out. But is this really going to be, like, the next big thing? Like, are we going to be hearing about this like I hear about mass timber or something like that? 

Kurt Kohlstedt: I am not sure. I personally love all of this. But it’s one of those “all tools have specific uses” thing. So, I would expect to see this happen more on tight urban sites. I would imagine this will be used more and more over time. 

Roman Mars: That makes sense. So, I have one final question. I imagine the advantage of building things from the ground up is you’re starting where the ground is, so you don’t have to calculate where the building meets the ground. It just happens naturally, you know? But how big of a pain is it to do that final step of putting the last floor on, which is the first floor, and, you know, making it flush with the ground? 

Kurt Kohlstedt: I mean, well, with any tower or construction project, you’re going to be regrading the land anyway. You’re going to be taking away soil or adding soil and moving it around, making sure the building sits flush. And I don’t think it’s fundamentally that different in this case. But it does bring up a good point in general about construction in this building in particular because you look at this facade and it’s got this kind of offset grid pattern, which I found kind of visually interesting. The windows don’t exactly line up like you might expect, and that’s clearly an intentional part of the design aesthetically. But I’m also convinced it gives them this little bit of wiggle room–a little bit of leeway–so that things don’t have to line up and in fact, aren’t supposed to line up exactly. And that’s, to me, a really big part of any big project is, like, there are going to be mistakes made along the way. And there’s going to be, like, little measurement errors that add up. And so, part of the art is covering up those small mistakes and making it look like they’re not there in the first place. 

Roman Mars: Totally. Yeah. And if you’ve ever seen construction, you’d be amazed at how much they’re solving in the moment as it’s being put together. It’s so cool. Well, this is awesome. I love this stuff, and I can’t wait to see a top-down construction building with little legs on it sometime in my future. 

Kurt Kohlstedt: They’re so cute! 

Roman Mars: Yeah, it’s adorable. Thank you so much, Kurt. This is great. 

Kurt Kohlstedt: Yeah. Thank you. Roman. 

Roman Mars: So, I’m here with Joe Rosenberg. Hey, Joe!

Joe Rosenberg: Hey, Roman. How’s it going? 

Roman Mars: It’s going well. You know, minis always make me happy. So, what do you have for us? 

Joe Rosenberg: Well, for this mini, the first thing I want to do is play a clip for you. It’s of Emilia Clarke. She’s a British actress, perhaps best known from Game of Thrones. And this is a clip of her on Jimmy Kimmel doing a voice–doing a bit. 

Jimmy Kimmel: I’d love to hear your American accent. 

Emilia Clarke: Well, it was late, so my American accent kind of changed a little bit into, um, Callie from the Valley. She’s, like, this whole, like, situation. 

Joe Rosenberg: And the thing I want to focus on about this clip is not the Valley girl accent, which we should probably do a whole other story on. But it’s about the “likes”–all of the “likes” she’s peppering into her speech. 

Emilia Clarke: Yeah, we had, like, a really good time. I got so close to, like, getting Jai to buy me, like, a $700 air conditioning unit. 

Jimmy Kimmel: Did you base that on someone you know? 

Emilia Clarke: I, like, love Clueless. 

Roman Mars: Yeah, she’s good at that. 

Joe Rosenberg: Yeah, she is uncannily good. And as a person who grew up, you know, maybe a mile and a half from the Valley, I think she has my number because the thing is, “like” is my weakness. I am a hardcore liker. And to be clear, I don’t just, like, pepper in the occasional “like” because when I get tired, I do, like, the multiple machine gun “likes.” You know what I mean? Where I’m like, “Like, like, like, like, like, like.” You know? But it turns out the word “like” as well as the phrase “you know,” which I also just used, when used in this way, are actually a very specific thing called “filler words.”

Roman Mars: I am intrigued, so tell me more about these filler words. 

Joe Rosenberg: Well, filler words, or “fillers,” as they’re often called in linguistics, are things like “like,” “kind of,” “you know,” “basically,” “I mean,” and, of course, the classic non-word fillers–your basic “ums” and “uhs.” And when we hear someone else use them, we tend to think of the person as somehow just not having it together or being dumb or vapid. But that’s why I wanted to share this mini with you because it turns out filler words are not, in fact, something to be ashamed of. When we use them, we’re not being idiots–or at least not entirely. Instead, filler words actually serve a really important function. 

Nick Enfield: So, the kind of first big thing I’d want to point out about filler words is that they’re informative. They carry information that is, uh, useful to people. 

Joe Rosenberg: This is Nick Enfield. He is a professor of linguistics at the University of Sydney and author of the book How We Talk. And he says the reason fillers and filler words are so important is that most of the time when you’re talking, you’re talking with another person. You’re having a conversation. It’s this kind of creative act that you’re participating in together. 

Nick Enfield: And so, time is moving fast. And in a way, you need to do your part to cooperate with that person–don’t waste your time too much. And at the same time, you’ve got your own sort of selfish interests. You might want to continue to be the person talking. And so, it’s important to kind of have what we call “traffic signals” in the use of language. 

Joe Rosenberg: And by traffic signals, he means that we constantly have to send each other signs, letting the other person know where the conversation might be going, who should be talking when, all these little things that kind of regulate the flow of the patter. 

Nick Enfield: And so, there’s a whole level of language which is really about structuring language itself. 

Roman Mars: That’s interesting because he’s talking about filler words almost like they’re body language. But unlike with body language, where I feel like I’m often aware that I’m doing it and I could rattle off kind of the rules of what each little movement means, I’m not so sure I could do that with filler words. Like, it’s maybe just a little more subconscious. 

Joe Rosenberg: No. Yeah. Totally. And once I tell you the rules of how filler words work and the different things you use them for, you’re going to be like, “Oh, God. Of course. That’s how I use them.”

Roman Mars: Okay, so help me break this down. What are some of the rules that I don’t know that I know? 

Joe Rosenberg: So just take something like “um” and “uh,” for example–the classics–which of course are serving the practical function of giving you a moment to think of what to say next, which is something that is inevitable. All people in all cultures have a version of this because none of us are perfect. But there’s all these other things that “ums” and “uhs” do for us. For example, it’s also letting the other person know that you are going to pause so they don’t jump in. And it turns out the length of the pause you’re requesting is actually different depending on whether you say “um” or “uh.” “Uh” precedes a shorter pause. And if you think about it, “um” precedes a pause that is just a little bit longer. 

Roman Mars: Huh. That makes sense to me. 

Joe Rosenberg: Another thing is, you might have noticed that you’re more likely to use “uh” or “um” if you want to signal to the other person that you’re about to abruptly change the subject. 

Roman Mars: Oh, yeah, definitely. I’ve done that before. It’s sort of like, “Um… How’s your partner doing?”

Joe Rosenberg: Right. And your “um” gives me just enough buffer so the change isn’t too jarring. And similarly, “um” and “uh” also precede bad news, so you’re not too shocked. So, I might deploy a well-placed “um” before I tell you, “Um… We broke up.”

Roman Mars: Yeah. Okay. I’m starting to see how these are, um, kind of useful traffic signals, you know? But what about the filler words that are also ordinary words, like “kinda” and “like” and “you know”?

Joe Rosenberg: Well, a lot of those are what Nick would call “demonstratives.” And demonstratives can work like “um” and “uh.” They can serve a similar function. But you can also use them to help your listener kind of put together what it is you’re trying to convey, especially when what you’re conveying has a lot of moving parts. And perhaps my favorite example of a demonstrative providing this kind of structural support is one that isn’t really used anymore. But it’s a word found in that kind of old-fashioned tough guy gangster talk, which if you’ve ever seen, like, a James Cagney movie, you know this word. And not surprisingly, it’s also been highly parodied, as in this clip here. 

James Cagney: Here’s what happened. We’re waiting at the depot in Frankfurt. Understand? When an ammunition train comes through–the longest ammunition train you ever saw. Understand? About three minutes later, you can hear it. Boom! Understand? Broke every window in Frankfurt. Understand? It was gorgeous. Wait a second. I’m not through. Understand?

Roman Mars: That one should be resurrected. That one’s pretty good. 

Joe Rosenberg: Definitely should be reintroduced. And in that case, you can kind of hear how the demonstrative word “understand” is underscoring each separate element of this kind of complex scene, so that you can kind of piece it all together. But also, like a lot of demonstratives, “understand” when used in this way also still retains some of its original meaning. 

Nick Enfield: So, you can sort of tell where those words have come from. And there’s an argument that they kind of carry that meaning into the interaction. But that meaning is what we call, you know, “bleach” because once you start to use a word over and over–the more frequently you use it–the less meaning it tends to carry. 

Roman Mars: Yeah, that makes sense to me. I’m trying to think of what is my kids’ filler word. There’s one that they use all the– Oh, there’s the phrase “to be honest.” And I am sure that when they say, “To be honest,” they do not have meaning associated with it. I feel like they’ve said it so much that they don’t even register it to themselves or that it has any meaning at all. Like, it’s just used so frequently. It’s kind of amazing. 

Joe Rosenberg: Right. So, it’s been bleached. 

Roman Mars: Absolutely. Just bleached out of existence. But it makes me wonder, I mean, like, is it common in other languages to have these, like, really complex, um, filler words and filler phrases even? 

Joe Rosenberg: Oh, my yes. Allow me to direct your attention to the comparative language filler word Wikipedia page. 

Roman Mars: Oh, goodness gracious. Okay, there we go. Oh, my God. 

Joe Rosenberg: And so, you can see, there’s all kinds of sounds and words and phrases that are used as filler. All languages have them. But each language–this is the fun part–kind of does it in its own way. 

Roman Mars: Okay, so I see, like, in Arabic, there’s um, one for, like, “by God,” you know, like “wallah.” There’s what’s-its-name” as a filler phrase. That’s kind of amazing. 

Joe Rosenberg: I love it. 

Roman Mars: In Urdu, there’s kind of a “blah, blah, blah “or “yada yada yada” kind of thing. That’s a good one. And then Argentinian Spanish has a “che,” like “hey,” which became the nickname of Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Wow. Because he used it so much? Well, that’s a tidbit right there. 

Joe Rosenberg: Yeah, that is the fun fact of this mini.

Roman Mars: I love this. American Sign Language–there’s a symbol for “um.” It says it can be signed with an open eight held at the chin and palm and eyebrows down. It’s really kind of amazing that they have that built into sign language as well. 

Joe Rosenberg: Yeah. And I did have to look that up–what the open eight is and how that works. And without making our audience try to visualize anything too specific, it’s very, very similar to holding your finger to your chin and just kind of looking up and pondering. 

Roman Mars: Yeah. So, I get that the “ums” and “uhs” have some regional specificity. But they’re pretty much universal, and so are many of the filler words. But in my lifetime, I saw the ascendancy of “like.” And how does that happen? How does a new one crop up and an old one, like “understand,” go away? That to me is kind of amazing. 

Joe Rosenberg: Yeah, that actually turns out to be a really hard question to answer, first off, because for millennia, obviously there were no recordings–only written records. And just like today, no one writes down the fillers. That’s not how the language usually works, right? So, you can maybe see some more “ers” and “ums” kind of in older texts if you think about it from the 19th century, so maybe people use those more. But Nick says there’s not actually a lot of clues. But here’s where things kind of get interesting and connect back up to this intense stigma we have against filler words, which is that there’s another scholar, Michael Earhart, who’s been looking through the written records. And it seems to be the case that it’s only with the advent of recorded sound that lots of people start to complain about fillers in the first place. 

Roman Mars: Yeah. Yeah. Once we hear ourselves saying these words over and over again, we get self-conscious about them. But we don’t even notice them when they’re happening in real time and not being recorded. 

Joe Rosenberg: Right, exactly. And I actually spoke with Nick about this, and he kind of explained it this way. 

Nick Enfield: One thing that’s worth pointing out about radio and sound recording and podcasts and all of that is that it’s a way of experiencing language where you are not involved in the conversation–you’re not a participant. You’re just sitting back and hearing it. Now, if you think about village life, in some sense, you’re always part of that social situation. Those are going to be your neighbors, they’re going to be your family members, and you’re going to potentially jump into that conversation at any point. But when you start listening to sound recordings on radio and that kind of thing, that connection is completely severed. So, you have this kind of weird luxury of being able to just study the language you’re listening to because you don’t have to track, you know, what you’re going to maybe say next. 

Roman Mars: And this sort of explains why it’s a little more tedious to listen to a recording of lots of “ums” and “likes” because you’re not there in a conversation waiting to jump in or know when you’re supposed to say anything. It’s not providing that structure. It is being presented to you as a recording. And it makes them a little more tedious. 

Joe Rosenberg: Right. And so suddenly, if you’re the listener, you’re going to be kind of impatient. You’re going to say, “Why are you saying all these ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’ and ‘sort ofs.’ That’s of no use to me. Get to the point.” And so, it is with the advent of recorded sound and the radio and the phonograph and things like that that you start to see lots of books and articles about avoiding filler words in, quote-unquote, “proper speech.” But it really also ties into what we do here on the show and pretty much on any radio or podcast program, which is to take out lots of filler words from interviews. And I’ve never consciously thought about it this way before, but I think it’s in part because part of our contract with the audience is that we are preparing something a little polished for them. 

Roman Mars: Yeah. But also, if the whole point of the filler word is to provide that conversational structure and it’s not really a conversation, then maybe there’s a good base reason rather than just being annoyed or find them tedious. There’s a good reason to take them out. I mean, I get rid of a ton of them. I think of it as just the thing that we’re doing out of generosity to the interviewee to make it sound as polished as they probably sound in their head. 

Joe Rosenberg: Yeah. And in fact–just to pull the curtain back a little bit–the phrase “don’t worry” will make you sound really good. 

Roman Mars: Yeah. 

Joe Rosenberg: It has booked me half my interviews in my time as a radio producer. 

Roman Mars: So, when you take this conversation and you cut it down into your mini-story, I’m going to trust that you’re going to make me sound okay. 

Joe Rosenberg: No promises. Nah, that’s all right. I’m just kidding. Of course, as always, we will make you sound really good. 

Roman Mars: Joe, thank you so much for this. This was super fascinating. 

Joe Rosenberg: You’re welcome, Roman. It was my pleasure. 

Roman Mars: Coming up, an underground fire that has burned and will burn for decades and imagining what it would be like to live next to it. A musical mini-story after this. Now that you’ve wrapped up 2023 and are ushering in the New Year, it’s a perfect time to reflect on what truly matters: the people you love most. This year, resolve to keep them safer than ever with the award winning SimpliSafe system, named Best Home Security of 2023 by U.S. News and World Report. And if past is precedent, they will be the Best Home Security of 2024 as well. SimpliSafe is comprehensive protection for the whole home, with advanced sensors that not only detect break-ins but fires, floods, and other threats to your home and get you the help you need. With new 24/7 Live Guard Protection, monitoring agents can actually see, speak to, and confront intruders in your home. As my kids get older and more autonomous and come and go out of the house, like, any time of the day and night, it is nice to have something that allows me just to keep tabs on everybody just a little bit. Keep your home and family safer than ever in the New Year. As a listener, you can save 20% on your new system with a Fast Protect plan by visiting simplisafe.com/invisible. Customize your system in minutes at simplisafe.com/invisible. There’s no safe like SimpliSafe. According to Forbes, January is the hottest month for hiring. And business owners and hiring managers are on the hunt for top talent, which is no easy task. If you’re currently hiring, you can probably relate. It’s challenging to find qualified candidates. That’s why you need ZipRecruiter. ZipRecruiter’s powerful matching technology finds the right people for your roles fast. And right now, you can try it for free at ziprecruiter.com/99. How is ZipRecruiter so effective at finding top talent? Immediately after you post your job, ZipRecruiter’s smart technology starts showing you candidates whose skills and experience match it. And to encourage top candidates to respond to your job post even sooner, ZipRecruiter lets you send them a personal invite to apply. This month, find the talent you need to fill all of your roles with ZipRecruiter. See for yourself why four to five employers who post on ZipRecruiter get a quality candidate within the first day. Just go to this exclusive web address right now to try ZipRecruiter for free. It’s ziprecruiter.com/99. Again, that’s ziprecruiter.com/99. ZipRecruiter–the smartest way to hire. Your business was humming, but now you’re falling behind. Teams buried in manual work, taking forever to close the books. Getting one source of truth is like pulling teeth. If this is you, you should know these three numbers: 37,000, 25, and one. 37,000–that’s the number of businesses which have upgraded to NetSuite by Oracle. 25? NetSuite turns 25 this year. That’s 25 years of helping businesses do more with less, close their books in days not weeks, and drive down costs. And one because your business is one of a kind. So, get a customized solution for all your KPIs in one efficient system with one source of truth. Manage risk, get reliable forecasts, and improve margins. Everything you need to grow all in one place. Right now, download NetSuite’s popular KPI checklist, designed to give you consistently excellent performance, absolutely free at netsuite.com/invisible. That’s netsuite.com/invisible to get your own KPI checklist. Netsuite.com/invisible.

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Roman Mars: So, I’m here with singer songwriter Lizzie No. Hey, Lizzy!

Lizzie No: Hey, Roman. 

Roman Mars: I’m a huge fan of your work, as you know. And I’ve seen you play lots of times. And one of the times I saw you play, you play this song called Centralia, which I love. And it has a very fascinating backstory–a very 99PI backstory. So, I was hoping you could tell us that story. 

Lizzie No: My song Centralia is a fictional song based on a true story about a coal fire that broke out in Centralia, Pennsylvania in 1962. We don’t know for sure what caused the fire. Some people say that the city government was responsible because they were burning trash to clean up the town in preparation for Memorial Day. Some people think it was an act of God or a mystery. But whatever the cause was, the fire started on May 27th and connected with the miles and miles of coal mining tunnels that were underneath the town. There is a lot of compressed carbon down there because of the coal. So, the fire was never able to be extinguished. And scientists think that it could continue to burn for another 250 years. 

Roman Mars: So, the fire started in 1962, is still burning, and will be burning henceforth for another 200 years, they think. 

Lizzie No: Wildly enough, yes. The fire is still burning over 50 years later. And it has caused sinkholes to appear throughout the city and made it totally uninhabitable. There are stories of people’s pets falling into a sinkhole and disappearing–kids falling in. So, the town was naturally evacuated because there was this minefield of sinkholes underneath the city. And the population quickly went from about 1,500 to only about five residents that are left. 

Roman Mars: And so how did you hear about this story? 

Lizzie No: I have a good friend from Pennsylvania who also writes songs and is also kind of a weird history nut. So, she read about this fire and said, “I need to call Lizzie” because she knew I would be bizarrely fascinated by it. So, I immediately went down the Wikipedia rabbit hole and found everything I could possibly get my hands on–from firsthand accounts to environmental reports on the situation in Centralia 50 years later. It’s actually a really fascinating scientific environment. Even though the experiment wasn’t intentional, it’s basically, like, a demilitarized zone where wildlife has reclaimed this whole city and nature has just taken it back over. So, the whole thing is fascinating from a number of angles. What I couldn’t stop thinking about and what wasn’t in any of the reports was a description of what it actually would be like and feel like to be one of those five people that refused to evacuate and is still basically living in a ghost town. So, the song that I ended up writing was basically just me imagining the state of mind that someone would be in years and years later, after your entire city has been destroyed, your community has been evacuated, and you’ve watched the absolute worst thing that could possibly happen to you. 

Roman Mars: And the song is called Centralia. And I want to play it for everybody because I love it. And here it is. 

Lizzie No: Do you want to watch the sun come up Sittin’ in the weeds behind my house Keep our eyes on the planes that fly too low like They’re aiming for the ground Aiming for the ground And do you want to meet me in the middle Of Centralia where the fire can’t go out Find our things exactly where we left them Burning underground Burning underground We’ll make it out somehow And the things that scared us half to death They can’t hurt us now They can’t hurt us now Ten years I’ve been standing in the driveway Watching the grapevines eating up the road And I made up my mind to pull the stakes up About a month ago ’bout a month ago Oh but you close your eyes and everything starts sinkin’ Listen to the crackle of the coal And by the time you make it out your front door The highway’s just a hole The highway’s just a hole But you’ll make it out somehow And the things that scared you half to death They can’t hurt you now They can’t hurt you now Everybody told me I was gonna know when It was time to run But I got cold feet In the cool of the mornin’ When I saw the black smoke risin’ up And we’ll make it out somehow And the things that scared us half to death They can’t hurt us now They can’t hurt us now Do you want to meet me in the middle Of Centralia where the fire can’t go out We’ll find our things exactly where we left them Burning underground Burning underground Burning underground Burning underground

Roman Mars: So that was the song Centralia by my guest, Lizzie No. That was off your first album, right? 

Lizzie No: Correct. My first album, Hard Won.

Roman Mars: I love that album. And what I’m most excited, though, is not your old albums, although I love and listen to your old albums regularly– You’re one of my top artists of the year– 

Lizzie No: Ahhh!

Roman Mars: According to one notable streaming service, along with The National and Taylor Swift and every project featuring Phoebe Bridgers. 

Lizzie No: Make sure you keep that scream in. 

Roman Mars: Oh, I will. But I’m not just excited about your old music. I’m excited that you have a new album which is coming out imminently.

Lizzie No: January 19th. Mark your calendar. I have a new album coming out. It’s called Halfsies. It’s coming out on 30 Tigers and my own label, Miss Freedomland. I am so pumped. 

Roman Mars: You’re going to be touring with it. I already have tickets to see you in Marin, and I’m so excited. So, tell me a little bit about the album and what is going on with you. 

Lizzie No: This new album is a concept album that I like to imagine as a video game. The character is an avatar of me, maybe you, or maybe anyone who’s listening trying to get free in America. And there’s 11 stories of, like, self-discovery, fighting for your life, finding your allies, sharpening your knives, and heading for freedom. 

Roman Mars: That’s amazing. I can’t wait for it. And we’re going to play a song from the new album and let people enjoy that. And then they will rush over to where to go buy it?

Lizzie No: 30 Tigers or Rough Trade if you want a vinyl record. I’m also going to be touring all over the U.S. and Europe, so lizzie.com/tourdates. 

Roman Mars: Awesome. It was so good to have you here. Thank you, Lizzie.

Lizzie No: Thank you so much for having me!

Roman Mars: This is the song Annie Oakley–by my guest Lizzie No–off her new album, Halfsies.

Lizzie No: There’s a ringing in my ear And it’s hot as hell here at The Annie Oakley Feel dirt between the sheets Perforated by the end of a cigarette There’s nothing on TV And I’m thinking to myself, “Maybe I should get some sleep” I should get some sleep But I’ve got half a bottle left Oh, come on inside – sit at my feet Won’t you tell me when it’s time to kill the dream? We drove up to the edge – At least it felt like the edge of the world We were outside Kansas City Lucinda on the radio I’m counting up my tips Is there enough for half a tank? ‘Cause little black girls better move along when the sun goes down in this part of the country Waiting by the side of the highway Oh, come on inside – sit at my feet Won’t you tell me when it’s time to kill the dream? Oh, come on inside – sit at my feet Won’t you tell me when it’s time to kill the dream? Oh, come on inside – sit at my feet Won’t you tell me when it’s time to kill the dream?

Roman Mars: The artist is Lizzie No. The new album is called Halfsies. She is the best. We should all make her the next modern country superstar. We’ll have links to everything about her on our website and in the show notes. 99% Invisible was produced this week by Kurt Kohlstedt, Jeyca Maldonado-Medina, Chris Berube, Joe Rosenberg, and Sarah Baik. Mix by Martín Gonzalez. Music by Swan Real. Kathy Tu is our executive producer. Delaney Hall is our senior editor. The rest of the team includes Emmett FitzGerald, Gabriella Gladney, Christopher Johnson, Vivian Le, Jayson De Leon, Lasha Madan, Kelly Prime and me, Roman Mars. The 99% Invisible logo was created by Stefan Lawrence. We are part of the Stitcher and SiriusXM Podcast Family, now headquartered six blocks north in the Pandora building… in beautiful… uptown… Oakland, California. If your new year’s resolution is to spend less time doomscrolling, why don’t you replace that impulse with some positive scrolling on our website? It’s 99pi.org.

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