Roman Mars on Bullseye

Roman Mars:
This isn’t quite 99% Invisible but I am Roman Mars. A couple months ago, as you probably know, we released our first book, The 99% Invisible City. It became a New York Times bestseller — and it makes a great gift. I am contractually obligated to say that. But one of the things that happens when you go out promoting a book is that you get interviewed A LOT. And one of those people that interviewed me is probably my favorite interviewer, Jesse Thorn of the NPR show Bullseye. And he’s also the head of the Maximum Fun podcast network.

This interview was really fun and it actually got surprisingly personal and I thought would be interesting for fans of 99% Invisible. So here it is. This is me on Bullseye with Jesse Thorn.

Jesse Thorn:
It’s Bullseye. I’m Jesse Thorn. My first guest this week is Roman Mars. Roman hosts the podcast 99% Invisible. It’s a show about the little-known stories behind everyday design and architecture. Things like prefab homes, trash can design, those little ramps you see on sidewalk corners. How and why did stuff like this come to be?

Now after the show has been around for just over 10 years Roman is exploring those same themes in a book. The 99% Invisible City is a beautifully illustrated look at how cities work and why they work the way they do. Roman is also the founder of the podcast network Radiotopia. He’s worked in podcasts and radio for decades. I’ve known him for nearly as long. He actually came up with the name for this show, Bullseye. He sent it to me in an email list of ideas. Unsolicited, by the way. Anyway, I’m really excited to talk with Roman about his new book, so let’s get right into it. My conversation with the great Roman Mars.

Jesse Thorn:
Roman Mars, welcome to Bullseye. It’s nice to talk to you.

Roman Mars:
Oh, it’s so good to be here. Thank you so much.

Jesse Thorn:
So congratulations, Roman, on finally utilizing a visual medium for your design and architecture podcast. [LAUGHTER]

Roman Mars:
Well, you know, it is a long time coming. A big leap, but we finally did it. Yes.

Jesse Thorn:
When you started 99% Invisible as a radio show and podcast, originally, it was kind of like made to order. It was in part driven by the desire of the AIA, an architecture trade group, to have an architecture show.

Roman Mars:
Yeah.

Jesse Thorn:
And I wonder whether you would have done a show on that subject had someone not suggested that it might be cool. And what you were worried about, about trying to do audio about design.

Roman Mars:
I mean, I think I already had the interest in architecture, but I don’t know if I would have necessarily jumped on it as a subject had someone not requested it. But what I always knew was like, I like the idea of doing it on the radio because I knew that I and other people had real biases when it came to the image of buildings, the way buildings looked. And I was really interested in the problem solving and design aspect of buildings. And I thought that actually, on the radio, it actually made you understand the story of a building before you had the visual image. And that could make you love or appreciate a building in a different way. And I always thought that was our secret strength, actually, as a show.

Jesse Thorn:
Well, let’s talk about buildings for a second. The show covers much, much, much more than buildings. But what is an example of a building that is if someone looked at it, they might not appreciate it in the way that they might appreciate it if they knew its story.

Roman Mars:
Well, you know, one of the first buildings I ever really appreciated in this way was when I was in Chicago, I was working at WBEZ and I took the architectural boat tour that the Chicago Architecture Foundation gives. So you go on this big boat and a docent tells you stories about the buildings as you go along the river. And there’s this one building in the Montgomery Ward complex that’s the headquarters building, and it’s a really basic rectangular building, but it has these big concrete corners on it. And I pass it all the time. I never cared for this building. I thought it was boring, modernism, really ugly. And then the docent told the story of the fact that the reason why has these big concrete support columns on the corners was because the Montgomery Ward company at the time prided itself on this egalitarian hierarchy, and they didn’t want their vice presidents fighting over who got the corner office. And so they made a building that eliminated any possibility of a corner office at all. And it just kind of made me love it. And, you know, before I thought of it as nothing, ho-hum kind of building. And then I noticed, like, oh, there’s real genius even in the architecture that I don’t appreciate.

Jesse Thorn:
It’s interesting, architecture and design are fields that, like any other specialized field, they’re prone to specialization of knowledge and intense connoisseurship and professional knowledge. And it is stuff that Joe Blow off the street might not get. They’re also, at least theoretically, specifically created to be accessible, to be used.

Roman Mars:
Yeah.

Jesse Thorn:
And that’s kind of an interesting tension to me. Like, I think of all, like, buildings on college campuses that the students all hate.

Roman Mars:
Yeah.

Jesse Thorn:
Mostly but not exclusively made of giant blocks of concrete.

Roman Mars:
It’s true. I think that’s what I love the most about it. And I think that the show takes into account the fact that this is the art and design that we live in, and it makes us feel a certain way. And we actually preference that when we present architecture like we’re not just the academic list of -isms, of modernism and brutalism, you know. I like to pay attention to how these buildings make us feel. And that is part of the story. And it really is accessible because you feel it regardless of whether or not you know anything about architecture. You feel this sort of sense of like wonder. Like there’s a reason why when you go to Washington, D.C., you kind of feel the Federal Government. You feel this sort of glory in this stuff. And they were on to something when they did that. And you kind of feel the heaviness of brutalism. And then maybe I can tell you a little bit of the story of it to make you change your mind a little bit. To get beyond your initial visceral reaction to it. But that initial visceral reaction is totally valid and is part of the design and is worth talking about. I love the unintended and intended consequences of someone’s intent when they design something. And that weirdness that you might feel for some crappy concrete building that you have on campus. The Mudd Library at Oberlin is a brutalist, like, masterpiece, and everyone complained about it when I was there. Like everyone thought it was oppressive and horrible. And it kind of is. But it’s also glorious, too. And I just, I didn’t know enough to appreciate how it was glorious.

[BREAK]

Jesse Thorn:
It’s Bullseye. I’m Jesse Thorn. My guest is Roman Mars. He’s the founder of the Radiotopia podcast network. He’s also the host of the show, 99% Invisible. I’ve listened to the show since, not to brag, but the first episode.

Roman Mars:
I know you have.

Jesse Thorn:
But I’ve listened to the show forever and I remember very early on in the show’s run, having a conversation with you about it and you telling me that one of your guiding principles for the show was no stories about people, just stories about stuff.

Roman Mars: [LAUGHS]

Jesse Thorn:
And I have to say, you know, all these, you know… A decade or so in, you have done a pretty good job of sticking to that. I mean, sometimes you have to tell the stories of people to tell the stories of stuff.

Roman Mars:
Yeah.

Jesse Thorn:
But it’s never like ‘meet the man behind the Golden Gate Bridge.’ It’s ‘this person did this interesting thing that created the Golden Gate Bridge.’ Why did you leave aside the number one easiest technique for feature journalism, which is this is the life story of the person behind the thing that you know.

Roman Mars:
We do it occasionally, and I do like humans to show up in the story. And I do think that the story of the stuff is the story of humans and our values and the things we care about. But there’s just something more fun about making a story about bigger ideas than a person and their feelings and not boiling everything down to some personal story. Like when you’re watching like a biopic. And then there’s that moment in the biopic, which is so on the nose as to why a person did a thing that you know they did later. And it’s so just… this is painful. Like it’s cliche. It’s hard to watch. And I just wanted to always make it about the idea. And there’s great characters in there like, you know, the Curb Cuts episode wouldn’t have happened without Ed Roberts. And Ed Roberts is a real character, but it’s about things that are not just him, but about all these things around him. And I just think that’s a more fun story to tell.

Jesse Thorn:
Tell me a little bit. We haven’t even given an example of a 99% invisible story. So let’s take that Curb Cuts episode. What was the design that that episode was about?

Roman Mars:
It was really about those little tiny four-inch ramps that make it so that a sidewalk doesn’t come to a cliff, you know, when it reaches the street and makes it so that it’s accessible to people in wheelchairs, but also makes it more pleasant for all kinds of people who have a hard time stepping up, for people who are pushing a stroller or in any type of mobility that’s different from a completely healthy young person. And it’s about those and about the fact that they really do symbolize this movement that Ed Roberts was a huge part of. He was the first quadriplegic to be accepted to UC Berkeley and UC Berkeley ungrudgingly sort of made accommodations for him. And he always pushed for it and pushed for other people. And these curb cuts became the symbol of making a more accessible world, which led to the ADA and all kinds of progression and all kinds of progressive advancements in terms of people with different abilities.

Jesse Thorn:
I don’t think it ever would have occurred to me that sidewalks existed without curb cuts and it feels like a big part of the show and a big part of the book is revealing the iceberg under the surface of the water behind things that you might not have considered, like curb cuts. You might have just walked up them your whole life and they never occurred to you that they made sidewalks without them, as it probably wouldn’t have to me. And there’s this whole story underneath there.

Roman Mars:
Yeah, I mean, that’s what the name is, 99% invisible. It’s that the physical object is just 1% of the story in the history behind that thing. And what I love about it is in the 10 years we’ve done the show and with the book and as it’s being introduced to new people, is that there are these stories everywhere and they’re really gratifying when you find them in the most mundane things. Like you notice them for the first time, even though you’ve passed them all the time and you notice this richness there, and then you begin to, you know, have a little bit more fanciful, interesting day because there must be more stories about this other stuff. And maybe I’ll look that up. Or maybe there’s something about that in the book. And that’s the part I love about it. It’s really fun to give people the sort of permission and a little bit of the prompt and the guide to help them find stories and delight right outside their door.

Jesse Thorn:
You’ve always been a guy, in my experience, who really loves learning about something, and I think all the time of this origin story you told me about how you became a public radio person. Which, I mean, I guess 99% Invisible is no longer technically a public radio program, but certainly remains deeply rooted in public radio.

Roman Mars:
In spirit, for sure.

Jesse Thorn:
And it was basically you are getting a Ph.D. in genetics studying corn.

Roman Mars:
Mm-hmm. (affirmative)

Jesse Thorn:
And you’re listening to Talk of the Nation when the great Ray Suarez was the host of that show. And you thought, well, I don’t think I could do what Ray Suarez does, but I could probably be the guy that looks it up and puts it on a piece of paper and handed it to him.

Roman Mars:
That’s exactly what I thought. I didn’t know what that job was, but I was like, somebody reads the books and helps him be so good on the air. And I would be really good at that job. That’s what I felt like I could do. And so that’s what I went to pursue.

Jesse Thorn:
So what was the thing that made you feel like you could be good at that job, but that you didn’t want to be a professional scientist. You were, you know, you were very close to getting your Ph.D. I mean, you were 21 or some Doogie Howser age, but you were very close to getting your Ph.D. at the time. So what led you to think I would be better at that than at being a scientist, a job that also involves looking stuff up a lot?

Roman Mars:
Well, I think to be a scientist – and I didn’t know this because I was very good at studying science, but I didn’t really have the experience of being an actual scientist – and there’s a real difference in the type of… I don’t know. It’s like ego, but I don’t mean that in any pejorative sense that you’re driven by the thing you want to discover so much. Like you want to be the person that does it. You want to devote all this time. And I just was like, well, I just kind of want to know things. And it’s a whole lot easier just to read about things other people discover if you just want to know things. And because I kind of knew I was wired that way and I was a very poor bench scientist, like in terms of like pipetting things into tubes, I was extremely lazy, bad at it. And all those sort of things together, I realized that I just really liked the pursuit of knowledge. And I thought that graduate school was just going to be a continuation of being in college, which is what I really wanted to do. And so I just thought that this job of being a radio producer was kind of like being in college forever. And it turned out I kind of was. I write papers every week. I study things. You know, it’s kind of just undergrad. I just never left Oberlin.

Jesse Thorn:
I’m very grateful for the help that I have making this show. Kevin’s on the line right now, so I wanted to — my producer — so I wanted to make sure I said that out loud. But you and I share the experience of having – and it’s an unusual experience – of having made a public radio show by ourselves. I made this show by myself for many years. And you made Invisible Ink by yourself. And for a long time, you made 99% Invisible by yourself as well.

Roman Mars:
Yeah.

Jesse Thorn:
Although, you know, you had people contributing here and there in the early days. What did you learn from having to go on the air once a week, by yourself? Without anyone to check if what you were doing was good and without anyone to see how they were reacting to it? I mean, that’s one of the specific radio things, is it’s such a vacuum.

Roman Mars:
Right.

Jesse Thorn:
What did you learn from generating that much stuff that regularly?

Roman Mars:
I mean, I think you learn a couple of things and they’re kind of almost the opposite things. Which is like you learn to have a certain amount of self-discipline and to listen to yourself and listen to your work, to the point where you’re so done with it that you’re sure it’s good enough. And then you also learn if it isn’t great or isn’t perfect, it’s okay. It ain’t that big a deal, that you have to put something out next week and it’ll be fine. And I think that those two things helped me as a podcaster because I think one of the issues with podcasting, in general, is people get into it and they love it and they love to be producing stuff and they love to be talking and connecting with people and all kinds of other things. But they didn’t have that time where they had to discipline themselves. And in terms of the radio clock and how to fit stuff into time and how to not waste your audience’s time. And I think that the work kind of suffers because of that. And so I’m glad I had a period of time where I was like a meticulous self-editor because it made me better today. But I’m pretty loose when it comes to that stuff. Like my team, 13 people work on the show now, including me, and they work in different capacities but, you know, they’ll pick out little things to pull out or to change or to have me retake something. And I’m just like, that’s fine. I don’t know why you’re complaining. And I think that’s just from doing it for 20 years. And they’re still in that stage where you have to do it perfectly. But they’ll get to where I am.

Jesse Thorn:
And I think that is such an essential and underrated lesson, though. And it’s like such a classic drama of the gifted child lesson to have to learn. Like I see it with my kids right now. And I certainly… It’s something that I can relate to, which is, you know, for much of my life, certainly my childhood and adolescence, my only solution to my perfectionism was just not to try and do anything. And I think one of the reasons that stage performance and going on the radio once a week was appealing to me was that you have to do it. And when it’s done, it’s done. You can’t worry about whether it was – because you’ve got to work on the next one.

Roman Mars:
Totally. I think it’s an important lesson. I think it’s really good. I remember I was, you know, I know a lot of people in public radio because of how I came up. And I was once, you know, like visiting WHYY in Philadelphia and watching Terry Gross do her show live. And she kind of puts it together live even though there’s some stuff that’s prerecorded. And I’m sitting in the back with their director, Roberta Shorrock, as she’s training the new director. And we’re just like chit-chatting and stuff. And I’m like, do you have to pay attention here? And she’s like, no, he’s got it. He’s doing a good job. Besides, it’s not brain surgery, it’s radio. If you mess up, we’ll be fine. And I just remember that I took so much heart in that because it’s totally true. Like I want it to be good. I have a contract to my audience to make something valuable to them and not waste their time. And then beyond that, you know, like the story of the show is something that is a 10-year story. It’s not it’s never encapsulated into one episode. And so you just have to kind of let some of that go, you know, while still maintaining like a quality that you’re proud of. And I think we do that each week, but it’s good to let some of it go.

Jesse Thorn:
When you go to a new city, in times when traveling to new cities is possible or advisable, what is the first place you go or the first thing you look for or the first thing you ask about?

Roman Mars:
I mean, what I think is fun now is if I’m feeling in the mood for it, and it takes a specific mood, is I kind of let people know if I’m going to go someplace. If I’m doing this the best way and people know I’m coming to Pittsburgh or coming to D.C. and then they’ll say, “Oh, I can let you into the top of this building” or something like that. And that’s sort of the privilege of having, like, a show about design and architecture is people will give you secret tours to things. You know, I like to walk a lot. And so I look for places where I can walk and experience the city that way. But each city is really, really different. And so it’s kind of hard to generalize. But I do like a good tiny museum, like a weird, specific, tiny museum is like always-.

Jesse Thorn:
I went to a museum called Modo in Mexico City last summer, which is the Museum of Everyday Objects. My Spanish isn’t strong. My memory is Objeto del Objeto or something along those lines. And man, that was so great. I loved it.

Roman Mars:
The Postal Museum in D.C., like you can go to all these-

Jesse Thorn:
Shout out to Owney, the Postal Service dog!

Roman Mars:
Yeah, there’s nothing like it.

Jesse Thorn:
This is a taxidermy dog that wears a vest covered in postal medals.

Roman Mars:
It’s heavy with postal medals. And you’re like, poor dog.

Jesse Thorn:
They had to give him a new vest because he had too many medals on the first pass. But he rode postal trains and postal inspectors and postal employees would give him medals at each post office he went to.

Roman Mars:
Yeah, it’s great. It’s a great story. I like a good- if there’s a chance for taxidermy at a museum, I’m like oh man, especially weird taxidermy.

Jesse Thorn:
I also think that there are places that reveal themselves more easily than others. Like you lived in Chicago. I visited Chicago a number of times. I’ve taken that architectural tour that you described. But I think you would be hard-pressed to walk around downtown Chicago and not appreciate it. It’s totally beautiful, like spectacularly beautiful whereas I live here in Los Angeles and, you know, Los Angeles is every bit the great city Chicago is. But, you know, I’m not going to lie. There’s a lot of ugly in L.A. and a lot of the best stuff in L.A. somebody’s got to tell you about because it’s a whole hassle to get there.

Roman Mars:
Yeah. And that’s why I either talk to someone who’s like a friend or I let people know who don’t know me but know me through the show. And you need a guide for most cities. Like you’re totally right. Like Chicago lays itself out for you, like it is there to be appreciated, you know. And they focus on that. But L.A. is a place where you are told about a place that takes 45 minutes to drive there. And it’s like a great hot dog stand or whatever. And food is a good way to sort of get you in a lot of different directions, which is another way I like to navigate a city is through food. And that’s a great way to experience a city. And I do like those cities where somebody has to be your guide. They’re just kind of harder for sure, but they’re worth it.

Jesse Thorn:
What are some things when you are walking around in Oakland, California, where you live and you see that your eyes might not have landed on and appreciated before you did this show?

Roman Mars:
Oh, yeah. Well, this show really opened my eyes and lots of ways. So I love sidewalk stamps. Often the construction company who laid the sidewalk, if they did a building and then they tore up whatever sidewalk there was, if there was a sidewalk, and then they laid another one down, and they often put an imprint of the company on the sidewalk. And those are all over the Bay Area. And you can even see the evolution of a company. There was one that got Schnoor pavement and then there was Schnoor and Sons and then Schnorr brothers. And you can see the evolution of like, okay, bringing the kid into the business, and then dad retires. And if you walk around Berkeley streets, you can see these stamps and they have so much history in them that I think is really amazing. And I love the different easement markers that are like these little tiny embedded plaques that are like “this space is not dedicated” or something like that which are basically markers because the part of the sidewalk is often owned by the person who owns the building, not by the city, but they’re giving permission for the sidewalk to be there in order to sort of avoid adverse possession, meaning that the city just takes over because they’ve had it for so long. They have to put these markers around to say, what? No, I own this property. I’m going to let you use it for now. But I own it. And I love that kind of weird, like legal, strangely bureaucratic information layer on the city. And I think that those things, because they’re so mundane and because they have this legalese language, I think they’re easy to not appreciate or not really think about. But, I think about all the stuff that came before it and the cool kind of story there. And I kind of like it’s awkward bureaucratic mess. And I don’t think I ever would have found beauty in that before the show.

Jesse Thorn:
There’s one of those sidewalk stamps outside my house that’s relatively old for Los Angeles. I live in a relatively old neighborhood for L.A. and it’s dated 1923 and maybe 50-100 feet past that sidewalk stamp, the road ends. There is in fact, not a sidewalk. It’s just a narrow concrete road and turns into dirt. And whenever I see that 1923 I think that is almost a hundred years that they have not finished this road. Like 97 years ago they were like, ‘yeah, we’re about three quarters done, we’ll get there,’ and then they just bailed.

Roman Mars:
There’s a story there. I don’t know what it is, but there’s definitely a story there.

Jesse Thorn:
We’ll finish up with Roman Mars in just a bit. After the break, we’ll talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the design of cities and which of those changes might become permanent.

[BREAK]

Jesse Thorn:
Welcome back to Bullseye. I’m Jesse Thorn. My guest is Roman. He’s the host and creator of the design podcast, 99% Invisible. He just released a new book based on that podcast. It’s called The 99 Percent Invisible City. It’s available now. Let’s get back into our conversation.

So one of the stories about design that’s often investigated on 99% Invisible is the tension between the world as it is designed by designers in the world as it is used by users. You know, the classic example, being a park with paths – concrete pavers or whatever – and then all the corners have diagonal dirt paths through the grass because people don’t want to make 90 degree turns to try to take diagonal routes. And I feel like living in a pandemic, we are seeing design as it is practiced flourishing around us simply because it was something that was not planned for.

Roman Mars:
Yeah.

Jesse Thorn:
And something that we don’t have enough understanding of necessarily to make perfect plans about. What do you see around you in terms of design that is a response to the pandemic?

Roman Mars:
Well, I mean, that’s what I love most about cities, is I think that this city is this ongoing conversation between top-down design and bottom-up intervention, and that’s where all the stories come from. And if I could boil down the show, that’s kind of what the show is about in the end. And so desire paths is a perfect example of that. And what I noticed in response to the pandemic was… what I first noticed was how quickly everything happened like the tape on the floor and the plexiglass and all that stuff went up so fast. And I was sort of bowled over by the ingenuity of everyone affixing plexiglass to counters in ways. Like having like a two by four and then an eye hook and then a string and then plexiglass hanging and then it being bolted to the edges. I just was sort of amazed by how quickly all that stuff came up. And, you know, some of it’s super kludgy and some of it’s not very fun to navigate.

But I mean, one of the things I noticed about the pandemic was how it’s illustrating how ad hoc and haphazard the evolution of a city is. And it’s always been this way. It’s just like we’re seeing it in real-time as we’re dealing with the pandemic. And that is super fascinating. The parts that they can take on on their own.
And then there was a whole response during the summer with all the protests and, you know, like plywood coming up and then how people kind of respond to it. Especially in Oakland, you know. Like they’re trying to, like, express solidarity and they’re like, please don’t smash this because I have this Oscar Grant poster up or something like that, or a George Floyd mural. And there’s that response where people are trying to express themselves and say that we’re part of this, too. And we’re expressing our support. And that conversation is what makes a city interesting. And that’s the stuff I like to look at. And what will be interesting to see is what stays. You know, like I’ve noticed that the tape on the floor has turned into design decals where they have little footprints and they have a little statement on them but say, you know, social distancing, six feet, or something like that, whereas it used to just be blue painter’s tape or something. And, you know, maybe that stuff will stick. Maybe it won’t. Maybe the sidewalk cafes will. The parklet and all that stuff that people are experimenting with will stay. You know, it’s hard to say.

Jesse Thorn:
This is very personal to you because you lost your father to COVID very recently.

Roman Mars:
Yeah, I did. Yeah.

Jesse Thorn:
And I saw that one of your first reactions to it publicly was upset over the system.

Roman Mars:
Yeah.

Jesse Thorn:
And not, you know, not necessarily the system in the Rage Against the Machine sense, but that if someone had been at the wheel doing some designing and thinking systemically that maybe your father would still be alive.

Roman Mars:
Yeah, I was… It was one of the big almost overriding emotions when it came to him and his sickness and death. And one of the things I felt a ton of was just how unnecessary his illness was, because it was a thing that the federal government just didn’t take on. And it’s become a political thing. And, you know, he died unnecessarily for dumb politics because somebody couldn’t get out of their way enough to just like to care about the citizenry and this is what governments are for, you know.

And I’m a believer in government. So I live on the opposite spectrum of so many things when it comes to Donald Trump. But one of them with him and a lot of his Republican compatriots is that I believe in government. I believe that government is a representation of the things we do that we can’t do alone and that we work together to create a better world together. And we do that and we call that government. And that’s not something to be ashamed of or to be dismissed or something that needs to be made so small as to be nonexistent. And this is a time when we need it because an individual’s response, like there’s nothing that my father could do, like he caught COVID in the hospital. Like he was undergoing another procedure for… he had some vascular disease. He was not a healthy man. And so that made him susceptible to COVID. But, you know, he did the things that you’re supposed to do, at least, I hope, in terms of keeping him safe from coronavirus. But he caught it anyway, because there’s a health system in Ohio just overwhelmed with COVID cases and that they’re being overrun with COVID cases is something that we could have stopped.

And it makes me mad that we didn’t stop it. It makes me sad that we don’t stop it. It’s a tragedy that we don’t stop it and we’re still not stopping it. We’re still like having fights about the politics of masks and staying home when there’s real things at stake here. And they seem abstract to people, but they’re not abstract. You know, there’s a quarter of a million people have died. And this requires system thinking. It requires us thinking about the whole because the little parts of the sacrifices, the little parts of the things we have to do… I understand that they don’t seem that important because you live your life a certain way and you’re healthy in a certain way. But the totality of these choices, they have to be thought of as a designed system. And if they’re not, the response is and the result is people like my father die.
I was really uncomfortable with the single day that I put that on Twitter and like seventy thousand people shared it or liked it or something like that. I was really overwhelmed by being the center of people’s emotions for that day. That’s not a place I love to be, but I do think it’s important for people to share those experiences.

Jesse Thorn:
Yeah, well, thank you for taking this time and thanks for your great work, I’ve loved your show for so long and I’ve been… I love the book and I’m very grateful to consider you a friend. So thanks, Roman.

Roman Mars:
Thank you so much. I’m so grateful. I mean, I should let people know that you telling people to listen to the show, 90% Invisible, was one of the first ways we got an audience. So I’m grateful for you.

Jesse Thorn:
Well, you helped invent this show.

Roman Mars:
And yet do people know that? That I named Bullseye.

Jesse Thorn:
Yeah, you named it. Roman Mars, it was great to talk to you about your great book and your great show. Thanks for coming on, Bullseye.

Roman Mars:
Always my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Jesse Thorn:
Roman Mars. The 99% Invisible City is available to buy now. You can get it from your local bookshop or on the 99% Invisible website.
That’s the end of another episode of Bullseye. Bullseye is created from the homes of me and the staff of Maximum Fun in and around greater Los Angeles, California. Where, you know, they say red tape prevents you from building homes here in Los Angeles but they sure are building one right across from my living room. So, you know, sorry if you’ve heard it. The show is produced by speaking into microphones. Our producer is Kevin Ferguson. Jesus Ambrosio and Jordan Cowling are associate producers. We also get some help from Casey O’Brien and Kristen Bennett. Our interstitial music is by Dan Wally, also known as DJW. Our theme song is by The Go! Team. Thanks very much to them and to their label, Memphis Industries, for letting us use it. If you want to hear the latest about what we are up to, you can keep up with the show on Twitter @Bullseye, on Facebook at facebook.com – Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, and on YouTube. Just search for Bullseye with Jesse Thorn. We host all of our interviews there. And I think that’s about it. Just remember, all great radio hosts have a signature signoff. Bullseye with Jesse Thorn is a production of MaximumFun.org and is distributed by NPR.

Roman Mars:
That was me talking with my friend Jesse Thorn. You should really listen to his interview with David Letterman this year. It’s like in my top five favorite podcast episodes of the year. We will be back with me hosting our annual mini-stories next week.

  1. Suzanne Lander

    I have delivered food through the pandemic and I have loved noticing the little things restaurants have done to facilitate picking up orders. My favorite thing, though, is how quickly restroom trash cans were moved closer to the doors. Restrooms that only had air dryers before would have new paper towel holders. Where there was only an installed trash can away from the door, a new mobile one would be added closer to it. Everyone seemed to consider all at once that even more people than usual would be using paper towels to open doors.

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