From chop suey to Estonian customer service, I’ve learned so much from podcasts this week. I share some highlights below, and you should visit  the archive for more recs:

1. AN 11-YEAR-OLD BOY INVENTED THE POPSICLE.

Stuff You Missed in History Class, Aug. 24 episode

In this ep, we learn about a strange, lengthy legal battle between Popsicle and the Good Humor brand. (And yes, popsicles were invented in the early 20th century when an 11-year-old boy accidentally froze a drink with a stick and, wham-o, realized it was delicious.)

2. THERE ARE MORE CHINESE RESTAURANTS IN THE U.S. THAN ALL MCDONALD’S, BURGER KING, AND KFC LOCATIONS COMBINED.

Gastropod, Aug. 25 episode


A standout episode examines the history of Chinese restaurants in America, from the invention of chop suey to the controversy surrounding MSG.

3. YOU’VE HEARD OF ANDROGYNY, BUT HOW ABOUT “PANDROGYNY”?

The Talkhouse, Aug. 25 episode


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A fascinating conversation between musicians Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!) and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV) explores gender, sexuality, rock ‘n’ roll, and so much more (including, yes, Caitlyn Jenner). P-Orridge also discusses the concept of “pandrogyny” and the conflict that can arise over something as simple as using a public restroom.

4. IN ESTONIA, GOVERNMENT WEBSITES ACTUALLY WORK.

Reply All, Episode 34


You don’t need to work in government to know that U.S. government websites are, for the most part, problematic and confusing. Reply All names some of the worst and tells us about one country that gets it right: Estonia. (Another place that understands technology and customer service: Disney World.)

5. THE 1986 FILM ‘QUICKSILVER’ WAS SUPPOSED TO BE KEVIN BACON’S MEAN STREETS.

Off Camera with Sam Jones, Episode 35


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Jones’s lengthy interview with Kevin Bacon is a must-hear for fans (or a must-watch, since video is also available). The duo discusses Bacon’s recent work, but I was particularly engrossed by the tales of his early days, like how the box-office dud Quicksilver morphed from a gritty New York picture into a weird San Francisco-set flick that tried to capitalize on Footloose’s success.

6. SOMETIMES, IT TAKES 30 OR 40 TRIES BEFORE A BOOK COVER IS APPROVED.

Slate’s Working, Aug. 16 episode

In the season finale of this podcast, Knopf book editor Jordan Pavlin describes her job and how it has changed in the last 25 years. She talks about the importance of a good cover and says some titles have gone through dozens of book jackets before one is finalized. 

7. WES ANDERSON LOVES WHOOPI GOLDBERG.

Bret Easton Ellis Podcast, Aug. 24 episode


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Goldberg made headlines earlier this year when she said there’s “not a lot of folks of color” in Wes Anderson’s movies and, during actor Jason Schwartzman’s appearance on The View, gave him her resume. This week, Schwartzman told Ellis that Anderson is a fan of Goldberg’s and was happy to hear she enjoys his work, too. So who knows what may happen next …