NPR: Invisibilia Podcast: The Secret History of Thoughts
January 10, 2015 1:42 PM - Subscribe

New podcast from one of a producer of Radiolab. In "The Secret History of Thoughts," co-hosts Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller ask the question, “Are my thoughts related to my inner wishes, do they reveal who I really am?” The answer can have profound consequences for your life. Hear the story of a man gripped by violent thoughts, and explore how various psychologists make sense of his experience. Also, meet a man trapped inside his head for 13 years with thoughts as his only companion.
posted by Emanuel (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
When I first heard NPR was launching a podcast named Invisibilia, I thought they were trying to poach Roman Mars' (99% Invisible) audience, but the first episode demonstrates it has entirely different subject matter. Both stories were really interesting, and I teared up at the second one (the idea of being stuck inside your mind with no way to express anything, having to watch Barney for hours on end every day, is horrific). That being said, it seems like these stories could just as well have been on This American Life or Radiolab. I found the banter between the co-hosts a bit annoying and trying to sound a bit too much like Radiolab (which took me a while to get used to as well).
posted by Emanuel at 1:48 PM on January 10, 2015


I started this one, but I got seriously annoyed at the "not that I would ever need therapy" crap and stopped shortly thereafter. I might pick it back up, but it left a shitty taste in my mouth.
posted by jeather at 7:10 PM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


The material is definitely interesting, but it is being over-shadowed by the banter and the filigree production. I hope this is just growing pains and that they settle into a good balance.

(I mean, Radiolab was a WTF-love it-kinda still like it sometimes ride for me, but what kept me listening for the longest time was the quality of the stories. Music, banter, and production frills can enhance the listening experience, but I think radio producers should look at what they've done and then deliberately remove the equivalent of one accessory. That said, Invisibilia isn't as much of an offender as the podcast version of TED Talks, which takes a lot of the material already gone through on video and adds the most obnoxious, sappy, and obvious music and effects to the bones of that story.)
posted by maudlin at 7:51 PM on January 10, 2015


I enjoyed the preview from Radiolab and will give the first episode a listen, but I don't know if I can add another hour-long podcast to my limited listening schedule. The preview doesn't strike me as being different than This American Life.
posted by jazon at 9:05 AM on January 11, 2015


The "not that I would ever need therapy" line was a one-off (still obnoxious), but they did that thing that a lot of podcasts are doing now:

Host: He said "I have never been happier."
Guest: I have never been happier.

What is the point? It's so irritating.

It was interesting and I'll give the next one a shot but I am not sure this will be a rush to listen podcast. I did just learn that her name isn't Elise but Alix.
posted by jeather at 11:18 AM on January 11, 2015


I agree with the previous posters that Invisibilia is falling into the same area of the podcast Venn diagram as This American Life and Radiolab, perhaps more to the Radiolab side of the spectrum. I also noticed that pretty much every public radio-related podcast I listen to was plugging Invisibilia this week, which was a tad annoying.

However, I enjoyed this episode. Will it rock the whole landscape of podcasting in the same way Serial did? Unlikely. Will it provide a pleasant alternative to listening to my coworkers at the coffee pot while I shuffle emails around and pretend to look busy at my desk? Certainly.
posted by conradjones at 12:36 PM on January 11, 2015


The content of both stories was good, but I didn't really buy them being linked in any way.

The whole thing seemed to suffer from RadioLab style overproduction.
posted by tjgrathwell at 3:01 PM on January 11, 2015


Finally finished the podcast. I liked the second story more than the first. Still not sure if I'm going to stick with the program, as nothing about it sets it apart from This American Life and Radiolab. The banter between Alix and Lulu felt forced - Jad and Robert on Radiolab have a "Mutt and Jeff" quality that works well, but Alix and Lulu feel like they're trying too hard.
posted by jazon at 5:54 AM on January 12, 2015


I liked this. I preferred the first story about intrusive thoughts. I've been fascinated by the Imp of the Perverse for years after my own experiences with it (thankfully, not pathological). Using that theme as a way to talk about different therapy approaches was really interesting. It made me want to know more about "mindfulness" therapy, what its scientific foundation is.

I agree with the production was a bit too Radiolabish. I literally can't listen to Radiolab, the sound editing is so aggressive it just puts me off. They're clearly using the same techniques but with a lighter hand. I liked the "murder your wife" repetition, for instance, it did a good job conveying the insistence of obsession. (Although holy cow, trigger warning.) But some of the other sound editing was a bit too much, I hope they back off a little. Also I wouldn't mind if the hosts got a little self-conscious about their up-talking.

Boy the podcast stakes are suddenly really high, aren't they? I've been a Planet Money fan for a few years now, but Serial has really raised the bar. I wonder how NPR and PRI are funding all this work? It seems far removed from the usual radio pledge drive.
posted by Nelson at 9:19 AM on January 12, 2015


Thanks to a preview on This American Life I've heard another full episode. Still not sold on the show. I'll give them a couple more episodes to see if it improves but so far it's just more of the same.
posted by jazon at 2:21 PM on January 12, 2015


I was expecting to hate this because the few episodes of Radiolab that I've listened to made my skin crawl (like a reverse ASMR).

I ended up liking it a lot, and I feel like it could fill a gap in my listening that is left by avoiding things like Radiolab (I do listen to TAL and Planet Money so I'm definitely in the NPR podcast demographic).

I agree that the banter between the hosts was just a little too precious. But I hope that things will improve as they find their legs. It's disappointing when podcasts that feature women's voices suck (I'm pretty close to giving up on Oh No, Ross and Carrie) so I'm hoping for the best.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:22 PM on January 12, 2015


yeah, sparklemotion -- the main reason I'll probably end up giving it more of a listen is that it's hosted by 2 women.
posted by garlic at 8:09 AM on January 13, 2015


Funny that several of you mention that you dislike listening to Radiolab. I couldn't get through one episode because it also creeped me out. Glad it's not just me! The sound of this didn't bother me. The hosts' voices were a little high-pitched and up-talky (and very similar as they mentioned!) but didn't veer into Zoe Chace territory.

That said, I really liked this and am looking forward to more episodes. I have anxiety and I majored in psychology which may be why this episode interested me in particular. Anxiety is fueled by automatic anxious thoughts, and is often treated with CBT.

I did feel like I didn't get enough of the story about the second guy. I understand the point that she was trying to make about his thoughts helping him get by, but I am insanely curious as to how anyone combats being "locked in." It seems like TLC/Lifetime TV Special territory!
posted by radioamy at 5:43 PM on January 14, 2015


The Batman story on TAL this week was solid, although some of the affectations (double tracked speech and the like) are still annoying. I'll keep listening.

(I may be one of the few people out there who actually loves the way Zoe Chace talks. YMMV, very obviously.)
posted by maudlin at 7:43 PM on January 14, 2015


I started this one, but I got seriously annoyed at the "not that I would ever need therapy" crap and stopped shortly thereafter. I might pick it back up, but it left a shitty taste in my mouth.
posted by jeather at 10:10 PM on January 10 [+] [!]



A bunch of people made a similar comment on their Facebook page I'm curious to see if they respond in any way. My read is they're trying to do the Jad, Robert back and forth thing and haven't quite landed on it yet. It's the danger of allowing an on air reporter to have a personality. Hopefully they take the note off the comments and work on that. I have to say Lulu stories from RadioLab, Bus stop, and Morality epsodes have been my favorites and I thought Lu vs. Soo was especially interesting, so I'm excited to see what they do with this. They're audio style is strongly influenced by Radiolab with less musical compositional sound scoring and more spoken word, so if you're not into RadioLab because of those doubled speech moments you're going to have trouble with this.
posted by edbles at 10:46 AM on January 16, 2015


I honestly took "not that I would ever need therapy" as a (jokey, self-effacing) admission that not only is she in therapy, she's "out" about it to her co-workers and doesn't so much care if her listening audience knew as well.

If you assume that she's really not in therapy and think that she's above it, then it's just an dickish thing to say, and the line just doesn't work.

If you assume that it's a silly "the woman doth protest too much" dig at herself, it's kind of funny (if maybe a little too twee).
posted by sparklemotion at 1:25 PM on January 16, 2015


I liked this and, like radioamy, I wanted to hear more of the second story: it felt like it cut directly from "I'm completely alone" to "and then he passed the test!" and skipped over the payoff moment: WHEN AND HOW did he finally manage to communicate to his parents and/or nurses that he wasn't vegetative? Instead we got a "oh, it's too complicated" handwave.

An annoying punt, because I thought they did a pretty good job of explaining Freudian vs. CBT vs. third-wave therapy earlier in the episode.

I didn't mind the voices -- and as TAL pointed out recently, complaining about women's voices is kind of endemic in radio -- and didn't mind the Radiolab-ey production. But wow, yes, that throwaway "not that I would ever need therapy" line really jolted me out of the episode for a couple of minutes.

(As an aside, also: the phrasing "And that, my friends, is how..." later in the episode felt too self-consciously folksy to me.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:04 PM on February 3, 2015


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