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Anxious Machine

The Heard

Stories about humans struggling with the machinery of modern life.

Stories about humans struggling with the machinery of modern life.
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The Heard


Stories about humans struggling with the machinery of modern life.




Electric Torture Device

A year ago, I launched the first of a three-part series about starting a new kind of podcast company. Then I went silent. This is long-delayed follow up, a story I’m almost reluctant to tell, about what it’s like to walk the fine line between an ambitious dream and a delusion. Support Anxious Machine on Patreon Subscribe (or write a review) in iTunes Links: Radio North The Zoo The Heard Music: CGI Snake by Chris Zabriskie Divider by Chris Zabriskie The Sun Is Scheduled to Come...


If You Could Do Anything?

Sometimes in your life, you reach a crossroads, go on a men’s weekend, spend too much time alone in the forest, have a mid-life crisis, and start thinking you can change the world with your podcast. This episode is about that happening to me. Part one of a three-part series. Support Anxious Machine on Patreon Subscribe (or write a review) in iTunes Links: Startup Music: Opening Credits by johnny_ripper Divider by Chris Zabriskie Audrey by johnny_ripper Mario Bava Sleeps in a Little Later...


Pay Attention All the Time (S3: E2)

Parents of young children have an especially fraught relationship with their smartphones. On the one hand, these devices are indispensable tools for getting things done and staying connected to the adult world while in the midst of childcare. On the other hand, the culture is constantly telling parents, and particularly mothers, that they’re too distracted by these devices, that smartphones are stealing precious attention away from our kids. But the idea that parents should be focusing so...


Do You Feel More Like Gods? (S3: E1)

This past week, my kids went back to school. Summer vacation has come and gone. And that’s gotten me thinking about the very idea of summer vacation because every summer, for the past several years, my wife, her sisters and our families have had this tradition of going to a cabin for a few days to get out of the city. We don’t own a cabin. We have to rent one. And this year, the process of finding it, looking at pictures of all the possible cabins on all the possible lakes, made me wonder...


Bringing Wes Home (S2.5: E2)

Since the wide-spread adoption of embalming in the United States, most Americans have turned the process of handling the deceased over to experts in the undertaking business. On this episode, the story of one family who decided that they wanted to be the ones to wash and prepare the body of the son and brother they’d lost. This episode was previously aired on the podcast Neighbors, one of the podcasts in The Heard. Support Anxious Machine on Patreon Subscribe (or write a review) in iTunes...


A Horrible Experience (S2.5: Remix)

My older brother Scott lives almost completely outside the network of modern life: he has no internet, no email address, no cable TV or satellite, not even an antenna for his television. Until recently, he didn’t even have a bank account or a telephone. In this episode, I try to get to the bottom of why he hates computers, and especially the internet, even thoughthe internet helped him solve a question he’s had since the day he was born. Support Anxious Machine on Patreon Subscribe (or...


This Teleportation Device (S2E6)

Ever since the invention of television, people have been worried about the decline of reading. The latest worry is that, even if the Internet has caused an uptick in reading habits,we are reading on laptops, phones, and tablets, and the research seems to suggest that we remember less of what we read when we don’t read it on paper. On this episode, technology writer Clive Thompson talks about the history of reading as a technology, why we’re worried about its future, and what happened when...


These Things Is Miracles (S2:E5)

When she was growing up, Adrienne didn't want to believe she was losing her hearing, and she didn't want to wear hearing aids. This is the story of how she decided to embracethe technology that restored her hearing, and what happened when she did.


A Piece of Paper (S2:E4)

When I heard the news of the recent Supreme Court ruling on marriage between same sex couples, I wanted to go back to an interview I did in 2009 with two women who decided to get married before it was legal in their state. It’s easy to forget what couples like them had to go through back then— traveling outside of their state to get a legal document that would have no legal standing at all where they lived. I wanted to know why that piece of paper mattered to them. This is their story....


Looking at the Wall (S2:E3)

Amelia’s childhood was largely devoid of technology. But when she got a computer and the internet in her own bedroom, she found the new mode of communication through chatrooms and email utterly addictive. She’s struggled ever since with how much technology she wants in her life, especially now that she’s a mother. Support Anxious Machine on Patreon Subscribe (or write a review) in iTunes Sponsor: Due My video review of Due Links: The Knowledge, London’s Legendary Taxi-Driver Test, Puts Up...


All My Days Have Been Guns

Bernard did not get along with his father, who expected him to work like a full-time employee in the family gas station starting when Bernard was just eight years old. But then Bernard went off to the army, and when he came home, an incident with a gun changed his relationship to his father, to society, and to himself. Subscribe (or write a review) in iTunes Links: The Heard ARRVLS Samuel Colt A Tradition of Arms The Price of Valor Music: LAX from American Residue Records Presents - Last...


S2E1 - Didn't Want to Be Conscious

Humans have been getting intoxicated, and finding new ways to get intoxicated, for thousands of years. On this episode, I explore the history of intoxication, and how that history played out in the life of one young woman. Subscribe (or write a review) in iTunes Links: In researching this topic, I relied on the following sources (in addition to Wikipedia): The Beer Archaeologist ‘Apparently Useless’: The Accidental Discovery of LSD The Trip Treatment The Cocoa Crux Heroin: A Hundred-Year...


Standby 4 - The Question is Ridiculous

I recently decided to ask a big question at a cocktailparty. This episode is about asking thequestion, some of the answers I got, and how that question is shaping the stories I’m trying to tell in the second season of this show. Subscribe in iTunes Share Your Story Music: I Am Running Down the Long Hallway of Viewmont Elementary by Chris Zabriskie Divider by Chris Zabriskie A Void by johnny_ripper


Standby 3 - Every Other Fight

I’ve always loved telling the story of the first (and only) time I got punched in the face, and not because I won the fight. I lost, by a long shot. But it’s a story about standing up to one of the toughest scariest guys in my high school, and it made me feel like a hero. But the stories we tell about ourselves are rarely the whole story. This story changed for me when I decided to pick up a microphone and interview the guy I fought that day. The story I’d been sharing at parties for years...


Standby 2 - Completely Clueless and Completely Paranoid

Sara thought she knew her son, but then a medical diagnosis left her questioning everything. This is the story of how she coped when the medical treatment turned him into a completely different child. Subscribe (or write a review) in iTunes Music: Mario Bava Sleeps in a Little Later Than He Expected by Chris Zabriskie Enough of Our Machines by Son Lux, remixed by jonny_ripper Summa by Tape.


Standby 1 - The Letter

Fewer and fewer people writes letters anymore, especially by hand. It’s a dying technology. But for this episode, I have a story from the 20th century about how a single, handwritten letter changed the course of a life. Subscribe (or write a review) in iTunes Music: CGI Snake by Chris Zabriskie Constellation by Podington Bear


12: Inbox Time Machine

Sarah’s parents got divorced when she was little. She and her siblings stayed with their mom, even though Sarah preferred her father’s company. She only saw her father for dinner once a week and stayed with him every other weekend. When she got to talk to him on the phone, her mother often stood nearby and listened. So when email entered their lives, Sarah finally had a mode of communication with their father that felt private. This is the story of how email affected their relationship,...


11: The Window Seat

Mohamed fell in love with air travel at a young age. He lived in Kuwait, but he would fly with his family back to Egypt at the end of every school year, so air travel was imbued with the pleasure of summer, vacation, family, and fun. Then he grew up and moved to the United States, and suddenly air travel was much more expensive, much more difficult. This is the story of how his relationship to flying changed. Download mp3(Mohamed) Subscribe in iTunes Links: Louis CK on the Conan O’Brien...


10: I Had No Instinct

Kate Hopper had dreamed of a totally natural birth, with no drugs and no medical interventions. But when her baby was born two months early, Kate had to enter the unnatural world of the neonatal intensive care unit, where incubators, tubes, and monitors kept her daughter at a distance, and where Kate had to struggle to find her own identity as a mother. Anxious Machine on iTunes Links: Kate Hopper’s book about her experience: Ready for Air Kate Hopper’s website: Motherhood and Words Music:...


9: I Was Deprived

Tanya grew up in a home with only one approved hour of television a week. She had no music in her bedroom, no cellphone, and no computer access, unless her mother was watching over her shoulder. In Krystyna’s house, on the other hand, the TV was always on, and she could watch whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. She now worries, as a single mother, that her children have too much access to screens, since she has very little time or energy to monitor their usage. The two women take...