This American Life

Note 1: WordPress is now importing all my rewrites, so I’m typing this from scratch. AARRGGHH!

Note 2: They’re haunting me! After my rant and update, I turn on Terry Gross and what do I hear?! Keith Richards!! Again!!! Enough already!!!! Now we know that Mick is a combo of James Brown and Maria Callas. Whoopee!!!!!

Main event: This entry should have gone up ages ago. I love the radio show This American Life. The title defines its mission with stories real and fantastic that grab the heart and stimulate the mind. I’ve never heard a bad story, though some are more stellar than others.

TAL producer Ira Glass started his radio career in NPR news programs. One of his early successes was finding a gem of a performer and writer in David Sedaris whose “SantaLand Diaries” aired years ago for the first time and nearly paralyze me with laughter every time I hear it. This part of the Christmas episode is a must listen. The best: As Crumpet the Elf, Sedaris tells a naughty boy that Santa no longer delivers coal. Instead he comes into  steal things — the furniture, the electrical appliances, everything.

Sarah Vowell, another TAL star, has an outrageously unradio voice, rather like a five-year-old on helium. My favorite is her squeaky “Trail of Tears.” Despite her voice there is real pathos here as she revisits the places wehre her Cherokee ancestors lived and and died, and traces their painful voyage from Georgia to Oklahoma.

TAL covers the landscape literally and figuratively, and Glass’s vision keeps it together. The key elements remain the same, as he told the Seattle Times: “characters you can relate to. The plot has to be surprising, leading to thoughts about the world that are interesting and universal. Even stories of life-changing, traumatic events can lack surprise.”

While each show generally has three or four acts that follow the theme of the week, TAL sometimes offers an hour-long episode as it did with “Trail of Tears.” “Petty Tyrant” is another such, the seemingly fantastic but true story of a man who terrorized an entire school district for years.

And perhaps the best all time TAL story, also a one-episoder (is that a word?), concerned the international price fixing conspiracy operated by Archer Daniels Midland. “The Fix Is In” had more twists and turns than a John LeCarre [no accent aigu] and as much suspense. Anna and Ashley and Kathryn and I listened to the story as we were driving up the coast north of San Francisco. TAL episodes make for perfect travel companions.

There is also a TAL TV show but early reviews discouraged me from watching. Perhaps someday soon. …

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This American Life

They’re haunting me! After my rant and update, I turn on Terry Gross and who do I hear?! Keith Richards!! Again!!! Enough already!!!!

Main event: This entry should have gone up ages ago. I love the radio show This American Life http://www.thisamericanlife.org/.” Its The title defines its mission with stories real and fantastic that grab at the heart and stimulate the mind. I’ve never heard a bad onestory, though some are more stellar than others. .

TAL pProducer Ira Glass started his radio career as a producer for in NPR’s news programs. One of his early Earlysuccesses was on he found finding a gem of a performer and writer in David Sedaris whose “SantalLand Diaries http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=161Fyi6fid0” aired years ago and nearly paralyzes me with laughter every time I hear it. It is a must listen. The best: As Crumpet the Elf he tells a naughty boy that Santa no longer delivers coal. Instead he comes into the house and steals – the furniture, the electrical appliances, everything http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqYw5ZQU6Mk&NR=1. David also channels Billie Holiday in fabulous fashion.

Of course David spawned a career for his sister Amy, whose Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People includes a wind chime made from rusty nails.

Sarah Vowell, another TAL star, has an outrageously unradio voice, rather like a five-year-old on helium. My favorite is her squeaky recreation the Trail of Tears http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/107/trail-of-tears. Despite Sarah’s voice, there is real pathos here as she revisits the places where her Cherokee ancestors lived and traces their painful voyage from Georgia to Oklahoma.

Though the show TAL covers the landscape literally and figuratively, and Glass’s vision keeps it together. The key elements remain the same, as he told the Seattle Times http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/thearts/2012672399_glass20.html: “characters you can relate to. The plot has to be surprising, leading to thoughts about the world that are interesting and universal. Even stories of life-changing, traumatic events can lack surprise.”

While each show generally has three or four acts that follow the weekly themethe theme of the week, they Glass sometimes produces one an hour long episode as he did with “Trail of Tears. “Petty Tyrant” is one another more recent version of suchthe long form. It The story seems too fantastic to be true, but Steve Raucci really did terrorize the Schenectady, New York, school system for years before being brought to justice.

And perhaps the best all-time story, also, a one-episoder (is that a word?), concerned the years-long international price fixing conspiracy operated by Archer Daniels Midland. “The Fix Is In http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/168/the-fix-is-in” had more twists and turns than a John LeCarré spy novel and as much suspense. Anna and Ashley and Kathryn and I listened to it as we were driving up the coast north of San Francisco. They TAL episodes make perfect travel companions.

There is also a TAL TV show, but early reviews discouraged me from watching it. Perhaps someday soon …

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One Response to “This American Life”

  1. What I’m Reading Now « Lizr128′s Blog Says:

    […] thinking it would be good light reading. It is and it isn’t. The monologues included on This American Life are mostly wildly funny with small pinches of pathos. The full length versions of the essays? short […]

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