Stuff You Should Like: This American Life

October 26, 2008 at 12:52 pm 3 comments

First, you must be familiar with the joys of National Public Radio.  NPR specializes in commercial free news and information, funded by government grants, corporate sponsers, and donations from listeners.  From “All Things Considered” to BBC World News, there’s no other place on the airwaves delivering such consistently reliable, trustworthy information.

However, what I really love about NPR, and I mean LOVE, is the program This American Life.  You’re probably familiar with it.  Dorky, squeaky-voiced Ira Glass hosts the show every week, and each week there’s a different theme.  It’s not exactly news, although the stories tend to tie into current events.  One week, the topic is “Summer Camp”, and the typical three acts of the show are comprised of stories of wildly varying stories from kids or grown ups relating their summer camping experiences.  The next week, the theme is “Life After Death”, featuring the story of a kid who half-jokingly taunted the devil, and then had his best friend struck down by lightning.  The next story that week is even less light hearted- an Iraq War veteran suffering PTSD attacks his girlfriend with a knife.  It’s a grab bag of awesomeness that oscillates between being gut-pukingly funny and heart-wrenchingly sad.  A girl talks about how Phil Collins helped her get over a breakup on one show.  On the next, Dermot Mulroney reads an Etgar Keret short story.

I can’t ignore the presence of the This American Life tv show, also hosted by Glass, which is basically the same as the radio program but accompanied by gorgeous cinematography.  However, the power of the voice and the nostalgic effect of radio makes the audio version more dear to me.  The pacing of the show is brilliant.  It takes full advantage of its allotted hour- rich in content, but never feeling rushed.  A song marks each act break, and the stories themselves are often punctuated by music to help set the tone.  The soundtrack ranges from the score of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to the most stunning string arrangements of Led Zeppelin songs I’ve ever heard.

Glass is the perfect host- knowledgable, friendly, and full of curiosity.  While a standard radio voice is like a leather-bound tome, Glass is more like a worn, familiar paperback.  He’s the kind of celebrity you feel as if you could instantly be friends with.  I love those glasses, too.

The best part of all of this?  It’s public radio, so it’s free.  If you don’t have a radio (who does, in 2008?), you can subscribe to the weekly podcast.


Entry filed under: Betty, Miscellaneous Musings. Tags: , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. arikjames  |  October 26, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    He looks eerily like my ex-girlfriend’s dad. Seriously, add 30 pounds and it’s the same person.

  • 2. parkrangerolivia  |  October 26, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    oh DERMOT. take me now or lose me forever.

    and by forever i mean never. so, you know, whenever you can, Dermot.

  • 3. Betty  |  October 27, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Well, Arik, I have to conclude that your girlfriend’s dad is TOTALLY BANGIN.


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