Saturday, December 18, 2010

Episode 51: Animals Die, People Ponder

Oh, the holiday season...been busy with Christmas prep and finishing up work before break and being sick, so do excuse my lack of regularity in know how that goes, I'm sure.
I will admit that I listened to this episode a week or two ago and it's one of those that was interesting, so I'm just going to hit the high points that I really remember (and there's a few of them, so that definitely lets you know it was a pretty good show).

For the opening, Ira talks to a scholar about parchment and how it was used in books way back when in history. Having taken so many English classes, I thought I knew about parchment, yet it had never really registered parchment could come from animals. Found that quite interesting and pretty cool that I could relate it back to something I learned about in college (sometimes it feels like those things are few and far how proud I am when I can watch a street art video from somewhere that is Spanish speaking and pick up some of what they're saying...).

Next there's a fictional story about a guy who kills his boss. It's animal related, I promise. It seemed to get a little long but is an interesting tale. George Saunders is an interesting writer for sure.

Act three is the story that stuck out the most to me- the story of a guy who cleans up road kill in Chicago. Ira went out with him one day for another show and it was also used in this one. Let's just say this is the take away story for me this time around...I even retold it the next day to a coworker!

Act four is about a guy who rescues animals. And moving on...

Check this one out if you like animals...or really old literature (atleast the first 10 minutes).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Episode 50: Shoulda Been Dead

Ok, Ira, you win. I see how you're trying to confuse me as I make my way through all of the episodes for this lovely show...Case in point: at the end of this episode, it is stated that it originally aired in 1995. Well, it certainly isn't listed on the 1995 list. Aye aye aye. So here's a rundown since I've not written one yet, evidentally...

Act one is a story about Kevin Kelly, the editor of Wired magazine at the point of airing, and what he does with the last 6 months he believes he has to live. After a visit to the spot where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, one which included sleeping at that very spot, he is given the message that he has 6 months left in life. He then moves back to his parent's home to spend time with them and then rides a bike from the west coast to New York, on a 5,000 mile trip. He survives the trip and then braces himself for the day that makes the 6 month mark. I could ruin it for you, but I'm not- so you have to listen. It's a very enlightening story- definitely make you think.

Act two is the reading of a script, telling the story of a man who is told he has tested positive for Aids. This is one of the best pieces I've heard on the show ever. Just really good and thoughtful.

Act three brings back one of my faves- my girl, Claudia Perez. It's pretty cool how TAL brought her back for a piece, as she was already in college at this point. I seriously want to know what she's up to today...she just seems so cool. Anyways, the short piece she put together this time around was about her brother and his take on his shooting and time in the ICU. This girl knows how to share parts of her life while being able to share more than just what is so personal- she can relate it to all of the world around her.

Acts four and five are short little bits that, honestly, I couldn't keep that much attention to. I think that the first three stories did the bulk of the work this time around- nothing wrong with that.

Episode 49: Animals

So this episode is one of the first few to air, almost a year earlier than this broadcast date, in January of 1996. You can read my thoughts on this episode, which I don't skimp on having a total distaste for here. And yes, I seriously did have to skip part of this episode to not get completely just freaked out. Still makes me shudder..ick.

Episode 48: Justice

January 1997 starts off to a slower start but eventually revs up some. This story covering different tales of justice from around the country (well, the world really).

Act one is about war crimes and Yugoslovia and it was just hard to follow for me. Eh...

Act two brings it up some, Scott Carrier reporting on a teen court in Tucson. The area teenagers figure out what their peers deserve as punishment for their crimes. They give surprisingly harsh and adult-like punishments, giving a view of how much these teenagers really are influenced by the adults in their lives. This was quite an interesting thing to hear from teens and gives me a little hope for those that come along in the future. I really dig this story- well done, Mr. Carrier.

Act three is all about an apology line that was set up for people to call in and do as it it suggests- make apologies. The tapes that were played were heartbreaking, particularly the tape from a 15 year old who had run away from home.

Not too shabby of a start to 1997...feels like the show was starting to hit its stride and I'm liking it...let's keep it going...only 13 years left to listen to!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Episode 47: Christmas and Commerce

We made it! This episode finishes up 1996's run of shows! Doesn't seem like much a feat when considering how many shows are left to listen to, but hey, it's a start, right?

This show is one that I've been looking forward to ever since I saw it was a Christmas episode- it includes "The Santa Land Diaries" by David Sedaris. This story, if you have managed to not hear or read it, in all of its epicness, is the real life tale of Sedaris being an elf at Macy's in New York City. He shares tales of just not wanting to be so cheery, the many different rigorous positions an elf could work in and everyday moments of other fellows elves and Santas at Macy's.

This story is one of the reasons that Sedaris is as well known in the public radio community, along with, I think, part of the reason his books sell so well (and this story is also part of why I dropped so much for a ticket to see him perform next April, but I evidentally am so cheap I just like being able to state that different places, as to feel better about spending so much to be entertained for a few hours). This is one of those stories that made me go out and purchase the book that includes it- and I'll even plug it here- "Holiday On Ice" is Sedaris' Christmas story collection and I highly suggest it, particularly this Christmas season, or anytime of the year. After working in retail for 4+ years, "Santa Land Diaries" is one of my must reads every Christmas holiday.

Besides Sedaris' now-classic Christmas story, there are three other pretty cool little acts in this episode. The show opens with Ira in the world's largest Toys -R-Us at closing time on Christmas eve. Act three is about a window actor who played Freud in a Barney's holiday window and the implications of the job, premeditated and not (having a therapy session? Why not!). The fourth act is some audio from one of the music guru's family Christmas, at age 3. Notably he gets a toy record player- I dare say at that point a life was forever changed.

These shorter stories are pretty good accompaniments to "The Santa Land Diaries", but Sedaris knows how to hold down this episode while also holding down the Christmas holiday (and I'm pretty sure we'll hear the hilarious tale over and over and over again).

Episode 46: Sissie

After debating on how to report on this episode that is about gay men and how they can act, I don't really know what I want to say about it except that it was a very interesting listen and well worth the time the crew spent on putting it together.. It was very entertaining and, from what I could tell, fairly advanced of an episode for 1996 (granted, at this time I was only 9 years old, so I don't have a huge grasp on what the gay community was at that time).

This episode includes a story by Nancy Updike and Dan Savage, two of my favorites to be on the show, and is one that I do suggest you listen to it and let me know your thoughts on it...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Episode 45: Media Fringe

I have to say it- this episode is quite a who's-who of story contributors. Really dig this episode, too. Let me give you a run down of some of the best folks to be seen on this series: Sandra Tsing Loh, Scott Carrier, Sarah Vowell and Cheryl Trykv.

Sandra Tsing Loh talks about her beginnings in Dada and performance art and I have to say I want to hear more. This lady is just awesome and you can read more about her previous stories, particularly great ones about her dad here).

Scott Carrier brings a non-fiction story about his life as a commercial radio reporter who never seems to quite have the good luck to episode 45. I know I've given Scott Carrier a lot of crap, but I'll give it to him- I'm coming around to him. Finally. Like I've said, just don't go the fiction route- it just doesn't work for me (and clearly I am the main person you're writing for, eh? I mean this is just one blogging girl's are probably a cool dude, Scott Carrier).  Anyways, this piece I really dig and feel for the situations he keeps getting into..I have a feeling that would be how a lot of my reporting would wind up, with little kinks in the plans, if I was in that profession.

Oh, Sarah Vowell, how awesome are you....Ms. Vowell's got the third act, one that had me laughing out loud. I just love how this lady writes- she's intelligent, she's witty, she just has a way of saying things that no one else would have worded that way- and it makes so much sense (watch her on the Daily Show in 2009 to fully understand this). Also in this story and her previous appearance on TAL, she talks about music and expresses a true love for it. I'm pretty sure we'd be the best of friends if we ever met- this story about 'selling herself' to make mixtapes for other people confirms it. The hooker metaphor is just too funny as she walks the audience through the process of making a mix, from getting an idea of who the tape is for to how deep and romantic the tape should be. Of course, there's a great twist at the end of the piece that I'll save for you to listen to...try not to laugh too loud.

The show finishes up with Cheryl Trykv tell her story about her brush with fame and an aging actress in Palm Springs, along with a great visual of how sunburned one can get after riding a bike in the blazing sun in only a swimsuit on...descriptions that can warm you up on a cold November night. 

So I may be a little biased when picking my favorite stories and all (I'll spare anymore Sarah Vowell fangirling in the future), but this episode is an example of how great stories just come together. 

Episode 44: Poultry Slam 1996

Aye aye aye, yet another Poultry Slam. I was not very impressed with the 1995, first anniversary version (as is documented here), so I had high hopes for 1996's edition.

Well, no point in even hoping- this episode is the same as the 1995 episode, minus one different story, so here's the rundown on that one....

Following David Sedaris' story about buying a turkey head with a foot attached, Ira gets a message from Michael Stumm, an actor who moved from the US to live in South Africa. Stumm was given the task to investigate how chickens are used by witch doctors in that area. He describes a practice that is supposed to be the key to getting your paperwork lost in court, a practice which includes poking out a chicken's eye and burying it alive.

The act is a pretty cool little snippet and worth a listen if you've got the time, but if not, just avoid the Poultry Slams all together...I'll let you know when they start getting better (and I'm trying to like them...).

Episode 43: Faustian Bargains

Ira states in episode 43 that there was a surge of Faustian stories in theater in Chicago in 1996, so they decided to produce this episode. These tales come in five acts and they are all interesting and worth a good listen.

Act one is the story of LuAnne Johnson, who wrote "Dangerous Minds", yes the film with the Coolio song "Gangsters Paradise". She tells about how the movie and subsequent television show were so different from what she put out in her book for the world to read. When she questions people who were making these works from her book, they simply told her that she had sold the story and it was not hers anymore. As a writer, makes me think twice about selling work (but if you're interested in purchasing some of my work...).

Act two is a creepy tape of someone asking about bringing a relative back to life. I'll let you folks listen to it to get the full effect of the's a great story that you just have to hear.

Act three is the tale of Jayna, a student who came to America from Korea at the age of 11 on her own, to study under a very celebrated violinist. She talks about how she adjusted well to American life but after a trip back home to Korea, she had some reservations upon her arrival back in the US. The point of view of this story is what makes it so interesting- to get to hear thoughts on someone who immigrated at such a young age, on her own, is a point of view that is not reported on everyday.

Act four is a somewhat crazy story of how making a deal with the devil started out looking good for a woman, Carmen Delzell, until the repercussions appeared and then she went slightly crazy (atleast that is what it sounds like to me). It's an interesting tale, particularly in its first person perspective and her references to using Haitian voodoo or black magic.

Finally, act five is something I haven't ever heard of on the show- reading of a children's book. Daniel Pinkwater reads his children's book, Devil in the Drain. As the name suggests, the character of the devil is literally in the drain in this story. As a children's literature fan, I really enjoy how the show included this in their regular format, particularly since Ira comments after the reading that the book has been banned by many children's libraries. Clearly if the book is banned, it's gotta be good- that's one thing I learned by getting my English degree, you know.

For this episode, I suggest giving it all a listen. All the stories are engaging and interesting and throw out ideas that can really make you think. Enjoy it!

Episode 42: Get Over It!

Episode 42 is an episode I remember having heard before. How I recalled having already heard this take is quite an entertaining one, at that. Ira says the word "nipples" in this one and I remeber being so entertained by that first time around, when I heard it again this time, it clicked (for the record, he is talking about an ex trying on clothes and where they covered when he drops "nipples". I know, I'm 8 because I was so entertained by this).

Anyways, the first story is Ira talking about interactions with an ex girlfriend, eventually referencing Jesus coming back, from the point of view of Jewish folks. Just listen to it. I do have to say, though, Ira, don't go into fitting rooms with ex girlfriends, particularly those who are trying on tight and short clothes to show off to someone else.

  Act two is a George Saunders story about a man who has a hard time getting over a death and act three is Scott Carrier on a quest to find out more about amnesia. He visits a hypnotists to try and get voluntarily put into the state but fails, eventually having the hypnotist have someone come in who claims to have had his mind temporarily emptied.

This time around, Ira's personal anecdote is the most entertaining story in the episode. Saunders' story is one that you have to pay close attention to or else you get completely lost and Carrier's is an interesting concept, particularly in how he seems so open to push boundaries in suggesting that he be put into having amnesia for entire day.  Overall, it's an episode that is good, nothing more, nothing less.

Episode 41: Politics

Ah, politics again. It's such a strange thing- I'm not a very political person, yet I am loving this 1996 political race coverage- but I can tell you exactly why I'm digging it so much: Michael Lewis. I know that I've written about how awesome this guy's writing is and how much he is just making for interesting what's he talking about this time?

More politics, of course. This time it's a funny story about having a video camera on the campaign trail and how different the response is from people around you, as opposed to just doing print journalism. Lewis' tale then fades into Ira discussing the difference in cable vs. network news campaigning with a professor from MIT.
I won't lie, folks, I listened to this episode over a week ago. Thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday, I've been in and out of the house, traveling around the southeast to visit family and waited too long to write this show up. I would go back and try to remember all that was on it, but even after reading the show notes on the website, I'm not completely recalling the episode. That says enough for me, atleast: the one story I've written about is pretty memorable. The other stuff? Take it or leave it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Episode 40: Lessons

The name "Lessons" makes this episode one that sounds mysterious, and I have to say, it was a pretty good one that I didn't expect it from.

There's four acts this time around, starting off with a monologue from Spalding Gray, about learning how to ski. It starts off kind of slow, but once he gets the momentum building, the story is pretty funny and entertaining. I mean, clearly, all the great people of the world can snow ski, so clearly that warrants what one could call an obsession.

Act two is a Scott Carrier story (yes, the same Scott Carrier I said was kind of strange in an earlier episode) and this one- surprise surprise- didn't seem so strange to me! This one was a real life account of his 3 year old learning how to swim from Mr. Switzer, a man I recalled hearing a story about this past summer on NPR, talking about running his swimming school and how he is such a legend (you can check out that story on NPR- I suggest it, it's a pretty interesting little tale). Knowing the background of Mr. Switzer and his school, this story was much more interesting, seeing it from another point of view than what a lot of the NPR story was- all from the parent's point of view this time, as opposed to the point of view of the teacher in summer 2010 (and, yes, Mr. Carrier is not creepy at all this time around. I like you doing non-fiction, sir!).

Act three is about a potato gun and how all the guys who saw it in the owner's neighborhood wanted to make one. Moving on...

Act four finishes out the show with some found tapes (well, vinyl actually) that tells how, in detail, for men to have an affair, the "proper" way. One notable idea of that being that you never try to make up an excuse if you're caught out in public with someone who is not your wife. Hopefully it didn't sell too many copies, but it was quite entertaining listening to it in 2010, as it was recorded in the 60's-70's.

40 down now...if we can just avoid further stories about potato guns, I would be thrilled.

Episode 39: Halloween

Ahhh, Halloween...means we're trekking along through 1996's episodes at a good clip.

For Halloween that year there's not a whole lot that just blew me away, causing the episode to be filed under "It's alright".

There's six smaller acts this time around, covering people who work in haunted houses and look to scare people, and why. There's the talk of how fear is related to sexual desires and those stinkin' screams that popped up on an earlier episode (and, frankly, just freaked me out).

There are two acts that are noteworthy, atleast. The first act is about folks who watched the old show, "Dark Shadows" for entertainment in the mess ups. The interviewed people are die hard "Dark Shadows" viewers, watching 4-5 hours a week of the show (sounds like someone doing a radio podcast listening project...) and trying to find the small nuances in the show, such as flies flying around.

When Ira and Nancy (Updike) go to the apartment of one of the viewers to watch the show with them, the feel of a party is almost palpable. The group sits around and points out flub ups and has a genuinely fun conversation about the show. It may be somewhat geeky, but I totally get it and wish I could be in there.

(It should also be noted that there is a report from one of these "Dark Shadows" guys at a convention on the episode "Conventions" in the 1997 season, so there will for sure be more talk of the cult classic tv show!)

The second of the acts that stood out is number five, speaking with a female mentor to girls involved in gang activity. The story that she tells is somewhat chilling, but not in a "jump out from behind the corner and yell 'boo!'" kind of way. I'll just share with you what the show archive has the description as:

Act Five. Gang Girl.
                      Gang Girl, on a body they thought was fake that turned out to be real. (10 minutes) 

So there you go, Halloween 1996. I do really suggest the two stories highlighted just skip around some.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Episode 38: Simulated Worlds

The picture that accompanies this episode on the TAL site points to a futuristic, space agey group of stories, but most of this episode points to the past.

Act one talks about "hyper reality" and applies the ideas given in Umberto Eco's writings about traveling from place to place, wax museum to wax museum. I'll be honest- it didn't all make sense to me, and maybe it was from a lack of paying attention, but hyper reality and all kinds of stuff related..yeah. There's also talk about Civil War re-enactors and how some go all in on being true to that time period and some just skim the surface of the time. 

Act two is Jack Hitt talking about dinosaurs. It didn't catch my attention as much as act three did though...

Act three is a story of Ira and Nancy ( of my fave producers on the show) take the late Michael Camille, a medieval scholar at the University of Chicago to a Medieval Times restaurant. The description of the place and how over the top yet fitting for the time period it was makes it quite a great story. 

Ira references Sir Gawain from the old stories, such as "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight", and it gave me a chance to say "aha! I did learn something in those british lit classes!", so I think that may be part of why I enjoyed this so much, plus the fact that the professional scholar had such a good time at the restaurant/show.  You could just tell from Mr. Camille's voice that he was enjoying himself throughout the fanfare of the night, plus Ira even made it a point to let listeners know how much the professional and highly educated man was into what he was seeing. Even though he pointed out a few different things throughout the piece that made Medieval Times a not completely accurate portrayal of this very festive event- a jousting tournament. I even learned something new as this was being discussed on the show- Mr. Camille stated that knights would get off of their horses and fight on the ground during jousts, which after three times trying to take that British Lit I class, I had never run across in any literature I had read.

Overall, this piece is one that can teach you a lot about something you have very little prior knowledge on. The way that Camille comes at medieval in such an excited way, wanting to share it rather than go over someone's head is such an appealing thing and I have to say if I had this guy for a professor of literature from this time, I probably would have done much better in that class. Really glad that TAL got him on the show before he passed on  to his big medieval world in the sky (the folks give him some nice words about his untimely death on the episode archive page).

Act four has two minutes of Ira talking almost abstractly on the different levels of media- from the announcer, to the reporter to the actual person being interviewed. Reading the synopsis of the episode made me excited about this part, but it's only two minutes long. More? Please? I like hearing behind the scenes radio stuff from NPR- I'll even take the jargon!

So there you have it- episode 38; now go learn about medieval times (and I'm not talking about the restaurant!).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Episode 37: The Job That Takes Over Your Life

Episode 37 takes a look at jobs that become more of a lifestyle change than a 9-5. The stories share the tales of a "commune" that is formed by a college troupe that put on the show "Hair", Scott Carrier (that antelope guy that keeps popping up throughout episodes) talking about quitting a job and giving psychological tests to people, the explosion that took place in 1944 near San Fransisco and those who were affected by it. There's also a short piece, "Orientation",giving the mundane and everyday truths of office work, particularly the first day.

Act one, Scott Carrier's story is a rather strange one, as is most of his stories that I've been coming across (you can hear him in episodes 12 and 35). The point of view that Carrier brings to all of these stories come off as a bit strange, working as a medical tester who has to randomly find people to test (on the road all over the state, might I add). He's also seen elsewhere chasing antelopes, literally, and putting out strange little haikus. Dear sir, I know you try and you are talented, but somehow your work just throws me for such a curve I don't know what to do with it.

Act two is the story about the acting group that puts on "Hair" and lives a communal lifestyle. The way they talk about their situation and their relationships with each other truly bring to mind interviews and video I have heard/seen from the 60's, except in this story, the way the actors lay it on so thick make me wonder how long the story really is and wish for it to be over soon.

Act three is the story of a ship that blew up near San Fransisco and the workers on board who were affected by the incident. They speak about when the explosion occurred, along with the results of the blast. Of course the story was put on trial to charge the people in charge of the incident and this is what some of the men who were there say really happened, not just what was reported.

Act four rounds out the show with the piece "Orientation".  Recently entering the work world, more so related to the office world than the retail world (finally!), I can relate to the rundown of people and their jobs in the office and how things run. This concept of 'this is how it is and it's how it will be' seems to be all around us, just waiting to be reinforced for those who don't know the order of things.

Of course, that brings to mind the thought of who is going to shake up that world and actually make it different, for more than just a moment.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Episode 36: Letters

Totally unscripted, real and random.

Those are the best ones, as this one is.

This episode is Ira, along with a playwright out of Chicago, bring the writer's shows of people reading random letters to This American Life. Ira pulls names out of a hat and people get on stage with their letters, some written by themselves, some by others- there's even some found letters, too.

The hour passes quickly with the letters and share little pieces of different folks' lives.

Let's just say it- I want more!

Episode 35: Fall Clearance Sale

Ira and crew had a good idea with this one- no real theme to the episode, just random stories.

They were all pretty good ( including short stories by Scott Carrier, who wrote the story about running after antelopes in an earlier episode, comments on zooaphilia (yeah, that could get awkward...) and about a guitarist and how he learned to play), but Mr. Sedaris managed to steal the show, in my opinion.

David Sedaris reads a story from his book "Naked" about spending time at a nudist camp (they don't call them colonies anymore, the staff explains to him), and he even gets his sister Amy in on the act, as she voices the female characters throughout. I have read a bit of Sedaris' work and find myself laughing often, but there is just something about being able to put his reading voice to the stories on the page that just makes them that touch more entertaining. All I have to say is I can't wait to get to the "Very Sedaris Christmas" episodes down the road- and I'll leave you with the reading suggestion of "Holiday on Ice", if only to read his thoughts on working at Macy's as a elf for a holiday season.

I'm aware that just got rambling, but David Sedaris is the real deal- trust me on that one.

Episode 34: Democratic Convention

I guess if you do a Republican convention show, you have to do a Democratic convention show, right? Fair and balanced, that is NPR!

The episode didn't have the Dan Savage spin that I loved so much from the Republican convention episode, but Michael Lewis comes back into the picture to share his thoughts from this convention and Danny Drennen, who is introduced as a writer of a "90210" blogger (but this was 1996, so blogger wasn't quite the term) talks about what he saw on the C-Span coverage of the convention.

These two stories make the show pretty good. It's not quite as up there as the Repbulic episode, but pretty good- and that's just the entertainment side I got out of it, not political.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Episode 33: A Night at the Weiner Circle

Oh, I know...hello possibly awkward title.

Alas, here's what Ira shares, talking in 2006, at the beginning of the episode...this one was made for just the local Chicago audience and would form into another episode down the road a few weeks (hence how this ep. is sandwiched between shows dedicated to the Republican and Democratic parties), but it looks as if the full episode never came to fruition.

 This is a sad thing to note, seeing as the later episodes that are composed of spending an entire 24 hours in a diner and busy rest stop are so great, an entire night at the entertaining night shift at the Weiner Circle would make great fodor for an try again in 2011, Ira? Please?

There is a little bit of a story about the diner and its boisterous employees, in their own words, that made me laugh out loud more than once, but will all the editing and beeping over cursing, I can see how an episode would be a little harder to pull together just covering their life at the restaurant. 

There are a few other acts involved in this show, but honestly, the one thing that still stands out to me, 48 hours later, is the folks working at this establishment and how true it seems that they really were giving "dinner and a show", as stated by one of the patrons interviewed.

Basically, skip the last act or two and give the first bit a listen. Guarantee those folks will make you laugh.

(plus the songs are pretty great on this one, too).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Episode 32: Republican Convention

Once again, I thought "UGH! Politics in 1996, no way this will be good!" and, once again, I was proved wrong.

Episode 32 includes a story by Dan Savage, about his infiltrating the Republican party and trying to overturn some of their rules and regulations on gays. The story of his going to the party events and trying to turn them on their head- it's just pretty great. Probably the most I've ever laughed during a political story that was put together over 10 years ago.

Michael Lewis also makes another appearance, talking about visiting Bob Dole's house (but Bob isn't there...from what I could tell..?) and finishing up his coverage on the Maury Taylor election trail (see here and here for his earlier appearances on TAL).  Once again, I really like this guy.

This is going for 2 really good shows in a row...and the next one looks pretty sweet. Woohoo!

Episode 31: When You Talk About Music

Ok, so I'm cheating a little. I vividly remember listening to this episode not long before starting in on this here project, so I'm going to just give my thoughts on it then move on to number 32. The reason I so vividly remember it, by the way, is because it is such a great episode.

Obviously I am biased and would enjoy the music stories the most, but it has some of my favorite components all on one episode: a good monologue, the real life of a famous singer impersonator, zines, super fans and a closer of an old man who plays accordion and spread the word of the non-mainstream instrument all of his life. I'll elaborate on each seeing as I dig this episode so much.

Act 1 is a monologue by Dael Oralndersmith, an older african american lady, who in this instance, is speaking from the point of view of a middle age italian guy. Give it a listen and just try to not forget who exactly is speaking- you'll be convinced it's some italian guy you'd run into in the Bronx.

Act 2 is a story about radio producer Dan Gediman's brother, who just happens to be a professional Tom Jones impersonator. It's cool to get a glimpse at what brought him to being the type of singer that he is, along with what all goes into his act.

Act 3 is a zine reading (!!! I actually write a zine myself and am very partial to reading them, so seeing how they are included a lot in episodes of TAL make me thrilled..oh just wait til we start getting to hear from Dishwasher Pete! Then the exclamation marks will be flying...) about how there's just too many bands in the world and that is followed by Sarah Vowell (one of my faves, if we're admitting biases) interviewing the superfan of Seattle band, the Fastbacks. Makes me think of the local scene in Murfreesboro from my college days (oh those long ago...this past May) and all the great bands that passed through the town, most of them being finished with their run before too long but a few hanging on til the current time. What can I say- I can just get down with the music folks.

(In fact, this part of the show is just so good I think I am going to re-listen to act 3, now that I'm thinking about it some more as I'm writing.....)

Act 4 is a closing story about an accordion player who taught and played around Chicago for his entire life. It's just charming. Can't help but love when folks are really happy with what they do in life. And I especially can appreciate that when it comes to music, so this is a definite go.

TAL, you did it this time. Welcome to the top of my list.

Episode 30: Obsession

Episode 30 tackles the topic of obsessions, leaving a lot to be heard. There's a few different stories about people being obsessed with things, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, and other smaller obsessions, such as an artist who created an entire kitchen out of beads, taking 5 years to do so.

Moving on.
Excited to hear that the next episode is about music...this one would have been better if it had been moreso about the OCD specifically.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Episode 29: Bob Dole

It's 2010, almost 2011. I'm listening to an hour on Bob Dole in 1996.
Well then.

Have to say it, though, this episode isn't as bad as I had predicted. Political author Michael Lewis returns for some more of his commentary on candidates, this time Dole. This dude has to be one of my favorite writers on the show when it comes to making politics interesting.

Robert Smigel even shows up on this episode, talking about how to properly imitate Dole. Pretty great.

Have to say it- if you were picking this episode or the "Detectives" episode, I would definitely go with this one. I would even pick it as one of the better of the 30 I've almost listened to so far. Here's to hoping the comedians keep coming through the show and stay this solid.

Episode 28: Detectives

It's been quite a busy time lately- particularly a trip to see some friends from college in Murfreesboro/Nashville. Worth it though...this episode's been a booger for me.

The bulk of this episode is based around yet another David Sedaris story and the tale of Ira spending time with a private eye in Chicago.

And those were the highlights- I think I tried starting this one three times and had a hard time even getting through the Sedaris story, as it couldn't really keep my attenion.

Hate to say it, but the Bulls basketball episode a few back is what's still stuck in my mind of the run lately....onward we go...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Episode 27: The Cruelty of Children

Finally we're hitting episodes I've heard before- and this one is a good one to listen to again. It opens with a David Sedaris story about his time at camp in Greece when he was in his younger years and realizing how he felt about things, particularly his sexuality. Of course, given it is a Sedaris story, it has funny moments and also touching, almost sad moments throughout.

The second act is one of the stories that has stuck with me the most in all of my time listening to TAL-The Man in the Well is a fiction story by Ira Sher and it is completely creepy to me. It is literally a story of children who find a man trapped in a well and how they do nothing to help him get out. Even after a second listen, it still makes me somewhat uneasy when giving it another chance. Guess that means that Mr. Sher is quite the writer.

The third act is about how children relate to each other and if they let other people play with them in kindergarten. It's ok but the first two acts really take the cake on this episode.

Episode 26: Father's Day '96

Father's day in 1996 covered the topic of fatherhood- from fathers who are more so out there (Sandra Loh's dad...remember her talking about his hitchiking in episode 22?) to dad's who left their family to the very functional relationship of Ira and his own father. Throughout the episode, which Mr. Glass co-hosted with Ira, it is a great showing of the very functional relationship.

Overall, the Glass gentlemen keep the show rolling and the interaction between the two was very enjoyable. As I've been growing up I'm really getting the message about getting to know your elders and spending the time you can with them, while they're still around, and to get what all you can from them.

Episode 25: Basketball

[art by Will Bryant -It was just too fitting]

This episode was a little more interesting than I would originally thought it would be, considering that I was fully aware of the Chicago Bulls mania that was going on at this point in time. Even in my rural Tennessee house, Michael Jordan was one of the big hitters and I even remember watching some games with my dad (and I'm not big into sports). Knowing that, I kinda figured what was coming when taking a listen to episode 25. Stories about basketball, and mostly about the Chicago Bulls at that time.

From my point of view, this is an episode that is almost like a time capsule. It talks about the players and what they did on the court and to influence culture (like how Scottie Pippin had his name attached to a car lot at that time) and  even all the way to the people who were sitting around the barber shops, watching the games unfold. Seeing what all these different folks had to say about the time, I feel more informed about something I lived through and was even a tiny bit involved in, even if it was 10 hours away from home.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Episode 24: Teenaged Girls

So if you can't sleep at 5:30 am, listen to TAL, right? The list of what needs to be done is keeping me up and this is one thing on the list, so here we go...

This episode is one that is a little difficult for me to listen to, realizing how teenage girls can act. Even though I have gone through this time period in life, this episode reminds me how cruel girls really can be.

Act one is a collection of Jo Carol Pierce songs, told from a teenager's perspective, performed at middle age. At first the songs feel a little, well, crazy, but once you give in and just listen, it all makes sense somehow. Go figure.

Act two is a tough listen. Rennie Sparks shares the story "Skanks", relating the experience of going to the mall, dealing with a 'best friend' who is everything to but to her and her own self image. This one almost had me crying it was so true and realistic to how girls can be. Thankfully none of the girls I knew at that point in my life (or now even) were like this, but OH MAN how I wished I could be transported back to that time period, find Rennie's friend Dawn and give her a good kick to the head or something.

Act three is the second time playing of a piece from episode 13.This piece bothered me at first listen and it still does at second listen. Between the second and third stories, the fact that I have spent time around girls of the teenage years and work everyday with kids who will soon reach that age, the fact that anyone could do things like Dawn did to Rennie or how the boy "enlightened" the woman in the third story at the age of 13, frankly it kills me. I've got the worst mama syndrome when it comes to thinking of younger girls and their lives. Perhaps it was being in a fairly conservative upbringing that didn't expect you to do anything too crazy (and I really didn't, especially when in high school), I can't fathom such things going on as are described here. And even though I know these things do happen, it bothers me that girls are so willing to let themselves get walked all over and taken advantage of- I just wish they knew what they were really worth- not just as a sexual object or "hanger onner".

Girls today.
And this story was put out in 1996.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Episode 23: Drama Bug

Episode 23 has some David Sedaris and some more kids who are in high school plays. Pretty good listen. Not the best work out there, but can see how TAL is hitting its stride at this May 1996 point.

No more, no less. Hope ya dig, wasn't my fave but wasn't too bad. The music was pretty good, in that kinda creepy way TAL can do sometimes, too...I mean, Cybil Shepard? Just listen to it...

And by the way, have I mentioned lately how much I love the fact they put up these players for every episode? Because they are pretty awesome.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Episode 22: Adult Children

Ok, I'm pretty sure this episode includes a Fresh Prince & DJ Jazzy Jeff jam.

Now that stated, we can begin.

This episode was pretty good- one of the more entertaining of the ones thus far. Ira's mother starts off the show by discussing the meeting she had recently been leading- the topic being  that of adult children and how parents deal with them. She is indeed one of my favorites to hear on the and it's extra entertaining when Ira points out how he hadn't done what all parents want them to do, get married and have grandchildren for them. I love hearing what she's got to say and take some of what Mrs. Glass says to heart, that good motherly advice.

After Ira's mom, Sandra Loh adds some more entertaining stories to the show (she was part of the first really good episode, "Vacations" ). She tells of her father and his funny adventures in catching rides with strangers (including Angelica Houston) and his idea to get a mail order bride. Too funny. Sandra's probably one of my favorite contributors from the earlier shows and I'm looking forward to checking out some more of her stuff throughout the different episodes.

Dig it.

Episode 21 is missing..?

Episode 21 isn't listed on the radio archives on the TAL I guess it's MIA?

Guess cuts me off an extra hour then...

Episode 20: From A Distance

I think through listening to TAL so far, I'm catching the fact that I enjoy the 'human interest' side much more then the others (politics...bleh). This episode's pretty sweet, discussing the different situations of idolizing someone. From going on a big pilgrimage to see an artist you idolize, to becoming good friends with someone  you idolize to even copying them.

This one's a pretty good one...totally dig the different aspects of looking up to others and how it's done in different situations. The Snuggie bear things is kinda creepy, I'll warn ya, but at the end my girl Claudia from episode 8 is back reporting about the Selena film auditions. Sweet!

Give this one a listen.

Episode 19: Rich Guys

This episode's talking about guys who have lots of money and how they act due to this. Stories on rich folk who run for president and set up their wife with 15 viles of their sperm for after they die so more kids can be produced.

Yeah. Some people clearly need more money to blow on stuff.

EDIT: Writer Michael Lewis is one of  my favorites, after some other shows with his pieces. Listen to this man. Plus his story here links up to episode 31.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Episode 18: "Liars"

Compulsive liars are what this episode is all about, as the title suggests, and it talks about all kinds. Dads who lie to their kids, college roommates who lie about who they are, significant others who lie about fianances and their "extra" relationships.

 One thing that I noticed in this episode is the lack of female liars in the stories. I know as a female, I am tempted to lead males to think that we don't ever lie, but I know that isn't quite true. Maybe it isn't quite as elaborate lies females usually tell, but there aren't even any on the episode. Just a thought.

Overall it was a pretty decent episode, finally hitting the stride of the show I currently love- introspective and relateable, while sharing aspects of life that may not be everyday for each listener. Keeps me coming back for more.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Episode 17: "Name Change/No Theme"

FINALLY the name change! I feel better about things and doing this project now that the name of the show was officially, finally, changed to "This American Life". Good riddance, "Your Radio Playhouse"- I can see how those public radio folks hated the name.

As the title states for this one the name changed and there wasn't a theme- there's around 5 different stories going on in the three acts and they're alright but nothing that spectacular.  The follow up to the Navy Pier story from the week before was an interesting thing, sharing the fact that the pier had announced, after the episode promoting how much they were giving back to the city of Chicago, that they were having to cut a lot of the job force due to loss of money. Then Ira dropped that people paid $16 to park for this place. Then I lost any sympathy I had towards to the government and their running of the place. Anyways- I liked the follow up, the city of Chicago still not wanting to give into having to tell about their possibly boo-boo in the economy.

Overall, this show's a listen to it and just let it go on shows...the stories that were told, of no particular theme that is, could possibly pop back up at some random times on you.

No harm, no foul, thank the Lord they changed the name.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Episode 16: "Economy"

Considering that I'm not a highly political person, this episode was produced in 1996 and at that point I was still enjoying my elementary school years, I enjoyed episode 16 quite a bit. I was skeptical when reading the synopsis of the different acts, talking about presidential elections and such, yet the story on the economy was very reminiscent of something that would be reported on, say, a year ago. The unemployment that is represented in this episode was actually presented in a bit scarier way than it was in the recent recession we are recovering from.

Act 1, eh let's skip it. Dole vs. Clinton...yadda yadda yadda...moving on.

Acts 2 and 4 were my favorites- 2  told from the point of view of two temps that TAL hired for a few days (and then Ira hustles for them to get some work, via the show). It was a great look into the lives of guys who are just trying to earn a living and make it in the world but they can't catch quite the right break. It's obvious they wanted to do the work and wanted to succeed- more than once they say that they will work anywhere, for any price. Frankly, I think if more people had the opportunity to get to know folks more than just on the surface, as is seen through this story, the people who deserve the best things in life would get them- and to them the best things would simply be what is necessary to just get by comfortably.

Act 4 is a rundown of the $156 million renovation of the Navy Pier in Chicago and the economic influence that projected onto the city and state of Illinois. It is a pretty interesting listen, considering it is the place that WBEZ studios are located and Ira gets a kick out of explaining the layout to the listeners.

(Oh, and Act poets and their artistic writings...I prefer the straight forward and straight the Johnny Cash song getting played in Act 2).

And one other note for this episode- Ira exhibits an underlying sense of humor for this week's show. Plus now he'll make me giggle everytime I hear the "Market Place" 'doing the numbers' music...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Episode 15: "Dawn"

Jack Hitt hits it out of the ballpark in this one (ohhhh terrible pun, please forgive me, I couldn't resist). The entire episode, sans the brief first act about a school employee who is seen as a father-like character to his students and the effects he has on them, is based on Hitt's story about Dawn, a misunderstood woman from his childhood in Charleston. Dawn was understood to be a man, in Jack's memory, then has a surgery, so the story goes, and marries a black man. All of these things were not the most kosher in the 1960's, if you know what I'm saying.

Hitt goes on a quest to find Dawn (who goes through a few different names I got lost with throughout the story) years later and finds her in New York, but only after giving a full history from his childhood and other people's story about Dawn and her legend.  Have to say, this one got me  wanting to hear more, so 1996 is looking good now...hope to keep the streak alive.

Oh, and the last act of this episode is an update from 1998, so I'm not sure the exact layout of the first run in 1996, so that's why Ira references Hitt's article in a magazine from 1998.

Episode 14: "Accidental Documentaries"

Ahhh, finally! One of the episodes I already knew I loved. I remember listening to atleast the first part of the "Accidental Documentaries" stories- the audio tapes (as in the big tins, not a cassette tapes) of the life of a family from 1967, to be sent to their son at medical school. The give and take between the mother and father's recordings, unbeknown to them, makes for a very interesting and entertaining look at their everyday life.

Act 2 is about Ira's father and his past years working in radio. Getting hear the work that Mr. Glass did on the Baltimore is a grand foreshadowing to what Ira's life would be based around- which he wasn't even aware of in the beginning. Pretty cool to hear. Feels like the listener is getting to know Ira's family just as he is doing so himself. Can't ever hate on someone letting others that close - feel like we're going to be bffs by the time I hit 1997 episodes, Sir Ira.

Act 3 has a surprise twist at the end of the story. Love it, too, since it is another story about a person's family and their history. I have to say that I think stories like this are why I love public radio shows (send them a donation, eh?)- just getting to know someone over the airwaves, even when it as recorded over 10 years ago, it's just real.

Oh, and the music on this episode is pretty sweet. Can't complain about that at all... and now I breathe a sigh of relief getting to write thoughts on an episode where I'm not just saying it was too dull or creeped me out. And here's to the rest of TAL and that niche they are starting to really find in this episode.

Episode 13: "Love"

Finished this episode the other night but put off giving my thoughts on it...go figure- I didn't really dig it (man, I feel so pessamistic...but I tell ya, they do get better- there is a reason I'm doing this project after all). The three acts of "yearning", "sex" and "a wedding". The stories came off as slightly creepy in the first two acts, barring Nancy Updike's take on unprotected sex and the young ladies of the mid-90's and their thoughts on this. The real way that Nancy tells her stories, from here and onward in the series, makes her one of my favorite people to listen to on the show.

Besides that, much of the first and second acts came off as a little creepy to me, particularly the piece about a woman's first time having sex at 13...not quite what I was looking for, folks.

Ira's third act, telling the stories of the Chicago Marriage Court, is the other story I really dug, discussing different aspects of the $10 marriage services that they hand out- reminded me of the film "Paper Heart" with Michael Cera and the sharing of different thoughts on love from all different walks of life.

The third act is a good note to end the episode on, lacking the creep factor I was getting from the first two acts, so Ira and editors, I thank you for that. Yeah, even the Madonna song was creepy.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Episode 12: "Animals"

Ok, this one just wasn't my bag. At all.

The Pine Tree Gang radio play was pretty sweet, written by Sedaris, with rhyming couplets throughout the entire thing (and this impresses an english degree holding girl like me). Of course, it was a welcome distraction after I had to skip over half of the second act, an artist talking about taking photos of animals as they are eating other animals. Yeah..a bit too much...

My favorite part? The usage of a song from the "Jungle Book" movie at the end of the episode.

Episode 11:"Enemies"

Oh, how I love pledge drives. My local NPR station,WUTC, has been holding theirs this week and then I get to episode 11 and I find talk of WBEZ's 1996 pledge drive on episode 11.

Overall, the episode wasn't that bad, mainly telling the story of two boys and their friendship, from being best friends to enemies and then bringing it back up to present day and their thoughts on it. Their story does make for an interesting listen and there is a lot to it. I dug it, but have to note that if the three different parts were solely one episode (with a 5 minute David Sedaris story tagged on), I would have been quite quickly over it. However, the breaks between segments does them a favor and makes it a much better story.

The short Sedaris story is read by Sarah Thyre in the patented Sedaris-like southern voice. The story takes the form of a letter, written by a recently deceased woman, giving instructions on what to do after her death, including taking down her best friend and ex. If there were funerals that really took place like this one, I would want a front row ticket on the action...maybe if I travel a little more south..?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Episode 10: "Double Lives"

Episode 10 brings a continuation of the heavy, depressing episodes. This one talks a lot about families and the secrets of certain members in their fold.
There is, thankfully, lots of laughter thanks to Mrs. Glass, psychologist who Ira finds out is giving love advice in Marie Claire magazine, unbeknown to him. Of course, after her short interview, she leaves him with the advice of "find a nice girl and get married". And with that, I continue to love the cameos Mrs. Glass has in the show.

That being said, the next episode has Sedaris on it again so it's due to be funny...I hope....two depressing shows in one night is just a bit too much...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Malcolm Gladwell Lecture//Episode 9: "Julia Sweeney"

I've finally hit the next episode, after getting the opportunity to see Malcolm Gladwell speak (for free! Score!) at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga last night (I highly suggest seeing him if you can. Good stuff). I felt like I was in a real life episode of "This American Life" or something. He spoke on leaders who are so sure of themselves that causes the missteps. Comparing the financial meltdown to a Civil War battle was something I would have never thought of, but made total sense. I feel very enlightened and admittedly, slightly hipper, having gotten the chance to see such a popular and awesome speaker.

Anyways, onto the episode...

Julia Sweeney was on Saturday Night Live back in the day and this episode of  TAL is parts of her stand up from 1994-1995, speaking on her experience having cancer, while her brother also has the disease. I won't ruin the episode by saying too much about what goes down in her story, but it is a very interesting one and I can't hate on it because it is such a strong episode. Much of the hour, I almost couldn't stand how personal and real her stories are and I had such a response to it, but then I considered my thoughts on art: if it makes you have a strong response, it's good.

Well, I had a strong response, so I guess it could be considered art. The nonchalant way that
Julia tells the story is almost painful at moments, yet it is worth the listen. As Ira notes in the show, the stories lighten up some when Julia begins speaking about her diagnosis of cancer, which is appreciated after the utter dark cloud over part one, but it is still clear it isn't all sunshine in her life and her families lives.

Overall, even if it doesn't sit easy with you, listen to this one. It's pretty good.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Episode 8: "New Year"

Yay for making it to 1996! Admittedly, I've been a little distracted by catching up with my new favorite show, Mad Men, and other new fall line up tv episodes, but I have found a time for this bit of  TAL listening.

You would think starting the show off with coverage of the new Beatles interviews that had just come out on cd when the show came out, but the way Ira talked about, quoting the number of the "limited edition" cd that they had purchased (something like 52,000 or something ridiculous) makes it seem kind of silly to make such a hubub about the band. Add to that the comments from the band themselves through the snippets that Ira played and, well, they kind of seem like a big deal for nothing.  You can hear the fab four indirectly saying "stop asking us about dumb stuff that's everyday- we aren't anything that special", which is a somewhat lens to see them through. Now we're getting somewhere in what I'm searching for to reflect on via this blog- something seen through another lens for once.

The stories of high school student Claudia are the best part of the entire episode, though. She takes a look into the Mexican area of Chicago, which gives looks into many different folks lives and reflects on the previous year. Ira also gets to ask the hard questions to Claudia herself at the end of the show, which proves to be an interesting listen, too. After learning more about her hometown area and her life, I would be very interested in what exactly the then 18 year old is doing now.

The other of the stories is about being the first to integrate into new situations, particular for an African Americans woman and her integration to a new, white neighborhood. Ira made the comment he had been working on the story for a year and while it was an alright listen, it was one that you had to have your head in the game and try to hang on every word of to make it all work out (I have a tendency to be on other websites or painting while spending all this time listening to TAL, so if a story doesn't completely suck me in, I have a predisposition to get lost).

Overall, this episode is one I can vouch for, just be leery that the middle story is one you have to pay a lot of attention to.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Episode 7: "Quitting"

This one's the last episode of  '95 and was just kind of bleh. One thing I did dig, though, was the fact they interviewed an editor of "Quitter Quarterly", a zine of all things. Major points to "TAL" for the zine loving they have sent out all throughout the show's run thus far (Dishwasher Pete's one of my faves to hear stories by).

Once again, this episode didn't bowl me over and I'm excited to get moving into 1996. This time period is somewhat foreign to me, considering that I was only 9 years old at the time and will probably be learning a lot about the issues of the year through the we're talking....

Episode 6: "Christmas"

Quick notes on this episode, as to get on to listening to what's next:

  • David Sedaris and the Pinetree Gang story was pretty good; love the fact it included his sister and a hilarious southern drawl coming out of him. This accent makes the episode for  me. Have to say, though, it doesn't seem quite like something typical to the TAL format. This kinda threw me off, but atleast if anyone was to do so, it would be Mr. Sedaris and crew.
  • Second half of the episode is where the crew starts to hit their stride for this week. The juvenile court story and forward has the "TAL" touch we've all grown to love...the rest just didn't feel quite right, more like "Your Radio Playhouse"

And with that, we get to the last episode of Season One. Have to say I'm excited to get one season down, no matter how short it may be. And as I keep saying, don't mean to just sound like there's lots of hating going on here- this was just the beginning for the show (love ya, mean it, Ira!).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Episode 5: "Anger & Forgiveness"

Originally aired: 12-15-1995

Episode number 5 has some pretty good music on it. That's about all that sticks out to me. That and how folks have such different views on people who do bad things. The final story about sin and hanging out with the couple who sat around smoking pot and talking about going on God's spaceship was funny.

I'll try and have better comments on the next episode. I know there are some awesome ones down the road soon (episode 104, anyone?) and I'm sure some more winners between now and here's to the weekend starting tomorrow and getting some more shows under my belt soon (but only after tv preomiere night for "Big Bang Theory", "30 Rock" (best show on tv, I dare say) and "The Office").

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Episode 4: "Vacations"

Originally Aired 12-8-1995

Alright! We're finally hitting our dumb stuffed chickens and yet another Sedaris story. Can't beat that.
This episode starts off with Ira discussing his family vacation in a manner that seems to be the first time, quite possibly, he doesn't seem to just ramble. What's he's saying has a point and it's nice to be able to see that in the show. I guess it isn't too bad to start really finding that happy medium at the fourth episode ever. Good job, 1995 era Ira Glass.

The two longer stories, the first about vacationing in Ethiopia in the 60's during social unrest and then Sedaris' tales of hitchhiking across America are welcome stories. They are of the longer format but they have more to say than a quick 5 minute story possibly can. Both worked in thoughts on the authors' families, the actual journeys they went on and how idealized they started out being. By the end, the idea of home comes back around and gives us a glimpse of what these characters really are thinking about- being back in the safety and security from which they left at the beginning of their tales.

Episode 3: "Poultry Slam"

Originally Aired 12-1-1995

I was originally excited to listen to the infamous "Poultry Slam" episodes. Well, I'm thinking not. Atleast not the first time around. I don't want to sound like I'm totally hating on the first few shows, but 20 minutes was just spent on getting an interview with a duck puppet. A STUFFED ANIMAL.

(I'm trying not to write during the episodes and gather my thoughts at the end, but that just about murdered my brain it was so ridiculous and painful. Here's to hoping the rest is's to the rest of the show..oh  and how Ira keeps talking about this "Chicken Man" show. The things I do for this project of patience...)

Ok, once I got over the stuffed duck annoyance and it got a little better. The story about living on a turkey farm was eh, the "Chicken Man" stories were entertaining and David Sedaris, thank the Lord, pulled it together towards the end.

I'm beginning to think the reason that these earlier episodes can be tough to swallow is due to a little heavy handedness of the themes. That is one of the things that originally made me love listening to TAL- their ability to take a theme and expand on it so well. They don't necessarily give the stories you would expect on the theme of the week and that is one thing that, I realize, does take practice. The Sedaris & turkey farm stories from this episode do that and give a fortaste of the future, so onward I will venture, praying for no more stories about talking stuffed animals.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Episode 2: "Small Scale Sin"

Originally aired 11-24-1995

This one's a little funny in the outdatedness of the episode- the majority of the show is about computer hackers. In 1995.

It wasn't too earth shattering of a group of stories, and I hate to say how much I cringe ever time Ira Glass says "Your Radio Playhouse". That being said, onward to the next...

Episode 1: "New Beginnings"

Originally broadcast 11/17/1995

 So we start from the best place to start: the beginning.

This was the first listen from anything from the first year of the show. I wouldn't rank it one of my favorites but the more dramatic stories (the moments which Ira isn't talking- sorry dude, but you don't ever seem to shut it on the first go round) are somewhat bleak yet inspiring.

Besides the actual stories, the best part probably had to be the interview with Mrs. Glass. Between the talk of Ira looking like Hugh Grant and how she's already had an interview that day with a newspaper, it's just entertaining. Bringing the fam into the fold is one of my favorite things throughout the series.

Alas, I don't want to sound like I'm hating on the first go round,but hey, it was the start of something new- of course it would take time to work it out.  But can we PLEASE stop saying "your radio playhouse"?

On to episode 2....I know they'll get better, as will my thoughts reflecting on them.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

So what is Project TAL?

So glad you asked.

"TAL" is the abbreviated way of saying "This American Life", one of the best radio shows on NPR. I've been a casual listener for a few years now, but seeing how their website now has listings of every episode and the ability to stream them, it's got me thinking about listening to the entire run of the show.

All 414 current episodes. In order.

This, of course, won't be a wasteful thing, though. From what I've heard of the show since first entering my life, much knowledge has been gleamed from it, so I'll be taking stock of what I get out of the episodes. Be warned these may be introspective. Some may not (I have to admit the financial episodes don't quite excite me like a good Dan Savage story).  Alas, we'll see how this goes and see what I can get from Mr. Glass and his fanciful cast of characters....