Monday, June 06, 2005

This American Life

Post on Boy Meets World is in the works, but in the meantime here is a quickie, straight from my new hard drive...

To listen to these segments or any This American Life bits, go to

Top 10 Favorite This American Life segments of all time (no order):

1. Episode: Fake Science
Act Four. Radio Science. Fake science can be fun. Fake science can make people happy. Brent Runyon has heard it happen on a favorite late night radio show ( Brent's the author of the memoir The Burn Journals, which will be published by Knopf in September 2004. (11 minutes)

2. Episode: The Allure of the Mean Friend
Act One. Return to the Scene of the Crime. Jonathan Goldstein interrogates the girls, now grown up, who terrorized him and his classmates, years ago in school – and finds they can be just as scary as ever. Jonathan Goldstein is the author of the novel Lenny Bruce is Dead. (18 minutes)

3. Episode: Notes on Camp
Note Six. Color Days. This American Life producer Julie Snyder reports on a three-day competition called "Color Days." It's most kids' favorite time at camp, despite the fact that the girls at least spend most of the three days crying and screaming. It's thrilling being part of a team at this level of intensity. (18 minutes)

4. Episode: Middle of Nowhere
Act Two. On Hold, No One Can Hear You Scream. This American Life Senior Producer Julie Snyder found herself in a ten-month battle with her phone company (MCI Worldcom), which had overcharged her $946.36. She spent hours on hold, in a bureaucratic nowhere. No one seemed able to fix her problem, and there was no way she could make the company pay her back for all her lost time and aggravation. Finally, she enlists the aid of the national media. Specifically, This American Life host Ira Glass. You can register a complaint about the phone company at the Better Business Bureau or at the FCC. To reach Jim Myers, the MCI executive interviewed in the story, email him at (22 minutes)

5. Episode: Liars
Act One. Lies. The story of a woman whose husband lies to her compulsively. At some point, she starts to ask him questions that'll make him lie to her, just to amuse herself. Also, the story of a guy whose roommate in college in Nebraska insisted he'd grown up with the Kennedys.

6. Episode: Bedside Diplomacy
Act Three. Fire and Ice Cream. When a nurse asks a 14-year-old burn victim out for ice cream, is it a date? Brent Runyon tells the story, which was produced by Jay Allison, part of his Life Stories series, with help from Christina Egloff and funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The story is part of Runyon's book The Burn Journals. Host Ira Glass then speaks with an interested party. (19 minutes)

7. Episode: Recordings for Someone
Act Four. Buddy Picture. Producer Jonathan Goldstein with a story about friendship, mothers and sons, and what some have called the greatest phone message in the world--it circulated at Columbia University in New York City, and had something to do with the Little Mermaid. (19 minutes)

8. Episode: Backed into a Corner
Act Three. Confessions of a Not-So-Dangerous Mind. How NOT to get a job in U.S. intelligence: Admit to being a pervert during your job interview. Somehow, though, that's exactly what happened to a perfectly normal, nice guy who we're calling Matt for the purposes of this story. On paper, Matt was a perfect candidate to be an analyst for the National Security Agency. He was bright, ambitious, spoke Chinese. But he was also a little neurotic. So somewhere in the midst of his final round of testing for the NSA job, he started to worry about this riddle: What if I've done something bad, but I don't know I've done it? Am I still guilty? This, it turns out, is not the best way to approach a lie detector test. Brian Montopolis, Matt's friend, interviewed him about what happened. (15 minutes)

9. Episode: Simulated Worlds
Act Three. Medieval Times. Ira takes a Medieval scholar from the University of Chicago, Michael Camille, to Medieval Times – a chain of fake castles where visitors eat Medieval food and drink Medieval Pepsi and watch a supposed recreation of a Medieval jousting tournament. The scholar finds that there are many historical inaccuracies, but that Medieval Times does capture something essential and interesting about the spirit of the Middle Ages. (19 minutes)

10. Episode: First Day
Act Two. Squirrel Cop. The first day inevitably means mistakes, mishaps, fiascos. A true story, told by a former rookie cop. (14 minutes)