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Sunday, July 28, 2013

This American Life celebrates episode #500

In honor of This American Life recently celebrating episode #500 I thought I would post my favorites. This is by no means in order or comprehensive as I have not listened to every episode. From roughly 2006-9 I listened to every episode. I try to listen to the program each week, but alas I haven't kept up as well as I would have liked.

"On a summer day in 1951, two baby girls were born in a hospital in small-town Wisconsin. The infants were accidentally switched, and went home with the wrong families."

One of the most interesting stories you will ever listen to. Nature vs. Nurture at its finest. Very compelling story in so many ways.

"A special program about the housing crisis produced in a special collaboration with NPR News. We explain it all to you. What does the housing crisis have to do with the turmoil on Wall Street? Why did banks make half-million dollar loans to people without jobs or income? And why is everyone talking so much about the 1930s?"

Easily the best explanation of the financial crisis. I felt like I could talk intelligently about it after listening and help others with myth vs. fact.

"We devote this entire episode to one story: Over the course of six months, reporter and TAL contributor Jack Hitt followed a group of inmates at a high-security prison as they rehearsed and staged a production of the last act—Act V—of Hamlet."

One of the most moving pieces by my favorite contributor. Very moving and emotional in ways you don't see coming.

"n 1912 a four year-old boy named Bobby Dunbar went missing in a swamp in Louisiana. Eight months later, he was found in the hands of a wandering handyman in Mississippi (the picture at left was taken just days later). Reporter Tal McThenia co-authored a book about the Bobby Dunbar story called A Case For Solomon."

Another gripping tale, showing what This American Life is best at, telling a moving story from many points of view.

Stories of kids using perfectly logical arguments, and arriving at perfectly wrong conclusions.

A few of very favorite stories are on this episode including my all time favorite story. We'll see if you can figure out which one it is.

"In 1980's New York City, rent is rising: it seems out of control, and residents struggle to keep up. So Jack Hitt helps organize tenants, and threatens a rent strike. This does not go over so well with his building super, who, as it turns out, is a very dangerous man."

Another Jack Hitt special with one of the greatest stories every told. It's funny, surprising, and dramatic all in one. Plus a few other really good tales.

"The right of habeas corpus has been a part of our country's legal tradition longer than we've actually been a country. It means that our government has to explain why it's holding a person in custody. But now, the War on Terror has nixed many of the rules we used to think of as fundamental. At Guantanamo Bay, our government initially claimed that prisoners should not be covered by habeas—or even by the Geneva Conventions—because they're the most fearsome enemies we have. But is that true? Is it a camp full of terrorists, or a camp full of our mistakes?"

This won a 2006 peabody award. Again Jack Hitt at his best. You will be angered and upset and utterly amazed at the unfair situations in this episode.

"Writer David Sedaris recalls the days when his mother and sister played armchair detective — until a very odd crime wave hit within their own home. Plus, host Ira Glass goes out on surveillance with a real-life private eye."

Hilarious story from David Sedaris.

"When their seven-year-old caught the disease on an overseas trip, this decision became a whole community's problem. The outbreak infected 11 children and endangered many others. Also: Comedian Mike Birbiglia singlehandedly ruins a big charity event, and the disquieting truth about Amtrak's Quiet Car."

Great prologue, interesting story about vaccinations, and Mike Birbiglia is funny as always

"All the stories in this week's show center on personal recordings that one person made for just one other person."

Contains the infamous little mermaid recording. Shows the effects that going viral would mean in the future.

"This week we bring you backstage with comedy writers at The Onion. They start with over 600 potential headlines for their fake-news newspaper each week, and over the course of two days, in the very tough room that is their editorial conference room, they select 16 to go in the paper. Plus other people speaking their minds in very tough rooms."

Some great stuff on this one. Personal tie to the missionaries in New York. The Gladwell story is one of the best out there.

List wouldn't be complete without a nod to middle school
Middle School
This week, at the suggestion of a 14-year-old listener, we bring you stories from the awkward, confusing, hormonally charged world of middle school. Including a teacher who transforms peer pressure into a force for good, and reports from the frontlines of the middle school dance.

So there ya go. Some fun, moving, inspirational stories from the best program out there: This American Life
If you haven't listened, now is the time to start.

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