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  1. This American Life

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    "From WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life, distributed by Public Radio International, I'm Ira Glass."

    The heretical, the sophisticated and the ridiculous. If a human can or has experienced it, This American Life is willing to explore any situation to find a good story to tell.

    Each episode of This American Life centers around a theme and is broken into several different acts that each offer a unique point of view on that week's theme. One week's theme can be entirely devoted to a current event, only for the following week to surround the mystique of comic book culture. Previous themes include: "Classifieds", "Remember Me" and one of my favorites, "Poultry Slam." For each theme, contributions are given in the forms of interviews, short stories, investigative journalism, monologue, stand-up comedy routine or any other imaginable way that a story can be passed through your ears.

    The Featured contributors run the gamut from authors such as David Sedaris, comedians including Mike Birbiglia, rabbis, bus drivers, lawyers, coaches, victims, day-dreamers and that girl you lived next to when you were in elementary school. Some contributors are erudite experts in their field, quite a few are hilarious, many are touching, all are genuine. They tell their story the way they want it to be heard, and the interpretation is left up to the listeners. When the same story is told from various points of view it becomes a strange game to try and decipher who, if anyone, is speaking the truth.

    What I consider to be This American Life's most important value is its authenticity. This podcast is simply life presented in a more interesting format. The stories are incredibly engaging; as I listen at my cubical at work, I have been forced to perform the awkward and painful "silent laugh maneuver," I have clenched my iPod in anger, shaking it as I formed retorts in my mind and I have also probably made a lot of strange faces in reaction to This American Life which have disturbed my co-workers a great deal and I really should explain but then it may be easier to just remain "that girl with the headphones" rather than "that girl with the headphones who keeps talking about pods."

    I believe you will also enjoy the dulcet tones of Ira Glass, host of This American Life. However, be aware that if a beloved author is a featured guest, you may be shocked by how they actually sound (I'm looking at you, David Sedaris). Be aware that your internal narrator's voice may be changed forever.

    Relevant Links:
    Download the Podcast here
    Main website
    Wikipedia Page
    Store and Donation pages (you just try to ignore the pleas of Ira Glass during pledge drives, ain't gonna work)

    Content Rating: Generally safe for work and all audiences with a caveat: many of the topics discussed (including religion, abortion, death, sexuality) may be considered explicit by some listeners. Also, there may be some swear words tucked into a story.

    Average Episode Length: One hour.

    Drinking Game: None yet invented.

    Release Schedule: A new podcast is available every Monday. They do not offer an accessible archive, but previous podcasts can be purchased at their store.

    Music: Non-intrusive background sound and interludes between acts, usually with some relevance to the episode's theme. I have no memory of any "bad" music occurring, and many songs played on This American Life will eventually find their way into my mp3 collection.

    Unintentionally Good Part: The feeling you get from listening to NPR.

    Unintentionally Bad Part:
    The feeling you get from listening to NPR.

    How to find your NPR name:
    "Take your middle initial and insert it somewhere into your first name. Then add on the smallest foreign town you've ever visited as your last name." - Jon Friedman [Originally found here].

    Also: I do realize that This American Life's original format is a radio show, but hey, this is a podcast blog. So shut up.

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