This American Life - Catch All

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I think This American Life needs a catch-all. Or something. Because oh my god, it's so good.

But anyway, I just have to tell you guys about the horrifying two part story on Harper High School in south Chicago.

Apparently you don't join a gang in south Chicago; you're born into one.

I don't know where journalism went, but TAL is thankfully filling some part of the void. This is the kind of story that needs to be told.

Yeah I'm listening to this right now (about to finish part one). I agree it's terrifying. My early childhood was spent in a lower middle class mixed neighborhood. While I was certainly aware of gangs, the best I could describe it was being in a mob-run Italian neighborhood in say the 1950s. You could steer clear of the gangbangers and as long as you showed proper respect you weren't going to get hassled. I remember hearing the occasional gunshot in the distance but drivebys were that rare thing you worried about but not too much. Never felt afraid to play outside until it got dark.

Modern day Chicago sounds way too like how my Army buddies described peacekeeping in Somalia. Dozens of rival warlords fighting over at times a few blocks of Mogadishu, and every teenage boy over the age of 14 being involved in those fights.

Just finished listening this morning. Riveting and deeply disturbing.

I've been listening to This American Life for years but yeah, the Harper episodes are some of the best they've ever done. Absolutely riveting stuff and really puts some of this in perspective for someone like me who lives in a place where gangs aren't nearly as all-encompassing to young people as they are elsewhere. I'd just rename this thread to This American Life Catch-All if I were you.

Parallax Abstraction wrote:

I've been listening to This American Life for years but yeah, the Harper episodes are some of the best they've ever done. Absolutely riveting stuff and really puts some of this in perspective for someone like me who lives in a place where gangs aren't nearly as all-encompassing to young people as they are elsewhere. I'd just rename this thread to This American Life Catch-All if I were you. :)

Yeah, I'll do it. The Harper episodes were to me particularly powerful, and that's one reason I wanted to call them out by name first.

I saw a 6 year old generic TAL thread, but I figured I lacked the necromantic prowess to revive that. The show has morphed dramatically in the last five years to become a vehicle for reporting about dire, crucial issues which seem to be woefully neglected elsewhere. I always loved it, even when it was about Small Things, but I love the current direction and I think it has only improved with time.

gore wrote:

The show has morphed dramatically in the last five years to become a vehicle for reporting about dire, crucial issues which seem to be woefully neglected elsewhere. I always loved it, even when it was about Small Things, but I love the current direction and I think it has only improved with time.

Yeah, I still enjoy the quirky human interest stories. Sometimes they fall flat for me, but when they hit, they hit big. The weird, clumsy superintendent who always told ridiculous stories, until half of those ridiculous stories turned out to be true, was one of my all-time favourites.

But I really love it when they devote the entire episode to one piece of investigative journalism. That patent troll episode was fascinating....and depressing.

Those Harper episodes are brutal. That woman talking about her dream scenario where she wins the lottery so that her students actually would have a fighting chance of getting out of the horrible poverty-stricken cycle they are stuck in broke my f*cking heart.

I actually just finished listening to both episodes this morning. Riveting.

I just went to add TAL to my Zune subscriptions, then remembered why I don't already have it.
There is no back catalog.
With other NPR shows, like Radiolab, I can go back and listen to very old episodes if I want.
TAL only has 1 ep available in their Zune feed at any given time.

I understand funding, public radio, hosting costs, etc.
I get it.

But a single-item feed is barely any better than no feed at all.
(Edit: Especially when you do a multi-part mini-series, dammit!)

Blargh.

My recent favorite is the one about political money gathering in Washington. It's so absurd you'd think it was a black comedy about politics.

jdzappa wrote:

Yeah I'm listening to this right now (about to finish part one). I agree it's terrifying. My early childhood was spent in a lower middle class mixed neighborhood. While I was certainly aware of gangs, the best I could describe it was being in a mob-run Italian neighborhood in say the 1950s. You could steer clear of the gangbangers and as long as you showed proper respect you weren't going to get hassled. I remember hearing the occasional gunshot in the distance but drivebys were that rare thing you worried about but not too much. Never felt afraid to play outside until it got dark.

Modern day Chicago sounds way too like how my Army buddies described peacekeeping in Somalia. Dozens of rival warlords fighting over at times a few blocks of Mogadishu, and every teenage boy over the age of 14 being involved in those fights.

Jaimaca is the same way according to my former co-worker from there.

duckilama wrote:

I just went to add TAL to my Zune subscriptions, then remembered why I don't already have it.
There is no back catalog.
With other NPR shows, like Radiolab, I can go back and listen to very old episodes if I want.
TAL only has 1 ep available in their Zune feed at any given time.

I understand funding, public radio, hosting costs, etc.
I get it.

But a single-item feed is barely any better than no feed at all.
(Edit: Especially when you do a multi-part mini-series, dammit!)

Blargh.

Dunno how helpful this will be for you, but I'll throw it out anyhow.

If you get their app on an iOS or Android device, you get access to the back-catalog. It's a pretty nice app, really.

Yeah, the app gives you the back catalog. And you can listen through their web player for free. And you can buy old stuff on iTunes.

It would definitely be nice if they didn't limit their RSS feed, though. IIRC the old download links continue to work for a while after the RSS feed is updated, so stuff like Google Reader (which maintains its own database of past entries) can be used to find some old episodes.

Huge TAL fan. Listened to part 2 of the recent show yesterday. Horrifying.

I highly recommend hunting down/requesting as a gift a copy of the TAL tv show on dvd. You can buy it from their website. A shame that they didn't continue, although I certainly understand that it must have taken up way too much time.

Also — saw their last live event in a movie theater in NJ. Wish I could have been to see it live in NYC, but it was still awesome.

Just curious who all in this thread still eats calamari?

obirano wrote:

Just curious who all in this thread still eats calamari?

Had some the other day.

But I bought fresh, whole calamari.

Guess I should have said fried calamari from a restaurant.

um... I do... but I've not listened to that particular podcast yet...

I have an interest in TAL but as it doesn't autodownload more than one episode into my zune player I find that I keep forgetting to check it out on their website. Do they have an episode archive on their site? If so where would be a good place to start?

plavonica wrote:

Do they have an episode archive on their site? If so where would be a good place to start?

The archive is free to listen to on the site, but if you want to download an older episode you need to pony up $1.

Superpowers, Notes On Camp, and of course the genesis of NPR's Planet Money podcast: The Giant Pool Of Money are some of my favorites.

plavonica wrote:

I have an interest in TAL but as it doesn't autodownload more than one episode into my zune player I find that I keep forgetting to check it out on their website. Do they have an episode archive on their site? If so where would be a good place to start?

Yeah, you can stream all the archives via web here.

Some favorites of mine:

355: The Giant Pool of Money
460: Retraction (Difficult without the context of the episode they retracted, but still fascinating)
441: When Patents Attack!
437: Old Boys Network
479: Little War on the Prairie
471: The Convert
470: Show Me The Way (Especially relevant to me since I was likely reading Piers Anthony at the time the guy in the story went to meet him)

mr_n00b wrote:
plavonica wrote:

Do they have an episode archive on their site? If so where would be a good place to start?

The archive is free to listen to on the site, but if you want to download an older episode you need to pony up $1.

Superpowers, Notes On Camp, and of course the genesis of NPR's Planet Money podcast: The Giant Pool Of Money are some of my favorites.

You have good taste. Giant Pool of Money should be required listening in this country for anyone studying economics, mathematics, finance etc.

I love the show but have not listened to any of the episodes in a long time. I "save" them for when I have a really onerous task to do, like painting, man I hate painting. I'll start an ep and the time will fly by.

They actually did a video series years ago, I think it's on Netflix or something. I watched one ep and never had time to return to it.

infromsea wrote:

They actually did a video series years ago, I think it's on Netflix or something. I watched one ep and never had time to return to it.

Yeah, two seasons. It's exceptionally great, and I'm really sad they didn't continue it.

I'm not sure how many people are aware of Fathom Events but about once a year the TAL live show is streamed in HD to several movie theatres across the country. I went a couple years ago and it was a blast. The latest live show is available for download from the TAL site for $5. Taking a leaf from Louis C.K. in using a digital distribution model for their audience it seems. Might be worth checking out.

duckilama wrote:

I just went to add TAL to my Zune subscriptions, then remembered why I don't already have it.
There is no back catalog.

With the BeyondPod app on Android, I can tell it to add the feed to Google Reader, and then pull podcasts from that. If I do that, there are lots more episodes available for download.

obirano wrote:

Just curious who all in this thread still eats calamari?

Its a trap.

Another humdinger this week on disability and the social safety net. I had no idea.

Yeah. It's funny, I was listening to the segment on Alabama, and thinking that they could just as easily be talking about my town. Then they actually talked about my town. It was the weirdest combination of validation and disappointment.

There is apparently reason to question some of the assertions made in the children with disability section of episode #490:

Public radio program This American Life pushed a series of myths about Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI), a Social Security program that supports families that include children with disabilities. The piece ignored that the recent rise in disability benefits is tied to the recession and higher rates of poverty, that qualifying for benefits is difficult, that SSI encourages employment, and that the current program has significantly reduced poverty among children with disabilities.

The iPad app is totally worth five bucks. I've been listening to this show for years but the convenience is making me love it all over again.

Wow, I listened to this week's episode, "Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde," during my afternoon run. It's an incredibly crazy episode. It feels like the plot to a movie or something. I can't believe how that story ended up, especially considering that the the reporting started before the main discovery was made.

tuffalobuffalo wrote:

Wow, I listened to this week's episode, "Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde," during my afternoon run. It's an incredibly crazy episode. It feels like the plot to a movie or something. I can't believe how that story ended up, especially considering that the the reporting started before the main discovery was made.

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