What's This I See?
This American Life

Changes are afoot at This America Life. Some time within the next few months, this totally awesome and completely kick ass RADIO show will expose its face on television. Yes, tel-e-vision! Want to know more? Well, just get the FAQs, baby!

If you recall, about a year ago, I hailed This American Life (TAL) as a source of inspiration. Just to make it clear, I LOVE This American Life! (And, for the record, I also have a secret crush on Ira Glass but don't tell anyone).

Okay, so before we get to see the people behind the curtain, please LISTEN to one of my all time favorite shows: Fiasco!

TAL changed the way shows are streamed so please click http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=61
to visit the website. You'll be presented with three options for listening to the audio.

Episode 61

Stories of when things go wrong. Really wrong. When you leave the normal realm of human error, fumble, mishap and mistake and enter the territory of really huge breakdowns. Fiascos. Things go so awry that normal social order collapses. This week's show is a philosophical inquiry in the nature of fiascos, perhaps the first ever.

Act One. Opening Night. Writer and TAL Contributing Editor Jack Hitt tells the story of a small town production of Peter Pan in which the flying apparatus smacks the actors into the furniture, in which Captain Hook's hook flies off his arm and hits an old woman in the stomach. By the end of the evening, firemen have arrived and all the normal boundaries between audience and actors have completely dissolved. (23 minutes)
Song: Rickie Lee Jones "I Won't Grow Up"

Act Two. What We Were Trying to Do. A medieval village, a 1900-pound brass kettle, marauding visigoths, and a plan to drench invaders with boiling oil that goes awry. From Ron Carlson's book Hotel Eden, read by Chicago actor Jeff Dorchen. (9 minutes)

Act Three. Car Wars. Wisconsin Public Radio wanted to do something simple: start running Car Talk, the most popular single hour on public radio. But to do this, they had to move their local car show About Cars from the morning to the afternoon. The host of About Cars was so upset about this--and what he felt was mistreatment in the past--that he not only refused to move, he started a monthly newsletter about it, and organized a public rally. 1500 people wrote angry letters. 126 swore they'd never give to Wisconsin Public Radio again. The State Legislature got involved. They conducted an audit, which took months. There were hearings. One definition of a fiasco is when something simple and small turns horribly large, and this event fits the bill. We hear from all aggrieved parties, including the Car Talk guys--Tom and Ray Maggliozi. (15 minutes)
Song: Elastica "Car Song"

Act Four. Fiascos as a Force of Good in the World. Journalist Margy Rochlin on her first big assigment to do a celebrity interview. It was 1982. The interviewee was Moon Unit Zappa, who'd just released "Valley Girl" with her father Frank. She'd only been interviewed once. Midway through the interview: fiasco! Margy chokes on some coffee, which pumps out of her nose. Moon's mother administers the Heimlich Manuever. And after that, everyone's so relaxed that Margy gets an interview that becomes her first syndicated article and a big scoop for her paper. When a fiasco destroys social boundaries, it can bring people together. (7 minutes)
Song: Moon Unit Zappa "Valley Girl"


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