Podcasts To Ponder: Exploring The American Life

By Richie Hobin
The Daily Call (5/6/15)

This week’s podcast spotlight focuses on the radio/podcast/TV show that explores the stories of our fellow citizens entitled, “This American Life” http://www.thisamericanlife.org/ 

It is difficult to capture the context, the situation, and the truth about a particular story no matter what medium one uses. Conventional reporting comes up short most of the time. Somewhere in the translation from reality to a medium something is lost. Even if you see a really great movie about an actual event, usually the movie will never speak the truth of the event no matter how hard the artists and film crew try. Usually.

Every now and then, we can be blessed with a person or group that can come as close to recapturing a real story and presenting it to us. Great painters, writers, and filmmakers do this. These people are able to grab the essence of a story and bring its truth back to life for an audience. In the realm of our ears, one group has been doing this so well and for so long I keep forgetting to write about them. I was in St. Louis last weekend, visiting family, and was reminded how much I love and missed listening to the best story tellers on the Radio and the internet. I was reminded of how much I enjoy “This American Life” with Ira Glass.

This program has the uncanny ability to bring the story’s truth back from the dead moments in of time’s past to the listener using unconventional means. Every weekly show has a theme and three or four stories that follow that theme. Although the production group, writers, and hosts of “This American Life” view each episode as an “experiment” such as “following a group of swing voters for months” or “collected stories for a weekend at the same rest stop” or “we put a band together from musicians’ classified ads” through your sense of hearing that magical essence of truth in each story is presented in sonic form.

As they state on their website, “We sometimes think of our program as a documentary show for people who normally hate documentaries. A public radio show for people who don’t necessarily care for public radio.” Somewhere in this strange transition from conventional to experimental, “This American Life” get a hold of you and as they say “describes what it’s like to be here, now, in the world. What we like are stories that are both funny and sad. Personal and sort of epic at the same time.”

If you have time and are new to this show, it is very easy to download a podcast on the website’s “favorites” page and give a listen too or switch on your local NPR station on the weekends and you might catch “This American Life” without any internet leg work and experience the truthful essence of a story told in an unconventional way. Enjoy the strangeness of “This American Life.”

Upside to the Podcast: Literally years of content for free to download and there is rarely a rotten egg in the bunch.

Downside to the Podcast: You can’t stream episodes from their award winning TV show on Showtime but we are talking podcasts here.


This week’s podcast episode spotlight is from Youtube.com Chris Hedges: Wages of Rebellion Part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGQoCS7ty1g

The pulse of a culture can be difficult to palpate. Usually, pundits on TV will look cultural events such as strikes and protests and put their spin on it. It what PR teams in media do to control the historical memory of situations so their particular interest groups that pay the PR firm to muddy the waters of truth for their own benefit which usually means profit margin.

There have been few truth tellers these days on our media networks. Instead you could call them truth “benders.” However, we still have a few men and women who put journalistic integrity in their work. These people get to the nuts and the bolts of issues in our culture as it is careening toward a bad train wreck. One of the few is Chris Hedges.

In this excellent two part speech given on March 9, 2015 in Vancouver, Hedges gives the context and overview of our current global situation and what it takes to change it. Quoting from prominent philosophers, historians, and literary figures Mr. Hedges helps us focus on the horizon of the coming crisis and rebellion. Hedges contends that popular uprisings are coming in the face of corporate environmental destruction and the upper class’s current domination of the human race globally.

It’s an inspiring yet troubling lecture that I highly recommend. Chris Hedges is a columnist for Truthdig. A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, he spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, with fifteen years at the New York Times. He is the author of numerous bestselling books, including Empire of Illusion; Death of the Liberal Class; War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning; and Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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