Monday, February 4, 2008

this american life: now with moving pictures! OR... why ira glass is a rock star.

Ira Glass is easily my favorite non-musical celebrity1. Maybe it's the geek chic glasses…or the fact he's the ringmaster for the world's best reason to get up before noon on a Saturday – This American Life2. Despite being turned down for an internship (what, me bitter?) my love for this show is such it would take interpretive dance to truly express it. Don't tempt me.

Not being blessed with cable, the DVD release of This American Life, Season One was a major event – albeit one fraught with concern. My Saturday mornings consist of rolling out of bed at 9:55, making a cup of tea, pulling a beanbag chair up to the radio – where I proceed to sit and stare at its dust coated top for the next hour. Can you – short of dusting – improve on this ritual?

The genius of This American Life on DVD is they didn't try to improve on the ritual. Rather than try to stage their brilliant stories against - quelle horreur - reenactments, they chose a visual pallet as varied as their sources, allowing images to speak just as much as straight forward interviews and documentary footage.

Plus, from my years of film school I can definitively say, and I do believe this is the technical term, it looks "really really pretty."

One of the most interesting aspects of This American Life is how I often find myself caring about subjects and people I've never really considered. At first viewing, the season's opening story about a rancher and his relationship with his cloned cow (Chance 2) seemed almost comical. Until I started considering the deeper implications. How many times have I tried to bend a situation into something I felt more comfortable, more familiar with? How many times have I, quite simply, refused to move on, lest I be forced to give up on something? When viewed though the lens of larger themes, the rancher and his bull actually made me tear up.

If I had to choose one source of dissatisfaction, it would be the strange season ending, which amounted to little more than screaming at an all night hot dog stand in Chicago. The hypothesis that this restaurant was somehow different than the ones that use rude waiters as a gimmick, seemed at best, pedestrian. As anyone who's worked in the service industry can tell you, even authorized snarkiness has some basis in truth, even if it's over something less obvious than skin color. The only difference between the faux-rude waiter, the screaming mother of two at the hot dog stand, and the wordless waiter at your local family restaurant is the former two aren't being paid to hide their distaste. The story never investigates this side of the story, and the promised, well-thought-out peephole into Chicago's two self-segregated populations never materialized. If time or situation didn't allow for an in-depth investigation, then why broach the subject at all? Here's hoping it's really a narrative bridge to season two.

If you love This American Life as much as I do3, be sure to head over to their website and tell them you'll support their plan to stream a sneak preview of season two into theaters. Join me! I'll be the girl with the Ira Glass is a Rock Star tee-shirt, and the large bucket of pop corn. Don't worry. I'll share.

1. This could be a lie - as Ira has famously burst into song on several occasions. See Mp3s.
2. Tough call.
3. Read: you express your love though interpretive dance, but only in the privacy of your own home.

mp3: "I'm Wishing" by Ira Glass
mp3: "California" by Ira Glass and Mates Of State


W.B. McNamara said...

Just out of curiousity, do you actually own one of the IGRS shirts? If so, did you buy it from the site with the poll (full disclosure, my site) or CafePress?

I'm asking because the CafePress store kinda "borrowed" the design without mentioning it to me...since I've been giving the t-shirt money to WNYC (and it's not clear whether that's the case with the CafePress store), I'm hoping that you bought from me.

On the other hand, the more people wearing "Ira Glass is a rock star" t-shirts, the better. :)

LMS said...

I found the shirts though your site. I was taken with not only the shirtm but funding WNYC.

Nice job!

Ana Weaver said...

Where is the site that I can get one of those shirts (besides Cafe Press)?