Experiment: Less Music, More ‘This American Life’

I’ve grown tired of the music on my iPod. I have over 650 songs, but I tend to flip back and forth between Adele, Mumford & Sons, and Lana del Rey these past few months. Last night I came across a note I jotted to myself a few months back titled “Episodes of ‘This American Life’  That Will Change Your Life.” I’m not this profound, trust me. I copied it from a blog I frequent, but for the life of me I can’t locate the post that led to the note. Poop.

I’m familiar with This American Life (having been introduced to it by a friend who is a rabid fan), but I’ve only listened to a few episodes here and there over the years and mostly in the background while alphabetizing my DVD collection or something (WHAT??!!! I don’t do that!….I do). I loved the episodes I listened to and even tried listening to it at work but I discovered that I can’t write genius marketing prose (ha) while listening to someone else talk, despite the soothing vocal stylings of Ira Glass.

I set upon downloading the episodes to my iPod to listen to on my commute to and from the financial district, and today is probably the first time I’ve arrived at work without having even entertained the notion of wanting to slap someone across the mouth while en route to the office. Fancy that.

My first episode was titled ‘Superpowers’ (description below), and it was delightful.  I’m aiming to listen to one episode per day for the next 10 days. The blogger I copied the list from provided their ‘top 10’ list but I’ve added an episode called ‘So Crazy it Just Might Work’ after reading the description. All available from iTunes for $0.99 (and you can download the most recent episode for free), or you can stream off the web site.

How do you make your commute a bit more pleasant?

My ‘This American Life’ Playlist

1) Superpowers
We answer the following questions about superpowers: Can superheroes be real people? (No.) Can real people become superheroes? (Maybe.) And which is better: flight or invisibility? (Depends who you ask.)

2) Telephone
Stories of who we are on the phone, of things we learn on the phone, and of things that happen on the phone that don’t happen anywhere else.   

3) Notes on Camp
Stories of summer camp. People who love camp say that non-camp people simply don’t understand what’s so amazing about camp. In this program, we attempt to bridge the gap of misunderstanding between camp people and non-camp people.

4) My Experimental Phase
Three stories about people who decide to try out a new life—the kind of life their parents never wanted for them.

5) Time to Save the World
Stories of people trying to save the world one person at a time, and stories of sudden truths delivered by complete strangers. 

6) Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
A girl signs up for a class. A couple hires an accountant. A group of co-workers decides to pool their money and buy a couple of lottery tickets. In the beginning, they’re full of hope and optimism…and then something turns. Stories of good ideas gone bad.  

7) How to Win Friends and Influence People
Stories of people climbing to be number one. How do they do it? What is the fundamental difference between us and them? 

8 ) Detectives
Writer David Sedaris recalls the days when his mother and sister played armchair detective — until a very odd crime wave hit within their own home. Plus, host Ira Glass goes out on surveillance with a real-life private eye. 

9) Americans in Paris
Many Americans have dreamy and romantic ideas about Paris, notions which probably trace back to the 1920s vision of Paris created by the expatriate Americans there. But what’s it actually like in Paris if you’re an American, without rose-colored glasses? [Note from Jenn – it sucks. Take it from a Canadian]

10) Act V
We devote this entire episode to one story: Over the course of six months, reporter and TAL contributor Jack Hitt followed a group of inmates at a high-security prison as they rehearsed and staged a production of the last act—Act V—of Hamlet.        

11) So Crazy it Just Might Work
A few years ago a cancer researcher named Jonathan Brody gave a speech at his alma mater saying that people in his field really needed to think outside the box to find a cure. Afterward he was approached by his old orchestra teacher, who had something way out of the box—a theory that he could kill cancer cells with sound waves. And other stories.        

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