Monday, September 19, 2005

Ira Glass and This American Life

All you anti-NPR readers just keep moving.
This post will only make you angry.

For the rest I want to advertise This American Life, the radio program put together by Ira Glass, perhaps the most gifted radio journalists working today.
As I write I am listening online to last Sunday's show, about an hour long, in which he recorded some very articulate people who were trapped in the New Orleans Superdome waiting for evacuation.

Anyone commenting on events of that terrible scene owes it to themselves to listen to this program before saying anything. It's accessable. It's very well-done. And it's powerful.
Look for the link you prefer listed as "After the Flood."

Link (RealPlayer) Link (
This afternoon I heard a little of this week's program on the radio but didn't get to hear but a few minutes. I plan to catch it online when time permits, but it is equally well-done. This time the crew is in the Astrodome in Houston. The sights and sounds are described and recorded in detail. Various private charity and church representatives are there, organized very much like tables at a convention, with signs telling what they have to offer. At one table is a woman from Colorado who spent two or three days trying to find anyone who would accept a package of aid form Colorado which included a year's rent for a family, two jobs (one with Coca-Cola and one with Wall-Mart), clothing and a car. No one wanted to take her up on the offer because they were afraid of moving so far away. The image of snow falling all the time was impossible to overcome. A nearby table pushing Florida living was having no trouble making connections with people. Snow versus sun. No contest.
It was surreal. Like something on TV. Like the "Makeover" programs.
Six-year-old twins with delicious New Orleans accents were thrilled about the adventure of going to Colorado. Their mom was less excited, but had to make the decision to go because time was running out and she didn't see any better alternatives in Houston.
I noticed that Glenn Reynolds broke his regular format last week to put up an on-line poll soliciting readers to comment about ways to redirect funds for hurricane relief. There was a crimson box with places for readers to cast their "votes" for several options, including taking away funding for DARE, a federal anti-drug program that has turned out to be an embarrassing failure, and funding for public radio, a favorite whipping-boy for a lot of people pissed off because NPR is one of those repositories of reflection where too many voices say the wrong things about war, politics and social affairs.
It was a transparently goofy gesture since an entire year's federal funding for public radio -- something on the order of three hundred million dollars -- would fund the war in Iraq (absent, of course, on the list of options to redirect funds) for less than a week. It strikes me in the same way as movie scenes showing barbarians misusing the products of civilization. I recall a time when the company for which I worked decided to switch from cloth napkins to paper. I think of all the unmarried kids today that shack up without a mariage commitment. There is something so very wrong with the picture it is hard to know where to start talking about it.
The basement scene toward the end of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof shows Big Daddy dying of abdominal cancer amidst "junk" that he and Big Mamma brought back from trips to Europe. What seemed so important at the time was no comfort when he needed it most. In the end he comes to the realization that his life was about to come to an end and he had never loved anyone. That kind of cognitive dissonance is beginning to show in the aftermath of the hurricane, but unfortunately a lot of people are unable to see it.

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