Tuesday, July 15, 2008
This American Life
My friend Kirsten said something offhand about This American Life a few weeks ago, so when I saw it available on Netflix Instant Viewing I decided to give it a go. Who knew? One of the most highly esteemed and well reviewed radio shows (and now TV show) ever started in my hometown! I will certainly be tuning into Chicago Public Radio more often.
The show is what it is: a snapshot, 10-60 minutes long, of an American life. I've only seen three episodes thus far, but it has blown me away. There's some sort of mix of voyeurism and objective journalism involved in liking this show... an in-depth look into the joys and sufferings of another, without ever condescending to the characters/people involved.
I can't say much after 3 episodes, but after reading the wikipedia article I was amused to find it labeled as "hip" and "trendy." Sure, Ira Glass may wear those oh-so-Lower-East-Side Buddy Holly glasses, but what is it that actually makes This American Life seem... hip?
That said, I was absolutely fascinated by how cultured it was, without ever being elitist (then again, as a Columbia student I have a ridiculously high tolerance for elitism). And apparently Ira Glass is directly related to Philip Glass, (neo-?)classical composer extraordinaire (you might remember him from Chuck Close pieces). And this secular Jew found herself wondering how the hell so many of us can be successful without that many of us left (since some of us discovered that 1. parenting is surprisingly difficult, and 2. birth control is, indeed, fabulous). And then I realized: Jews are in. Jews are trendier than weezer glasses and ironic tees. We're the pasty kids with inhalers in grammar school who get made fun of, develop neuroses, and thus become either Woody Allen/Jerry Seinfeld hilarious or just plain smart. Well, that or live in their parents' basements playing DnD (Dungeons and Dragons for you non-nerds out there).
Huge generalization, but you know how all generalizations are part true anyway. Like that Russian saying that all jokes are 5% joke (also translated as all anecdotes are 5% anecdote). Freud and Mother Russia have my back.