“Small Stories”

2 05 2008

Great article about “This American Life” the TV program on Showtime.

Does anyone have Showtime? I don’t have cable, much less Showtime….

Web exclusive: Small stories told in wondrous ways
by Marc D. Allan Apr 29, 2008

“This American Life”
Sundays, beginning May 4, 10 p.m.

I know, I know, I know — you don’t have Showtime and you don’t want to pay more for television than you already are.

But really, you should find a way to see “This American Life.” The TV adaptation of the long-running National Public Radio show does a remarkable job of telling small stories in the most wondrous ways.

Its second season of six half-hour episodes begins Sunday with the story of a Florida man afflicted with spinal muscular atrophy. He’s wheeled around in what looks like a high-tech hand truck and communicates mostly through facial gestures and by using his fingertip to type. Tapping out a sentence takes him three minutes.

His mind is exceedingly agile, though, and because technology has improved, he’s lived to age 27 so far — and wants, as most 27-year-olds do, to get out from his mom’s care. So he has hired an assistant and has gotten himself a girlfriend by placing an ad on Craigslist. (She found his perfect spelling and punctuation “sexy.”) And he goes on.

His story is told without pity and, just as impressively, without awe. Not that you won’t feel either or both, but Ira Glass and his compatriots let the story unfold gently and naturally without telling the viewer what to think.

The second episode focuses on an Iraqi and a Bulgarian, both of whom attempt to make sense of American attitudes. For the Bulgarian, it’s about lawn care and why we — and especially his wife — are so obsessed with mowing the lawn.

For the Iraqi, who fled his country four years ago, his concern is the war. So he sets up a “Talk to an Iraqi” booth in public places and chats with people of all different political persuasions.

Several current members of the armed forces stop by, mostly to tell him that they feel good about their work. One, whose mission included time at Abu Ghraib, justifies the American invasion of Iraq by explaining that “terrorists flew planes into buildings in his hometown.” Give the Iraqi credit — he doesn’t try to strangle him.

The Iraqi man says he used to think life under Saddam Hussein was hell. But now, with his business and home lost and his family scattered around the globe, it looks like heaven.

The most poignant moment comes when an 11-year-old girl sits down to talk. Her father is in Iraq and she’s wanted to speak with an Iraqi for three and a half years so she could apologize for the United States “walking into his country like we owned it.”

It’s worth getting Showtime just to hear that.


TRAILER: This American Life Live!

22 04 2008

Trailer For This American Life — Live!

Well, I’m quite obviously new to this “blogging” thing and can’t figure out how to embed the trailer in my actual post. So I’m just gonna do it this way.

Thanks for understanding. Have a wonderful day!