"On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points." --Virginia Woolf
Monday, July 07, 2008
"This American Life" host Ira Glass
I've been hooked on the Showtime television version of Ira Glass' "This American Life" lately and I will tell you, honestly, that counter to what every hardcore American Life fan has feared, it is not a bastardized version of the 13 year-old cult radio show.
The most recent episode I saw featured an Iraqi man who now lives in New York after his family had to disperse to various countries under the Bush occupation. This man decides to set up a mobile discussion booth and travel across the Midwest on a quest to seek those Americans who supported the "War" on Terror, and to try to find out why.
His "Talk To An Iraqi" booth reminded me of a Christian Science Monitor article I had read a few weeks ago, about a series of "living libraries" that travel the world. In a "living library," people from various minority groups, or those with "fringe" backgrounds, sit around and make themselves available to anyone curious about them. For instance, you can schedule a conversation with a Rwandan refugee, a transgendered individual, or a neo-Nazi. I think discussion programs like this are remarkable and ultimately necessary to bridge the communication divide among international communities whose worlds are increasingly colliding through global turmoil; they also help to mend our dysfunctional systems of popular media. They are necessary conversations to be having.
The "This American Life" episode was amazingly compelling. It both made me disgusted to be an American, and gave me hope for future generations (see the home-schooled 11 year-old at minute 4:00 who apologizes for the occupation).
I think the television medium was utilized in a a way that adds a poetic visual depth to the show to enhance the humanistic elements of the American Life stories when the show could have easily become sullied by a drab documentary format. See below:
I am uncommonly mobile; I have circumnavigated the globe eight times, walking amazing distances. Through the South Island of New Zealand to the Southern Alps. From Chile to the Andes in Argentina. Across the Serengeti in Africa. I made 300 ascents of mountains 10,000 ft. tall or more, including the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, and Kilimanjaro. I traveled alone, aided only by my porters, sketching volcanos and collecting wildflowers along the way.