Blog

Mike Birbiglia's new one-man show

Apr 14, 2011

Birbiglia has a new one-man show called My Girlfriend's Boyfriend. Many of the stories he tells in this one have been on the radio show, including that amazing story from our cinema event Return to the Scene of the Crime about marriage and a car crash ... but lots of new stuff besides. It's playing at the Barrow Street Theater in NYC. Tickets.

A clarification and a correction

Apr 12, 2011

Ira writes:

In the weeks since our show "Very Tough Love" about Judge Amanda Williams, a few things have come to my attention that I'd like to clarify:

1. Appeals

A few people have asked about a claim made by attorney Jim Jenkins in the story. He says that if someone is unhappy with some sanction levied by Judge Williams in drug court "there is no provision at all for any kind of appeal. And that’s one of the other real problems with the procedures of this particular drug court. If Judge Williams sentences you to 30 days or an indeterminate sentence, there is nothing that can be done. Period. You can’t appeal. There’s nobody to go to."

To clarify what he's saying: he's saying there's no procedure to contest any particular sanction. You can't compel Judge Williams or another judge to review your 30 day sentence for relapsing, or your indeterminate sentence. A public defender who worked in the drug court confirmed this. As far as I can tell, that's completely accurate.

Some listeners believed Jenkins meant something bigger: that there was no literally no legal recourse for a defendant in that situation. That's not true. There aren't great options, but there are options. A defendant who's unhappy with one of Judge Williams' sanctions can ask to be terminated from drug court. If they do that, they'll serve the time for the crime that got them into drug court in the first place.

And there's something called a habeas petition - where a defendant can attempt to withdraw his original guilty plea (which was a prerequisite to enter drug court) and be retried on the original charge. In a 2004 case called State v Stinson, the Georgia Supreme Court (affirming a decision by Judge Williams) declared that a drug court defendant can't withdraw his original guilty plea and be retried, if there's no mistake or irregularity in the original plea. So you can get a new trial only in very specialized circumstances. Something had to be wrong with your original plea. For instance, Charlie McCullough, who was in our radio story, eventually was released on a habeas petition. As his lawyer explained to me, this was possible because Charlie's original guilty plea was for the crime of attempting to purchase ecstasy (this is what he was charged with when he got into court) but in fact he'd tried to purchase LSD, not ecstasy.

You can also file a habeas on a Constitutional defect. The most common is ineffective assistance of counsel. Charlie relied on that in his habeas petition as well.

Other longshot appeals? If Judge Williams terminates you, you can ask a court of appeals to consider the case for possible appeal. If she terminated you improperly or if there was a clear error in law, they should let you appeal.

As for appeal rights that are waived on entering drug court: Judge Williams has drug court participants sign a waiver saying that they will not recuse her from their case "irrespective of defendant's success or failure" in the program. The waiver means she is the judge on termination hearings. As I stated in our broadcast, this goes against the standards and recommendations of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, which recommend that a judge allow a defendant to recuse him or her from termination hearings.

2. Kim Spead

On our website and in the transcript of the radio story I stated that Kim Spead was kicked out of drug court for not paying her drug court fees, and then served 12 months for her original crime. Reviewing the court documents, I believe this is not correct. Although she did serve 12 months, it was not because she was kicked out of drug court. I believe she was not kicked out.

So what did she serve 12 months for?

It appears to be for the crime stated in the original bench warrant that put her in jail: for violating "the terms and conditions of the Drug Court sentence and the Drug Court Contract as follows: failure to appear for court on May 6, 2003." Kim hadn't paid her fees and was summoned to court about it on that day.

In addition, I originally stated on our website that Kim agreed to pay extra drug court fees AFTER she graduated drug court, but it was before.

We've posted a corrected version on the site.

iPad app!

Apr 5, 2011

We're very excited to unveil our brand new This American Life iPad app. It has all the features of our iPhone and Android apps, plus some exciting new stuff. It costs five bucks.

You can stream our entire 430+ episode archive on demand, listen to the live show, and get a bunch of audio and video extras. The coolest new feature—which you can't even do on our website—is single button play for each individual story within an episode. No more shuttling through audio to get to the part you want. Also pretty exciting: you can download THREE episodes at a time for offline listening.

Other new things include:

* "My Dashboard" section tracks your favorites, bookmarks, and shows you've heard

* Full episode descriptions

* Extras like our how-to-make-radio comic book, behind the scenes photos and producer journals from our TV show, essays by Ira Glass, strange maps and more.

* Live Twitter feed

* Optimized audio playback and scrubbing

* More generally, the app just has a super intuitive interface where you can easily browse the archive, flip through episodes, view shows by your favorite contributors, and discover stories you haven't heard before. It's getting a nice response from people who have downloaded. The app was built by our friends over at PRX.

Some screen shots:

Home screen


Episode detail


All Shows, landscape view


David Rakoff's contributor page


Dashboard that stores your favorites, shows you've heard, and shows downloaded for offline listening


Sample extra: our 'how to make radio' comic book

Here's the app on iTunes.

Ira hosts a “movie night” in Baltimore

Apr 4, 2011
Ira writes:

"I grew up in Baltimore and am a big fan of Civic Works, which was started by a high school friend, Dana Stein. It began as a program to give job skills to young people and has grown to the point where they even operate a middle school/high school inside the Baltimore City school system.

"We tried to think of a fun event we could do as a fundraiser for Civic Works and came up with what is basically a movie night of stories from our This American Life TV show. I've done versions of this event three times now, most recently this weekend in DC, and each time it's amazing to see the stories on a big screen. Our cinematographer shot them like a movie, and they're kind of gorgeous up there.

"I know most of our radio fans have never seen the TV show, so if you're in the area I hope you'll come out. We'll talk a little about Civic Works that night too: if you don't know about them, I think you'll be as impressed as I am. It's a good cause. If you want to really help them out, we're doing a reception before the show too, which will not be as good as sitting down with each and every one of you for a crab cake/shrimp salad club sandwich at Miss Shirley's, but hopefully will come close.

Tuesday night, May 3rd, 7:30
College of Notre Dame, 4701 N. Charles Street in Baltimore

Tickets and more info: here.

Thanks to WYPR for partnering on all this too!"

Monday: Current TV airs our final Television episode

Apr 1, 2011

On Monday April 4th at 10/9c, Current TV will air "No Respect," the seventh and final episode of our second season of television. It's is all about stand-up comedy, and features radio favorites Jonathan Goldstein and Mike Birbiglia. A clip:

Here's where to turn your digital dial:

DIRECTV: 358
Comcast: 107 (125 Dallas and Seattle)
Time Warner: 103 NY and 142 LA
Dish Network: 196
AT&T U-Verse: 189
Verizon FiOS: 192

"The Talent Show" - featuring This American Life contributors - March 30

Mar 28, 2011

TAL contributors Dave Hill and Shaina Feinberg are performing in The Talent Show on Wednesday, March 30, at Littlefield in Brooklyn. The theme of the show is "Your Mom" -- comedians, writers and musicians performing with, or about, their own mothers. Co-hosted by TAL contributor Elna Baker.

$5. Doors open at 7, show starts at 8. TICKETS.

Tonight on This American Life TV: "John Smith"

Mar 25, 2011

On Monday March 28th at 10/9c, Current TV will air "John Smith," the sixth episode of our second season of television. It's as good as anything we've ever put on the radio. If you watch only one episode, this is the one to check out. It follows seven people, all named John Smith, from a baby to a man in a nursing home - telling the story of a life cycle through several individual lives. It's our only hour-long episode, was a marathon of filming and editing, and ended up winning an Emmy for our editor Joe Beshenkovsky. Here's a clip:

If you have digital cable, you likely have Current TV:

DIRECTV: 358
Comcast: 107 (125 Dallas and Seattle)
Time Warner: 103 NY and 142 LA
Dish Network: 196
AT&T U-Verse: 189
Verizon FiOS: 192

Ira Glass and others discuss storytelling

Mar 16, 2011

Update 3/18: You can watch a video of the discussion here.

Tonight at 7PM EST Ira Glass joins several other journalists for an event organized by ProPublica, titled "Long-Form Storytelling in a Short Attention Span World."

Also featuring:

David Remnick, Editor, The New Yorker
Raney Aronson-Rath, Series Senior Producer, Frontline
Stephen Engelberg, Managing Editor, ProPublica
And moderated by Alison Stewart, Co-Anchor, Need To Know

On The Media: The Bias Bias

Mar 14, 2011
Ira writes:

"I was on On the Media this weekend, saying that public radio is mainstream news and that the charge of liberal bias is nonsense.

"Yes, NPR exec Ron Schiller said some things about the Tea Party that violated the core principles of our journalistic mission: accuracy and open-mindedness, fairness and respect. I crib those phrases, by the way, from the open letter our colleagues at NPR issued last week condemning his comments. But Ron Schiller is not a journalist, and what he said is very different from the reporting on the Tea Party and everything else you hear on our air every day.

"Since I said all this on On The Media, I've gotten a number of very thoughtful emails from conservative listeners saying they like public radio a lot, and listen all the time, but they hear a bias. I've asked for examples and I hope to get permission from them to post the emails they've sent in response.

"Does public radio have a left-wing bias? Am I wrong about all this? I think the best source of information on the subject is probably our own conservative listeners, who make up roughly a third of our audience (another third calls themselves middle of the road and a third is liberal). Conservatives: what do you hear that makes you wince? Can you think of specific examples of a public radio news story you found biased? On The Media is coming back to this next week, hoping to evaluate whether public radio is biased and if so, how biased, and they might find your comments useful.

"Please comment on our Facebook page, or join the conversation at On the Media, or, if you prefer a less public forum, send your thoughts to press@thislife.org."

May the Best Band Win

Mar 9, 2011

Ira writes:

Earlier this month I interviewed Damian Kulash of OK Go at this all day confab at the Ford Foundation, talking about the forces that might kill the Internet utopia we live in today (replacing it with what I call the Job Killing Non-Neutral Net). We were the novelty act in amongst big thinkers and Bill Clinton. TAL and Daily Show contributor John Hodgman shows up around ten minutes into this and then just won't leave.

Session 3: May the Best Band Win from Ford Foundation on Vimeo.