Blog

Ira Glass on Slate

Jun 9, 2010
Ira writes: This interviewer got me talking about all sorts of things I never really talk about in interviews. It gets better as it goes along. Part of a series of interviews she's doing about being wrong.

Erie Canal Dance Remix!

Jun 7, 2010
Ira writes: We have no idea who these people are or what led them to make this video, but we love them. This is their original remix of the song by Dave Hill and Nancy Updike from episode #400: Stories Pitched By Our Parents.

This American Life from Jeff Carpenter on Vimeo.

Glasses

Jun 3, 2010

Ira writes: A few months ago I made my classical music debut in a concert with my cousin - there is no way to say this that doesn't sound impossibly pretentious - Philip Glass. It wasn't an intimidating venue. He was playing with a sextet at the Apple Store in Soho, a show that was recorded to sell on the iTunes store.

I do a piece that Philip used to perform onstage with Allen Ginsberg. They were close friends. It's Ginsberg's poem "Wichita Vortex Sutra" set to a piano score. I love this poem and know well the original recording they did of it together. It was incredibly fun to read the poem while Philip played next to me, and here's the thing I can tell you about reading onstage with my cousin the famous composer: he plays really really loud. It's like reading a poem next to a helicopter.

You can get my piece, or the whole concert, here.

If you go to the site, the most amazing parts of the show were the excepts from Symphony No. 3 played by the sextet. That piece is gorgeous, with these six melodies weaving against each other in the most beautiful way, and their performance was kind of breathtaking.

Eight Months of This American Life... in One Minute

May 27, 2010

In hopes that it will entice you to donate, Ira Glass has put together a minute-long recap of the last eight months of This American Life. It features memorable clips from some of the most ambitious and varied shows we've ever produced. Take a listen:

A Message from Ira...

May 14, 2010

Over the last several months we've tried to do an especially ambitious run of shows: investigative reports, an original Broadway song, the history of GM told through one car plant that could've saved the company, Rest Stop, #1 Party School, and the show where we all produced stories pitched by our parents – to name just a few.

Research findings

May 12, 2010
We did some research, and determined that approximately 1/12th of your friends have birthdays in May. We did some more research, and found that we have a store where you can buy This American Life merchandise. We have no idea if these two findings are related, but thought we'd put them out there.

Things Not Returning to the Scene of the Crime

Apr 30, 2010

This weekend we are re-airing an episode of our radio show that was recorded onstage in front of an audience and beamed out live to 430 movies theaters around the country. We've got some video extras to share with you to supplement your listening experience.

The first is a sad, beautiful cartoon put together by Chris Ware called "Quimby The Mouse" featuring Eugene by Andrew Bird and animation by John Kuramoto.

The second is the musical theatrical debut of filmmaking legend Joss Whedon in which he performs a song about DVD commentaries.

If you still want more we've also got a DVD of the show, which includes a great story by Starlee Kine that we didn't have time to include in the radio broadcast... and of course, a DVD commentary.

Steve Poizner's Wild Ride to Number Five

Apr 29, 2010
Mount Pleasant

In our story about California Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Poizner, we mentioned questions about sales figures for his book Mount Pleasant. Just after its release, Poizner's book shot to No. 5 on the New York Times Best-Seller List.

During his interview, Ira Glass asked Poizner if he or the campaign had bought a bunch of copies of the book to boost sales. At that time, Mr. Poizner confirmed that the campaign did buy copies for supporters, but said he could not provide a specific number. He then told Ira his campaign would make the figure available.

After the interview, a few things happened. Mount Pleasant dramatically dropped to No. 33 on the very next New York Times Best-Seller List. As instructed by Mr. Poizner, we asked the campaign how many copies it purchased, but the campaign declined to provide a number.

Then, Malcolm Maclachlan, a reporter with Capitol Weekly—a paper focused on California politics—sent us a story he wrote after hearing our story about the controversy surrounding Poizner’s book. Looking into sales of Mount Pleasant, he found some very strange things—things that raise more questions about book's brief rise onto the best-seller list.

In his article, which you can read here, Maclachlan reports that a significant number of people seem to have inexplicably received copies of Poizner's book. One college student in San Diego named Matthew Donnellan says he was confused when he received a copy of Mount Pleasant. Donnellan got more confused when he looked to see who paid for it.

…[He] noticed that his name and address were listed not only as the recipient but as the buyer on the invoice. Wanting to make sure his credit card number hadn’t been stolen, he called Amazon. The Amazon representative he reached told him the book was purchased with a gift card — and that card had also been used to buy copies of "Mount Pleasant" for 249 other people, all of whom had first names that began with "M."

"It was like they were going down a mailing list," Donnellan said.

Maclachlan reports that the gift card appears to have been purchased under a fishy name by someone affiliated with a book promotions company called ResultsSource.

The implication is that the company may have disguised a large promotional purchase of the book by using gift cards to buy copies for large numbers of individuals on a mailing list.

This is interesting because leading entities that rank book sales make an effort not to count bulk sales in their rankings. The idea is to prevent promotions companies and authors from buying a bunch of copies and forcing their book onto best-seller lists. Sales that appeared to go to individuals through a retailer like Amazon, however, would be counted. Those are the kinds of sales that determine a book's sales figures and ranking.

Maclachlan reached out the ResultSource and the Poizner campaign about his findings. The Poizner campaign declined to discuss the matter. The promotions company did not return his phone calls.

Four This American Life Contributors Onstage in New York

Apr 28, 2010
The Talent Show

The third monthly variety show featuring many This American Life regulars happens this week. Dave Hill, Marti Noxon, Cliff Doerksen and Elna Baker will perform. Also: Comedian Eugene Mirman is answering audience questions on any topic.

Gershwin Hotel, 7 E. 27th Street in New York. $5. Details.

UPDATE: This month's show is also sold out now.

Magnetar and Goldman Sachs: Connected?

Apr 26, 2010

Wondering what's the connection between our Magnetar story and the news about charges against Goldman Sachs? Pro Publica has an update about it on their site.

And lots of people have been asking if our story on Magnetar helped the New York Times break that story about Goldman Sachs. The answer is we don't know. But there have been lots of great reporters doing great work on this area of wall street for some time. Wall Street Journal reporters Serena Ng and Carrick Mollenkamp wrote about a disastrous Magnetar CDO all the way back in late 2007. And Gretchen Morgenson has been writing about Goldman Sachs in the New York Times for some time as well. Pro Publica's investigation uncovered a wealth of heretofore unreported information, like how many CDO's Magnetar sponsored, how much they were worth, and the fact that it was pushing for riskier assets to go into them. In addition, the breadth and depth of their inquiry fleshed out the larger story of what was happening on Wall Street in the CDO world.