Modern-day fables of two different kinds of do-gooders during and after the 1994 genocide in the African country of Rwanda. Philip Gourevich, author of the book We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, tells first about international relief workers who served as "caterers" to some of the Hutu powers as they continued their policy of ethnic cleansing after fleeing to refugee camps.
Host Ira Glass reads famous last words from Bing Crosby, Oscar Wilde, W.C. Fields, and talks about what we want from people's last words.
The story of a White House scandal from the year 1881. President James Garfield lay dying of a gunshot wound during that summer.
Germs were first understood at the turn of the 20th century and it turns out that the aesthetics of everyday life during this century—the way we dress, the way we groom ourselves, the way we make our homes—are all partly a response to this newfangled idea of germs.
Denis Wood talks with host Ira Glass about the maps he's made of his own neighborhood, Boylan Heights in Raleigh, North Carolina. They include a traditional street locator map, a map of all the sewer and power lines under the earth's surface, a map of how light falls on the ground through the leaves of trees, a map of where all the Halloween pumpkins are each year, and a map of all the graffiti in the neighborhood.
Camp Lake of the Woods holds a fake Indian powwow during the summer. This kind of fake Native American-ness has been a part of camping in America since organized camping began a century ago.
Host Ira Glass describes what thousands of people do all over America on our holiday weekends: we go to historic sites with our kids and stare at bricks and statues, trying to feel some connection with the past. It's not easy.
Now in exile, Jose Ramos Horta spent two decades as the leading international spokesman against the invasion of his country by Indonesia. He won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
Host Ira Glass with Jan Tomare, who spent three years in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Richard Klein of Cornell University explains that the way we view love really began with love poems in the 13th century — an illusion.
Host Ira Glass explains why some old answering machine messages from a decade ago have such power for him: there's a special power to recordings of phone conversations. The phone is intimate — more intimate than a photograph.
Host Ira Glass reads from a letter Benjamin Franklin wrote, and discusses it with Jack Hitt.
A communist, the filmmaker Marcel Ophuls, the band Camper Van Beethoven, and other people who may be stuck in the wrong decade.
More than England, or Japan or Israel.... When we think of South Africa, it's a more interesting mirror of the United States than nearly any country, because we glimpse a distant echo of the most frightening parts of American society — and the most inspiring.
Host Ira Glass explains that today's show begins in 1865 and ends today. Ira reads briefly from Lincoln's Second Inaugural address, which describes slavery as America's Original Sin of sorts.
South Carolina native Jack Hitt discusses the Confederate Flag's prominent place over the statehouse.
An inextinguishable subterranean fire on the edge of a small Pennsylvania town, and why the residents are not afraid of it. Host Ira Glass and This American Life contributor Alix Spiegel.
Professor Stephen Pyne.
Ira with an expert in medieval manuscripts, Sandy Hindman.
They can't pronounce the names, can't read the maps, don't know the history, and are on an idealistic quest for justice that so far has not flowered. Kitty Felde, on Americans at the War Crimes Trial for the former Yugoslavia.Interview with Michael Ignatieff about war crimes trials and truth commissions.
Host Ira Glass uses Italian author Umberto Eco's essay Travels in Hyperreality as a guidebook to American simulated worlds. Eco says that the urge to create these miniature simulated worlds is a very American impulse — a significant American aesthetic — and one that's not often discussed.
Ira takes a Medieval scholar from the University of Chicago, Michael Camille, to Medieval Times — a chain of fake castles where visitors eat Medieval food and drink Medieval Pepsi and watch a supposed recreation of a Medieval jousting tournament. The scholar finds that there are many historical inaccuracies, but that Medieval Times does capture something essential and interesting about the spirit of the Middle Ages.