Browse our archive by

Act One: Spring 2008

We replay sections from the original "Giant Pool of Money," in which This American Life producer Alex Blumberg teams up with NPR's Adam Davidson to tell the story of how the U.S. got itself into a housing crisis. They talk to people who were actually working in the housing, banking, finance and mortgage industries, about what they thought during the boom times, and why the bust happened.

Act Two: Fall 2009

We catch back up with the people we met in 2008, to see how they've fared over the last 18 months. We talk to Clarence Nathan, who in 2008 received a half million dollar loan that he said he wouldn't have given himself; Jim Finkel, a Wall Street finance guy, who put together and managed complicated mortgage-based financial securities; Richard Campbell, the Marine who was facing foreclosure; and Glen Pizzolorusso, the mortgage company sales manager who led the life of a b-list celebrity.

Act One

Host Ira Glass describes scenes from a rest stop on the New York State Thruway, the Plattekill Travel Plaza, and the kind of people you might meet if you ever stayed long enough to talk with them. These include Robert Woodhill, the general manager, who needs a good sales day so he can beat his friend Andy, who manages a rest stop in Maine, in their weekly competition.

Act Two

More stories of travelers and workers at a highway rest stop. The competition between Plattekill and Maine continues.

Act Two: Unbreaking The Bank

NPR reporter and Planet Money contributor Chana Jaffe-Walt reports this story of what it really looks like when a bank fails and is taken over by the FDIC. She talks to the former employees and a handful of FDIC staff about the Friday night when the Bank of Clark County was interrupted and closed by 80 FDIC employees, who had every step of their secret operation down to a science.

Act Three: Short-circuit City

We hear 5 employees of different Circuit City store locations read their accounts of what it was like when the largest electronics chain in the US had less than 2 months to liquidate its entire inventory and close its doors.

Act One: Hey Mister Dj

For NPR's Adam Davidson, dropping out of college is the worst thing any young person can do in this economy. So when Adam's favorite cousin DJ does just that, Adam brings in a professor of economics from Georgetown University to help persuade DJ to get back on the right track.

Act One: New Guy on the Job

Dave Hill continues his story. When he talked to a co-worker the morning after his first shift as a night supervisor, he learned that the place isn’t quite what he thought it was.

Act Two: A Trust Without Trust

An accountant, Bruce Wisan, is hired by the state of Utah to clean up a very complicated mess in a complicated place: Short Creek, home to hundreds of members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—or FLDS, which practices polygamy. The community had been run by the notorious Warren Jeffs, now in prison for rape.

Act Two: Not Dead Yet

Yes, some stores are going out of business in the Cool Springs Galleria, but it's just two stores. We talk to staff at one store that’s closing down, and at another, in the food court, where business is great.

Act Three: Santa Fight Club

A tale of two Santas. There's Tim Conaghan, a full-time professional Santa with a big belly and a real flowing white beard.

Act Four: Job: Security

In a part of the mall no shoppers ever see, there's a snug, dark little room with 43 TV screens, one for each of the cameras in the hallways and parking lots, the roof and the loading dock. We hang out with the security people who work in there, seeing what they see.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks with a veteran Human Resources administrator about what it's like to fire people, and why it helps if you don't actually use the word "fire." (7 minutes)

Act One: Rubber Room

We hear from New York City school teachers about a secret room in the New York City Board of Education building. Teachers are told to report there, and when they arrive, they find out they're under investigation for something.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks to reporter John Bowe about the story of John Nash Pickle, who ran a company in Tulsa, Oklahoma that made steel tanks used in the oil industry. According to 52 Indian men whom Pickle hired and brought to America, Pickle was trying to compete with foreign companies, doing something most companies never try.

Act One: Cowboys And Indians

We continue the story of John Pickle. He hires skilled, experienced welders in India and brings them to the United States.

Act One: I'm Not A Tv Star, But I Play One On Tv

This American Life contributor John Hodgman was unexpectedly chosen to be in a series of high-profile Apple Computer commercials (he plays a PC). He tells the story of what happens when celebrity hunts you down and finds you...on your living room couch, pushing 40, and a couple sizes larger than you want to be.