Judge Amanda Williams Faces Charges

Nov 10, 2011

Ira writes:

Many listeners have written to us since our episode about Georgia Judge Amanda Williams, asking what ever happened to her. Did she face any consequences for the things we documented on our program?

Yesterday, Georgia's Judicial Qualifications Commission filed formal charges against her. The twelve counts include a number of things reported in our episode: sending away inmates for indefinite detention, jailing Charlie McCullough for 14 days for exercising his right to contest a drug screen, and using "rude, abusive, or insulting language" with individuals appearing before her.

The JQC also accuses Judge Williams of sending Lindsey Dills into solitary confinement for an indefinite period, without the ability to consult with a lawyer, despite the fact that the court knew her history of suicide attempts. (She later attempted suicide while in solitary custody.) It accuses Judge Williams of issuing this order from her chambers, without the public or a court reporter present. Judge Williams told the JQC that she had not issued this order, but the investigators apparently found a recording of her returning to her courtroom and declaring: "On Lindsey Dills, she is not to have any telephone privileges and no one is to contact or visit her except [drug court counselor] Gail Kelly! Nobody! Total restriction!"

Generally what happens in these cases is that the judge is shown the charges and given the option to step down, rather than face them. Judge Williams apparently chose not to step down, so charges were filed. If this proceeds to a trial, it will happen in January.

These are just accusations of course, not findings of guilt. Judge Williams has not responded to reporters' inquiries yet about the charges.

News coverage about the charges. Another story. AP story.

The actual charges, in full.

Snap Judgment

Nov 2, 2011

Ira writes:

You listening to Snap Judgment yet? They're part of a new wave of public radio shows telling stories on the air, and they do it in a style that's all their own. Different from us or Radiolab or The Moth. As a host, Glynn Washington has chops that I and Abumrad and Keillor don't even dream of. Check out Beating Las Vegas or Dancing While Black or Evil D.

I mention this today because Snap Judgment puts on a hell of a live show and they have one coming up in DC on November 12th, with a great band adding music to the stories in real time (that ep with Dancing While Black gives you a taste). DC and Baltimore and Northern VA listeners, I'm talking to you.

Sitcom from an America That's Just Starting to Exist

Oct 25, 2011

Ira writes:

Jane Espenson's a very funny TV writer I admire. She wrote two of my favorite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Superstar" and "I Was Made to Love You", and also wrote for The O.C., Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and Gilmore Girls. For a while she had a cheery blog full of practical tips and thoughts about how to write for television, including her theories on how to create funny dialogue, which was fascinating.

Anyway, she's just finished a new project. It's a sitcom, and it follows all the rules and conventions of any sitcom, except it's about a gay married couple. As she puts it: "Mad About You but with two guys." When she and her co-writer Brad Bell came up with the idea, they realized it's such an obvious concept for a series that if network TV had wanted to do it, they already would've. So instead of going around pitching the show, they made it on the cheap, with their own money, on the Internet. A sitcom veteran, Jeff Greenstein, who did about a million episodes of Will and Grace, directed.

They shot a 22-minute pilot, and split it into eleven two-minute videos, i.e., bite-sized enough to be appropriate for the web. The last bit of it just went up. It's called Husbands. The setup is decidedly old-school. Two fresh-faced guys named Brady and Cheeks get married on a drunken bender in Vegas, and then decide they'll try to make the marriage work, after briefly considering annulment:

Brady (who's a pro baseball player): Marriages can be annulled if you're too drunk to know what you're doing. My teammates do it all the time.

Cheeks: So that's why you're called The Dodgers!

Brady doesn't laugh.

Cheeks: Wrong time but it's comedy gold, trust me.

Brady: I'm not going to be the first gay divorce since the new law! We have to stay technically married for a while.

Cheeks: Straight people do this all the time! In fact, if we weren't gay, this would be a hackneyed premise.

Husbands is chock-a-block with the clever clever writing of a sitcom, delivered at the hurried pace of people trying to cram in as many jokes as humanly possible. Though if you're going to check out just one episode, make it the last one, number eleven, where it pivots from this rat-a-tat sitcom writing to a moment where Brady suggests to Cheeks "How about we stop talking, get into bed and find something else to do." And they do. They cuddle and there's a full-on, no kidding, romantic kiss. Which is somehow mindblowing in this sugar-coated, fun-for-the-family context. It is not the quick peck on the cheek that Cam and Mitchell finally got to in season two of Modern Family. Seeing a man sweetly kiss another man onscreen and not in some moodily-lit Sundance movie with an Important Statement To Make, but just another day in America's dumbest art form, the sitcom, feels new and amazing. And sure, now that I've looked it up on Google, I've learned of gay kisses on Glee and Will and Grace. It still feels new. It feels like you're peeking at a future – of TV, of America – that's just barely coming into existence.

Jane's hope is that some brave network – AMC? NBC? – will notice their little experiment and give them a budget larger than the cost of a Hyundai to blow people's minds on real TV. If they do it right, of course, they won't be blowing minds at all. They'll just be the New Normal.

Ben Calhoun's 'Patriot Games' wins at Third Coast

Oct 25, 2011

Congratulations to This American Life producer Ben Calhoun, whose story Patriot Games won the Bronze Award at the 2011 Third Coast Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition. Produced for our midterm election episode This Party Sucks, Ben's story focused on Rich Carlson and Tom Swenor, two best friends in Michigan whose decision to form a Tea Party chapter would end up dramatically changing their lives.

Ben was in good company in the awards. Our buddies at RadioLab took home the Silver with a story called Finding Emilie. And the trio of Nick Van Der Kolk, Brenden Baker and Nick Williams snagged the Gold with The Wisdom of Jay Thunderbolt, a documentary/music hybrid about a guy who runs a strip club out of his Detroit home. That story ran on Van Der Kolk's podcast Love + Radio. Congrats all around.

"The Talent Show" - October 26 in Brooklyn

Oct 20, 2011

This American Life contributors Dave Hill, Eugene Mirman and Elna Baker are performing in The Talent Show on Wednesday, October 26th, at Littlefield in Brooklyn. The event, which is Halloween-themed, also features performers Reggie Watts, Joseph Keckler, T. Berry and more.

Tickets are $7. Doors open at 7, show starts at 8.

Planet Money: LIVE!

Oct 19, 2011
Hey Californians, producers Alex Blumberg and David Kestenbaum from the Planet Money team have taken the show on the road for the first time, and there are still tickets left to see Planet Money performed live in your state!

Wednesday, October 26th at 8pm in Santa Barbara: tickets here.

Friday, October 28th 7:30pm at in Chico: tickets here.

Post-It Note Diaries

Oct 6, 2011
A book just came out that includes stories by several This American Life contributors. It's called Post-It Note Diaries, and was edited and illustrated by Arthur Jones, whose drawings you may remember from the 2009 live show that we beamed into movie theaters. Post-It Note Diaries began as a live show that Arthur produced with Starlee Kine, where people would tell stories on stage while Arthur projected illustrations that he'd drawn on Post-It notes. And now it's a book, including stories by Arthur, Starlee and a bunch of our other buddies, including David Rakoff (who just won the Thurber Prize for American Humor, in case you hadn't heard), John Hodgman, Chuck Klosterman, Jonathan Goldstein, David Wilcox and Jeff Simmermon. Plus a bunch of other talented folks who haven't been on the show.

Ira's Blackout Drunk

Sep 28, 2011
Ira writes:

Hi all! A week ago I appeared onstage with Rachel Maddow, John Hodgman, Eugene Mirman and others, and the next morning, woke up in my own clothes, in my own bed, smelling faintly of vomit, unable to remember anything that happened onstage after the first 15 minutes, not even sure how I got home. I'm not proud of this. I bring it up only to say that I told the entire story onstage to Marc Maron for the WTF podcast and if you want to hear it, the link is here. Overall, it's a pretty great episode of Marc's podcast, with Morgan Spurlock and a bunch of comedians including—astonishingly—Artie Lange. I got to meet and sit onstage with Artie Lange! And if you don't know who he is, all I can say is, you have not listened to enough Howard Stern. Like any Stern fan, I love Artie. He's my favorite on that show by far. I've seen him perform at a comedy club and at Carnegie Hall. He has no idea who the hell I am. Terry Gross did the definitive interviews with Artie, in 2006 and 2008, but I guess his knowledge of public radio doesn't go far beyond Fresh Air. Improbably, against an amazing lineup of comedians, the person who hits it out of the park in this WTF episode, for my money, is Elna Baker, who's been on our show a couple times. I'm not sure this episode of WTF is as great as the very funny Episode 164, where the guests were Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Eric Drysdale, Chuck Klosterman and Sarah Vowell, or the amazing Episode 200, where comedian Mike Birbiglia interviewed Marc (Mike's nice-guy demeanor helps him get away with some super tough questions like "what happened in your divorces, anyway?" and "you were great when I first saw you perform and then am I mistaken or didn't you go through a stretch of mediocrity?"), but it's a really funny episode nonetheless.

Kudos to Radiolab

Sep 20, 2011

Ira writes:

Fantastic news today as one of our colleagues and friends at Radiolab, Jad Abumrad, was named a MacArthur "Genius Grant" winner. I couldn't agree more with whoever chooses people for those awards: Jad does amazing, beautiful, innovative work.

A Correction

Sep 14, 2011
In our show Ten Years In we accidentally misreported a statistic. In our story about a Muslim American girl named Chloe, we stated that according to FBI statistics, about 10 percent of hate crimes in 2009 were against Muslims. In fact, about 10 percent of religiously-motivated hate crimes were against Muslims. It was 128 of the 1,376 religiously-motivated hate crimes that year (9.3 percent). In all, there were 7,789 hate crime offenses in 2009, so incidents against Muslims were 1.6% of the total, which is tiny. That same year, there were 2,724 hate crimes against blacks, 798 hate crimes against gay men and 964 hate crimes against Jews, according to the FBI. A table of the data is here on the FBI's website. Our reporter misread this summary. We're grateful to the listener who emailed and pointed this out, Robert Ben Garant.