This American Life episode #244
Initially aired August 15, 2003
Stories about ingenious solutions to everyday problems, the kind of things we rarely get to do in our everyday lives.
Ira Glass talks to This American Life contributing editor Sarah Vowell in New York CIty during the 2003 blackout about how she's dealing without power. Turns out she's managed to light a candle and...well, that's it, really. They talk about how even in the most extreme situations we just sit tight and wait for the problem to go away. (4 minutes)
Act One: Bolt of Lightning, Pro and Con
Ira interviews Chuck Klosterman (of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs fame) who tells the story of how he survived his girlfriend's wrath one Valentine's Day. He gets trapped by not realizing that giving gifts on the holiday isn't something that only happens in grade school. Turns out, his solution made him feel worse than if he had just been honest with her. (6 minutes)
Act Two: Files in Cakes, Ha!
Felix Solis reads an excerpt of a book called Prisoners' Inventions by a California inmate who writes under the pseudonym Angelo. The book is exactly what it sounds like - a collection of things incarcerated felons can make to bring some semblance of homeyness to a jail cells including privacy curtains made out of old bed sheets and paper clips, large drinking cups out of toilet paper and saran wrap and the like. His inventions are ingenious to say the least. (4 minutes)
Act Three: So Crazy It Just Might Work
Elizabeth Gilbert's story about a man who desperately wanted to make a movie. It was called The Knockdowns and was supposed to be filmed in Boston, but that meant dealing with the teamster's union and that meant dealing with the mob. This would have been a problem if this had been a normal movie, but it's not - as the story unfolds we learn that the entire movie is an FBI front designed to nail the mobsters behind the movie once and for all. It worked, but then something odd happened - the FBI agent behind the bust decided he really, really wanted to finish making the movie. This is a wonderfully convoluted tale and is a pleasure to listen to. (25 minutes)
Act Four: A Girl's Guide to Mending the Unbendable
Susans Burton relates the story of her first high school love and what it was like to write about it and be critiqued by complete strangers. The MacGyvering in this instance is a mental one, how we can take one set of data and come up with completely disparate results depending on the situation.
Burton's a wonderful producer of documentary radio (she crafted the Come Back to Afghanistan episode of This American Life, a story that won the Silver Award for Best Documentary at the 2003 Third Coast International Audio Festival) but her personal stories ring hollow to me. As introverted as most This American Life contributors are, hers are almost too personal and, frankly, not very interesting. Well written, to be sure, but not my style. (17 minutes)
Specifics (running time, episode number, etc.) taken from http://www.thislife.org/pages/descriptions/03/244.html
The analysis/synopsis is mine.
Back to the This American Life Episode Guide, 2003