Frenemies

I learned about this on a This American Life Show. This is a good show to learn about American Life – at top speed. I meant two things by this: that the learning here is at top speed, and that American Life is at top speed too; American Life is hyper-active, as is the show itself.

This show is in four acts. The first one is very hyper-active, with the narrator speaking so fast I could hardly follow her. This seems to be normal for her family, as she relates its strange, complicated interaction with one of her sisters. You may need a rest after listening to this.

Act Three is relatively high-class: David Rakoff demonstrates—in rhyme—how to make a wedding toast for people you never wanted to see married in the first place. A nice change of pace.

Act Four is the best, and reminds me of Gestalt Therapy – remember that?

If you are a normal American, understanding American life is the last thing on earth you want – not understanding is our national pastime. If you are not a normal American, like me, you might enjoy it.

This American Life

I listened to this show for the first time yesterday – and I must say it impressed me. First of all, it seems to be about the conflicts inherent in American Life – which do get rather gruesome. I will explain with an example from the show I listened to.

A young woman intends to become a Journalist. She goes to college, gets a degree in Journalism, does an internship at a new magazine, and gets hired there. So far, so good.

Her first story is covering the arrival of a young woman Japanese rock star. Her managers decide that the fastest way for her to break into the American scene is to do a naked photo shoot. In Japan, she has been portrayed as a modest young woman, but her handlers, for reasons known only to themselves, decided to try this new approach. Our budding new journalist is assigned this story, which is going to be a cover story. A big break for her, right off the bat.

She shows up for the press conference, which is attended by many other reporters with their cameras, both still and video. She has an interview with the rock star afterward. But instead of answering her questions, the rock star – no doubt acting as directed – simply repeats her questions back at her. For example, when she asks her what kind of clothing she likes to where, she simply asks her back “What kind of clothing do you like to wear?”

Looking at her notes afterward, she decides she doesn’t have enough for a story, and tells her boss so. Her boss replies that she must have a story, and tells her to just make one up. After some thought, our budding young hero, who has spent some time in their office, figures out an angle. She has noticed that the young men in the office are very immature when it comes to sexuality.

Since her name is similar to a man’s name, she decides to write a story as if she was one of the immature young men, fantasizing about the upcoming interview, and then following through with it. The story, is printed, right on the front page. Then their magazine started getting lots of requests to interview their reporter. So they set up a press conference for this.

The reporters expect to see a young man come out to meet them, but when they see a young woman they do a double take. This is really a hot story – a young American woman reporter has the hots for a Japanese rock star! When she tries to tell everybody the truth they ignore her, and go with this new fabrication.

As a result, her career as a journalist is ruined. But her boss could care less – his circulation was up, and that was all he cared about.

To find out for yourself, check their site – where you can listen to their latest show, or download it for free.