Monday, January 26, 2009

This American Life

For a few years now, Travis has been telling me about a radio show that comes on NPR called This American Life. I must admit, it took me a while to embrace it but now I am hooked and fascinated. The show is about average people telling interesting  and sometimes unbelievable stories about their lives.  When going on road trips, Travis often gets podcasts on his ipod and we listen to them while we travel. It's weird, some of them are so interesting that you really feel like you are somewhere else and are totally in a zone. My all time favorite episode of This American Life is an episode about a series of cassette tapes that were created in the late 60's early 70's that were sent back and forth between a family and their son/brother who was in medical school in a another state. Different members of the family would go down to the basement and record themselves talking about whatever was going on in their lives at the time and then the tape was sent in the mail.  These tapes went on for several years showing a very eery progression of this family.These tapes were found by a random person in a thrift store many years later and submitted to This American Life.
I have recently discovered that This American Life also has an actual tv show that comes on HBO. Same exact concept except its just on tv rather than the radio. I dont get HBO, so I got them through Netflix.
Tonight we put in one the dvds..and yes it was fascinating. The first "act" as they call it was about a farmer who had a tamed bull as a pet. He loved this bull who they allowed to wander freely around their yard, sleep in his favorite place in the front yard etc. The bull's name was Chance.  After many years, Chance died at age 19. Somehow, and I wasn't completely clear on this part...they cloned Chance. They named the baby bull Second Chance.  This farmer and his wife who had so dearly loved Chance wanted Second Chance to be just like him. They treated him the same..just like a pet. They were so excited to see that each day as the bull grew, he looked a little more like Chance..even eating like Chance they claimed as well as going in the yard to sleep in the same place that his predecessor had. They loved Second Chance, even throwing him a birthday party...until one day after the farmer started leading him through the pasture was kicked, knocked down and hurt badly by this animal that they so very much wanted to believe was just like their tamed Chance. The farmer said he still believed that this was just another version of Chance, going out into the pasture to try and reason with the bull as to why he had done this. Several months later, the same thing happened, only the poor farmer was hurt very badly and hospitalized. Although clearly this bull is not tamed, he still holds on to the belief that this is the same bull he had dearly loved. Cloned or seemed obvious that this animal was doing these things to show he was not the same Chance......
The second Act of This American Life proved to be just as interesting if not more so. It was about an improv group in NYC that stage ...not really pranks, but random situations throughout the city without letting on that the whole thing is very calculated and staged...ex..a random birthday party on the subway and getting everyone in the subway involved. One of their most intricate pranks (for lack of a better word) was to give a up and coming struggling band the rock concert experience of a lifetime. They chose a group called Ghosts of Pasha. They hired people in the city to learn the music of this band, and attend the concert acting as if it was their all time favorite band in the whole entire world and very enthusiastically participate in the concert. So basically..everyone at the concert was an actor, pretending to absolutely LOVE the music. went over great.....they thought. The band was confused, but absolutely elated for exactly 3 days...until some random asshole revealed the prank on the internet about what had really happened. Word got out fast...the band was crushed. People started writing very unkind things about "the worst band ever" etc. As it turns out....this really affected the band. One member was so beside himself because he had been so picked on as a child and felt like it was happening all over again as an adult. The band finally decided to stand up for themselves and respond to all the nastiness that occured on the internet.....and it worked and people responded. They continued to do shows in the New York area. The improv group states that it was not intended to be a mean was intended to make someones dreams their reality. Yes it absolutely backfired, but at the end of the act the question remained........would YOU rather have dreams or reality??????????
Interesting stuff that makes you think! Love love love this show!!!!!

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