This American Life - Unusually Amazing Radio


Since I don't have a tv I listen to the radio quite a bit. I really like the radio. There are so many awesome programs. And I'm not even thinking of the cool music programs my radiostation are running (sadly often late at night - I need a radio TiVo).

While looking for the story I linked in the last posting I got reminded how many amazing stories they have at This American Life. I can't emphasize this enough. I want to include language they can't use on TV to make it clear to you, dear reader, how great this program is. But I'm not the cursing type unless I'm unusually upset, so I can't today.

I've listened to maybe 50, 100 or maybe even more of them over the last years and it's rare it hasn't been 59 very enjoyable minutes. I was considering linking to a few of my favorites, but if I had started you'd still be downloading this page because there'd be so many links. If you haven't heard the show before then read their introduction and then check out some of their own favorites.

Or you can go to their front page and just browse the archives for stories catching your interest. If you don't think you'll relate well to something called "American Life", you should reconsider. This Life, the name in their URL, really is more accurate.


Amen brother!

My favorites are the ones on pathological lying. I found them unbelievable. But then as I was related one of those stories at lunch one day more than one person chimed in that they had known people just like that. People who's entire life is a prefectly constructed fabric of lies. Amazing.

I look forward to the show all week. In Buffalo, the NPR station plays it at 7PM on Fridays and 4PM on Saturdays so you can catch it either time. I often find that I listen to both.

I saw Ira Glass live a few years ago and he was excellent. He went into detail about how they actually put stories together with background music and everything. If you ever get a chance to see him, jump at it!

Regarding the radio TiVo idea, I've been thinking about this too. One possible approach would be to get a radio/TV tuner card that works with Linux and then write a script to grab my favorite shows. I haven't figured out if there are any Perl interfaces to video4linux yet, but it seems likely that there will be something out there.

The other option is to buy the Pogo Radio Your Way device, which is a portable mp3 player that can record scheduled radio broadcasts.

Yes, TAL is by far my favorite show in any format -- tv or radio. I saw the 5th anniversary "birthdays" show when they came to Boston a couple of years ago, and even though I was in the most distant possible seat (well no, I tell a lie -- there was exactly one row behind me at the top of the balcony section, but still, close enough) it was a blast.

As for the radio Tivo idea, I've been thinking about that too. What I'd like to see would be a stereo deck component that was basically a little PC, with a decent size hard drive and some kind of networking support (wireless, ideally -- the idea is to connect to your PCs & to the interweb, and not everyone keeps their stereo in the same room as their office gear). I understand that this is roughly what Tivo does, but I haven't looked at them closely.

The idea is though that I've got a hard drive full of audio on my desktop machine that I would like to be able to stream through the regular stereo. It would also be nice to be able to listen to internet radio stations through the stereo, or conversely to be able to play something through the stereo and pick up the signal somehow on my computer (so that it would be possible for example to save the files as mp3s or mpegs or whatever.

The Pogo thing sounds interesting. In my case portability would be nice, but something that took up a slot in my stereo rack wouldn't bother me -- maybe it could take the place of my CD player :-)

Yeah, I love This American Life.

Wow. I'm surprised I've never heard of it before, but as it's on KCRW at 10am on Saturday, I'll definitely be tuning in. :o) Oh, it's alright, I'm sure I'll just love it. Anyone else grow up listening to Garrison Keillor's "Lake Woebegon" stories?

Garrison Keillor's show is great too, but it's more homey & old fashioned. I'm not really sure what the best two or three word description of TAL is, but neither of those terms are likely to be used :-)

I got tired of missing TAL so I got myself a FM tuner card and did a little hunting. I found a few scripts that did what I want. I modified one I found into the script posted below. I think I could have used 'record' instead of doing the fork , sleep and kill routine, but I have been too lazy to change it. I like doing this because the quality is so much better than listening to the show via RealAudio. I setup a cron to record the show every friday like so:
0 19 * * Fri ~/scripts/ TAL 94.9 3600


if test -z $3; then
echo "Usage: recordradio "
exit 1;


date=`date +'%Y-%m-%d'`

aumix -v 0 -l 100 -l R -m P -m 0


$radio -qf $freq

sox -v1.0 -c2 -s -w -t ossdsp -r 44100 /dev/dsp -t cdr - | $lame -m j -b 192 -F - $file.mp3 &

sleep $seconds
kill $REC_PID
$radio -qm
aumix -v 57 -l 0

in the onion link on the guy that doesn't watch tv, a co-worker of Green states 'He was like, 'I didn't know you had contacts, Annette. Are your eyes bad? That a shame. I'm really lucky to have almost perfect vision. I'm guessing it's because I don't watch TV. In fact, I don't even own one."' ... Ask, you sit in front of a computer probably more than most people sit in front of their TV. :-) Does that mean you are a cheater? ;-)

This American Life is not simply the most interesting show on radio. I'd wager that it is the most interesting show in American broadcasting in any media.

Ira Glass and I are going to get married someday. He just doesn't realize it yet. *cue Psycho theme*

I thoroughly enjoyed episode 250 (about Diebold, especially), and have since been listening to them as often as possible. Also recommended is

the Radio will return as a force

I??m a TAL fanatic as well. I try to evangelize, but it doesn??t take for some.

My radio-TiVo set up is WinADR (available at and RealOne. I play and record shows thru the soundcard using WinADR (other programs do this I just like this one best). The sound quality takes a hit, but 32 kBit/s mono it good enough for radio talk and the files don??t get too big. I then use realOne to transfer to my Rio.

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This page contains a single entry by Ask Bjørn Hansen published on September 25, 2003 3:10 AM.

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