America…. God Or No God?

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So for perhaps the final This American Life we listen and respond to for DS106, I listened to the hour long show on Godless America, a thoughtful and entertaining segment, but unlike the others we have listened to so far in class. The show gave a closer look to the controversial divide of Church and State in our nation, the opposing arguments and cases for both sides, and the influences on our infrastructure, schools, politics etc.   Those in favor of making the United States a religious nation want Christianity embedded in everything, from the selection of judges, to science in classrooms. The segment shows us why anyone liked the idea of separation of church and state in the first place.

The first part really made me think of how, even though the nation isn’t considered a religious state, our faith seems to mend and add bias into the national media, and trickles down into society. Paul Williams, a city councilman in Janesville, Wisconsin, wants to make sure a Salvation Army built with public money doesn’t proselytize. Soon he’s getting attacked in the local press…and by President Bush. He’s got the freedom of speech, but his anti-religious comments stir so much controversy. A Georgia teacher finds that by teaching what she’s supposed to teach — evolution—she turns her school against her. This is the case in other places around the country as well, and it really makes you think the extent to which we base our opinions, decisions and actions on faith, religion and our beliefs. Those who are non-religious, athiest and sorts and looked down upon and turned against when they say what they have to say.

Now I come from a devout and strong Muslim background, and so we do take into consideration what our religion would want us to do in any situation, but at the same time its not right to cloud our judgement of other people because they may not believe in the same ideals or in the same God. I just think there should be a fine line drawn between the separation of Church and State in America, where it can be the best of both worlds, but that expecting too much. This issue has been a problem since the forefathers found this nation, and continues to havoc the reflections of people based on their beliefs today.

As for the radio show, in Act One,  we hear a quick rundown of all the ways that Christian conservatives are making headway in advancing their values as public policy, why they think total separation of church and state is not what the founding fathers intended. And why they’re wrong. Both sides and their advocates brought up good points, and defended their side well, but the whole dilemma is just frustrating… its just one of those issues.

I thought the story in Act Two was compelling and an attention-grabber. Julia’s Sweeney experience through this, and her questioning and cracking down on her religion made for intriguing content. Her references to Hitler was interesting and the moment when she thought about the idea of death, and the life after, and her brother were the highlight of the show. Now her conclusion is one I don’t agree with, and she was nitpicky about what she wanted to believe and what she didn’t but nonetheless her story was very interesting. This episode might have been the second best I’ve listened to, and proves that there is still much to change about our society and nation as a whole, and these problems will plague us until we find an efficient solution. Great Job to Ira and the crew, another good production!

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Switched At Birth, another TAL exclusive…

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Well before I started to listen to this 4th episode of This American Life, the preview and title just seemed enticing and very interesting. “On a summer day in 1951, two baby girls were born in a hospital in small-town Wisconsin. The infants were accidentally switched, and went home with the wrong families.” That caption itself made me want to start up the radio show and see what it had to offer. It set up the story pretty well, of course Ira Glass doing his usual brilliant work. But I believe that about 20 minutes into it, the story seemed to lose me, and I think the segment should have been narrowed down to a shorter length, perhaps add some more stories in the hour long broadcast.

Now for the story, I just its mind-boggling, crazy how 43 years can pass without this truth and secret being exposed, and the fact that one of the mothers had known all along, but never could garner herself to let the truth be told…. that does absolutely make for a great story. As the show progressed, it really dug deep into family values, and the difference of lifestyles the girls lived through, as opposed to what they would’ve gone through living with their biological families. The sudden change and shock for all parties involved after the truth was exposed was also dramatic and emotional, having to adjust to knowing you belong to another family and have another set of parents, while calling those who really aren’t your own for 40+ years. Now given that, some of the content was unnecessary because it didnt captivate listeners, or at least not me.

However, I did like this episode, it kept me interested and entertained for the 1st 20-25 minutes or so, the story and background was really fascinating. I just wish there were some subsegments that changed up the topic a bit, take our attention elsewhere, because an hour on the same story was too much. Anyone would start losing interest towards the end. But still a great job from the production, the piece was still powerful and provocative.

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Third Time’s…. not a charm…

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Well, lets just say this was my least favorite of the three This American Life episodes I have heard so far. Just unusual and weird stories seemed to be my thoughts as I listened to the 59 minutes of audio of this one, perhaps expecting more because of the complexity and excitement of the previous two. This one just really didn’t hit the spot. I thought the “greatest phone message in the world” was kind of humorous, because of the fact that a simple message turned out to be such a hit, so that was one of the high points of the episode. Act One was just negativity, and a downer of a story. Act Two was awe-inspiring and a good way to send a message, so I thought that was neat. The last act with the man who found the love of his life through the message he sent her to Italy, was a feel-good kind of story that makes you say “Aw thats cute :D” and I felt happy for the guy because his method and his success at something he tried very hard to achieve. But overall, honestly I kind of got bored with this episode and kept zoning in and out, and this is from trying to listening to it twice; the content was again very creative and definitely portrayed a message I understood and created my own meaning of, but I could say the first two episodes I enjoyed much more. But nevertheless, This American Life never does fail to disappoint, but maybe a little sometimes… hope the next episode is entertaining again though!

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The American Life: Cruelty of Children

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So after our first listen to the series “This American Life” which dealt with the college lifestyle and Penn State as a party school, the second episode I listened to was quite different, and interesting to say the least.  It dealt with the object and base of power in the hands of adolescents . Ira Glass, David Sedaris and Ira Sher each provide three different but unifying stories that illustrate this theme of power within the 60 minute radio show. The title also happened to be quite different than what actually went on, as I envisioned stories of abuse against children, it was somewhat the opposite.

Act One was primed to be a humorous segment of the show but there was obvious pain and negativity that was shown through the comedy. While life was a struggle internally and externally for the guy, he found ease through the humor and comedy. Masking your true feelings behind these wall of jokes is extremely painful and I sympathized with his problem.

“The Man in the Well” was a powerful and explicit creation of the abuse of power by those who just gain it. After finding an adult man stuck in a well, a group of kids decide to not call for help and let the man die slowly and painfully. Kids are usually the ones being commanded and directed, and so in this situation without the proper guidance, they took a decision, and it was painfully and unfortunately and wrong one. Their motives would be unknown but the action as we look at it from our point of view was horrendous and the result is sickening, and the music playing to the story gave the bizarre story yet an even more twisted presence.

The third story of the bunch was more optimistic and successful in a sense, as it tackles the subject of students in elementary school subjugating and segregating themselves from each other, and the approach a teacher took to fix this problem, and it seemed to do very well. Its very important this type of social standards and behavior don’t follow children farther out into their lives, and the goal of ending social norms and exclusions like these altogether.

This episode was yet another very interesting one, and I’ve gotta say that I really do like Ira Glass’ production on making these very vital shows. Looking forward to our next episode!

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A look into the social scene of colleges in the US…

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An sixty-eight minute listen to the radio series This American Life, and the specific episode, “#1 Party School” really gave me a good first impression of the show and I enjoyed the show, expecting more of the same in the future. But this episode touched on a topic dear to many of us college students: the aspects of drinking, partying and life in the social scene.

The show made me realize the differences and similarities of the scene here at the University of Mary Washington with Penn State, and they gave such a great illustration of the affects of the binge drinking and huge frat partying habits of students on themselves, and other around them. Because it is such a big school, the problem has been brought up and taken into action on multiple occasions but it just cannot be controlled because of various factors. The students feel like they need to live upto their reputation as world-class partiers at Penn-State, and that comes with its obvious negative affects. I also saw much of the same that goes on here in Fredericksburg as a small college town and the roots it has invested in the University and how the students potentially make or break its reputation through their actions. This American Life really made me question all the crazy, wild and unnecessary behavior that was displayed in the episode and personally through what I’ve seen here at UMW.

The police, the residents nearby among others affiliated with State College and Penn State have had a tough time dealing with this and this is a safety hazard as shown with the alcohol poisoning death, and through the humorous parts shown earlier in the episode, it ultimately ends on a negative note, perhaps sending a message that we as college students can benefit off from. Sometimes we need to realize our actions, and the consequences of them to ourselves and other people, and being under the influence impairs that judgment, and that night that was so great could end up on a bad, potentially tragic note.

I enjoyed the episode, really hoping the others we listen to for DS106 are equally as interesting and enriching.

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