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Prologue

Host Ira Glass introduces a story on the most ambitious and hopeful solution to urban poverty in the country—the Harlem Children's Zone. The project's goal is nothing less than changing the lives of thousands of children in Harlem, starting at birth and continuing until they go to college.

Prologue

Every day each American produces 4.8 pounds of garbage. Where does it all go? Ira talks with Robin Nagle, a anthropology professor at New York University who's been studying garbage,and says that most of us want garbage to be invisible.

Act One: Oh, Mr. San Man

The people who pick up our trash don't call themselves garbagemen. They're san men ("san" being short for "sanitation").

Prologue

Ira talks with two New Yorkers on their reactions to seeing something they could never have believed possible. They acted in ways that they never had before, just ran around and around in circles.

Act One: In The After Of Before And After

Lynn Simpson worked on the 89th floor of the World Trade Center. She escaped, along with the rest of her office, and now is trying to figure out what it means that's she's alive, and how her life is different now.

Prologue

Ira talks with producer Blue Chevigny about how a prank caller taught her that when it comes to pursuing happiness, Carole King, the world of independent cinema and the New York City Police Department have a lot more in common than she ever imagined. He also talks with MIT Professor Pauline Maier, author of the book American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence.

Prologue

Stories about rats in the city, from Kate Aurthur (former rat columnist for New York magazine), and from a Mark Lewis documentary called Rat. When rats arrive in our homes, we remember why we as a species wanted to tame nature in the first place.

Act Two: One Brave Man Stands Up For What's Right

Unlike Reykjavik, some cities don't coddle citizens in their idiosyncratic beliefs about nature. We hear New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani react (with vehemence) to a man who believes New Yorkers should have the right to keep ferrets in their homes.

Prologue

Ralph Gentles and five other people spent each summer creating a map of every crack, every depression, every protrusion, every pothole in the sidewalks of New York City. We hear why, and we hear all the things their map does not include.

Act Two: Fists And Guns

Geoffrey Canada, author of the book Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America, talks about what it's like to carry a gun. He also talks about what poor neighborhoods in New York were like before the proliferation of handguns among young people.  When he grew up in the South Bronx, kids had fistfights in a very formal arrangement with formal rules that everyone lived by. He reads from his book and talks with Ira.

Act One: White Like Me

David Rakoff on how he tried to pass as a local once he moved from Toronto to New York. He claims that there must be a chip in his head — or something like it — that automatically tells him when someone or something famous is Canadian.