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Prologue

Marti Noxon used to work for a company that did "product placement" for the movie industry. When auditors came to check that clients were being correctly billed, the company's bosses took unusual steps.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks to This American Life contributing editor Jack Hitt about the time he hacked into his employer's computer and found out what he didn't want to know.

Prologue

When Ira heard that Cathy La Luz, the best public school teacher he'd met during all his years of education reporting, was considering leaving her job, he went to see her in her classroom.

Act One: 1994

Washington Irving Elementary School became a model of school reform in Chicago a decade ago. The school did it without adding a ton more money.

Act Two: 2004

We continue with the story of Irving Elementary, and hear what's happened to make Cathy La Luz think about quitting. In just nine months, the reforms that had made the school a model began to unravel.

Prologue

It seems apples for the teacher is a bygone tradition. Host Ira Glass talks to Mindy, a first-grade teacher, about the rather racy gifts her students give these days at Christmas.

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

Host Ira Glass talks with Chris, who worked for a company that helped deaf people talk over the phone with hearing people. The deaf person would type what they wanted Chris to say, and Chris would say it, then type back the response from the hearing person on the line.

Prologue

We hear three stories of how conflicts are resolved in offices. Two of those stories come from sociologist Calvin Morrill, who studied the executive suites at a number of large companies in his book The Executive Way: Conflict Management in Corporations.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks with Stephen Goldin, author of an online guide that prescribes 23 rules for comic fans to follow when mingling with professional sci-fi authors at sci-fi conventions. For instance: don't try to start a discussion with a pro on the way to the bathroom.

Act Two: Know When To Walk Away, Know When To Run

Ira travels to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, gets hooked, and tries to figure out what it would mean if he'd ditch his job in radio to become a professional card player. What he learns: A professional gambler can suffer two heartbreaking losses back-to-back, costing him over $100,000, and moments later, at the casino bar, calculate the million-to-one odds of his unlikely losses...in his head.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks to two different people who have stories they just can't get over...stories that make them cringe...and stories from which we can glean what makes a cringe story different from other kinds of stories.

Act Two: M*a*s*h Notes

Ira reports on a week he spent on the set of the TV show M*A*S*H in 1979, supposedly to do a story about the program for National Public Radio. He was 20 years old.

Prologue

Ira talks with Lee Qi, who came to America from China. He worked in Chinese restaurants in small towns, live in tiny apartments with other illegal immigrants who worked there as well—apartments that were sometimes in the back of the restaurants.

Act Two: Night

In this act, we hear from the rowdier, drunker late-night patrons of the Golden Apple. A guy walks in with two young women, hoping to go home with one of them.