This American Life

A whiny voice still has something to say.

I've been avoiding the cry diary for awhile. Aside from it's effeminate connotations, and it's difficult emotional toll, I've just been tired of crying. Tired of feeling so empathetic with every sorry jackass with a hard-luck story. Sorry of feeling sorry for myself. I have what could be described as a difficult life, and I think I just got tired of dwelling on it.

Today, though, I was noodling with Netflix and found that I could stream Season 2 of the This American Life TV show. I've been a TAL fan since 2000 when my wife and I first discovered it while out shopping and driving from store to store one Saturday morning in the Chicago suburbs. It was the show where Ira Glass was in Paris hanging around with David Sedaris and talking about Sedaris' poor french. We were captivated. Over the years I've slowly found the time to listen to every single TAL episode that was in their website archive (all but 2 or 3 of the earliest shows) and I have become an admirer of Ira Glass and his team of producers. they've consistently educated and moved me - often simultaneously.

Recently, I saw a tweet from a webcomic artist I like saying something like, "I know everybody loves TAL, but I've never been able to listen to it because of Ira Glass' whiny voice." Soon, there were a couple other peeps from folks saying essentially, "Ha, ha, yeah. He talks funny. That show sucks." How fucking shallow is that? Here Ira Glass is telling compelling tales of note and substantial emotional weight and they don't like the way he speaks?

Back to today. Today I was watching the first episode of TAL season 2 and was just struck dumb by the power of what they did in the process of documenting the life of a young man with a terrible disabling affliction. He can't move his limbs and is limited only to slight finger movement and some facial movement and eye movement. He needs assistance with eating and even breathing. His only communication is via a joystick input on a MacBook. He uses the joystick to select letters and write out his communication. He's written extensively about himself and now is wanting to try to become independent from his mother, who's been his life-long caretaker. Early in the show they ask him who he's like to play him in a movie about his life and he says either Johnny Depp or Edward Norton.

At about this time, I'm preparing lunch for the kids so I walk out of the room for a few minutes, and when I come back I hear a very pleasant and sort of familiar voice now reading this young man's writings about himself over footage of the young man leading his life. The voice talks about hopes and desires and the dream of independence - at least from his childhood trappings if nothing else. It's a moving story and interesting and slowly, as I'm watching, I realize that the familiar, pleasant voice reading the narration is actually Johnny Depp's.

It just floored me. The story was already compelling, it was already moving, but the fact that they went out and actually contacted Mr. Depp on this young man's behalf, and that
Mr. Depp actually responded and agreed just moved me more than I can describe. I very much am a person who thinks that the greatest hero is the person who comforts the afflicted, and I was moved to find out that this is the type of person Johnny Depp is.

This fact, mashed up in my mind with the recent "I can't be bothered to learn anything from Ira Glass because I don't like his voice" meme and suddenly I was in tears. I was touched and moved by the actions of the TAL people and simultaneously furious at all the people who would simply close their minds to something so touching and amazing over something so trivial as to be irrelevant.

I repeat; How fucking shallow is that?

Amy Silverman & Sophie

At the risk of being self-referential, Amy Silverman (the mother from the July 30th, TAL#358 post) left a comment on that post that made me misty-eyed (1 hankie). It was touching to see that she'd been moved by my post and that she'd found my blog in the first place. She also left a link to her fantstic blog. It's beautifully written and (not surprisingly) a little heartbreaking. It really captures the joys and tears of parenting with a special needs kid.we g

This American Life (#358 Social Engineering)

TAL is always awesome, and usually has something touching or powerful that - of course - makes me cry. There were a couple of things in this episode.

The middle part was about Dave Dickerson and his father and an incident that happened 30 years ago when he was still a boy and a lesson his father taught him. The lesson didn't work out the way it was intended, but what Dave learned was that there can be second chances and learning that helped his father feel better about the incident. There was a very touching moment at the end of the piece that made me pretty weepy. 3 hankies

The next piece was by Amy Silverman, the mother of a daughter with downs syndrome. There was some question about how high-functioning her daughter was, but Amy still came to the realization that being her daughter's parent was going to be a life-long task. I have a daughter with severe autism who I'll likely be taking care of for the rest of my life. I don't mind that so much, but I do weep at the thought of the life that she
won't be able to lead. No crushes, no boyfriends, no husbands or careers or children. No epiphanies, conversations, or passions. All I can do is keep her as happy as I can. 3 hankies