Arts & Culture

The Ira Glass Infatuation Post/This American Life Roundup: “Held Hostage”

I’ve always fancied the idea of being taken against my will to a faraway place, anywhere but here. While fancied might be an overstatement, I certainly wouldn’t mind as much as the next girl.  It’s probably an amalgamation of leftover … Read More

By / June 9, 2010

I’ve always fancied the idea of being taken against my will to a faraway place, anywhere but here. While fancied might be an overstatement, I certainly wouldn’t mind as much as the next girl.  It’s probably an amalgamation of leftover teenage angst and a Soviet immigrant mindset. But in this week’s TAL, Ira hits me with some good news: even if things do (doubtedly) go awry during my kidnapping, I’m insured. He introduces the show with a fascinating interview with a man involved in a Kidnap & Ransom concern insuring clients, so long as they do not disclose to anyone that they are in fact covered. "It’s like the first rule of Fight Club," perceives Brad Pitt-esque Ira. More good news: your best bet is to be kidnapped by pirates as they will be gentle in manhandling you-which, in this context I guess is the best way to go.

Act 1: The radio was his only companion

Reporter Annie Correal relays Colombian kidnapping misfortune in her own family and in others as she describes Voces del Secuestro, a radio show devoted to airing calls from families of kidnapped relatives to the kidnapped individuals themselves sequestered in camps deep in the jungle. Through the resource of her rescued father we learn a couple things: how to build a radio that will function in a vast jungle, and how fucked the individual is when the flaccid system built to protect them might as well have been kidnapped too.

It reminds me of Old Country where the man who lived in our apartment in the Soviet Union before us was stolen by the government off to Siberia for an undetermined time after "withholding Soviet property" (himself) during a hunger strike protesting his refused permission to leave a country that hated him anyway. His wife was a widow without a corpse. Just like the Colombian girl Viviana whose father was also kidnapped, the ones left behind are perched in a state of missing a love while mourning him, not knowing if he they are holding onto a ghost.  "To cope, Viviana still talks to her dad, and not just over the radio. She says it’s not that she feels he’s here, she says she talks to him in her head." Suspended between life and death, Annie says, "Their loved ones are probably dead, but they’re living like they’re not." The lack of closure seems unbearable and oozes coup d’état juices all up in the aether.

Act 2: In an upside down topsy turvy world where all sorts of things, normally taken for granted, just crumble underneath you

Wayne Curtis tells of another bureaucratically Kafkaesque circumstance trapping several homeowners in New Orleans when a tax-rebelling Houdini holds their homes hostage with false documents. "A dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up," said sage Mae West. After getting enough knowledge in various law classes, he figured out how to reclaim his ceased buildings for himself, white collar guerilla style, while the homeowners had no recourse unless shelling out thousands for legal help. Aside from his lack of scruples, I kind of liked Pan Dowell for his complete disregard for the system surrounding him, and the uncovering thereafter of the complete inability of the system to protect the people actually paying their taxes.

The day screwed homeowner Tracy Poitres took Dowell to court, she described him with this golden line: "I don’t know if they’d just flown in from a Jamaican retreat or what, but Ms. Dowell had on a tie-dye shirt and jeans…and Mr. Dowell was WREA-king of marijuana." Clearly, Dowell is not living in a prude world of taxes and property rights, and I can’t help but project George Clinton’s image when I picture him. I love it.

And once the system accepts something as true, even for a moment, it’s hard to make it go away, accurately observes Wayne, a pundit well on his way to Ira reporting status. As hot Lee Marvin/ Ira Glass type Chicago economist Jason Appel observed, "There’s no justice under $250,000." So wash away those safe feelings–you, your levees, your cash and your homes are not so securely protected-better hide under the wing of the Teamsters or some other tax-collecting mafiosa that will make a hit on your behalf if need be.

Act 3: Can’t even pet a puppy without collapsing

His body wants him to be the saddest man alive. Sounds like every emo sad clown’s wet dream. Chris Higgins tells of Matt Frerking, a man whose brain, when experiencing intense passion, induces the delirium that is usually imposed on the body during REM sleep to avoid acting on dreams. His daydreaming that manifests from narcolepsy with a cataplexic cherry on top kicks in several times a day. Matt’s wife seems to have also tailored her word choices to adapt; of being partnered with someone she cannot outwardly love, she says, "It’s not a cool thing to happen to you…when you have those wonderful close moments…and you just want to reflect on this is a cool person I’m spending my life with—those make him sick!" Golly, I can really go for an indifferent romp in the sack with this lukewarm piece of ass right now.

The most melancholy part is that Matt-a critically thinking neuroscientist and deeply passionate lover-must choose the way of the robot and forego the sweetest human pleasures while the majority of the men I meet are brick in a wall cyborgs to begin with who haven’t tapped into those resources since popping a boner over Princess Leia. Of the same rare breed as Ira Glass, I’m all fired up over this nerd, but distressingly will keep it to myself in the interest of preserving the man.


Extras this week include secrets that you can fondle with your mouse and reveal a side of Ira you did not know in the THIS AMERICAN LIFE logo.

Sweet buns; let me be your gun