Arts & Culture

The Ira Glass Infatuation Post/ This American Life Review: First Contact

I guess I can pull a Tel Aviv tefillin-pusher move and keep on keepin on: Have you listened to TAL this week? Read More

By / June 16, 2011
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After over a year of reviewing This American Life episodes, I’ve finally hit a repeat. When I got into this business, it was all for the money. Actually, I was suffering from that same post-episode phenom most of the show’s fans encounter: a profound aural human experience that time after time proves totally indescribable to those not yet graced by Ira’s purr this week. How to do justice to this ergonomically formatted grandness of journalistic accomplishment? I still don’t know how. I guess I can pull a Tel Aviv tefillin-pusher move and keep on keepin on: Have you listened to TAL this week?

This week Ira takes the kick out of your cocktail as he brings us back to virgin territory. First Contact, despite broaching on inexperience, is more revealing than my man.

Act 1: In the non-make out club, we were losing good people by the day

A kiss is a true moment of first encounter in most affairs when the hyman of passionate nice-to-meet-yous is broken.

“Oh god, oh god, no, no, no, no,” cries Ira in recalling an early first encounter with a girl that is an atrociously hilarious memory that he rightly blocks out. While these moments are valuable stepping stones in his Don Quixote ways today, exploring some soundly secure holes in your memory could be painful.

Meanwhile, Mike Birbiglia comments on moments of opportunity he was remised to miss in attempting to join the Makeout Club. Awkward and unsexy, inexperience is best paired with a bombardment of the senses, like a carnival ride with all the bells and whistles and unforeseen circumstances that accompany it; but perhaps another metaphor is desirable as Birbiglia makes clear.

Eventually, scoring is all about crashing through the window of opportunity, favorably on an empty stomach.

Act 2: She said to Sadim, “Say something dirty in Arabic to me.”

Sarah Blaisdell describes a friendship between her gamer husband and Iraqi men he met in a chatroom across the universe. The last time I did that I made a killing in my Paypal account, but apparently Sam Blaisdell had “purer” motives. Keeping up contact weekly over the phone, the ordinary life on the other side of the planet exposes him to a more expanded consciousness than a yokel on peyote could ever afford.

Act 3: Across the Universe

Ira interviews Paul Davies who chairs a taskforce preparing for the event of first contact with alien life forms. “What do you think should be in the first message?” asks Ira. Mathematics, quantum theory, binary code, and music are viable options explored scientifically. Beyond those, Davies reprimands narrow-minded meanderings offered up by ordinary folk on a social website, spouting love for their boyfriends, Heath Ledger, and Frank Sinatra, ideals that could really enlighten ET.

Yet, another organization that chose to beam up the Beatles’ Across the Universe shows a commitment to the pools of sorrow, waves of joy drifting through an open mind, possessing and caressing them, reminding that with or without experience, l’chaim is sweetest when you drive off the cliff of the familiar towards a sea of new encounters; the virgin wheel descends the edge, innocently and awkward, in hopes of more beautiful, expanded experiences. Live long and prosper, lovers.