Arts & Culture

The Ira Glass Infatuation Post/This American Life Review: Neighborhood Watch

This weeks TAL, Neighborhood Watch, is an episode that is more astounding than most 2010 media output. Read More

By / November 26, 2010

Neighborhood Watch is an episode that is more astounding than most 2010 media output. It’s the kind of material that would get you an A paper in Mr. Vernabelli’s high school English class, with elements of American culture that exude pertinent observations on the human experience, but leaving academia by the wayside. Ira, the smart badboy, causes many to swoon, publicly.

The topic zooms in on people interacting with the world of acquaintances making up a neighborhood; one with an experience similar to that of a bartender who knows all the neighborhood’s seedies is Paul the Mailman: “It’s not like the mailman knows a lot about any of us, but he’s the one person int he neighborhood who knows a little bit about everybody.”

Even before the acts start their countdown comes the story of how the mailman saved a guy’s life (You’ve gotta hear this, I don’t have the metaphors to paraphrase it as well as it sounds) was striking, and yet so common. Paul becomes “Heroes of the Year” for US Mail Carriers.

Act 1: He found it weird that babies might wear sunglasses for comfort.

The amalgamation of foley, Canadian sarcasm, and the rarer perspective of blind man depending on limited senses to protect a baby from the elements that are urban life. “Telling a blind person he should be careful is like telling him to LOOK OUT; it’s not a question of should, but how.”

Act 2: If you’re dealing with that kind of person, who knows what they’re gonna do.

Shitty shit-abandoning dog owners are a global problem. So some gov reps get creative in how they’re going to handle the crisis. Routinely enough, things turn 1984.

Neighborhood rats volunteer their services to snoop on their fellow man. “I can’t prove it but I swear it’s so and so in whatever building; well, I can’t do anything with that.” So they chose to go Neighborhood Watch and pay residents to shoot videos of offenders, fuckin Sov-commy-basterd style. Half a dozen of your fellow citizens actually stooped that low in this one neighborhood. Eventually the regime came and went, and they switched to DNA testing that involved a payed-gov employee titled poo technician whose job is to run out and get the CSI sample off property round town. Wow.

“Deal with it on a neighborly basis,” one bystander suggests, “…rather than using these technological advances.”

Type-A entrepreneurs also give it a go in the worldwide dogpoo collection niche, as one chimes in, “We’ve got representatives all over the world that are starting to see interest.” Nothing revs up a TALian girl’s heart like symbiosis, and what finer, more beautiful form of that is there than private sector solving and profiting from creative solutions to problems that government is failing to address coherently? These are the moments that we tune in each week to experience, and that is why we love public radio.

Act 3: People just like to steal my rights by annoying me with commands and threats.

These are the words of an autistic guy whose ma is on her way out and worried about his survival post her departure. “Believe me, by the time I’m not here I want to know that people are there for him in some way. And they don’t have to do the work, it’s just look in and if you see things are not right…it’s just being there, you know?” It is the special perspective of an innovative, logical, and realistic individual in the form of a worried mother. Best yente mother quote that Ira snatches up for the staple Mr. Torey Malatia end-of-show quip:

Ira: All I have to say is look out Richard Daley, or dare I say Rahm Emanuel, Torey is looking for someone to see the new Harry Potter with him.

Scott’s Mom: I just felt that you know because the mayor is the mayor, he has to know people, he’s the mayor.

But her tragic hero status comes in the form of ignoring that beautiful symbiosis that pulled in the win for the poo brothers. She offered zero incentive for anyone to help, since her pitch is focused on what her customers have to do, and not on what they would gain. Allegorically, it’s like giving head to a bum who won’t even say thank you.

In one volunteer friend, Pru, the astute Ruth Padawer observes characteristics of the ideal friend/ parent: “He talked with Scott, he didn’t talk down to him.”

Act 4: We did share some mundane human activities.

YES. We are at New York’s finest storytelling venue. At the Moth, Jim O’Grady recounts an unneighborly evolution in his neighborhood. It is one of the best forms of airwaves, shredding apart a conflict between greaseheads and a regular Joe by way of frank monologue. And over soup, after life threats are exchanged, a neighborhood is one again in the Jim Jarmusch kind of non-existent connectivity.