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This American Life on this American economic strife

October 13, 2008  |  5:47pm
If Nick Marino's 5 Songs to Assuage Your Bailout Blues did no such thing, or if you're still wondering what got you into a situation where you had bailout blues to assuage in the first place, then I suggest cozying up to your iTunes, fireside chat-style, and listening to what Ira Glass and his pals over at This American Life have to say about it all.

In May, back when things were only slightly less messy and scary, Glass was joined by producer Alex Blumberg and NPR reporter Adam Davidson for "The Giant Pool of Money," an hour-long episode that explained in exacting, relatable detail how the housing and credit crises came to be.

For some reason, that week's episode never made it to my iPod, so I shelled out $0.95 and downloaded it this weekend, then listened to it back-to-back with the show's Oct. 6 episode, "Another Frightening Show About the Economy," which focuses on some more recent economic developments, including the Congressional bailout plan. And let me tell you, those were two hours well spent. Mind-warping, but well-spent. I found myself wishing I'd paid out for "Giant Pool of Money" earlier, as it surely would have helped me better understand the previous three months of turmoil as they unfolded.

Also, my God, the fact that Glass seemed to have been stricken with the most pathetic case of laryngitis that particular week adds that much more weight to the proceedings. Nothing like a radio show on the most catastrophic economic events of the 21st century being hosted by a fellow who sounds like he's knocking on death's door.

(Oh, and while you sure can't shake your booty to it, "Another Frightening Show" featured some wonderfully apropos outro music: The Carter Family's "No Depression in Heaven." Let's hope not here either.) 

It looks like Blumberg and Davidson are back for a segment in this week's edition, too. Blumberg also contributed to the recent "Enforcers" episode, though his piece on a stock trading practice called "naked short selling" simply can't top the episode's bizarre story of three Internet vigilantes' attempts to ruin the lives of Nigerian email spammers. (When your budget gets tight, just be thankful you're not being led on a wild goose chase around Darfur by some nerds from the Midwest.)  

The two original episodes' popularity led to the inception of Planet Money, a daily NPR podcast and blog from Blumberg and Davidson, which I haven't yet investigated, but if it's anything like their This American Life collaborations, it'll be a welcome sight in my iTunes for quite some time to come.
 


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