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Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks with Stephen Nissenbaum, author of a history called The Battle for Christmas, which explains when people started believing in a Santa who arrives Christmas Eve carrying presents. It was in 1822, and incredibly, the poem that created our modern idea of Santa is still around, known by heart by tens of millions.

Act One: Exodus

These teenagers are the children the Christian right has in mind when it holds conferences on what's at stake in America's culture war. On the fourteen-hour drive to West Virginia, we listen to the Backstreet Boys and talk about Dawson's Creek. One of the things that's so interesting about these teenagers is the odd mix of Christian and secular pop in their lives.

Prologue

Stories about rats in the city, from Kate Aurthur (former rat columnist for New York magazine), and from a Mark Lewis documentary called Rat. When rats arrive in our homes, we remember why we as a species wanted to tame nature in the first place.

Act Two: One Brave Man Stands Up For What's Right

Unlike Reykjavik, some cities don't coddle citizens in their idiosyncratic beliefs about nature. We hear New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani react (with vehemence) to a man who believes New Yorkers should have the right to keep ferrets in their homes.

Prologue

Reporter Mark Arax spent three years investigating the murder of his father and yet he's still not at peace when he thinks of his dad's death. (His book is called In My Father's Name: A Family, a Town, a Murder.) This is how it goes sometimes.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass with former Congressman Daniel Rostenkowski. When Rostenkowski began a term in federal prison, he met for the first time people who'd been locked up under harsh drug laws that he'd voted for himself. "The whole thing's a sham," he declares.

Act One: What's Wrong With This Picture?

The story of how a person could be sentenced to 19 years for drug possession—even if police found no drugs, drug money, residue or paraphrenalia—even if it's a first offense. Dorothy Gaines was an Alabama nurse with no prior record and no physical evidence of any drugs who was sentenced to 19 years.

Act Two: How We Got Here

We hear the history of why these drug laws were enacted from a firsthand witness. Eric Sterling was the lawyer in charge of drug laws for the House Judiciary Committee during the 1980s, when mandatory minimums were put in place.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass describes the moment when black single mothers became a national political issue—and a national symbol. It was 1965, when a young Assistant Secretary of Labor named Daniel Patrick Moynihan issued a report calling for action on the issue of African-American single mothers, and black leaders, including the Rev.

Prologue

There are thousands of voices passing through your body right now on radio waves—signals from cellular phones and cordless phones, military transmissions and baby monitors. You're not supposed to listen in on these.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass with an idealistic would-be politician in California. The puzzle of American politics is that our political system is filled with idealistic people, but few of our candidates for top office seem either idealistic or capable of inspiring passion.

Prologue

The story of Jug Burkett, a businessman in Dallas and a Vietnam vet, who years ago routinely started checking the bona fides of anyone in the news who claimed to have served in the Vietnam war. He says he's found hundreds of fakers, and he says that one of the tricky things about the fakers is that they often seem more like The Real Thing than real vets do.

Act Two: Black Like Me

Professor Glenn Loury from Boston University and John Simpkins on basketball, hockey, and what makes a real black person.

Prologue

When Alexa was seven, she started going through her grandfather's books. Her grandfather was a playwright and teacher, and through the books—and especially through his notes in the margins—she entered the world of 1930's American theater.
Serial Season Three: Hear Every Episode