#139 : September 3, 1999

Ghosts of Elections Past

Stories of political idealists, stories designed to provide some small sense of hope about American politics. Most of these were first broadcast during the 1996 Presidential race.

#138 : August 27, 1999

The Real Thing

Stories of people drawn to some idea, some picture, some "thing" that they just want to be. How some people imitate this "thing" innocently, some less innocently, and how easy it is to slip from one to the other.

#137 : August 20, 1999

The Book That Changed Your Life

Stories of people who believe a book changed their life. It's a romantic notion, and one reason we believe it is because we want to believe our lives can be changed by something so simple as an idea — or a set of ideas contained in a book.

#136 : August 6, 1999

You Are Here

Three stories, three people, and three sets of maps. Stories of people trying to figure out where they are in the world in the most literal and least literal ways possible. We explore what it's like to be lost—how we all struggle in that moment not to give ourselves over to fear but try to enjoy it.

#135 : July 23, 1999

Allure of Crime

We think of crime as a kind of monolithic, menacing presence. But there are many kinds of crimes and many kinds of criminals. Through our crimes, we express who we are. Today we hear of three different criminals and three different kinds of crimes.

#134 : July 9, 1999

We Didn't

Stories about what happens when we don't do something. It turns out that not falling in love, not doing our jobs, not spending time with our families is every bit as vivid and complicated an experience as doing something.

#133 : June 25, 1999


Consider for a moment all the art forms that began in America: jazz, the blues, musical theater, rock n' roll, phonograph recordings, television, motion pictures, video games. But the art form in which America leads the world—more than any other—is the art of selling. In this show: case examples to prove the point.

#132 : June 18, 1999

Father's Day '99

For Father's Day, stories about fathers going out of their way to protect their kids, and kids going out of their way to protect their fathers.

#131 : June 4, 1999

The Kids Are Alright

Stories in which young people take matters into their own hands: Students who become political activists, students who pull pranks, violent students. Broadcast for the tenth anniversary of the crackdown at Tiananmen Square.

#130 : May 21, 1999

Away From Home

Stories of people going home to places they've never been before.

#129 : May 14, 1999


A program taped before live audiences in Seattle (thanks to public radio station KUOW) and at HBO's U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen. A taxonomy of different kinds of advice—and stories that illustrate why advice is so rarely taken.

#128 : April 30, 1999

Four Corners

There's a tourist monument called Four Corners, where Arizona, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico meet. In this episode, we try to tell the story of life in America through portraits of life on four different corners, in four different states across the nation.

#127 : April 16, 1999

Pimp Anthropology

This entire show is devoted to just one story. A former pimp tells how he and three childhood friends became pimps in the 1970s in Oakland, California. He explains all the elaborate "rules of the game" among pimps and prostitutes of that era. He didn't have the stomach for the violence of pimping, and failed as a pimp because of that. Tamar Brott reports.

#126 : April 9, 1999


Stories of people trying to do good: Why they often fail and why they occasionally succeed.

#125 : April 2, 1999


Stories of the end of the world. More people believe it's more imminent than you probably realize.

#124 : March 19, 1999

Welcome to America

Stories of people moving to this country: what they see and hear about America that those of us who were born here don't necessarily see.

#123 : February 26, 1999

High Cost of Living

Stories of people who choose not to live every moment to the fullest or smell the roses, and instead choose to withdraw from life, to make themselves numb.

#122 : February 12, 1999

Valentine's Day '99

For Valentine's Day, stories of impossible love and heartbreak.

#121 : January 29, 1999

Twentieth Century Man

One thing that makes our country different from most others is this idea that you can re-create yourself as someone you'd prefer to be...sell everything off, head out west, start a new life.  But what happens if you're too good at it?  At throwing everything out and starting over?

#120 : January 22, 1999

Be Careful Who You Pretend to Be

Three stories of people pretending to be something they're not, and what happens to them.

#119 : January 8, 1999


With the number of prisoners in the United States rising rapidly, we present stories of their lives and the lives of their families and children.

#118 : December 18, 1998

What You Lookin' At?

Stories about seeing and being seen. Taped before a live audience in Town Hall in New York City in December 1998, this was a co-production with WNYC New York, featuring live music by the pop band They Might Be Giants and the This American Life Orchestra.

#117 : December 11, 1998

You Gonna Eat That?

The family table is stage on which many family dramas are played out. We hear three stories...of three families...at three meals.

#116 : November 27, 1998

Poultry Slam 1998

For Thanksgiving, the time of year when poultry consumption is highest, it's our annual program about turkeys, chickens, and fowl of all types.

#115 : November 13, 1998

First Day

Stories of the first day on the job, the first day in a relationship, the first day in school. On the first day, any first day, we're expected to live by the rules and customs of the culture we're entering, but we don't know those rules and customs just yet.

#114 : October 23, 1998

Last Words

Stories of people's last words before death. Their one last shot at figuring things out, summing things up. One last moment of asserting the fact of our existence, at the moment of our annihilation.

#113 : October 16, 1998


What happens when you suddenly strike it rich. And the power money has over our lives, for good and bad.

#112 : October 2, 1998

Ladies and Germs

Germs, and how they make us leave the world of rational thinking.

#111 : September 11, 1998

Adventures in the Simple Life

I thought this was supposed to be easy. Tales from the simple life.

#110 : September 4, 1998


Five ways of mapping the world. One story about people who make maps the traditional way — by drawing things we can see. And other stories about people who map the world using smell, sound, touch, and taste. The world redrawn by the five senses.