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tv   Talk to Al Jazeera  Al Jazeera  December 29, 2013 10:00pm-10:31pm EST

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>> welcome to al jazeera america. i'm jonathan betz with tonight's headlines. russian president vladimir putin has ordered tightened security after a suicide attack at a train station. the blast killed 15, injuring 34. it happened in the southern city of volgograd, 600 miles south of moscow, six weeks before the winter olympics in sochi. >> saudi arabia offered $3 billion to lebanese army. the money would allow them to buy weapons and fight violence spreading across the border from syria. >> france pledged support also. >> 7-time world champion race car driver michael schumacher is in critical condition after a
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skiing accident. his agent said he suffered head trauma and is in a coma after falling at a french resort. >> dozens of passengers on a russian ship are still stranded after a week. an australian ice breaker is trying to reach the vessel. earlier attempts haven't been able to break through the thick ice. >> thousands of youths are on the run after clashing with forces in central african republic, as the cities are struggling for power.
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ira glass hosts a show "the american life," listened to by millions. there are stories covered often with humour. >> we did the funniest hair on gaun tan ammo >> he talks about being an remembered. >> i feel like once i'm dead, the people of the future can... jazeera." >> thank you for having me. >> your show "the american life," explain how it's put together and divided up. >> it's an hour each week. we choose a topic and do different stories. >> often we have writers, serious. >> you call each segment an act. >> yes, we call it act one, act two, act three. association.
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>> it's funny, the first few months of the show we didn't have that. i wanted a way to communicate to the audience all of this stuff telling one story in relation to another, and that was the shorthand that was able to do it. once we called it f1, f2 and f3, relationship. >> you have one of the most popular broadcast shows of any kind. you get a million pod casts downloaded. how do you do it? >> i wish we could say that i and co-producers had a part scheme to get pod casting. but, you know, we are making a show for about what amuses us, interests us, what we are curious about. there's something about the show that is personal. personal. >> for people who are unfamiliar, what do you try to focus on? >> the mix of stories about every day life.
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we have every day people come on and apply the tools of journalism to stories that are so personal that traditionally journalists wouldn't have handled those. and the main thing is there's a plot, characters, funny moments, emotional moments. you are listening because you want to see what will happen. we described the show as good old movies for radio. true stories generally. >> everyone that listens to the show, you feel like, "i can't wait, this is going some place", and you hang on because you think something different is going to happen. is that the art to get people to listening longer? >> that is the main way, because we don't have to be on every day. we have amazing stories and there's an hour of defense.
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and we have the luxury to do journalism, and there's entertainment and we are not ashamed for it to be entertainment. like we want it to be a gripping story to unfold. >> what is "an american story", how do you describe it? >> that's an interesting question. we don't think of the questions as american stories, the name of the show "the american life," should we have named it that because it seemed it made the thing feel big and big. but we don't think about whether it's an american story. we happen to be american. for the stories to work, they have to be universal, something that anybody can relate to. >> in other words stories about loss. >> exactly. >> do you have a favourite that you have done over the last couple of months or years. >> i have a lot of favourites.
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there's a guy we had on, and he's in a long-term relationship with somebody we met. he got about in his first week of college. they were like a couple among friends. they were like the big couple who would nurse the other couples when people were feeling bad and things were going great. they had been together for 12-13 years and he says, "how come you're not getting married. he would be 30. we never talked about it? >> she said, "i think i assumed that i would sleep with more people." we'd been involved our whole adult lives, "i had one boyfriend before you." they decided to take a break. "let's have a one month break and both sleep with other people and come back together and get married." they go on a room springer, they call it a room springer, like the ammish, a break.
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and then each have the mission of, like, i'll sleep with a bump of people, which, like, of course, you know, it does not work out. it works out like you would expect. it does not go well for them. >> how has the show evolved? time. >> the main way the show evolved is the staff is bigger. as the show got popular, we are able to raise more money to fly people around the world and really invest money in doing stories, and to really take on more serious journalism. now we can do things that we never could have done in the earlier years. so last year we became interested in all the shootings going on in chicago. last year many were shot. regular news viewers know that other cities were stable or going down in the number of shootings, and chicago was climbing at the time.
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it wasn't clear why. it was a huge number, new york city is three times larger than chicago, and the number was larger than new york's. and we tried to look for a place to find it. for us it means like finding characters, scenes and a place to look for it. producer julie snyder and others located the high school, and we sent three reporters into harper high school. and it was a school in chicago, not well-known or famous, not even the worst school in the city by far. it was just a school that gave us access where they had 29 shootings in one school year. i can't remember if eight or nine kids died in one school. we felt like this is a neighbourhood where people know what it's like to live through violence that the rest of us
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don't know, we can document the trauma, and document the staff, who was enormously competent at trying to quell the violence, and when one kid would get shot, they had procedures he had learnt from the army, after action reports, where they'd jump into action to name who the other kids were who might be affiliated and may be shot. so you could watch, you know, this school deal with this thing. something like that, where we would go in for so long with mann power, for any journalistic work. >> we did two hours because we saw so much stuff that was surprising. gang structure changed in chicago. gangs were nothing like what they had been 15 years ago. gangs in that neighbourhood, because - gangs are mostly criminal enterprise, not like on the wire where they sell drugs,
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it's basically teenagers, like your high school click, but you can get guns like everyone has guns and every kid is in the gang, like the nerve kids. school. >> we'll talk with ira glasses about his own background and how that shaped what he's doing
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on techknow, our scientists bring you a sneak-peak of the future, and take you behind the scenes at our evolving world. techknow - ideas, invention, life. >> we are back on "talk to al jazeera" with ira glass. you grew up in baltimore, there's no american accent. >> i got rid of t i had it when i was a kid. i moved to the midwest for college and was mocked all the time for my pronunciations. i got out of my... >> what was it like growing up in baltimore? >> i grew up in the suburbs, so
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it was typical of a lot of people that grew up in the suburbs. i grew up in an unbelievably jewish suburb and i don't think i realised as a child how e-septemb eccentric that was. baltimore was a jewish enclave. almost nobody celebrated christmas at elementary school, and when i was older i thought, "that was unusual, no one celebrated christmas", so, yes. >> you - now you are an atheist. the jewish upbringing is a cultural identity not a spiritual connection. >> many jews - you don't have to believe in god to be a jew, you are, whether you choose to be or not. i went to a hebrew school, all the way up to the 10th or 11 theed grade. >> did you do the bar mitzvah and the whole think. >> i had the bar mitzvah, and
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felt - i found that i didn't believe in god. >> then stories on evangelical christians, when i get along with them, as often as i do, don't you think there was a reason that you were drawn to do the story while we are meeting each other, and they'll try to sell me on believing in god again. >> your parents, they wanted you to be a doctor. at what point did they say, "okay, he's doing well, we can . >> i was in my late 30s, before my parents stopped saying, "you should think about medical store." i said it publicly and it upsets my dad. my parents are the only jews in america who don't like public broadcasting and don't listen to public radio. >> how come?
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>> it's just not their thing. dad hacome around. they tried to be supportive. they'd let me know, "i think you are making a mistake, you should be a doctor, you won't make money. if you are going to be in broadcast, why be on the radio, why not be on tv?" the and i don't think they got it for a long time. it's interesting k when i started this show, "the american times. >> for your fans, when we talk to people that listen to you on a regular basis, there's something about him that is quirky in an endearing way. is that fair? >> the word quirky, i feel, is not the word i'd choose. it's like a little g nom or something like this. >> you studied semiotis in college, it's the study of symbol and communications.
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it's not a traditional background. >> no, by the time - i worked at npr on the news when i was 19. i worked for the network news, on the afternoon news show "all things considered", when i was 19 and 20 and 21 and going to sledge studying semiotics, which is a pretentious body of french theory but is useful in my daily job, because it's about how narrative works, how to structure a story so it will be compelling and get its oaks into you. semiotics is interested in the questions like what keeps you watching. what keeps you listening to a story on the radio. what is - what keeps you turning the pages in a book. what is the pleasure of it that is moving you forward, that is pulling you in and pulling you forward. you know the feeling at the end
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of a great story. if a story is working, you know, a great episode of tv, movie, book, like the feeling you get. it's about what is producing that, what is the machinery that produces that. when it doesn't happen, what fails. studying that gave me tools that i used every day this my job. job. >> there's a skill in broadcasting that has to be developed. all of us that have been in broadcasting remember the early days. frankly we sucked. do you have the time period. do you listen to your clips and think, "wow", i was doing that. >> partly because i end up doing teaching kids with people that are coming up. perhaps depending how bad it was.
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in my sixth and seventh year, i writer. >> you think, like, well, it will be like in the movies. you'll go out there and be great from the beginning. most of us will be bad for a long time. no one tells you that's a normal thing. early clips are awful. i have years of being awful. to be fair to my parents, i understand what they are saying. in retrospect, what are you doing. it was not that good. i was not that good. and there were things that i was having a natural aptitude for. i first skill was i was a decent editor. including writing. i don't like to write. >> you like to write. >> now i know what i'm doing. knowing what you do makes it a pleasure. you procraftinate. >> you do.
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>> i'm so busy procraftinating means i work on another part of the business or edit someone else's story. right now, i should be writing a story that i have to finish a draft of by monday. >> we are serving as a procrastination tool. >> you are, and thank you. i thank you. >> is there anything about your experience growing up that gave you a sense of irony, or a sense of humour that plays a role in what you do. >> you know, i think for the kinds of stories we are going, it's important that things be funny. i mean, i think - you know, i grew up around people. parents are funny. what we do on the show is we are trying to make a new kind of journalism, where we wanted to be more compelling. we have looked at what people do, what can we do to make it
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more gripping. like people, we live in a world where there's a tremendous number of journalists, you know, but what can we do that will be distinctive. and the things that we were doing where we are trying to be different and set ourselves apart are, like, a lot of journalists have stories with scenes and characters and emotional moments. i think we do that but push it as far as you can go. we talk in a conversationial sort of tone, and a lot of broadcasters, if they are good talk in such a tone. with us it's more so. we talk like we talk when we are off camera and off mike and on camera and on mike. the last thing is - one of the last elements is we try to be funny, which is very rare in broadcast journalism. one of the things i find interesting is when you meet broadcast journalists, it was common.
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they are super funny people. off camera - the form at that they are in doesn't have the space for them to be that person on camera. we did an hour on guantanamo, which is, you know, we went in with a missiony sense of - we were trying to achieve all sorts of things. when we did the hour on guantanamo, 200-300 people have been released from guantanamo. the u.s. interrogated the guys and said, "you never were a threat to the united states. it was a mistake to pick you up." 200, 300 people were released and no one interviewed them. they weren't on tv or radio. no one had interviewed them. we thought, "we could do that." we tracked them down, got translators, and tried to get people on the air, saying what
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happened to you, how were you treated, how do you think about america. do you want to kill someone now. how do you feel about the experience. just asking normal things that reporters would ask. the packaging of the show, like we felt like people don't want to hear on hour about guantanamo. i'm superinterested. but if there was a big head, it would be, "that's so heavy, i don't have an opinion, i know what i think, and i think it's incumbent on all of us. we all have to be cunning about how to bring it up, in that people want to watch the second minute of your show, and probably because it's radio we can back into it, start a story going, and it will turn out to be about guantanamo, and we feel conscious of all the things making people go "i don't want
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to hear that", and people can present stories that would be hopefully interesting to them to hear, and then dash and then as parts of that we want to use humour as much as we can. i say with pride we did the single funniest hour on guantanamo that broadcasters have done. >> it sound glib and stupid, but i feel like that - i think that is necessary. it's a funny show. also, dark and serious and also presenting an analysis that at that point was not out there so much in the press, and, you know, i would say to people who normally watch al jazeera, like, you know, in the mix of things, if people are watching for the new, i feel like we are trying something new, inventing something new. >> so many americans listen to ira glass, on the other side of
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the break we will ask him who he
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>> we are back on "talk to al
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jazeera" with ira glass. stern. >> i love howard stern >> because of how he uses the format or sense of humour. >> everything, (a), it's a beautifully crafted radio show, where the design is beautiful. when you think about what it is - there's him, a bunch of characters who you come to know wh love. people that don't listen to howard stern have a misconception of what the show is. when he publicis it he talks about girls coming in did and taking off their tops, which is there. it's the least interesting part of the show. >> what other shows or broadcast or news sources do you follow? >> there's a set of public radio shows that i'm a big fan of, including "fresh air", and "radio lab", and "on the media", and the daily news shows which
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are a big source for me. times." >> i have to ask you something that you talked about regarding your dog. through your pitbull you learnt that you respond to neediness and vulnerability more than shows of affection. >> did i say that in >> yes, you said that. >> on the radio? speeches. >> i respond to neediness and vulnerability >> needy, vulnerable. >> he's affectionate, he's a normal dog. i have a dog who is a rescue, who is kind of a problem dog, an anxious dog. like born in circumstances that left him anxious his whole life. and, i mean, i do respond to his vulnerability. it's true. it breaks my heart, and my heart
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goes out to him, seeing the world. more than when he licks my face, that is true. >> some of the things you did including keeping the dog alive is changing its food, worrying about its allergies. >> yes, we have done that. i think the problem in saying that publicly is you just come off as like a crazy rich person, that you would be, you know, spending that kind of money on your dog. off. >> there's some validity to it, isn't there? >> well, which part. the crazy part, sure. >> i'll ask you about legacy. is there a legacy that you think that when the story of the ira glass is written, and not by you, because you're not going to write a book, i understand. what do you think the take away would be, or what would you want it to be?
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>> i don't care. i honestly don't care. i don't care about legacy. i could care less. once i'm dead, the people of the future can [ bleep ] themselves. people around after we are dead, like, good luck to them. i hate those people. people who are around after they are dead, walking around, like we don't exist. >> thank you for being on "talk to al jazeera".
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>> hey guys, i'm phil torres. welcome to a very special show of "techknow". yoament yosemite national park. low hello and welcome. i'm phil torres, here to talk about innovations that can change lives. we are doing this in a unique way, this is a show about science by scientists. let's check out our team of hard core in other words.


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