December 29, 2000

Birthdays, Anniversaries, and Milestones

They mean something, whether we want them to or not.

A live show taped for our fifth anniversary, back in 2000, and a co-production with public radio stations WBUR, WNYC, WBEZ, and KCRW. Featuring house band OK Go.


We hear the story of a disastrous birthday party and how it's hard not to see these kinds of moments as symbolic of something bad. (5 minutes)
Act One

Pilgrim's Progress

Sarah Vowell takes over the family Thanksgiving dinner by bringing everyone to New York. What results is a series of milestones and family firsts. Everyone in the family is the kind of person who prefers to be alone, so the very thing that binds them together as a family actually makes it hard for them to spend time together. (14 minutes)

Act Two

Kodak Moments Of The Dead

The story of Tyler Cassity and how he's trying to remake one of our oldest rituals of commemoration.

Tyler is one of the owners of a cemetery called Hollywood Forever, and he's been introducing 20th century technology to American funerals, which haven't changed much since the Civil War. At Hollywood Forever, the cost of a burial includes a video of your life: to be shown at your funeral, to be viewable at kiosks on the cemetery grounds, and to be posted—for eternity—online. (16 minutes)

Happy Birthday to Us

Fresh Air host Terry Gross offers her congratulations and some words of wisdom to This American Life to help commemorate the show's fifth anniversary. (2 minutes)

Act Three

Birthday Present

On a commemorative day, it can be hard to feel a real sense of the past and of how time has moved forward. Russell Banks has a story demonstrating what it might take to do just that. He reads "The Moor," from his collection of short fiction The Angel on the Roof. (19 minutes)