I love This American Life - mostly for the unbelievably good story telling. Like great print feature writing, it brings stories to life in a way that draw the listener in, even if the subject matter isn't, at first glance, of interest. And podcasts are just the very best way to take it all in on the go. You can take the girl out of radio....
I sort of half-listened to Act 1 - a piece about the log book of the Lusitania - as I scrubbed the downstairs bathroom and ferried loads from the washing machine to the dryer, the dryer to the folding pile. But it was Act 2 that absolutely riveted me, a story that traced the 'unrelenting cheerfulness' of the Girl Guides all the way back to the unlikeliest of places: a WWII Chinese concentration camp. The story that unfolded was an incredible testament to the power and endurance of really strong, really embedded organisational culture, in this case that of the Girl Guides.
As an erstwhile Christchurch quake refugee (presently grounded by another sinus infection. Surgery to follow...), I was also struck by how skilfully this culture, and its values, were used to provide a bubble of safety for the very young children interned in the camp. There are a whole lot of lessons here in optimism, hope, and the power of that relentless cheerfulness - even in the face of the most awful circumstances.
Check it out here - it's a great episode. Best paired with a bottle of Jiff, rubber gloves and a sunny, spring-like morning.