Host Ira Glass uses Italian author Umberto Eco's essay Travels in Hyperreality as a guidebook to American simulated worlds. Eco says that the urge to create these miniature simulated worlds is a very American impulse — a significant American aesthetic — and one that's not often discussed.
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A story of a woman who made a kitchen out of beads.
Erika Yeomans sees a young man's photo in an art magazine and decides to track him down. Problem is: he's Dutch, he's a performance artist, and he's dead.
Artist Julie Laffin talks about the inspiration for her "kissing projects." Jessica Yu's film Breathing Lessons is about Mark O'Brien, a man using an "iron lung." In this excerpt, Mark talks about the yearning he tries to quell through the use of sex surrogates. Poet Luis Rodriguez reads his poem "Waiting." Writer Dolores Wilbur tells a story of wanting love.
This American Life contributor Paul Tough visits Catherine Chalmers. She raises small animals and insects in her apartment, feeds them to each other, and photographs them eating each other.