Guest Blogging for Economically Exuberant

Hey Friends,

Grant here. 

I haven’t done this sort of thing in a while, but the timing seemed right.  A friend of mine runs a blog on economic philosophy, theory, etc.  And not too long ago, he received an article from a disgruntled American who felt that the education system had failed him in learning how to be prepared to enter (and I loathe this phrase) “the real world.”  You can find his article here.  I wrote a response, because I’m not exactly a fan of teacher bashing.  As an English teacher, I had a few choice points to make.  My article is also full of additional research and supplemental reading that will make you both happy and sad.

Our 2013 List of April Fools

Kim Jung Eun is going to war with everyone, that new crackpot at Apple is already announcing the 6 before we’ve even managed to download a single gig of porn onto our 5’s and the idiots down in Washington can’t seem to come to some kind of agreement on how to spell compromise. But these aren’t even the biggest fools so far this year.

So read on to see the Top Five Fools of 2013

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Smell My Cooch: The Perfect Allegory For The Kardashian Effect

 

It’s been bothering you for years now. Nights have been lost tossing and turning over it. Arguments between you and your significant other have erupted whenever it comes up in conversation. Even your therapist is seeing a therapist to grapple with his issues with this dilemma: Whose vajayjay smells better, Kim’s or Kourtney’s?

It’s this age old riddle that the two vapid socialites set out to solve in a recent episode of their show Khloe And Kourtney Take Miami. In what had to be one of the most disgusting spectacles ever aired, the two threw down in classic no holes barred odor-off and the result was possibly the greatest allegory to their general effect on our society ever made.

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The Mix Tape: 3 Songs About the Fall of Humanity

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Three Songs About the End

Written by Grant Goodman

The decline of humanity is a topic that I’ll always find to be enthralling. Whether watching The Book of Eli, reading X/1999, or seeing WALL-E for the fiftieth time, the destruction of modern society on Earth never fails to capture my interest. Maybe it’s because of the idea of a fresh start. From the worst possible scenario comes hope that maybe, this time, we can get things right.

There are more than a few songwriters out there who have the same fascination. Here are three you need to listen to.

Kevin Devine - All of Everything, Erased

Devine’s narrative includes a conversation with god and a delusion of escape.

"I faced the devil’s day./The sky was murder red,/the streets were headstone gray./A flaming ferris wheel spun where the sun used to be."

Toad the Wet Sprocket - Silo Lullaby

The best nuclear apocalypse song to feature a full string section. It’s told from the perspective of the man who pushes the launch button for a nuclear arsenal.

"My hand won’t shake the console/My handcuff will not rattle/as I win the final battle of all wars./And down beneath the ocean/I’ll dream of wings in motion./Blinding glory/That’ll show ‘em what freedom’s for."

Josh Ritter - The Temptation of Adam

Love blooms in a missile silo. And Adam decides that he’d press the launch button and destroy the world if it would keep Marie down there with him.

Let’s Kick This Congress To The Curb

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Imagine this: you’ve noticed a structural problem with your home, something that you have no hope in being able to fix yourself. So you call a contractor. Now maybe you chose this contractor out of all the others because you liked their ad or because your father used them. Regardless, this is the one you chose and when he comes to your house he tells you how dire the situation is—says without his immediate help and expertise, your entire domicile is bound to collapse from within. So you pay him, handsomely. A few months later your house is still deteriorating and the contractor has yet to make a single repair. You complain and complain again, so he makes a quick patch that he says will tide you over for a little bit of time but not for long.

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The Mix Tape - The Front Bottoms

The Front Bottoms

Sometimes the best concerts you wind up seeing are the ones where you don’t know any of a band’s music going into the show. When the Fillmore hosted the Idobi Meltdown on Saturday, 12 of the 14 bands playing were unknowns to me. And while pretty much every act was awesome, it was the set from The Front Bottoms that stuck with me. They were up there having an absolute blast, playing hard, and chugging the occasional beer (or bottled water).

Their self-titled album captures the majority of that spirit, but you still have to see them live. Brian Sella’s lyrics are a blend of stream-of-consciousness, conversation, and clever turn of phrase that I really can’t compare to any other act. Take, for instance, this block from the opening track, “Flashlight,” which goes:

"They are probably just drinking and talking about how she misses getting fucked up and hanging around/And he says ‘Hey you’re good at that’ and she says ‘Thanks, it’s kind of all I got’/And then she looks away and says ‘It’s also all I need.’"

There’s a blend of cavalier attitude and tender poetry that dots the album. You’ll find the former in “Looking Like You Just Woke Up” which bounces along to the words of “I love to wait/I love girls with ex boyfriends that they aren’t really over.” You’ll find the latter in “Rhode Island” in which he writes, "You gotta promise not to break,/no matter how far you are bent."

Since I come from a family that includes a few trumpet players, I should add that it’s nice to hear some brass in these songs. (Granted, if you’re expecting beautiful sound, you won’t find it here. But the particular tone of this trumpet works with the band.)

I said it earlier, but I’ll close with it, too. You have to see these guys in concert. You’ll have one hell of a time.

Written by Grant Goodman

Margin Notes - Wendy Mass, Every Soul a Star

"Life is short, but it’s wide"

—Wendy Mass, Every Soul a Star

No, I’m not writing about philosophy. No Buddha loves you, hug-each-other, sing a song stuff here. This one’s about education. It’s about immersing yourself in the study of…well…everything.

If you’re reading this blog, you have access to the greatest source of information the world has ever known. The internet is a tool for finding out pretty much anything you’ve ever wanted. Want to know what flavors of Doritos are being sold in Thailand? Search. Want to read a scholarly dissection of Camus? Search. Not sure about the difference between H2O and H2O2? That’s right, search.

Yet, access to information is not the same as knowledge. Put in some effort. Run a search for something you’ve always wondered about. Do some reading or some watching. It’s good for you.

Written by Grant Goodman

To Write Love on Her Arms

When I went to the Fillmore last month to see Satellite, Now Now, Will Anderson of Parachute, Anthony Raneri of Bayside, and Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot), I was going for the music.  Some people, however, were going there to reaffirm their will to live.

The organization that was backing the tour, To Write Love on Her Arms, is an outreach program for people dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm habits, bullying, identity crises, eating disorders, and probably a few that I’m missing.

The evening was helmed by Jamie Tworkowski (founder) and the recurring theme of the evening was survival through storytelling. The idea that everyone’s story—even that bitter, crushing one that’s been sitting on your chest like a stone for months—is one that needs to be heard. This message was reinforced by Steven McMorran of Satellite who, in between songs, simply state that “your story matters.” It surfaced in Anthony Raneri’s cover of “Megan,” which is the story of a guy waiting for a “reunion” with his girlfriend, convinced that the only way he’ll ever see her again is by lying down on the train tracks. At song’s end, he finally accepts the help of those around him and lives to see another day. That very same message of struggling to survive was present in Jon Foreman’s acoustic version of "Dare You to Move," which goes: “Tension is here/Between who you are and who you could be/Between how it is and how it should be.”

Though I don’t personally struggle with the hardships that TWLOHA aims to talk about, I certainly know people who do. Some of them are peers, some of them are students. And, sometimes, the best thing you can do is let them talk. Because they need someone to listen to them. Because our stories only matter when someone else can hear them.

The unstated subtext of the evening was that silence and isolation are killers. Being cut off from listening ears can kill your sense of worth. And having the mindset that no one understands you is unbelievably dangerous. Your story may be unique, but your depth of emotion is not. You’re human, and our species has been around for quite some time now. Loss, pain, and self-loathing have been with us from the get-go and there are plenty of people who will acknowledge that.

Jamie Tworkowski was able to point out that these issues are often glossed over or pushed back into the shadows and ignored. That it’s seen as a weakness to discuss profound sadness, crying jags, and feelings of ostracism. And that the best way to make things better is to talk about them.

He’s onto something there.

Written by Grant Goodman

Goodbye, Mr. Moody

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There was a time when, had you asked me or not, I would have told you that Californication was my favorite show on television hands down. The first two seasons spun me into the kind of whimsy that few shows can. It was smart, funny, sexy (HBO and Showtime seem to have a quota system on breasts. I’ll let you know when I crack that Divinci code), and more importantly than all of that, it was written with the kind of compelling complexity that made you starved for more in the week away.

But now—now—it’s nothing like that.

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Margin Notes: “The Deep” By Anthony Doerr

Tom tries to answer, but the whole sky is rushing through the open door into his mouth.

—Anthony Doerr, “The Deep”

Dave Eggers helms this incredible project that gets published once a year. It’s The Best American Non-Required Reading collection and it’s assembled by groups of high school students who are simply sifting through all the year’s fiction and non-fiction in search of the most intriguing writing they can find. The 2011 edition contains page after page of brilliant, stirring stories, longform journalism, comics, flash fiction, band names, and tweets. It was “The Deep,” a short story by Anthony Doerr, though, that hit me the hardest.
Some lines stick in your thoughts and float around. Others get carved in and they stay there, permanent fixtures that you’d never want to remove.

Tom has a heart condition. He can’t get overworked or overexcited. He has a life expectancy of sixteen, maybe eighteen years. When he finally goes to elementary school for fourth grade, what is it that sends him to brush up against death? A picture book of the deep ocean, filled with colorful creatures and strange plants and sights so amazing to Tom he can’t believe they actually exist. And that picture book belongs to Ruby.

A few days later, when this boy with a delicate heart condition opens the door to find Ruby standing there with a few tadpoles swimming in a jar of water, he can’t speak. She says she’s brought them because it seemed like he was interested in sea creatures. And that’s true. But in addition to being a catalyst for his love of the ocean, she has also triggered his interest in girls.

With Ruby standing outside his door, there’s no room for words. How could there be? All of life is filling him up, all at once. Too much is happening at once and while Tom’s heart is okay, his brain is paralyzed.

It’s magic, really. That spark, that flash, that moment in which you realize that there’s something out there that has set you alight. It will always set you alight, if you give it room to breathe.

The problem is that there’s so much time in between childhood and adulthood in which all of that fire can be snuffed out. I’m a teacher and I watch it happen all the time. Students who leave my middle school classroom come back to visit me years later and high school has burned them out of all of their loves. The things they loved when they were twelve are things they no longer have time for. Too much studying, working with a tutor twice a week, sports practice goes until 7, the musical is opening in a week, and the list goes on.

Doerr understands this, too, and his story is about the struggle to hold onto what matters, even if those things may make your heart stop beating.

Written by Grant Goodman

Margin Notes: Charles Yu. Sorry Please Thank You.

Is language all about desire? Is desire all about loss? Would we ever need anything if we never lost anything? Is everything we ever say just another way to express: I will lose this, I will lose all of this. I will lose you?

-Charles Yu. Sorry Please Thank You.

Hi there. It’s been a little while. I’ve been reading. And writing. And listening. And grad-schooling. And I’ve been tired. But I’ve found that hidden “refresh” button that we all have somewhere in our brains. Or maybe it’s our hearts. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.

For many, many reasons (some good, some terrible), I’ve done less pleasure reading this year than I have in the past five years of my life. So I went ahead and forced myself to crack open a book a few weeks ago, so that I could spend 30 minutes a night reading, no matter how tired I was.

I’ve never been on a diet, but I’ve often heard that when people are denied something for a long time, they go absolutely nuts when they finally get their hands on whatever it is. Well, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past three weeks.

It turned out that I was starving for words.

Now, I’m feeling a bit more nourished. Happier. Smarter. Funnier.

So guess what you’re going to be seeing a lot of? That’s right: a whole series of literature-inspired posts.

Let’s start with Charles Yu, whose prose is brilliant, charming, achingly honest, and often times disturbingly philosophical. His latest short story collection, Sorry Please Thank You, is all over the map. This one particular quote, hanging out there at the top of the page, comes from a story that is printed like an instructional manual. It never tells you exactly what the device is, but it’s an object that takes your desires and turns them into realities. The way I read it is that it’s simply about life, as if the human brain and body is the device in question.

When this question series about language popped up, I knew I was in love with this little story.

Language is definitely about desire. It was created in order to satisfy the desire to voice the complex thoughts and images stewing in our brains. To be able to say, “I need this, I want that.”

In the beginning, there were probably far more needs being voiced than wants. That’s changed over time, for sure.

But then there’s that follow-up question. Is desire about loss? Is it there because we know that one day everything will vanish? Is it about recognizing that we have the chance to have something for only a little while, and then we have nothing for all of eternity? Is language a tool to let us say and write everything because we know that one day we won’t say or write anything ever again?

It’s worth thinking about.

—Written by Grant Goodman

track MEGAN (feat. JOSH CATERER)
artist Bayside
album Acoustic

Suddenly, I recognized those bloodshot rearview mirror eyes as mine.

Debunking The Common Gun Debate Myths

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Ooh, somebody stop me! - The Mask

Myth #1: Hammers Kill More People Than Assault Weapons

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5 Things Every Man Needs

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Not to invoke some kind of primitive incarnation of man law, but as any true Man knows, there are certain things members of our species require to affirm themselves as a warm blooded males (the anatomical features aside). Here are a few items that veritably define manhood.

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A Recommendation: Tom Chiarella on the Happiness of Aaron Swartz

I’m calling it right now. This is one of the most arresting articles I will read all year. It will be one of the most arresting articles you will read all year. I’m sure of it.

Tom Chiarella has given an account of what might be the most bizarre funeral request he will ever have. The crux of it: he was asked to give a speech at funeral for Aaron Swartz, a man he had never met. It was also requested that he read a passage from David Foster Wallace. This leads to an awkwardly endearing scene in which Chiarella finds himself being addressed as “Dave” or “David” and leads to this gem: “People in the room that day were mightily, and supremely pissed. And hurt. So see, it didn’t matter if I was or wasn’t David Foster Wallace. And it is not every day that you can say that.”

The real punch, the real twist in this article comes from Chiarella’s recounting of his dinner with his son after the funeral. It is nothing less than a rattling moment of empathy in which he looks at his son and sees a reflection of Swartz, who committed suicide at the age of 26. The moment is undeniably human and undeniably humbling.

Take five minutes to read the article. Chiarella is one of Esquire’s top talents and churns out the kind of writing most people will never be capable of. And, on a slightly related note, if you’re a guy who gives a shit about being well put together and well read, there’s no excuse for not having a subscription to Esquire.

Written by Grant Goodman