I need your help, because I'm dying.

OK not really. But I've been invited to be this year's speaker in a "last lecture" series on campus. The goal is to pretend this is the last lecture we'll ever get to give and make it about whatever we want. It's an interesting thought exercise, if nothing else. If I really was going to die tomorrow, what would I want to be the last thing I said to students, readers, my rats, etc.? Part of me would want to give a rambling three-hour political valedictory. Part of me would want to say "Eh, be nicer to each other" and leave it at that. Assuming that I don't want to subject the university community to either of those, I have to split the difference.

What's your favorite Gin and Tacos post? What if anything have I said that would be fitting – that is, important enough to qualify as "last words" but interesting enough that someone will actually want to listen to it. I've been doing this for so long that I've probably written about everything I could conceivably want to say to anyone, and I'm not the best judge of what will be well received or interesting as I write.

So help me out here, or these people may end up spending 22 minutes watching me air guitar and karaoke Milo Goes to College in its entirety.

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73 thoughts on “LAST LECTURE”

  • Part of me wants you to go "blaze of glory", scalps hanging from your belt loops, cynicism on display:

    "Kids…you've been lied to. Now, for most of you, it doesn't matter…you're children of privilege—privilege of wealth, of ethnicity, of national origin. But the fact is, this whole thing's a farce. You can always retake a class, but you can never relive a party. Sure, a higher GPA may lead to more income, but the marginal difference won't really amount to your daily drug budget by mid-career. Assume you're going to die, tomorrow, and live an appropriately risky life."

    But I actually don't think there's much wrong with you Par Lagerkvisting "Be nicer to each other".

    Now, if you want my favorite posts? I, too, would have trouble finding them… But here are some good ones: " I honestly believe that Sgt. So-and-So deserves a thank you and a pat on the back. I just get nauseous at the idea of playing along with a crowd of people whose knee-jerk psychological response to images of the military is to explode into cheers or tears to fulfill social expectations or assuage guilt" "the product is a combination of guilt, pity, and hope dissolved in a weak acid and dyed a nauseating pink."


    That said, I think your last lecture should have one main message ("be nice" is a good one), and anecdotes/stories to illustrate it, seasoned with your humor. Honestly…your combination of rational persuasion, storytelling, and humor will carry the lecture…don't try to do too much.

  • Your Susan G. Komen post is the best I can think of without delving into your past archives. Idk…you had a great takedown of a racist poster on this forum where you tracked down his IP address and then lambasted the place he lived.

  • The latter half of your "Follow My Lead" (Oct. 17 2011) post is something I find myself returning to regularly.

  • I really like the "No libertarians on airplanes" piece found under the link "Statement of Political Philosophy", always have.

    Apart from just liking the piece, I think it represents you, Ed (or at least my idea of "Ed from G&T"), as well as anything else you've written here. It's (fairly) brief, it's insightful and funny, and it's provocative (no doubt offensive, to some). It also gives a glimpse of your life as an academic, your inner flight-geek and also your ridiculous tallness, which are all nicely personal touches.

    And yes, youtubings, please.

  • Wow. This is tough. Your FJMs are always gold, and one of the funniest things I've ever read is your takedown on the side effects of Alli. But, like your also-brilliant review of GOING ROGUE, these do not lend themselves well to valedictory oratory. Similarly, your explanations of the likely outcomes and importances of Congressional elections are swell, but not really Life Lesson material.

    At the risk of skewing bland/obvious: Your Statement of Philosophy post and your Scenes From A Delta Flight post share enough of setting/subject to merge into a single narrative and would, I think, serve as a memorable springboard for you to Say Something. They have all the Ed hallmarks: Government, the Inaccurate Perception of Government by People Who Ought to Know Better, Pop Culture, Righteous Anger, etc.

    Any lecture that begins with, "So as the TSA agent bent me over the table and snapped her rubber glove into place–" would certainly hold *my* interest, well past the point where you explain why the deregulation of the industry destroyed customer service…

    Also, yes, obviously, Youtube, for sure.

  • Another vote for "Libertarian Airlines," but perhaps broaden the scope a bit from lampooning Glibertarians (always fun, but kind of specific) to the breakdown of the conception of a public sphere and a government that works to protect to what we have now — elderly white people on Medicaid screaming about how the government should "get out" of healthcare.

    Or in more poli sci terms, whither public virtues in the US? Are we screwed forever, or do we somehow get it back?

  • I also vote for the 'there are no libertarians on airplanes' piece. The audience will be mostly Poli Sci folks, right? I don't know how faculty and grad students run, but nearly every political science undergrad I've known desperately needed their invisible-hand-worshipping bubble burst. It's a good chance to lament the grand failings of American virtue while also being funny, personal, and framing good governance as a rational choice for each of our personal well-being.

    That, or the stand up bit about the Bachmann's fucking.

  • Middle Seaman says:

    You are a fine thinker and writer. Tell a story. You either have one or you can find one. It will be a good summery of you and your advise/message. Make it short and sweet.

  • I always liked the NPF post on Gary Powers. It illustrated the weirdness of the Cold War in a really interesting way.

  • It's only 22 minutes (and change). Not that hard (if you're in Kenny Powers-mode).

    Or just lift all of President Eisenhower's out-going address.

    I agree with eau; that No Libertarians On Airplanes post is very good.

  • bobby flashpants says:

    The open letter to the baby boomer series are among the most quintessential g&t pieces to me.

  • Chris "Limey" Lewis says:

    I really liked the "Right wing women rock" FJM treatment, but "No Libertarians in Airplanes" is also pretty good. If you're going for a powerpoint-led lecture, there's always "Ed goes undercover teabaggin'"

    Out of the more irreverent/downright offensive of your posts, the Sarah Palin book review (Which contains the immortal line: "It's like watching your parents sixty-nine one another while Jon Madden bellows out commentary"), the Atlas Shrugged movie review OR the reallly early one from about 2004 that I think Mike originally posted, about the time he gave four kids a blank sheet of paper and told them to write whatever they want.

  • I like the Libertian one because it is timeless – I loved some of your other overtly political posts (That would be what, 80% of the posts?) but some fit into a specific time & space… AKA ragging on Palin or Komen even now seems a bit late for the party…

  • Something on "Battered Worker Syndrome." You need to make that term popular nationwide. It reminds me of Steinbeck's quote, "Socialism never caught on in America because the workers see themselves not as an oppressed proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

    @Kevin "Idk…you had a great takedown of a racist poster on this forum where you tracked down his IP address and then lambasted the place he lived."

    Do you or Ed remember the name of that piece, because I'd love to see it.

  • Ed, A constant theme is the mismatch between the fantastic and heated "take my country back" rhetoric and .. uh .. facts. Surely, one can embellish, and point out the generational nature of Them vs Obama and how Them have been manipulated by the Corporatocracy and how the Young folk have just been screwed over by Same.

    A sort of State of the Screwing ?

    But Optimistic don't ya know.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Right now, I'd say the 'Libertarian' one, or the "Battered Worker Syndrome."

    But don't commit to anything 100% yet.
    Leave your options open.
    The atrocities to women, workers, black and brown people, senior citizens, the handicapped, homosexuals, etc., keep increasing, and something you read, hear, or see, a day or two before the lecture may trigger your best observation yet.

    Also too – maybe you could loot at Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch's last lecture for inspiration:

    Best of luck.

    Oh, and also three – 'youtubing' the lecture is not an option – it is a requirement.

  • I can't find the link, but my all-time favorite post of yours (so far) is the one where you ask why the rest of the country would want to follow the south's lead in dealing with political and economic problems. It was a real lightbulb moment for me, one I have referred back to more than once. I'll leave it up to you how your audience would respond to it.

  • Grumpygradstudent says:

    I like the "this country is really racist" themed posts and the posts I'd loosely group under the theme "what the hell happened to the American middle class?"

  • I'm going to have to toss in another vote for No Libertarians on Airplanes. It's quintessential G&T, to me, with the right mix of humor, bile, and summary lessons about how "GUB'MINT IS THE PROBLEM" is a retarded philosophy to have.

    Exactly the sort of thing that college students will respond to, and exactly what a good chunk of them need to hear.

  • As much as I hate to follow the crowd——the choice is obvious—–No Libertarians on Airplanes. And put it on YouTube.

    No shit, Ed, you are the best political writer I have read since Mike Royko. Everything you write is outstanding and thought provoking. But No Libertarians on Airplanes stands out head and shoulders above anything else, because it gets to the heart of the matter, and people need to hear this message.

  • The post immediately prior to this one (about Trayvon Martin) is well-stated, engaging, and really goddamn important.

  • Open Letter From Boomers To Their Children is a good choice, but I can't believe no one mentioned your review of Going Rogue:

    Imagine watching your parents 69 one another while John Madden sits behind you and bellows out color commentary and you will have some idea of how excruciating and profoundly scarring it is to plow through each page of this wholly fictional monument to self-aggrandized mediocrity

  • Two short posts that you could expand on is the 'I'm not the 99% because I worked hard' — overall theme is american 'bootstraps' myth vs. the reality of the racist/privileged society it really is. Something you touch on often:

    Again, same theme of 'if we worked harder it will work out' is austerity+magical ponies shitting glitter to fix the economy short post:

    But what I think you should expand on is the ultimate in racist/privileged and the ultimate bootstrapper himself – Reagan. Google search says there are 617 results for Reagan on the site. The starting point would be hero worship and the mythical Reagan vs. the actual president Reagan:

    Hell, Reagan's even in your bio: "Like many Americans now between the ages of 21 and 40, Ed was raised in a household in which Ronald Reagan was worshipped more fervently than Jesus, Santa, and Carl Weathers combined."

    I know if I had a last lecture or a time machine that could 'fix' a wrong preaching about the realities of Reagan would be very high on my list. May not be the best career move…but hell, that's kind of the point when you're dispelling a myth.

  • johnsmith1882 says:

    'the agenda' was your best post in recent memory. you nailed the crap out of that one, though i don't know how that would play as a lecture.

  • truth=freedom says:

    Honestly, while I love your rantings as they apply to the libertarian nutters (who, in their left mind, wouldn't?), I think you should try to connect the two impulses you have (the other being "Er, be nicer to each other"), which being to point out the folly of our lives lived as we live them, and the other to point us in the decent and honorable direction.

    I can think of no better starting point than the post from Sunday, 18 March. Weaving the concept of the Christian Golden Rule (given that you live in the American South, an explicitly Christian connection will make your audience take notice, especially if you let on the ways in which you admire its teachings) with the horrorshow that is life as a non-white/non-privileged person in Modern America, and building that into something that connects the two concepts explicitly as a marker for the role that decent humans must take, no matter their religious persuasions or station in life, might just wake up one or two folks. Or you can at least hope. Doing it with stage presence and ranting might even wake up enough people that they'll talk about for a week or two.

    Plus, as @dieselross says above, it's really goddamn important.

  • Rick Massimo says:

    I'd never seen the Libertarians in Airplanes one. I like it.

    Thanks For the Oasis, from June of last year, is another great one that makes a similar point: The federal-gubmint-hating states of Arizona and Nevada basically wouldn't exist without the socialist, freedom-destroying Hoover Dam. Which, BTW, also made a boatload of money for the very energy companies who fought the construction of the dam every step of the way and who of course didn't take that money because it was tainted by non-free-market forces and they didn't want to be hypocrites (I made that last part up).

  • I second what dieselross and grumpygradstudent just said. The letters to boomers from their kids and back are great too.

    I think you're at your best when you're pissed and/or genuinely confused by the arc of the last thirty or forty years, and trying to answer the 'how did we get here from there?' question seems to lay at the root of your political and ethical philosophy.

    Oh, and youtube. Please.

  • I'd have to vote for "No Libertarians on Airplanes" piece. It's an eye-opener for people who've never questioned how the free market works.

  • Though I LOVED libertarian airlines I'm not sure that will make a good 'last lecture'. Personally, I think you have a lot going for the Vegas posts you've been doing recently. Something on complacency in democratic societies.

  • As much as I love the FJMs, it's hard to MST3K someone else's work when you are reading the silly original aloud at the same time. Plus, for all I know, there are copyright issues with extensive quoting for non-review purposes.

    All the ideas that occurred to me are basically topics I would love to see you address here instead: a detailed explanation of the necessity of a free press; more on logic / rhetoric / fallacies / critical thought; even the function of government (its branches, its boundaries, its changes over time.) Topical dailies are great, but there are fundamental matters that I'd like to see laid out here. (Free education! W00t!)

    But since it seems you don't have a burning emotion you need to get off your chest, in the fashion of "This I Believe," I'd recommend telling the crowd something you think they need to hear. (No, not the Descendents.)

  • No hesitation in my opinion. The pair of posts on the "Dear Mom and Dad, thanks to your baby boomer generation for fucking up the world" is the best thing you've ever done, and it should translate well into a lecture.

    Please do this.

  • On the other hand, the No Libertarians on Airplanes theme would probably do more good for the future of the audience and everyone they meet going forward.

  • "..these people may end up spending 22 minutes watching me air guitar and karaoke.."

    Shane, they bought their tickets; they knew what they were getting into. I say, let 'em die!

    Other than that, my preference would be just to get drunk and stream-of-consciousness their asses. They knew the [course] was dangerous when they took it.

  • How about a lecture on the proper care and feeding of your soon-to-be-orphaned rats?

    (Hey, someone here has to stand up for the rodents.)

  • A Babe of the Boom says:

    22 minutes of silence. That should stop them from asking you again.

    How about a listing of all the best and completely believed 'Big Lies' in the last 40 years of American politics. You do have infinite space, right? Well, if not, you could do a 'Reader's Digest' version! Or even a top 10.

    If you want to stay positive, you could list all the truths in American Politics. . . that only leaves you with 21 minutes to fill!

  • I also vote for a combination of "Battered Worker Syndrome" and "Green My Eyes" — such a great indictment of race-to-the-bottom capitalism.

  • anotherbozo says:

    Thanks for this excuse for me to inventory the highlights of G&T, I who have the usual attention span of about 15 minutes.

    I agree with many on the "libertarians on airplanes" philosophy as one candidate: it's vivid, a great metaphor, will resound to the last inch of the hall. Good as Elizabeth Warren's brilliantly concise rationale for taxes, IMHO.

    But if you can get a slightly more studious, contemplative mood going, Mike's suggestion of

    I recommended that post to the one right-wing acquaintance I've tangled with in the past two years. I, myself, thought it was epic.

    But a lecture on health care is certainly timely and critical, as we count down to the Supremes weighing in:

    And I vote for YouTubing it as well.

  • Like everyone else, you should definitely refer to the libertarians on airplanes, and the baby boomers. But how could you leave out your investigative journalism wherein you infiltriated a Tea Party event? Best post ever. Those pictures would make for some nice visual aids, especially how "descent" is a "patriotic".

  • Tell them they should be glad they're not fat and miserable in Las Vegas. Or the Baby-Boomer thing. Same thing, in a way.

  • I don't think your FJM posts are a good model for an audible lecture, just owing to format difficulties. And while I enjoy them, I have to say—Ken Tremendous still owns that format.

    I feel like I've been reading this blog so long, and genuinely loving it so much, that it's astonishing to me I cannot instantly summon a list of Favorite Ed from G&T Moments to memory, but it's regrettably a blur. So rather than point to particular posts, I'd like to highlight a few things I think you do particularly well (and which a 20-something might most need to hear):

    First, I always find your writing on the really hard-edged reality of the police state to be particularly superb. My friends who read this blog and I probably send each other more "wish I coulda put it this well" emails on those days when you post something with the sentiment "This is what we permit the police to do, in this country, because the alternative is feeling slightly more nervous about young males" than any other. (Again, I'm not putting it nearly so well as you do.) Most people don't think about those issues in a material way; it's more comfortable to occupy the theoretical discussion we inherit from cop shows and other familiar fairy tales. Pulling away that curtain, especially in front of rows of college students some of whom who are about to become those ranks of young males, is important.

    Second, and related, I think your writing is particularly strong when it discusses the material realities underlying the economic bargain we've struck in this country. Again, this is another area where most people tend to think about economics in terms of a morality tale, and assume that people have whatever they have because they deserve it. Pulling away that curtain, too, is important.

    Finally, and most obviously, funny is better, and I think you do "not funny-ha-ha but funny-weary-and-despairing" better than anyone. The aforementioned fellow readers and I have already appropriated "in closing, 45 minutes in your establishment made me want to join Al Qaeda" for our Yelp reviews.

    Count me one more vote for Youtubage.

  • I think some of the comments are correct. A lot of your writing would not translate well into a lecture. Having said that, I have a soft spot in my heart for what I feel should be the title of the lecture: MAGICAL PONIES SHITTING GLITTER. Based on last April 19th's screed of the same name.

  • The choice is clear: "No libertarians on airplanes". Well written, articulate makes people think and ask questions. Also, for some reason, people tend to think they're being cool by saying, "I'm a Libertarian," even though they don't really understand what it means to be a Libertarian. Perhaps your speech could prevent that with some young folks who just think they're being trendy.

  • Your NPF post about Trucknutz a few years ago is still my favorite NPF post. You'll work them in some how, you're in the South. :)

  • Nice find on the personal responsibility. This paragraph would be a great lecture:

    The American attitude toward the healthcare system represents our national obsession with Personal Responsibility taken to its ludicrous extreme. We feel that people should have to pay for any services they receive because A) we're proud capitalists, and thus everything of value must have a price attached to it and B) we blame individuals who end up in the hospital, just as we blame the ones you end up poor, in prison, on drugs, or unemployed. Everything that happens to you up to and including getting cancer is your own damn fault.

  • Just tell them what you've learned. If you can get that down to 22 minutes, you'll have accomplished something profound.

  • Whatever you pick, is there enough time to regrow your Chester A. Arthur beard before you deliver the lecture? Because you ought to do that.

  • Given your ample skills, I say you vent your grumpiest burgeoning old man's spleen along the following lines (pulling from your posts, but as others have noted, not simply Cc'ing an old post into a 20-minute oral-blogging): You have, in many bits and more pieces, displayed a jigsaw puzzle of the last 30-odd years and what they have done to people just like those to whom you'll be speaking.
    I propose you use the first 10 minutes putting that in perspective. Then–and this is where it may challenge you some in terms of laying new track and therefore push you to your Ed-est–explain to them in frank and hopefully as un-profane as possible terms where they are headed on this arc and, without getting all preachy-cum-hypocrito-slacktivist feelgood on them, maybe the last two minutes on what they can do about it. In other words, squeegee the living fuck out of their sewn shut third-quasi-nonexistent-eyes.
    That's my two cents, anyway…

  • I'm a reader from way back. You mentioned this once, but I don't think you ever devoted a post to it: something as to why you swapped political viewpoints from conservative to liberal. While the other posts that people mentioned above might be better reads (like no libertarians at 30,000 feet), this one might have some practical effect.

  • Battered Workers Syndrome was the finest piece you have ever produced from your considerable volume of work. Go forth and spawn new pinkos!

  • I'm not sure I have any great suggestions about revisiting a particular post, but including something about there being no substitute for actually looking at the thing being discussed probably can't hurt. I seem to recall some of your posts that attracted a lot of attention also involved you taking the time to read through the matter at hand rather than taking others summaries of the situation for granted. Illustrations of how never hurts to do your own legwork whenever possible.

  • @Kevin @Arslan

    That'd be Philly. Philadelpha, Mississippi, that is. Better known as the site of Ronnie Reagan's "I Believe In State's Rights" speech.

  • Much as I like knocking around libertarianism, I have to put in my vote for a lecture about how the struggle between generations will define American politics and prosperity for the next 30+ years. Most young people today have no idea the we're heading toward a society where their future–not just their working life and opportunities in general but also their own retirement–is set to be cannibalized for grandma's retirement. You can work in a few knocks on libertarianism along the way, I'm sure. Besides, I feel like the most effective tool for dulling hard-edge libertarianism is real life.

  • Assuming youtube is veto'd (Yeah, I don't think I'd want my boss/employer outed or able to get back to this fairly anonymous blog.)
    Please do post here anything new (cobbled together greatest hits) or at least tell us whatt you chose.

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