Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Giant Pool of Money

I don’t listen to This American Life – the very hip, slightly cynical, often ironic radio program on NPR – very often. Mostly because I never know what’s coming next. It might be profanity, references to various sexual practices or values, or just stories that are hard for even adults to swallow. The days the program is on I am commonly listening along with my children, but I can’t always see what’s coming to turn it down. What's more, the program tends to have kind of a nasal, slightly whiny tone. It's as if the timbre of the Ira Glass's voice bleeds over into the very spirit and ethos of the program. The world of TAL is just too defined by the odd, abnormal, bleeding, perverse and twisted. Admittedly, it's often delivered with sardonic humor, or even heartfelt pathos, often at the same time. It's fine in small doses. Even interesting and entertaining. Yet there is something about it that makes me feel kind of slimy when the program is over. It needs washing out with some plain wholesome outdoor activity or some act of simple naive faith. I would love to just have Ira over for an afternoon of splitting wood, stone wall building, or even a long walk in the mountains. Something where whining is not accepted and good hard physical work is a wholesome cure for many ills.

So, after Car Talk and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me are over, I usually just turn the radio off for most of the afternoon. That's because my kids listen. Then they think. Then they ask questions about stuff they have heard on the radio. On balance this has been very good. It has stimulated some really interesting conversations. But…there are some topics that I’d just as soon wait awhile before having to address them. Among those topics I would include homosexuality, adultery, fornication, divorce, abortion, child abuse, and other forms of domestic violence, to name a few.

Last May, however, they broadcast one of the finest programs I have ever heard. It was called “The Giant Pool of Money. The topic was the national mortgage meltdown. One might argue that this is certainly a topic too spicy and fraught with moral ambiguity to allow small children anywhere near it. I would disagree because while sex is obviously way too hard a topic to discuss with children, uncontrolled avarice, and government toppling corruption are just fine, along with graphic violence (I’m kidding folks!).

I strongly recommend clicking on the link and taking 59 minutes or so to listen to the program. If you click on the icon for “full episode” you can hear the program streamed for free. If you wish to save it you can download it for a small fee.

In a few days, I will be posting a link to TAL’s latest attempt to explain the practical economics of our time with a program on the current Banking Crisis. I have a few thoughts on both of these subjects that I will post shortly. I don’t think my thoughts are anything particularly new or startling. They are just what I have been thinking about as we all watch things progressively unravel around us.

These are, indeed, interesting times.

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