Thursday, July 24, 2014

Do Fathers Matter?

When Hanna Rosin wrote The End of Men, did it also portend the end of fatherhood? There is no question that gender roles have been dramatically changed in the past 50 years. That in almost every measurable metric, women are not just pulling ahead of, but are surpassing men.

Yet fifty years of change, is no match for almost two million years of human evolution. Where these two forces converge is the reality of modern fatherhood.

The scientific, genetic and evolutionary influence of fathers is powerful and provable. Yet in many ways it runs headlong into popular culture, contemporary role models, and the reality of 21st century family life.

Journalist Paul Raeburn describes the current revolution in research in Do Fathers Matter?: What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We've Overlooked

My conversation with Paul Raeburn:

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Do we have more A*holes today?

Everyday we encounter jerks. Some have recently argued that the number of jerks has increased exponentially, as we all experience greater stress and more frequent encounters, in dense urban environments. But when those jerks go too far, than they truly become assholes.

But why so many, why now and what can we do about it? That's the question that Professor Aaron James asks in Assholes: A Theory.

My conversation with Aaron James:

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Immigration became illegal

Immigration has once again become the issue of the day. Children are pouring across the border. Misinformation is rampant and our national attitude has become mean spirited. We say we are a nation of immigrants, yet what we really mean by that seems very different than the current reality.

We have a system that has grown inefficient, prejudicial and disconnected from the very human concerns of people seeking a better life. Aviva Chomsky has been active in Latin American solidarity and immigrants’ rights issues for over twenty-five years. She examines where we are today in Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal.

My conversation with Aviva Chomsky:

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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Vacationers

It’s long been said that if you really want to get to know someone, travel with them. The corollary is that if you really want to get to know members of your own family, go on a vacation with them. The crucible of that experience usually brings out both the best and worst of who they are.

That’s the pressure cooker that the Post family is thrown into in Emma Straub's. new novel The Vacationers.

It isn’t easy making it onto the New York Times bestseller list with your second novel, but Straub did so with The Vacationers — the perfect book to bring with you on your summer getaway.

My conversation with Emma Straub:

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Why not good seafood at a good price?

America has more ocean and more coastline than any other nation. We produce more fresh seafood than other nations. Yet the amount of seafood extracted from those oceans, that we keep here in the US, is very small.

Why this disconnect? Why is our relationship to seafood so attenuated? And is there some connection or consistency between the decline of farming in America and the decline of domestically consumed seafood.

Paul Greenberg takes us inside seafood and aquaculture in American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood.

My conversation with Paul Greenberg:

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

How Millennials are changing the Middle East

Technology is transforming the world. But so too are millions of young people throughout the Middle East, whose attitudes, desire for freedom and more cosmopolitan views, are transforming nations. When these forces combine, the results can be powerful. This is what we’ve seen in the Arab Spring and in the uprisings and youth movements in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole, one of our most distinguished Middle East experts, talks of a rising Arab Generation Y, in his new book The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East.

My conversation with Juan Cole:

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Lives and Faces of the World's Poor

Living in the West, it's easy to forget that one-sixth of the world's population subsists without sustainable sources of food, medical care, or housing.

More than a billion people around the world are believed to live on a dollar a day... or less. While the circumstances leading to that sort of poverty are varied and complicated, the situations faced by the planet's poorest are depressingly familiar.

Now we get an on the ground look at that world, in a new work by Thomas A. Nazario. He is the founder of a nonprofit called The Forgotten International, and the author of the vividly reported and beautifully photographed, Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World's Poor.

My conversation with Thomas Nazario:

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Is there any hope for the US / Iranian relationship?

Few nations have as long a history of uninterrupted conflict and misunderstanding as the United States and Iran. The markers along that road are tall. The US coup that installed the Shah, the hostage crisis, Khobar towers, Lebanon, holocaust denial and the continually failed US efforts to seize opportunities when presented by Iran, have all contributed.

The issue of US/Iranian relations have run through the center of American foreign policy for the past 60 years, through ten successive administrations, Republican and Democrat alike.

Yet with each successive effort or treatment, the disease always threatens to burst out and become full blown. This is where we are once again, in the nuclear talks in Vienna, and in an effort to stabilize Iraq and Syria.

Are we at a new critical point in this relationship or is it all just another failed effort at rapprochement? Long time Iranian diplomat and now a Professor at Princeton, Seyed Hossein Mousavian thinks there is reason for optimism. He makes his case in Iran and The United States: An Insider's View on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace.

My conversation with Seyed Hossein Mousavian:

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Monday, July 14, 2014

The real Chinese American experience

Several trends are shaping the world today. One is immigration and migration. The mass movement of peoples from rural to urban area and across borders, in search of a better life.

Concurrently, globalization and cultural homogenization are confusing the very idea of national identity. As the recently concluded World Cup proved, we are deeply committed to our ethnic and geographic identity, and yet it’s all within the context of an increasingly borderless and global world

Inherent in this contradiction lies many issues faced by multi racial Americans and particularly Chinese Americans, torn between two models of success

Eric Liu’s story sits at the epicenter of these ideas. Ideas that form the basis of what we really should be discussing as part of our immigration conversation and what Eric talks about in A Chinaman's Chance: One Family's Journey and the Chinese American Dream.

My conversation with Eric Liu:

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The beginning of an era and the end of innocence

For ten days in March 1971, the Rolling Stones traveled by train and bus to play two shows a night in many of the small theaters and town halls where their careers began. No backstage passes. No security. No sound checks or rehearsals. And only one journalist allowed. That journalist was Robert Greenfield and now, thirty-three years later, he gives us his first an account of this landmark event, which marked the end of the first chapter of the Stones’ extraordinary career.

Ain't It Time We Said Goodbye: The Rolling Stones on the Road to Exile is also the story of two artists on the precipice of mega stardom, power, and destruction. It was both the best of times and the worst of times for the music business and the end of innocence in music.

My conversation with Robert Greenfield:

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Where's the beef?

To paraphrase Shakespeare, that fault is not in our food, but in choices we make. Specifically about what we eat, where it comes from and the policy choices that surround it.

There is no questions that we are meat eaters. But given the forces of big agriculture, and the fast food industry, we have to reassess not the practice of eating meat, but the kinds of meat we choose. Things like factory farming, antibiotics, and many of the practices of the food industry, seek to undermine those choices.

Patrick Martins, one of the leaders of the sustainable food and slow food movement, sounds a clarion call to these issues in The Carnivore's Manifesto: Eating Well, Eating Responsibly, and Eating Meat

My conversation with Patrick Martins:

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Friday, July 11, 2014

How the immigrant feels

Immigration seems the issue on everyone's mind today. Yet with all the thinking and all the talking, we forget half the story. It’s not just about how the receiving country deals with new immigrants, it’s also about the immigrant’s experience and how that experience, especially for young children, will shape their lives, and in turn their contribution to and role in, the greater society of which they become a part.

When we look at the mass migration to America’s shores at the beginning of the 20th century, we get a glimpse of how that plays out.

Alex Tizon, came to America from the Philippines. He would go on to become a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and the former Seattle bureau chief for the LA Times and currently teaches at the University of Oregon.

His memoir of his immigrant experience is Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self

My conversation with Alex Tizon:

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Spymaster's Story

It’s easy to forget that long before the intelligence failures of 9/11, the misinformation about Iraq's WMDs and what has become almost the militarization of the CIA, the agency had done well as the bulwark of American Intelligence efforts in the Cold War and in helping to define America's place in the world.

Perhaps there is no better way to look back at that effort, than through the lens of the CIA’s most Zelig like character, Jack Devine.

Devine served eleven Directors of the CIA. He was there when Allende fell in Chile, in the effort to aid the Mujahedeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan, in the morass of Iran/ Contra, in the hunt for Pablo Escobar, during the Haitian coup in 1991, and he ultimately served as leader of the Directorate of Operations, the nerve center of America’s covert operations worldwide. He tells his fascinating story in Good Hunting: An American Spymaster's Story

My conversation with Jack Devine:

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dead laws and broken government

We all know that our system of government is broken. Mostly we attribute it to bickering and bitter partisanship. But also, in part, it’s the fault of millions upon millions of pages of rules and regulations that seemingly govern every aspect of our lives. This is true on the local, state and national level.

Many of these rules are well meaning. They were put in place to address a problem, or right a wrong or fix an imbalance, but the process has gotten out of hand and hardly kept pace with the progress of the world around them. What we have now, not only stifles innovation, it increases cost and runs counter to some of of our most cherished principles and ideas as to what our country is about. Philip K. Howard, the author of The Death of Common Sense, takes a look at all of these rules in The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government.

My conversation with Philip K. Howard:

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Why John Wayne matters

Back in the last 1960’s there was a very famous ad campaign that asked, What Becomes a Legend Most? In fact, the real answer to that question is not the fur coat that was advertised, but really, it’s for a real legend to have a good biographer.

John Wayne certainly fits the role of a legend. Wayne's is a story filled with contradiction, misinformation and of course the conflating of fact and fiction. Today, 35 years after his death, Wayne is still a bit of a mystery, even while still one of America's favorite movie stars.

What was it about Wayne, his image, his life and his movies, that interconnected so perfectly with his time and his country.

Scott Eyman, who previously has written about John Ford, turns his focus to Wayne in a new biography John Wayne: The Life and Legend

My conversation with Scott Eyman:

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The Bronx is calling

Whether you grew up in a big city or a small town, if you moved away and then went back to visit, years later, everything had probably changed?

It probably triggered a kind of nostalgia that both made everything old new again, and at the same time reminded us that often the best way to go home again, is really in our imagination.

For Avery Corman, returning to the Bronx was not just an exercise in nostalgia, it was also a look at how the world and all of us have changed over the past half century. Corman details he experiences in My Old Neighborhood Remembered: A Memoir

My conversation with Avery Corman:

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Friday, July 4, 2014

The tangled roots of American independence

History is a funny thing. Time goes by, books are written and we think we know all there is to know about a particular time and place. Yet the complexity we sometimes feel about ourselves and about modern life, is no less true for history.

The true interpretation of motives and events we thought we knew, is always evolving and surprising us. This it is certainly true with with respect to our own American revolution.

As we try to understand other revolutions and the yearning for independence in other parts of the world, perhaps we can better understand, when we see more clearly, our own history.

Thomas P. Slaughter has done this for the American Revolution in Independence: The Tangled Roots of the American Revolution

My conversation with Thomas P Slaughter:

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why we love our Vodka

We eat candy bars, because it’s a tastier sugar delivery system than just eating sugar granules. Some smoke cigarettes, because it was once seen as a status form of nicotine delivery. Chewing tobacco just didn’t have same kind of image.

In many respects, we drink vodka for the same reason. It’s a colorless, odorless, and some argue tasteless alcohol delivery system. Think of it as the alcohol equivalent of soy. It takes on the flavor of what’s added to it.

Given this, why is it so popular and so lucrative? Why has it become America’s spirit. Journalist Victorino Matus looks deep into the bottle to try and find out how Vodka: How a Colorless, Odorless, Flavorless Spirit Conquered America.

My conversation with Victorino Matus

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