Friday, May 29, 2009

JOHN FEINSTEIN on Tiger vs. Rocco 2008

The 2008 US Open produced one of the most unexpected and dramatic showdowns not only in Golf, but in sports history.  Tiger Woods, the champ vs. Rocco Mediate, the aging and likable challenger.  It had all the drama of a movie.  However, it was the real thing.  Perhaps the most dramatic sports event of the still young 21st century.  John Feinstein, in his new book Are You Kidding Me?: The Story of Rocco Mediate's Extraordinary Battle with Tiger Woods at the US Open,chronicles the event.

My conversation with John Feinstein:

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Work/life balance and your money

David Leonhardt, in the New York Times, looks at new survey on work/life balance and which careers provide the highest economic penalty for taking time off.  The current economy could change all of this.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sleeping with the enemy...

Again, a marriage becomes the template to examine the socio-political storms swirling around the society. While previously we looked at marriages of the 60's and 70's, now Sophia Raday, in her new book,  Love in Condition Yellow: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage, writes of a marriage, her own, that's a template for a kind of 21st Century point/counterpoint.

Imagine a Berkeley peace activist who falls in love with a straight-laced Oakland police officer. As someone who had run away from cops dressed in riot gear at protests, Sophia was skeptical, to say the least, at the prospect of dating not only a cop but also a West Point graduate, an Airborne Ranger, and a major in the Army Reserve.

The two argue about many of the matters that divide the country; things like drug policy and race relations  Then, to up the ante, comes September 11th. Sophia and her husband Barrett must then begin to confront, on a very personal level, their differing viewpoints on polarizing values like fear, duty, family, and patriotism.

My conversation with Sophia Raday:

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The times they are a changing...and most politicians missed it.

Matt Bai, one of the country's most astute political observers and reporters talks, in his recent N.Y. Time magazine story, about how politicians missed the generational shift on the gay marriage issue.  It's an interesting look at how American values and culture are indeed changing.

My conversation with Matt Bai:

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

The future of journalism

If you want to understand the future of journalism, watch this tour of TPM (Talking Points Memo). This is the newsroom of the future, with a George Polk award as well:

Tour of Talking Points Memo's new offices from Nieman Journalism Lab on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Two writers, two couples and two marriages that reflect the past 40 years of our history

Maybe it really is Obama: Or perhaps our time really is beginning to defuse the culture wars.   It seems to be a meme of the moment to objectively reexamine the turbulent period of the late 60's and early 70's.  First there were the books by Bill Ayers and Mark Rudd, taking a macro and some would argue a revisionist, contextual and more nuanced view of the time. Now we have two new books, telling stories of the late 60's and early 70's  through the lens of two very different, very personal and very explosive marriages.

First Danzy Senna in her book Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History tells of her parents who married in 1968, as they merged two complicated strains of American heritage: Boston blue blood traceable to the Mayflower and Southern African American with a cross strain of Mexican–Native American. Her parents seemed poised to defy history. They were two brilliant young American writers. Married in 1968,  a year that seemed to separate the past from the present; together, these two would snub the histories that divided them and embrace the radical future of the time.  When their marriage disintegrated eight years later, it was, as one friend put it, “the ugliest divorce in Boston’s history”—a violent, traumatic war that felt all the more heartrending given the hopeful symbolism of their union. Their breakup personified the complexity of racial issues that have been with us right up until today.

Next, Robert Greenfield, whose books, articles, profiles and stories have made him one of the most informed and insightful voices of the '60's, tells of the tumultuous lives of  another   young couple, this one in Swinging London in the late 60's and early 70's.  His book, A Day in the Life: One Family, the Beautiful People, and the End of the Sixties is also a very emotional and personal story; one that mirrors societies transformation from the psychedelic 60's to the reality of the '70's. Greenfield writes a kind of "rock 'n' roll, Tender is the Night" amid the backdrop of glamorous lifestyles and very famous icons of the time.

Both books, taken together,powerfully capture a transformative moment in 20th Century history.

My conversation with Danzy Senna

My conversation with Robert Greenfield

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dr. Sherwin Nuland explains why bedside manner still matters in the health care debate

To often our health care reform conversations don’t involve the real lives of Doctors and the real dynamics of the Doctor/Patient relationship. Over the course of his career, both as a practicing surgeon and as a clinical professor at Yale, Dr. Sherwin Nuland has had the chance to work with a host of exceptionally talented doctors in a range of specialties. For The Soul of Medicine
he has asked 16 of them to tell the story of their most memorable patient and, with two of his own additions, cobbled them together into a modern-day version of “The Canterbury Tales.”

My conversation with Dr. Sherwin Nuland.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

The making of the coolest Prius ad

Reason enough to buy a PRIUS. Check out the making of the ad for new 3rd generation Prius. The actual ad is at the end. This one will be a classic.

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Lost Boys

Today we saw the statistics that the biggest victims of the recession are Blue Collar men. This, coupled with the crises our boys are currently facing in education, is a socially dangerous combination. The increasing majority of graduates from our top Universities, Law Schools, Medical Schools and even Business Schools are young woman. Boys and young men are falling further and further behind. Many have sounded the alarm. But few with as many specific solutions as Michael Gurian. A long time advocate for boys, his new book The Purpose of Boys: Helping Our Sons Find Meaning, Significance, and Direction in Their Lives offers really insightful solutions to the problems of so many millennial boys.

My conversation with Michael Gurian:

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The not so incredable shrinking GOP

A new Gallup poll brings even worse news for the GOP.  The party of Limbaugh, Cheney and No is loosing support among ALL demographic groups.  Here's a snapshot.  Check out Gallup for the details.  Will they ever learn?

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The Receptionist of the United States

I love this story and slideshow in today's NY Times about the "Receptionist of the United States." It some how symbolizes the best of the Obama White House and the young people are a part of it.  

Friday, May 15, 2009

According to Gallup this morning, more Americans “Pro-Life” Than “Pro-Choice” for First Time

A very depressing look at pro choice attitudes from Gallup this morning.  This reflects a fascinating trend that's been peculating for some time.  While young people are moving overwhelming toward full acceptance of same sex marriage, the same young people, particularly young woman, are moving away from the pro choice position.  What's going on? Where is the pro choice movement failing? These same young people voted overwhelming for Obama, but are steadily shifting their views on abortion.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Eric Bogosian's take on aging, memory, success and a whole lot more

David Brooks recently wrote about a 60 year longitudinal study launched at Harvard in 1944. The same study and it's search for the holy grail of "happiness" was also the basis of a story in current Atlantic. The idea that we change as we age, that we lead many lives, that memory both plays tricks on us and defines us, is also a core idea behind Eric Bogosian's new novel Perforated Heart  It's the story of two men who inhabit one individual at home in both the landscape of '70 New York and the more staid and grown up world of 2007.

My Conversation with Eric Bogosian:

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Rashid Khalidi explains the impact of the Cold War on the current Middle East Conflicts

While usually followed by controversy, there can be little doubt about the soundness of Rashid Khalidi’s arguments that today’s Middle East conflicts are, in large measure, shaped by the Cold War. In his new book Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East Khalidi shows how the global conflicts now playing out in the Middle East were significantly shaped and exacerbated by the Cold War era, and that any successful peace process must begin with a through understanding of these historical antecedents.

My conversation with Rashid Khalidi:

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The first "Master of the Universe"

While we are just beginning to get a wave of books about the current financial crises, it’s important to have a real historical understanding of how Wall Street, finance and big business got that way. The place to start that understanding is with with the life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Starting as a Staten Island farmer, he rose to control one of the greatest fortunes in world history. He played a central role in the rise of the modern corporation, the emergence of Wall Street, and the birth of big business. His life played out on an enormous stage. His relationships went from George Washington to John D. Rockefeller. T.J. Stiles, who’s just authored a new biography of Vanderbilt, entitled The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt says that “no one kept his hands of the levers of the economy for so long and pushed so hard.”

My conversation with T.J. Stiles:

Jonathan Alter on 100 Days: FDR vs. Obama

Last week we marked President Obama’s first 100 days. Now that the dust and the hype have settled, we can really take a look at what we’ve learned about this young President. No one is better able to help us do that, then Jonathan Alter. His book about FDR’s first hundred days, The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope is a national best seller that even the President has read. Alter is a Senior Editor of Newsweek and a contributor to MSNBC.

My conversation with Jonathan Alter:

Monday, May 11, 2009

John Bradshaw helps us find the "better angels of our nature"

John Bradshaw has, over the years, helped many of us understand the complexity of life.  Not by embracing popular maxims or formulas, but by helping us get in touch with the “better angels of our nature.” Now in his newest work, Reclaiming Virtue, he helps us to understand a kind of moral intelligence that he says, to few people develop. In this age of greed, Bernie Madoff’s and ever growing selfishness, Bradshaw’s lessons are perhaps more important than ever. A talk with John Bradshaw is no ordinary conversation. It’s a wild ride. Take a listen.

My conversation with John Bradshaw:

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cheney really is Darth Vader

Andrew Sullivan dissects the evil that is Dick Cheney.  Money quote
Worse: he launches verbal assault after assault on the men and women who succeeded him. He accuses them of risking the lives of Americans, of making America less safe, and openly brags that his violation of the Geneva Conventions worked. Not content with writing his memoirs and letting history judge, he flails around like some prize fish, flapping on the deck of the boat, opening and shutting his mouth as his career expires.
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Friday, May 8, 2009

Why College costs don't ever go down

Why are College cost rising in light of the efficiencies of technology? Keven Carey in the Washington Monthly breaks it down. Money quote:
The nonprofit Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs recently found that tuition and fee revenue per student at public research universities increased by 34 percent, in inflation-adjusted dollars, from 2000 to 2005. At the same time, spending per student on instruction and academic support declined. This is nothing new—overcharging for introductory courses is standard operating procedure in higher education, and has been for a long time. Colleges routinely use the excess revenues generated by huge, inexpensive lecture hall classes to support other, money-losing activities. Freshmen have always been cash cows—technology just made them more so.

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The food/industrial complex

What are the forces that cause us to continue eating when we know we should stop? Why has the quality of food, that most Americans eat, deteriorated even while more and more healthy choices are available? Why are our children experiencing an epidemic of obesity, and what role does the food industry play in this?

These and many similar questions are the ones asked by Dr. David Kessler in his look at big food. Just as he took on the tobacco companies in the 80’s, Dr. Kesser, in his new book The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, takes on the food/industrial complex, that is clearly culpable in some of our bad food choices.

My conversation with Dr. David Kessler:  

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

The enemy is us

In his new book, Dread: How Fear and Fantasy have Fueled Epidemics from the Black Death to the Avian Flu, Philip Alcabes says there is value in studying the history of epidemics as they reflect our inflated fears about what is unknown, undesirable, or misunderstood. For example, “gay plague” was the phrase which brutally insensitive headlines used to describe AIDS in the 1980s, and its comparison to The Black Death was a commentary on American sexual politics. Cholera was thought to be the disease of the poor and carried undertones of social change. Anthrax scares reflected our crippling fear of terrorist attacks, Avian flu played on our fear of China and now Swine flu, exploits our concerns about immigration from Mexico. Philip Alcabes unravels the history of the epidemic as a phenomenon in human society, where what fear says more about us than the disease.

My conversation with Philip Alcabes
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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The real Middle East

Beyond the headlines, the hot spots and the bombings are millions of people who go about their daily lives each day in the Middle East. People who eat, drink, play, love and engage in the stuff of everyday life. To those of us in the West, they often seem invisible. Some are eccentric, some normal. But very few represent what we see in the daily stories of life in the Middle East. It has been left to Neil MacFarquhar, to document their lives. He does so brilliantly in his new book The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday: Unexpected Encounters in the Changing Middle East.

My conversation with Neil MacFarquhar:

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Vanishing Elephants

A couple of weeks ago 60 Minutes did a segment on what was happening to the Elephant population of Africa. John Frederick Walker has been warning us about this for some time. Long before gold and gemstones held allure, humans were drawn to the “jewels of the elephant”—its great tusks—for their beauty, rarity, and ability to be finely carved. In Ivory's Ghosts: The White Gold of History and the Fate of Elephants John Frederick Walker tells the astonishing story of the human lust for ivory and its cataclysmic implications for elephants. Each age and each culture, from ancient Egypt to nineteenth-century America and modern Japan, found its own artistic, religious, and even industrial uses for the remarkable material that comes from the teeth of elephants and a handful of other mammals. Sensuous figurines, scientific instruments, pistol grips, and piano keys were all the result—as was human enslavement and the wholesale slaughter of elephants.

My conversation with John Frederick Walker:

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Can't we end identitiy poltics?

Can't we just pick the best Supreme Court justice.  Already today I've read stories about the need to appoint a  gay, Hispanic, lesbian, politician, lawyer, non-lawyer to the Court.  Only John Edwards and Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama have been left off the lists.  What ever happened to merit. Aren't these considerations just as bad as when George H.W. Bush told us that Clarence Thomas was the "best possible choice."  Will we ever move beyond identity politics.  On the one side are the Democrats who want to include and serve every special interest group, on the other hand Republicans who want to exclude everyone except middle age, white guys.  Isn't there a middle ground?

Monday, May 4, 2009

A gay marriage sea change

Recent polls suggest that for the first time, more than fifty percent of Americans approve of the idea of gay marriage. Opponents of same-sex marriage in the United States claim that it would undermine the institution of marriage, weaken family structures, and cause harm to children. Drawing on 17 years of data and experience with same-sex marriage in Scandinavia (in the form of registered partnerships), William Eskridge, one of our nations most distinguished law professors and scholars on the subject, finds that the evidence refutes conservative defense-of-marriage arguments and,in fact, demonstrates that the institution of marriage may indeed benefit from the legalization of gay marriage. Eskridge's book Gay Marriage: for Better or for Worse?: What We've Learned from the Evidence is the first book to present empirical evidence about the effects of same-sex marriage on society.

My conversation with Bill Eskridge:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

How we decide

“Cash or credit? Plastic or Paper? Punt or go for first down? Deal or no deal? Life is filled with puzzling choices. The complexity of modern life adds an almost dizzying array of choices. Reporting from the frontiers of neuroscience and armed with riveting case studies of how pilots, quarterbacks, and others act under fire, Jonah Lehrer presents a dazzlingly authoritative and accessible account of how we make decisions, what’s happening in our heads as we do so, and how we might all become better ‘deciders.’

Lehrer is the author of the blog The Frontal Cortex. He writes for Wired and Seed maganiznes. His latest book is How We Decide

My Conversation with Jonah Lehrer:

Friday, May 1, 2009

What Obama sees

It's impossible to emphasize enough how different our current President is from the last one. Regardless of policy, simply the ability to see the nation and the world through the lens of big ideas, and understand that we are "not in Kansas anymore."  That modernity, technology and the economic and social crises we face have put us at some kind of inflection point in the nation's history.  Obama touches on all of this, in a wide ranging, fifty-minute interview  with New York Times economics correspondent David Leonhardt.  That interview appears as the cover story in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine.  

My conversation with David Leonhardt about his impressions from that Obama interview:

Pooh Flu