Friday, April 30, 2010

The hell with governing....

The 2012 presidential election is still 30 months away. But Republican challengers to the President already think that holding public office may be a liability. Are we heading into a campaign that's not at all about policy, or ideas or governing, but about anger at a changing society, played out in a multilayered media landscape. Matt Bai, contributing editor to the The New York Times Magazine, and one of our most astute political observers, thinks this might be happening.

My conversation with Matt Bai about his article in The Magazine this Sunday:

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Does Reality Matter?

Some argue that reality television represents the perigee of western civilization. Yet for many it's a harmless guilty pleasure that also defines, for better or worse, the celebrity drenched, voyeuristic culture we are immersed in. Anna David, in a new book Reality Matters: 19 Writers Come Clean About the Shows We Can't Stop Watchinghas assembled 19 serious writers, including L'enfant terrible James Frey, to give their views on this genre that seems to have such a hold on so many.

My conversation with Anna David:
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Monday, April 26, 2010

The Palestinian experience

Sometimes it is through art and literature that we are better able to understand the complex issues of our time. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in the Middle East, where reality, truth and history are often blurred beyond distinction. A place where over sixty years of conflict have brutalized the human condition. Susan Abulhawa, the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, and herself the daughter of Palestinian refugees, tells us, in her new novel Mornings in Jenin, the story of one Palestinian family's struggle and survival. It's a story shaped by loss, by fear and ultimately forgiveness.

My conversation with Susan Abulhawa
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Friday, April 23, 2010

The Bridge

Perhaps only now are we coming to realize that the election of Barack Obama was, to quote Joe Biden "a big deal." Not only did we elect an African-American President, but for only the second time in the nations history we elected a non Protestant to occupy the office. How did this happen? What nerve did Obama touch in the American psyche. Today, although it might not have been the intent of the Founders, Presidents represent a kind of national Rorschach test, on whom we project our dreams, our fears and our hopes. In our media driven culture, the individual narrative of the candidate becomes the central arc of our politics.

David Remnick, the Pulitzer Prize winning editor of The New Yorker, in his new book The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama,has deconstructed the Obama narrative and given us a new narrative of the man and the President.

My conversation with David Remnick:

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

The opposite of sibling rivalry

It was probably best that the still ongoing debate about healthcare not focus on the great advances in science and genetics that really are at the cutting edge of medicine. If we really look for where the future of medicine is, it's in understanding the way in which genes will be manipulated and even created in order to create life saving cures. Even today, the promise of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and in vitro fertilization are being used to created perfect genetic matches, so called "savior siblings." Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Beth Whitehouse in her new book The Match: "Savior Siblings" and One Family's Battle to Heal their Daughter, tells the story of one Long Island couple thrust into this uncharted biomedical territory. It's a riveting story, with a happy, but cautionary ending.

My converation with Beth Whitehouse:
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American Taliban

Are we so walled off that we look at personal exploration and the search for self as an act to be suspicious of? There was a time when students traveled to exotic parts of the world as a way to do what young people do, that is to explore and find themselves. Today, imagine a middle class kids who travels to the Middle East on a spiritual quest and winds up there on the eve of 9/11. This is the backdrop of Pearl Abraham's new novel American Taliban: A Novel.

My conversation with Pearl Abraham:
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ruth Reichl's amazing mom

Former Gourmet Magazine editor and LA and NY Times Restaurant critic Ruth Reichl has spent time, in many of her memoirs, telling amusing anecdotes about her mother. In her newest memoir For You Mom, Finally she comes to realize that her mother was part of a generation of post-war woman whose frustration and unhappiness provided the predicate for the woman's movement and whose contribution still shapes us today. Like Betty Draper in "Mad Men" and April Wheeler in "Revolutionary Road," Reichl's mother came of age at the worst possible time for woman: They were educated, they had time on their hands, but no place to direct their talents. Reichl's mother wanted to make sure that her daughter had a very different life.

Ruth Reichl tells me more about her mother's story:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Roots of Steel

It's hard to imagine today that there was a time when the steel industry was booming. When steel workers could comfortably support a family, buy a boat and embrace the American Dream. A time when American icons like the Golden Gate Bridge and Madison Square Garden were proudly built with American steel. Those days are long gone. But what's left is a legacy of stories, of hard work, broken promises and anger, which still impacts our culture and our politics today. Science writer Deborah Rudacille, who grew up in a steel town outside Baltimore, gives us a powerful look inside this boom and bust world, in her new book Roots of Steel: Boom and Bust in an American Mill Town.

My conversation with Deborah Rudacille:

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Monday, April 19, 2010

The Great American University

Of all of the traditional institutions of America that have come under siege of late, perhaps none has held up better than the our great American research universities. However, even they have suffered. The economic crisis, a political culture that often embraces ignorance, international competition and a lack of understanding of their role in our society are all taking aim at The Great American University. Perhaps because of all of this, because we need to nurture this unappreciated national resource, it's more important than ever to embrace and examine these issues. This is what Jonathan R. Cole, the former provost of Columbia University does in his book The Great American University: Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected.

My conversation with Jonathan R. Cole:

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Organizing in the Google Era

How much time do we all spend trying be organized? The onslaught of information, the avalanche of apps, all making us both smarter and more stressed. Years ago Google set out, as it mission, to organize all the information in the world. The man who helped lead that process for Google, as the Chief Information Officer, now turns his attention to personal organization. Douglas Merrill is a leading computer scientists, with a Ph.D in Cognitive Science from Princeton. He now gives us all some organizational help in his book Getting Organized in the Google Era: How to Get Stuff out of Your Head, Find It When You Need It, and Get It Done Right.

My conversation with Douglas Merrill:

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tell Me A Story

Few journalists have been as good at capturing the personalities and zeitgeist of their time as David Maraniss. A multiple Pulitzer Prize winner and award winning biographer of Bill Clinton, Vince Lombardi, and Roberto Clemente, he has also taken us to modern day Vietnam and to the 1960 Rome Olympics. His work focuses on those important moments in the human condition, when we reveal who we really are. His new book Into the Story: A Writer's Journey through Life, Politics, Sports and Loss, is a kind of sampler of his work that, taken together, accentuates his love of politics, sports and the importance of timeless narrative non-fiction.

My conversation with David Maraniss:

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Pulitzer acknowledges the history of the Arms Race

As we enter into the first arms reduction treaty in almost twenty years, it's worth remembering the doomsday scenario that was the Cold War arms race. This years Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction has been awarded to David Hoffman for his book The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy.  In it, he documents not only the Cold War arms race, but the residual impact and the weapons of mass destruction that still imperil the planet.

My conversation with David Hoffman:

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Is that all there is?

Through science, religion and art we have, for centuries, tried to make sense of the universe. In modern times, we've believed that science would answer the great cosmic questions. Relativity and Quantum Mechanics certainly seemed to lead us in that direction. But still physicists have been stymied in trying to find that elusive theory of everything. What if there is no such theory? What if the universe really is random and asymmetric? How does that alter our view of our place in that universe? These are the issues explored by physicist and Dartmouth professor Marcelo Gleiser in his book A Tear at the Edge of Creation: A Radical New Vision for Life in an Imperfect Universe.

My conversation with Marcelo Gleiser:
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