Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vampires and Angels and God, Oh My!

For over thirty years, Anne Rice has captivated us with her imaginative faction. She has become one of the most beloved novelists of our time. With each new book or series, she not only reinvents herself, but reinvents whole new arenas of fiction. From the Vampire Chronicles, to her Christ the Lord books, to a new series of metaphysical thrillers about the world of angels, including her latest Of Love and Evil, Anne Rice continues to redefine some of the very ideas about faith in America.

My conversation with Anne Rice:

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 29, 2010

All the running he can do.....

As Republicans now face the reality of trying to govern and run congress with a rather diverse group of freshman legislators, so two years ago, the Obama administration came to office with real divisions within their coalition. Divisions between true believers, what MSNBC analyst Richard Wolffe calls "revivalist" and those with a more practical, Washington based agenda, the so call "survivalists."

Amidst these divisions, the country faced problem unequaled since the 1930's, an opposition party set to "no" as its default position on everything, and in spite of it all, the new President accomplished an extraordinary amount. How did this play out and what price did the administration and the nation have to pay?  This is the backdrop for Richard Wolffe's new book Revival: The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House.

My conversation with Richard Wolffe:

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Take two aspirin and see a shrink....

What are the limits of the medical establishment? How can prejudice and sometimes just lack of answers from Doctors result in a patient suffering for over twenty years? And how resilient must someone be, to recover and not be angry for loosing two decades? This is the story and the journey of Chloe Atkins. Now a professor in the Law and Society Program at the University of Calgary she is the author of the memoir My Imaginary Illness: A Journey into Uncertainty and Prejudice in Medical Diagnosis.

My conversation with Chloe Atkins:

Bookmark and Share

The Journey of American Woman 1960 to the Present

While we talk a lot about dramatic and dynamic change in our society, it’s worth noting that much of that rapid change has happened in the past 50 years. As we look, in particular, at changes for woman, we find that while much has indeed changed in the past 50 years, prior to that, for literally thousands of years, nothing changed. Obviously their is a lot of catching up to do, and that process is still on going. This is detailed in a new book When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by former NY Times Editorial Page editor Gail Collins.

My conversation with Gail Collins:

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A sixth crisis?

Since the end of WWII, argues Dana Allin, co-author of the book The Sixth Crisis: Iran, Israel, America, and the Rumors of War, there have been five distinct crises that have immersed the US deeper and deeper into the quagmire of the Middle East. Successive American Presidents have made decisions, good and bad, that have further exacerbated the tensions of the region.

Today, with two wars still ongoing in the region, the prospect of a nuclear Iran, a world more interconnected and moving more rapidly and with a President and Secretary of State determined to make progress in the region, the stakes could hardly be higher and risks could not be greater. Are we on the verge of a Sixth Crises in the Middle East?

My conversation with Dana Allin:

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 22, 2010

The cradle of civilization...for now?

We study history not just to collect facts and dates, but rather to understand where we came from, to ascertain the patterns of human affairs. This is not just to tell us what to do, but also what to avoid. For it is the task of succeeding generations to try and escape history, that is, to remove from possibility the mistakes of other times. In so doing one improves and that improvement is necessary to growth and civilization. When we look at history, particularly since around the 14th century, we see the steady domination of the West even though both East and West began on a kind of level playing field. What happened and what do those patterns of success and failure tell us about the future?  This is the work of Stanford historian Ian Morris, as told in his new work, Why the West Rules--for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future.

My conversation with Ian Morris:

Bookmark and Share

Friday, November 19, 2010

Health Care...Solved

As the past year will attest, if we wait for Washington to solve the health care crises, we could be waiting a very long time. Yet in spite of Washington, or maybe because so little gets done there, their are some real world efforts going on at the business and grass roots level that are transforming health care into a cost-efficient, accountable system that actually empowers consumers.

John Torinus, the CEO of Serigraph, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is truly at the leading edge of this effort. His commitment, his passion and encyclopedic knowledge of the subject has created a model that companies all over can follow. He's even written a book, The Company That Solved Health Careto share his efforts.

My conversation with John Torinus Jr.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The information toll road?

The subject of net neutrality, the idea that everyone should have the same access to the web, is certainly the subject of much debate. But that debate, begs the larger issue. That is, that the history of innovation is the history of the concentration of power and control in the hands of a few. Sometimes even government has been complicit in that effort. From the printing press to the telephone to radio & television, individuals and monolithic enterprises have exercised central control. With the Internet and its lower barriers to entry, how will this historical economic and capitalistic trend play out? This is the central focus of the work of Tim Wu, the man who coined the term "net neutrality," and whose new book The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, could well be the tabula rasa of our digital future.

My conversation with Tim Wu:

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Invisible Capital

What if a great idea, hard work and a good plan simply aren't enough to assure entrepreneurial success? In his book Invisible Capital: How Unseen Forces Shape Entrepreneurial Opportunity, Chris Rabb puts forth specific ways that entrepreneurs can build and grow sustainable business, even amidst the thousands of unseen forces, in our business and cultural landscape, that create the inevitable uneven playing field. By simply reaffirming how success is defined, we have the ability to make sure that tomorrows entrepreneurs not only serve their company, but their community and the broader society.

My conversation with Chris Rabb:

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Twisted Sisterhood"

It often appears that the bonds of sisterhood are among the powerful.  In fact, new research suggests that, for many woman, they are often the most corrosive. When Kelly Valen's essay "My Sorority Pledge? I Swore Off Sisterhood," was published in the New York Times Modern Love column, she was overwhelmed by the response. This wasn't just about the so called "mean girls," this was about woman who had been scared or shaped by the pain inflicted by high school, college or work related sisterhood. Inspired by the response to her article, Kelly Valen conduced a unique survey of more than 3,00 woman. She reveals the results in her new book The Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Friendships.

My conversation with Kelly Valen:

Bookmark and Share

Friday, November 12, 2010

Remote Control Politics

 Hollywood Reporter takes note of a study that shows Republicans and Democrats have very different viewing habits:

Doug Mataconis in Below the Beltway reports:

The top scoring shows on each list are no surprise, of course. That Glenn Beck is hugely popular among Republicans and Keith Olberman is similarly popular among Democrats but not vice versa. What’s more surprising, really, is that there’s no correlation at all among the Top 15 shows in either list. It’s as stark a difference as you see in reports about viewing habits among African-Americans versus those for the population as a whole, although that particular disparity has become less apparent since the advent of shows like American Idol, which have broad cross- racial appeal.  What explains the apparent disparity in viewing habits based on (self-reported) political ideology then?

One theory is that the disparity is a reflection of demographic differences. People who self-identify as Democrats tend to skew younger, urban, and college educated. The types of television shows that they’d be attracted to would reflect that demography. Combine that with the fact that cable television gives people so many more choices than those that existed even thirty years ago, and the difference seems easy to explain:

What has changed is the explosion on cable that has allowed networks to appeal to more specific viewpoints, from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Jon Stewart to Fox News’ Glenn Beck. Moreover, if you’re a liberal viewer in a major city (which typically correlates with higher education) and you have such titles as Mad Men and Dexter to watch each week, are you going to also be interested in seeing a paint-by-numbers crime procedural on broadcast or a laugh-track-boosted sitcom? On the scripted side, at least, the explosion of complex dramas on cable may have ceded some of the broadcast ground to what one might label Republican tastes.

In other words, this phenomenon is just a reflection of the fragmentation of broadcast media, as is the fact that the only telecasts that make the list of the most watched television broadcasts anymore are Super Bowl broadcasts. There are more choices out there and they’re expanding every day. People are going to watch what appeals to them whether that’s on the basis of demography, education, ethnicity, or political ideology.


For any music to be successful, there must be that special bond between performer and listener. Perhaps nowhere has that bond been stronger then in the unique relationship between Bob Dylan and music critic extraordinaire Greil Marcus. For over forty years Dylan has drawn upon and reinvented the landscape of traditional American music, its myths, heroes and villains. Throughout all of it, Greil Marcus has been there to be our ears, to be a unique listener of an unparalleled singer. Marcus' forty years of writing on Dylan has been compiled into a new volume. Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968-2010.

My conversation with Greil Marcus:

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


It's been the height of the political season and we've talked a great deal about politics and policy. For the next few days we're going to ratchet it back a little, as we look as some of the most influential musical talents of our time. Later in the week we'll look at the work of Bob Dylan and Sir Paul McCartney. Right now, we look upon a man who was a master interpreter of song, and an Academy Award winner. He was a star unlike any other, the greatest vocalist in the history of American music and more profoundly than any other entertainment figure, he would forever change the face of our popular culture. Biographer James Kaplan in his book Frank: The Voice, gives us a Sinatra, warts and all, from the streets of Hoboken to the apex of celebrity.

My conversation with James Kaplan:

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 8, 2010

The World turned upside down

President Obama's trip to India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea is more than a simple diplomatic mission or, as some have changed, an effort to avoid domestic politics. Rather, it is a journey into what the future of a post Iraq, post Afghanistan world might look like; as we confront China, and face new challenges in a world that might look very different than the Mercator Projection we grew up with. Robert D.Kaplan, Atlantic's national correspondent and Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, in his new book Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, looks at a 21st century world centered around the Indian Ocean and very different than everything we learned years ago.

My conversation with Robert Kaplan:

Bookmark and Share

Friday, November 5, 2010

Herding Donkeys

It's hard to believe, but just four short years ago, during the 2006 midterm elections, the Democrats made some big gains. In 2008, the Obama campaign, layering on to the grass roots work done by the DNC under Howard Dean, would create a powerful grass roots movement that swept Democrats into power in 2008. Today, the movement seems shattered. The wave that rolled over the country on Tuesday was certainly Republican and impacted not only Congress, but State Houses and State Legislatures in every corner of the country.

How did a movement that once seemed unstoppable collapse in a few years? What does it say about our politics, our President and about the Democratic party? The Nation's Ari Berman looks at all of this in his timely new book Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics.

My conversation with Ari Berman:

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Big Girls Don't Cry

The 2008 Presidential election may have changed the political landscape for generations. Hillary Clinton's 18 millions cracks in the glass ceiling, Barack Obama’s transcendence of race and Sara Palin’s emergence as a political force, all shape our politics today. The irony is, that for all the drama and cultural upheaval caused by the election an African-American President, and the splendor of that election night speech in Grant Park, it was perhaps Clinton's loss and Palin's attempt to co-opt it, that may now have the most far reaching impact on our politics and our culture.

How did this happen? How did all of the primary campaign's angst and tension between Obama and Clinton supporters lead to John McCain’s spawning of Sara Palin, which has in turn lead directly to this weeks elections and will politics or feminism ever be the same?

This is the backdrop for Salon's senior writer, Rebecca Traister's eye opening new book Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women. Even if you were paying close attention, Traister brings us up close and personal with people and ideas we probably missed and should be thinking about.

My conversation with Rebecca Traister:

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


As the election dust settles and a new Congress comes to town, some members will have power and others will not. We know from our own experience that power requires more than just hard work and intelligence. In politics like anything else, what are the skills we need to succeed, to acquire personal power and to effectively wield that power? Thirty five years ago Michael Korda laid out a predicate for power. Today, Stanford's Jeffrey Pfeffer is the leading thinker on the subject and his new book,  Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't, lays out a 21st Century guide to how power works today.

My conversation with Jeffery Pfeffer:

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Fear Election

As Juan Williams' recent comments pointed out and today's election further attests, fear is the dominate impulse in our culture and in our politics. Fear of the other, be it on an elevator, or across the aisle of a plane, dominates our collective national consciousness. Even Jon Stewart realized this in his comments at his rally on Saturday. Journalist Shankar Vedantam, a reporter for the Washington Post and columnist for Slate.com, takes a look at this recent phenomenon and how he believes our Hidden Brain is evolutionarily hard wired to be afraid. How do we get behind this?

My conversation with Shankar Vedantam:

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 1, 2010

Whack-Job Politics

The right wing, paranoid and demagogic impulse in American politics and American democracy has been with us for decades; from Father Coughlin, to Joe McCarthy, to the John Birchers to the Tea Party and Sara Palin. To this paranoia, we've now added what journalist Michael Wolraich, in his new book Blowing Smoke, calls "persecution politics." What is it in our socio/political DNA that makes us so susceptible to the this extreme right narrative?  More importantly, as Tom Friedman pointed out in his column yesterday, while the rest of the world looks to the American model of progress and opportunity, what will our retreat behind this wall of mutual distrust and ignorance bode for our future.

My conversation with Michael Wolraich:

Bookmark and Share