Friday, August 30, 2013

T.E. Lawrence and the Making of the Modern Middle East

History and great historical sweeps are generally not just a series of unfortunate events. Rather, they are part of long connected progression of events, that circle around and become knotted in each other and that have far reaching consequences that last years, decades and sometimes centuries. It often seems that, because we seldom learn from such events, that these historical events don’t have a normal half life.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in today’s Middle East. A place where today's troubles are often the result of yesterday folly.

Might it have been different, if a century ago the British had listened to T.E. Lawrence, the man popularized in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.

Journalist and author Scott Anderson, lays out the reality of those events that might have changed the world in his book Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East.

My conversation with Scott Anderson:

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The City that punches above its weight class

Given all the accolades that come to San Francisco, from its role in shaping our culture, and its inspiration for Tony Bennett, it’s often hard to believe that there are conflicting views. Recently, the co-founder of a start-up, credit card processing company, who was forced to move to San Francisco by his financiers, took to Medium with a different view.

He said, “San Francisco! It's the worst. The weather, the people, the cyclists, the dreary architecture and glum landscape... just ugh--why would any sane person want to live in this urine-scented homeless wasteland? Without the skrillions of available venture funding dollar and generous tech tax breaks, it's obvious San Franawful would drift off into an ocean of irrelevance.”

This is not the view held by Gary Kamiya, a Bay Area native, and a founder of Salon, who has just written Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco.

My conversation with Gary Kamiya:

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Religion and mass incarceration

It has been said, although the origin is uncertain, that there are no atheists in foxholes. The same might be said of prisons. Particularly prisons in America; a country that has both a high regard for religion and and an even higher regard for mass incarceration.

Joshua Dubler, in his new book Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in an American Prison, takes a look at how these ideas might be related and what his microcosm of prison and religion might say, not only about the men he talks to, but about our society at large.

My conversation with Joshua Dubler:

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

The last 100 days

Because there is no preparation for the burdens and responsibilities of the Presidency, it would take JFK, almost nine-hundred of his thousand days to reach his apogee. With the death of his infant son Patrick, as a catalyst, the final 100 days of the Kennedy Presidency, which began 50 years ago this month, would become the capstone of Camelot and the defining time of a promised unfulfilled.

Kennedy historian Thurston Clark, in JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President, takes us deep inside those final 100 days.

My conversation with Thurston Clarke:

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Elmore Leonard 1925 - 2013 - "Be Cool"

From the police logs in local newspapers to the Metro sections of major metropolitan dailies, from the pablum of TV drama, to pulp fiction, crime always sells. But few dramatized it better than Elmore Leonard.

He was the author of 45 crime novels including Cat Chaser, Fifty Two Pickup, Be Cool, Get Shorty, Maximum Bob, Rum Punch, Cuba Libre, Glitz and Tishomingo Blues. He was an American original, who was one of the earliest to understand the heroes needn't be perfect. Long before Breaking Bad, or Tony Soprano, he created a series of stories and characters, that blurred the lines between “good” and “bad.”

I had the privilege of talking to Leonard several times over the years, the last time in 2004.  Here is compendium of some of those conversations:

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Why Brainstorming Doesn't Work - The case for thinking Inside the Box

Who hasn’t sat in endless brainstorming sessions, trying to be creative. We’re told to think outside the box, to magically conjure up new and different ways of doing things. Often without structure. Yet when we look at the history of innovation, we find that there are clearly patterns and techniques that do make a difference. We find that product after product, innovation after innovation shows very clear methods as to how they were developed.

Marketing and innovation professor Drew Boyd has broken these down in a way that essentially enables us to think Inside the Box, to develop a Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results.

My conversation with Drew Boyd:

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Monday, August 19, 2013

This Cheese Does Not Stand Alone.....

A magical cave, a piece a cheese, a 260 lb man, a modern journey into a time past, and a new, old understanding of food and life. Just a few of the elements of Michael Paterniti's new literary work of nonfiction, The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese

Beginning in 1991 in a famed deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it’s a story, that like Robert Louis Stevensons’ s definition of wine as “bottled poetry,” resonates with the history and passion that some foods carries with them.

My conversation with Michael Paterniti:

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Friday, August 16, 2013

The Life and Times of Charles Manson

Often times through fictional characters, we are able to capture an entire ethos. Certainly Jay Gatsby defines a certain era, as does Don Draper, as does Woody Allen’s Zelig. It’s a rare thing when a real life character does this. But such is the case with Charles Manson.

The Tate/LaBianca murders took place 48 years ago, and still Charles Manson resonates with us. The media has often defined him as a product of the 60’s, but in many ways he also defines the 40’s and 50’s. He was, according to award winning investigative journalist Jeff Guinn, the wrong person in the right place at the right time.

With all that has been written about Manson, Guinn’s book, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, is the first full account of who Charles Manson really is.

My conversation with Jeff Guinn:

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

One continent, indivisible...

We are coming up next year, on the 20th anniversary of NAFTA. It has created tens of millions jobs, more integrated a continent, and dramatically increased trade. Yet, for politically expedient reasons, we constantly seem to be re litigating these issues.

Arguably we should be looking at the success of NAFTA as a jumping off point for greater geopolitical and economic integration of the North American continent.

The World is changing. With technology growing and business becoming ever more global, the future economic and national security of the US will be dependent on cooperation with our neighbors to the North and South.

National security and Latin American expert, Dr. Robert Pastor makes the case for this future in his new book, The North American Idea: A Vision of a Continental Future.  The world is changing he argues and we can't go forward and make progress as human beings, while being held back by arbitrary political borders and nostalgia for archaic ideas such as isolationism and opposition to globalization.

My conversation with Dr. Robert Pastor:

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Queens of Noise

It’s hard to believe today, but there once was a glass ceiling in Rock 'n Roll. That is, before the teenage members of The Runaways ,in the mid 70’s released four albums for a major label, toured the world and broke down barriers that would open the way for girl bands and female rockers to follow.

Their rise and fall is documented by Evelyn McDonnell in her new book Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways.

My conversation with Evelyn McDonnell:

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Jack Germond RIP

He was almost like a character out of The Front Page. He loved newspapers, he loved reporting and most of the time, he loved politics. In 2000 though he stopped writing his nationally syndicated column because he was fed up with what our political system had become. He wrote a book about it, Fat Man Fed Up: How American Politics Went Bad.

In July of 2004, Jack Germond and I talked, as we had many times before, about the state of politics and how it was so disappointing to him. He pulled no punches as he talked about things that would only get worse during his final eight years. They don't make reporters like Jack Germond anymore.

Here is part of our conversation from July of 2004:

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The Future of Elections in America

Reporting on presidential campaigns has become a kind of quadrennial ritual in which, after the election is long over, we get to go behind the scenes to understand what made the campaigns tick; what mistakes were made by the looser and what was done right by the winning team.

The really good ones though, take us behind the scenes of the electorate itself. They examine not just how power passes, but how the nature of the country changes every four years.  Presidential votes are different than other kinds of elections. They are a kind of national gut check of the mood, temper, culture and divisions of the time. They tell us about the candidates, but more importantly, the really good reporting also give us a snapshot of ourselves.

That's what Washington Post Chief Correspondent Dan Balz has done in Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America

My conversation with Dan Balz:

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Bipolar Life

Kay Redfield Jamison, in her class book about depression, The Unquiet Mind, says that "manic-depression distorts moods and thoughts, incites dreadful behaviors, destroys the basis of rational thought, and too often erodes the desire and will to live. It is an illness that is biological in its origins, yet one that feels psychological in the experience of it, an illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure, yet one that brings in its wake almost unendurable suffering."

But imagine if no one knows what your illness is, or if it is mistreated by the medical community. How much worse is it, when treatment is possible, but it is prevented or delayed by ignorance.

That's the story that Melody Moezzi tells in Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life

My conversation with Melody Moezzi:

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Be all that you can be

Look at most people that have achieved great success and you’ll probably find a great coach or a great mentor. As a culture steeped in the ethos of success, its surprising really that we don't’ put more emphasis on and greater value for coaching and mentoring. Think about some examples: Dr. Martin Luther King, mentored by Benjamin E. Mays. Warren Buffett mentored by Benjamin Graham. Bill Gates who would later be mentored by Warren Buffett. We marvel at the success of Steve Jobs, who had several mentors, including Robert Friedland and Andy Grove. Jobs himself would become a mentor to Mark Benioff.

These relationships were not about just teaching. They were about inspiring. As the great poet Robert Frost said of his work, “I am not a teacher, I'm an awakener.” Mentors are about awakening us to be, as the slogan goes, all that we can be. Few do this job better than renowned mentor David C.M. Carter, who now shares some of his secrets in Breakthrough.

My conversation with David Carter:

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