Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Biography of PTSD

Sometimes the reality of war is just too complex and absurd to be understood in real time. Perhaps that why books about war are so powerful and important. That’s why novels like Catch 22, Slaughterhouse 5, The Things they Carried, A Rumor of War, and The Yellow Birds, have been essential for our understating.

Equally important to our understand is grasping the impact of PTSD on those who served or who, for whatever reasons, journeyed into the heart of darkness that is combat.

While embedded with troops in Iraq, journalist David Morris almost died when a Humvee he was riding in encountered an IED. His book, explores his own trauma from that event, as well as the history and science of post-traumatic stress disorder.The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

My conversation with David J. Morris:

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The last time the music business died

As music and the music business evolves today, the content of the music often plays second fiddle to the debate about economics. About digital royalties, performance royalties, Pandora, Spotify, etc. In many ways the medium impacts the message, the songs we hear and what gets produced and what becomes popular.

And why not? After all, it is the music business! In fact, it always has been a business, but one balanced precariously on the fulcrum of popular taste.

Where those two ideas and trends intersect, is usually responsible for the kind of music we get.

All of this went through a revolutionary shift in the post war years, another time of creative destruction in the business of music. The results of which, changed music forever.

Professor and journalist Ben Yagoda examines this time in The B Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song

My conversation with Ben Yagoda:

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Legacy of Tahrir Square...Four years later

Revolutions are hard AND exciting. They combine courage and new ideas and the excitement of once in a generation change. However what’s even harder, is what comes next. The way in which the apogee of a moment of revolutionary fervor sticks and is translated into changes in government and in bureaucratic institutions. And perhaps most importantly, the way in which the multilateral ideas of the divergent revolutionaries come together to shape it, accommodate and compromise.

We know from our own American revolution how difficult that can be. Think about it. We are still impacted by mistakes or compromises made by our founders over a 139 years ago.

Four years ago this month, the revolution in Tahrir Square began a tectonic shift. In Egypt and in the Middle East. How it happened, how it’s played out and the acts of individual action, courage and diversity lie at the heart of Thanassis Cambanis' new book Once Upon A Revolution: An Egyptian Story

My conversation with Thanassia Cambanis:

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Personality and temperament determine everything!

F. Scott Fitzgerald, in The Great Gatsby, defines personality as “an unbroken series of successful gestures.” Certainly that is the outer manifestation. But science, brain research and cutting edge psychology tells us that it's all part of a much more complex overall system. A system that shapes our lives, our identities and our emotions.  It's a system that determines that the way in which we understand ourselves and our own personalities, shapes how we view and interact with others.

This is the work of John D. Mayer the renowned psychologist who co-developed the groundbreaking theory of emotional intelligence, and now looks even deeper into personality, in Personal Intelligence: The Power of Personality and How It Shapes Our Lives.

My conversation with John D. Mayer:

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Congress then and now....Lyndon Johnson and the Battle for the Great Socieity

American political history is a complex and dynamic process. In that process, there have been periods of entropy and period of great progress and imagination. Both have been a function of a political system designed by our founders.

But also, the temper and tenor of the times and the degree to which individual leaders have known how to work those levers of power has also shaped our political destiny.

The period of the Johnson Presidency, post 1964, is one of those periods. The Great Society, The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and medicare, are all just a part of an agenda that reshaped America

Today as we face congressional gridlock, as we mark the 50th anniversary of the apogee of the civil rights movement and as the President goes before Congress tonight, we reassess our politics and institutions. In doing so, it's well worth the time to look at that unique and politically bountiful period of the Johnson Presidency.

That is what historian Julian Zelizer does in his new book The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society.

My conversation with Julian Zelizer:

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Friday, January 16, 2015

The media history that must be the context for the Net Neutrality debate

So many of the weaknesses of our media today are blamed on the digital revolution. Certainly the transition to digital has rendered change. But to a large extent those changes only magnify some of the fundamental flaws that have afflicted American media as it evolved in the 20th century

The weakening of regulation, the increased power of the free market to shape coverage of news and the increasing conflating of news and entertainment, ALL added to the mix. Today, those forces, combined with the impact of technology has, for better or worse, created a landscape that some would argue, is antithetical to even the minimal requirements of a democratic society.

This is the landscape that Professor Victor Pickard explores in America's Battle for Media Democracy: The Triumph of Corporate Libertarianism and the Future of Media Reform.

My conversation with Victor Pickard:

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Could anybody save Yahoo?

Just as we demand a lot from our political leaders today, we also demand a lot from CEOs. Even if they are not founders, they need to be telegenic, charismatic, visionary, have a detailed plan, and adept at working the politics of the boardroom. They need to be comfortable in being a part of the one percent, have media coaches and PR people and be on a short leash from quarter to quarter.

Today, the CEOs that rise to that definition are few: Jamie Dimon, Tim Cook, Alan Mulally, Jeffrey Immelt and Marissa Mayer. Perhaps of all of these, Marissa Mayer came to her job with the least preparation and some of the highest expectations. Perhaps that is why, large parts of the public are fascinated by her every move, from fighting insurgent Yahoo shareholders, to gracing the pages of Vogue.

Nicholas Carlson, chief correspondent for Business Insider has written Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo. The first in depth look at Mayer and her rise from the nerdy girl at science camp, to the CEO of a 30 billion company, by age 38.

My conversation with Nicholas Carlson:

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Friday, January 9, 2015

The Internet is Not the Answer

The industrial revolution changed the world. It changed the nature of work, it displaced workers, it ushered in the Gilded Age and created more inequality. It shrank the world, drove consumerism, and reshaped political ideology.

The Internet revolution, 150 years later, has had startling similar effects. We worship at the altar of creative destruction, we fetishize technology and the freedom and democratization that the Internet had promised. But at what price?

Simply, can the same technology and companies that fractured and reshaped the world, now be what we need to put it back together again?

Andrew Keen, argues that The Internet Is Not the Answer.

My conversation with Andrew Keen:

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Killing of the Creative Class

Long before radio, I spent years in Hollywood. This was just as the Word Processor and the high volume copy machine were taking hold. When those things came along, everyone joked that screenwriting software and easy access to copying machines would lower the quality of screenplays. Little did those jokesters know, that was just the beginning.

Not only did the medium become the message, it subsumed the message. The medium, the technology, the process in fact became the creative endeavor. Today it’s Apps and coding and creative destruction.

And yes, technology makes life better, cheaper, faster and sometimes does allow more time for creativity. But is there something we have lost in the process?

Without getting stuck in the tired morass of, "the old days were better," is there some objective thing we have lost in our culture, in our selves or in our intellectual DNA?

Former LA Times arts and culture reporter Scott Timberg takes up these issues and more in Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class.

My conversation with Scott Timberg:

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Close Encounters of the mystical kind

It was Churchill who said that when the present sits in judgment of the past, we loose the future. Obviously not the attitude of memoirists.

But also not the attitude of someone who looks back on the totality of one's life and tries to understand who they are and where they came from.

Barbara Ehrenreich discovered, late in life, a journal she had kept during her tumultuous adolescence. She writes about a mystical experience, that to her rational and atheist self today, was nothing less than shattering. In Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything, she reconstructs her childhood, beginning with the perspective of a young girls obsession with important questions.

My conversation with Barbara Ehrenreich:

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Political Classroom OR can we ever teach citizenship again?

We live in an age in which everything has become politicized. The coffee we drink, the food we eat, the shows and movies we watch, and the cars we buy,
all seem to convey some kind of political message.

Where once these things represented class, or taste, or education, today it’s all about politics. Even in non-partisan races, political ideology becomes the central issue.

So what impact does this have on our ability to teach politics, or citizenship or democracy or even science in the classroom? Paula McAvoy examines not only the impact, but a way into this discussion that can perhaps transcend or even co-opt our partisan divide. She details it in The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education.

My conversation with Paula McAvoy:

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