Friday, September 30, 2016

I Wonder Who's Kissinger Now?

Few modern day political figures have had more written about them than Henry Kissinger. From his own three volume, almost 4000 page memoir, to scores of books and articles. So why another we might ask historian Niall Ferguson.

Partly because beyond the policy and papers, in Ferguson's view Kissinger personified that George Bernard Shaw quote,  “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.”

That vision, that idealism, is hard to imagine in someone so vilified by contemporary history. Still, Niall Ferguson tries to square this circle in the first volume of his biography Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist

My conversation with Niall Ferguson:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How Well Do We Really Know Our Parents?

No matter how close or estranged any of us may be for our parents, there always linger the questions of how well do we know them...that is really know who they are. Think about the questions kids wonder about, what their parents really do a work, their sex lives, the conversations that go on after they go to bed.

And as kids become adults they often still wonder...and sometimes they even transfer those very same questions in trying t understand their partners, or their spouses and ultimately themselves.

Because we are the sum total of the answers to so many of these questions. We keep seeking answers, aware of it or not, since it is a large swath of who we are. This intimate search for identity is at the heart of Susan Faludi’s new work In the Darkroom.

My conversation with Susan Faludi:

Friday, September 23, 2016

Where Is The Truth We Have Lost In Information?

We are awash in information. Estimates are that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are produced every day. That’s everything from data from space probes to your photos on Facebook. Google alone process approximately 3.5 billion requests per day.

But as TS Eliot so aptly said back in 1934, “where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

From the billions of items posted on Facebook, to the tens of thousands of so called news sites and bloggers around the world, how is it even possible to begin separate it all, to know fact from fiction?

Never before in human history or human evolution have we encountered such a problem. As a result the way we approach it has to take the best thinking tools we’ve evolved and transform it to meet the needs of the 21st century and beyond,.

This is the road map for finding truth that  Daniel J. Levitin has put forth in A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age.

My conversation with Daniel Levitin:

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Religion, Politics and Culture...Oh My

It is the job of historians and journalists to take contemporary information and give context and connection to events far beyond the time in which they happened. This is true for wars, for politics and for religion.

It’s true even in these highly polarized times, when we all hear the admonition, especially around get togethers of family and friends, to make sure you never discuss politics or religion.

So what is it about both of these subjects that are so personal, so internal, so potentially inflammatory and have been so powerfully connected both historically and right here in America.

This is part of what Ken Woodward examines in Getting Religion: Faith, Culture, and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama..

My conversation with Ken Woodward:

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Race and Medicine

Nothing in the medical world is the way it used to be. Change is everywhere. The economic pressures, the political pressures and the very men and women who choose medicine as a career, has all being undergoing disruption.

Add to this maelstrom the issue of race. The shocking lack of black physicians, diseases that overwhelming impact black communities and the inherent complexities of race in the doctor/patient relationship and you see some of the problem in medicine that have confronted Dr. Damon Tweedy. A graduate of Duke Medical School and Yale Law School Dr. Tweedy shares his personal story in his memoir Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine.

My conversation with Dr. Damon Tweedy:

Friday, September 16, 2016

If You Want To Understand America, Look At Its Food

We’ve all seen the pushback to Michelle Obama as she has attempted to improve food quality and nutrition in our nation’s schools. In part, it reflects the degree to which everything is politicized these days. But it also reflects the degree to which food is and has been a political, cultural and historical touchstone

It’s long been observed that if we want to understand the history of a nation or a city or a period in time, we can start by looking at its food.

Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe have long taken this approach and now they look at the food of depression era America in their new book A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression.

My conversation with Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe:

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A look back at a great journalist - A conversation with Robert Timberg

Robert Timberg was a great journalist and a Marine combat veteran.  He passed away last week. We spoke to him back in August of 2014 about his memoir BLUE-EYED BOY. 

Think about the things that shape our world, our perceptions and our culture. For a large part of the population, the experience of America’s mistakes in Vietnam has long shaped our engagement in the world. The country's disrespect, at the time, for the service of those that served in Vietnam, in many ways positively shapes the way we respond to Veterans' needs today.

As leaders today try and juggle the crisis of the world, and play a kind of geopolitical chess, they are always chastened by the scandal that was Iran/Contra,

And as any magazine or look at popular culture today will tell you, we are obsessed with outward appearances, usually at the expense of depth and real understanding. All of these issues and ideas come into play in the life and struggles of Robert Timberg.

Disfigured in a land mine explosion thirteen days before he was to leave Vietnam, his story, his struggles and his recovery in many ways parallels the story of the past half century. It’s what makes him so effective as a journalist and why his story, that he now tells us in his memoir Blue-Eyed Boy, is also a history lesson for us all.

My conversation with Robert Timberg:

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Strangers in Their Own Land

The very fact that an unqualified, demagogic, racist could be close to the Presidency tells us less about the candidates and more about the shape and mood of America in the 21st Century.

The red/blue divide is after all, not about pure politics. It’s not about classical liberalism vs. Burkean or Randian conservatism. It’s not Disraeli vs. Gladstone.

What we see in America today is a cultural divide. One in which our own personal experience breaks out and defines itself into a kind of moral and political matrix that both traps and defines us.

These principles are universal and enduring and perhaps if we can better understand them, we can, if not accept, at least have compassion for the better angels of our opponents.

That exactly what noted sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild has tried to do in Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right

My Conversation with Arlie Russell Hochschild:

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Stranger in a Strange Land

It’s a funny thing, all this talk about trade and globalization. On the one hand it’s used to divide us. To create walls and differences. But in fact, it has been one of the most powerful forces in shrinking the world. In allowing us to move personally, not unlike goods and dollars, freely between nations and cultures.

But even with the cultural homogenization of globalization, it has allowed us to appreciate and to come to understand how other cultures operate, what they value and how they see the world. In the end, it allows us to return home again and in the words of T.S. Eliot, “know the place we started, as if for the first time."

That the story that Frank Ahrens lives and share in Seoul Man: A Memoir of Cars, Culture, Crisis, and Unexpected Hilarity Inside a Korean Corporate Titan.

My conversation with Frank Ahrens:

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Rock's Darkest Day

We think that events move at a rapid pace today. But back in the late 1960’s, events spiraled out as if in a whirlwind. In 1967 San Francisco experienced the Summer of Love. Just two summers later, we would all experience men landing on the moon, Woodstock, the Manson killings and the concert at Altamont that would perhaps mark the end of the era of Peace Love and Music.

It wasn’t long after Altamont that the racial tensions would escalate. People like George Jackson would dominate the news. Hundreds of bombing would take place on the streets of America, The SLA would kidnap Patty Hearst and everyone would look back at Altamont as a turning point.

Joel Selvin's Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day, puts it all in the perspective of the times.
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My conversation with Joel Selvin: