Thursday, June 29, 2017

Happy 10th Anniversary

The Economist recently said about the iPhone, that “no product in recent history has changed people's lives more . Without the iPhone, ride-hailing, photo-sharing, instant messaging and other essentials of modern life would be less widespread. Without the cumulative sales of 1.2bn devices and revenues of $1trn, Apple would not hold the crown of the world's largest listed company. Thousands of software developers would be poorer, too: the apps they have written for the smartphone make them more than $20bn annually."

Today we mark the 10th anniversary of this device that is both iconic and historic.
The iPhone, like every major technological innovation has its official origin story. However on this anniversary, we are going to go behind the original story and talk about the real story that has delivered a product that has truly changed the world. Brian Merchant tells that story in The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone

My conversation with Brian Merchant:

Monday, June 26, 2017

Why 1967 Still Matters

It is indeed a very tired cliche, with apologies to Kierkegaard, to say that “life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” The problem is, it’s not always true. Fifty years ago, at the apogee of the summer love and the Vietnam war, those that were there all sensed that they were part of, or at least touching something, unique in the cultural history of America.

We know this today, not just because we remember the songs, or the clothes or where we were, but because the seismic shifts that took place then, are still producing aftershocks. It was a moment, as author Joel Selvin says “that
was a kind of big bang,” when art, politics, morality and culture would join together to create an expanding universe of creative imagination.

Danny Goldberg’s new book In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea almost makes us present at the creation.

My conversation with Danny Goldberg:

Friday, June 23, 2017

The 70% Of The Planet That We Overlook.

When most of us look at a globe or map of the world, our eyes are drawn to some combination of the 196 countries that make up that world. Even when we see earth as a giant blue marble from space, it’s those land masses, the light, or the topography, that attracts our attention.

Admiral James Stavridis sees it differently. He sees the 70% of the globe that most of us miss. That is the part covered by water. The part of our plant that has seen great maritime battles, the part of the plant that allows for 95% of the world's trade, the part of the plant upon which
history has been made and changed, and the part that just might very well be the flashpoints of the future.

I think it's fair to say that unless you’ve personally sailed the world's oceans, after you read James Stavridis’ book Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World's Oceans, you will never look at a world map the same way again.

My conversation with Adm. James Stavridis:

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Shouldn't We Have Objective Standards for Judging Movies?

It used to be said that everyone was in two business, their own and show business. As such, everyone wants to be a critic. It's not surprising then that some movie apps are now crowd sourcing criticism, right alongside Rotten Tomatoes.

So what are people actually seeing? What are they criticizing? Does the public really know good from bad, and is there truth to that old adage that if it’s popular, it can’t be any good?

After all, some movies that have failed at the box office have garnered critical praise, and some with great financial success have been panned.

All of this begs the question, are there objective standards? Are there a set of rules or facts that can define good and bad in filmed entertainment?

Ann Hornaday thinks so. She is the chief film critic for the Washington Post, and the author of Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies.

My conversation with Ann Hornaday:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How Did Republicans Get So Mean?

Think about how crazy our politics has become. Representatives from poor and lower middle class districts want to eliminate labor unions, lower the minimum wage, take away health care, privatize social security and eliminate the social safety net. Even public education is under siege.

The president admits that the GOP health care bill is mean and Karen Handel, the newest member of congress from Georgia’s 6th district says that “people have no right to a livable wage.”

This was not always the Republican party. So how did this transformation happen? Some argue that it’s all about the social issues issues. That it's things like abortion, race, LGBTQ rights and religion that has gotten people to vote counter to their economic self interests. That’s the What’s the Matter with Kansas construct. But it’s not entirely true.

There has been a very deliberate plan to undermine liberal democracy, the economy, the constitution and the very role of government. This is about more than just the one-percent wanting to pay less taxes. There is a more fundamental, much more sinister and deliberate aspect to all of this.  That is the story that Nancy MacLean tells in Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America.

My conversation on with Nancy MacLean:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Can American Health Care Be Saved:

One thing the health care debate has taught us is that American medicine today is like snowflakes. No two are the same.

From the no wait privileges of concierge medicine, to the ERs and clinics in our poorest urban neighborhood, the medical experience is one of great diversity. Outcomes and wellness care are miles apart. This is unlike any other Western nation.

So what’s it like for a young compassionate doctor venturing into this world, and seeing the suffering, limitations and reality of medicine today?

That’s the story that Dr. Rachael Pearson tells in No Apparent Distress: A Doctor's Coming-of-Age on the Front Lines of American Medicine.

My conversation with Rachel Pearson:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Video Games Matter

It always interesting how so many aspects of our society reflect the entertainment of the times. Just as the success of Roosevelt reflected the power of radio and the election of Kennedy, the cultural and political power of television, it may be that our current political dislocation reflects the onetime power of reality television.

Someday our broader culture, and maybe even our politics and policy will reflect the power, pervasiveness and art of video games. These games have gone mainstream, and today statistics show that the majority of American households play them. Andrew Ervin gives us a players eye view in Bit by Bit: How Video Games Transformed Our World.

My conversation with Andrew Ervin:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Is It Time For an Autopsy on American Democracy?

Last week in a debate between the two candidates running in the special election in Georgia’s 6th district, Karen Handel, the Republican candidate, said quite proudly, “ I do not support a livable wage.” Also last week, the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVoss, said that the department of education has no obligation to protect LGBTQ rights in the classroom

In these comments lies a fundamental divide in American politics. A divide about the role of government, the supremacy of the individual, and role of corporations in the body politics.

It’s important to remember that there is nothing about American democracy that makes it sacrosanct or immortal. That like other democracies before us, our system, our American experiment, can simply vanish or morph into something entirely different.

It seems the fundamental question is, have we changed as a nation? Is the reality of what the founders gave us incompatible with modernity, and/or is there simply something in the DNA of America that makes us not exceptional, as some would have us believe, but the exception in the form of the non democratic democracy that we have today?

Professor Corey Dolgon wonders if it's already too late in Kill It to Save It: An Autopsy of Capitalism's Triumph over Democracy.

My conversation with Corey Dolgon:

Monday, June 12, 2017

UBER'S Wild Ride

There is an ongoing debate in the world of sports, as to whether marketing and success is about the team, or about the celebrity power of individual star athletes. Years ago the NFL made the decision it was about the team. The NBA very consciously made the opposite decision. That individual stars were the key to success.

Without collusion or even a formal meeting, it certainly appears that Silicon Valley, long ago, made the decision that companies often rise or fall on individual celebrities, and their power to sell, market and capture the public imagination.

Steve Jobs of course remains the penultimate example. So to is Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and the founder of Uber, Travis Kalanick. The problem is that in the case of Kalanick, that image is tarnished. This is the world we are going to look at with the executive editor of Fortune, Adam Lashinsky.  He's just written Wild Ride: Inside Uber's Quest for World Domination.

My conversation with Adam Lashinsky:

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Our Complicated Relationship With Money

In the movie, Wall Street, Oliver Stone through his character Darien Taylor, played Daryl Hannah, reminds us that “when you've had money and lost it, it can be much worse than never having had it at all!” This fundamental principle is true, not just on a grand, Bernie Madoff style scale, but it plays itself out in the everyday lives of people whose financial fortunes are constantly subject to economic flux.

There are literally hundred of aphorisms about money and there is a simple reason why. Money, having it or not, and equally important, our relationship to it, is the principal driver of our personal relationships, our self esteem, and frankly how we see the world.

Lee Siegel, dives deep into these ideas as he draws from his own experiences in The Draw: A Memoir.

My conversation with Lee Siegel:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Is Fascism Already Here?

We are living through complicated political times. It’s a time when ideas like “post truth,” and “alternative facts” are seriously debated on the nightly news. A time when a private bodyguard of the President is sent to fire a member of the government who was confirmed by the US Senate.

A time when the press, the courts and other institutions which support our separation of powers are under siege. But haven't we been here before?

From the earliest alien and sedition acts, through to the modern era and interment, Mccarthyism, and Nixon, we as individuals and our institutions have proven to be resilient.

Sinclair Lewis is reported to have said that “when fascism comes to America it will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.”

On Wall Street, four of the scariest words you can hear, are “this time it’s different.” We’re going to talk about how scary those four words can be, not on Wall Street, but in in Washington, with Yale history professor Timothy Snyder. He’s the author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Timothy Snyder: