Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Foreign Correspondent

Every day we are inundated with domestic news coverage . Every nuance, every utterance by every political actor is reported and analyzed over and over again. But covering the world is often a different story. It’s hard, often dangerous work.

Being a foreign correspondent is not the glamorous job it’s often portrayed as in TV and in the movies. It's the hard work of understanding locals and local custom, of sometimes taking risks, both personal and professional, and trusting and bonding with locals for what often is a transactional relationship

But what happens when that bond becomes more? How does it impact the reporter and, like the butterfly flapping its wings with the impact felt halfway around the world, what is the lasting impact of the relationship, long after the reporter has left or the story is over.

That's the story that Deborah Campbell tell in A Disappearance in Damascus: Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War.

My conversation with Deborah Campbell:

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Rethinking Sex, Power and Consent on Campus

The current debate about how we deal with sexual assault on college campuses has been playing out for well over a decade. It is, among other things, redefining a new sexual revolution in America.

By redefining the meaning of consent, assault and rape, we are, weather we like it or not, rethinking issues of gender and power and basic civil rights

The problem is that the debate about these sensitive social, human and almost primal issues has become conflated with our politics, and our higher educational system. People like Betsy DeVos are reminding us that it’s really difficult to fine tune human interactions in the cacophony of a boiler factory.

Vanessa Grigoriadis tries her best, in Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Vanessa Grigoriadis:

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Vietnam War and Why It Still Matters

For those us that were alive and aware in the 60’s and 70’s there was no greater division than Vietnam. Perhaps, other than the Civil War it was America's greatest division. Isn’t it ironic then that for the past several nights, after folks have been watching Maddow or Hannity, reading Drudge or the New York Times, that we have come together in the unity of watching Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War

When Burns and Novick set out on this project, they might of had a sense, but certainly could not have know exactly how divided we would become today. And yet his Vietnam documentary might be a kind of shock therapy, as it takes us back to the events that once before, tore us apart.

Thousands of worlds have been written about The Vietnam War, but some of the most profound and wise have come from Alyssa Rosenberg at The Washington Post.
She had access to Burns and Novick in the process of his making the film and has interviewed and written extensively on it.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Alyssa Rosenberg:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

How America Went Haywire

Whether you are on the left or the right, I think it's fair to say that you can go through your entire day, week, month and maybe even your entire life, without having to really deal with anyone whose political and social views differ very much from your own.

We have become sliced and diced and siloed. Where once we may have strongly disagreed about solutions, we still got our news and facts form similar newspapers and networks.

Today, all that has changed. Every tribe seems to have it’s own sources and its own facts, and as the divide grows deeper and we go ever deeper down the rabbit hole, there may be no exit.

But even if the America we have known is terminal, it's still worth looking at how we got here and whether the fault lies with media, technology, progressive, conservatives,, television, talk radio or politicians, The fear of course is that, in the end, we may find that, as Ed Morrow once reminded us, “that Cassius was right, the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

To better understand those choices, it is important that we read the new work from Kurt Andersen, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History.

My conversation with Kurt Andersen:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The 90's Rise Of The American Libido

It certainly seems that every decade has its own center of gravity. In the post war 50’s, New York, both the city and its suburbs, defined howAmerica lived.

In the 60’s the Bay Area, and San Francisco in particular, became the cultural hub of anti-war free expression.

In the 70’s that creative energy moved down the coast, as Los Angeles became a beacon of post urban America, along with a new wave of Hollywood films that held up a mirror up to the changing social and cultural landscape.

The 80’s gave us Reagan and Thatcher and AIDS, as the locus shifted to a more conservative Washington.

Then the 90’s happened. What Vanity Fair editor and filmmaker David Friend has labeled The Naughty Nineties: The Triumph of the American Libido We had our first Baby Boomer President. Sex and self absorption were everywhere, and they were not just being talked about, but being acted upon. From Wall Street to Washington to California, sex was the coin of the realm. It inflamed the culture wars in ways that are still impacting us today.

My conversation with David Friend:

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Triumph of Fear

The ability to create fear is the most basic, primal and exploitive of the tools for manipulation. From the Garden of Eden, to would be Presidents amplifying the drumbeat that those that are different are rapists and killers, fear is the essential tool of demagogues.

To try and tamp down would be tyrants and exploiters, Roosevelt told us that the only thing we had to fear, was fear itself. Ed Murrow, in talking about Joe McCarthy, reminded us that McCarthy didn't create the situation of fear, “he merely exploited it...and rather successfully.” Today in our siloed, self referential, anti-factual culture, that fear is stronger than ever. Fear of change, fear of the new, fear of the other, fear of the future, are dominant.

Sasha Abramsky, in Jumping at Shadows: The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream, looks at where this fear might be taking us.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Sasha Abramsky:

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Best of Us

We celebrate births and deaths, we mark anniversaries. But what are we really celebrating or marking? Sometimes the real significance lies in events that have long preceded that which we are marking.

When we celebrate a birth or an anniversary, we’re really looking back on the events that lead to it. We’ve gotten better as a society with marking death as a celebration of life. But it’s more than just the life of the one that passed, it's all the people they touched, the ripples of impact that they had, and the way in which their legacy is carried on.

And so with Joyce Maynard's new memoir, The Best of Us, she marks some of these powerful and significant moments in her own life.

My conversation with Joyce Maynard:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Why Meditation May Be Our Best Survival Mechanism

We all know of, or have heard of, Moore's Law. It says that our computing power doubles every year. It’s often the core thesis in discussing how fast technological change is happening. From a practical and emotional sense, it's far faster than any of us can keep up. Faster even than digital natives can keep up with.

From the perspective of evolutionary psychology, which just like evolutionary biology, moves very slowly, the mismatch can be fatal.

What this conflict does is create a kind of cognitive dissonance between the way the world really is and how we, as human beings, weighted down by our evolutionary DNA, sees and experience the world.  In so doing, we each create our own brand of personal "fake news."

Joan Didion said “that we tell ourselves stories in order to live.” But if we found a better way, a more mindful way to tell ourselves those stories, perhaps we would live a better life. That’s part of the idea behind medication, particularly as described by Robert Wright in his new book Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment.

My conversation with Robert Wright:

Thursday, September 7, 2017

How Music Shapes Us and How We Shape Music

Old songs like old photographs are the purveyors of a kind of double imagery. They have relevance in the moment, just as they make yesterday's events today's reality. They remind of us of a time, a place, and often of the social construct at the time they were heard or created.

Almost more than any other art form, music both shapes and captures the essence of the time and place it was created.

Perhaps it's the speed at which it’s produced, perhaps it’s the duality of both creation and performance, or perhaps it's something in our DNA and the way we process music itself. Maybe, if we can better understand any of this, we’ll better understand this crazy place we are today.

Helping us to understand this is NPR’s music critic and correspondent Ann Powers in her new book Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music.

My conversation with Ann Powers:

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

New Research Shows That Alzheimer's is Reversible

In the panoply of diseases that Baby Boomers are facing, perhaps none seems as insidious as Alzheimer's. Cancer we always feel we can battle. Heart disease we can take on with better diets, exercise, drugs and sometimes cutting edge surgery.

But Alzheimer's has been truly like a death sentence. And worse one where the progression is slow, but unrelenting. That’s all changing, thanks to the work of people like Dr. Dale Bredesen.  He takes us to the cutting edge of research in The End of Alzheimer's: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline

My conversation with Dr. Dale Bredesen:

Monday, September 4, 2017

American Women's Lives At Work since 1964

It seems that every day we are reliving and relitigating the past sixty years. Nuclear fears, war in Korea, Russia, espionage, the Klan, civil rights, and the rights of women in the workplace.

The past is like a giant wave that catches us and then washes over us. I guess it's the ultimate reminder that if we don’t learn the lessons of history, we truly are condemned to repeat them.

In my recent conversation with ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Gillian Thomas, we focused on the nexus of two areas of this history: The rights of women, particularly in the workplace, and civil rights.  It was the landmark 1964 civil right act that also laid the predicate for the expanded rights of women in the workplace.

Thomas writes about this in Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women's Lives at Work.

My conversation with Gillian Thomas: