Eighty Years Ago, Paperback Books Were Considered “Creative Destruction”

July 30th, 2015
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Today when we think about the publishing industry, we usually think about the ways that it is changing to accommodate the digital world.  E-books, E-readers, cloud storage and white backgrounds dominate the conversation.

But believe it or not, there have been other times when the publishing industry has been rocked by fundamental change and when that change was met with fervent resistance.  One of those times was eighty years ago when an executive name Allen Lane, had this idea for something called “paperback books.”

Books that would be more accessible to the masses. Available not just in bookstores, but in train stations, newsstands and and even the corner grocer.

That fundamental idea by Lane, has been a part of all our lives and of our reading and learning experience.  It also became the basis for the company that he started,  Penguin Books.  One of the most iconic names in publishing today.  An imprint that today is the flagship of Penguin Random House and on this very day marks its eightieth anniversary.

Looking back and looking forward at the publishing industry is Patrick Nolan, VP, Editor in Chief and Associate Publisher at Penguin Books.

My conversation with Patrick Nolan:
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Is Water the Sine Qua Non of “red” and “blue” America?

July 30th, 2015
bluemind.jpgI’m often the first to criticize the way in which we are too quick to put things in political terms.  Too often the rush to label “red” or “blue” America gets us into trouble.  But one aspect seems to hold.  We are bluer politically as we get closer to water.  Look at any map and coastal America seems to have a different mindset.  

Perhaps it is because water and proximity to water make a difference.  That it impacts us in profound ways that stem from our evolutionary biology and extend to health, happiness and a more holistic view of the world.

Wallace J. Nichols has devoted himself to understand man's connection to the water.  He explore it in Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.
My conversation with Wallace J. Nichols:  
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The New Science of Criminal Injustice

July 28th, 2015
Benforado-Slide_0.jpgWe are told, almost from childhood, that we have a legal system and a government of laws and not of men.  Yet it is a system created by man and subject to the biases, frailties and inherent actions of human behavior.

Yet from such a system we often dispense the most draconian of punishments in the name of all of us.

At a time when even member of the Supreme Court of the United States talk of the Founders intent, and of originalism, a whole body of modern scientific evidence suggests that we need to be looking at our criminal justice system in whole news ways...

Law Professor Adam Benforado thinks we essentially need to bring “creative destruction” to one of the foundations of a free society. He outlines the problem and his plans in Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice

My conversation with Adam Benforado:  
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Stoned

July 23rd, 2015
Medical-marijuana-sign.jpgDrive around San Francisco, or Los Angeles and the Green Cross is everywhere. Medical marijuana “clinics,”  have proliferated beyond even the number of Starbucks.

But does marijuana really have medical value, or is it just a ruse to usher in legalized and recreational use, as in Colorado and Washington?

After all, doctors dispensing prescriptions for joints, via Skype, in a dingy clinic, doesn't seem particularly medicalized.  

However, there may be a real value in marijuana, beyond just its known use and value to cancer patients.

Dr. David Casarett, the author of the previous book “Shocked,” looks at this in his new work, Stoned: A Doctor's Case for Medical Marijuana

My conversation with Dr. David Casarett:
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Are you ever surprised that you are being lied to?

July 21st, 2015
8058_d800b_Ethan_B_New_Brighton_Beach_ApTo about the same degree that Captain Renault was “shocked, just shocked” to find gambling going on Casablanca, that’s how shocked many of us are to find that politicians and business leaders lie to us.

Whether it’s the latest candidate promising to make the world a better place, or Coca Cola offering the Real Thing,  the idea of marketing and even misrepresentation has been around before spin doctors, and long before  Don Draper.

From the days on the Savanna when the caveman may have allowed his buddy to be eaten by a lion, because he coveted his woman, to the endless promise of the Apple Watch...we know we are often lied to.

But does matter?  Isn’t the idea of a free society the ability to allow us to have the information to be informed, to make our own decisions?  And today, with creative destruction everywhere, when buyers know more about the price of a car than the salesman, when transpiration can be ordered and altered with the click of a mouse, aren't we better off?

Talk radio host and author Ethan Bearman, whose new book is Liars & Whores: How Big Government and Big Business Are Working to Save Their Own Assets, Not Yours,
is not so sure.

My conversation with Ethan Bearman: 
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Big Science and The Launch of the Military Industrial Complex

July 16th, 2015
big-science-9781451675757_hr.jpgWe all remember Ben Franklin flying his kite, or Alexander Graham Bell calling for Watson, even Jonas Salk working quietly in his laboratory.

Today science, or at least big science, is a global effort. It involves governments, private enterprise, universities and vast institutional support.  Think about the International Space Station, the Large Hadron Collider, and even before all of that, the Manhattan Project and even the development of the Internet itself.

All are part of what Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Michael Hiltzik writes about in Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex.

My conversation with Michael Hiltzik: 
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Baseball’s Endless Season - Is it too long?

July 13th, 2015
51-f1ST534L._SY344_BO1%252C204%252C203%2As we hit the half way mark in the Baseball season, how many players are injured, how many are burnt out already?  Are we creating a softer group of players or is 162 games in 180 days, just too many games? Washington Baseball writer Barry Svrluga explores this in The Grind: Inside Baseball's Endless Season.

My conversation with Barry Svrluga:  
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Primates of Park Avenue

July 10th, 2015
primates.jpgWe have always studied other cultures so that perhaps we could better understand our own. The realm of cultural anthropology has provided us keen insights into our evolutionary nature and why we do the strange things we do, as human beings.

Wednesday Martin, has used the tools of cultural anthropology to zero in on one very narrow subgroup.  The tiny percentage of the “One Percent” that reside in and around Park Avenue, on the Upper East Side of New York.

Her book Primates of Park Avenue, has gotten a great deal of attention, both for its subject matter, its research and its authenticity.  But there is no question that broadly, it accurately reflects a time, a place and a culture that says something about our collective character in 2015.

My conversation with Wednesday Martin: 
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How to Keep Listening When the World Wants a Fight

July 5th, 2015
download.pngListen to any of the Republican candidates and it’s clear that the culture war issues that have driven so much political debates over the past 50+ years, are still going on.

Our political discourse is has polarized as ever.  Even to the point where we’ve come to accept that you are never going to change anyones mind about social issues.  So when we do talk, when we do try and debate, we simply talk past each other.  It’s as if complicated personal issues are being discussed in a boiler factory. For no other subject is this more true, than the subject of abortion.

My guest Aspen Baker, thinks there is a better way.  A way to discuss perhaps the most contentious of all issues, the the subject of abortion, and use that discussion as a model to discuss other contentious issues.  Her organization EXHALE has adopted Pro-Voice as its point of view.

My conversation with Aspen Baker: 
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Being Nixon: A Man Divided

June 26th, 2015
nixon-806x1024.jpgMost of us know the legendary story of the group of blind men  who touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk or the tail.. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement about what they experienced

This is the story of Richard Nixon.  

So much has been written about Nixon. Much of it has come in waves.  There was the period after his resignation, of the bad Nixon.  Then after his death, the better Nixon. Now writers, journalists and historians are trying to tie all the threads together.

Perhaps Bill Clinton put it best in his eulogy for Nixon, when he said that “the day of judging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career must come to a close.”

Two very distinguished journalists, Evan Thomasand Tim Weiner, have, almost simultaneously, penned new books about Nixon.  
Evan Thomas has written and Tim Weiner One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard NixonBeing Nixon: A Man Divided

I recently had the opportunity to speak with both of them.

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My conversation with Evan Thomas

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Nixon’s the One

June 26th, 2015
nixon-806x1024.jpgMost of us know the legendary story of the group of blind men  who touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk or the tail.. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement about what they experienced

This is the story of Richard Nixon.  

So much has been written about Nixon. Much of it has come in waves.  There was the period after his resignation, of the bad Nixon.  Then after his death, the better Nixon. Now writers, journalists and historians are trying to tie all the threads together.

Perhaps Bill Clinton put it best in his eulogy for Nixon, when he said that “the day of judging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career must come to a close.”

Two very distinguished journalists, Evan Thomas and Tim Weiner, have, almost simultaneously, penned new books about Nixon.  
Evan Thomas has written and Tim Weiner One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard NixonBeing Nixon: A Man Divided

I recently had the opportunity to speak with both of them.

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My conversation with Tim Weiner

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Charles and Ray Eames and the technology of timelessness

June 22nd, 2015
CGMVgaSWQAA-EUu.jpgLong before Steve Jobs and Jony Ives bridged the divide between design and technology,  before Target began selling Michael Graves tea kettles, Charles and Ray Eames made the connection between design, public perception and function. They created designs for furniture, architecture, toys and film and in so doing set the stage for much of the way we view our world today.  

They were visionaries, who were deeply grounded in the history, who understood that modern was also rooted in the classic. 

Daniel Ostroff is a world authority on Charles and Ray Eames. His latest and perhaps seminal work is just out entitled An Eames Anthology: Articles, Film Scripts, Interviews, Letters, Notes, and Speeches.

My conversation with Dan Ostroff:  
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Before Jobs, Musk, Hewlett & Packard, or Ford…there were The Wright Brothers

June 18th, 2015
david_mccullough_the_wright_brothers.jpgWe live today in what many consider the age of technology.  Everyday there are new apps, new ways in which incumbency is disrupted.  But very few of the creators or inventors of today, understand the long view, or the way they are changing the world.

Steve Jobs understood. Elon Musk understands.  Maybe even Mark Zuckerberg does.  Part of  that understanding come from education.  From seeing the world beyond themselves and their work, and seeing their place in world.

During another fertile period of innovation in America, as we moved from the 19th to the 20th Century, the same was true.  Sitting high atop the pantheon of those that would seek to change the world then, were Wilbur and Orville Wright.  With the support of their family, their bicycle shop was perhaps the ultimate tech startup of the time.

Wilbur and Orville Wright and their family are subject of a new biography The Wright Brothersby multiple award winning historian David McCullough.  

My conversation with David McCullough: 
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A Russian Spy, A Double Agent, The FBI and Hooters Parking Lot

June 16th, 2015
SzbYlXxHEkCKi86b0UExGKjh2_9vX44CklGF7TFPToday boys want to grow up to be professional athletes, or tech billionaires.  But there was time when being a secret agent seemed like just about the coolest thing to do. Whether it was the literary exploits of Bond or Bourne, or the real story Philby, or the moral twilight of le Carre, spycraft, particularly during the days of the Cold War, held a magical appeal. 

It certainly did for Naveed Jamali.  He dreamt of being in Naval Intelligence and it inspired him to become a real life double agent, albeit ending in the parking lot of Hooters.  His is both a very American story but also an international story  

Naveed tells his story along with Ellis Henican in their book How to Catch a Russian Spy: The True Story of an American Civilian Turned Double Agent.

My conversation with Navid Jamali and Ellis Henican: 
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Never bet against Elon Musk’s vision of the futrue

June 16th, 2015
bits-elon-superJumbo.jpgThere is always someone that leads us into the future.  Someone whose vision and entrepreneurship combine to make the next big idea, the next big thing.

This has been true from Franklin, to Edison, from From Henry Ford to Thomas Watson, from Bill Gates to Steve Jobs and today  Elon Musk may very well be the inheritor of that mantel.

Electric cars, commercial space travel, high speed transportation and even new forms of education, are all part of the vision that Musk sees; and and his vision is on its way to become our reality.

Bloomberg's Ashlee Vance has written a new biograph,y Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.

My conversation with Ashlee Vance: 
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Would the real Alex Vause please stand up

June 12th, 2015
mc_14_919324.jpgMany of you, I’m sure, think you’d love the idea of seeing your life portrayed in movies or television.  But imagine if you knew nothing about it.  If one day, you saw an ad for a TV show, and you, or at least your life, was the central character.  Would you be scared, shocked, angry, a little excited. Cleary Wolters experienced all of thee things.

As she saw her life in prison portrayed as Alex Vaus in ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK.

Originally portrayed as Nora Jansen in Piper Kerman’s book,  her life would transform again as a result of her story becoming part of an entertainment and cultural juggernaut.

Now Cleary Wolters takes her star turn as a writer and tells her story in her memoir Out of Orange: A Memoir.

My conversation with Cleary Wolters: 
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How the law is shaping families and how new kinds of families are shaping the law

June 10th, 2015
Family_Poster_en.jpgIn the world of families, all eyes are on same sex marriage.  In the Courts, in Statehouses, and in the political arena.  But on the ground, in the households and families where people live, this is just one manifestation of the change in family structures and family relationships.

As such, the world of law and particularly family law, has changed. The way in which these new, creative and ever changing familial bonds are structured, and the complex feedback loop between the legal and loving nature of these relationships, creates whole new ways that we seek legal stability in the face of social and cultural change.

A the apex of this effort are people like my guest, Law Professor Martha Ertman, whose book  Love's Promises: How Formal and Informal Contracts Shape All Kinds of Families looks at the way the law is trying to stay one step ahead of the social change.

My conversation with Martha Ertman:  
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Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship

June 4th, 2015
safe_image.jpegToday we have talking heads and pundits.  But back in the second half of the 20th Century we had writers and public intellectuals, whose ideas, attitudes and personalities became a part of our public discourse.

Two of those that were the touchstones of the times were William F.Buckley and Norman Mailer.  Both wrote about history, about sex, about politics and sometimes all at once.  They were the guests you wanted to have at any dinner party.

They were also, each in his own way, bad boys of American letter.  Buckley with his rapier wit and insults, pushed away as many people as admired him.  Mailer with his pugilistic persona, further showed that with complex figures, the public surfaces were only part of the story.

Kevin Schultz gives us a kind of conjoined biography of the two in Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship That Shaped the Sixties.

My conversation with Kevin Schultz:
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Who cares what Jefferson would do?

June 3rd, 2015
download.jpegIf we have problems in America, the solution is usually simple, check with the Founding Fathers.  Can’t figure out modern health care, check with the Founders.  Can’t deal with modern weaponry on America's streets, check in with the nation's Founders.  Need to improve education for our kids..maybe a trip to Mt. Rushmore will solve it?  Need to fix our airports, increase cancer and genetic research, or fund manned space travel..no problem. Just check in with Jefferson and Hamilton. 

Obviously a laughable idea.... but in fact this is exactly what we seem to do!! First of all our Founders, wise as they were, did not speak with a single voice, and they lived in a world that is barely recognizable from our own.  So why are they relevant to every debate in America?  Mostly because it’s a way for politicians to gain political traction, without having to marshall real debate or real solutions.

This is the confusion that David Sehat explains in The Jefferson Rule: How the Founding Fathers Became Infallible and Our Politics Inflexible.

My conversation with David Sehat:
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The fall of CrackBerry

June 1st, 2015
blackberry_classic_5.jpgMany years ago, Harvard Business School perfected something called the “case study method.”   A new educational innovation that presented the challenges confronting companies, nonprofits, and government organizations—complete with the constraints and incomplete information found in real business issues.

Students learned that through the process of exchanging perspectives, countering and defending points, and building on each other's ideas, they became adept at analyzing issues, exercising judgment, and making difficult decisions.

Business journalist Sean Silcoff,  in his new book,  Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry, conducts his own case study.

He reminds us that in real business situations, unlike business school, there are no simple solutions; personalities matter and, and he shows how easy it is to go from leader to irrelevance in an economy that values creative destruction far more than the status quo.

My conversation with Sean Silcoff:
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