October 7th, 2015
Every great city has it’s defining era. Not always good, but certainly one that shapes its fortunes and reinforces its place in the urban pantheon. For New York it was perhaps the 50s, for Paris the mid 1920s, for San Francisco the ‘60s and for Hollywood, certainly the 1930s.
For Detroit, the eighteen months from the fall of 1962, through the spring 1964 marked perhaps the apogee and the beginning of the downward arc of that once great city.
A city that came to personify the American experience in the second half of the 20th century. Detroit at the time was the epicenter of music, racial strife, labor and of a middle class that now seems a bygone dream.
Capturing that moment is Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist, and Washington Post Associate Editor David Maraniss. He captures the essence of this period in Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story.
My conversation with David Maraniss:
October 5th, 2015
The lyrics say that “nobody walks in L.A.” That certainly has been true, in a city whose inhabitants were long hermetically sealed inside their cars...as if in a pneumatic tube shuttling from place to pace. L.A. was for a long time, a place where as John Didion said, “the entire quality of life accentuates it impermanence and unreliability.”
Today’s Los Angeles is a vastly different place. A city of neighborhoods and of Freeways; a city both urban and suburban, a kind of hybrid that sits at the cutting edge America’s movement toward cities, while still trying to hang on to its suburban trappings.
In short, L.A. just might be some kind of cultural or urban capital o
f the 21st century
My conversation with David Ulin:
October 2nd, 2015
We all know the old bromide, you can’t fight City Hall. Well imagine how tough it must be to take on the US Navy. Especially if the cause is about the condition of whales, and those who are fighting are an environmental lawyer and a Navy whistleblower.
Many of you have probably heard parts of this story, in news reports, and on 60 Minutes. But now Joshua Horwitz, in his book War of the Whales: A True Story tells the full story of this David vs. Goliath battle, of the military industrial complex vs. environment.
My conversation with Joshua Horwitz:
September 24th, 2015
Hollywood is a like sports or politics. Each generation gives us stars and personalities that both reflect the culture and tenor of the times and also transcend it in ways that pave the way for the next generation.
By the 1970’s Hollywood had seen a lot of agents. Names that you’ve seldom hear of. Men like Lew Wasserman, Myron Selznick, Swifty Lazer and Abe Lastfogel shaped the lives and careers of celebrities.
And while by the 70’s woman were emerging in the more cloistered world of New York literary agents, one woman would put her mark on Hollywood in a way that came to define an era. One that combined the glitz and glamor of early Hollywood, with the informality and countercultural fervor of the 70’s.
My conversation with Brian Kellow:
September 21st, 2015
The world today is a dangerous, unstable and violent place. And while Stephen Pinker tells us that today is less violent than at any other time in human history, images from Africa and the Middle East would seem to belie that.
But when we look at places that have improved, in Africa, in Latin America and even in the West, we see that woman and the empowerment of women have played a key role in the transformation to a more civil world.
What does this mean, why has it happened, and what does it portent for solutions to those places that still seemed mired in hatred and violence. Sally Armstrong has spent her career covering wars and global struggles and now examines this nexus between global progress and the empowerment of woman in Uprising: A New Age Is Dawning for Every Mother's Daughter.
My conversation with Sally Armstrong:
September 16th, 2015
We see today in the debate regarding immigration, a little bit about the the ways that falsehood and mass hysteria, mixed with doses of fear and change, can create a movement.
Back in the 1980’s a combination of delayed reaction to the 60’s, to the rise of woman, to the offshoots of feminism, coupled with the rise of the Christian Right and the changing American family, gave us a suburban fear that went beyond anything conjured up by Yates or Cheever.
One of the ways that it manifested itself was in what became the longest criminal trial in US history, known as the McMartin preschool case.
My conversation with Richard Beck:
September 14th, 2015
For reasons that are both complicated and simplistic, immigration has become the issues of our time. Fifty years ago the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act put in place the system we have today. That system has helped make us a nation of of immigrants and set the stage for the diverse Asian/American population in the US today.
My conversation with Erika Lee:
September 7th, 2015
Imagine one movement the combines every contemporary progressive social issue; race, immigration, Civil Rights, the labor movement, gender discrimination. It may sound on the surface like the ultimate impossibility. In fact, they all did converge in the movement for the rights of Domestic Workers.
From the 1950’s to today, the movement in support of workers who are the most invisible, whom labor organizations thought could not be organized, is the story of an amazing group of women overcoming unique obstacle in a struggle that had much larger ripples on the social landscape. Premilla Nadasen takes us through the history of an amazing group of African American women who built a movement. She tells their story in Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement.
My conversation with Premilla Nadasen:
September 2nd, 2015
In spite of a rough stock market and a bumpy economy there is one business, not a tech company, that has grown revenues from $229 million in 1999 to over 800 million today. That is the business that is the ten largest programs in College football. It’s a business where the CEO’s, the coaches, are mostly part of the one percent. They earn millions annually and even worse than most big businesses, their employees work for almost nothing.
My conversation with Gilbert Gaul:
September 1st, 2015
I’ve often told the story of a newly minted teacher considering her first job. She had several offers, but in the end there were two that were intriguing to her. One in a difficult and struggling inner city school district; the other in a very wealthy, upper middle class suburban enclave. She said that she felt like it was a decision between difficult students or difficult parents.
In that choice, we come to understand one of the dilemmas of today's educational system. The extremes between parents who simply don’t have the time or knowledge to engage in their kid's education, or parents like those portrayed as Tiger Moms, or the Upper East Side moms of Primates of Park Avenue, who take helicopter parenting to a new extreme.
Worse yet, it generally reaches its apogee at precisely the time in Middle School when kids could most benefit from personal responsibility, social emotional development and yes, even owning their failure.
My conversation with Jessica Lahey:
August 31st, 2015
Through the efforts of both critics and audiences, we’ve come to understand that “genre films,” are just as significant as mainstream films. Few mastered the genre of horror and suspense to the degree that Wes Craven did. From his first, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) to the 1984 classic NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, Craven infused intelligence into all of his work.
Back in 1999 I spoke to Craven about his work, and the publication of his first novel.
Here is my conversation with Wes Craven:
August 31st, 2015
How do we navigate the world in spite of change? It's one of the central tenants of modern society. Over and over again, Oliver Sacks used the experience and metaphor of debilitating conditions to explain the amazing resilience of the human mind. A resiliency he himself exhibited right up until the end of his life.
I had many chances to talk with Sacks over the years, the last was in November of 2012. It was about his book The Mind's Eye. Inspired in part by his own experience with the cancer that would take him from us.
My November 2012 conversation with Oliver Sacks:
August 26th, 2015
The phrase “The Perfect Storm” has come to mean a lot of things. Most notably the unique and singular coming together of disparate forces to mark a disaster. In that context the City of New Orleans experienced the perfect storm not just from the meteorological confluence of isobars that would create hurricane Katrina, but in the impact and aftermath of a city torn by racial strife, economic division, identity politics, poor management and even poorer public policy.
It it’s true that one should never let a crisis go to waste, many within New Orleans did not. In Katrina they saw an opportunity to remake the city anew. But in whose image and at the cost of whose future?
My conversation with Gary Rivlin:
August 25th, 2015
When we think about the iconography and the history of contemporary policing and urban criminal justice what comes to mind? Sixty years ago it was Dragnet and Joe Friday. Later, everything from Adam 12 to the work of Joe Wambaugh. Then their was the Rodney King beating and subsequent riots; the OJ trial, helicopters employed by police and chases, both high and slow speed. What they all have in common is the City of Los Angeles. A city that has been on the cutting edge of all that is right and wrong with urban policing.
My conversation with Joe Dominick:
August 25th, 2015
Even today, fifteen months before Election Day, we are in full political campaign season. And while we hear a lot of loose talk about issues, it’s easy to forget that politics is also about both the art of governing, and sometimes doing so in the real world of compromise and possibilities.
Even with all the problems of our healthcare system, Doctors usually go into medicine because that have calling; a desire to help people. While it's’ hard to believe sometimes, many politicians also have a calling and go into it because they have a desire to use the levers of policy to make the world a better place.
For Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, this is true. Since Missouri became state, 194 years ago, she is the first woman to serve as its United States Senator and has just written her memoir Plenty Ladylike.
My conversation with Senator Claire McCaskill:
August 18th, 2015
One of the ongoing conundrums in sports is whether it’s about the team or the individual? Back in the early days of the NFL, Pete Rozelle believed passionately, that in a game played only once a week, the team was the key to marketing. In Basketball, former Commissioner David Stern saw the value of individual stars as the draw for fans.
For Baseball it’s been a mixed bag. Even for iconic teams like the Dodgers or the Giants, the question of team vs. the individual is hotly debated.
For the Dodgers, at least the current team and its current ownership group, the answer is clear. With players like Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford, stars outshine the team. The individual player is king, second only to the dollars that are being paid.
My conversation with Molly Knight:
August 18th, 2015
We have developed what amounts to an addiction/industrial complex. Each year billions are spent, in both public and private dollars, to treat, cure, and mitigate addiction. But is it working? Are today’s so called “best practices,” having measurable, metric driven results? If not, what might we be doing wrong?
Dr. Marc Lewis believes that the current approach of treating addiction as a disease, lies at the heart of our repeated failures and frustrations.
My conversation with Dr. Marc Lewis:
August 7th, 2015
As we debate the ins and out of nuclear proliferation, on editorial pages and in the drawing rooms of Georgetown; in the halls of Congress and in the boiler room political operations of AIPAC, it's worth taking note, on this 70th anniversary of the dawn of the nuclear age, of the full impact of what we are actually talking about.
As powerful as the bomb on Hiroshima was, it was the second bomb, three days later, on Nagasaki that was even more devastating.
Today, in the shadow of talks about other nations joining the nuclear club, we both note and remember the voices of atomic bomb survivors.
Susan Southard in Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War describes the events and the aftermath of August 9th, when a nuclear device, detonated over Nagasaki, changed life on Earth forever, even as U.S. policies at the time kept the suffering hidden.
My conversation with Susan Southard:
August 4th, 2015
As we debate immigration, we still always look favorably on the “Dreamers.” The young undocumented students thriving here in America. It’s easy to romanticize that experience and even draw conclusion from the success of individuals.
The greater challenge is to look at those successes and see what real world lessons we might draw that can tell us more about success and failure and social mobility here in the U.S.
Dan-el Padilla Peralta is perhaps the penultimate success story. Raised in New York's shelters, he would ultimately graduate from Princeton, Oxford and Stanford and is currently a Mellon Research Fellow at Columbia.
My conversation with Dan-el Padilla Peralta:
July 30th, 2015
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: