October 19th, 2014
For those that study and write about politics, the holy grail is to find those seminal moments in the nation's public and political life that change everything. And while the antecedents of those events may be years in the making, they usually create a perfect storm that results in an event that is a kind of tipping point; one that marks a permanent tectonic shift in the political landscape. Sometimes we have to let time pass, before we appreciate or even understand those moments.
The televised Nixon-Kennedy Debate, Watergate, the Nixon’s resignation and the Vietnam war piped into our living rooms are such event. And, according to longtime political journalist Matt Bai, the implosion of Gary Heart's presidential campaign in 1987, was also such a moment. One that Bai captures, in all its complexity, in All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid.
It was a time when politics became a plotline, when the personal became both political and public, and when Who, What, Where and When became Gotcha.
My conversation with Matt Bai:
October 19th, 2014
It was actually Winston Churchill, not Rahm Emanuel, who said that we should never let a serious crisis go to waste.
A crisis often creates a great opportunity to face, to talk about, and even sometimes to act upon issues that had been previously frozen
Or, as Donald Rumsfeld once inarticulately put it, sometimes the only solution to an unsolvable problem, is to create a bigger problem.
It could be said that climate change provides such an opportunity. That in seeking to address the issues of man made climate change, we will have to drill down into the very issues that caused it in the first place. That’s what Naomi Klein does in her new work This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.
My conversation with Naomi Klein:
October 19th, 2014
Some of you may have seen the story recently that marriage is at an all time low in America. We also know that two out of three Americans are overweight, or obese. Is there a link between these two issues?
Has our national physical decline and the rise of obesity changed the way we view love and sex, and if so, what are the broad social and economic impacts of that?
My conversation with Sarah Varney
October 16th, 2014
For decades, it seems, we've read and watched stories about suicide bombers in the Middle East. We process the information without emotion, as we do most news stories. Then 9/11 happened and suddenly suicide bombers took on a new meaning for most Americans.
With that new understanding, award winning journalist Mike Kelly looks back at a story of a suicide bombing in Israel, that took place in 1996, years before 9/11. The story, fraught with the humanity and frustration of loss, would have, if we knew better than, presaged so much of what’s happened since….in Israel, in Palestine, and in America.
My conversation with Mike Kelly:
October 16th, 2014
Whether we are thinking about our smart phones, or HAL in Arthur C. Clarke's 2001, we are usually deeply conflicted about artificial intelligence. Will it be a panacea to enhance the already unique power of human intelligence or, like HAL, will its survival depend on usurping human control
My conversation with Nick Bostrom:
October 14th, 2014
Revolutions are often exciting. The stir change, mobilize ideas, and are often at the cutting edge of excitement. Yet what happens after revolutions is often the work that matters. The problem is that it’s hard work. The cameras are off, the story has grown cold, but this is where the work gets done that can truly change the world.
Arguably the women's movement is such an example. While dramatic changes once took place, arguably the hard work since has not been quite enough
While the opportunities for elite women to “lean in,” have never been stronger, American women overall today, fare worse than men on virtually every major dimension of social status, financial well-being, and physical safety.
Sexual violence is still condoned, and reproductive rights are by no means secure. Women assume disproportionate burdens in the home and pay a heavy price in the workplace.
My conversation with Deborah L. Rhode:
October 13th, 2014
The common portrayal of Millennials is as generation that is narcissistic, self absorbed, entitled and demanding. Yet they are almost 90 million strong and will soon be taking their place in leadership in business, in politics and in almost every other aspect of society.
My conversation with Lindsey Pollak:
October 12th, 2014
Kierkegaard said that “life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.” Such is the powerful value of memoir and reflection
Sometimes, though, that reflection takes in more than just the individual life, it becomes a way to reflect on a time, a place, and movement. Gail Sheehy’s life encompasses all of that. The mainstreaming of hippie culture, feminism, new journalism, publishing all exist side by side with the touchstones of love, loss and family. Her story is, in short, the story of the past fifty years. The proverbial grain of sand that captures the history of the time.
My conversation with Gail Sheehy:
October 11th, 2014
We often say that actions have consequence. So do ideas. And we don’t always know the full extent of those consequences. Just as the science of splitting the atom, changed the nature of geopolitics and may still reshaped civilization, so the ripple effects of certain inventions have consequences and impacts, far beyond what was originally thought or intended.
As we worry about the spread of disease these days, it provides an interesting analogy. Essentially, if we think of certain inventions as Patient Zero, we then see how they spread over vast landscapes and change the world.
My conversation with Steven Johnson:
October 10th, 2014
When we think and talk about the Middle East today, we look at it terms of the religious and ethnic strife and extremism that define today's conflicts. We also assume that these conflicts has been going on for centuries. That the holy wars and clash of civilizations of today have been the basis for the whole history of the region
Middle East historian Brian Catlos has a different view. One that puts those conflicts in a more political and economic perspective. In fact, it was really a world of conflict about money and land and power, and where interfaith cooperation was possible and where globalization may have gotten its real start.
My conversation with Brian Catlos:
October 8th, 2014
The recent suicide of Robin Williams puts into bold perspective that we really don’t know very much about the inner lives of the people that make us laugh. From Lenny Bruce to Richard Pryor, from Johnny Carson to Bill Cosby, the demons and private lives that drove these comedians were often anything but funny.
Cosby was particularly unique in several ways. He broke the color barrier for television with I Spy. He appealed to predominantly white audiences, yet subtly advanced the civil rights agenda. He broke the rules, yet didn’t shout while he was doing it. The Cosby show has become a part of American iconography and some would argue paved the way for the election of Barack Obama.
But what we know about his influential comedian has been mostly underwater. That is until journalist Mark Whitaker now pulls it all together in his new biography Cosby: His Life and Times
My conversation with Mark Whitaker:
October 6th, 2014
If you’ve ever borrowed money for anything, from a mortgage to a student loan, you’ve been impacted by LIBOR. The London Interbank Offered Rate. The global standard for interest rates.
The problem is, like so many other recent aspects of our financial markets, we’ve now come to find that it’s been rigged. That a system built on trust, has been anything but trustworthy. That the gentlemanly system of the London bankers has joined the international movement toward greed, and dishonesty, at the expense of average citizens around the world.
My conversation with Erin Arvedlund:
October 5th, 2014
When we talk about America's history of segregation, its not just about race and class, but also about geography. Even as the civil right movement would begin to take hold in the late 60’s and seventies, there were parts of America, particularly in the rural South, that we untouched by that progress. Places where slavery was not just a legacy to be overcome, but still in the fabric of the cultural DNA of place.
It is into this landscape that a young boy grows up, prematurely comes of age due to familial sexual abuse and yet has the strength, courage, and intelligence to make it out. To become not just a pillar of the NY Times editorial page, but a man brave enough share his sometimes painful story. That man is Charles Blow. His new memoir is Fire Shut Up in My Bones.
My conversation with Charles Blow:
October 2nd, 2014
Years ago, in Hollywood, someone once remarked that the amount of bad screenplay writing increased with the advent of the copy machine. The same claim was later made when word processing and screenwriting software came along.
The fact is there is a lot of bad writing that goes on in many arenas. Today much of the blame gets heaped on email, or texting, or technology, or just “kids today.” The real issues are more nuanced, more complex, and not quite as rigid as some might wish.
My conversation with Steven Pinker:
October 1st, 2014
The world is a crazy place. Everyday here we talk about all the forces that are impacting us, making life more complex, confusing and making so many people less sure of who they are, how they fit in, and whether the decisions they make lead them in the right direction.
Sure, many people want to change their lives. But for others, it’s simply a matter of trying to find true north. Of seeing the guide posts or the modern day yellow brick road that will lead to a sense of certainty and security.
My conversation with Paul Williams and Tracey Jackson:
September 30th, 2014
Socrates was worried about the rise of written text. He feared that it would change our habits of mind and not allow us to remember.
The printing press would spark another revolution, as mass produced text would change the world. Not unlike our current digital revolution, the push back was fierce and loud.
And because history does repeat itself, we can indeed learn a lot by looking back at the last great technological revolution in publishing. One that gave birth to the publishing industry itself, and that today, fights for its place in the digital tsunami.
Journalist Alix Christie takes us back to this momentous time, 500+ years ago, in her debut historical novel Gutenberg's Apprentice.
My conversation with Alix Christie:
September 26th, 2014
We've all played the game of thinking about and listing the most important inventions in the progress of mankind. Certainly from the wheel, to the printing press to the transistor, there are plenty to choose from.
But seldom do we think about philosophical revolutions. The invention of ideas and philosophies and habits of mind, that have also changed the world.
Of these, there have been less. Perhaps, according to Luciano Floridi, only three that have truly shaped our conception of the world and who we are within it
Oxford philosophy Professor Luciano Floridi argues that the technological and information revolution of today, has created a rare Fourth Revolution, from which we now view ourselves and our place in the world. A world in which we shape our reality and that reality in turn shapes us.
My conversation with Luciano Floridi:
September 26th, 2014
Once upon a time we got our international news through the relentless reporting of foreign correspondent. The Vietnam war may have brought war into our living rooms for the first time, but reporters still provided context. Citizens would come to understand events through the consistency of work from a reporter, though time and experience.
Today, that foreign correspondent, satirized by Evelyn Waugh and celebrated by Hitchcock is an endangered species.
Today the freelance reporter, dashing about and multitasking media, looking at events on a one off basis, may not have the same contextual understanding.
As a result, we tend to look at distant events without the benefit of context or connection. The result is that our mistakes and failure appears untethered from each other and this, coupled with our short memories and even shorter attention spans, prevents the foreign correspondent from providing that first draft of history.
HDS Greenway has been an eyewitness to some of the most profound events of our times, including the fall of Saigon, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, and the horrors of both gulf wars. Now he shares his remarkable career as a Foreign Correspondent: A Memoir
My conversation with HDS Greenway:
September 25th, 2014
Few things ignite all of our senses to the degree that food does. Once simply a form of sustenance, food today, in restaurants or in markets, represents status, sexuality, politics, and education. Where all of this comes together, is not just in taste, or smell, or texture, but in the language that is used by purveyors of food, and the language that we all use, in talking about food.
My conversation with Dan Jurafsky:
September 23rd, 2014
Like it or not, the nature of our society and of our culture today is focused inward. Walk down any urban street, vs. 40 years ago and instead of looking out, we’re look down or inward. At our phones, our images, at our own world.
In a culture where self branding is celebrated, where selfies rule and Millennials are self absorbed, is it any wonder that narcissism seems rampant?
My conversation with Jeffrey Kluger: