Be afraid….

July 29th, 2011

Just as we remember where we were when certain historic events took place, many of us have indelible image of where we saw and how we reacted to certain horror movies.

A genre once discredited, reanimated itself in the early ‘70’s and created what Jason Zinoman call "new horror."  Directors like William Friedkin, Roman Polanski, John Carpenter, and Wes Craven would find new ways to exploit our most primal fears and often remind us that the monster were not only on the screen, but in ourselves.

My conversation with NY Times critic and reporter Jason Zinoman about Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror.

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The Interrogator

July 28th, 2011

Espionage by its very nature exists in a kind of moral twilight. The decisions that spies often have to make may be repugnant to their own moral codes or sensibilities, but consistent with a view of the greater good for country or society. But happens when this circle cannot be squared? When the mission simply cannot be justified within any moral framework and in fact, seems both wrong and inconsistent with the great societal good? Then, more then ever, it takes a profile in courage to rise, to speak up and to do better. That is precisely what twenty-three year CIA case officer Glenn Carle had to face. He details this most important mission of his career in The Interrogator: An Education My conversation with Glenn Carle:

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Google - The Early Years

July 27th, 2011

Particularly for those of us here in the Bay Area we hear about start ups everyday. Do you every wonder what life is really like inside those start ups? Even harder to imagine is that companies like Apple, HP and Google with its 24,000 employees were themselves, once start ups. With respect to Google what was it like to be “present at the creation.” Douglas Edwards, Google employee #59, has given us some insight in his book I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59. My conversation with Douglas Edwards:

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Disruptive Innovation

July 26th, 2011

As we learn more about genetics, one of the key questions that always seems to arise is about creativity. Can we simply be born creative, or is it a learned behavior? In fact, it's not that simple.  There are some very specific behaviors and skill sets that are the basis of any creative process. If we can master those skills, we have the ability to be creative and to come up with cutting edge idea.

Hal Gregersen, a Professor of leadership at INSEAD takes us through the skills required for creativity in his book The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators. My conversation with Hal Gregersen:

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How the Brain’s Flaws Shape Our Lives

July 26th, 2011

Why is it that humans are so resistant to change? Perhaps in large part this comes from a fundamental flaw in our brains. That is, that the world around us, our culture, our technology, information and our work are all moving at a tremendously rapid pace. On the other hand, evolution moves very, very slowly. Our brains, which much process all of this speed and change, are still based on an operating system for a very different, almost primitive time. And while our brains have over 90 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses, they are simply not designed for the 21st century. In trying to reconcile all of this, our brains, like our computers, are subject to crashes as they try to cope with the expanse of modernity.

These are the flaws in our brain examined by UCLA Professor Dean Buonomano in his book Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives My conversation with Dean Buonomano:

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A Volunteer Story

July 25th, 2011

I think we know that disasters are happening around the world with greater and greater frequency. How do most of us respond to these disasters? How did we respond the 9/11, to Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, the earthquake & tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2004 or the recent earthquake in Japan? For many of us, we may have written a check, or even easier, just sent a text to to make us feel better.

For one woman and a group of her friends, they decided they need to do more. What they would do would change their lives and profoundly change the lives of people they would help.

My conversation with Alison Thompson about The Third Wave: A Volunteer Story.

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Sex on the Moon

July 21st, 2011

In earlier generations, truly bright kids might have become writers or political leaders or climbers of the corporate ladder. Today they become tech visionaries or entrepreneurs or evil geniuses ripping off Vegas or masterminding a heist of epic proportions.

Mostly they are they curiosities of Ben Mezrich, the author of the best selling BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE and the ACCIDENTAL BILLIONAIRE, that became the basis of THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Now, in Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History, he gives us a young man who takes on NASA and promises his girlfriend the moon....and delivers. My conversation with Ben Mezrich:

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Big girls still don’t cry

July 17th, 2011

Back in November of 2010 I spoke with Rebecca Traister about her book Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women.  The irony of the election of 2008 is that it did change everything, but not in the ways we expected.  For all the drama, and cultural upheaval caused by the election of the first African American President, it was perhaps Clinton’s 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, and Palin's attempt to co-opt it,  that may have had the more far reaching impact on our politics and our culture.   Rebecca Traister's book is one of the most insightful and thought provoking about that 2008 campaign and it's just out in paperback at a time when Sara Palin and Michelle Bachman are redefining our politics.   My recent conversation with Rebecca Traister:

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Do libertarians have a point?

July 14th, 2011

In almost every aspect of our culture, choice is a paramount virtue. From Starbucks to the long tail of the Internet, modern society and technology is always giving us more options, greater speed, and far greater engagement in whatever we choose to buy to participate in. That is, except for government. Our institutions of government from the Statehouse to the White House, are binary, paralyzed, artery clogged institutions, completely out of sync with every other aspect of our modern society. How did we get here, is there a way out and do libertarians have any of those answers? Nick Gillespie is one of the country's leading libertarian thinkers and he lays out his idea in The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with AmericaMy conversation with Nick Gillespie:

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The Compass of Pleasure

July 13th, 2011

If it’s true, as Di Vinci said, that "the noblest pleasure is in understanding," then perhaps we get double the pleasure from understanding pleasure itself. How is it that the things that bring us pleasure are so powerful, yet often so transitory? How is it we value reason and common sense above all else, yet often succumb to pleasures that we know are not good us? What are the material ways in which our brain, our biochemical system and our culture works to shape the way we experience pleasure?

David J. Linden, in his new book The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good, explains why we feel the way we do. My conversation with David Linden:

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Area 51

July 11th, 2011

Winston Churchill once said of Russia that it was "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." Much the same might be said of the Federal Governments's most secret and largest land parcel in the United States. Almost the size of the State of Connecticut, Area 51 represents the apotheosis of the secret military industrial complex in the US.

Anne Jacobsen has written in Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base the first work to look, up close and personal, at this vital link in our military and espionage history. My conversation with Annie Jacobsen:

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Immigrants Raising Citizens

July 7th, 2011

The recent story about Jose Antiono Vargas should remind us that the story of illegal immigration is not just the story of those 12 to 13 million immigrants with the courage to come here, but also the story of their 4.5 million children whose lives are profoundly shaped, both good and bad, by events over which they have no control. Moreover these children will shape our culture and our polices for years to come. We are, in essence, denying a whole new generation of citizens the opportunity to be a part of the American dream. Often these fearful parents keep their children from programs and opportunities that would improve their development. Couple this with the recent failure of the Dream Act and you have 4.5 million young citizens arguably being denied their basic rights.

Hirokazu Yoshikawa, the incoming Academic Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education takes a look at this damaging oversight in his new work Immigrants Raising Citizens: Undocumented Parents and Their Young Children. My conversation with Hirokazu Yoshikawa:

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Page One: Inside the New York Times

July 6th, 2011

Arthur C. Clarke said that "any significantly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." This is arguably true not only for mechanized technology, but for intellectual technology as well.

The process of putting out a great daily Newspaper is such a process. Especially today, given the torrent of information, of news and of individual bits and bites that are coming at us every minute of every day. The ability to aggregate it, fact check it, put it in narrative form and make sure it arrives on your doorstep each morning, is truly a feat of magic.

There maybe more efficient ways to do this today, perhaps without the trucks and the dead trees. Still the process of creating great narrative journalism, in high quality Newspapers, is unquestionably unique. This process is at the heart of a new documentary and its’ companion volume taking us inside the New York Times. Amidst a landscape of technological revolution, information overload, shrinking ad revenues, political polarization and institutional distrust, the Times and by extension, all great journalism, struggles to survive.

David Folkinflik, the media correspondent for NPR, is the Editor of the companion volume, Page One: Inside The New York Times and the Future of Journalism. My conversation with David Folkenflik

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Infidelity Keeps Us Together

July 5th, 2011

It was Woody Allen who said that "marriage was the end of hope." To what extent was he right, particularly in the context of our ongoing sexual development? Do we know when we get married, usually early in life, where our fantasies and our desires will take us? And will our partner be the one to keep up, to fulfill those needs? And how can we square this with a genuine concern for kids and family?

All of these issues around monogamy are part of the much talked about Cover Story in this past Sunday's N.Y. Times Magazine entitled Married with Infidelities, by N.Y. Time religion columnist and contributing writer Mark Oppenheimer. My conversation with Mark Oppenheimer:

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