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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
Back in November of 2010 I spoke with Rebecca Traister about her bookBig 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:
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 entitledMarried with Infidelities, by N.Y. Time religion columnist and contributing writer Mark Oppenheimer. My conversation with Mark Oppenheimer: