From Black Panther to convict to Oscar nominee

February 29th, 2012

How's this for a resume: 

  • Joined Black Panther Party at age fifteen
  • Served eleven months in the infamous NY Rikers Island Jail
  • FBI fugitive
  • Member of Panther 21, one of the most emblematic criminal cases of the sixties
  • At sixteen, one of the youngest spokesman and leaders of the Panther's New York Chapter.  
  • Member of the Revolutionary Black Underground
  • Sentenced to twelve years in Leavenworth
  • Earned two college degrees while in Leavenworth and founded a prison theater
  • Released from Leavenworth
  • Becomes full professor and Chair of Columbia University's School of the Arts Film Program 
  • Nominated for 2008 Academy Award in Best Song category
  • Publishes memoir Panther Baby
My conversation with Jamal Joseph:

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Clash of cultures on the court.

February 28th, 2012

Yao Ming, the Chinese basketball star said, when he first came to America, that "basketball, in America, is like a culture. For me it is like a foreigner learning a new language. It is difficult to learn foreign languages and it will also be difficult for me to learn the culture for basketball here." Pulitzer Prize winning NY Times foreign correspondent Jim Yardley proves the reverse is also true. That Chinese basketball has its own culture, its own landscape and its own unique language, just as difficult for Americans to learn.

Yardley, in his book Brave Dragons: A Chinese Basketball Team, an American Coach, and Two Cultures Clashing, take us inside the world of Chinese basketball. At a time when Linsanity is overtaking our game Yarldey gives us a whole new prospective on basketball inside a country that's been playing the game for as long as we have. My conversation with Jim Yardley:

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They take home the Oscar, AND they are better parents!

February 27th, 2012

When we think of the French we certainly think of wine, cheese, fashion, culture and this years Academy Awards. What we don't necessarily think about is parenting. We certainly didn't think that French mothers would give Tiger Mom a run for her money. Yet children do seem to behave differently in France.

Former Wall Street Journal reporter Pamela Druckerman found out first hand that French woman not only "don't get fat," they raise better behaved children. Druckerman reports from the front in her book Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting My conversation with Pam Druckerman:

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What’s happened to the United States Senate?

February 24th, 2012

It was once referred to as "the world’s greatest deliberative body."  A body who can claim as its members, Daniel Webster, Abe Lincoln, Everett Dirksen, Ted Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Robert LaFollette, Robett Taft and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, just to name a few. Where once great issues like civil rights and war and peace were debated, today it’s become the epicenter of partisan gridlock. What happened and were the halcyon days really as good as we remember?  This is the world into which Ira Shapiro takes us in his book The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis. My conversation with Ira Shapiro:

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If the President does it, it is still illegal?

February 20th, 2012

Listening to the current crop of Republican candidates, you'd think the eight years of the Bush/Cheney administration had never happened. No embrace, not even an acknowledgement! No surprise really. Economic disaster, wiretapping, illegal war and torture are good reasons not to talk about it.

Former Watergate committee member, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress and former Brooklyn prosecutor Elizabeth Holtzman argues in her new book Cheating Justice: How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law, Plotted to Avoid Prosecution, and What We Can Do about It, that we still need to prosecute Bush and Cheney for violation of the rule of law. My conversation with Elizabeth Holtzman:

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The Education of General David Petraeus

February 16th, 2012

We have come a long way since Vietnam. Today the American military and our returning soldiers are looked upon as heroes, who often do give the last full measure of their devotion to serve their country. Much of this change in attitude has come, not from what many still see as the misguided mission of Iraq, but by the way in which that mission was transformed by Gen. David Petraeus. Petraeus has come to symbolize the iconic soldier- scholar-warrior ethos that we seemed to have lost for a long time in the American military. But who is the General who initiated and pulled off such profound transformational change.

Paula Broadwell, who herself  has decades of military service and experience in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, takes us All In: The Education of General David Petraeus. My conversation with Paula Broadwell:

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Are there scarier words than

February 15th, 2012

It has long been observed that the four scariest words a husband can hear are, “we need to talk.” The only thing that might be scarier is “we need to talk about making our marriage better.” With that as the basis, writer and journalist Elizabeth Weil began a quest that would take her and her husband into the heart of darkness of their marriage. But unlike Kurtz, they would return better off for the journey.

Elizabeth and Dan's journey was first reported in one of the most talked about articles in The New York Times Magazine,  Now it is Elizabeth Weil's book No Cheating, No Dying: I Had a Good Marriage. Then I Tried To Make It Better. My conversation with Elizabeth Weil:

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Inside Apple

February 14th, 2012

Winston Churchill, in talking about the former Soviet Union, described it as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, but perhaps," he said, "there is key and that key is Russian national interest.”

After reading Adam Lashinsky’s new book Inside Apple: How America's Most Admired--and Secretive--Company Really Works, I feel we might say the same about Apple. A company that has been for so many journalist and business watchers, a puzzle difficult to solve. But Adam Lashinsky may have found the code. My conversation with Adam Lashinsky:

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One is not the loneliest number

February 13th, 2012

In our society today, one is no longer the loneliest number. In fact, in many places living along has become a luxury. There are currently 32 million Americans living along or 1 in 7 adults. Twenty percent of all households are single person households. Yet there is a big difference between living alone and being alone.

The social alienation that Robert Putnam talked about in Bowling Alone, is not part of this trend. It simply reflects some profound changes in the nature of work, relationships, and social norms. Eric Klinenberg has captured the discussion about this in his new book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. My conversation with Eric Klinenberg:

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The politics of a marriage

February 8th, 2012

Politics in America has become, for better or worse, a part of our celebrity/entertainment complex. What we often forget is that inside this culture are not just politicians and Hollywood celebrities, but real people with real lives real, complex relationships and complicated and evolving marriages. Marriages that are like so many that we see every day, where the surface is like the iceberg; what we see represents only ten-percent of the reality, In fact, political marriage especially are like the proverbial snowflake, no two are ever alike.

NY Times correspondent, Jodi Kantor in her book The Obamas, takes a look inside the Obama family, the Obama marriage and the complexity of a modern professional marriage inside the White House. My conversation with Jodi Kantor:

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Queen for 21,900 days

February 4th, 2012

Remember the movie,The Kings Speech,and the oldest daughter of the man who would become King? That young girl wold herself become Queen of England at the age of twenty-five and serve until this very day, almost 60 years, as the second longest reigning monarch of England.

It seems simple, yet this woman, Queen Elizabeth of England, has been in the public eye for 60 + years. Through generations, wars, twelve British governments, and the monumental changes of the 20th and then 2st centuries. And she has done it all with grace, composure, intelligence and even only one husband. Regardless of your view of the monarchy, what might we learn from this remarkable woman? Sally Bedell Smith, one of our preeminent biographers takes us inside the life of this woman, Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch. My conversation with Sally Bedell Smith:

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Are men designed to cheat?

February 2nd, 2012

How would our society, our culture and even our politics be different if men...and even woman, could "openly" cheat. Professor Eric Anderson of the University of Winchester argues, in his new work The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating, that the desire for sexual diversity is the inherent biological and physiological norm and that we should "encourage" our partners to cheat as a way of balancing the cognitive dissonance between the desire for intimacy and the desire for sexual adventure. He argues that the problem is not cheating, that the problem is monogamy. My very surprising conversation with Erica Anderson:

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