I Wonder Who’s Kissinger Now?

September 30th, 2016
h_fergusonniall.jpgFew modern day political figures have had more written about them than Henry Kissinger.  From his own three volume, almost 4000 page memoir, to scores of books and articles.  So why another we might ask historian Niall Ferguson.

Partly because beyond the policy and papers, in Ferguson's view Kissinger personified that George Bernard Shaw quote,  “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.”

That vision, that idealism, is hard to imagine in someone so vilified by contemporary history.   Still, Niall Ferguson tries to square this circle in the first volume of his biography Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist

My conversation with Niall Ferguson: 
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How Well Do We Really Know Our Parents?

September 27th, 2016
Susan-Faludi-In-the-Darkroom-side-by-sidNo matter how close or estranged any of us may be for our parents, there always linger the questions of how well do we know them...that is really know who they are.  Think about the questions kids wonder about, what their parents really do a work, their sex lives, the conversations that go on after they go to bed.

And as kids become adults they often still wonder...and sometimes they even transfer those very same questions in trying t understand their partners, or their spouses and ultimately themselves.  

Because we are the sum total of the answers to so many of these questions.  We keep seeking answers, aware of it or not, since it is a large swath of who we are.  This intimate search for identity is at the heart of Susan Faludi’s new work In the Darkroom. 

My conversation with Susan Faludi:
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Where Is The Truth We Have Lost In Information?

September 23rd, 2016
Cskn4QkXYAAQux2.jpgWe are awash in information.  Estimates are that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are produced every day.  That’s everything from data from space probes to your photos on Facebook.  Google alone process approximately 3.5 billion requests per day.  

But as TS Eliot so aptly said back in 1934, “where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

From the billions of items posted on Facebook, to the tens of thousands of so called news sites and bloggers around the world, how is it even possible to begin separate it all, to know fact from fiction?

Never before in human history or human evolution have we encountered such a problem.  As a result the way we approach it has to take the best thinking tools we’ve evolved and transform it to meet the needs of the 21st century and beyond,.  

This is the road map to truth put forth by Daniel J. Levitan in
A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age.

My conversation with Daniel Levitan: 
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Religion, Politics and Culture…Oh My

September 20th, 2016
907399.jpgIt is the job of historians and journalists to take contemporary information and give context and connection to events far beyond the time in which they happened. This is true for wars, for politics and for religion. 

It’s true even in these highly polarized times, when we all hear the admonition, especially around get togethers of family and friends, to make sure you never discuss politics or religion.  

So what is it about both of these subjects that are so personal, so internal, so potentially inflammatory and have been so powerfully connected both historically and right here in America.

This is part of what Ken Woodward examines in Getting Religion: Faith, Culture, and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama..

My conversation with Ken Woodward: 
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Race and Medicine

September 18th, 2016
Black-Man-in-a-White-Coat-comp.jpegNothing in the medical world is the way it used to be.  Change is everywhere.  The economic pressures, the political pressures and the very men and women who choose medicine as a career, has all being undergoing disruption.

Add to this maelstrom the issue of race.  The shocking lack of black physicians, diseases that overwhelming impact black communities and the inherent complexities of race in the  doctor/patient relationship and you see some of the problem in medicine that have confronted Dr. Damon Tweedy.  A graduate of Duke Medical School and Yale Law School Dr. Tweedy shares his personal story in his memoir Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine

My conversation with Dr. Damon Tweedy: 
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If You Want To Understand America, Look At Its Food

September 16th, 2016
g_091316_coe_ziegelman.jpgWe’ve all seen the pushback to Michelle Obama as she has attempted to improve food quality and nutrition in our nation’s schools.  In part, it reflects the degree to which everything is politicized these days.  But it also reflects the degree to which food is and has been a political, cultural and historical touchstone

It’s long been observed that if we want to understand the history of a nation or a city or a period in time, we can start by looking at its food.   

Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe have long taken this approach and now they look at the food of depression era America in their new book A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression.

My conversation with Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe: 
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Strangers in Their Own Land

September 14th, 2016
arlie.pngThe very fact that an unqualified, demagogic, racist could be close to the Presidency tells us less about the candidates and more about the shape and mood of America in the 21st Century.  

The red/blue divide is after all, not about pure politics. It’s not about classical liberalism vs. Burkean or Randian conservatism.  It’s not Disraeli vs. Gladstone.  

What we see in America today is a cultural divide. One in which our own personal experience breaks out and defines itself into a kind of moral and political matrix that both traps and defines us.  

These principles are universal and enduring and perhaps if we can better understand them, we can, if not accept, at least have compassion for the better angels of our opponents.  

That exactly what noted sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild has tried to do in Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right

My Conversation with Arlie Russell Hochschild:
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A Stranger in a Strange Land

September 12th, 2016
51nhB-nMWSL._SX343_BO1%252C204%252C203%2It’s a funny thing, all this talk about trade and globalization.  On the one hand it’s used to divide us. To create walls and differences.  But in fact, it has been one of the most powerful forces in shrinking the world.  In allowing us to move personally, not unlike goods and dollars, freely between nations and cultures.

But even with the cultural homogenization of globalization, it has allowed us to appreciate and to come to understand how other cultures operate, what they value and how they see the world.  In the end, it allows us to return home again and in the words of T.S. Eliot, “know the place we started, as if for the first time."

That the story that Frank Ahrens lives and share in Seoul Man: A Memoir of Cars, Culture, Crisis, and Unexpected Hilarity Inside a Korean Corporate Titan.

My conversation with Frank Ahrens: 
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Rock’s Darkest Day

September 7th, 2016
maxresdefault.jpgWe think that events move at a rapid pace today.  But back in the late 1960’s, events spiraled out as if in a whirlwind.  In 1967 San Francisco experienced the Summer of Love. Just two summers later, we would all experience men landing on the moon, Woodstock, the Manson killings and the concert at Altamont that would perhaps mark the end of the era of Peace Love and Music.

It wasn’t long after Altamont that the racial tensions would escalate. People like George Jackson would dominate the news.  Hundreds of bombing would take place on the streets of America, The SLA would kidnap Patty Hearst and everyone would look back at Altamont as a turning point.

Joel Selvin's Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day, puts it all in the perspective of the times.  
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My conversation with Joel Selvin:
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