Friday golf with JOHN FEINSTEIN

May 29th, 2009

The 2008 US Open produced one of the most unexpected and dramatic showdowns not only in Golf but in sports history.  Tiger Woods the champ vs. Rocco Mediate, the aging and likable challenger.  It had all the drama of a movie.  However, it was the real this.  Perhaps the most dramatic sports event of the still young 21st century.  John Feinstein, in his new book Are You Kidding Me?: The Story of Rocco Mediate's Extraordinary Battle with Tiger Woods at the US Open,chronicles the event.  My conversation with John Feinstein:

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Sleeping with the enemy…

May 27th, 2009

Again, a marriage becomes the template to examine the socio-political storms swirling around the society. While previously we looked at marriages of the 60's and 70's, now Sophia Raday, in her new book,  Love in Condition Yellow: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage, writes of a marriage, her own, that's a template for a kind of 21st Century point/counterpoint.  My conversation with Sophia Raday.

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The times they are a changing…and most politicians missed it.

May 27th, 2009

Matt Bai, one of the country's most astute political observers and reporters talks, in his recent N.Y. Time magazine piece, about how politicians missed the generational shift on the gay marriage issue. It's an interesting look at how American values and culture are indeed changing. My conversation with Matt Bai:

Scenes from a Marriage: 1968 (part II)

May 21st, 2009

Robert Greenfield, whose books, articles, profiles and stories have made him one of the most informed and insightful voices of the '60's, tells of the tumultuous lives of  another   young couple, this one in Swinging London in the late 60's and early 70's.  His new book A Day in the Life: One Family, the Beautiful People, and the End of the Sixties is also a very emotional and person story, one that mirrors societies transformation from the psychedelic 60's to the reality of the '70's.  Greenfield writes a kind of "rock and roll, Tender is the Night" amidst the backdrop of glamorous lifestyles and very famous icons of the time.

Scenes from a marriage: 1968

May 21st, 2009

Danzy Senna in her book Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History tells of her parents who married in 1968, as they merged two complicated strains of American heritage: Boston blue blood traceable to the Mayflower and Southern African American with a cross strain of Mexican–Native American. Her parents seemed poised to defy history. They were two brilliant young American writers. Married in 1968, a year that seemed to separate the past from the present; together, these two would snub the histories that divided them and embrace the radical future of the time.

DR. SHERWIN NULAND explains that bedside manner matters.

May 19th, 2009

To often our health care reform conversations don't involve the real lives of Doctors and the real dynamics of the Doctor/Patient relationship. Over the course of his career, both as a practicing surgeon and as a clinical professor at Yale, Dr. Sherwin Nuland has had the chance to work with a host of exceptionally talented doctors in a range of specialties. For "The Soul of Medicine," he has asked 16 of them to tell the story of their most memorable patient and, with two of his own additions, cobbled them together into a modern-day version of "The Canterbury Tales." My conversation with Dr. Sherwin Nuland.

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MICHAEL GURIAN talks of lost boys

May 18th, 2009

Today we saw the statistics that the biggest victims of the recession were Blue Collar men. This, coupled with the crises our boys are facing in education, is a socially dangerous combination. The increasing majority of graduates from our top Universities, Law Schools, Medical Schools and even Business Schools are young woman. Boys and young men are falling further and further behind. Many have sounded the alarm. But few with as many specific solutions as Michael Gurian. A long time advocate for boys, his new book THE PURPOSE OF BOYS offers really insightful solutions to the problems of so many millennial boys. My conversation with Michael Gurian

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M.J. SOUPIOUS explains the Greek idea of the good life and their 10 Golden Rules

May 17th, 2009

Mike Soupious, PhD, professor at Long Island University examines the idea that living the good life doesn't require a lot of money or even any faith. The Ten Golden Rules condenses the wisdom of the ancient Greeks into 10 memorable and easy-to-understand rules that, if lived by, can enable modern readers to have rich, meaningful lives.

BARRY STRAUSS explains what Spartacus might teach us about warfare in places like Afghanistan

May 17th, 2009

The Spartacus War is the extraordinary story of the most famous slave rebellion in the ancient world, the fascinating true story behind a legend that has been the inspiration for novelists, filmmakers, and revolutionaries for 2,000 years. Starting with only seventy-four men, a gladiator named Spartacus incited a rebellion that threatened Rome itself. With his fellow gladiators, Spartacus built an army of 60,000 soldiers and controlled the southern Italian countryside. A charismatic leader, he used religion to win support.

ERIC BOGOSIAN talks to me about memory, identity and reinvention

May 13th, 2009

David Brooks recently wrote about a 60 year longitudinal study launched at Harvard in 1944. The same study and it's search for the holy grail of "happiness" was also the basis of a story in current Atlantic. The idea that we change as we age, that we lead many lives, that memory both plays tricks on us and defines us, is also a core idea behind Eric Bogosian's new novel PERFORATED HEART. It's the story of two men who inhabit one individual at home in both the landscape of '70 New York and the more staid and grown up world of 2007.

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RASHID KHALIDI explains to me how the Cold War shaped the current Middle East

May 13th, 2009

While usually followed by controversy, there can be little doubt about the soundness of Rashid Khalidi's arguments that today's Middle East conflicts were, in large measure, shaped by the Cold War. In his new book SOWING CRISIS, Khalidi shows how the global conflicts now playing out in the Middle East were significantly shaped and exacerbated by the Cold War era, and that any successful peace process must begin with a through understanding of these historical antecedents.

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CORNELIUS VANDERBILT and the rise of modern finance

May 12th, 2009

While we are just beginning to get a wave of books about the current financial crises, it's important to have a real historical understanding of how Wall Street, finance and big business got that way. The place to start that understanding is with with the life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Starting as a Staten Island farmer, he rose to control one of the greatest fortunes in world history. He played a central role in the rise of the modern corporation, the emergence of Wall Street, and the birth of big business. His life played out on an enormous stage. His relationships went from George Washington to John D. Rockefeller. T.J. Stiles, who's just authored a new biography of Vanderbilt, entitled THE FIRST TYCOON, says that "no one kept his hands of the levers of the economy for so long and pushed so hard."

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May 11th, 2009

John Bradshaw has, over the years, helped many of us understand the complexity of life. Not by embracing popular maxims or formulas, but by helping us get in touch with the "better angels of our nature." Now in his newest work, RECLAIMING VIRTUE, he helps us to understand a kind of moral intelligence that he says, to few people develop. In this age of greed, Bernie Madoff's and ever growing selfishness, Bradshaw's lessons are perhaps more important. A talk with John Bradshaw is no ordinary conversation. It's a wild ride. Take a listen.

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JONATHAN ALTER talks to me about Obama’s first hundred days

May 11th, 2009

Last week we marked President Obama's first 100 days. Now that the dust and the hype have settled, we can really take a look at what we've learned about this young President. No one is better able to help us do that, then Jonathan Alter. His book about FDR's first hundred days, A DEFINING MOMENT:FDR'S HUNDRED DAYS AND THE TRIUMPH OF HOPE is a national best seller that even the President has read. He is a Senior Editor of Newsweek and a contributor to MSNBC.

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Dr. DAVID KESSLER talks to me about food and why we overeat

May 8th, 2009

What are the forces that cause us to continue eating when we know we should stop?  Why has the quality of food, that most Americans eat, deteriorated even while more and more healthy choices are available?  Why are our children experiencing an epidemic of obesity, and what role does the food industry play in this?

These and many similar questions are the ones asked by Dr. David Kessler in his look at big food.  Just as he took on the tobacco companies in the 80's, Dr. Kesser, in his new book THE END OF OVEREATING , takes on the food/industrial complex,  that is clearly culpable in some of our bad food choices.

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PHILIP ALCABES talks to me about epidemics and what we are really afraid of

May 7th, 2009

In his new book, DREAD: How Fear and Fantasy Have Fueled Epidemics from The Black Death to Avian Flu, Philip Alcabes says there is value in studying the history of epidemics as they reflect our inflated fears about what is unknown, undesirable, or misunderstood. For example, “gay plague” was the phrase which brutally insensitive headlines used to describe AIDS in the 1980s, and its comparison to The Black Death was a commentary on American sexual politics. Cholera was thought to be the disease of the poor and carried undertones of social change. Anthrax scares reflected our crippling fear of terrorist attacks, Avian flu played on our fear of China and now Swine flu, exploits our concerns about immigration. Philip Alcabes unravels the history of the epidemic as a phenomenon in human society, where what fear says more about us than the disease.

NEIL MACFARQUHAR talks to Jeff Schechtman about real life in the Middle East

May 6th, 2009

Beyond the headlines, the hot spots and the bombings are millions of people who go about their daily lives each day in the Middle East. People who eat, drink, play, love and engage in the stuff of everyday life. To those of us in the West, they often seem invisible. Some are eccentric, some normal. But very few represent what we see in the daily stories of life in the Middle East. It has been left to Neil MacFarquhar, to document their lives. He does so brilliantly in his new book THE MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT OF HIZBOLLAH WISHES YOU A HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

JOHN FREDERICK WALKER talks to me about the loss of African Elephants

May 5th, 2009

A couple of weeks ago 60 Minutes did a segment on what was happening to the Elephant population of Africa. John Frederick Walker has been warning us about this. Long before gold and gemstones held allure, humans were drawn to the “jewels of the elephant”—its great tusks—for their beauty, rarity, and ability to be finely carved. In Ivory’s Ghosts, John Frederick Walker tells the astonishing story of the human lust for ivory and its cataclysmic implications for elephants. Each age and each culture, from ancient Egypt to nineteenth-century America and modern Japan, found its own artistic, religious, and even industrial uses for the remarkable material that comes from the teeth of elephants and a handful of other mammals. Sensuous figurines, scientific instruments, pistol grips, and piano keys were all the result—as was human enslavement and the wholesale slaughter of elephants.

WILLIAM ESKRIDGE talks to Jeff Schechtman about the evidence of Gay Marriage

May 4th, 2009

Opponents of same-sex marriage in the United States claim that it would undermine the institution of marriage, weaken family structures, and cause harm to children. Drawing on 17 years of data and experience with same-sex marriage in Scandinavia (in the form of registered partnerships), Gay Marriage: For Better or for Worse? is the first book to present empirical evidence about the effects of same-sex marriage on society. William Eskridge, one of our nations most distinguished law professors and scholars on the subject, finds that the evidence refutes conservative defense-of-marriage arguments and, in fact, demonstrates that the institution of marriage may indeed benefit from the legalization of gay marriage.

JONAH LEHRER talks to Jeff Schechtman about HOW WE DECIDE

May 2nd, 2009

“Cash or credit? Plastic or Paper? Punt or go for first down? Deal or no deal? Life is filled with puzzling choices. The complexity of modern life adds an almost dizzying array of choices. Reporting from the frontiers of neuroscience and armed with riveting case studies of how pilots, quarterbacks, and others act under fire, Jonah Lehrer presents a dazzlingly authoritative and accessible account of how we make decisions, what’s happening in our heads as we do so, and how we might all become better ‘deciders.’

Lehrer is the author of the popular science blog Frontal Cortex. He writes for Wired and Seed maganiznes. His latest book is HOW WE DECIDE.

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