Cleared for Takeoff

March 31st, 2011

Most of us have grown up thinking that Airports are at best a nuisance. Living near an Airport has been seen as negative, and we've consistently built our Airports far outside urban area.

But much as we used to build sports stadiums away from downtown and have now reversed that trend, to add vibrancy to our cities, so too are Airports becoming important economic hubs which, in much of the world, have spawned whole cities around them. Just as ports, harbors and rail stations used to be the central focus of our cites, today new cites will be build with the Airport as their focus. Journalist Greg Lindsay, along with John Kasarda explain it all and talk about the concept of Aerotropolis. My conversation with Greg Lindsay:

The End of Wall Street

March 31st, 2011

Almost three years after the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, many people still are asking how did it happen, why did it happen and could it happen again? Also, as was asked at this year's Academy Awards, why has no one payed any kind of a price for such irresponsible and some would say corrupt, Wall Street behavior?

Few understand all of this better then Roger Lowenstein. He is one of our nation's most prominent financial journalists and his book The End of Wall Streetis just out in paperback. Today, with the benefit of some hindsight and distance he gives us some clear explanations. My conversation with Roger Lowenstein:


March 30th, 2011

Driving through Silicon Valley about a year after the 90’s tech bubble exploded, I saw a bumper sticker that said “Please God, Just One More Bubble." It was amusing, but also raised the larger issue of whether or not we really are able to predict booms, busts and bubbles. Certainly, if 2007/2008 is any indication, we can’t. Or at least so said dozens of bankers and financial gurus as they testified before Congress and said that “no one saw this coming.” Yale Professor and financial expert Vikram Mansharamani thinks otherwise. He believes that there are some very clear markers of bubbles and that we CAN identify before they burst. He lays out his ideas in his new book Boombustology: Spotting Financial Bubbles Before They Burst. My conversation with Vikram Mansharamani:

Oh Jerusalem

March 28th, 2011

Normally great cities change. Even Paris and New York have gone through radical transformations. Jerusalem it seems, has remained true to its roots, troubled and seeped in violence though it may be. Perhaps, it is because the city has become a kind of religious and philosophical Rorschach test, on to which we projects so many of our dreams fears and hopes? Is there really some special power to Jerusalem, as that "shinning city on the hill," or is it simply its historical context that gives it its unique power? James Carroll, the brilliant former Catholic Priest, former chaplain at Boston University, and author of Constantine's Sword, An American Requiem and House of War, reaches deep into the history of Jerusalem to give us both the real and the fantasy City. My conversation with James Carroll:

Play Ball

March 28th, 2011

In 1975 African American baseball players accounted for twenty-five percent of all the players in baseball. Today that number is less then ten percent. Correspondingly the number of Latin players today stands at over twenty-five percent of players in the majors and well over half of all the players in the minor leagues. What has happened to participate this turnaround? What does it tell us about baseball, about race in America, and about the unintended consequences of racial progress? Most profoundly, can these lessons from baseball be applied to understanding other aspects of our society, such as employment and education. University of Pittsburgh Professor Rob Ruck, explains how the major leagues colonized the black and Latin game, in his new book Raceball. My conversation with Rob Ruck:

Mad as Hell

March 25th, 2011

The laws of physics tell us that for every action there is a reaction of equal or greater force. The progress of the 60’s, the Great Society, the awakening of women, gays and the Civil Rights movement, all would prompt a reaction in the 70's that would create a backlash to be exploited by angry populists. Combine this fear of "progress" with bad economics, the oil shortages, energy cutbacks and Jimmy Carter's malaise and you have one of the dreariest decades in the 20th Century.

Couple all of this with our loss of confidence in basic institutions, Watergate, Iran, a dramatic increase in crime, our failures during the cold war and the impotency of the Carter Presidency, and it’s no wonder people ended the decade Mad as Hell. Historian Dominic Sandbrook, in his book  Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right takes us inside this seminal decade. My conversation with Dominic Sandbrook:

The Largest Migration in the History of the World

March 25th, 2011

With respect to China, we have talked frequently about the great migration of people from the rural areas to the cities. The fact is, this is being played out around the world. At least one-third of the worlds population is currently, or about to be, on the move from rural areas to the world's cities. They are headed to what journalist Doug Saunders calls Arrival City.

In a pattern that has played out throughout history, urbanization is exploding. Just as Europe and North America experienced this great migration in the 19th Century, the rest of the world is now joining the efforts for jobs and for hope. How this plays out, how the world, East and West, deals with this, could very well determine the success or failure of the 21st Century. My conversation with Doug Saunders:

We’ll always have Paris

March 23rd, 2011

As Rick said, "We'll always have Paris." In a world as crazy as ours, that's not such a bad thing. Journalist Penelope Rowlands has put together a collection of thirty-two personal essays in which writers describe how they were seduced and transformed by Paris. In Paris Was Ours  we see how their lives, like Rick and Ilsa's, will never be the same. My conversation with Penelope Rowlands:

You made a mistake!

March 22nd, 2011

For many of us, men especially, being right is the most important thing. We live in a society that praises perfection, that rewards certainty. Countless stories have been told and written about the importance of kids getting it right in order to get into the right college, choose the right career and the right spouse. After all, isn't getting it right what Tiger moms would want?

Given the proliferation of choices we face today, can we ever get it right that often or, is the baseball metaphor more apt, that if we only hit 300, we're doing pretty well? Couple this with the conflicting messages we get as kids, that making mistakes helps us to learn, and helps us to make better choices in order to get it right the next time. Author, journalist and N.Y. Times columnist Alina Tugend tries to sort out all of these conflicting messages in her new book Better by Mistake: The Unexpected Benefits of Being Wrong. My conversation with Alina Tugend:

The Social Animal

March 21st, 2011

For almost 50 years we’ve talked about and often admired the best and the brightest in our government, our businesses and in our political and economic institutions. Yet during this same period, we've seen colossal failure. We have some of the most socially adept politicians, and we are accused of living in a therapeutic culture, yet when confronted with the reality of quality public policy, we get it wrong. Where is the disconnect? How can so many smart people be so wrong, so often? Clearly it’s not a failure of intelligence, but perhaps a failure of imagination, of vocabulary, or more specifically a failure to fully take into account our social nature and the duality between emotions, ideas and reason in a rapidly changing world.

This is a central premise of the new book by N.Y. Times columnist David Brooks entitled The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement.  Told as a kind of allegorical tale, Brooks takes us inside the cutting edge neuroscience of the day and in so doing redefines how we see the world and our place in it. My conversation with David Brooks:

Men into Boys

March 18th, 2011

Yesterday we talked about pitching star Tim Lincecum and how this 26 year old, 13 million dollar a year star spent his off season, hanging with his buddies and playing video games. In so many ways he is simply reflective of young men today who see themselves not on any kind of scripted path to adulthood, but rather stuck in a conflicting state of both success and financial independence on the one hand and extended adolescence on the other.

Is it simply the fact that we are living longer that allows these young men to delay the onset of adulthood, or is it some more profound cultural shift? As women become more independent, as the number of women graduating from college, medical school and law school exceed the numbers for men, as women earn more in some cities; are these men simply finding themselves increasingly threatened, insecure for even irrelevant? How is it that Don Draper been replaced by Owen Wilson and does it matter? Author and journalist Kay Hymowitz, in her new book Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, has stirred up quite a controversy on this this topic. My conversation with Kay Hymowitz:


March 17th, 2011

Certainly one of the stars of the 2010 world series was Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum: A pitcher as unique and unusual as the City he plays for. The questions is, who is this 26 year old phenom, making 13 million a year and will 2010 be the apogee of his career, or simply the beginning a career that ends in Cooperstown. New York Times Magazine contributing writer Jonathan Mahler talks to me about his recent "T" Magazine cover story about Lincecum:

Art and Madmen

March 17th, 2011

For women coming of age in the post war America of the late 50's and early 60's, it was a complicated piece of business. Then, if women wanted to have it all, the only road was through the work of men. If smart, creative women wanted to have a hand in the creation of art or literature, that world and the men in it, were even more complicated. To navigate this minefield was a feat of both sheer intelligence and sexual cunning, all coupled with a remarkable bout of courage.

Few did this better then award winning writer Anne Roiphe. Growing up in the 40's and 50's in a world of privilege on Park Avenue, she would become a kind of muse to many of the great writer of the mid 20th Century. Writers like Plimpton, Mailer, Styron and others, would today be her "friends" on Facebook. Her new memoir,  Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust Without Reason, takes us into this often romanticized, but very real world. My conversation with Anne Roiphe:

The Celestine Insight

March 15th, 2011

Most writers and thinkers are lucky if their work touches or impacts thousands of people. For the greats, it might be even more. But for James Redfield, author of the mega bestseller THE CELESTINE PROPHESY and its subsequent installments, he has impacted millions. What nerve has he continued to touch for 17 years?

In an age of religious extremism he has found the sweet spot that he calls "authentic spirituality." In so doing he not only co-opts, but incorporates all of the world's great belief systems. Now, in his first book in twelve years, he brings us the forth installment of the Celestine series, The Twelfth Insight. My conversation with James Redfield:

The Moral Underground

March 14th, 2011

While the media is quick to give us lifestyles of the rich and famous, and anxious to point out the good deeds of wealthy philanthropists and the importance of a market driven culture, most of the middle class today are leading lives of quiet desperation. For many though, being “quiet” means taking small progressive steps to try and make the system more equitable. Sometimes those steps are outside the boundaries of what is right, but well within the bounds of what is moral. That is the focus of Lisa Dodson book The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy. My conversation with Lisa Dodson:

A Visit From The Goon Squad

March 11th, 2011

The way that music short circuits time and makes yesterday's events, todays reality; the state of the music business today and pushing the boundaries of the literary from, are all part of  A Visit from the Goon Squad.  Jennifer Egan's fascinating novel, that's this years winner of the National Book Critics Circle award for Fiction. My conversation with Jennifer Egan:

5 ideas for putting Kids First

March 11th, 2011

In much of our debate about education policy today, it seems we leave out the kids. The kids sometimes seem like fungible chess pieces that we move around some kind of public policy Monopoly board. To often, to many of these kids go directly to jail, without ever passing go! A good example of our misguided policy priority is how little we fund the Head Start program. It's efficacy should be a settled issue. The statistics are clear that those kids with quality, early education are more likely to graduate from high school, go to college, stay healthy and earn 35% more. Economists calculate the benefit to cost ratio at an amazing seventeen-to-one. Yet today's N.Y. Times has a story about how Republicans still want to severely cut the funding for Head Start. Education policy expert David Kirp strongly disagrees.

David Kirp thinks we need a new kind of policy. A simple one really. One that puts kids at the center of the discussion. Starting with 5 simple ideas, he seeks to reshape America's failing approach to our kids and outlines it in his book Kids First: Five Big Ideas for Transforming Children's Lives and America's Future. My conversation with David Kirp:

The Other Eighties

March 9th, 2011

Much as we might like it to be otherwise, our times are often defined by our leaders. Certainly in contemporary times, we remember the post war 50’s, reflected by Ike. The country moving forward again under Kennedy. The chaos of the Great Society and Vietnam under Johnson and then Nixon. We've talked a lot recently of the prosperity of the 90’s under Bill Clinton, and certainly the nation's shift to the right under Reagan in many ways, even more then disco, defined the 80’s.

Even though history is already kind to the Reagan legacy, perhaps because he seems so moderate by the Republican standards of today, it’s important to remember the impact of Reagan on the nation and more importantly of his polarizing presence and the opposition that Reagan gave rise to. An opposition that sought to consolidate the progressive gains of the 60’s and 70’s, even as the nation was lurching rightward. It truly was the political equivalent of the irresistible force vs. the immovable object. That’s the social and political backdrop of Bradford Martin's look at the Reagan years, The Other Eighties: A Secret History of America in the Age of Reagan. My conversation with Bradford Martin:

King of the Hackers

March 8th, 2011

We tend to think of hackers as misanthrope teenagers locked in the back bedroom. In fact hacking, or at least the modern variant of it, is part of a sophisticated international crime network, that stretches from the Bay Area to the furthest reaches of the world. Fueled by the easy and international movement of money in a globalized economy, stolen data is turned into billions of illegal dollars. Kevin Poulsen, once a hacker himself, now the senior editor of, in his book Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground, takes us through the story of Max Butler, a hacker extraordinaire who would ultimately receive the longest prison sentence ever handed out to a hacker. My conversation with Kevin Poulsen:

The Science of Immortality

March 7th, 2011

Yesterday's New York Times Magazine had a story about business tycoon David Murdock and his quest to live until 125. The fact is, there are scientists today who think we could live forever! Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award winner Johnathan Weiner, in his new book Long for This World: The Strange Science of Immortality, takes us inside the science of aging and introduces us to the some of the leading minds in the field. Is the modern Fountain of Youth possible, can our deterioration be stopped and what would be the consequences of us all living beyond 100? Weiner tells us about the cutting edge research and the social and political consequences. My conversation with Jonathan Weiner:

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