Teach Your Children Well

July 31st, 2012

The story goes that Marissa Mayer, the newly minted CEO of Yahoo, and a former VP at Google, once declined an otherwise brilliant job applicant at Google because they had once gotten a C in a math class.

Clearly in today's competitive world, academic success matters. The bar must be set high for academic success. But it must be set  just as high for creativity, innovation and collaboration. But what about the kids that are not cut out to be the renaissance children of the next generation? What about those kids, even those from privilege, whose interests lie elsewhere? Whose job is it to see to it that they too are educated well and steered toward important places in our society?

Dr. Madeline Levine, a Bay Area clinician and the best selling author of The Price of Privilege, looks at these issues anew in her new work Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success.

My conversation with Madeline Levine:

The Sandcastle Girls

July 30th, 2012

Over the course of his career, bestselling novelist Chris Bohjalian has taken readers on a spectacular array of journeys. An isolated Vermont farmhouse, the Roaring Twenties on Long Island, and the last six months of World War Two in Poland and Germany just a few. Now, In his fifteenth book, The Sandcastle Girls, he brings us on a very different and personal journey. A sweeping historical love story steeped in the author's Armenian heritage.
My conversation with Chris Bohjalian:

The Intention Economy

July 29th, 2012

Our relationship to the things we buy and the companies we buy from, is constantly changing. David "Doc" Searls, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, argues that to date, it’s been a kind of master/slave relationship. Think of the rhetoric. Merchants "capture" customers, they want "to own" customers, they want to gather data on customer, have cookies follow them around. All so as to ostensible make our experience better. But is it?

From the perspective of the seller, John Wanamaker used to say that he knew that half of his advertising expenditures worked, he just didn't know which half.

Given the internet and the free flow of information, shouldn't the experience be more empowering for the consumer and less so for the seller? Yet it’s evolved in a way that is just the opposite. Doc Searls wants to change that, as he explains in his new work The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge. My conversation with Doc Searls:

True Believers

July 28th, 2012

It’s hard to believe sometimes that forty-plus years after “the sixties,” after Vietnam, civil rights, feminism, and sex drugs and rock and roll, we are still litigating the issues raised in that period. Clearly it is one of the seminal inflection points in American history. Buy why? What really happened; what really changed in that period, that tilted the earth's axis?

There’s an old saying that says "if you remember the sixties, you weren't really there." Maybe that's why we still haven't figured it out. Long time journalist and novelist Kurt Andersen takes his shot, as he uses it as the backdrop for his new novel True Believers. My conversation with Kurt Andersen:

Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?

July 26th, 2012

To paraphrase a marketing expression, science, it not just for nerds anymore. If we want to fully understand the human condition, including our sexuality, our relationships and our desires, we need to understand science.

Every month in Scientific America and Slate, Jesse Bering brings these issues to the forefront of consciousnes.  Now he takes us on a kind of grand tour evolutionary biology  in his book Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?: And Other Reflections on Being Human. My conversation with Jesse Bering:

Barack Obama: The Story

July 23rd, 2012

George Bernard Shaw once observed “that life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself."  For many people that is undoubtedly true. Bill Clinton might be the penultimate example of that. But for Barack Obama, it has always been about both. About understanding the world that created him, and then using that raw material to reassemble the pieces, to create himself anew.

This journey is at the core of David Maraniss's sweeping historical biography,  Barack Obama: The Story.

My conversation with David Maraniss:

Death by a thousand puffs

July 18th, 2012

We all know cigarettes are bad for us. We know they are the only legal product that, if used as directed, will kill us. What we don't know is the degree to which tobacco companies manipulate their product. The way they add hundreds of harmful chemicals and compounds, of which we are mostly unaware, and which make them the world's largest cause of death.

Given these facts, shouldn't they be outlawed? Not banned, but outlawed!

Stanford Professor Robert Proctor thinks so and he make a powerful case in the 700+ pages of Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition

My conversation with Robert Proctor:

Escaping life on the streets

July 17th, 2012

Human resilience and the instinct for survival is an amazing thing. The question has always been, is this something inherent only in certain individuals, or can others learn the skills and abilities needed to pull oneself out of difficult and in some cases impossible circumstances?

Carissa Phelps survived the horrors of mean urban streets, while now working even harder to help others rise above their circumstances.

Turned out into the streets of Fresno at age 12, today she has a law degree and an MBA from UCLA and walked away from a career in private equity so she could model and teach survival to others and change the circumstances that lead her to an abusive life on the streets. It's a remarkable story told in her new book Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time.

My conversation with Carissa Phelps:

The Locavore Myth?

July 16th, 2012

"Eat Local" has become the mantra of a new generation of food activists. Implicit in the locavore argument is the belief that it combines healthy eating and a high standard of environmental stewardship, while delivering important economic benefits and increasing food security within local economies. University of Toronto Professor Pierre Desrochers seriously questions the locavore perspective. Desrochers concludes that "eating local" actually delivers increased social and economic misery, environmental degradation, greater food insecurity, and poorer nutrition. How is this possible? Here's my conversation with Pierre Dersochers:

Twilight of the Elites

July 11th, 2012

It has not been a good decade. Since the dawn of the 21st century, almost all of our ideas of community, culture, even our notions of what constitutes a country; not to mention how we communicate, do business, read, think and see are being transformed and are cascading in upon us.

Since the turn of the century we've experienced Bush v. Gore, 9/11, Iraq, Katrina, the housing bubble, bank collapses, the implosion of traditional media and Wall Street, the foibles of baseball and the Catholic Church, the collapse of the auto industry and the impotence of Washington. Now Chris Hayes, of The Nation and MSNBC, connects the dots among these seemingly disparate events and finds some very common threads. He lays our the arguments in his book Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy.

My conversation with Christopher Hayes:

The war within the war for Afghanistan

July 9th, 2012

There is an old saying that goes, "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me." When we look at US foreign and military policy since Vietnam, it's shame on us. Buy why? In Vietnam, the best and the brightest lead us into disaster. In Iraq, the mistakes of the last administration cost us dearly in lives and treasure. In the early days of the Obama administration, the decision to surge troops into Afghanistan was equally ill timed, ill conceived and once again showed how intelligent people and politics, even when linked with good intentions, can lead us into a disasters situation.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, senior correspondent and Associate Editor of the Washington Post brilliantly showed us how this happened in Iraq, in his award winning Imperial Life in the Emerald City. Now, in his new work Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan, he takes us deep inside the military and civilian decisions and actions that negatively impacted our Afghan policy. My conversation with Rajiv Chandrasekaran:


July 2nd, 2012

Why do we fear change so much? Is it just change, or is there something else? We love the new, yet part of what goes with that, with change, is ending something before we can begin anew. And this, the business of endings and exits, we are not very good at. Ending a relationship, a job, saying goodbye, entering a new chapter in our lives...all involve endings and exists.

Harvard professor and MacArthur prize winning Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot argues in her new work Exit: The Endings That Set Us Free, that we need to master the farewells in order to accommodate the new.

My conversation with Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot:

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